Specters of Conquest: Indigenous Absence in Transatlantic Literatures

Specters of Conquest: Indigenous Absence in Transatlantic Literatures

Specters of Conquest: Indigenous Absence in Transatlantic Literatures

Specters of Conquest: Indigenous Absence in Transatlantic Literatures

Excerpt

America was forged by an ongoing production of absence: the lives that disappeared, the societies and ecologies that vanished, the dynamics of disembodiment that were constituent of the Conquest in all its variegated forms. These disembodiments are haunting and transatlantic in nature. They are haunting because, from a position of absence, they contest all our foundational narratives of material environments and flesh-andblood peoples. They are transatlantic because they emerge from five centuries of oceanic crossings and conflicts among Amerindians, Africans, and Europeans. All humanity today is a product of these wakes. All of us are inheritors of the Conquest. Whether conscious of it or not, we are all therefore haunted by its dead. This is to say that we are all, inescapably and tragically, Americans.

This book posits “America” as not a particular country or continent or hemisphere but as a reiterating foundational narrative in which a conqueror arrives at a shore determined to overwrite local versions of humanity, culture, ecology and landscape with inscriptions of his own design. This imposition of foreign textualities—with “textualities” a shorthand for the totality of verbal and nonverbal codes (and their implicit hierarchies) of any society—however dominant and complete it may appear, is never fully successful at the multiple exterminations both explicit and implicit in the conquering project. This is because even in the cases of the most thorough omnicides, the absences of the disappeared still linger in persisting ways. These absences are therefore pres-

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