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Is it possible to decolonize the concept of cultural antropofagia?

Por María Iñigo Clavo

Coleccion Cisneros  Is it possible to decolonize the concept of cultural anthropophagy

I think that this is key question because what the use of concepts as metizaje[1] or the concept of anthropophagi has in common is that they sweep along nowadays both the virtues and defaults in with they were born at the beginning of the 20 century.

If exhibitions as Mostra do Redescobrimento the objects of where divided in different spaces (Indigenous, Afro-Brazilian, baroque, folk, modern and contemporary art), in the last years, new exhibitions displays these objets face to face in the show rooms. This is a big challenge because they will necessary show more clearly the nature of  the relationships between production spheres of knowledge, politics and culture. Thus Historias Mestiças o Panorama mixed objects from these different fields, or MAR in Rio de Janeiro has exhibitions using these methodologies since it was born.

Yes, the concept of Anthropophagi supposed indeed a movement of decolonization of the European national ideology of XIX century. These theorists tried desperately to adjust the Brazilian reality to the patrons of European Modernity: and the contradictions were painful and impossible to hide, so the easier thing was to blame the black, indigenous and/or the tropical climate for the problems of the country. The concept of Anthropophagi at twenties meant to acknowledge that Brazil had its own specificities and created new paradigms of self-definition differentiated from the European parameters. It was created as expression of national identity accepting and celebrating its postcolonial character, including (at the end!) indigenous and afro descendant.

So, its true, one cannot deny the fact that the notion of anthropophagy has generated productive analyses for a good many disciplines during all 20 century, including literature, psychoanalysis, art, theatre, music and political theory until nowadays. Also in the sixties Anthropophagy was a key and crucial argument to liberate artist from the heavy leftist debates against foreigner influence that demanded an impossible latin american purity in the art and cultural production.

Ones aknowledged this, I would like ask, which one its has been the place indigeous and afrobrazilian in these powerfull national rethorics? we would need to turn our gaze away of the imperial colonial power relatioships between countries, and stop accussing each other of eurcentrist, and analize and interrogate Internal colonialism within Brazil and our participation on it.

Them we will realise that the idea of indigenety was used, or as inspiration for intellectuals production (that frecuently it is linked to creating national images of brazilianess), or as an object of study by a long tradition of antropologist in Brazil. But the contact with the reality with the social  and political comunities has been really poor. Antonio Riséiro[2] has shown how literary texts in Brazil could be often inspired by African or indigenous texts but do not really take its grammatical structures and creative methods seriously, failing to truly integrate them into Brazil textual heritage: In the end Oswald de Andrade made use of European ethnographic literature to elaborate idea of indigenous and “Didn´t care about contemporary ‘Indians’ that shoot arrows at Mato Grosso and Goias(…), even though the Kaigang were quite close by, right there, to the west of São Paulo”.

This is easy to guess, but going a bit further, from this point we can use the postcolonial perspective to shed light on how, in the Manifesto Antropofago, we can see the strategy involving the incorporation of the Other that would be substituted by its representations, In this last case, “representation works as a substitute for the active presence – naming it is equivalent to not knowing it”[3]. Images substitute presence, and in this sense the concept of anthropophagi is absolutely colonial. These problems have been inherited by exhibitions on contemporary art about history such as Mestiço Histories that used objects of ethnography or material culture. What the exhibitions of these collectives are hiding are a real political presence, an agency that not just resist, but also contribute, to the independence process, to the insurgencies, to the history of the Republics, to the end of dictatorship and to a Brazilian and amazonic citizenship. They can tell us something else than a history of victims and to propose new models of inhabit politically.

The anthropologist Roberto da Matta[4] said that, in a hierarchical society such as Brazil, it is not being different which is a crime, but rather failing to occupy the place allotted to you. This my feeling about these exhibitions, these objects occupy the place allotted to them by the Brazilian intelligentsia but doesnt disturb the hegemonic national narration. In this sense, we could go as far as saying that rather than a history of these colectives, these exhibitions could be seen as expamples on how to narrate the history of a national elite and its school of thought regarding alterity.[5]

To fisnish I will point the second barrier that I think, bloc a critical rereading of Brazilian History, challenging the persistence of colonial structures nowadays is the perseverance of the defence and celebration of the National. As postcolonial theorist did insisted the nation is one of the more important accomplices of coloniality.  This is due to the fact that the models of Nation for Latin America were (north)Europeans and of colonial nature, so the indigenous continued occupying the same place that before the independences, without being able to offer alternatives to those models of nation. That’s why the overcoming the Internal Colonialism would demand an acknowledgment of how the national discourses have hidden and foster coloniality, the invisibilization and concealing of these collectives in the past and in the present. So, this exhibitions focused on the celebration of nation, showing again and again its foundational myths, gets in contradiction with a  real critical review of colonial power relationships in the past and present that postcolonial perspective could offer. In the last three years we have been witnessing for the first time the emergence of afrobrazilian collectives reclaiming their invisibility in the art circuit. So is it possible going beyond a multiculturalism model based on an (supossed) inclusion? How to offer strategies for not using alterity in Brazil as a content or a theme but proposed a challenge of its structures? how to decolonized the nation?



[1] Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui asked, "is it possible to decolonize mestizaje?", Boaventura de Sousa Santos in his side formulated a similar question, is it possible to decolonize marxism?

[2] Riserio, Antonio. Testos e Tribos: Poeticas Extraocidentais nos tropicos brasileiros. Rio de Janeiro, Imago, 1993. P. 107

[3] Barthes describes two ways of incorporating the Other: “Inoculation, in which the other is absorbed only to the extent necessary to make it innocuous; and incorporation, where the other becomes incorporeal by means of its representation.” quoted in Foster, Hal, Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics. New York, The New Press 1998.

[4] Da Matta Roberto, Relativizando: uma Introduçao à Antropologia Social. Rio de Janeiro, 1987. P. 79

[5] Some of the questions posted here are explained further in a a text entitle, Is Brazil a postcolonial country? that it is focused on Historias Mestizas exhibition and that will be publised by Paragrana magazine at Freie University of Berlin this fall as a result of the conference F(r)ictions of Arts organized by this University and Goldsmiths University.

Periódico Permanente é a revista digital trimestral do Fórum Permanente. Seus seis primeiros números serão realizados com recursos do Prêmio Procultura de Estímulo às Artes Visuais 2010, gerido pela Funarte.

 

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