Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Julio Ramos, "Machinations: Literature & Technology," Divergent Modernities

Quantification is not oriented toward the object of representation; the object only exists in terms of its interchangeability, its adjustment to the parameters imposed by the measure of exchange. Neither is it oriented toward the subject of representation, who becomes an agent in an anonymous circulation. Quantification places the weight of discourse on the very measure of exchange, in its universalizing apparatus that reduces the specific and heterogeneous.

[José] Martí's writing operates on the other side of such a rationalization, postulating the value of the exceptional word that veers from the linguistic and social norm. If technologization (from the perspective of the emergent literary field) presupposes the massification of language, literature would fold back on the notion of style, by authorizing itself to be precisely the critique of massification. We return again to literature, as Martí conceived it, as a strategy of legitimation that takes into account the "destylized" and "mechanical" languages of modernity as obliterated matter for the supposed "exceptionality" of style.

Hence, Martí would privilege another way of seeing:

Seeing them conglomerate to swarm quickly over the aerial serpent, squeezed together, the vast, clean, ever-growing crowd---one imagines seeing seated in the middle of the sky, with her radiant head appearing over the summit, and with white hands, as large as eagles, open, in a sign of peace over the land---Liberty.

Martí reworks the concept of sight into a hallucination. His discourse departs from a descriptive empirical instance ("Seeing them conglomerate"), which immediately undergoes a metaphoric transformation. The referential moment of the gaze is minimal. The "swarm[ing]" crowd and the bridge are erased behind the "aerial serpent." Martí's illumination begins with this brief moment when the common word (bridge) is obliterated, but not its essential trace. Bridge is assumed as the provision that opens up the possibility for a writerly transformation; the contrast between the referential and the literary dramatizes the literary task. Beginning with this instant, writing ascends toward apotheosis, thematized in the cited passage above as follows:

aerial serpent
ever-growing crowd

one imagines seeing
middle of the sky
over the land

The statement articulates a spatial hierarchization. The point of departure is the bestial low (where creatures swarm). The space below is crowded, full of people squeezed together. Starting with "one imagines seeing," the space opens up and expands: "in the middle of the sky," "white hands...open." The bestial is elevated (eagles) and the perspective closes with the moment of highest abstraction, "over the land---Liberty."

1 comment:

  1. Rudolfo Kusch, "Understanding," Indigenous and Popular Thinking in América: For us, reality is populated by objects. The term "object," given its etymology, seems to be related to a "throwing in front," "ob-jacio," which implies placing a reality before the subject in a way that is to some extent voluntary. And what of the indigenous world? It appears to be different. Bertonio in his Aymara vocabulary from the sixteenth century indicates the terms "yaa" and "cunasa" as translations of "thing." Cunasa refers to "anything." "Yaa," on the other hand, is related to "things of gods, of men, etc." Furthermore, it is used for an "abominable thing," "huati yaa, yancca yaa," or "a thing of esteem," "haccu yaa." One could say then that for indigenous people there are no things in themselves. They are, rather, always referred to in terms of their favorable or unfavorable aspects. It is not objects in themselves that are interesting, but their auspicious and inauspicious aspects.

    And this should not be strange. What the researcher Whorf says about the Hopi—that their language tends to register events rather than things—fits the Aymara just as well as it fits the Quechua. European languages on the other hand register things rather than events. This is confirmed by Bertonio when he says in the prologue to the first part of his Aymara Vocabulary that the Indian does not look "so much to the effect as to the way of doing." For example, the form of the verb "to carry" in the Aymara tongue depends on "whether the thing carried is a person or a beast or whether the thing is long, heavy, or light."

    Now, what does it mean that in one language movement, events, the process of becoming are registered before things? Bertonio mentions "the way of doing" something and not the doing itself taken as an abstract concept. This indicates the predominance of emotional feeling over the act of seeing itself, in such a way that one "sees" to "feel." Emotion is what drives one in the face of reality. The indigenous person takes reality not as something stable and inhabited by objects. Rather, he takes it as a screen without things but with intense movement in which he tends to notice the auspicious or ominous sign of each and every movement before anything else. The indigenous person registers reality as the affect it exercises on him before registering it as simple perceptual connotation.