Gabriel Giorgi on the Animal Threshold, Biopolitics and Culture in Latin America after 1950

Venue: Pigott Hall, Room 216, Stanford main campus

Host: MATERIA Series on Animal Studies; Department of Iberian and Latin American CulturesDivision of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages.

Speaker: Gabriel Giorgi, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at NYU.

For readings please see Patricia Valderrama (pvalderr@stanford.edu) or Monica VanBladel (monicavb@stanford.edu).

Description: The question of the animal – a question that, until very recently, has not been persistently asked in Latin American critical studies – opens a formidable opportunity to discuss two key dimensions that shape the sensibilities and debates of the present. On the one hand, it brings to the fore the new relevance of the instability between human and non-human, and therefore, a focus on a living body that no longer responds to the names of the human; on the other, it challenges the very definition of “culture,” that can no longer be counterposed to “nature,” but instead explores new continuities between the two terms. The cultural inscription of the animal, then, sheds light on a terrain in which the question of the living body – and therefore, of a bios that eludes any clear-cut definition – demarcates new articulations between culture and politics.

A text by Brazilian writer Guimarães Rosa, “Meu tio o iauaretê” (My Uncle the Jaguar), written around 1950, represents a turning point in the cultural reflection about the relation between animality and politics in South America: it marks the disappearance of “wild life” and, at the same time, the forms of its returns or hauntings. By staging an alliance between human-animal, the text displaces the forms of individuality or individuation that shape the nationalized, bodied subject, illuminates new registers of sense in language – and therefore an alternative politics of the literary – and mobilizes the demarcations of the “natural.” Guimarães Rosa’s text, in this sense, provides tools to think through the ways in which culture interrogates critically its solidarity with the humanist and civilizatory traditions that so decisively shaped Latin American modernities, and to explore, at the same time, the possibility of new intersections between biopolitics and culture.