Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Engaging the Atlantic: New Routes, New Responsibilities*

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Engaging the Atlantic: New Routes, New Responsibilities*

Article excerpt

Abstract

Engaging the Atlantic might be useful, even instrumental, in putting together and taking apart the elements of the colonial on both shores of the divide - if it is conceived as providing possibilities for network analysis and comparative colonialities rather than as an expansion of the tradition of imperial Spanish, Portuguese, British, Dutch history. Equatorial Guinea, a Portuguese and later a Spanish colony, is an Atlantic site of colonial convergence. Its history presents the opportunity to approximate the field of study to other latitudes by examining the branches of Portuguese and Spanish imperial practices in America and Africa and, in passing, questioning traditional definitions of area, regional, period and national studies. In rethinking Iberian and Latin American Studies across the Atlantic, and in opening the field of inquiry, we add a spatial dimension to the colonial haunting, which enables us to alter our traditional perception of body flow, nuancing hegemony and shifting locus. In this colonial equation Africa no longer figures as the passive departure point for a one-way traffic, the quintessential homeland of the diaspora, forever a place of origin and purity. The case study presented here is in several instances a compelling example of a process in reverse.

Resumen

El Atlántico concebido como una ruta posible para el análisis de colonialidades comparadas, no como expansión de la venerable tradición de la historia imperial española, portuguesa, británica, holandesa..., puede servir como un marco conceptual útil, incluso instrumental, para analizar los elementos unificadores y diferenciadores del proceso colonial a ambas orillas. Guinea Ecuatorial, parte de cuyo territorio fue antiguamente portugués y luego español, es un espacio Atlántico de convergencia colonial. La historia de sus islas nos permitirá aproximar el campo de los estudios coloniales ibéricos y latinoamericanos hacia otras latitudes al estudiar sus ramificaciones en América y África y, de paso, cuestionar demarcaciones tradicionales de estudios de área, por períodos, regionales o nacionales. El Atlántico añade una dimensión espacial al efecto espectral del colonialismo y abre el campo de investigación, lo que permite a su vez alterar nuestra percepción tradicional del flujo de cuerpos, complejizar los conceptos de hegemonía y desplazar su locus. En esta ecuación el África colonial no puede ya concebirse como un punto de partida pasivo del tráfico en una sola dirección, lugar por excelencia de la diáspora, y permanecer para siempre como un espacio de origen y pureza. El caso estudiado ofrece un ejemplo de lo inverso en varias instancias.

'Stocks in Atlantic history are high', one historian announced several years ago in a provocatively entitled article ('Only Connect: The Rise and Rise (and Fall?) of Atlantic History' (Trevor Burnard 2006: 19)), observing, not without a certain irony, the proliferation of university course offerings, conferences and symposia, journals, collective and individual publications, academic titles and positions, postgraduate fellowships, and collaborative projects of all sorts and disciplines, bearing the marketable tag of the Atlantic. The remark has been widely echoed: 'There are more Atlantic histories now than ever before', Ian K. Steele suggests, 'including black, white, red, and green ones' (2007: 56), although one might note what has been termed the 'odd blending of racial and political terminology' (Gabaccia 2004: 2) in such color-coded categories. It would nevertheless appear that, in the afterlife and aftermath of regional and area studies, diagnosed by Harry Harootunian and Masao Miyoshi (2002), and - it might be added - given the obvious limitations and constraints of nation and period studies, a renewed intellectual push towards inter-, trans- or multi-disciplinarity (whichever direction the transversality points to) is inevitable. We have long passed the point of no return. …

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