P20


Poetry and resistance in contemporary Latin America 
Convenorss:
Cornelia Gräbner
Joanna Crow (University of Bristol)
Send message to Convenors
Location:
UP 4.213
Start time:
12 April, 2013 at 11:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
3

Short Abstract:

The panel invites papers on all aspects of the relationship between poetry and resistance in contemporary Latin America; for example on specific poetic practices, on the relationship between poetry and social movements, and on the place of poetry in cultural politics.

Long Abstract

Throughout the late 20th century, poetry has emerged as a crucial form of resistance in Latin America: as a form of testimony, as prophecy, as a mode of survival, as an act of unifying public speech. In this panel we wish to explore lineages from these practices that lead into the 21st century. We invite papers on all aspects of the relationship between poetry and resistance; for example on specific poetic practices, on the relationship between poetry and social movements, and on the place of poetry in cultural politics. We are interested in contributions that investigate the place of poetry in public space; the relationship between poetry, resistance and the natural environment; and the role of poetry in the ALBA countries.

'Poetry' is here not equivalent with 'the poem' or with a discipline whose characteristics are defined by academics and critics: it is also an 'event' in the sense of Alain Badiou, and the use of poetic language is not exclusively present in poems. The public letters of the Zapatistas, for example, invite a discussion regarding the relationhip between 'poetry' as a genre and 'poetic language' as a way of breaking through the confines of a world that cannot imagine an alternative, and as building the linguistic foundations for the other world that is possible. 'Resistance' is taken to refer to the resistance to the global hegemony of neoliberal capitalism; thus, poetry that is contextualized within non-capitalist alternative political visions can also be considered within the scope of this panel.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Joanna Crow (University of Bristol)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the multiple, creative ways in which urban Mapuche poetry challenges official discourses of neoliberal multiculturalism in contemporary Chile.

Paper long abstract:

Focusing on the life stories, public statements and written works of David Aniñir and Jaime Huenún, this paper explores the multiple, creative ways in which contemporary Mapuche poetry challenges official discourses of nationhood in Chile, most notably neoliberal multiculturalism. It highlights some the dilemmas and problems that Aniñir and Huenún have faced as they engage with and participate in the mainstream literary scene of the capital city, Santiago, but also underlines their achievements. Both urban poets support the Mapuche political movement and its nation-building project, but they do so in different ways, elaborating distinct concepts of identity and resistance.

Author:

Sandra Collins (Queens University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the role of the 'flayte' ('chav') in Mapuche urban cultural production. It uses the poet David Aniňir as a central point of reference, but also looks at Mapuche music fused with other genres.

Paper long abstract:

Over the last two decades, Mapuche poetry in Chile has reached international readership. Poets use written poetry as a medium to voice their grievances with the unjust policies of the Neoliberal economic system. Much of their poetry has been categorized as 'ethno-literature' or 'ecocritical' poetry for its close thematic association with the land. Subsequently, there has been less critical attention to Mapuche urban cultural production which has been undergoing its own particular 'reinvention' in recent years. One of the more recent socio-political categories - the Mapurbe (Mapuche of urbe) has been overlooked in spite of the impact it has had on young Mapuche in Santiago and Temuco, who have begun to appropriate concepts outside the Mapuche world, and engage in artistic experimentation considered by some Mapuche to be 'unpure'. Few scholars have taken into account the double marginalisation of the Mapurbe, or examined how this has played out in their cultural production. My paper demonstrates the multi-faceted nature of Mapurbe cultural production, in particular the role of the flayte, or 'chav', seen as a delincuent by both Mapuche and Chilean communities. I will discuss the work of the forerunner of the Mapurbe movement, David Aniňir, as well as the various forms of music which have been combined with Mapuche instruments, language and thematic content, in particular punk, hip-hop and heavy metal. Mapurbe urban resistance is a testament to the dynamism and vibrancy of Mapuche culture, which is often mistakenly portrayed as incongruous to modernity.

Author:

Charles Pigott (School of Oriental and African Studies)

Paper short abstract:

How history is redefined in a Quechua poem as a strategy of resistance to marginalization.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation shows how a Quechua oral poem redefines history to build solidarity among Andean peasants. I collected the poem during fieldwork in Ancash, Peru. I show how the poem synthesizes a common Andean identity through the figure of the Inca, by way of linguistic, cultural, historical and religious elements. By reference to the Inca's divine power, and his designation as a guiding spirit, the poem grounds this shared identity on a cosmological, not just political, basis. This identity is embodied insofar as the text is sung while walking around the village, whose features are imaginatively redefined as key landmarks of the Incan Empire. The Incan community, operating on a reciprocal and moral basis, is contrasted with the European colonizers, presented as egoistic, destructive and amoral. Thus, the text forges solidarity and defines this solidarity as morally superior, providing an account of Andeans' marginalization that safeguards a positive self-image. This suggests that 'essentialist' identities are theories to account for and come to terms with current circumstances (Mohanty 2000), realized through a process of ideological erasure (Irvine & Gal 2000) or 'wilful forgetfulness'. The negation of the European 'others' to define the Andean 'self' is paradoxical because it is by virtue of the 'other' that the 'self' thereby takes form (Hastings & Manning 2004). Incommunication is thus a form of communication in its own right (cf Cornejo-Polar 1990). This can be understood by reference to Derrida's (1967) notion of différance, where meaning arises through a constant interplay of opposites.

Author:

Cherilyn Elston

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the poetic practice and activist politics of Piedad Morales in the context of the women’s social movements and peace campaigns in Colombia.

Paper long abstract:

Since the early 1990s, poetry in Colombia has been promoted as a transformative practice, having a role in instilling peace and social justice in a nation saturated by conflict. In particular, this has been concentrated around the Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín, winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize, which claims a role in the transformation of Medellín from murder capital to 'capital mundial para la poesía'. This understanding of poetry draws not only upon the idea of poetry as having a spiritual or 'civilising' function but the etymological roots of poiesis, the notion of making, transformation or 'bringing-forth'.

Over the same period a number of women's social movements have emerged in Colombia, linking feminist, pacifist and anti-militarist discourses in campaigning for a negotiated solution to the conflict. These movements have been linked to both an understanding of poetry in its literary sense and the role of the poetic as transformative.

One of the central figures in these movements was the poet and activist Piedad Morales (1956-2012). Active in the alternative cultural scene in Medellín, she was a published poet and founding member of the Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres por la Solución Negociada del conflicto armado, Carnavalenguas and Mujeres de Negro. This paper will analyse her poetic practice, as it appears in her poems and her activist politics. Using María Zambrano's theory of razón poética, it will look at the use of poetry in the creation of alternative discourses or an alternative cultural politics to the armed conflict in Colombia.

Author:

Denise Callejas (Vanderbilt University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I examine Costa Rican poet Carmen Naranjo’s call for a poetic rebellion against a rigid political representation in Mi Guerrilla (1977). Recent theory on aesthetics and democracy informs my analysis of Naranjo’s poems as an alternate vision to liberal conceptions of democracy.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I examine the way in which the Costa Rican poet Carmen Naranjo calls for a poetic rebellion against a rigid political representation in Mi Guerrilla (1977). The lyric self ponders her participation in a given polity and by extension, her role in serving as a historical index of that polity's culture. I argue that the lyric self reasserts her political subjectivity by resisting the inscription of a collective "we" that lacks a sense of social and cultural responsibility. The constant search for a symbolic representation becomes the creative impetus that sustains the activism of the poetic speaker. Naranjo's poems target the homogeneous discourse of a consumer-driven, capitalist society. To counter this discourse, Naranjo focuses on the sensory experiences that can redefine the potential for civic and aesthetic engagement. Her poetry thematically touches upon the debate on neoliberalism and state adherence to the logic of the market that currently dictates our contemporary notion of democracy. I turn to recent theory on the relationship between aesthetics and democracy (Rancière, Panagia, and Docherty) to discuss how Naranjo's poetry identifies the ramifications of a politically stagnant discourse by linking it to a meta-poetic reflection on the appropriation of language itself. Through a textual analysis, I will show that what the poetic voice seeks is not a collective conscience, but rather calls for a personal introspection in order to produce a position of dissent within a given polity.

Author:

Junia Lima (Universidade Federal de Campina Grande)

Paper short abstract:

This proposal addresses poetic language as a narrative form in the public letters of the Zapatistas and their forms of resistance. The research focuses on reflecting on world views which have, in poetry, a way to transcend the need for definition and achieve unlimited signs.

Paper long abstract:

The present proposal was extracted from a research on Zapatista letters, written and made public between the years 1994 and 2005. Initially characterized as an armed insurgency by Mayan Indians, this movement owes a part of its visibility to the writings publicized through the internet globally. The Zapatista discourse highlighted its capacity to transpose spatial frontiers and mobilize people, regarding its demands, accusations and political articulations. However, its uniqueness remains also in its various narrative forms, aggregated to the purpose of claiming rights. Among these forms, poetic language is one of the most effective tools of resistance. This language goes beyond political manifesto, as it exceeds the need to always outline and define things. Clearly, the communiqués are aiming to state and explain demands articulated in indigenous ways of being in the world. However, what I see in the Zapatista poetics is that there are things that are said to be understood, and others to be felt. In order to analyze the forms of resistance from the Zapatista poetic language, I propose to reflect worldviews that rearrange themselves in ways to articulate claims. These worldviews are intertwined with pieces of reality which are intercepted by poetry, creating an arrangement between what is said / explained and what is unlimited / indefinite.

Author:

Cornelia Gräbner

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at poetry and resistance during the Mexican drug war, specifically during the Caravan of Solace. The poems discussed show that poetry is possible only in dialogue with collective mobilization; if it serves as consolation, it ceases to be poetry.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at the role of poetry in the context of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. The movement was initiated by the poet Javier Sicilia, who publicly renounced poetry after the assassination of his son in the context of the Mexican drug war; during the apotheosis of neoliberalism.

First I will look at Sicilia's refusal to continue writing poetry; a stance which resonates with that taken by Theodor Adorno. For Adorno, a poem is and has to remain an 'open wound'; once it gives consolation, like a painkiller, it renounces poetry. I read Sicilia's refusal to write poetry as a renunciation of a consolation that would have prevented people from taken action for social change.

I then turn to two poems that were recited during public meetings, and which were documented by the collective EmergenciaMX. The first oem functions as an 'open wound' and enquires into the social function of the pain caused by the destruction of the social fabric.The second functions as a mirror in the Zapatista sense. This poem returns to the poet and the listener not only who they are, but also who they would like to be and, more importantly, all those who are by their side but who they cannot see because they remain outside of the peripheral vision.

Thus, poetry during the apotheosis of neoliberalism is only possible as resistance to the culture that normalizes the destruction of the social fabric; and it becomes poetry because it emerges from a collective.

Author:

Amit Thakkar (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore the connection between Juan Rulfo’s fiction and photography through the technique of poetic evocation, a key aspect of Rulfo's poetic resistance to the rhetoric of a 'Revolution' that was institutionalised by the time of the publication of his works in the 1950s.

Paper long abstract:

The fiction of Juan Rulfo has frequently and long been subjected to poetics-based analyses, for example bathos and catachresis (Thakkar 2012), orality (Perus, 1998) and imagery (Merrell, 1977). Very little work has been done on his photography beyond Béatrice Tatard's work of 1994, Juan Rulfo, photographe. Esthétique du royaume des âmes. This paper will build on the links between Rulfo's fiction and photography that I briefly analysed in the context of postcolonialism (2012) to explore further connections, especially the possibility of a poetic as well as a thematic connection between the two. I will examine that connection through the technique of poetic evocation: of certain words (llorar, calor etc.), of phrases (for example, 'allá ellos' and '´¡Mueran los caciques!') and of concepts (for example, nothingness and dignity). The paper will explore the extent to which such evocation is a key aspect of Rulfo's poetic resistance to the prevailing rhetoric of a 'Revolution' that was institutionalised by the time of the publication of his works in the 1950s. It will conclude by considering the relevance of such a poetic critique in present-day Mexico.

Author:

Kate Dunn (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will consider the poetry of Alicia Partnoy as testimonio. She is a survivor of human rights abuses during the Argentine Dirty War and I will consider how she expresses testimony and the ineffability of trauma in the collections "Venganza de la manzana" and "Volando bajito".

Paper long abstract:

Alicia Partnoy is a survivor of kidnapping, unlawful detention and torture in the Argentine Dirty War. After being forced into exile in the USA, she testified about her experiences at the United Nations, Amnesty International and CONADEP (Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas). Partnoy continues to campaign against human rights violations and has been testifying in Argentina at the trials for crimes committed during the dictatorship.

To literary scholars, this writer is perhaps best known for her testimonial narrative in the short stories of "The Little School" / "La Escuelita". My research is focussed on her poetry collections "Venganza de la manzana" (1992) and "Volando bajito" (2005), considering Partnoy's poetry as a writing of resistance against dictatorship and injustice. This paper will seek to demonstrate that her poetry constitutes testimonio, described by Guillermina Walas as 'aquéllo que comunica y hace presente figurativamente las imágenes de un pasado irrevocable, a veces fantasmagórico y terrible que muchos preferirían poder olvidar o que fuera mera ficción, pero que por el contrario estamos en la obligación de reactivar para entender y aprender, para solidarizarnos con nuestros semejantes y emprender alianzas tanto concretas como simbólicas.' I will explore the particular possibilities that poetry offers for the expression of testimony and the ineffability of trauma. I will also analyse how poetic form is used by Partnoy to counteract the loss of voice that her authoritarian captors wished to impose upon her.