Introduction: The Nation in Question in the Literatures, Cinema and Art of Latin America and the Caribbean/la Nacion En Cuestion En Las Literaturas, Cine, Y Arte Latinoamericanos Y Caribenos

By De Grandis, Rita; French, William | Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Introduction: The Nation in Question in the Literatures, Cinema and Art of Latin America and the Caribbean/la Nacion En Cuestion En Las Literaturas, Cine, Y Arte Latinoamericanos Y Caribenos


De Grandis, Rita, French, William, Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies


From Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares in Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi (1942) to Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Sub-comandante Marcos in The Uncomfortable Dead (2006), co-authorship has found a place in Latin American literature. Rather than featuring detectives and criminals, our version of writing in "four hands" is an attempt to build on our long academic relationship that has involved supervising graduate student research and organizing graduate-student workshops and conferences, to extend it to writing about the "nation in question" in a voice that is both one and two at the same time. (1) An introduction to a collection of articles that explores the much-debated relationship between imagining the nation and beyond, the present work offers, at the same time, a dialogue between cultural history and literary criticism that perhaps, in our most optimistic moments, may both challenge the limits of these two disciplines and at the same time act to re-inscribe them.

Our concern and that of the contributors to this special issue is to engage with some of the themes that have emerged out of the extensive literature generated by the provocative idea that the nation has been imagined. In contrast to much of this literature, which has focused, pace Benedict Anderson, on the role of print media, especially novels and newspapers in the discursive construction of the nation in the 19th century, the special issue explores national imaginings in novels, film, and, to a lesser extent, art, in the transformed context of late-20th- and early 21st-century transnational preoccupations. Such preoccupations have led to writings by the kinds of authors studied in this issue by Jose Antonio Gimenez Mico (Alejandro Saravia, Bolivian Canadian/Quebecois) and Raquel Rivas-Rojas (Julia alvarez, Dominican/US)--those concerned with the displacement of national imaginaries or even with calling into question national narratives, as those preoccupations have in other fields, including history, with the breakdown of histories written in a national paradigm and an increased emphasis on flows, across borders, boundaries, categories, cultures, and languages. Other of our contributors--Gaston Lillo, Jan Mennell, and Ana Belen Martin Sevillano--build on Anderson's emphasis on media, but expand it to deal primarily with film (Lillo and Mennell) and painting (Martin Sevillano), in recognition, as Martin Barbero (1993) has shown, of the central role of new forms of mass mediation in 20th-century national (and transnational) imaginings. Finally, those authors in the present issue dealing with alternatives to national imagining--particularly Diana Moro, who writes on socialist revolution in Nicaragua, and those dealing with Cuba--stress their disillusionment with the shortcomings of, yet simultaneously their great affection for, such dreams or visions. Their work hints at the possibility that the symbols of nationness, the reservoir of images in the national imaginary, not only continue to be good to think with, but constitute a necessary prosthetic to post- or transnational imaginings, as much of the literature and art in and/or about Latin America continues to be rooted in the romantic project of the national.

Imagining the Nation and Beyond

Should a further reminder of the enduring strength of the "nation" as an affective project and a claim on identity be needed in these times of globalization, diasporas, and the post-national, such was provided on 17 February 2008, when one of the authors found themselves accidentally in the midst of Kosovo independence celebrations at the intersection of Robson and Denman Streets in Vancouver, British Columbia, a location that forms part of the unofficial route upon which politics is publicly performed and contested in that city. The newest entrant to be welcomed (at least by some) to the club of modern nations, when it comes to national imagining, Kosovo, in addition to many other things, is a reminder of both how much has changed and how much remains oddly familiar. …

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