By Yangyou Fang & Alejandro Martinez
The Exhibition Anonimato by Laurence Cuelenaere
On April 26, a series of photographs were on display at the entrance of Palmer House. At first glance, those black and white photographs seemed to prompt questions that we ignore: Who are those people? Why can’t we see their faces? Some signs in the photographs began to bring us closer to a specific place: Mexico. Photographer Laurence Cuelenaere said about her work: “By embracing the anonymous, the indeterminate, the non-normative, and the spontaneous, the images subvert the conventional subject/object relationship of the photographer/photographed.” The anonymity of the photographs, the lack of faces, the silences, seem to account for bodies that cannot be completely represented, through photography or otherwise, and that we need to (re)learn how to see and listen to them.
As others entered to see the photographs, the sounds of discussions emanating from the next room perhaps served as an orientation to the intense dialogues and debates of the symposium Writing Insurgencies with José Rabasa.
The exhibition will return to Princeton, in the upper hyphen of East Pyne Hall in the fall.
On a rainy afternoon at the long table of Palmer House, Professor Nicole Legnani warmly welcomed the presenters and participants from a variety of disciplines and parts of the world. The objective of this symposium was to celebrate the scholarship and activism of José Rabasa, whose foundational publications have influenced and continue to influence a generation of scholars dedicated to (post) Colonial and subaltern studies, Nahuatl Poetry and Painting, indigenous studies, the History of Voice, escritura salvaje (wild writing), the Zapatista movement, and borderland studies among others.
The first presentation of the roundtable “Ethics of Reading / Writing” by Professor Sara Castro-Klaren initiated the dialogue with a metaphor and a personal anecdote. According to her recollection, colonial studies in the 1970s were as desolate as the wayco (from the Quechua word for mudslide). She attributed her early interests in indigenous studies to her childhood experience interacting with the indigenous population in Peru and acknowledged the contribution of Rabasa’s work to historiography and (post) Colonial studies. Indeed, a snapshot of this revival could be seen in no better space than this very symposium held on April 26–27, with twenty-four incredibly diverse, interdisciplinary, and illuminating presentations coming together with the vibrant discussions and debates that followed.
In the first roundtable, following Castro-Klaren’s address, Guillermo Zermeño Padilla remarked on the renovative
The second day began with a roundtable on “Subaltern Studies” in which John Beverley and Ileana Rodriguez remembered the foundation of the Latin American subaltern studies group, and how, despite being rejected by an important grant to finance the project, they went ahead with the vision and were stronger for it. Beverley
Nemser challenged Clover’s theory that there exists a distinction between early modern and present-day riots,
On the next roundtable, “Bodies and Affect”, Nicole Legnani began by saying that her amber earrings were from Tepotztlán, and that she was told by a woman in the market place that amber was favorable to rational thinking and that José [Rabasa] would appreciate the paradox. Legnani discussed a case of heretical insurgency in colonial Peru that exposed the paradox of colonial epistemology, one that could assert a subject’s consent to demonic possession with certainty on the one hand, while grappling with coerced conversions on the other. Obed Lira opened with a question: “If the subaltern can’t speak, can it feel?”, and proposed that we needed a new Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency… with an affective turn. Drawing on the theories of Spinoza, Anna More offered the possibilities of the body in the context of colonial insurgency. Analisa Taylor offered a suggestive analysis on the Oscar-winning Roma (2018) from a novel perspective of subaltern resistance to divulging secrets. After Jesus Velasco went through the juridical production of fulanizations, a common practice in Spain and Portugal in the Siete Partidas of Alfonso X, a heated debate on Hardt and Negri, Spinoza, and Roma followed.
Finally, on the last roundtable, “Insurgent Ecologies,” the presenters discussed the ecological elements of (Post)colonial studies across geographical and chronological boundaries. Orlando Bentancor tackled Insurgency and Subalternity in the Cochabamba Water Wars, Marcelo Fernández Osco presented visual archive of the agrarian struggle of the Aymaras during Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, ninth Sapay Inca (1418–1471/1472) of the Kingdom of Cusco. Germán Labrador Méndez invited the room to ponder on the public and ecological space through a close-reading of the cryptic inscriptions scattered throughout the coastal villages of southern Galicia by José Meijón Area. The last presenter, Abdul Karim Mustapha, drawing historical accounts from Naufragios and Rabasa’s Tell Me the Story of How I Conquered You: Elsewheres and Ethnosuicide in the Colonial Mesoamerican World (2011), provided a philosophical interpretation of three Ecologies of Politics: Non-being, territoriality and insurrection.