Mecila

#16

My Research Experience with Mecila

Global Convivial Forum 

Léa Tosold (SCRIPTS FU-Berlin / Former Mecila Junior Fellow, 2020-2021)

Mecila Annual Meeting (Cologne, November 2021).

The partnerships I have established at Mecila will certainly outlive the duration of the scholarship; some may even last forever. I have learned a lot both in terms of content and in terms of the practice of working collaboratively.

I am an interdisciplinary researcher and activist. My academic work is on feminist and anti-racist epistemologies, from which I aim at rethinking collective forms of existence as resistance in contexts where violence is naturalised and ongoing. In my Ph. D., I engaged in a theoretical-political discussion of the politics of difference based on the Munduruku people and the riverside populations struggle to defend their territories against the construction of mega dams in the Middle Tapajós river region in the Amazonian rainforest. As a Mecila Junior Fellow in 2020-2021, I had the opportunity to work on memory politics and its global-local connections relying on Beatriz Nascimento’s notion of quilombo.

I was part of the first cohort of fellows since the Covid-19 health crisis. Even though we had to work online and the scholarship was cut down to seven months, I found Mecila to be a vibrant, respectful, and very stimulating space for the flourishing of my research. In addition to the colloquia, I participated in the activities of the three Research Areas (RA). The meetings were enjoyable and soon became a highlight of the week, different from the usual constraints of online work we have faced throughout the pandemic.

It was the first time I had worked with a group of researchers who were at the same time genuinely interdisciplinary and highly qualified, all of whom were involved in topics related to conviviality-inequality. It provided valuable insights for my research and dealt with specific theoretical issues that are common to all of us, conferring clarity for the onto-epistemological challenges we collectively face in our academic work.

This applies not only to the general colloquia but also to the meetings and activities of the different RAs. For example, in the RA (Hi)Stories of Conviviality, we had the opportunity to discuss the underlying notions of temporality in our work and its broader theoretical implications. The RA Medialities of Conviviality, among other topics, provided the chance to discuss the relationship between form and content in academic work. We discussed in the RA Politics of Conviviality how to deal analytically with collective resistance processes while simultaneously considering the (re)production of violence and testing the application of our knowledge regarding current pressing issues such as the pandemics.

I also appreciated the collaborative process with Senior Fellow Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez and Junior Fellow Juliana Streva to organise a podcast based on the common strands of our work — which is something I had only done before as an activist. Our podcast, inspired by the notion of quilombo by Beatriz Nascimento, dealt with different forms of producing knowledge. We had wonderful and inspiring support from the incredible Mecila team. I am sure we are all are very proud of the outcome!

PHK_1560

It was the first time I worked with a group of scholars managing three languages simultaneously: English, Portuguese, and Spanish. The ability to switch and deal with different languages, in my opinion, also contributed to the creation of a welcoming atmosphere of working together that enabled us — including myself — to find other ways of mobilising and expressing in the group our best individual contributions.

The partnerships I have established during my time at Mecila will certainly outlive the duration of the scholarship; some may even last forever. I have learned a lot both in terms of content and in terms of the practice of working collaboratively.

#15

Transformação urbana em disputa: o Plano Diretor Estratégico do Município de São Paulo

Global Convivial Forum 

Nesta conversa com a professora e pesquisadora Bianca Tavolari (Mecila/ Cebrap/ Insper) discutimos o que é o plano diretor, quais as disputas em torno de sua revisão e como o instrumento ajuda a desenhar os rumos da cidade.

Qual o papel do plano diretor?

O plano diretor é uma espécie de Constituição da cidade. Ele não só propõe como a cidade deve se organizar, mas também uma imagem de seu desenvolvimento futuro.

O plano define como a cidade vai crescer, o tamanho das edificações, como pensar os espaços públicos e seus usos, a rede de transporte público, onde estimular moradia.

Também regulamenta usos específicos. Onde teremos usos comerciais ou residenciais do espaço urbano; quais áreas específicas dentro da cidade merecem proteção ambiental e onde não é permitido construir, ou apenas construir pouco; como integrar a malha de transporte a oportunidades de emprego; onde estarão os equipamentos culturais.

plano diretor-post-BT

Como esse instrumento pode intervir nas desigualdades urbanas?

Um dos elementos do Plano Diretor Estratégico [PDE] de São Paulo de 2014 aborda justamente isso. Uma das propostas aprovadas é a ideia de eixos de estruturação urbana. Tomam-se todos os elementos consolidados e planejados de transporte público – as linhas de ônibus, de trem, de metrô, as estações – e desenham-se áreas em torno dessa estrutura.

O objetivo é adensar essas áreas, colocar o máximo possível de pessoas para morar perto dessa estrutura de transporte público. Assim aproximamos a moradia ao transporte, e consequentemente ao emprego. É uma maneira de enfrentar um dos principais problemas de cidades como São Paulo: o movimento pendular de pessoas que moram em bairros periféricos e vão trabalhar em zonas centrais, passando longo períodos no transporte público, perdendo momentos de vida. É uma forma de enfrentar uma desigualdade territorial que se expressa também em tempo de vida, na diferença entre ficar ou não três horas no trânsito para chegar ao trabalho.

Mas não é qualquer moradia que o plano prevê nessas áreas. Se construímos apartamentos de 120 metros quadrados com três vagas de garagem, não atraímos a pessoa que mora na periferia. Ela não vai poder comprar esse imóvel. Então o plano também propõe uma série de elementos construtivos para que se garanta uma mistura de unidades habitacionais nos eixos.

O contrário também é verdade, se pensarmos nos polos de criação de empregos nas periferias. Em vez de só trazer pessoas para perto do transporte público consolidado, é igualmente importante induzir, por meio de incentivos urbanísticos, a oferta de emprego em regiões residenciais já estabelecidas. Assim também evitamos deslocamentos longos e aproximamos as pessoas de oportunidades. Essa é uma ideia que também está no Plano Diretor de 2014.

A revisão do Plano Diretor envolve muitas disputas. Você pode contextualizá-las?

Costumo dizer que a política urbana é treta. É briga o tempo inteiro em torno do plano diretor e especialmente do zoneamento, que define os usos do espaço urbano em cada lugar. São instrumentos de disputa intensa que envolvem atores repetidos, pessoas que interagem também em outros contextos. São atores muito qualificados lutando por essas regras há tempos, e as disputas se expressam abertamente nesse campo de batalha.

Só em 2014 foram mais de cem audiências públicas temáticas regionais com devolutivas. O processo incluiu não apenas ouvir as pessoas, mas também contar o que foi incorporado ou não ao planejamento. E, mesmo assim, o plano daquele ano só foi aprovado depois que os movimentos de moradia organizados acamparam em frente à Câmara Municipal para garantir que ele fosse votado sem a inclusão de nenhum “submarino”, que são as emendas que emergem de última hora e mudam acordos já previstos no Plano.

Do ponto de vista da sociedade civil, tivemos no último Plano Diretor de São Paulo uma discussão muito intensa sobre mobilidade, com a participação de movimentos organizados de ciclistas, que reivindicavam a expansão das ciclofaixas. Há os movimentos de moradia, que são muito organizados e têm um conhecimento técnico preciso e rico sobre essas questões. Vários movimentos de cultura, pensando cinemas de rua, usos de espaços públicos. Há os movimentos e associações de bairro, como os que estão presentes em Zonas Exclusivamente Residenciais (ZER) e que não querem mudar as regras do entorno para incluir outros usos. Há o mercado imobiliário também, muito atuante. Mas muito depende de como é o desenho das audiências. É importante que todas as pessoas sejam ouvidas, inclusive aquelas não organizadas em movimentos.

Além disso, é difícil participar de um processo de revisão de plano diretor. É uma discussão muito técnica. Uma das propostas dos atores da sociedade civil é que a gestão democrática das cidades envolva não só o direito à participação e à palavra, mas também a tradução desses estudos técnicos, de responsabilidade do poder público. São decisões que impactam a vida de todo mundo e não podem ser blindadas por uma linguagem técnica excludente. Esta não é apenas uma demanda da sociedade civil, mas também dos órgãos do sistema de justiça, como o Ministério Público e a Defensoria Pública, que recomendam e exigem condições de participação com acesso pleno à informação.

A prefeitura de São Paulo propôs a prorrogação da revisão do Plano Diretor de São Paulo para 2022, após pressão de atores do sistema de justiça e da sociedade civil. Quais os principais conflitos à vista?

A revisão estava prevista. Isso é muito comum em planos diretores. Como é uma política que projeta para o futuro, ela tem que ser recalibrada em função de como a cidade se transformou no meio tempo. Mas agora tem o agravante de que é uma revisão proposta ainda em meio à pandemia. E a sociedade civil organizada tem trazido duas questões muito importantes.

A primeira questão é a impossibilidade de participação em uma política tão importante quanto essa se tudo ocorrer online. Há entraves à participação de pessoas menos organizadas, que não têm bom acesso à internet. Imagina uma audiência enorme com um monte de gente com as mais diferentes conexões, ou mesmo sem acesso à internet.

A segunda questão é que não é possível estimar com precisão alguns dos efeitos da pandemia na cidade. Vou dar um exemplo. A gente viu que parte dos serviços conseguiram funcionar em home-office, que foi adotado por boa parte das empresas que podem se valer do trabalho remoto. Isso impacta diretamente lugares com muitos prédios de escritório, como, por exemplo, as regiões das avenidas Faria Lima, Berrini e Paulista.

Será que essa tendência vai se confirmar, ainda que seja para uma camada muito privilegiada? Se as empresas decidem não mais ter escritórios grandes e optam por um regime híbrido de trabalho, porque entendem que funciona bem e custa menos, ficamos com um problema enorme de espaço construído. O que fazer com todo esse espaço? Precisamos pensar uma mudança de uso. Seria possível adequá-los para moradia? Isso envolve planejamento.

Ou seja, não faz sentido revisar um plano diretor pensando o futuro sem saber o impacto desse tipo de transformação. E não é por falta de dados ou habilidade, mas porque não temos como saber se essa tendência vai se confirmar ou não.

Eu escrevi um texto tratando de ilegalidades no processo de revisão do Plano Diretor, uma das quais está diretamente relacionada à sub-representação da sociedade civil no Conselho Municipal de Política Urbana (CMPU).

Então tem conflito em todos os lugares. Do ponto de vista do conselho que vai ser ouvido para falar de política urbana; do processo de aprovação; de incluir e ouvir mais pessoas; e do ponto de vista do conteúdo material dessa revisão.

Recentemente, a prefeitura propôs o adiamento após defender expressamente que o plano deveria ser revisto ainda este ano. Foi um recuo evidente. Ele pode ser explicado principalmente em razão de uma decisão judicial, em uma ação popular ajuizada por Guilherme Boulos, a Bancada Feminista do PSOL e os movimentos de moradia que questionou a contratação de uma fundação que faria estudos para a revisão, pelo valor de R$3,5 milhões, sem licitação. Este recuo gerou um xadrez importante entre sociedade civil, sistema de justiça, prefeitura e Câmara municipal. É neste impasse que estamos agora.

Além dos problemas novos trazidos pela pandemia, há também disputas antigas sobre a cidade que retornam à arena. Quais você destacaria?

Há uma disputa clássica que envolve setores empresariais, mercado imobiliário e suas associações em relação à chamada outorga onerosa do direito de construir. Parece complicado, mas a outorga é uma concessão, uma autorização. Onerosa porque ela não é gratuita, você paga.

O que isso quer dizer? Quando compramos um terreno, não podemos fazer com ele o que bem quisermos. É contraintuitivo, mas você não pode construir do jeito que quiser. Aqui em São Paulo foi estabelecido um coeficiente de aproveitamento, o chamado CA 1, segundo o qual você pode construir até uma vez o tamanho do terreno. Se o seu terreno é de mil metros quadrados, então você pode construir uma edificação de mil metros quadrados. Se você quer construir mais, você não está proibido, mas precisa pagar. Esse custo é a outorga onerosa do direito de construir.

Por que isso existe? Porque esse potencial construtivo é público, ele não vem com a sua propriedade. Imagina se todo mundo pudesse construir da maneira que quisesse, como planejaríamos a cidade? Além disso, esse espaço de construção, ainda que seja muito grande, é finito. Por isso faz sentido que o poder público precifique isso como um bem comum. E a um preço razoavelmente alto.

Esse dinheiro, que o construtor ou proprietário paga, vai para o Fundo de Desenvolvimento Urbano (FUNDURB), e com ele custeamos uma série de políticas específicas para mobilidade, habitação de interesse social etc. Ele está separado do caixa da prefeitura e tem algumas rubricas carimbadas. É um mecanismo de financiamento de políticas urbanas importantes para a cidade de São Paulo.

Uma das disputas antigas é sobre o preço da outorga. O mercado imobiliário vai dizer que tem que ser mais barato, porque o valor alto desestimula o adensamento. “Você quer que eu adense nos eixos? Eu quero construir, mas se você me cobra muito caro, eu não vou fazer”, raciocinam.

Outra coisa é como gastar os recursos que vêm do FUNDURB. O Plano Diretor de 2014 estabelecia uma cota de 30 porcento para transporte público e mobilidade ativa. Ciclovias, calçadas. Andar a pé, aliás, é o principal meio de locomoção de São Paulo. Mas uma lei em 2019 alterou esse critério, incluindo também obras de infraestrutura viária. Aí está a disputa: reforçar um modelo que sempre privilegiou os carros, ou colocar o transporte público no modelo e investir o recurso nisso?

Uma outra discussão é sobre miolos de bairro. Existe a ideia de que o adensamento e o crescimento são maiores quanto mais próximo das ruas, das grandes avenidas. Com isso, o miolo do bairro fica mais baixinho. Essa é outra demanda histórica do setor imobiliário, crescer em miolos de bairros.

Há ainda a discussão sobre as Zonas Especiais de Interesse Social (ZEIS), aquelas que devem ser destinadas para habitação de interesse social. Parte do mercado imobiliário quer tirar as ZEIS de onde elas estão, porque algumas são muito bem localizadas e impedem a expansão ou a construção de empreendimentos específicos.

O debate sobre o Plano Diretor parece uma oportunidade concreta de participação dos cidadãos no planejamento da cidade. Mas talvez muitas pessoas desconheçam o dispositivo.

A gente está muito capturado pela discussão federal. Com muitas boas razões, porque estamos diante de uma crise sem precedentes da nossa democracia, com um presidente que afronta a Constituição, todo dia um novo escândalo, um novo absurdo. Mas esquecemos a discussão municipal.

Vale a pena prestar atenção especialmente nas cidades que estão revisando os seus planos diretores, porque isso impacta concretamente o dia a dia.

As desigualdades territoriais passam pela formulação dessas legislações. Então, se queremos enfrentar essas questões e mudar a forma como as nossas cidades estão sendo pensadas, precisamos nos inteirar sobre esses processos.

Uma coisa que vemos nas audiências, seja do Plano Diretor ou de zoneamento, é que as pessoas querem falar sobre o seu bairro, a coleta do lixo, a iluminação. Às vezes essas demandas nem vão ser tratadas no plano diretor especificamente, mas você vê que é o lugar onde as pessoas vocalizam isso, pois não conseguem encontrar outros espaços. Então o plano diretor é também um espaço onde as pessoas podem ser ouvidas.

Fonte das imagens: gestaourbana.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/

Leia e ouça mais sobre convivialidade e desigualdade em cidades latino-americanas:

Mecila Working Paper Series No. 11: Ramiro Segura, “Convivialidad en ciudades latinoamericanas”.

Diálogos Mecila, ep. 10: “Cidades desiguais: modos de ver”.

#13

Horizontality in the 2010s

Global Convivial Forum 

Horizontality is establishing itself in countless activities that have often prospered silently over the last fifty years in many domains where the participants are unburdened with submitting to hierarchies, vertical chains of command, or with taking on positions of authority.

Yves Cohen (EHESS/ Mecila Senior Fellow 2020-21)

A large and sustained wave of movements without leaders arose in the 2010s. Tunisia inaugurated the wave, followed closely by Egypt. These two countries started the “Arab Spring” whose blossoming would be aggressively suppressed. And yet the wave would continue in Turkey, Spain, Ukraine, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso: a raggedy incomplete list where the old democracies are conspicuously absent – until the Yellow Vests. This French social movement appeared in 2018 and would be followed by a series of leaderless movements in 2019 in Algeria, Ecuador, Bolivia, Lebanon, Iraq, Chile, Egypt, and Haiti. Not all the mass movements of the decade openly declare themselves leaderless such as those in Hong Kong and Sudan. But even though this dimension has hardly been studied by social scientists, this desire to move ahead with no boss should be taken seriously. This is an important part of the renewal of protest movements compared to the previous century, and of contemporary social sciences. It has a major impact on the central theme of the social bond – its composition, dynamic, and history across centuries if not millennia. As suggested by Ivan Illich’s call for conviviality, there’s nothing natural, automatic, or self-evident about this bond, including subordination or hierarchy despite what recent centuries, especially the twentieth, would suggest in a number of locations around the world. Subordination and hierarchy are not always already written in the great book of the social. They are part of an historical elaboration across the globe that is irregular in the times and places they occur.

The movements of the 2010s seize on very delimited spaces to become the locus of their meetings and their force. One hears the term “democracy of the squares” to convey this use of public spaces (that recalls the medieval use of commons). The Yellow Vests invented the use of traffic roundabouts as a place of action, deliberation, and conviviality. In Belarus, people refusing the electoral fraud of Alexander Lukashenko chose to gather in courtyards of apartment buildings. Hitting on the idea of using all of these micro-territories as democratic spaces where people of diverse social origins, genders, races, religions, ages, and professions can meet directly as themselves without representatives on an equal footing in the heat of action has been a first step in solving the deep crisis of representative democracy. It is a criticism through direct action of the preceding century and of its profound reticence toward all forms of open-air free democracy. The solution being sketched out at this beginning of what promises to be a long process is not a substitution of horizontal democracy of public squares and roundabouts to replace the reigning structures in parliamentary regimes around the world. This search for a new democratic legitimacy is not seeking to destroy representative democracy. It aims to radically and democratically question the established powers in all their forms.

Besides public squares and similar venues, horizontality is establishing itself in countless activities that have often prospered silently over the last fifty years in many domains where the participants are unburdened with submitting to hierarchies, vertical chains of command, or with taking on positions of authority. Historically, it is a refusal in deeds of the imperative in force throughout the twentieth century according to which a popular movement, whether social or political, must be organized and hierarchical, preferably under the authority of a political party – in other words, according to the Bolshevik model of an avant-garde where every single collective activity, including the family, had to be conducted under the authority of a chief who would with few exceptions be masculine. The social bond was endowed with a hierarchical dimension naturalized in a thousand ways.

The social sciences have an interesting worksite to develop around identifying as exhaustively as possible the activities in all domains that have been undertaken recently with no chief, no leader, in an egalitarian, cooperative, collaborative, or autonomous manner. First, squares, roundabouts, and high-rise courtyards are places of conviviality: participants become acquainted by working together; this could be around preparing a meal, taking measures to be ready for winter, treating the wounds suffered during confrontations, organizing the group’s self-defence, or by deliberating. Action and deliberation are not the only components of the activity in these public spaces; the communal life is another which, along with action and deliberation, make these places belong along a spectrum of conviviality that amounts to a communal living together that may be familial, relate to a certain community with its proximities and its conflicts of variable intensity, cross boundaries, or envelope some other more or less temporary groupings. One cannot help but think of the quilombo of fugitive slaves in Brazil, a territory recomposed since the sixteenth century with a free lifestyle and yet open to others.

Secondly, the embers burn red hot under the ashes. Under the surface of the “public” and somewhat out of sight, a deep work on the social fabric is taking place that recognizes at every point a need or even a desire for horizontality. These activities are quite varied: communal gardens in large metropolitan cities, presses, cultural or humanitarian activities, medical and legal offices, cooperatives of production or distribution – countless are the objects for the collectives and collectivities that have emerged, taken shape, and endured in this way for several years now. Many movements and organizations in France have been organized according to such principles of horizontality such as, for example, the movement to support the undocumented migrants and the Réseau Education Sans Frontières (Education Network Without Borders), and this is true in many countries around the world.

Following the example of squatters and the ZAD (a French acronym for “zones to be defended”) which have embraced horizontality, these other collectives are also seeking to offer a vision of the future via a dynamic of struggle and specific claims. In France, for example, they are linking with other transformations of institutions, such as the “collegial associations” that have neither president nor board. A law from 1901 regulates associations by a regime of declaration and not authorization. Over time the habit developed of creating an association “bureau” with a president, vice president, and secretary. This vertically organized structure became the norm and has only been questioned very recently. Association members who came to the prefecture to declare their association but without a president or bureau were told they had to follow the law.

And yet the letter of the law includes no such obligation and requires only persons “responsible for the administration”. In addition to the growing number of collegial associations, there has been since 2014 and the experiment in Saillans in the Drôme department a flourishing multiplication of ecological municipalities which are non-hierarchical, egalitarian, and more or less directly inspired by the “libertarian municipalism” of Murray Bookchin (Legros 2020). In France, the family unit no longer has a single “chief” as head of the household following a legal reform of 1970, an effect of the renewal of the women’s movement, and “parental authority” is now “shared”. In France and elsewhere, a growing number of organizations have adopted the formula of the Movimento Passe Livre (Free Fare Movement, MPL) in Brazil that erupted in June 2013 with the most powerful demonstrations the country has ever known. The movement, founded in 2005, invented a “charter” that proclaimed it to be “horizontal, autonomous, independent and nonpartisan but not antipartisan”. Following the demonstrations, all fare increases were blocked, leaving a deep imprint on the political history of the country – until the vultures of the far-right latched onto this popular agitation to turn it toward other goals.

The anti-hierarchical enthusiasm also extends to companies. In order to save itself and preserve the essential elements, capitalism since 1968 has sought to evade the insistent challenges to the authority of chiefs at all levels. For example, in one of the co-optation manoeuvres that are inseparable from all instances of power, it initiated the “project management”, “crushing hierarchies”, and even declared “freedom”. Internationally, one may note that the Internet was created on principles of horizontality that are endlessly opposed by nation-states and multinational companies.

With or without direct connection, from person to person and step to step, these more or less enduring and widespread activities resonate with free communities over large territories such as the Chiapas or the Rojava which have taken on global visibility even without occupying an entire country. The study of this ensemble – horizontal movements, collective egalitarian activities of all kinds, occupations, and free territories of various sizes – would require a global approach whose methods would have to be established carefully.

This article takes up most closely two cases: first, the horizontal practice of the Yellow Vests based on eyewitness observations within an assembly in the Paris region, and secondly, the initial steps of a cooperative school created recently in São Paulo in the aftermath of the June 2013 demonstrations and the occupation of high schools in the state of São Paulo that followed.

One of the challenges of this work is to avoid considering horizontality as an absolute that would arrive in opposition to hierarchy, but to observe instead in a pragmatic fashion what actually happens and attempt to identify the forms, the meandering evolutions, and the meanings, and in this way take part in a reflection that would be both that of the actors and the researchers in mutual reinforcement.

Translated by C. Jon Delogu

Cover image: Patrice Calatayu, Demonstrations of the Mouvement des gilets jaunes on Place Pey Berland, Bordeaux, 2 Feb 2019.

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Yves Cohen (2021): “Horizontality in the 2010s: Social Movements, Collective Activities, Social Fabric, and Conviviality”, Mecila Working Paper Series, No. 40, São Paulo: The Maria Sibylla Merian Centre Conviviality-Inequality in Latin America, http://dx.doi.org/10.46877/cohen.2021.40.

#12

Literature supply in a transnational research network: The information infrastructure of Mecila

Global Convivial Forum 

Christoph Müller (Principal Investigator at Mecila)

Screenshot of the 1st virtual meeting in December 2020.

Screenshot of the Discovery System IberoSearch.

In a transnational research network such as Mecila, in which researchers from and in different countries and continents cooperate and conduct research within a common thematic framework, the provision of publications and information resources is of particular importance. All Principal and Associated Investigators, as well as all Fellows and research associates should have access to the necessary research literature and the relevant information sources, as independently as possible of time and place.

To ensure this, an information infrastructure has been established in Mecila, coordinated by the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (IAI, Ibero-American Institute Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) together with the Biblioteca Daniel Cosió Villegas of the Colegio de México, the library of the Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros of the Universidade de São Paulo and the Biblioteca Professor Guillermo Obiols of the Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de la Educación and the Instituto de Investigaciones en Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales of the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (IdIHCS) of the Universidad Nacional de La Plata in Argentina.

Since December 2020, regular virtual meetings have been held between colleagues from the partner libraries to coordinate joint work and exchange information.

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The IAI, which consists of a research centre, a cultural centre, and the largest European library specialised in Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain, and Portugal, provides all Mecila researchers access to all its holdings. If Mecila’s scholars have specific literature needs that go beyond the library’s holdings, the IAI acquires corresponding media with its own funds, if possible in electronic form.

With their IAI library card, all Mecila investigators can directly access all licensed or freely available electronic offers of the IAI via the Online Catalog of the IAI library or the discovery system IberoSearch, independently of time and place.

The copyright-free publications digitised by the IAI are generally available via the IAI’s Digital Collections.

Publications that are not yet copyright-free in a licensable electronic version should also be accessible to Mecila’s investigators. To this end, the partner libraries are pursuing a two-pronged solution strategy.

On the one hand, Mecila’s partner institutions will exchange publications in physical form whenever possible. For research at Mecila’s headquarters in São Paulo, the Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros will provide its library reading room where Mecila scholars can work with these materials. This will also be possible in Berlin, La Plata, and Mexico City.

On the other hand, the IAI has set up an electronic reading room for Mecila, which makes it possible, within the regulations of German copyright law, to also make publications under copyright accessible electronically to a limited extent. Publications of high relevance for the entire project are scanned with project funds to make them available as image files in the electronic reading room, which is only accessible to active Mecila investigators.

By all these analogue and digital means, Mecila scientists have the possibility to access literature and relevant information sources held in the collections of the partner libraries at all locations of the project, to advance their research.

For more information, please contact: [email protected]

Cover image: The library of the Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros in São Paulo, Brasil (IEB).

#10

History and Fiction Living Together in Roberto Bolaño’s Narratives

Global Convivial Forum 

Bolaño’s works associate real epistemic violence and lack of justice with brutal, implausible fictional situations.

Jorge I. Estrada (Mecila Junior 2021)

Bringing an unsettling side of conviviality to the fore is perhaps one of the most enticing features in Roberto Bolaño’s narratives. His fiction delves into historical catastrophes and social conflicts to depict individuals entangled in a chaotic world. These characters move through exceptional situations in which living together is far from having positive connotations, far from any idea of sharing the produce of progress, and far from the harmony that a humanist would ground on understanding and reason.

Quite to the contrary, these situations are macabre and reveal a dystopic way of living together. They subvert any enlightened or humanist expectations. While portraying scenes of a possible world that we might even recognise because it is closely knit together with referential hints and a realist tenor, they can only evoke estrangement and discomfort.

Bolaño’s prose turns the everyday into something gruesome. He makes us witness a nightmare without taking a metaleptic leap into the realms of dreams, the unreal or fantastic. He does not even allow the uncanny to take over reality with plot twists or sudden insights into a character’s personality and motivations. This is the fundamental ambiguity of Bolaño’s worlds: an impending apocalypse that – paradoxically – already took place and which we are only just beginning to notice.

We, the readers, become accountable for linking history, fiction, shared imaginaries, and ideologies, all of which intertwine through diverse narrative strategies. In Nocturno de Chile (2000), for instance, history is presented using a combination of historical references, metaphors, and an allegorical intention. The past comes alive, and the story reveals the surface of the exceptional circumstances of the events through unsettling interactions. The past is an unconcealed evil that confronts us at every instant with violence and destruction.

This is particularly striking in a scene that begins with an unexpected visit. Two government agents from Pinochet’s dictatorship, Hate and Fear, approach the protagonist, a literary critic and Catholic priest named Sebastián Urrutia Lacroix. In this setting, we find an immediate sense of foreboding, but there is also a crucial detail that lies beyond the names and obscure professions of these characters, a detail in the landscape, revealed just before a ‘friendly’ interrogation: the “enormes araucarias que se alzaban catedralicias” (102–103).

The metaphor “huge araucaria trees rising cathedral-like” establishes the background against which experiences unfold. The narrator’s description of the surroundings combines an essentialist claim regarding the New World’s land and its past evangelisation and colonisation. The autochthonous araucarias represent an original nature that is appropriated and becomes an expression of Christianity as if they were the rib vault of a Gothic cathedral rising towards the sky. By pitting a tree native to Chile against religion, the narrator implicitly constructs an analogy between the colonial past and the dictatorial present. Ever-renewing destruction is thus the backdrop of this story and also the setting for the agents’ request. They ask (or command) the protagonist to teach Pinochet and his staff a course on Marxism. Despite suspecting a trap for insurgents, he cannot refuse and proceeds to prepare ten lessons for the collision of two ideological standpoints – if not two worlds, like in colonial times – a collision that leads to one-sided, systematic violence and the demise of peoples.  

The text describes the course as if taught in any formal or institutional setting, with both outstanding and somnolent students. The only difference is that pronouncing any name or word can have life-or-death consequences. But nothing out of the ordinary arises until later, when a friend asks the protagonist about his experience and whether he found anything “exceptional” in Pinochet’s character. The protagonist only mentions the dictator’s preoccupation with surrounding himself with books and becoming a well-read and published intellectual.

A humanist interest in gathering sources of knowledge as well as recognizing and understanding different ideologies becomes an instrument to achieve atrocious ends. Even if we cannot speak of conviviality in this context of domination, the novel attempts to imagine those reasonable men and women who participated in rituals of destruction. They negotiated their everyday lives in the asymmetrical position that Fear and Hate created.

The violent rituals and exceptions, or rather the arbitrariness that seems to ground norms and establish order, are also identifiable outside an institutional setting. For example, in 2666 (2004), we meet a group of literary critics who find each other in international conferences and tacitly form a research group. Eventually, this intimacy goes beyond purely intellectual interests and becomes a love triangle.

The characters find themselves discussing their love affairs during a taxi ride at one point in the story. Their encounter with the Pakistani driver is blatantly stereotypical. The critics carry on their conversation without noticing that the topic vexes the driver, who quietly continues performing his duties after uttering a word in an unidentified language. After a pause, the driver admits that the labyrinth that is London has managed to disorient him. The Spanish critic declares to his peers that the driver has unknowingly cited Borges, while the British critic replies that Dickens and Stevenson had already made that comparison. Annoyed by their paternalist tone towards him, the driver explains that the comparison is obvious and exclaims that though he might not know his way around London, he knows what decency is. He insults their openness to discuss and engage in free love. Their fragile masculinity hurt, one of the critics grabs the driver out of the vehicle, and together they beat him, thus strengthening their sense of community.

The artificiality of this passage is deeply provocative. While it is not impossible, for some it might seem out of character and implausible for researchers in the humanities with a university education to revel in violence. Why would we assume it to be impossible, even for a moment? We must bear in mind the biopolitical hierarchy that acts as the backdrop for the scene. Even so, this kind of epistemic violence pales in comparison to the brutal incident and to the fact that it only made the local news as if it were nothing unusual. Perhaps this is the moralist in Bolaño. The author manages to make expectations reveal how the same inequalities and power relations can play out or be actualised differently. His works convey how some biopolitical assumptions perpetuate and encourage these situations, and they associate epistemic violence and lack of justice with a most brutal result, even if barely plausible.

Bolaño challenges any interpretative framework by inviting the reader to engage with the fabric of a plot, with the flaws and strengths channelling our expectations and allowing us to follow the story. He pleas for revisiting any event, for being wary of any stable representation, and for disarticulating any rigid connection between an event and its meaning. Monsieur Pain (1984), set in Paris before World War II, provides an intricate example of this disarticulation. The novel consists of a first-person narration surrounding a mesmerist who attempts to save the life of Peruvian poet César Vallejo by curing his mysterious case of the hiccups. The preliminary note tells us that the story is based on true events, so we can infer from the beginning that the mesmerist treats Vallejo to no avail because there is no magic cure for this real illness. Despite the hints at Poe’s mesmeric short stories, nothing that happens in the plot is fantastic, certainly not the death of an impoverished migrant and poet.

The poet’s death resulted from social circumstances and was caused by a lack of access to proper health care. And yet, Bolaño refuses to accept the necessity of the past and the tragic destiny of a poet who lives in the margins of Parisian society but will become a central figure in the foreign Latin American canon. For this reason, he deploys counterfactual claims and flirts with fantastic literature to challenge the past as a psychotic reaction to the inequalities that made Vallejo a case of living death, a chimerical body tied to the ontic and material world just by a hiccup. Vallejo’s dispossession challenges historical necessity and an inescapable societal given, questioning the symbolic underpinnings that are fatally embodied.

These incidents exemplify the various ways in which Bolaño grapples with diverse discourses and explanatory frameworks. This examination of a symbolic order is only possible through fiction, that is, by drawing attention to its artificiality and by giving piecemeal bits of referential, counterfactual, ideological, or even allegorical elements. The interfictional structuring that relies on genres such as the fantastic and a wild intertextuality invites us as readers to unhinge norms and dissect experience. We must sever the presupposed cohesion of facts, conceptual frameworks, actions, and meaning. Interfictionality opens a chasm in history, and these overlapping stories threaten to become enacted in every interaction and every asymmetrical negotiation with each other. This accretion of meanings, which a highly codified structure of artistic representation achieves, erodes the clarity of autonomous reason and proposes a relational approach to events: a virulent contamination between history, facts, and fiction.

Image: Cia. das Letras

Cover of Roberto Bolaño’s “Nocturno de Chile”, Editorial Anagrama/2015. 

References

Roberto Bolaño (2000): Nocturno de Chile, Barcelona: Anagrama.

#9

Southern Theories in Circulation: Towards a
Convivial Canon

Global Convivial Forum 

Discussing the challenges of epistemological changes in LASA 2021

Clara Ruvituso (Mecila/IAI) 

Between 26 and 29 May 2021, the Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) was held virtually, convening a significant part of the Latin American studies international academic community under the slogan “Global Crisis: Inequalities and the Centrality of Life”.

Mecila participated in a panel titled “Southern Theories in Circulation: Towards a Convivial Canon”. On 26 May at midnight in Berlin and sunset in Bogota, five members of Mecila met virtually to discuss different perspectives and proposals for disciplinary transformations and the construction of alternative canons and epistemologies in academic spaces between and within the South and the North.

The organisers and chairs Mariana Teixeira (Mecila/FU Berlin) and Clara Ruvituso proposed to address these challenges from the notion of a convivial canon. The notion aims to underline “the entangled inequalities that constituted the academic spaces in which we are involved, as well as to discuss the inclusion of differences in a way that mitigates rather than enhance existing asymmetries”.

Sérgio Costa’s (Mecila/FU Berlin) proposal “Convivial Sociologies: Exploring Transdisciplinary Futures” focused on the challenges of transforming sociology within the framework of theoretical and methodological advances in research on conviviality, overcoming methodological nationalism, anthropocentrism, and even logocentrism.

Addressing the challenges of epistemic transformations, Astrid Ulloa (Mecila/Universidad Nacional de Colombia) presented epistemological perspectives of indigenous women in Colombia, who produce their own conceptualizations and methodologies with strong territorial and political impacts and in asymmetrical and violent contexts.

Based on an analysis of the pioneering thought of Brazilian anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro, Clara Ruvituso proposed a historical analysis of the forms of circulation of southern theories in the Global North and the difficulties and limits of the its reception.

Barbara Göbel (Mecila/IAI), invited as discussant, examined the institutional and political challenges facing these proposals for epistemological change. In what ways do the disciplines established on historical institutionalizations react to the changes? What types of circulation and infrastructures can facilitate this opening and transformation?

The conclusion of the panel pointed out that Mecila’s own experimental and interdisciplinary space allows us to test the conceptual, political, and institutional challenges of these proposals.

Image credit (cover): LASA 2021 Program Book, Image of María de los Ángeles Balaguera. 

#8

La constitución de la multicultura en el espacio urbano: El juguete rabioso de Roberto Arlt

Global Convivial Forum 

Los tortuosos pactos de convivialidad en la Buenos Aires de principios del siglo XX, que atañen tanto la psicología individual como las representaciones sociales, son asediados en el working paper “Los tortuosos pactos de convivialidad en ‘El juguete rabioso’ de Roberto Arlt” (Mecila Working Paper Series No. 38) a partir del significado de los recorridos por el espacio urbano en transformación y de la centralidad de la literatura como instrumento de consumo y de producción.

Gloria Chicote (Mecila/Conicet-UNLP)

Sylvia Saítta en su contundente recorrido de vida por la obra de Roberto Arlt, ubica al joven escritor en las mismas calles de Flores que transita Silvio Astier, el protagonista de El juguete rabioso (1926). El barrio de Flores se descubre como ese suburbio pueblerino y señorial de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, donde se emplazan las quintas, las mansiones de una elite social y cultural, pero que a pocas cuadras convive con el barro, los inmigrantes recién llegados, la pobreza y el malevaje.

Saítta relata la infancia de Arlt que transcurre como la de cualquier chico pobre de un barrio burgués de Buenos Aires, en cuyas calles se confunden argentinos e inmigrantes que circulan en espacios diferenciados pero que se entrecruzan en la escuela, el cine, el teatro y el circo. La presencia del barrio invade El juguete rabioso pero no tiene la carga de nostalgia propia de la literatura costumbrista, sino que es el lugar de la marca indeleble, imborrable, del que se pretende huir infructuosamente.

En el capítulo 1, se hace referencia con trazos nítidos a las formas de convivialidad en el barrio a través de la pandilla de niños / adolescentes de extracción ligeramente diferente pero complementaria porque representan las clases populares de criollos, inmigrantes, obreros, empleados, comerciantes, o desclasados que deambulan por la calle, el café, el “sórdido” almacén, y se aventuran a los suburbios, al acecho de aprender, de adquirir conocimientos múltiples y heterogéneos que los capaciten para la supervivencia, tal como los que les ofrece el mismo Silvio cuando construye el cañón:

 

 

 

 

 

 

En relación con la convivialidad que posibilita la pertenencia a esa multicultura del barrio, Julio Cortázar destaca la posibilidad de una perspectiva original que esta ubicación significó para Arlt, pero también señala el rechazo del escritor a su medio social y a la sociedad en su conjunto. Aunque a veces sus personajes sienten una envidia pseudonostálgica por los estamentos sociales superiores, tal como se traduce en la fascinación que Astier experimenta ante la familia de Enrique Irzubeta quienes, a pesar de ser pobres, proceden de una clase social más elevada de la cual heredan sus conductas:

todos holgaban con vagancia dulce con ocios que se paseaban de las novelas de Dumas al reconfortante sueño de las siestas y al amable chismorreo del atardecer (Arlt [1926] 1981: 15–16).

Pero el verdadero desafío de la convivialidad en El juguete rabioso se produce cuando el personaje fracasa en su fantasía de ladrón y debe ingresar en el mundo del trabajo, para lo cual abandona el barrio y se traslada al centro de la ciudad. Beatriz Sarlo, en su emblemático libro Una Modernidad Periférica: Buenos Aires, 1920 y 1930 (1988), definió ese tiempo y ese lugar como testigo de cambios espectaculares.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buenos Aires ha crecido de manera espectacular en las dos primeras décadas del siglo XX. La ciudad nueva hace posible, literariamente verosímil y culturalmente aceptable al flâneur que arroja la mirada anónima del que no será reconocido por quienes son observados, la mirada que no supone comunicación con el otro. […] El circuito del paseante anónimo sólo es posible en la gran ciudad que, más que un concepto demográfico ó urbanístico, es una categoría ideológica y un mundo de valores. Arlt produce su personaje y su perspectiva en las Aguafuertes, constituyéndose él mismo en un flâneur modelo. […] Tiene la atención flotante del flâneur que pasea por el centro y los barrios, metiéndose en la pobreza nueva de la gran ciudad y en las formas más evidentes de la marginalidad y el delito (…). En su itinerario de los barrios al centro, el paseante atraviesa una ciudad cuyo trazado ya ha sido definido, pero que conserva todavía muchas parcelas sin construir, baldíos y calles sin vereda de enfrente (Sarlo 1988: 16).

A pesar de que Sarlo alude en esta cita a una descripción de la ciudad que Arlt ofrece en una de las Aguafuertes porteñas, las mismas expresiones podrían referirse al joven flâneur que recorre las calles y las páginas de El juguete rabioso.

Image credit (cover): Horacio Coppola, Vista de la calle Florida desde la esquina con Bartolomé Mitre, mirando hacia Cangallo, 1936.

Referencias

Arlt, Roberto ([1926] 1981): Obra completa [2 vols.], Buenos Aires: Carlos Lohlé.

Cortázar, Julio ([1926] 1981): “Prólogo”, en: Arlt, Roberto, Obra completa [2 vols.], Buenos Aires: Carlos Lohlé, iii–xi.

Saítta, Sylvia (2000): El escritor en el bosque de ladrillos. Una biografía de Roberto Arlt, Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana.

Sarlo, Beatriz (1988): Una modernidad periférica: Buenos Aires 1920 y 1930, Buenos Aires: Nueva Visión.

Horacio_Coppola_-_Buenos_Aires_1936_-_Corrientes_y_Maipú
Horacio Coppola, Vista hacia el oeste de la Avenida Corrientes desde su intersección con Maipú, Buenos Aires, en 1936. 
Anônimo, Calle Caracas, Flores, Buenos Aires, 1906.

Admirados lo examinaron los muchachos de la vecindad, y ello les evidenció mi superioridad intelectual, que desde entonces prevaleció en las expediciones organizadas para ir a robar fruta o descubrir tesoros enterrados en los despoblados que estaban más allá del arroyo Maldonado en la Parroquia de San José de Flores (Arlt [1926] 1981: 15).

Más allá de las transformaciones estéticas o de la modernización económica, Buenos Aires conformó su modernidad como estilo cultural, destacándose como un espacio físico distinguido y como mito cultural. La ciudad se altera en el paisaje urbano y ecológico, pero también y, conjuntamente, en las experiencias de vida de sus habitantes. Ciudad y modernidad se presuponen una a otra porque la ciudad es el escenario de los cambios a partir del cual la modernidad se introduce brutalmente; es la ciudad la que los disemina y generaliza:

Calle_caracas_flores_1906

#7

Global Convivial Forum 

¿‘Distancia de rescate’ en tiempos de distanciamiento social? Sobre la novela de Samantha Schweblin (2014)

Samantha Schweblin combina acontecimientos inusuales con las realidades del desastre ambiental. De esta manera su texto se convierte en una lectura oscilante entre lo fantástico y lo real.


Susanne Klengel
(Mecila/FU Berlin)

I – Hilando una narración apocalíptica

En tiempos de distanciamiento social, la aclamada novela Distancia de rescate (2014) de Samantha Schweblin,[1] escritora argentina residente en Berlín, suscita un nuevo y actualizado interés por su enigmático título. Hemos aprendido lo que significa el distanciamiento social, la distancia por seguridad, pero ¿cuál es el significado de la ‘distancia de rescate’? Estos tres conceptos remiten a relaciones entre personas en situaciones de posible amenaza (contra la vida), pero la idea de ‘distancia’ es interpretada de manera diferenciada: en los dos primeros casos, la muy escasa distancia resulta riesgosa porque aumenta la posibilidad de una contaminación patógena; en la obra de Samantha Schweblin, no obstante, la cuestión clave es la propia naturaleza de la distancia al ofrecer protección ante un peligro inminente.

En la novela se despliega, con un trasfondo siniestro y realista, el escenario de una progresiva catástrofe ambiental causada por el uso excesivo de fertilizantes o pesticidas en los campos de soja argentinos. Este desastre se convierte en el silencioso desencadenante de un complicado drama familiar que se desarrolla en un pequeño centro vacacional en la zona rural. Se entrelazan o entrecruzan las vidas de dos madres con una hija y un hijo pequeña/o. Ciertos acontecimientos extraños, como una presunta trasmigración de almas entre la niña y el niño, trastornarán las relaciones entre ambas familias.

La narración se presenta como una búsqueda: David, hijo de Carla, sostiene un diálogo casi obstinado con Amanda, madre de Nina, quien se encuentra agonizando por envenenamiento en un hospital. David insiste en que Amanda le explique su extraña sensación de alienación interior. El diálogo –quizás tan sólo un sueño febril de Amanda, al que el público lector es transportado desde el comienzo de la novela– se nota forzado por la inexorable finitud del tiempo de vida de la moribunda. 

Llama la atención de que la ‘distancia de rescate’ se describa repetidamente como el ‘hilo’ que une a la madre con su hijo o hija. Este hilo se afloja o se estira, “varía con las circunstancias” (p. 37) y, a veces, “está tan corto que apenas puedo moverme”, dice Amanda (p. 57). Su extensión es el termómetro emocional de la relación familiar, al menos desde la perspectiva de la madre angustiada. Asimismo, la naturaleza incondicional de este lazo (hilo semejante al ‘cordón umbilical’) es el problema: ¿qué pasa si el hilo se rompe por alguna razón? ¿Habrá que anudarlo a cualquier precio? ¿Será esto posible?

De hecho, la ruptura se torna inminente tras el contacto con el tóxico. Pero no se corta el hilo vital de inmediato, lo que llevaría a la muerte de las y los protagonistas y con eso, a un precipitado final de la novela. Al contrario, el lento avance de la rotura es lo que pone en marcha la narración: por vías laberínticas se persiguen los cabos sueltos de varios hilos vitales para reajustarlos (y para sanar el accidente), mientras que se entrelazan los hilos narrativos para tejer la novela.

El niño David, primera víctima emblemática del desastre ambiental, es también el gran entretejedor en esta historia siniestra. Obsesivo y desesperado busca las conexiones perdidas y olvidadas, puesto que su alma se ha perdido tras el accidente con el tóxico y su milagrosa y violenta curación. De esta forma, se mencionan otros hilos de sisal al final de la novela con los que David trata de enlazar fotos antiguas y otros objetos. Paulatinamente y a lo largo de su diálogo con Amanda, se hace evidente que el hilo que la une con su hija Nina se suspenderá en breve. Surge la sospecha de que en el fondo de la narración ocurre un cambio de almas e identidades que será nefasto, puesto que la transmutación ha sido definitiva.

Samantha Schweblin combina aquellos acontecimientos inusuales con las realidades del desastre ambiental en las plantaciones de soja. De esta manera su texto se convierte en una lectura oscilante entre lo fantástico y lo real. El tóxico se filtra poco a poco en los destinos de sus protagonistas, amenazándolas/los con cortarles sus hilos vitales. Ni siquiera el hilo materno más estrecho entre Amanda y Nina puede ofrecer protección contra el desastre. Mientras tanto, la propia narración se opone al veneno mortal y sigue hilando su tejido textual. Sugiere incluso una alternativa fantástica para prolongar el cuento: las almas siguen vivas en otros cuerpos o incluso flotando en el espacio. Después de su muerte física, el alma de Amanda, ubicada en un espacio inseguro, parece ser la última instancia narrativa al final de la novela. Así, el hilo vital no se rompe, a pesar de la constante amenaza de las Moiras y del ambiente tóxico, sino que sigue tejiéndose de otra manera en una narración fantástica.

Pero esta opción de lo fantástico también es aterradora porque la otredad se vincula con un grupo de niñas y niños deformes, víctimas de influencias ambientales, escondidas/os de los ojos de las y los residentes ‘normales’, y marginalizadas/os ante los ojos del público lector. Se vincula incluso con Nina, que ya “no está bien” (p. 120), y con David, quien será finalmente sometido como un ser monstruoso (p.123-124). La narración fantástica es perturbadora porque está intrínsecamente relacionada con la intoxicación inicial, es decir, con la ruptura primordial que amenaza y disuelve la distancia de rescate natural entre madre e hija o hijo. La distopía se inscribe en los cuerpos de forma despiadada.

II – ¿Perspectivas para la convivialidad en tiempos tóxicos?

Lo inquietante de la novela de Schweblin es la figura de la identidad amenazada, cuya restauración se busca desesperadamente, jugando con dobles fantasmagóricos y con motivos como la transmutación. Para reflexionar más sobre la identidad amenazada quiero recordar un diálogo famoso entre Gilles Deleuze y Michel Foucault en el que también aparece, de cierta manera, la cuestión de la ‘distancia de rescate’ y el hilo vital. En su reseña de Différence et répétition (Deleuze 1968), Foucault describe la radicalidad del pensamiento deleuziano con la impactante reinterpretación de una imagen mítica: el ‘hilo de Ariadna’ está roto y Ariadna, amante y garante de la seguridad del retorno –o, más bien, representante del raciocinio del pensamiento occidental– se ha colgado del hilo. Teseo, mientras tanto, sigue acercándose, despreocupado y curioso, al monstruo del laberinto de Cnosos y al caos. Foucault utiliza esta imagen radical y cruel para describir el tremendo ‘teatro’ del ‘pensamiento de la diferencia’ que se está desplegando en la obra de Deleuze y al que rinde homenaje en su reseña.[2] En el caso de la novela, el caos de lo diferente es, según parece, una visión aterradora. La alteridad se presenta como un factor profundamente perturbador, puesto que las extrañas transmutaciones fueron provocadas por el tóxico en los cuerpos. ¿Podemos concluir que se trata entonces, después de todo, de una novela realista sobre crímenes ambientales? ¿Y, en este caso, el lugar que ocupan la otredad y la diferencia es ante todo amenazante?

Quiero proponer una hipótesis: recordando aquí el doble significado de la palabra en griego ‘pharmakon’, tan significativa en el pensamiento desconstructivista de Jacques Derrida ¿cómo se vería la narración si las y los protagonistas hubieran tocado un ingrediente mágico, un agua milagrosa o algo similar, en vez del tóxico? ¿Qué pasaría si las transformaciones posteriores no se vieran como deformaciones y patologías mortales, sino como milagros? ¿Qué tal si un otro mundo surgiera ante nuestros ojos con criaturas de cuento de hadas y seres fantásticos, pero sin niñas y niños con deformaciones monstruosas? Para nuestra sorpresa, la narración también funcionaría, pero determinando certeramente que se trata de una narración fantástica.

En el texto de Schweblin, sin embargo, la subyacente narrativa fantástica parece estar subordinada al régimen realista del crimen ambiental: las transmutaciones inquietantes confirman el relato de la búsqueda de identidad que termina frustrada. De esta manera se debe entender la ‘distancia de rescate’ ante los peligros de la catástrofe ambiental como un concepto destinado a sanar la ruptura y a recuperar de cierto modo la identidad de una vida intacta. La cuestión sobre en qué medida podrían desarrollarse también otras formas de ‘distanciamiento’ o de ‘diferencia’ en la novela, permanece abierta. Al final se impone la impresión de que, debido a su realismo ecológico, el libro de Samantha Schweblin está en sintonía más bien con los anhelos e instintos de preservar que con las formas de pensamiento que destacan la diferencia y la transmutación. Esto resulta, me parece, en una ambivalencia desafiante para la reflexión sobre la convivialidad no solo en tiempos tóxicos sino también en tiempos virales.

Image credit: Librería Facultad Libre

 

[1] Samantha Schweblin (2015): Distancia de rescate, Barcelona: Penguin Random House (2ª ed.).

[2] Michel Foucault (1969): “Ariadne s’est pendue“, en: Le Nouvel Observateur, 229.

   

#6

The Quilombo as Practice and Strategy

Global Convivial Forum 

Fugitivity, or the action of escaping, does not refer to the movement made to avoid a problem; it is a form of exodus, exile, a movement toward the disruption of the Othering mechanism that objectifies Black corporealities and forms of living.


Juliana M. Streva
(FU Berlin), former Mecila Junior Fellow (2020-2021).

Brazil, the last country to formally abolish slavery in the West in 1888, is today one of the most unequal countries in the world. It has the fifth-highest rate of femicide and the deadliest police force for Black young people and is considered the place where the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are most at risk. Colonial violence, structural violence, institutional violence – an ongoing regime of total violence.

The violent possibilities and impossibilities of Black life have become even more exhaustive in recent years due to the dramatic combination of the rise of far-right neoliberal conservatism and the global COVID-19 pandemic. In striving for being-in-the-world, Black and peripheral women have been, in the words of activist Silvia Baptista:

Reconstituting a quilombo as a rede [a web of support] […] while striving to preserve ourselves, concerning not only the pandemic but primarily hunger; and to reinvent another form of economy based on our communitarian, feminist, and popular traditions (Baptista and IPACS 2020).

The quilombo has been one of the most controversial concepts within Brazilian studies due to its multi-dimensional entanglement with geography, history, anthropology, sociology, law, and politics (Arruti 2015). Nevertheless, it involves much more than the official image of the “runaway slave” (Nascimento 1980). Fugitivity, or the action of escaping, does not refer to the movement made to avoid a problem; it is a form of exodus, exile, a movement toward the disruption of the Othering mechanism that objectifies Black corporealities and forms of living (Nascimento 2018).

Without ignoring its complexity, my working paper “Aquilombar Democracy: Fugitive Routes from the End of the World” (Mecila Working Paper Series, No. 37) focuses on the poetics and politics of the quilombo as an ongoing process of articulating and disputing modes of re-existence and convivial coexistence.

The dialogue woven into the paper involves both scholarly works and published books found in libraries and living archives. Such a confluence was enabled by: (1) listening to 35 women engaged in grassroots movements from Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Manaus in 2018; (2) the poetic-politics of Maria Beatriz Nascimento’s work, including the film Ôrí (1988) produced in collaboration with the filmmaker Rachel Gerber; and (3) the digital conversations carried out in 2020 with members of Mandata Quilombo, including Erica Malunguinho and Onir Araújo, a lawyer from the Frente Quilombola and activist of the Movimento Negro Unificado.

By transgressing linear paths, the working paper is composed of two moments (epistemology-methodological remarks and final considerations), two imageries of the quilombo (the soil and the ocean), and three fragments of living archives (Maria Beatriz Nascimento, Marielle Franco, and Erica Malunguinho). By experimenting ontoepistemological folds and geopolitical breaks, this research intends to contribute to confabulating dialogues and articulations within anti-racist, feminist, and decolonial theories and practices from what Lélia Gonzalez called Améfrica Ladina (Gonzalez 1988).

Image credit (cover): Johann Moritz Rugendas, Casa de negros, 1835. 

References

Arruti, José Maurício (2015): “Quilombos e cidades: breve ensaio sobre processos e dicotomias”, in: Birman, Patrícia; Márcia Pereira Leite; Carly Machado and Sandra de Sá Carneiro (eds.), Dispositivos urbanos e trama dos viventes: ordens e resistências, Rio de Janeiro: FGV, 217–238.

Baptista, Silvia and IPACS (2020): “O aquilombamento como resposta histórica às violações vividas na zona oeste do Rio de Janeiro”, in: Medium, September 07, 2020, at: https://medium.com/@pacsinstituto/o-aquilombamento-como-resposta-histórica-às-violações-vividas-na-zona-oeste-do-rio-de-janeiro-241a228260b0 (Last access 05.05.2021).

Birman, Patrícia; Leite, Márcia Pereira; Machado, Carly and Carneiro, Sandra de Sá (eds.) (2015): Dispositivos urbanos e trama dos viventes: ordens e resistências, Rio de Janeiro: FGV.

Gonzalez, Lélia (1988): “A categoria político-cultural de Amerfricanidade”, in: Tempo Brasileiro, 92/93, 69–82.

Nascimento, Abdias (1980): O quilombismo, Petrópolis: Vozes.

Nascimento, Beatriz (2018): “‘Quilombos’: mudança social ou conservantismo? [1975]”, in: União dos Coletivos Pan-Africanistas (ed.), Beatriz Nascimento: quilombola e intelectual. Possibilidade nos dias da destruição, São Paulo: Editora Filhos da África, 66–79.

União dos Coletivos Pan-Africanistas (ed.) (2018): Beatriz Nascimento: quilombola e intelectual. Possibilidade nos dias da destruição, São Paulo: Editora Filhos da África.

Juliana M. Streva, levante (sobre António Lebre, 2, 1939)

Juliana M. Streva, visível (sobre Poder, Carlos Vergara, 1976)

#5

Latin America within the rainbow-collection edition Suhrkamp: Dependency and Liberation (1968-1980)

Global Convivial Forum 

How was it possible for Latin American peripheral authors to appear in major European collections, given the structural asymmetries and inequalities in the international circulation of knowledge?

Between 1963 and 1980, Günther Busch edited the first 1000 books of the edition, one of the most influential collections of literature, essays, and theory by the publishing house Suhrkamp, directed by Siegfrid Unseld in Frankfurt am Main from 1959. The collection was the centre of the renewal of critical theory in the Federal Republic of Germany that George Steiner famously called “the Suhrkamp culture”.

Graphic artist Willy Fleckhaus’s concept for the cover of the edition was in itself a revolution in the history of design in Germany. The presentation was simple: the cover shows only the book’s title and author, and the publisher’s imprint. Each volume in the ongoing series shows one of the spectral colours. Starting with violet, this results in a continuous rainbow on the bookshelf.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among a large majority of European authors, such as the world-famous Adorno, Barthes, Benjamin, Bloch, Brecht, Habermas, Foucault, and Marcuse, as well as the neo-Marxist theorists of the United States Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy, and the Englishman Maurice Dobb, the collection included 28 authors that focused on the two key issues of Latin American thought of the 1960s and 1970s: Dependency and Liberation. 

The publication of Latin American authors becomes especially relevant if one takes into account that the intellectual production of the global South, with some exceptions, had not previously been recognised in the North as a theoretical contribution, but was instead linked to revolutionary praxis or Latin America as an object of study.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although from 1969 different West German publishing houses participated in translations of Latin American social theory, the publication in the edition Suhrkamp, which had an extraordinary symbolic capital not comparable with other publishers, guaranteed circulation among a vast intellectual audience, inside and outside academia.  

My research deals with the following question: How was it possible for Latin American peripheral authors to reach the editors of these major collections within the framework of structural asymmetries and inequalities in the international circulation of knowledge?

Photo_1_Clara
Example of an edition by an Latin American author in the edition Suhrkamp (1969).
Image Credit: Clara Ruvituso
Clara Ruvituso Postdoctoral Investigator at Mecila   

This unusual circulation developed within the framework of the long-term political and cultural transformations marked by the student movements of 1968. Also, as a result of the international impact of the Cuban Revolution from 1959, and later the experience of Chilean popular unity (1970–1973) and the triumph of Sandinismo in Nicaragua in 1979, Latin America underwent a period of unprecedented centrality in transregional political and cultural perception and recognition in Europe.

The picture shows the interconnected succession of Latin American books formed by putting them together, building their own corpus for research.
Image Credit: Clara Ruvituso
The picture shows the interconnected succession of Latin American books formed by putting them together, building their own canon for research. Image Credit: Clara Ruvituso