Notes from the Field: Autumn Knowlton

Rita Chiqui

The next meeting of the Latin America and the Global Reading Group will be next Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 3pm in the Research Unit of the Liu Institute (Room 121). Below please find a brief description of the presentation Autumn will give on her research in Q’eqchi’ communities in Guatemala.

Please attend and bring your questions!

Autumn Knowlton, “Q’eqchi’ Maya Political Imaginaries in a ‘Post-Conflict’ Landscape”

How does defense of La Madre Tierra figure in Q’eqchi’ Mayas’ political imaginaries in “post-conflict” Guatemala?

Many Q’eqchi’ Mayas I interviewed for my doctoral research are engaged in life-and-death struggles over their current and future occupation of La Madre Tierra in northeastern Guatemala. In the past decade in particular whole communities have experienced violent evictions by corporations who are destroying their traditional lands in the name of profit and “development.” How are Q’eqchi’s’ political imaginaries shaped by experiences of conflict, especially during the armed conflict (1960-1996) and in more recent and ongoing waves of violent evictions?

I invite those who attend to help me think through the limitations and possibilities of my research, especially given my outsider status in Q’eqchi’ communities.

Reading Group: Mapurbe, January 28, 2015


Welcome to a new semester!

We’ve set the first meeting of the semester for Wednesday, January 28th at 3pm, in response to previous concerns about our later meeting times conflicting with childcare schedules.

After last semester’s foray into the fieldwork of various faculty and Liu Scholars, this semester we’re thinking of returning to the reading group format, with the possibility to sponsor or host other events (workshops, etc.).

For next week’s session we’ll be reading the article “Mapurbe: Spiritual decolonization and the Word in the Chilean Mierdópolis” (Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol. 3, No. 1, 2014, pp. 23-47) by Sandra Collins, which we’ve attached here. This article combines interests of various members of the group (Latin American literature, decolonization, indigeneity, etc.) so it should prove to be an interesting conversation.

The Liu is implementing a new policy on booking space, so for the foreseeable future we’ll be meeting in Room 121 of the Liu Institute (instead of the Board Room).

Notes from the Field: Gastón Gordillo

No nos patenten la vida

The Liu Institute working group on “Latin America and the Global” is pleased to announce an informal workshop with Gastón Gordillo (Anthropology), who will be reporting on his recent fieldwork in Northern Argentina.

October 1, 2014, 4pm
Liu Institute for Global Issues, Boardroom (3rd Floor)

You are encouraged to read the following texts on the topic of agribusiness and the soy boom in Argentina in advance of the workshop. The first two are posts on Gastón’s blog (in Spanish), and the third is a in Spanish and English about the “seeds law” lobbied by Monsanto in Argentina, currently being debated in Congress.

Sixth Meeting: Mignolo, November 20, 2012

We had another small but lively discussion at our last meeting, where we read a couple of chapters from Fernando Enrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, Dependency and Development in Latin America

For our next meeting, on November (in the Liu Institute, 10am-12noon), we will be reading a text chosen by Magdalena Ugarte: “‘Latin’ America and the First Reordering of the Modern/Colonial World”, chapter two from Walter Mignolo, The Idea of Latin America. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. 51-94.

This will be our last meeting this autumn. For our January meeting, Tal has volunteered to pick something; she is going to think about what she wants us to read.

In the meantime, the group also agreed to co-sponsor the upcoming visit of members of Argentina’s Colectivo Situaciones to Vancouver.

Fifth Meeting: Cardoso and Faletto, October 23, 2012

Well, we had a small but lively discussion at our last meeting, where we read a chapter from Sidney Mintz’s Sweetness and Power. We agreed that if we had written a book like that, we could die happy.

For our next meeting, on October 23 (in the Liu Institute, 10am-12noon), we will be reading chapters two (“Comprehensive Analysis of Development”) and three (“The Period of ‘Outward Expansion'”) from Fernando Enrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, Dependency and Development in Latin America. Trans Marjory Mattingly Urquidi. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979. 8-73.

Agustín Goenaga reports:

Chapter 2 is a presentation of their theoretical framework or, rather, a critique of modernization theories of economic development. I think it can be useful insofar it begins to present the kind of arguments regarding the particularities of Latin American capitalism that we found in Quijano and Schwarz. The chapter is about 20 pages long, although it is very abstract and a bit abstruse.

Chapter 3 is their historical interpretation of 19th Century Latin America. It is a much more grounded chapter and it is better to observe how their argument about external linkages and internal roots of Latin American capitalism played out in specific countries. An interesting advantage of reading this chapter is that it provides some country-specific context to what we have read so far in Quijano and Schwarz. However, the chapter is longer (40 pages).

And for our November meeting, Magdalena has volunteered to pick something; she is going to think about what she wants us to read.

Fourth Meeting: Mintz, September 25, 2012

We had a productive discussion at our last meeting, where we read Roberto Schwarz’s “Misplaced Ideas: Literature and Society in Late Nineteenth-Century Brazil” and talked about (among other things) patronage, affect, ideology, posthegemony…

For our next meeting, on September 25 (in the Boardroom, Third Floor, Liu Institute, 10am-12noon), we will be reading Sidney Mintz,“Production”. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking Penguin, 1985. 19-73.

And for our September meeting, Agustín has volunteer to pick for us something of or about dependency theory, probably from Cardoso and Faletto’s Dependency and development in Latin America.

Quijano: Thoughts from Sara K

Hi everyone! I finally got around to typing out some thoughts about Quijano’s article from Week 2. Please reply if you get the chance, it would be fun to start kind of a dialogue…

As I began reading, I was excited! “What is termed globalization is the culmination of a process that began with the constitution of America and colonial/modern Eurocentered capitalism as a new global power” – Yes! Quijano goes on to describe that the global power structure that began in colonial times and that we now call globalization is fundamentally based in the classification of people by race. This is called the “coloniality of power”, and is basically a concise way of describing the global racial order of things. Makes sense!! Modernity and the modern world system began to form with the colonization of America and for this reason, modernity developed out of this relation – “In other words, starting with America, a new space/time was constituted materially and subjectively: this is what the concept of modernity names” (547).

Wait a second. Note here there is only ONE modernity. It is not purely European, nor does it occur in all cultures, but it is singular (546). This is kindof problematic, because later on in the essay, there can also be only one kind of modern nation state as well! Most of Latin America is doing it wrong according to Quijano, because they have their colonial blinders on, buying into Eurocentrism and all that.
I feel pretty uncomfortable with this idea, and the notion that democratization and the modern (Western) nation state should really be the goal. Especially nowadays…the modern nation state isn’t doing so well in Europe or North America. I think some of this has to do with the fact that Quijano is writing in the year 2000, or likely before – before 9/11, before the US mortgage crisis, just after Chavez was elected, but before Morales, and before people took to the streets in countries all over the world in the Arab spring, Maple spring, and so on.

Also, Quijano problematizes one Euro-focused trajectory to modernity, but then sortof reinforces it by making only one possible trajectory again. Don’t we want to disrupt this singular trajectory? Isn’t that the point of postcolonial theory? With only one trajectory Quijano also seems to say that only one kind of nation state “works.” Isn’t it possible to have multiplicity in terms of “nation” just like for “capitalism”? We know that capital is not so uniform, isn’t this the case with the nation?

Another thing is, Quijano takes “Latin America” as an unproblematized generic whole. Obviously there is a lot of diversity there. How would this coloniality of power play out in diverse Latin American contexts? When and why does “America” get separated into the United States and Latin America in this formulation? I gather it has to do with race, since for Quijano this is one of the keys to the coloniality of power, but I am not clear on that.

Before you think I am only here to hate on Quijano, I should say that I really like the America-focussed take on colonialism and globalization, and thinking about how areas of the world or megaconcepts like modernity are co-constituted. I think this fits really well with our theme and with my own work – showing how seemingly distant places are co-produced, interconnected, produced through connection, etc. This adds even more to it: how places and peoples might be unequally ranked based on race – the coloniality of power.

See you all at the next meeting!

Third Meeting: August 22, 2012

We had a productive discussion at our last meeting, where we read Aníbal Quijano’s “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism and Latin America” and talked about (among other things) Eurocentrism, intersubjectivity, top-down versus bottom-up approaches, Bolivia, modernity, teaching…

For our next meeting, on August 22 (in the Liu Institute, 2-4pm; please note new date), we will be reading Roberto Schwarz, “Misplaced Ideas: Literature and Society in Late Nineteenth-Century Brazil”.

And for our September meeting, Gabriela will be picking for us something by Sidney Mintz, probably a chapter from Sweetness and Power.

First Meeting: Brief Summary

Our first meeting was June 20, 2012. What follows is a brief summary.

Here are our future plans:

* Our next meeting will be July 18th, 2-4pm, Liu Institute Board Room. The reading will be a chapter from Mabel Moraña et. al. (eds.), Coloniality at Large. Dawn will pick the particular essay, and circulate it to us all.

* Our subsequent meeting will be August 15th, 2-4pm, Liu Institute Board Room. The reading will be Roberto Schwarz, “Misplaced Ideas: Literature and Society in Late-Nineteenth-Century Brazil.” I will scan the essay and circulate it.

* Tal suggested we take a field trip to the “Carnaval del Sol” this weekend (June 30th) downtown.

We shared our interests and ideas. Here are my brief and inevitably incomplete notes:

* flows of ideas, money, and people in and out of Latin America
* what’s happening in Vancouver?
* mining and the Canadian connection
* indigenous rights
* how can we interact with the broader community?
* cinema. What about a movie series?
* decolonialism and coloniality
* the Americas, and how and why Latin American studies are delimited
* colonialism in Canada
* mining. Capital flows
* embededness. Translocality and the relationship between what happens in Latin America and elsewhere
* transnational dialogues
* theory, more than specific cases
* how do we locate our work? Between Latin America and elsewhere
* Mignolo
* posthegemony
* performance art and social movements
* deconstructing Latin America though artistic practice
* theoretical debates, rather than case studies
* human rights discourse
* feminisms, performances
* dependency theory (Wallerstein)

To which Tal adds:

* legality and human rights discourses
* urban settings as bridging between the rural and global (or transnational?)
* performance as/and activism
* feminism and sexuality
* the consumption of LA – Mining, literature, art, football, coffee, sugar, bananas and so on..
* Barndt, Deborah (ed), Wild Fire: Art as Activism. Toronto, ON, CAN: Sumach Press.

Other readings suggested included:

* Walter Mignolo, something from The Idea of Latin America
* Michael Taussig, something from The Devil and Commodity Fetishism
* Sidney Mintz, something from Sweetness and Power

I think that our conclusions were:

a) we would start as a reading group, reading a chapter or essay (sometimes two) a month
b) we would mix theoretical readings with diverse case studies
c) we were interested in the Latin American community, or expressions of “latinidad” in Vancouver
d) we were also interested later on in sharing our writing
e) we would start a blog as one way to enable people out of town to interact with the group

Again, thanks to everyone. I look forward to hearing from Dawn about our first reading, and look forward to seeing you all in July.