The Other Side of the Popular: Neoliberalism and Subalternity in Latin America

Duke University Press
Free sample

Drawing on deconstruction, postcolonial theory, cultural studies, and subaltern studies, The Other Side of the Popular is as much a reflection on the limitations and possibilities for thinking about the politics of Latin American culture as it is a study of the culture itself. Gareth Williams pays particular attention to the close relationship between complex cultural shifts and the development of the neoliberal nation-state. The modern Latin American nation, he argues, was built upon the idea of "the people," a citizenry with common interests transcending demographic and cultural differences. As nations have weakened in relation to the global economy, this moment—of the popular as the basis of nation-building—has passed, causing seismic shifts in the relationships between governments and cultural formations. Williams asserts that these changed relationships necessitate the rethinking of fundamental concepts such as "the popular" and "the nation." He maintains that the perspective of subalternity is vital to this theoretical project because it demands the reimagining of the connections between critical reason and its objects of analysis.

Williams develops his argument through studies of events highlighting Latin America’s uneasy, and often violent, transition to late capitalism over the past thirty years. He looks at the Chiapas rebellion in Mexico, genocide in El Salvador, the Sendero in Peru, Chile’s and Argentina’s transitions to democratic governments, and Latin Americans’ migration northward. Williams also reads film, photography, and literary works, including Ricardo Piglia’s The Absent City and the statements of a young Salvadoran woman, the daughter of ex-guerrilleros, living in South Central Los Angeles.

The Other Side of the Popular is an incisive interpretation of Latin American culture and politics over the last few decades as well as a thoughtful meditation on the state of Latin American cultural studies.

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About the author

Gareth Williams is Assistant Professor of Spanish at Wesleyan University.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
May 22, 2002
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Pages
390
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ISBN
9780822384328
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Latin America / South America
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In The Senses of Democracy, Francine R. Masiello traces a history of perceptions expressed in literature, the visual arts, politics, and history from the start of the nineteenth century to the present day. A wide transnational landscape frames the book along with an original and provocative thesis: when the discourse on democracy is altered—when nations fall into crisis or the increased weight of modernity tests minds and nerves—the representation of our sensing bodies plays a crucial role in explaining order and rebellion, cultural innovation, and social change.

Taking a wide arc of materials—periodicals, memoirs, political proclamations, and travel logs, along with art installations and fiction—and focusing on the technologies that supplement and enhance human perception, Masiello looks at the evolution of what she calls “sense work” in cultural texts, mainly from Latin America, that wend from the heights of romantic thought to the startling innovations of modernism in the early twentieth century and then to times of posthuman experience when cyber bodies hurtle through globalized space and human senses are reproduced by machines. Tracing the shifting debates on perceptions, The Senses of Democracy offers a new paradigm with which to speak of Latin American cultural history and launches a field for the comparative study of bodies, experience, pleasure, and pain over the continental divide. In the end, sense work helps us to understand how culture finds its location.

The conditions for thinking about Latin America as a regional unit in transnational academic discourse have shifted over the past decades. In The Exhaustion of Difference Alberto Moreiras ponders the ramifications of this shift and draws on deconstruction, Marxian theory, philosophy, political economy, subaltern studies, literary criticism, and postcolonial studies to interrogate the minimal conditions for an effective critique of knowledge given the recent transformations of the contemporary world.
What, asks Moreiras, is the function of critical reason in the present moment? What is regionalistic knowledge in the face of globalization? Can regionalistic knowledge be an effective tool for a critique of contemporary reason? What is the specificity of Latin Americanist reflection and how is it situated to deal with these questions? Through examinations of critical regionalism, restitutional excess, the historical genealogy of Latin American subalternism, testimonio literature, and the cultural politics of magical realism, Moreiras argues that while cultural studies is increasingly institutionalized and in danger of reproducing the dominant ideologies of late capitalism, it is also ripe for giving way to projects of theoretical reformulation. Ultimately, he claims, critical reason must abandon its allegiance to aesthetic-historicist projects and the destructive binaries upon which all cultural theories of modernity have been constructed.
The Exhaustion of Difference makes a significant contribution to the rethinking of Latin American cultural studies.
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