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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Postnational

I found a book Reading Iberia: Theory / History / Identity (Peter Lang 2007) edited by Helena Buffery, Stuart Davis, and Kirsty Hooper. Hooper's own contribution to this volume is a study of "New Cartographies of Galician Studies: From Literary Nationalism to Postnational Readings." Hooper, a scholar at Liverpool, is one of the main scholars of Galicia who isn't Galician. She is a very good scholar, writing clearly and lucidly.

Hooper talks about how Galician studies itself is bound up in the project of cultural nationalism. A previous scholar, González-Millán, "despite his critique ... still sees the objective of Galician studies as the institutionalization of a Galician national literature (albeit more critically understood) and the creation of a literary canon (albeit one that is now more nuanced)" (128). What she proposes in her conclusion is a "transnational" approach, "focusing attention ... to cultural expressions rising from the newly reformed formations that transcend the nation-state and are instead transnational, intercultural or deterritorialized" (136). If I were a scholar of Galicia I would take this same approach, I think. You would look for voices repressed within Galician culture, for diaspora voices, for non-Galicians writing in Galicia, and for everything else that unsettles the institution.

Needless to say, this new conception corresponds to the ideology of contemporary literary and cultural scholarship itself, with its hunger for everything liminal, interstitial, deterritorialized, trans-, post-, and inter-. Galician studies would not even exist in the first place without the first impulse to institutionalize and canonize. It is the product of nationalism. The search for a more critical approach within this field, then, cannot really go so far as to dissolve the field itself as an object of study.

***

Within exceptionalist thought, the norm is at once the obscure object of desire and fearsome specter of an Institution and a Canon. It is Galician, Catalan, and Basque nationalism that is putting extraordinary pressure on "Hispanic" studies from one direction. The other pressure comes from the internal contradictions of the field. The critique comes from Resina, from the angle of Catalan nationalism, from Silver, with his commitment to the Basques, and internally from people like Elena Delgado, etc... A third area of pressure is from Latin America, which is also part of the field but exposes the field's internalized colonialism. Let me add that I think that this pressure on Hispanism is almost entirely a good thing. Not that I agree with every individual position taken, but that a more critical attitude is needed in general. Where my question arises is how far a critique can go without threatening the institution from which we derive our own paychecks.

15 comments:

Vance Maverick said...

While I'm enjoying reading your working out of these ideas, I think it's worth stepping back to see this as another instance of the "structuralist" insight that everything is what it is by virtue of distinctions from other things. And the boundaries depend on which distinctions are in play -- something that's very obviously fluid in this field. If you haven't already thrown reception into the mix, it will add another dimension.

Jonathan said...

Yes, I've thought about that, in fact. As in Saussure's theory (and Derrida's), things only mean something because of their difference from other things. Value comes only from negativity. That is the conclusion I draw in the MLA talk I finished yesterday. You must be a mind reader. You've earned a spot in my acknoleggments, if you weren't already there.

Leslie said...

Is there a critique of Frenchism, Germanistik, etc., Englishism? How are these done?

Jonathan said...

Roland Barthes does a critique of Frenchism in his attack on positivist research derived from Lanson. Barthes remains pretty much with the French canon, though. The critique of Englishism comes in the guise of postcolonial theory, I would guess.

Maybe you can help me figure out why a lot of the critique of Hispanism comes out of the UK, and seems targeted only at its internal structure, ignoring that Hispanism occurs elsewhere in the world. It's a little dissappointing to find a book like this and then find out its only about British Hispanism, when what was promised was a critique of the field itself. It's insular at precisely the moment when it should not be.

Leslie said...

There needs to be a critique of Francophone Studies which I am convinced is often a colonialist enterprise masquerading as its opposite.

Why the critique of Hispanism comes from UK, well, it may have to do with how they do it there, for one thing, and it may have to do with their location. Spanish is the second national language of US and being in Spanish in US is a lot more like being in English here ... big field, big department, not a narrow niche.

(I say this despite, or course, the fact that I have in writing from a committee of my board of regents that I am in a narrow field the university does not support, this is the exception not the rule in US).

Vance Maverick said...

Thanks, Jonathan. As a condition of being acknowledged, though, would you send me a copy?

I remember my father (like me an engineer by training) referring to the doctrine of essences reducing to differences as a bit of Chinese philosophy. (Perhaps he got that from his own father, an economist with interests in Chinese history - and Pound.)

profacero said...

I am wondering about the French thing. It makes me realize I am out of date in French. I will have to reread Barthes on Lanson which I have not seen since I was an undergraduate and favored Lanson.

Francophone studies seems to be about inclusiveness as opposed to English po-co which questions Englishness. But the Chamoiseau et al Eloge de la creolité is a type of critique of it and Aimé Césaire does it. I need to find out about this in general.

Jonathan said...

You will get a copy, Vance, but not as a condition of being acknowledged. I have to acknowledge more people than I will have books for, with about 50 names in the acknowledgments.

profacero said...

More:

"A third area of pressure is from Latin America, which is also part of the field but exposes the field's internalized colonialism."

This is the part of this post I found funny because I think of Spain as a margin -- it is just one of the Spanish speaking countries, one of the larger ones, but I don't think of it as more central (I think of Lat Am as the more central) than England to US.

Anyway: you know the trans/local thing, just like this Galician thing, is what the Native Americans are doing to identity as well. And of course the Native American identity would not exist at all without colonialism, and so on.

Jonathan said...

Well yes, that's true. I am writing from the Iberian perspective here as a peninsularist. Mexico alone has 100,000,000 people. Spain though, I would argue, has influence out of proportion to its population because of its publishing industry and the colonial legacy, and because of Latin American exiles living there or having lived there.

profacero said...

Maybe we take it too much for granted -- realizing it is there and taking this into account but not giving it all the weight it seems to feel itself to feel?

Kirsty Hooper said...

Hi Jonathan,
I've subscribed to your blog for a long time and very much enjoy following your projects as they develop. You just about gave me a heart attack when this post popped up in my RSS feed. Thank you for taking the time to look up 'Reading Iberia' and for your kind words about my essay. The points you raise are exactly the questions we/I wrestled with at the time, and continue to wrestle with today. It's funny that you perceive critiques of Hispanism to emanate largely from the UK, because my perception has always been that the most interesting critiques of the discipline have come from the US - I'm thinking of 'Ideologies of Hispanism,' 'Spain Beyond Spain,' etc. If you're interested, I developed the ideas in the 'Reading Iberia' chapter for a Galician-language article, published online last year in galicia21 (an English-language version is in my book 'Writing Galicia into the World').

Thank you once again for looking up 'Reading Iberia',
Kirsty Hooper

Jonathan said...

Thanks for commenting, Kirsty. I have been a reader and admirer of your scholarship for quite a while, but had no idea you read my blog. :) I do know those books Spain Beyond Spain and Ideologies of Hispanism. I was thinking of Malcolm Read and a few others who have developed a critique of Hispanism from the UK, but you are certainly right that it comes from the US as well.

I liked the Reading Iberia volume in part because of its emphasis on literature, though I haven't read the entire book yet.

Kirsty Hooper said...

Thanks, Jonathan! I do read, and I recommend your blog to my grad students too, as a model of reflective scholarship. You give such great insights into what it means to be an active and engaged scholar. I've been rereading Read's work recently for my current project, and my impression is that he's a Brit writing from the US, but I might be wrong about that. Either way, it's a useful insight into the pressures on our field as it emerged from what we as grad students used to call the days of tweed... I'll be at MLA in January, so look forward to hearing your paper and maybe greeting you in person! K

Jonathan said...

Great. I'd love to meet you if my panel is accepted for the MLA.