Introduction Latin American Subaltern Studies Revisited

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  • Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

    Introduction: LATIN AMERICAN SUBALTERN STUDIES REVISITED: IS THERE LIFE AFTER THEDEMISE OF THE GROUP?Author(s): Gustavo VerdesioSource: Dispositio, Vol. 25, No. 52 (2005), pp. 5-42Published by: Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Michigan, Ann ArborStable URL: .Accessed: 08/04/2013 21:29

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  • Dispositio/n 52, vol XXV 5-42 2005 Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Michigan


    Gustavo Verdesio University of Michigan

    5ome American accomplishments

    may ask, Subaltern



    bother Studies


    to (LASS) wonder

    at this group about

    point, now? the


    fate Why


    of discuss the



    their its American Subaltern Studies (LASS) group now? Why discuss its

    accomplishments and failures at this point, after two of their most prominent members have declared it defunct? Well, the answer is simple: because the collective has been one of the most influential endeavors in the fields of Latin American literary and cultural studies in the

    * I would like to thank some colleagues who made this issue of Dispositio/n pos- sible. First and foremost, a big thank you to Ileana Rodrguez, without whose encouragement this volume would have never seen the light of day. In numer- ous and long conversations that took place at different geographic locations (East Lansing, New Orleans, Columbus, and Ann Arbor) and by more virtual media like the phone and e-mail, she was always ready to give, candidly, her invaluable input on, and support for, this project. Next, I would like to thank my friend and colleague Fernando Coronil, for finding time to write a brilliant and inspirational piece at a time that was not the easiest for him and his family. Another big thank you to my good friend, colleague and former landlord, Gareth Williams, for his willingness to discuss anything (from subaltern stud- ies to 80s British pop, from Marxism to a certain soccer star who used to play for Manchester United) with me, with or without Scotch on the table. Thank you to my friend and colleague Javier Sanjins, for his permanent good spirits and his great sense of humor, and for having made some time, in spite of his busy schedule and the huge pressure he was under, to contribute a very impor- tant piece to this volume. A final thank you to my personal Guru and Meiga, Cristina Moreiras-Menor, who was there all the time to support, feed and psy- choanalyze a very tired editor and friend.

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    United States. It has been, also, a very controversial intellectual enterprise that found the strongest resistance to it among some of the most important progressive intellectuals who work in Latin America. The name calling that took place - Latin America-based scholars used words as strong as "academic imperialism" to refer to their US colleagues' practices, while the latter called the former by such dismissive labels as "neo-Arielistas" or "neo-Criollistas" - should not stop us from analyzing the group's legacy from a calmer, more distanced perspective. This is possible, I believe, because, among other reasons, the worst of the name-calling has passed, and the time elapsed between the peak of the confrontation (the 1997 LASA conference in Guadalajara, Mexico) and the present allows us to have a more detached and productive view of the contributions of the

    group. When I planned this issue I thought very carefully about both its

    possible format and its potential contributors. I must admit that I tried to balance the need to be representative of all the tendencies that comprised the group and my personal opinions about who was influential enough to be asked to respond to a questionnaire. I finally decided to send it, also, to

    people who were not members of the group but who, in my opinion, could make an important contribution to the evaluation of ten years of subaltern studies presence in the field of Latin American studies: Ishita Baneijee, Saurabh Dube, Enrique Dussel and Ernesto Laclau. Unfortunately, none of them were able to send their contributions at the time of the writing of this preface. The other non-members I invited who contribute articles to this issue are Abraham Acosta, Bruno Bosteels, Horacio Legrs, Florencia Mallon, Eduardo Mendieta, Daniel Mosquera, and Ximena Soruco. I invited some former members as well, like Gareth Williams and Alberto Moreiras, who, for different reasons, ended up not contributing to this issue. The ex-members I invited who have contributed to this volume are John Beverley, Sara Castro-Klarn, Fernando Coronil, Walter Mignolo, Jos Rabasa, Ileana Rodrguez, Javier Sanjins and Patricia Seed.

    I also sent a questionnaire to all the participants. They were not expected to respond to all the questions: it was just a way of communicating to them what issues I was interested in seeing discussed. Here's the questionnaire:

    Qu relaciones hay entre los estudios subalternos latinoamericanos y otras corrientes, tales como los estudios postcoloniales y los estudios

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    culturales? Qu relacin podran tener con la crtica cultural propuesta desde Latinoamrica?

    Piensa usted que los estudios culturales y los estudios subalternos latinoamericanos son proyectos con genealogas diferentes o estn conectados de alguna manera?

    De qu manera se relacion o se debi relacionar el subalternismo latinoamericano con el sudasitico? Por que los subalternistas sudasiticos ignoran, en general, olmpicamente a sus pares latinoamericanos?

    Qu ventajas o desventajas tuvo, en su opinin, el formato escogido para funcionar? Es decir: fue preferible ser un grupo a ser un movimiento ms abierto?

    Qu tipo de influencia han tenido los estudios subalternos latinoamericanos en el campo de los estudios latinoamericanos en general?

    Han pasado la barrera de los departamentos de lengua y literatura? Qu influencia especfica han tenido en estos ltimos?

    Qu legado concreto ha dejado el grupo? Es posible construir algo distinto a partir de lo producido hasta su disolucin como tal? Es decir: son posibles los estudios subalternos latinoamericanos sin que exista el grupo?

    Qu limitaciones tuvo el grupo? Qu pudo haber hecho y no hizo? Por qu hubo y hay, en Latinoamrica, tanta resistencia a los estudios

    subalternos latinoamericanos? Cul es el camino a seguir, hoy, por aquellos que siendo o no parte del

    grupo simpatizan con la mirada subalternista? Cul debera ser el o los objetivos de una teora o una corriente de

    pensamiento que intente entender a Latinoamrica en el contexto acadmico de hoy?

    [What relationship do you see between Latin American Subaltern Studies and other theoretical trends such as Postcolonial Theory and Cultural Studies?

    What relationships do you see between these trends and the different kinds of cultural critique proposed from Latin America?

    Do you think Cultural Studies and Latin American Subaltern Studies are connected somehow or are they projects with different genealogies?

    How did Latin American subalternism relate-or how should it have related- to the South Asian one?

    Why do South Asian subalternists olympically ignore the work by their Latin American peers?

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    What advantages and/or disadvantages had the group format? Was it preferable to be a group or to become a more open movement? What kind of influence has LASS had on Latin American studies at large? Have Latin American Subaltern Studies reached people beyond the

    departments of language and literature? What kind of influence have said studies had on language and literature

    departments? What are the legacies of the group? Is it possible to build something different in the future, the foundation being

    the work produced by the group? Are Latin American Subaltern Studies possible without the existence of the

    group? What were the limitations of the group? What could the group have done that it did not do? Why was there so much resistance to the group in Latin America and why

    does such resistance still exist? What are the paths open to those who were not members of the group but

    who sympathize with a subalternist perspective? Which should be the goals of a theory or a thinking that attempts