Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

3 A First Approach to Diasporic Marvellous Realism

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

3 A First Approach to Diasporic Marvellous Realism

Article excerpt

THE IDEAS BEHIND THE POSTULATES around postcolonial theory implemented by Bhabha, Said, Spivak, and Ashcroft, among others, not only as a set of historical categories but also as a strategic discourse, were already present in the Latin American context.1 Even before the literary boom of the 1960s, syncretism and hybridity were key concepts in the cultural paradigm of the Americas. This was the result of the critical process of readjustment that took place with the formation of a nationalist consciousness in different parts of the continent where cultural identity was considered to be a subversive counter-discourse that accompanied political independence. A good example of this distinctive attitude is the aforementioned proposal presented by Ortiz in 1940 in his Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar, where (as I mentioned earlier) he applied the term 'transculturation' to the Caribbean as a way to avoid the problems that the anthropological concept of 'acculturation' implied. He did so because, in his particular Cuban context, cultural identity was accomplished through a process of adaptation and transformation, giving rise to a new cultural product. Thus, it seems that, in a Latin American context, a particular theory was already present without a specific label avant la lettre of postcolonial studies in the English-speaking world.2

As Femando Coronil points out, Latin America, as an object of study and source of knowledge on (post)colonialism, has been excluded from or marginalized in the debates and pivotal texts.3 It is remarkable that postcolonial studies in academic institutions have focused primarily on the consequences of northern European colonialism in Asia and Africa rather than addressing the Latin American colonial experience. Walter Mignolo considers that imperial power was conceived in Latin America by means not of colonization but of 'westernization', and for this reason 'post-westernization' is a word that has its natural place in Latin American thought, much as postmodernism and postcolonialism have their place in the thought of Europe, the USA, and the former British colonies.4 Post-westernization addresses a particular critical concern with the situation that emerged in Latin American during the nineteenth century when the relationship with Europe started to be redefined according to the flourishing of a new discourse around Latin American identity. Notwithstanding this, and as Mignolo himself acknowledges,5 the situation in the anglophone Caribbean differs from the aforementioned reluctance in Latin American studies to use the term 'postcolonialism' owing to the fact that the British and French colonial legacy inherited by the Caribbean islands is an avenue of thought that, if not identifiable as postcolonial, has all the hallmarks of research that is nowadays accepted as such. As Mignolo remarks, it is noteworthy that postcolonial theories have emerged in the cultural regions that experienced the second stage of westernization carried out by Britain and France; this may be the reason why Fanon's theoretical approaches, for instance, have not made a major impression on Latin American critical theory. This is mainly due to the fact that the geocultural colonialist distribution among Latin America, Brazil, and the anglophone/francophone Caribbean helps explain the lack of communication between those regions.

In this respect, the most noticeable change in literature in the Latin American tradition took place when writers decided to speak of the subaltern not only 'giving' voice to them but also 'becoming' part of them. In this deceptively simple nuance lies the real innovation of a new form of discourse. The attempt to 'become one of them' was not always accomplished in the same manner. Some of the most negative criticism levelled at ¡Écue-Yamba-O!, the novel that Carpentier published in 1933, centred on his lack of narrative commitment. Emir Rodríguez Monegal observes that the main narrative problem of ¡Écue-Yamba-O! …

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