In her readings of Spanish American and Brazilian fiction, Graff Zivin highlights inventions of Jewishness in which the concept is constructed as a rhetorical device. She argues that Jewishness functions as a wandering signifier that while not wholly empty, can be infused with meaning based on the demands of the textual project in question. Just as Jews in Latin America possess distinct histories relative to their European and North American counterparts, they also occupy different symbolic spaces in the cultural landscape. Graff Zivin suggests that in Latin American fiction, anxiety, desire, paranoia, attraction, and repulsion toward Jewishness are always either in tension with or representative of larger attitudes toward otherness, whether racial, sexual, religious, national, economic, or metaphysical. She concludes The Wandering Signifier with an inquiry into whether it is possible to ethically represent the other within the literary text, or whether the act of representation necessarily involves the objectification of the other.
Erin Graff Zivin is Assistant Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the editor of The Ethics of Latin American Criticism: Reading Otherwise.
This book investigates the uncanny presence of the Inquisition and marranismo (crypto-Judaism) in modern literature, theater, and film from Mexico, Brazil, and Portugal. Through a critique of fictional scenes of interrogation, it underscores the vital role of the literary in deconstructing the relation between torture and truth. Figurative Inquisitions traces the contours of a relationship among aesthetics, ethics, and politics in an account of the "Inquisitional logic" that continues to haunt contemporary political forms. In so doing, the book offers a unique humanistic perspective on current torture debates.
Starting with the anti-Spanish wars of independence in the early nineteenth century, Earle charts the changing importance elite nationalists ascribed to the pre-Columbian past through an analysis of a wide range of sources, including historical writings, poems and novels, postage stamps, constitutions, and public sculpture. This eclectic archive illuminates the nationalist vision of creole elites throughout Spanish America, who in different ways sought to construct meaningful national myths and histories. Traces of these efforts are scattered across nineteenth-century culture; Earle maps the significance of those traces. She also underlines the similarities in the development of nineteenth-century elite nationalism across Spanish America. By offering a comparative study focused on Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Ecuador, The Return of the Native illustrates both the common features of elite nation-building and some of the significant variations. The book ends with a consideration of the pro-indigenous indigenista movements that developed in various parts of Spanish America in the early twentieth century.