Bill is an insightful, wonderful reader and editor, who leaves no rocks unturned in terms of grammar, syntax and style, but who also engages your content with comments that make you rethink and calibrate your arguments and assumptions, and with this great sense of humor that makes you laugh out loud. Daniela Flesler
Florencia Garramuno’s Figures of the Impersonal in Contemporary Latin American Culture discusses, in part, two works that decenter the self as subject of, by turns, artistic production and economic function. And, I might add, I think it’s about time. She delivered the talk at the University of Chicago in May 2019. Claudia Andujar’s Photos of the Yanomami (presented not as a culture, not as individuals even, but as subjects released into highly aestheticized treatment (double exposures, filters, or extreme and decontextualizing close up on detail, fragments of cultural production such as tattoos or of nature in time, skin marked with age) breaks from documentary and ethnographic intent and permits, or forces, its subjects (we assume identities that eclipse the photo/ethnographic frame) to address the viewer from a position of the decentered individuality of their details, fragments that resist totalizing either as or by another self. Technology and focus work to refract both the viewers’ gaze (photographer and audience) and the subject’s presentation into what I think of as an extrasubjective life, unavailable to sentimentality, exploitation and political instrumentalization. Diamela Eltit’s Mano de obra focuses on supermarket workers who survive as subjective presences through the intensity of their submersion in their job function or through their mutual narration by the co-workers with whom they live, as tasks of, for example, child care are shared. These examples function to question the neoliberal construction of the worker as a transcendent subject endeavoring to triumph in class struggle and emerge beyond the function of economic agent, but rather imagine communities constructed by workers in group living and shared voices that resist subjection to market logic through creating alternative communities of identity and experiences of work. It’s hard to imagine a more respectful literary response to wage laborers in today’s political climate. Self in these works distributes across creative acts of community, arrays of vectors among engagements, cross-hatching, decentering, fragments localized and lifted out of crumbling margins of communal intent, failed and escaped totalizations, physical erosions, connected across limina, not, for once, alone.
Aurelie Vialette’s “The Dream of a Federal Republic: United States Independence as a Model for Rossend Arús i Arderiu’s Activism and Freemason Ideology” will be included in a Routledge Companion. It traces the specific ways Arus constructed his understanding of an ideal relationship between the Spanish state and Catalonia and of Freemasonry’s stance toward colonialism. Arus did more than continue the Freemasonic associations with enlightenment thinkers like Washington and Jefferson. In each case, Arus used the US model of politically independent states to which a federal power was responsible to reverse the monarchical order, and to advocate that the citizens of each state–whether geographically Iberian or, perhaps most importantly, in Spain’s former and still-colonial empire–would have full enfranchisement, regardless of race, social class, religion, gender, or, significantly, language. The empowering of languages other than Castilian Spanish is significant in Vialette’s discussion. Arus edited and contributed to a Catalan language newspaper with a trans-Atlantic readership going through New York to Latin American states such as Cuba. A rhetorical relationship is drawn between local languages, like Catalan, and local economies, neither accessible to exploitation by a transnational, hegemonizing state power, and both having rhizomatic, horizontal networks of influence. In this way, the Catalan Freemasonic network, which contrary to Spanish Freemasonry advocated colonial independence, became not simply an advocacy organ, but a speech act of political will in itself. June 2019
In May 2019 I got to work with Florencia Garramuno’s “Beyond Representation,” a talk given at the University of Chicago. It concerns what she calls the “documentary tendency” in Latin American art projects and suggests what I think are critical new ways to articulate our readings of history. She focuses on the respectively Argentine and Mexican films Campo Minado, by Lola Arias, and El rumor de incendio, by the group Lagartijas tiradas al sol. Each allows several subjectivities, or “yoes,” to speak for themselves and with each other to submerge the director’s vision in various retellings or re-enactments. By doing so, the films question the representation of a supposed unitary event and keep history open to multiple experiences dislocated both from the event itself and from a central or privileged perspective in the imperfect meeting of subjectivities. Perspectives offered in one scene will open into perspectives offered in others. The Falkland War veterans from both Argentina and Britain in Campo Minado speak to each other and use each other, cast each other, to restage battles. The daughter of a Mexican revolutionary in El rumor…appears as the character of her mother until the mother appears as herself. News media representations contemporary to the events narrated appear as back drops to the narrations to create oscillating (event) horizons. The so called “facts” of history are seen from and dissolve into the present of their being investigated.
April 2019: An as yet unpublished article on the 17th century dialectic of court and retired life played out in the Latin and vernacular language choices, perhaps entangled with life events, of Luisa Sigea. The article explores the etiologies of the change from work written in Latin about public events while tutor to the Portuguese infanta to intensely personal work in the Spanish vernacular, among others, after marrying and leaving court. The article puts forward various explanations, from frustration with private life to adopting a voice for correspondence with intimate female acquaintances to marketing herself as “poetic” through expressions of private melancholy. All of this comes together in the passages about Sigea’s Colloquium, in which two women discuss the tensions between public and private life, between Socratic challenge and contemplation, and put forward an unsettled honesty as the basis of friendship.
February 2019: An as yet unpublished article placing in what I call philological adjacency, since it is highly unlikely there was any direct influence between the works, Tang Xianzu’s Peony Pavilion and Calderon de la Barca’s Life is a Dream. Both works seem to prefigure, in their own ways, Sleeping Beauty, but the interest of the article transcends establishment of parallels to put forward a theory in which images (flowers, pavilions, princesses, etc.) are seen as means of awakening affects of will, “predispositions to act,” in audiences/readers, not purely as vessels for the experiences of authorial subjectivity. The awakening of the characters at once dramatizes and is the agent of the audiences’ awakening.
February 2019: An as yet unpublished article understanding Calderon de la Barca’s Golden Age representation of Apollo and Python as a political response, whether conscious or not, similar to Titian’s paintings in La Sala de las Furias. In each case, figures of chthonic, mantic, visionary passion once valorized or worshipped are subdued or tamed, made safe by supposedly rational authorities as punishment for the passion each work rethinks as hubris. The play and the paintings, as commissioned works, are seen as furthering the intertwined authority and political ends of Philip IV and Maria of Hungary.
February 2019: An as yet unpublished article articulating the character of Lois Lane, in the late 20th century Superman movie series, as a retelling of the myth of Psyche and Eros. Once pointed out, the direction of influence and the relationship are obvious, but of course the article goes on to do more than establish the parallel. It points to the complications of using Psyche/Lois Lane as a feminist model in the period between second and third wave feminist thought.
It was welcome news that Jesus Rodriguez-Velasco’s book, Dead Voice, has been accepted for publication by UPenn Press and will be launched in 2019 or 2020. Dead Voice concentrates on the Workshop of Alfonso X, which was responsible for the groundbreaking legal work, Siete Partidas. It was the first vernacular law code in Spain, but, as Rodriguez-Velasco makes clear in detail, there is so much more. Beyond passing law by decree, Siete Partidas includes passages giving the philosophical and theological underpinnings of law and explores the legal subject’s responsibilities as a constructed entity in parallel with speculation on the law’s metaphysical origins. The book opens with a definition of “Dead Voice,” used to distinguish between the living voice of a testifying witness and the content of that witness as recorded in a documentary process giving the content signifying power beyond the immediate time of testimony. As such, the content is articulated, even constructed, by the language of power in which it is recorded. The voice of the person is lifted from its own materiality and is given a ghost-like presence surviving its contemporary moment in a historicizing and defining text empowered beyond the life of the speaker and the events testified to. Subsequently, the text is archived as a stable document. Situated as such, the person who is a subject of the law becomes a fictive entity constructed by the law code itself. As such, subjecthood is a definition at once derived from and effacing the material/pyschological person. The beauty of this, as Rodriguez-Velasco is at pains to point out, and despite how uncomfortable it may make contemporary western individuals, is that persons are defined as entities whose behavior toward each other and the state is open to regulation that attempts to ensure compliance with moral absolutes from which the law, as articulated, descends. By doing so, it rescues citizens from the arbitrary will of tyrants. Siete Partidas draws on the philosophies of classical, Christian, Jewish and Islamic sources, but the work is in Spanish, and open to scrutiny by any literate subject of Alfonso’s rule.
The Memory Work of Sepharad, working title of a book detailing Spain’s attempts to recuperate and honor its Jewish history. A comprehensive exploration of the issue from historical, museological, economic and political perspectives, this work delves into multiple ways in which Spain’s active reimagining of its past engagements with Judaism and Jews is alternately self-serving and penitential, mocking and gorgeous, antisemitic and honorific. Situated in nuanced narration of the chilling Medieval through Renaissance history of expulsion, forced conversion and domestic fugitivity, the work becomes a tender and unflinching examination of the past in light of contemporary attempts to engage with Spanish Judaism as an act of redemption and often unwitting reiteration. As the authors make clear, the memory of Sepharad is accomplished in the space of the most tragic aspect of the Jewish Spanish past, its near absence, effaced by not only direct near genocides like the Alhambra decree and the Purity of Blood statutes, but by physical constructions of Christian iconography and architecture in palimpsests entirely submerging the Jewish signs over which they were built. Many Jewish artifacts have been recovered and displayed to their advantage as decontextualized works of art in their bare materiality, but their re-situation occurs in a fraught uncertainty about appropriate ways to suggest their significance as products in and of a specific cultural performance. We simply don’t know exactly how Judaism fit with a Spain that too successfully effaced its presence. The history of Spanish Jews, then, is necessarily re-imagined for purposes of, among other things, ways to claim genealogical identity, cynical profit, entertainment, and historical reckoning, often in desperation, all ultimately futile except as the effort forces an awareness of Jewishness as inextricably connected with Spanish identity. Though condemned to inaccuracy and indeterminacy, the memory work of re-imagining Jewish Spain remains simultaneously fertile creative ground. January 2018, Scheduled for publication spring or summer of 2020 by University of Indiana Press….Daniela Flesler and Adrian Perez-Melgosa
Civil Disobedience and the Dangers of Nationalism: A Perspective from the Pro-Independence Left in Catalonia: This work begins with an exploration of the specific historical entanglement of Thoreau’s conceptualization of civil disobedience with the legal framework for assertion of independence provided by the Spanish constitution to unsettle the received understandings of disobedience, and of disobedience to what, in the context of contemporary Catalonia. The work contextualizes the issue in terms of more nuanced modern conceptions of statehood and asserts that the independence movement’s attempt to construe cultural/political identity differently from the notion of nation-state is highly problematic and subject to glib spin by activists on either side of 21rst century independence debates. She makes clear, following Homi Bhabha, that the state is an entity in constant flux and that the desire for revolution exists in tension with the need to wake up in the morning and know what’s legal and what isn’t. November 2017, Aurelie Vialette, Catalan Review, January 2018
A grant proposal for a book currently being written and a talk on the ethical and political consequences of 19th century penal colonies set up by European nations outside their metropoles. The works discuss the colonies as literal exemplification of Foucault’s concept of the carceral archipelago. In these prison colonies—famously Devil’s Island, Botany Bay, Georgia, Fernando Po–unpaid labor was extracted from convicts in a space Agamben calls “of exception.” In these colonies the prisoner is not only disenfranchised but no longer protected by the rule of law responsible for the prisoner’s incarceration. The works explore the irony involved in the biopower of a person’s being displaced through the conferred status of “incorrigibility” to become a potential, semi-autonomous colonial subject–upon rehabilitation!–in a space in which the constituting authority of that status is absent/excepted. The brilliant scrutinizing gaze of the 19th century Galician attorney, Concepcion Arenal, is brought to bear in her proto-feminist critique of the exercise of biopower in its relation to the carceral archipelago. Today’s private prison industry doesn’t go unnoticed. September/October, 2017. Aurelie Vialette
A Home Away from Home, a book exploring the ambivalent situation of immigrant women in domestic work in Spain, as well as Spanish ambivalence about its national identity as it confronts its relationship with those women, many from former Spanish colonies. Domestic service employment is discussed in terms of both dislocation and marginalization of the women involved and both the opportunities for transnational communication and the threat of nationalist alienation of the immigrants in domestic interaction. May 2017. Michelle Murray, accepted 12/17 for publication by UNC Press, date tbd
Intellectual Philanthropy: The Seduction of the Masses: A comprehensive exploration of programs employed by 19th century Spanish bourgeois intellectuals and industrialists to manage anxieties (to be euphemistic) arising from several subgroups of the working classes. Variously cynical and well-intentioned, the programs rose from an unease with the growing presence, after migration from agricultural to industrial employment, of working class people in urban spaces. Many involved the organization of public presence through the creation of working class choruses and educational opportunities provided in the guise of improvement and recreation, but of course having the effect of patronizing domestication of what the bourgeois perceived as a less than civilized culture. Many other programs dedicated themselves to teaching working class women the ideals of the Angel del hogar, or the Spanish version of Victorian middle-class, domesticated womanhood. The work acts almost like a neural stain illuminating the elitism (and elitism as inextricable from sexism) informing social policies both in 19th century Spain and contemporary US. June 2016. Aurelie Vialette, Purdue UP, August, 2018
Another chapter on La movida, “Heroin: The Burden of Modernity,“ deals with heroin use and abuse in both privileged and outsider communities. Of its many important themes, one is a deconstruction of the rhetoric of drug use as a luxury for the privileged indicating sophistication, a creative push for artists as they access “special” realms of human feeling, and an act of despair for the socially alienated poor. His blurring of these lines is at once humanizing of the users and key to healthier ways to understand, treat and integrate those who for whatever combination of reasons use opioids to redraw borders of simultaneous social transgression and belonging within cultural constellations. January 2016. Francisco de Alba
A book proposal and Introduction for A Home Away from Home, a work that will explore the ambivalent situation of immigrant women in domestic work in Spain. January 2016. Michelle Murray
“To Recover Madrid: The Open Space Debate and Democratization,” a book chapter concerning architecture and urban planning that includes the voices of neighborhood residents to shift the role of the architect from implementing the plans of developers and, worse yet, government officials to actively serving the needs of those who would live in the newly built environment and have access to downtown cultural centers. Tracing an evolution of thought from the Franco regime to Enrique Tierno Galvan—Madrid’s mayor in the 1980s—de Alba discusses the various plans, problems and solutions resulting from, by turns, Fascist, Capitalist and Marxist thinking. This is part of a multifaceted history of 1980s Madrid and La Movida. December 2015. Francisco de Alba
On Violence and Tyranny, a dissertation exploring the rearticulation of the source of a monarch’s legitimacy in the wake of Enrique II’s tyrannicide of Pedro I in 1369. The source of legitimate authority was reconstructed from a king’s being an instrument of divine will to a king’s conscious use of the wisdom he was divinely granted to wield power for the good of his subjects, the abuse of which justifies tyrannicide. Since the decision concerning the abuse is made by the people, a critical vector opens in response to question the commonly received opinion that Medieval Europe had very little concern with political science. December 2015. Veronica Rodriguez-Torres
“Forensic Atelier: Between Texts and Textures,” a talk given at the Neuberger Museum on the production, curation and display of Teresa Margolles’s photography and installations. This is a work that is uncomfortably aware of the circulation of global south bodies in the privileged modern art world. Sheets that had wrapped the bodies of victims of police or narcotraficante violence are hung in museum spaces so that the portrait is rendered by stains from the actual bodies of the portrayed. September 2015. Alberto Medina
“An On-Screen Trial: Resistance to Corruption in Ciutat Morta,” a searching look at the use of documentary to transgress and redefine boundaries between legal and dramatic discourse. Film is used to re-interrogate police action against anti-gentrification protesters in early-2000 Barcelona. September 2015. Letras Femeninas,Aurelie Vialette
A proposal for an as-yet untitled book about Arab and Spanish poets’ retelling of histories of mutual inclusion-exclusion as means of gaining the favor of kings and describing cultural boundaries in the Medieval Mediterranean. July 2015. Samuel England
“Massive Harmonies,” a chapter in Dissonances of Modernity: Intersections between Music and Literature in Spanish Culture, 1700-2000, ed. Irene Gomez-Castellano, detailing the formation of choruses in 19th century Spain by people such as Josep Anselm Clave to offer a “civilizing” control over the industrial masses. This is a penetrating work bringing to light the painful ambivalences of fear, altruism, patronizing and self-loathing involved in many social relief efforts. June 2015 Aurelie Vialette
“Adolescence, Liminality, and the Uncanny in the Films of Lucrecia Martel,” a conference paper delivered at the Latin American Studies Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 2015. Sarah Thomas
“An Episode in Provincial Cosmopolitanism: Juan L. Ortiz and Chinese Poetry,” Panel Discussion, F(r)ictions of World Literature: Taste, Value, and the Academy in Peninsular and Latin American Literatures and Contexts. Harvard University, May 8-9, 2015. Alvaro Fernandez Bravo
A grant proposal for a work exploring the ways nineteenth and twentieth century aesthetic, social and legal discourses have operated to racially other prostitutes in Spain and how these discourses laid the groundwork for current attitudes and policies toward immigrant women from Latin America and Africa. Michelle Murray
“A Woman’s Political Answer to the ‘Cuestion Social’ in Nineteenth Century Spain,” This work situates the career of Concepcion Arenal as a woman intellectual employing a creative rhetoric of social reform that escaped, expanded and leveled the common strategies of her male contemporaries. Aurelie Vialette, Hispanic Review, Autumn 2015.
Chapter 2, “Loss, Redemption, and Converso Resonances at the Sephardic Museum of Toledo,”Daniela Flesler and Adrian Perez-Melgosa, book in progress, March 2015.
“Knightly Fables, Visual Concepts,” December 2014. Jesus Rodriguez-Velasco