10 March 2011

dispatches from comps, part 2.

"If we renounce a conspiracy of silence that simplifies popular culture, expunging its internal hierarchies, complexities, or disagreements, we must also break the silences that help us reproduce the simplicity of politics more generally. Politics is not, except in an official version, about the triumph of one class, idea, great man, nation, world region, or socioeconomic system. As a struggle over power, politics has always been about coalition and conflict along many lines of hierarchy; it has always involved the transformative power of discourse and confrontation. 
Politics is also about hegemony, as process and outcome. In the making of nation-states, the discursive, intellectual, military, and political struggles of Latin American peoples, rural and otherwise, were central to defining both success and failure. Only by excavating the archaeological layers of these struggles, embedded in successful and unsuccessful hegemonic outcomes, can we understand present-day institutions and conflicts. 
As was the case with Xochiapulco's bones, excavation is always a two-part process. First you dig, and then you struggle to identify what you found. We will never all agree on what the bones are, or why their identity matters. But historians can and must continue to dig and to place what we find in relation to present-day concerns, issues, and debates. In so doing, our labor in articulating past and present remakes both, endlessly."

-Florencia Mallon, Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru, 1995.

I love Mallon's thoughtful and elegant prose. It gives her the power to be boldly provocative in a way that seems natural and seamless.  She's so persuasive in her application of subaltern studies as a means of tempering the teleological tendancy of institutional scholarship. I know struggle with teleology, as do, I think, many scholars in the New Institutionalism: how do we understand institutions and policy without their power seeming inevitable or unchallenged, permanent even?  Mallon's argument appeals to the social justice mission I see as intrinsic to my own work. I love her sense of hope and power- historians can change things. 

I love what happens when I put the historian into that equation-
"In doing so, our labor in articulating past and present remakes us, endlessly." 

A slightly different use of history than Hartz. I love how everything always fits together.

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