Empire's End showcases the work of scholars of literature, cultural studies, and history, centering on four interrelated issues crucial to understanding the end of the Spanish empire: the mappings of the Hispanic Atlantic, race, human rights, and the legacies of empire.
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About the Author
William G. Acree Jr. is Associate Professor of Spanish at Washington University in St. Louis. He is author of Everyday Reading: Print Culture and Collective Identity in the Río de la Plata, 1780–1910, winner of the 2013 LASA Southern Cone Studies Section Book Prize in the Humanities.
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Transnational Connections in the Hispanic World
By Akiko Tsuchiya, William G. Acree Jr.
Vanderbilt University PressCopyright © 2016 Vanderbilt University Press
All rights reserved.
Hispanism, Transatlantic Studies, and the Problem of Cultural History
Is it possible to narrate the cultural history of nineteenth-century Spain as if Latin America did not exist? Absolutely. Cecilio Alonso's recent history of Spanish literature from 1800 to 1900, which constitutes the fifth volume of the monumental Historia de la literatura española coordinated by José-Carlos Mainer and published with much fanfare by Crítica between 2008 and 2012, manages to dedicate eight hundred pages to the nineteenth century without once mentioning the work of José Martí, Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera, or Rubén Darío. To be sure, this may be more shocking to some than to others. What can sound unbelievable to someone working in transatlantic or Latin American studies in the United States may well seem entirely appropriate to a Peninsularist working in Spain. In fact, these different levels of potential shock are what I am interested in exploring. They point, I would contend, to fundamentally diverging notions of the relationship between disciplinary boundaries and the nature and scope of cultural history.
It is safe to assume that to most of the contributors to the present volume, the absence of Latin Americans from nineteenth-century Spanish cultural history is well-nigh inconceivable. After all, the transatlantic nature of this very collection — its focus on the circuits of intellectual and cultural exchange between Spain and its former colonies — implicitly posits the central importance of these circuits for understanding the cultural history of Latin America and Spain between 1800 and 1900. If the contributors gathered here can agree on anything, it is that Latin American political independence did not mark a break in transatlantic relations; rather, these relations continued to play an instrumental role in the development of both regions. Studying nineteenth-century Spain as if Latin America did not exist may well be possible, but to most of us it would make very little sense indeed. Why, then, do leading scholars of Spanish literary historiography continue to do exactly that?
The wider concerns that drive this chapter are not limited to literary history. Still, I want to approach the problematic from that angle, asking three basic questions: What explains the chronic exclusion of the Latin American dimension from mainstream peninsular Hispanism? What are the alternatives? And what needs to happen for those alternatives to take institutional hold? In this context I particularly want to revisit the uneven rise, lukewarm acceptance, and problematic features of transatlantic Hispanic studies as a proper academic field. As we know, its proponents have welcomed transatlantic studies as a much-needed bridge between, and necessary renovation of, the estranged two branches of Hispanic studies: Peninsularism and Latin Americanism. Critics, on the other hand, have dismissed transatlantic studies as, at best, an ephemeral fad with an inadequately articulated critical methodology (Trigo) or, at worst, a reinvented Hispanist wolf in sheep's clothing (Resina). What role, if any, can transatlantic studies play in solving the persistent sense of crisis in Hispanic studies?
Although I am ultimately interested in questions of ideology — that is, the ways in which meaning, in this case the configuration of scholarly fields, reflects and is put at the service of structures of domination — I want to begin this discussion by thinking more practically about the problem of "fit" between disciplinary framework and object of study or, to put it differently, the relationship between the materiality of cultural history and the institutionality of academic work. Ideology and institutions are of course closely intertwined. It is no coincidence, for example, that Hispanism, as a term, refers to both an academic field and an ideology. The field — as an institutional reality — has long been the embodiment and vehicle of the (Pan-)Hispanist ideology that constructs the cultural history of the Spanish-speaking world through a Castilian- and Spain-centered lens (Faber, "Hora"; Resina). Within the academic field of Spanish and Latin American cultural history, in fact, Hispanist ideologies have manifested themselves in different ways: as a blanket assimilation of Latin America into the Spanish fold — a negation of difference based on an alleged "spiritual unity" of former colonizer and colonized (Pérez Montfort 10; see also Pike; Van Aken; Valle and Gabriel-Stheeman) — or, as we just saw, as an outright exclusion of Latin America from Spanish cultural history.
Many critics working on the wider Spanish-speaking world within institutions located outside of Spain have come to see the Hispanist paradigm as an obstacle to any full and true understanding of the cultural history of Spain and its former colonies. And yet, although over the past couple of decades critiques of Hispanism as a field of knowledge have been extensive, ruthless, and seemingly lethal (Resina; Morana), its institutional presence remains remarkably strong. More importantly, critics of Hispanism have, as of yet, been less than successful in rethinking, let alone reforming, scholarly practices dealing with the Spanish-speaking world at all institutional levels, including not just research but also more recalcitrant structures such as departments and curriculum. This relative lack of success even affects the most promising alternative at hand, transatlantic studies.
That the process of reform has been slow and uneven is due to several challenges, of which I would highlight three. First, inasmuch as all institutional structures embody an ideology and all disciplinary structures work through mechanisms of delimitation — of inclusion and exclusion — we are inevitably replacing one set of limitations with another. Second, new institutional proposals have to be powerful enough to overcome inertia and vested interests, whose weight is never to be underestimated. They, therefore, require a persuasive legitimating narrative. And, as Abril Trigo has pointed out, in the case of transatlantic studies this narrative has been less than coherent or convincing (38). Third, given the wildly different situation of Hispanic studies in different institutional settings (Spain, the United States, other European countries, and so forth), the need for reform is felt much more acutely in some institutional spaces than in others (Faber, "Economies"). This imbalance has done little to improve the existing fragmentation of Hispanic studies across national-institutional boundaries. Some critics have recently sounded a cautionary note, warning that we should not exaggerate the extent of this fragmentation. Still, the rift is evident, not only in that leading authorities of Spanish literary history in Spain remain firmly entrenched in the Hispanist framework — with some important exceptions — but also in that they apparently feel they can safely ignore the bulk of the work done elsewhere. Alonso's history of nineteenth-century Spanish literature, mentioned above, dedicates the bulk of its eight hundred pages to romanticism and realism. While the prologue by the series editor promises to take into account the "critical pluralism" of the field and its various "states of the question" (xi), the volume almost completely bypasses the last thirty years' worth of research around those topics done in Anglophone peninsular Hispanic studies. In fact, the twenty-page bibliography contains not a single reference to the work of Diane Urey, Noël Valis, Jo Labanyi, Michael Iarocci, Catherine Jagoe, Hazel Gold, Lou Charnon-Deutsch, or Geoffrey Ribbans, just to name a handful of colleagues with groundbreaking nineteenth-century scholarship. The ninguneo from across the ocean is so blatant it is almost funny.
It should be clear by now that this chapter is driven partly by sheer professional irritation: a deep-seated frustration with a particular kind of peninsular Spanish philology. But it is inspired in equal measure by two other sentiments: inspiration derived from the terrific work being done in transatlantic studies and apprehension about the future of the "field" — and, for that matter, doubt about the future possibility of any "field" in terms of both scholarship and teaching. In what follows, I hope to channel this contradictory mix of sentiments into a productive attempt to think more generally about the shape and legitimacy of academic fields of specialization as institutions in and of themselves. What factors determine the emergence and evolution of academic fields of knowledge? How do these factors differ in different national and institutional contexts? How do we interpret and evaluate the evolution of academic fields? It is tempting, for instance, to think about institutional and disciplinary changes in terms of scholarly advances or, conversely, to denounce regressive and reactionary tendencies in systems that remain stagnant. But is it still warranted to speak of progress at all?
Fields and Cultural Capital
If Latin America is all but absent in Alonso's volume, Mainer's own subsequent tome, which covers the years from 1900 to 1939, does not do much better. Mainer's eight hundred pages, which centrally cover modernismo and the avant-garde, once again relegate Latin America to the margins of cultural history. The first chapter, on modernismo, does not mention Latin America once, although Rubén Darío is incorporated as a kind of honorary Spanish writer and cultural operator. By contrast, references to Europe abound. Mainer's approach is, in fact, a good example of what Mejías-López describes as the tendency among Spanish writers and critics to "narrate the Spanish American transformation of Spanish letters as a pan-Hispanic opening to other 'European' literatures" (104). "There is something troublesome," Mejías-López adds, "in pleading for inclusion in 'Europe's' select club, especially in doing so by turning the peninsular back on Spanish America's modernismo." As Mejías-López points out, and as Mainer's Historia confirms, this approach "is rapidly gaining ground" (Mejías-López 114).
Tellingly, neither Mainer nor Alonso feels the need to justify the fact that they do not take into account Latin American cultural production in the development of cultural history in Spain. "Why in the world," one imagines the unspoken reasoning, "would anyone writing a history of Spanish literature want to include Latin Americans? We'll leave that to our Latin Americanist colleagues next door — or, better yet, to the Latin Americans themselves. Zapatero, a tus zapatos — the cobbler should stick to his last." It is a purely bureaucratic argument, of course, based on a particular division of academic labor. Yet it nevertheless masks itself as a substantive argument. It does so precisely to the extent that Mainer's history claims to present a totalizing, integral evolutionary narrative of literary production in Spain — a narrative to which Latin American culture is assumed to be almost entirely alien and, in any case, nonessential.
Importantly, the institutional arrangements that allow for this exclusion embody in themselves a set of ideologies. First, they clearly embody an ideology of cultural nationalism: a worldview that conceives of nations as self-sufficient "organic beings" with an essential national character that functions as a "creative life-principle" and that is reflected in, as well as shaped by, the work of great national writers and artists (Hutchinson 122). (Incidentally, this cultural-nationalist tendency is also evident in the marginalization of scholarship by non-Spaniards just mentioned, which a benevolent soul might describe as a kind of scholarly protectionism, an intellectual tariff imposed on work done abroad.) Second, these institutional arrangements embody an ideology of empire. As Mejías-López argues, the institution of Hispanism, as a scholarly discipline, is chronically oblivious to the possibility of the former colonies influencing the former metropolis. Conversely, that we take notice of the exclusion in the first place could indicate a waning of these ideologies, a suggestion that they have become, in Raymond Williams's terms, residual — at least in our corner of the field (Williams 40–42). Among other things, of course, our bafflement at a literary history of modern Spain that manages to ignore Latin America almost entirely is, in the end, rooted in the increasing realization that strictly national literary histories have lost their legitimacy and explanatory power (Hutcheon 5). But our shock at our Spanish colleagues' blind spots is only productive if we address the fundamental questions that it raises about the relationship between the nature and scope of our object of study and the nature and scope of the disciplinary structures available to approach that object.
How do we tackle these fundamental questions? For starters, it may be helpful to think of both our object (that is, literary or cultural history) and the institutional space from which we approach it (that is, academia) as "fields of cultural production" in Bourdieu's sense. This would oblige us to analyze both as social-institutional-historical realities with a clear material presence and impact; as entities whose dynamics are shaped by rules, interplays of power, prestige, interests, and cultural capital; entities built on, embodying, and reproducing ideologies that are also in constant transformation as they react, and are forced to adapt, to challenges of different kinds. Invoking Bourdieu's notion of the field has the added advantage of leveling the hierarchy between an ideology-free "us" working in the present and an ideology-bound "them" located in the past. In other words, Bourdieu helps us complicate the essential overlap between ourselves as intellectual actors embedded in a particular structure and the intellectual actors and institutional structures we aim to investigate. To see ourselves as operating in a field of cultural production forces us from the outset to adopt a healthy dose of self-reflexivity. It compels us, in Bourdieu's words, to step outside of the illusio that governs our daily practice: the self-deception that is indispensable for "players" to stay involved in the "game" (Bourdieu, Rules 230).
In the case at hand, Bourdieu can specifically help us understand not only the nature of the historical relationship between Spanish and Latin American cultural producers, but also the shape of academic structures and the behavior of academic specialists as an effect of the ways that capital and competition function in the humanities in Spain — an effect that, in practice, mirrors this historical relationship. As Mejías-López and others have shown, for instance, the postcolonial relations between Spanish and Latin American cultural producers have been marked from the outset by a struggle for hegemony or cultural capital that Spaniards continued to claim for themselves long after they had lost it in practice (Mejías-López 104). A cursory glance at the institutional history of Hispanism makes clear that a very similar dynamic has marked the relations between academic experts in Spanish and Latin American cultural history (Faber, "Economies").
Excerpted from Empire's End by Akiko Tsuchiya, William G. Acree Jr.. Copyright © 2016 Vanderbilt University Press. Excerpted by permission of Vanderbilt University Press.
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Table of ContentsIntroduction
Hispanism, Transatlantic Studies, and the Problem of Cultural History
Liverpool and the Luso-Hispanic World: Negotiating Global Histories at Empire's End
The Genius of Columbus and the Mixture of Races: How the Rhetoric of Fusion Defined the End and Beginning of Empire and in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Spain
Theorizing Racial Hybridity in Nineteenth-Century Spain and Spanish America
"El color nacional": Race, Nation, and the Philippine Ilustrados
Spanish Prisoners: War and Captivity in Spain's Imperial Crisis
Empire's End, Long Live the Empire: The Rise and Fall of Empires in the Spanish Caribbean of the Nineteenth Century
The Spanish Empire on the Wane: Africa, Galdós, and the Moroccan Wars
Inscribing Indianos into Modern Imperial Histories
Hispanic Studies and the Legacy of Empire