In the Introduction to Thresholds of Illiteracy Bram Acosta sets his own book against the two books published in 2010, John Beverley’s Latinamericanism After 9/11, and Jon Beasley-Murray’s Posthegemony, that, he affirms, will “establish the terms and grounds of cultural debate in Latin America for the next several years.” I have already written on Beverley’s book, and in favor of the notion of posthegemony, albeit not in a sense that fully endorses Beasley-Murray’s theoretical positions, so I won’t repeat myself. What I find interesting and useful in Bram’s view is that he reminds us that both master concepts advanced by those two books, namely, posthegemony and postsubalternism, have two apparent intellectual enemies, namely, deconstruction and subalternism, or perhaps it is just really one enemy, deconstructive subalternism or subalternist deconstruction. Or perhaps the latter is not really the enemy, only the specter they must fight in order to establish their own legitimacy. “Both Beverley and Beasley-Murray explicitly name deconstruction and subaltern studies as modes of analysis that are no longer adequate for contemporary reflection and from which one must now move away. While both name deconstruction as the larger underlying problem for political reflection today, neither, it could safely be said, offers any serious critical engagement with it at all; in each case, they appear as offhand, casual dismissals” (Thresholds 21). Beasley-Murray would say that deconstruction is too negative, and Beverley would say that deconstruction yields “diminishing and politically ambiguous results.”
It occurs to me that it is this couple of unwarranted attacks on deconstruction that has actually fueled our project through some mediations that it would be easy to reconstruct. So they need to be welcomed. And we need to reflect a bit on their substance: merely negative? politically ambiguous results? What is being demanded, or rather, offered, as a result of the combined critiques (but Acosta makes it very clear those critiques are dramatically at odds with each other as well) is therefore some positive presentation of the state of affairs through politically unambiguous and suitably powerful means.
Beasley-Murray and Beverley of course play to a choir of bedmates, if I may mix metaphors for a moment, that they may actually not want in their beds, but so is life, and they will have to keep them at arm’s length themselves. Yes, there is little short of a universal uproar about the pathetically negative ambiguity of deconstruction from people who apparently enjoy calling a spade a spade and seeing a spade as a spade. But the uproar is misguided and it originates in a misdiagnosis–it ain’t deconstruction that is ambiguous, but the political process, and it ain’t deconstruction that is negative, rather the way it irrupts into hostile consciousness.
In any case, I think we should make it clear that whatever infrapolitical deconstruction means, it does not mean at all to establish the terms and grounds for cultural debate in Latin America or anywhere else. I think it has already abandoned any intentions, or pretensions, to speak in Latinamericanist terms about Latin American culture. So they can have that ground to themselves, and go on calling a spade a spade in fully positive terms, don’t you think? We need to make exodus from a field of engagement whose presuppositions are vaguely lethal for us, just about at every level.
That, regardless of the fact that we may very well want to endorse posthegemony, and manifest our political sympathies on the general side of the Latin Americanist left. And also regardless of the fact that people change their positions, and Beasley-Murray and Beverley may not be now quite where they were a few years ago. As to the bedmates, well, that is a different issue!