Spanish Language

John Beverley: Critical Legacy of “Theory” in the Larger Context of Politics since the 1960s. By Fernando Gómez Herrero, who attended the Arts Week 2017 (fernandogomezherrero.com).

 

“Theory” in the U.S. and beyond.

John Beverley delivered a 3-set masterclass titled “The Politics of Theory,” plus one extra lecture, “A New Orientalism: The Question of Literature as Such and Islamic Fundamentalism,” hosted by the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies, in the context of Arts Week 2017 at Birkbeck College, University of London. It is a sign of what “the arts” can do. It was very good to meet John Beverley since the last time we met at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the U.S., about 13 years ago, where he has developed his professional career in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, where I taught briefly. He is foundational figure of Hispanic and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh with all the accolades and songs of glory. His career begins in the California setting in the 1960s, studying with a figure such as Herbert Marcuse, a second-generation member of the German Frankfurt School, one valid preamble of the U.S.-based cultural studies modality of “theory.” His early work is on Góngora, the most elaborate Baroque poet in the Spanish language in the Seventeeth century. We are perhaps most importantly also dealing with the “New Left” emerging in the vicinity of the Vietnam War. How is that for an interesting juxtaposition?

 

No more no less than 50 years later, we find him taking stock of these legacies in the context of Brexit-Britain London a couple of weeks away from the general elections between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. It is also the moment of a certain revival of the perennial Churchillian theme of the “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K. on the part of May. Where will this go? Hailing from the heart of the big imperial country, Beverley (1943-) is foundational figure in the establishment of cultural studies and subaltern studies, having had significant incursions into postcolonial studies in the important point of reference of Duke University, North Carolina, US in the 1990s, perhaps one of the most innovative and creative environments in the immediate past, from where I obtained my Ph.D. at the turn of the century. “Hispanic” is no easy or automatic label for the English-speaking world on either side of the Atlantic, neither is “Latin:” both tend to refer to the area studies of the Spanish-speaking side of the Iberian peninsula and / or its larger Latin American dimension, also inside the U.S., subaltern part of the West, European and American at the same time, domain of high culture and most typically of popular culture, historically imperial and currently mostly postcolonial in equal measure. Trained as a Hispanist, i.e. scholar in Iberian studies, his main vehicle is the field of Latin American Studies, without ever letting go of this European side of things, particularly in relation to the (neo-)Baroque, uneasy label in the domains of “letters” in the English-speaking context, it is fair to say.

 

But “letters” are very much summoned to the interrogation chamber of these lectures, or rather “literature.” There is less of a curiosity in “literacy.” And, what is this funny word, “theory”? It is code for critical intellectual tendencies emanating from (post-)structuralism, displacing historicist, philologist schools of thought. We are dealing with a specific set of academic cultures of scholarship and also of interdisciplinary university practice, particularly in the North Atlantic, U.S. & France & U.K., but not exclusively, and its radiation elsewhere, with its inevitable “blowback” effect reaching us today with a vengeance. Beverley’s “politics of theory” lectures, about 10 hours total, addressed a vast panorama inside which these multiple connections between academia and the world were made explicit, i.e. “studies” and larger political events in the world, particularly the inspiration of Third World and Latin America (or the South), starting from the anti-Vietnam-War opposition, independence movements in the Third World, Cuban Revolution, Sandinismo in Nicaragua, and most recently the Marea Rosada (Pink Tide) with a persistent Bolivian focus. This account was a rich, vivid, vast panorama of an intellectual life trajectory keeping track of political events happening in different parts of the world, and how could it be otherwise in our global interconnectedness?: rest assured that Empire will find its “Empire strikes back” response. It is less certain if there will be a narrative for either or both dimensions (counter-Empire) that will allow us to make sense of things. “Literature” becomes a contested signifier that is not your conventional sign in the bookshops for fiction. In this vicinity, it is the same as the interrogation of structures of power and privilege, inside and outside the institution of the university. The disciplines will dance to high culture (Theodor Adorno’s Schoenberg or Stravinsky dilemma), or to rock’ n ‘roll or pop or punk and less so to funk or hip hop or rap in the case of Beverley’s generation, admittedly a fan of television watching it for hours. Perhaps millenials and native digital creatures will raise eyebrows. The disparity between Frankfurt school theories of culture and consumerist American popular culture was detonator of things to come, at least in the case of Beverley, sitting unevenly high in the “Cathedral of Learning” (the name of the main building at the University of Pittsburgh) in the “home of the brave and the land of the free,” as the American anthem still has it. What about the transformative connection between the “disciplines” or the “studies” as one gets to find them in the libraries, classrooms and lecture halls, and political life expansively understood? This is one of the fundamental preoccupations of John Beverley displayed during these lectures.

 

The Desirable “Negation” or “Interruption” of Theory.

‘Theory” is short name for these “cultural” preoccupations in the vicinity of the vast institution that will not go away, the state. Politics, much more than electoral politics, extends from Vietnam to Iraq and Syria, from Johnson to Bush, Obama and Trump. The reader of other parts will add his/her favourite names and meaningful geographies. We live in tremendous moments of uncertainty, with looming Brexit for Britain, neo-conservative upsurge inside and outside the isles, and correspondingly there is a certain retreat and debilitation of “theory.” The focus was placed during these lectures on what may constitute the collective subject of politics, with or without its displays of impatience, even anger. We are looking for this subject beyond the Althusserian conception. The lectures conjured names galore of living figures (García Linera, Spivak, Butler, Wendy Brown, Kraniauskas, Mignolo), following the traces of already established canonical names (Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Lacan, Otto Bauer, Fanon, Stuart Hall, E. P. Thompson, Gramsci, Deleuze, Hardt, Negri, etc.). It was therefore a crowded imaginary house in the Gordon Square Birkbeck Cinema room. We can “nativize” this type of thought process and bring the affinity to the British school of Stuart Hall in the context of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies founded at the University of Birmingham in 1964 (Hoggart’s Uses of Literacy (1957) must also be included). In Latin America, Néstor García Canclini’s urban anthropology and consumerism is one recognizable name. There will be others. Beverley emerges from this 1960s radicalism on the West Coast of the U.S. His analogy is that of Bob Dylan going electric “transculturizing” the folk tradition resisted also by many, including the cultural theoreticians of the Communist party. Such “contamination freaked out a lot of people.” Some of that is what is wanted for cultural / subaltern studies in the realm of area studies of the foreign dimension, call it Latin American Studies among other names. Where to go but to the popular, i.e. the category of the people?: the Gramscian formula of the national-popular identity and the “failure” of the Italian case. This is the “failure” that reaches our contemporaneity with the neo-conservative focus on the working classes and the “national identity” issue which does not go away, even in our globalized times.

 

Latin America emerges to global consciousness in the 1960s with theories of uneven modernity, the Cuban revolution, a new kind of postcolonial sensibility, the peculiarity of the hybridity of its cultural forms (Fernando Ortiz’s transculturation, the example of the soup called “ajiaco”) responding to Fascist acculturation, and most famously with literary “magical realism” (García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, etc.) among those who still hold a predilection for the book format and the form of the novel. The history of jazz (Stan Getz is mentioned) is a kind of successful transculturation, mostly for elitist groups, perhaps. There as no reference to other artistic forms. “Literature” however remains, for the most part, at least in Beverley’s vision, complicit sign of high culture, the superstructure concomitant with what can be abbreviated as the “institution (literature, university, and perhaps most damaging, the state). If this is the “hell” to avoid at all costs, at least for the sensibility of a certain generation, a certain cultural / subaltern studies will have to go to (the theory of) popular culture wanting the (theoretical) interruption or “negation.” The suggestion is to push the closed metaphorical quality of the critical language as it marches through or perhaps falls, within institutions. The idea is to give force to the subordinate, the dominated, humiliated dimension, the unequal, the space called the “South,” the Fanonian formula of the “wretched of the earth.” The notion of (in-)equality is highlighted between those of freedom and fraternity.

 

We live, alas, in an impasse of “theory.” Beverley is explicit about his feelings (or “affect”) of resentment in our apparent times of conservative restoration. Perhaps “theory” is compensatory radical function for the debilitations of leftist politics kicking off at least since the Thatcher / Reagan moment. Is our moment any better? Where are we looking for global inspiration? Literature? Culture? The Momentum side of Jeremy Corby? The Andean high planes? Syriza? Podemos? Para-institutional spaces? Privatized environments? Digital domains? Where is the power of the imagination to create new worlds of alternative possibility? “Literature” finds itself in “free fall” inside the neoliberal ideology that places the principle of authority in the free market with no particular value or permanent attachment to the “humanities,” hence undergoing a corrosive effect, even liquidation within the cultural industry of the global corporate university and virtualized society at large. The suspicion is that cultural and subaltern studies may indeed have been unwitting collaborators with the system, at least on the American side of global things, since the late 1990s. The self-styled “rebels” may have woken up one tangled-up one bad morning like the characters in the film The Matrix. The Duke moment has now gone. In other words, if Spivak answered her own famous question in the negative, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” Beverley alarm bells toll for the American-style marketing of the University: the Duke Dean who famously proclaimed that Subaltern Studies will be the success model for the global university. The whole point was never to want to find the DNA of global success in the first place. How radically different is the British system by the time this account is made public?

Have Cultural / Subaltern Studies Been Complicit with the Logic of the Reproduction of Capital?

Beverley’s critical hindsight is explicit that these early moments of cultural studies and subaltern studies may have indeed been part and parcel of the postmodernist logic of the global university in late-capitalist formulations. Pause for a minute and take a good look at the culture industry of the university system in the present moment. We may know where we have been, but do we really know where we are (not) going? Pause, rewind and fast-forward taking into account practices and discourses (not) taking place. Subaltern studies is –or at least was– a new way of thinking beyond that by emphasizing what was of inferior status, the lesser value, the foreshortened perspective of the shoe shiner level if you wish. The subaltern has hit a wall since Guha’s masterpiece, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency, with or without the refusal by a certain Latinamericanism to accept the “Indian” influence, but also the American and British influences. Beverley still defends the affinity felt among a few Latin Americanists with Asian Subalterns, at least since the Spivak moment at the University of Pittsburgh. Contaminations go in many directions in the present global present and identity politics will get tangled up and often reinforced in any binary (native and foreign for Area Studies modalities, for example). How could they not? The key thing is still to highlight the dimension of insubordination, and see how far “we” can go. But “we:” who are “we”? Tensions informing Area Studies models of global studies, or the rendering of the “foreign” political dimensions of “who we are,” are perceptible, particularly when “identities” of all sorts come round the corner to live with “us.” Cultural / subaltern studies bring into question this subject position (the “us”) and what would make it desirable against others (the “them”).

 

“We are all post-Marxists now, we are all post-colonialists now…”

Why have “theory” people for the most part stopped short of the state? What have they stopped short, period? How to rethink political subjectivity in the conjuncture? Where is now the point of Archimedes that will move the entire world? Is this too grandiose a statement? Beverley’s brand of cultural studies will still defend “to want to change the world,” around the notion of the totality. One needs a different kind of history that is not the typical biography of the nation state. So, in essence, Beverley’s proposition is for a kind of anti-history stance, at least against a certain conventionality of the discipline of “history.” But there is no retreat from these nouns (nation and state, not even “history” with/out the crisis of all the narratives), not even since the retreat of the Zapatistas (a certain arsenal for Subaltern studies according to Beverley). “Studies” wanted, perhaps still want, to intervene in the structural matrix of the university system in the manner of a desirable interruption, hence the emphasis on the synchronic and also on the sphere of the civil society, or the category of the “people.” The downturn of the Pink Tide governments (Centre-Left, not Red, a kind of social democracy, not in the conventional European sense) puts Beverley in a bind (“I invested his (cultural) capital in the Pink Tide, if I can mix the metaphors. I am bankrupt”). Way out? Perhaps the “politics of dehistoricized affect.” And the issue of representation of “the people” comes to the fore. Beverley is open about the points of contact with the religious domain, from an atheist perspective, and Liberation Theology’s “preferential option for the poor” (Gustavo Gutierrez). Parallels with Enrique Dussel, for example, were not explored.

 

Beverley’s claim is that “we are all post-Marxists, we are all post-colonialists now,” which is a provocation of sorts. This ecumenic call will find sympathy in specialized types of academic discourse and perhaps even affinity in the streets. The desire remains in the meantime one of counter-cultural heterodoxy finding no easy outlet and certainly no automatic release in Britain and elsewhere in the second decade in the new century. A certain Deleuzean tendency seems to be gone in the direction of Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri’s progeny of the best-seller Empire. Beverley holds his breath here, strikes a neo-Leninist pose accusing their followers of “infantile disorder,” whilst conceding that it perhaps shows the limitations of his own generation. We live in terse, tense conjunctures scratching our skulls as to what sort of apparition, catastrophe, epiphany or horror or none of the above, will come next, perhaps the figures of the migrant and the foreign, perhaps convincingly captured by the “modern languages,” “literature” and the “visual culture.”

 

“Postcolonial Criticism of the Inscription of Literature as such.”

Beverley’s open lecture, “A New Orientalism? The Question of Literature as Such and Islamic Fundamentalism” follows one of the fundamental propositions of postcolonial criticism, that modern literature itself, from the Renaissance onwards, is complicit with processes of European colonization of the world. I do not see Beverley calling himself postcolonialist, but he is, no doubt, touched by this set of issues. Stepping outside his “home” in Latin American cultural products, Beverley approaches European cultural products, specifically Michel Houellebecq’s novel Soumission (Submission), Orhan Pamuk’s novel Snow, and Michael Haneke’s film Caché (Hidden), recreating collective guilt in relation to the 1961 Seine Massacre. The answer to the question in the title of the lecture is yes: a spectre is haunting Western secular and consumer liberal democratic consciousness and it is that of the Islamic / Muslim Otherness reproduced by high forms of literature and film. Are “we” all (un-)wittingly recycling Orientalism failing to assimilate the lessons of Edward Said and others as though there was no way out but for whom? The convergence of these three European works is around the challenge to secular modernity / modernization posed by Islamic fundamentalism. Beverley synthesized the narrative of each of these cultural products caught up in what we can call the dilemma of the “Literature in the Third World” (to use the old, perhaps still valid nomenclature of the social sciences in the Cold War moment; the name of Aleksandr Dugin was conjured about worse things to come in geopolitics). Islamic fundamentalism is the conundrum that brings Rushdi and Said, Charlie Hebdo and Fanon’s words on violence together. Roberto Bolaño’s work is introduced as perfect example of Left melancholia in Latin America.

But “literature” is always already the sign of high culture in Beverley’s account and its globalization is no transcendence of colonialism but universalization of new neo-colonial forms, images or letters. Here, the French setting adds a fair amount of fear and (self-)loathing, despite Macron’s recent victory over Le Pen, with worrying signs in many settings (the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, Germany, also Britain, and what about Russia?). Yet again, “literature” is, at least in Beverley’s axiomatic account, the opposite of emancipation: complicit (high-culture) dimension of this New Orientalism with or without declining number of readers and interpreters. If there is a different kind of literature, it was not made explicit. Is there no alternative nesting in mid- or popular culture then? No kitsch either? No schlock? Are there no sustainable examples of a different type of literature in the English and Spanish speaking parts of the world? Is such condemnation made in relation to the author’s fantasy, the rigidly expected reader response, the predictions of the market, the minority effect of consumers of literature and cinema in the “fake-news” mass media? It is not clear. Yet, the main argument in the lecture is that this form of globalism or universalism is easier to denounce than forcefully dislodge. The role of the novel cannot be disentangled from this modernity, including its peripheral variations (Turkey, multicultural Muslim France, the aftermath of the Algeria War of Independence in France). The film Caché reinforces the depressing argument stemming from the famous film Battle of Algiers (1966), allegedly used by Americans during interrogation techniques in war situations mainstreamed by films such as Boal and Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (http://www.fernandogomezherrero.com/blog/?p=1841). My mind inevitably went to the famous article by Fredric Jameson about national allegory and the Third World and the critique by Aljad Ahmad along the lines of “othering” in the 1980s. Was Beverley updating this tension for us thirty-plus years later siding with one or the other? Was he more Jamesonian than Ahmadian or neither?

 

But we are all here, inevitably?, in the evanescence of the object of study called “literature,” caught up in the certain impasse of the “studies” privileged by Beverley (cultural, subaltern, gender / queer, etc.), inside perceptible mutations of the institution of the university. Would the (foreign) visual culture provide better alternatives in the strictures of Brexit and the Age of Trump? In these panoramic lectures, we saw the unequal visibility of the Americas, disturbing glimpses of the “Other” vis-a-vis Britain’s increasingly negative exchange with its own continent, at least in relation to its European Union formulations. But there is more: the Muslim / Islamic “otherness” looks at the distorting mirror image of the secular values and global modernity and the violences occurring in the Middle East and the West most visibly since 9/11 (I am finishing this piece one day after the suicide bombing in the concert of the American pop singer Ariana Grande in the city of Manchester). Final Hispanist surprise: Cervantes’s Quijote is hailed as the founding text of literary modernity making this Western interruption of the Islamic Other. There was no mention of the once celebrated coexistence of the three religions in historic Spain. Perhaps this is a receding horizon beyond our reach in our accelerated and violent timespaces of genuine global disorientation. Will our studies play catch-up?

 

 

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What do We Really Talk about When We talk about Spanish in the US. Of A?

By Fernando Gómez Herrero (fgh2173@gmail.com).


It takes courage to look into an abyss of institutional logic inside capitalist crisis in the immediacy of academic environments side by side the “Spanish” sign and one must always already bear in mind collective dimensions. I wanted to gather some thoughts after the presentation with the title “What do We Really Talk about When We Talk about Spanish in the US of A?” that took place at Harvard some time ago. This reflection would like to be something like a survivalist ethos in these trying times and humor is very much needed, a gallows type surely. Lucidity must be invoked, particularly in relation to the journalistic pieces that will immediately follow always already within the hegemonic modus operandi of cynical market ideology. It is here where the stoking of the ashes of the critical intelligence must take place, particularly since we inhabit structures of lack of care. Let us begin with three jokes.

The first joke has to do with the most common type of relationship with institutionality. Say, you want to date someone, and you go and say, hey, babe, what about you and me? I like you, I see you need someone to teach some classes, I am willing to put down my time, effort, knowledge and my five dollars’ worth acquired in the last twenty years. Let us make it work. And she says, great, thanks for the interest, but I do not really need that much, I want some of your time, not your full time, and some of your worth, three dollars out five, and I will pay you accordingly, no need for elaborate ceremonies, let us make it casual and occasional, a part-time arrangement, strictly short-term, and we take it from there, and let us call it the new normal. And while this is happening, you ascertain that the institution in question (the allegorical girl) is also seeing other suitors, taking advantage of their relative inexperience, foreign status, or more modest academic achievement, while being paid as much as you, as though twenty years’ experience inside the American education system meant little to nothing. Hence, the institutional girl is a bad one, a market-cynical one, and she is dating down so to speak, and that she is giving them a little bit of love and a little bit of money. Institutionality does not really care about longevity, training, experience, proper bilingual beauties, publications and the money you are making is no living wage. This garbage contract, even unemployment, is the “new normal” –and since when?– for the immense majority of foreign-humanities practitioners. Institutions are thus acting like pimps taking advantage of increasingly global traffic sourcing labor, “deskilling” it from within, with precious few regulations or collective bargaining. The capitalist institution is deliberate about the establishment of discontinuities in the labor force, making these working units cheaper, interchangeable, expendable, creating revolving doors, evacuating intellectual richness and social experience structurally from within. Zizek speaks of the sadistic logic of the institution claiming otherwise. This is the predicament, the greasy pole so to speak, bringing your life down to the ever so precarious institutionalization of such lightness of being intellectual and academic thinning out inside higher-education structures embedded within capitalist exchanges, labeled not for profit, inside official moments of financial crisis. The current moment exposes the stark, naked, plain, ugly core. Bureaucratization of “education” makes it increasingly thinned out and lighter, content-immaterial, virulently short-term and anti-historical, banalized or infantilized, the socialization we must imagine is the one within the horizon of customers and consumers and of increasing poverty of rhetorical diction.

The second joke has to do with “racial profiling,” or an increased awareness to social typology in your immediate professional environment, within a perception of an inherited standard sensibility in the early 1970s, call it Michael-Novakian if you wish, of assimilation model in American society that is hardly over. I am exaggerating to prove the point, and one good liberal parallel of intersecting lines would be the urban sociology of the former Senator for New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Here “Hispanic” barely registers. In relation to both authors not of my liking necessarily,I have picked an accessible, journalistic, type of approach that refuses to euphemize traumatic Americanization. I find such approach ideologically undesirable, and yet potentially more valuable and productive than the standard, bland affirmation of cultural-difference, typically leaving the largest template untouched or the official frames intact.

Put these two examples of popular culture in your back pocket in the immediate historical circumstance of the U.S. which defines who you are, whether you like it or not: The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics: Politics and Culture in the Seventies (1971) by Novak side by side visualization of social groups in police films such as French Connection and Serpico. The argument is that the social terminology of majority-minority, “white” and something else, not yet “Hispanic,” or incipiently “Hispanic,” must begin about forty years ago, in the Nixonian moment, of relatively open social self-questioning. So, this second joke would have a Colombian, a Mexican and a Spaniard finding themselves teaching intermediate Spanish-class courses in the undergraduate college in the New England setting inside the Novakian-inherited assimilation models admitting to the violence of the process with no edulcoration or euphemisms.  The anecdote could be anything. It does not matter. The running joke could have the standard joke format of competing ethnic affiliations poking fun at stereotypes against the American normalization typically absent from the immediate interaction and oftentimes in the Spanish-language only dutifulness and you must pay increasing attention to who is around, and who is not, inside those low institutional floors, and the tremendous precariousness of the “cultural diversity” of such institutionalized association will not be missed, something of the grittiness of the Novakian ethnic whiteness alluded to in those films has surely something to do with “Hispanic.” These cop dramas are law-and-order fantasies of social repression. And yet there is the most interesting dimension of the circulation and recreation of the visual tension of social relations inside a system that is irresolutely broken, impossibly corrupt beyond any dream-like redemption. I repeat that my feeling is that some historical “conservative” assimilation-model addressing inequalities and violences with no easy resolution, and the tense play of those “differences,” is ethnographically more detailed and nuanced, richer and more politically productive, than the conventional and banal, “more liberal” theoretical defense, general affirmation and universal toleration of “cultural difference” of already existing categories, since the 1970s, typically without mounting a challenge to historical frames of social intelligibility.

You may add your favorite nationalities (Catalan, Castillian, Basque… Czech, Slovak and Slovenian, Irish and Italian in a Serpico type of setting, etc.) and you will still get something meaningful in relation to the most predictable social typologies doing what kind of object of knowledge production framed inside what conventional geography, or “area studies,” which populate the Spanish-language foreign-humanities business. I bet a dollar most subjects of knowledge production will be doing representational roles of their foreign nationalities with precious little variation games and instead predictable rigidity tied up to typification, or tokenization, of “minority” candidates firmly within allocations of subject and objects of knowledge production. There is an embellishment not to be missed: the accumulation of markers of cultural difference added on the same bodies occupying receding spaces within deskilling and cheapening working conditions and how such bodies are preferably coming from modest middle-classes, provincial locations, domestically or overseas, ideally with little, or even better, no knowledge of the imperial language. The “minority” candidates now typically accumulate two or three markers of “cultural difference,” since allocated spaces are receding. The ironic beauty is thus enhanced when you get to see how the institution simultaneously, deliberately empties out the social pool of historical, social, intellectual experience inside the dominant liberal ideology of interchangeable subjects of relative detachment from determinations of time and place, what I call the construction of the nomadic monad or the monadic nomad. Isn’t this one quintessential phantasmagoria of a certain ideology of Americanism that puts itself thus as model number-one against the cumbersome, thick, historical texture of the rest of the world becoming thinner and lighter, and thus “American”? Structurally, decades of experience and training, Ph.D. achievement, publication record, are put together in the same pay-scale-per-course part-time short-term employability with those newly arrived from overseas desperate for work of any kind. Education institutions deal with education professionals seasonally in the same manner agriculture deals with strawberry pickers or “landscape management” deals with its manual labor, and I am building the “Spanish” analogy deliberately, highlighting inherited social division of academic and intellectual labor. Who is protesting in the open?

The third joke, which I would like to call “tonto con hache,” has to do with a certain bombast of self-advertisement that I tend to find in the Spanish press, perhaps as some form of over-compensation for genuinely demoralizing situations of contemporaneity.Check this out: “El idioma español, en la cima del universo” by Antonio Astorga (www.abc.es/20121011/cultura/abci-idioma-espanol-cima-universo-201210091600.html). This is preposterous and dangerous idiocy that should be challenged by courageous Spanish professionals in the U.S. and elsewhere. Where are they? The eloquent subtitle: “La lengua de Cervantes, detrás del mandarín, y por primera vez delante del inglés, entre las 7000 que existen.” The awkwardness, informality, agrammaticality of the first sentence says it all: “El español como huso (sic) idiomático ha alcanzado ya el rango de segunda lengua franca en este siglo. Sin pinganillos, el español es una fiesta.” The Spanish party? It reads like a grotesque joke. The joke is on us? The approach is crude, raw and quantitative (400 million, native speakers, 439 learners ), obtuse in the surreal celebration of the growth of Spanish irrespective of specific national environments, placing precisely the US as one locomotive of such monumental growth, which is far from true, certainly not institutionally so. This is solipsism and provincialism claiming otherwise and the U.S. situation is not understood at all. The Atlantic is wider than one would think.Strength in strong numbers necessarily? Also in relation to percentages of professionals? Well, it is here barely surviving institutionally and its majority of professionals are barely making a living inside decimated humanities spaces.   The projection: “Para el 2050, se calcula que el censo de hablantes del español en los EEUU será de 132.800.000 millones.” I wish. What about the institutional numbers in relation to students, completion of degrees, professionals making a decent living in universities and libraries, mass media, professional business settings, etc.? A second example, “España descubre el petróleo de la lengua,” by José Luis Barbería (elpais.com/diario/2007/03/24/babelia/1174696762_850215.html).

I am not faking the funk. There is no way around lucidity and intellectual honesty in the rendition of such lucidity, particularly so in the self-styled, number-one country of the world, typically undeterred by fact-checking, with or without the experience of the recent elections (“The Opiate of Exceptionalism,” by Scott Shane, www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/sunday-review/candidates-and-the-truth-about-america.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). So, if “they” claim to be on top of the linguistic universe –the Spanish marker, a marker of social prestige and high-culture recognition in the U.S.?-  “we” are on top of the universe in relation to everything else, provided we do not double-check information sources. The previous article includes the reference to Mark Rice’s Blog “Ranking America” (rankingamerica.wordpress.com/), who built it precisely to challenge such number-one obsessions ever so prevalent in the American psyche. Isn’t this number-one disposition sign of the closing of the American mind?, using Bloomian language, not necessarily endorsing its ethos. Humanists do not typically do numbers often, but they come handy sometimes. And it is the case, that numbers are invoked typically the vicinity of “Spanish:” demographics. Certainly.Yet what type of numbers and where?

I do not know about you but I want to stay truthful publicly to the intellectual crisis that is inside the capitalist crisis. There are three sections in what follows: 1/ the situation; 2/ larger contexts and interests; 3/ projections.

 

1/ The situation with which this presentation began: The visit. The excuse & the pretext if you wish, the Spanish-language promotion of the Spanish Prince Felipe de Borbón y Grecia at Harvard University last summer. There is a culture bite written about it, “Spain is an American Nation” (www.fernandogomezherrero.com/blog/?p=1331).  So we have the “soft-power” intervention inside the global-brand of prestigious university education environments by the foreign-national representative of the Constitutional Monarchy of the medium-size nation.

 

A few items: the interest of the history lesson against the conventional American grain –particularly here in the immediate context of New England and the dual city context of Boston and the “red republic” of Cambridge. Yes, there was a predictable universalism without the self-recognition language of imperialism, international law without colonialism, free trade without inequalities, renaissance of human creativity without darker sides, ever so amiable bi-national collaboration and Spanish/English kissy-kissy relations, but wait Anglos do not typically kiss in polite introductions… In fact, such (air) kissing is an elite-institution affectation that is not common practice in the American streets. And yet there was the good attempt to bring about some temporalities and chronologies, Spanish-language toponyms, pre-Mayflower, pre-Bostonia foundation possibilities, good.

There was thus the justified defense of a larger scope of vision apropos Spanish and Iberian imperialism and colonization of the Americas and the tinkering with the very nomenclature of “America,” one or two continents, or twenty-two? (I repeat, of course the words imperialism and colonization were missing in action, and you may pause to think how many national representatives do you get to see out there waxing eloquently about these nouns in relation to their own nations?). The continental numbering is always a good pedagogic trick to get your students and your carefree colleagues tangled up in the historical blues. Prince Felipe’s march of history, call it discreet, polite, smooth Hegelianism of the triumphant West is atypical for most Americans in the sense that it must incorporate “Spain” in a tighter manner to the U.S. The title plays with the bilingual “confusions” of hemispheric, from Alaska-to-Patagonia America and typically U.S.-only English-idiomatic America cut off from the rest of the larger dimension that breaks down into “two” continents, North and South (Spanish language still remains mono-continental in relation to the land erroneously attributed to Americo Vespucci). Spain, is one of my darling nations, one. It is clearly not the center of interest, not even in relation to Spanish. And this was the core of interest in Prince Felipe’s speech dealt with with some care in the aforementioned culture bite. It was overall a good performance. Good English, which is more than I can say about the immense majority of the representatives of such nation currently under some turmoil. How many of these representatives could say gracefully Gene “Popeye” Hackman line “ever picked your feet at Poughkeepsie and mount a comparable 1970s attitude? Prince Felipe did it diplomatically. So, yes, there was a bit of a quaint, unusual Europe, from a US perspective. A quaint institution (Monarchy, Prince and Princess with some name recognition, not much). No mention of popular Americana, no French connection, Fernando Rey, who plays the “bad” French guy antagonizing Hackman. The Monarchy is no big point of reference for Spaniards themselves, it however plays a state-national, representational role. So in that discourse delivered, we are not really supposed to seek genuine enlightenment and yet we are dealing with power interpellation… There is discourse. There is a desire of discourse, of language, with Spanish being at its core, as well as hunger of memory in relation to a famished “America.” The event was a genuine exercise in (cultural or soft-power) diplomacy and also business localization and advertising and promotion of specific interests, call them business interests in the vicinity of the Chamber of Commerce. The performance was not bad at all. Proper. Nice. Polite. Discreet. Short. Sweet. Do not push too much. Keep it there. All right.

 

But, not quite. Provocatively, I throw a bit of a tantrum, a bit of Zizek at the event: the Monarch-to-be is an “idiot.” And maybe we are all “idiots” with him. There is an excess of discourse, something that eludes knowledge, and runs parallel to the immediate situation… There are external, larger forces around us mocking our intelligibility efforts inside specific localities. How important is the geography of New England vis-à-vis “Spanish,” for instance? And that is the point: always to try to see bigger landscapes of interconnected vision so that at least we become more awareness of our moments of insight and blindness. A demographic-increase celebration of Spanish-language demographics appears dangerous, idiotic blindness, particularly in relation to the U.S.

The concrete event was a good example of what I would like to call mirrors of misrecognition. The foreign prince interpellates the corporation as representative of the big nation inside the bigger history lesson of the West that incorporates Spain, and the corporation does not officially feel the need to respond in kind to the speech, yet opens the door to the distinguished guest, makes it revolving door, and waits for the goodness of the business transaction. Perhaps there will be some goodness. And what does Cambridge have to do with the geography in Florida, New Mexico, Colorado explicitly mentioned in the speech in relation to precedents and preambles? Prince Felipe was using the corporate space as global platform to speak to his own citizens and expatriates –careful here with the American football language of the “Patriots”—to promote Spanish language as good for history and good for business, while the corporation was only too happy not to make a big deal of the event in the first place. It was not a big deal. It is not a big deal. Imagine the reverse, a U.S. state official going to a big foreign nation to promote the historical density of the English language as good for business. What about the President of the Corporation? I thus want to highlight the structural inequality of English/Spanish, and around it, many other things as well. Fragility therefore embedded in the official defense of Spanish inside the global Anglophone Atlantic (Europe-US) “Area Studies” undergoing a genuine debilitation as we speak. There are obviously many interests embedded in the label of “Spanish” and the Prince line of argumentation will have its fans, but I must say that these will not be the many in the U.S., perhaps I am wrong. And I am using descriptive language. The self-assumed representational role: Prince represents a foreign nation and also seeks to represent a (foreign) language and tells us how beautiful it is, and how meaningful, which is true, certainly. And yet…

With or without the humanistic ornamentation of civilizational impetus and theoretically peaceful association, the core of the speech was, and is, business: the event had to do –certainly, mostly—with branding “Spain” and also “Spanish,” but it is done in such a way that it does not push it too much, and the U.S. market is –doubts any one?– a tough one. The identity of Spain/Spanish has to be underlined in the manner of the Chamber of commerce. Think the “market:” euphemism for capitalism, and a variety of national labels inside international platforms such as corporations but also metropolis, not Boston certainly, but New York for example. Go ahead and attract your customers and consumers with your best advertising strategies. And this is, I would put to you, the political unconscious of what mostly happens around here, also inside university settings: to want to be operational, functional, meaningful in relation to the marketing of cultural products which may or may not welcome the label “Spanish.”

Which has, from the U.S. perspective, certainly, a genuine European legacy, the historical references mentioned in the speech are true, but such legacy has to reframed, “Americanized” if you wish, inside the minority portion of the officially majority minority category of “Hispanic,” and the apparent tongue-twisting in the language I am using has to do with the tense history of group relations in the U.S. Here, Spain is predominantly discreet legacy, not among the dominant nations that migrated to the US. “Spanish” is largely a (Latin) American imaginary, a “Latino” and the French-origin expression has to retain something of a healthy, historical strangeness (while I am writing this, the Boston Public Library is celebrating the figure of Rafael Gustavino and American public spaces, association between the Spanish immigrant, who contributed with the structural tile vaulting to more than 1,000 buildings in the US, some of them as emblematic as the Boston Public Library, Ellis Island Museum, Grand Central Station in New York, etc.: architecture.mit.edu/class/guastavino/about.html).

The corporation welcomes such dignified guest. And yet there is something missing, in that here was no official response to the speech. How would one love to hear what the institution have to say about the main thesis of the Prince’s discourse! There is precious little penetration of such endeavors, as far as I can see. The might of Spanish-speaking sectors inside the U.S. knocking on the institutional doors, where?, in the deliberative tables of professionals and managers, around the discussion tables of boards of trustees? The percentages of customers craving such cultural products? Healthy numbers of those students taking one or two courses, what about getting some kind of certificate in the language? Total numbers of consumers demanding a certain profile? Who was and is by the time I write this feeling cheerful about the conventional university institutionality of Spanish in the home of the brave? The speech did not touch such dimension, advisedly. Imagine a dignified guest criticizing harshly the choice of china for the tea ritual!

2/ Larger Contexts and Interests. A bit of a cognitive mapping. So, where, when, how? Higher-education institutionality of Spanish in the U.S. within the foreign-language units. Predicaments. Dilemmas. Whither are we bound? “We” who? Any appeal to any collectivity appears ever so problematic. Increasing privatizations and corporatization of education sectors, playing some kind of role inside society at large. Officially, these are not-for-profit sectors and we are currently enduring disinvestment and “de-intermediation,” two really cumbersome and euphemistic polysyllables. I have alluded to recent sociological work that speaks of university education as mostly “socialization” for the vast majority of U.S. students and who is seriously complaining? (that was also how Richard Rorty characterized university life for the vast majority of students, ever so distant from the examined life).

I am speaking perhaps lightly about serious matters and I mean seriousness when I say that the humanities occupy a funny place in the contemporary moment in the U.S., let us continue focusing on the “freest and most proud nation on earth” as some rhetoric still has it. The knowledge-production that still merits the label of the “humanities” (“liberal arts” really) must come to terms at least in the case of “Spanish” –I am keeping it thus short and sweet—with a brutal diglossia, an unambiguously fierce monolingualism that puts together a un- if not anti- historical, rough knowledge of “English,” in detriment of, or more precisely against all the other languages, and the structural subordination of the second American language, ”Spanish,” here glows historically, against its own recent history of brutal assimilation, alluded to earlier by the one personal name of the conservative commentator of Slovak origin, Michael Novak, out of the riches of multiculturalism and multilingualism, again, two other cumbersome and euphemistic poly-syllables connoting “bad press,” conventionally. It always makes me pause to remember the self-description of Americanization among conservative commentators, such as Novak and Huntington, as a process of “psychic violence,” and even lobotomy, in the deliberate loss of other languages, and how do you like such a thing?, and how on earth would you go for such a thing if you had a ghost of a historical option? But that is when the non-euphemized experience of immigration into the U.S. acquires some of its historical flavor and tension (I have alluded to the inspiration of 1970s films which do not wish to make such tensions euphemistic and more palatable but instead look at that difficulty in the face with no easy resolutions). This is significant, I would defend, because Spanish professionalization may be moving towards such tense integration. And then people invoke big numbers of speakers, sure, but you will never know by taking a peek at the institutionality in relation to education professionals making a decent living and the strong pronouncements they consistently fail to make about the dire straits of the institutional situations in which we all live. What are the visible or audible research agendas saying exactly?

Now, this is not the place to address the pathologies of American culture, but I could mention some (generations cut off from timespaces not their immediate own, ghettoized from each other, traumatized into American assimilation, at least according to our aforementioned conservative commentators historically endorsing such traumatic process, precious little sense of diachronic development and multi-perspectivism of worldviews, fragile and thin social fabric caught up or shot through by short-term “garbage-contract” institutionality, the other side of organic life of a certain continuity, business culture breaking through all apparent social things, think of Moses’ highways through historic Penn Station, the decay of urban centers, for example Boston theater district, public institutions such as the Boston Public Library, the deterioration of subway transportation, etc.). Very little holds, stays, apparently: there is no center (Daniel Bell dixit, decades ago), and most natives you will talk to do not appear to have precious awareness or care about what was happening in their midst two or three decades ago, much less centuries ago. What is there in American society that reminds you of other, foreign temporalities? What is there that holds continuity, that makes claims to a legacy or tradition? Academic life mimics the growing discontinuities of American society at large. No outrageous claim when I say that there is very little self-awareness and recognition inside the U.S. about its vigorous, interrelational, diachronic web of being inside larger world avatars, which is what Prince Felipe was trying to convey ever so diplomatically in old-fashioned, humanistic fashion, but the core of his speech –the depleted wallet in the pocket hiding in the jacket– was business-like and business, do you ever doubt it?, does not venerate historicity here or there.

“Spanish” in the U.S. classrooms is ever so discreet “second-language” pedagogy of middling-ground grammaticality and literacy in one or two courses taken inside a deteriorating requirement –bye, bye fictional worlds , or literature, and increasing indeterminacy or “culture,” which is something like sociology of mass modes, mass media or entertainment or urban consumerism, or civil society by famished institutionality, also by a genuine anti-establishment impulse that typically gets called “libertarian,” inside a society of indeterminated boundaries that is increasingly averse to textuality, ignorant of diachronicity, impatient and restive, profoundly disoriented about the utopia of meaningful arrangement of timespaces, the desirability and awareness of the intersections of geography and temporality in the binding of the doings and thinking processes, also imaginings, of social groups. One could say that we live in a genuinely non-book domain, para- but also anti-humanities inside university precincts, indifferent from capitalist structures seeking short-term profit. The political unconscious is market-cynical and rhetorically American-liberal of respect for individual choices and preferences, assuming theoretical menu of options according to the horizon of increasing individual detachments from collective units. Such modus operandi easily turns restive and repressive, anti-historical, anti-philosophical, and certainly anti-intellectual, the moment it is pressed to give reasons larger than subjectivist preferences or ad hoc institutional rules and regulations.

And here you are trying to make a living with your knowledge production. Employment conditions of Spanish-language professionals (typically covering area studies of Iberian peninsula and Latin America, within a slow recognition of the Latino dimension): horrid. The euphemism of the “market” (i.e. capitalism) cannot hide the structural degradation and systemic downgrading made evident in the “deskilling” of jobs advertised, retained and rewarded with continuity. The cat’s cradle of bureaucratization inside not-for-profit units effectively means the skullduggery of devalued language skills, thinning out of longevity, amputation of intellectual production and projection and the mockery of the rewards that should come after years of study. Should?

The language is in some quarters one of “casualization,” another cumbersome euphemism. And this is another one: “variety of income streams.” And all this has to be thought out as systemic and structural, quite far away from individual vicissitudes of good or bad fortune. In short: immensely precarious working conditions, more the unacknowledged negative than the positive, unemployment than employment, more short-term and casual than anything else, a job with continuity, “tenure-track” and pay that is barely above the poverty line. The course offerings, more lower levels of instruction than anything higher, which has never been very high, comparatively in the U.S. Where are the comparative studies of accomplishments of different university systems? I have put my own biographical experience (“On Greenblatt’s historicism: Double-take,” www.fernandogomezherrero.com/blog/?p=801). We are witnessing if not the end of the academic profession certainly something close to it, and the modifier adverbial probably has to do with the general attitude of strategic silence in moments of genuine crisis. But the survivalist ethos will never say never. So, say instead that one must learn to make do with the structural mutation of what university education amounts to (I am fond of the Puerto-Rican Spanish anglicismo of “colegios” catching up fittingly the gravitational, downward-pull of U.S. higher education, following capitalistic fundamentals of short-term profit differentials, cheapening working conditions here, deskilling criteria, making it more prohibitive and more expensive there for customers and consumers seeking socialization, etc.). After two decades in the US, I am yet to find professionals who are convincingly defending the current bureaucratization of academic environments, of private corporatization of such bureaucracies of social relations generating systemic precariousness and strategic unpredictability. I feel the humanities do not have a rhetoric to put them out of the burning fire. I feel the same is true for “Spanish,” paradoxically informed by such spectacular demographics. What comes to me is the debilitation of the education profession inside the current global capitalist mass-market society, but wrapped up around it the impoverishment of symbolic production about the mechanisms implemented for the social control inside those interconnected webs and institutions of comparative, relative privilege. Somebody will be benefitting from such degradation.

Tell me the research agendas you get to see out there in the vicinity of “Spanish” other than some differentialism receiving the adjective cultural. One repetition: the clear attenuation of textualities in the vicinity of a certain normality of culturalism –now that “cultural studies” is the apparently only, typically diluted, label there is, particularly within the foreign humanities. Skepticism about a certain normality is appropriate: trust your circumstantial evidence in moments of thin discourse and thick silence. There is a certain orthodoxy of cultural difference, or the said differntialism, always already in relation to some type of symbolic or epistemic “core” taken for granted, typically assumed as the normal, good or real thing, or what is, most often left alone side by side gradualism of greater participation of under-privileged social groups (I share Slavoj Zizek’s criticisms however about a “radical apathy at the heart of today’s cultural studies, playing up right into the market ideology,” included for example in The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieślowski Between Theory and Post-Theory (2001), pp. 6ff). You may imagine in the meantime a typical situation in which a weatherwoman is telling us about the generally bad weather “out there,” while leaving the “in here” under-verbalized. Deep down, who cares, if we cling to the adverbial clause, the “out there.” What matters mostly, it seems to me, is instead the relationship between such (im-)possible knowledge renditions combining different timespaces (localities and chronologies), particularly when the immediate circumstance is proven to be faulty, paltry, incomplete, radically unsatisfactory. One of the denunciations has to do accordingly with the perception of an unmistakable flattening that naturalizes the status quo. It must be added that Spanish is still in the process of normalization into the de facto second-language status in the U.S. And that it is still in a relative institutional foreignness in the fragile humanities, or cultural studies, where the few professionals still have to play the representational role of a certain predictable kind of identifiable of a recognizable marker within few exchange options against the conventional race-and-ethnic profile that is typical of the U.S. (cultural-diversity offices, US Census, political consultations do wake up periodically the ghost of the impending transformations in the vicinity of the “Hispanic” category). Roberto Mangabeira Unger has spoken critically about a certain adventurism and subjectivism characteristic of the humanities assuming a certain triviality or ornamentalism that will be taken down in contemporary moments of dire straits. I must say it is difficult to shake this one off. What to invoke and what to appeal to, within the prevailing climate of short-term skirmishes within the perception of debilitation of educational-bureaucratic circles, that is a tough one.

In the meantime, here you are doing “Spanish” barely making a living, over-educated in a society that thinks little of the juxtaposition between the sign in quotation marks and prestige markers or achievement. Feel free to put the category you deem prestigious inside the dominant spectrum that still affirms “Spanish” becoming “American” from a position of structural subordination and integration into functional diglossia if not monolingualism, and the examples are easy to find (Sonia Sotomayor, the brothers Julian and Joaquin Castro, the journalists Richard Rodriguez and Juan González). Not entirely facetiously: imagine a coca-cola palate tasting samples of aged wine taste, imagine mole sauce in the land of ketchup, think labels such as “junk gourmet food” for example in this deliberate marketing of de/structuring sensibilities, languages, experiences, thoughts, etc. cut unevenly across the typical university visibility of subject and object of knowledge, under-represented, and out of synch against the largest social spectrum of the big nation. These are, no doubt, tensions, informing the “Spanish” category in the home of the brave in the Age of Obama, inevitably meaningful as one gets to engage with literacy and historical dimensions, and philosophical pretensions. The criticism has to emphasize the normality of anti-historical, anti-philosophical, thinning out of textual engagements, streamlined to pedagogic “facilitations” of increasingly bureaucratized and institutionalized sociabilities passing through, in ever so fast exchanges, ephemeral places (Mar Augé has written about “non-places,” and John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay speak of “aerotropolis,” and who doubts the university “campus” is becoming some of that, and how we are almost forced to become something of an unbearable lightness of circumstantial being (recreating Kundera’s famous novel title), whatever was solid melting into the air, and now going one step further into digital virtuality, and the realm of the accelerated unhinged image, and one may wish to remember at this juncture the memorable line of Henry James of the U.S. being a “hotel civilization,” which he left behind somehow as a cultural expatriate).

I am thus willing to put it to you thus publicly that we are witnessing non-obvious processes of de/institutionalizations of social relations also in the vicinity of “Spanish,” now with an intellectual crisis underneath every institutional stone you are willing to kick around –over there in the foreign country of the foreign prince that some of you left behind, and good riddance—but also undoubtedly over here, who doubts it?, in the land of the sole-standing superpower with little feeling for sustained, comparative historicism among societal models. People over there I still happen to think are more vocal than people over here, who have typically less of a historical language, perhaps less of physical strength in the brain in a harsh society of immigrants –ask the Czech experience of Novak, the Irish experience of Moynihan and come up with alternatives for the impending feeling that almost any notion of tradition may ever so quickly become an impossible burden, and where to find the strength in the limbs and the inspiration in the brain to go at such sustainable development? I would defend the inverse proportionality: a more stable or established or formal-traditional society may afford the theoretical position of producing more daring fictions and sophisticated intellectual alternatives, whereas a more precarious and unstable society of faster exchanges and enforced integration – say, conventional Americanization– goes ever more naturally to more superficial and simpler formulations, ever more rigid and operational solutions for the mounting pressures always in the perennial short-term.

And the third and final section has to do with projections. Whither are we bound, professionally and existentially, because it is your life going through the motions? And I do not know about you but I am not willing to go down the trivialization path I am just sketched out for the perceived generality ever so hastily. Academic professional life of/for Spanish is going to change ever so slightly and slowly from this situation of chronic unemployment and job precariousness for the immense majority of professionals. PhD program debilitations and thinning out of academic units –also worringly in relation to customers and consumers unless departmental units pay close attention and react better quickly than slowly.

Division of labor is going to continue. In the American imagination, “knowledge” is in English –the vehicle, the medium—and the foreign languages –what nice thing to say about this template?—provide some type of ornamentation, what I would call “boutique Europe” perhaps the best case scenario. But I would suggest that it is mostly thin culturalism –think food and United-Nations-type celebrations or student-organizations in the private campuses, some images, some film, sports, “soccer.” Sure. I like that too. Anything else? What I mostly hear is an awful lot of silence around the importance of the “foreign languages.”

The silence means there is a profound, deep crisis of legitimacy of the humanities and of Spanish in them trying to play catch up with the positivity of demographics. What is it that such sign does, really? And I confess to you that “”Spanish” is one of my concerns, certainly: one. So, this culturalism is perhaps a fight that has always already been lost. The good fight of lost causes? The silly piece in the Spanish newspaper ABC aforementioned includes a reference to the “last of the Philippines,” which is a colonialist film vision of Spain’s travails in the crucible of the 1898. You can ethnicize the expression if you wish (“the last of the Mohicans”). The point being, the defense of the foreign humanities in partibus infidelium, the Latin plays up the peculiarity of the “Latin” focus in the U.S., is always already a “minority affair,” suddenly turning official prediction into the following decades. Saying it less playfully, one will have to speak of turbulence in knowledge-production units inside the current capitalist crisis.

I happen to think that a more connected, more confrontational and muscular language is wanted, if what one wants is to try to get a keener sense of our historicity. Against the abyss of market-cynical ideology, I am resisting the debilitation of language in the vicinity of the institutional fragility of “Spanish” inside American universities in the midst of momentous transformations. I am willing to take risks and pursue the opposite of the debilitation of symbolic production, while being aware of Lacanianisms standing for the ontological void of it all. Zizek takes us there. Yet, one must handle these seductions sensibly.

I will finally put it thus: I see some people selling some kind of watered-down lemonade to other people who drink a bit of it but who are not really thirsty and after one or two tries, say one or two courses, drop it (Spanish) and move on to other better things of the kind that could be called functional or marketable knowledge. Spanish, I must say, it is not convincingly here. It has not been here and probably it will not be here any time soon, historically, socially, epistemologically, politically, philosophically, certainly not within the current university structures undergoing mutation not spoken of eloquently. Americans of the conventional kind do not know what these previous adverbial dimensions mean in juxtaposition to “Spanish,” or Hispanic or Latino, for that matter, and it is also not unlikely that they will know what such juxtaposition means in relation to (the discipline of) “English” either. Tangled up in both, we are all good guys and nobody’s perfect.

The skin is in the game, mine at least, and here I am doing what I think I should do, and doing so by the skin of the teeth, negatively speaking, and the utopia or positivity has not yet arrived two decades after the arrival in the home of the brave. In the meantime, I will not yield to the collapse of the structure of meaning and care apropos the hard sell of “Spanish” in the U.S., and many other things with it, and I must think less than nothing of the structural ingratitude –so far—that is not only anti-intellectual, but many other awful things as well. Thanks for your attention. Open for comments, questions, anything.