Thoughts about “the Threshold”

abraham acostaAcosta’s proposal is aimed at breaking through the false dichotomies and the fallacies of the current practice of cultural Latin American Studies, most specifically, Mexican and Mexican-American studies. His objective consists in revealing that the terms and the forms of the debates resistant/hegemonic or oral/literal metaphoric/material etc… Are faulty and after a simple examination do not simply hold. His writing travels against the habit of understanding cultural practices from the Latin American continent as necessarily resistant, counterhegemonic and the like. His project is engaged in an unconcelamnet of false premises at the heart of these binary oppositions; he calls illiteracy those moments when the debate as supported on these logic structures holds no more and disintegrates. He helps us understand a bit more when he states “Illiteracy registers the heterogeneous, literally undefinable, nonassignable speech. It seeks to map out the unanticipated, irruptive effect that emerge from the illiterate suspension of the naturalized order.” (Acosta, 14) Thus he likes to flavor the unique taste of words and expressions that try to signify something like this: aclimatados, los que nunca llegaran, etc…  Using a deconstructive approach and a little of Ranciere and Agamben sparsely through the text, Acosta is able to critique without mercy some texts and critical investigations as they attempt to explain apparently oppositional things like the US Mexican border or Mexican academic discourse against Us based academic discourse of Latin America. He mentions (Acosta, 12) that he is after the semiological events that emerge at these thresholds in order to deconstruct the oppositionalities; although one is tempted to use the word “semiological” I failed to understand why he recurrs to the realm of signs and in adition never making any justification for it or discussing at least briefly Saussure or Barthes or other theorists of signs. He could have used “symptoms,” “manifestations,” or other language; I’m not so sure about the semiology of his method.

In clearing the discursive field he brings Latinamericanists who are critiqued based on their respective extrapolations and analyses: For him Doris Sommer’s Proceed with Caution is mistaken in its universalists/particularists approach; Beverly’s statement that after the pink tide theory of deconstruction and Subaltern are anachronistic and too theoretical is contrasted with Beasley-Murray’s claim that Latin American studies are not theoretical enough and deconstruction or subalternism are to be left behind by using a new way of understanding the region; namely thinking about masses as multitudes, an as behaviors as based on affect and habits.

Later he proposes the need for his intervention fitting right and square between all these contradictory voices and practices. He proceeds to analyze cases like the fate of Zapatismo, the nature of testimonio and the (according to him) flawed treatment of the US Mexican border from both sides of it.

In his afterword he reads the SB1070 debates as they emerged out of a racist and paranoiac legislature of Arizona as one opportunity to understand that difference inside the discriminated groups exists and it should never be even out or homogenized by saying Mexican American, or Mexicans, as if the community victim of racial targeting and discriminatory policies were homogeneously Mexican.

After spending time meditating on chapter 5 “Hinging on Exclusion and bare life” I became intrigued by his use of Agamben’s concepts and later disenchanted by what I consider a willing overlook of ideas or a defective part of the argument. I will write about that later on another post.

For now, Acosta’s reading of the debates and the underlining logic upon which these debates are built constitutes a valid and valuable intervention; one that reveals through methodical analysis the liminal areas where oppositions disintegrate and the axiomatic exclusion inclusion arrives at a what we could call a “stand still.”