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Rethinking Community from Peru

Rethinking Community from Peru: The Political Philosophy of José María Arguedas

Irina Alexandra Feldman
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    Rethinking Community from Peru
    Book Description:

    Peruvian novelist, poet, and anthropologist José María Arguedas (1911-1969) was a highly conflicted figure. As a mestizo, both European and Quechua blood ran through his veins and into his cosmology and writing. Arguedas's Marxist influences and ethnographic work placed him in direct contact with the subalterns he would champion in his stories. His exposés of the conflicts between Indians and creoles, and workers and elites were severely criticized by his contemporaries, who sought homogeneity in the nation-building project of Peru.InRethinking Community from Peru, Irina Alexandra Feldman examines the deep political connotations and current relevance of Arguedas's fiction to the Andean region. Looking principally to his most ambitious and controversial work,All the Bloods, Feldman analyzes Arguedas's conceptions of community, political subjectivity, sovereignty, juridical norm, popular actions, and revolutionary change. She deconstructs his particular use of language, a mix of Quechua and Spanish, as a vehicle to express the political dualities in the Andes. As Feldman shows, Arguedas's characters become ideological speakers and the narrator's voice is often absent, allowing for multiple viewpoints and a powerful realism. Feldman examines Arguedas's other novels to augment her theorizations, and grounds her analysis in a dialogue with political philosophers Walter Benjamin, Jean-Luc Nancy, Carl Schmitt, Jacques Derrida, Ernesto Laclau, and Álvaro García-Linera, among others.In the current political climate, Feldman views the promise of Arguedas's vision in light of Evo Morales's election and the Bolivian plurality project recognizing indigenous autonomy. She juxtaposes the Bolivian situation with that of Peru, where comparatively limited progress has been made towards constitutional recognition of the indigenous groups. As Feldman demonstrates, the prophetic relevance of Arguedas's constructs lie in their recognition of the sovereignty of all ethnic groups and their coexistence in the modern democratic nation-state, in a system of heterogeneity through autonomy-not homogeneity through suppression. Tragically for Arguedas, it was a philosophy he could not reconcile with the politics of his day, or from his position within Peruvian society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7951-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION ARGUEDAS: Rethinking Community
    (pp. 1-21)

    This book takes up the Benjaminean definition of “illumination” as “that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to someone singled out by history at a moment of danger,” and envisions José María Arguedas and his work as the embodiment of this experience. He perceived himself as signaled out by history to be a “living bond” between the creole and the indigenous parts of Peruvian society.¹ He faced what was seen as the threat of imminent annihilation of the Quechua Indians and their culture at the moment of rapid modernization of mid-twentieth-century Peru. His belief in his mission to prevent,...

    (pp. 22-46)

    Todas las sangresis a fascinating book. It is a Dostoyevskian drama and a social novel that combines the exploration of the internal motives of the characters and the wide diagnostic of the Peruvian social reality. It tells the story of arrival of the transnational mining company, backed by the state, to the town of San Pedro in the Peruvian Andes. The main characters are both individuals and larger-than-life social types. For instance, the hero of the novel, Demetrio Rendón Willka, is a Quechua who left his ayllu for Lima, studied there, and shares the ideas about political organization and...

  3. CHAPTER 2 ANDEAN COMMUNITY: Beyond the Limits of Death Demand
    (pp. 47-85)

    InTodas las sangres, the bond between individual and community is established fundamentally through the conceptualization of relationship to the divine and the transcendental, as the example of Don Bruno evinces, in the previous chapter. Jean-Luc Nancy theorizes the relationship between political subjectivities and death in a complementary vein. Both Arguedas and Nancy, one in the field of what is problematically called “ fiction,” and the other in the language of philosophy, criticize the European model of nation building by reflecting on the concepts of finitude and transcendence. A dialogue between these two lines of thought, each from a different...

  4. CHAPTER 3 “WHY HAVE YOU KILLED ME?” Violence, Law, and Justice in Todas las sangres
    (pp. 86-109)

    The pages ofTodas las sangresrepeatedly depict moments of violence, when the blood of common people is spilled in their clashes with the state. Let us consider this telling example. The soldiers enter the town of San Pedro, accompanying the judge of the district and thesubprefecto—representatives of the judicial and executive powers of the Peruvian state. Everybody in town knows that the soldiers and the judges are coming to impose the illegal expropriation of the town’s lands in favor of the transnational mining company. The townspeople confront the delegation, and one of them, an old mestizo artisan...

    (pp. 110-138)

    “It was reading Mariátegui and later, Lenin, that I found a permanent order of things; socialist theory not only offered a road to follow for all my future, but also to all that there was of energy in me, it gave it a destiny and charged it even more with force, by the same fact of channeling it. How well have I understood Socialism? I do not quite know. But it did not kill in me the magic,” José María Arguedas revealed in his discourse, “No soy un aculturado.”¹ It is one of the few instances when he self-identifies as...