Memories, identities and ethnicity: making the black community in colombia



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MEMORIES, IDENTITIES AND ETHNICITY:

MAKING THE BLACK COMMUNITY IN COLOMBIA

by

Eduardo Restrepo



A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in the Department of Anthropology.

Chapel Hill

2002
Approved by:


Advisor: Professor Arturo Escobar




Reader: Professor Walter Mignolo




Reader: Professor Peter Redfield


ABSTRACT

EDUARDO RESTREPO: Memories, Identities and Ethnicity: Making the Black Community in Colombia

(Under the direction of Arturo Escobar)


The constitution of a novel imagined community and political subject based on ethnic criteria has impacted in many ways not only the Colombian national imaginary, but also the local memories and identities. This thesis describes in what forms and through what means these memories and identities have been actively produced, transformed and contested in the process of ethnicization of the black community. Theoretically grounded in Foucault and Hall, my analysis constitutes an ethnography of the articulation of ethnicity in the politics of representation of blackness in Colombia. This notion of ethnicity is inscribed in a sort of ‘eco-ethno boom’ and, in this sense, one could define it as ‘eco-ethnicity.’ ‘Eco-ethnicity’ highlights the conceptual and political implications of the particular place of nature in the definition of the black community as an ethnic group.


To El Negro Ramirez, who died many years ago, for sharing with me his magical world.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


As a friend of mine says, one can remember a book just for the acknowledgements. I would precise this statement arguing that rather than the book itself, one can recognize the face of its author with particular intensity in the acknowledgements.
While I was attempting to write mine, many people came to my mind. It is almost impossible to account for all of them here, partly because they have constituted myself in ways that are difficult for me to put in words, and even more when they have transcended the narrow world of the academy. However, I would like to thank two of them who have been fundamental in the elaboration of this thesis.
Arturo Escobar with his monumental generosity, wise suggestions and truly friendship has been decisive for me. Without him, I would neither have written this thesis nor been in the anthropology department of UNC.
Phyllis Howren has been my ‘angel de la guardia.’ She has always not only patiently read my broken English texts, but she has made me feel at home with an unconditional friend.

CONTENTS
Page



list of maps..................................................................................................................................

list of abbreviations.................................................................................................................



introduction...............................................................................................................................
Chapter

i. theorical horizon...................................................................................................................



A. Power, Discourse and Knowledge: A Foucaultian Account of Ethnicity............................

1. Putting Ethnicity into Discourse..........................................................................................

2. Ethnicity as Historical Experience...........................................................................................

2.1. Ethnicity, Knowledge and the Political history of Truth...............................................

2.2. Ethnicity, Power and Normalization...............................................................................

2.3. Ethnic subjectivity and the Subject of Ethnicity........................................................


B. On Articulation and Non-Essentialism: Stuart Hall Approach on Ethnicity........................

1. Beyond an Essentialist and Minimalist Definition of Ethnicity........................................

2. Constrasting/Comparing (Old) Ethnicity and Race: Two Registers of Racism...............

3. Inferential Racism’ and Ideology: Introducing Connections.............................................

4. Ethnic Subject, Identity and the Politics of Representation...............................................

5. Old and New Ethnicities: Making an Analytical Distinction.............................................

6. Thinking Through Gramsci: Methodological Insights in the Study of Race and

Ethnicity................................................................................................................……….

C. Working Hyptheses and Unit of Analysis......................................................................…..

Chapter

ii. the ethnicization of the black community:
notes for a historical ethnography of blackness in Colombia ………………………


A. Becoming a Pluriethnic and Multicultural Nation………………………………….

B. The Configuration of the Discourse and Politics of the Black Community

as an Ethnic Group …………………………………………………………………..
Chapter

iii. from the local to the national political constitution:

inserting black communities into the multicultural nation ………………………
A. Transitory Article 55 (AT-55)………………………………………………………..

B. The Special Commission for the Black Communities:

Negotiating Black Ethnicity……………………………………………………. ……
Chapter

iv. the ethnicization of the black community in the southern colombian pacific……


A. AT-55 as Catalyst of the Black Community………………………………………….

B. Mediations in the Production of the Black Community……………………………….

C. The Irruption of the Black Community……………………………………………….

D. Regimes of Memory and Identity……………………………………………………..

E. Naturalizing Black Community………………………………………………………..

F. Invisibilities of the Visibilities: Culture and Tradition…………………………………

G. Making Territory……………………………………………………………………….

H. Techniques of Invention and Forms of Visualization …………………………………


Chapter

v. disputing the ‘nature’ of the ethnicity of the black community ……………………


A. Essentialism: Between Immanence and Strategy ………………………………….

B. Instrumentalism: the Ethnicity as Political Manipulation……………………………

C. The politics of Ethnicity: Beyond Essentialism and Instrumentalism……………..
references ….……………………………………………………………………………….


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LIST OF MAPS

Page

2.1. Pacific Region………………………………………………………………………..60



2.2. North Pacific Region…………………………………………………………………..64

4.1. South Pacific Region…………………………………………………………………77


LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS


ACIA: Integral Peasant Association of the Atrato River.

AT-55: Transitory Article 55.

DIAR: Project of Agricultural and Rural Integral Development.



NCA: National Constituent Assembly.
INTRODUCTION
Las Marias is a small village halfway along the length of the Satinga River, in the heart of the Colombian Pacific Lowlands. In January of 1992, something especially disrupting happened. Father Antonio Gaviria, who everybody knew already, came with some other people to conduct a workshop. He brought a video. As in Las Marias there were not the implements required to present the video, they were transported by canoe from the nearest town, Bocas de Satinga, located two hours down the same river. The uncommon event caught the attention of most the local people. Everybody wanted to watch the ‘movie,’ and everyone from little kids to the oldest people attended. However no one could imagine the impact. The film was about one of the most painful and unjust chapters of Western history —the capture of people in Africa, and the way in which they became imprisoned, beaten and forced to leave their societies and territories and brought to the American continent to work as slaves in sugar cane plantations or gold mining.
Everybody was shocked. A dense mixture of surprise, anger and sadness could be felt in the air. After the film was over, the silence invaded the place for some minutes that seemed an eternity. For most of them, it was the first time that they realized that the parents of their grandparents were enslaved, that they lived there because their ancestors had been brought by force to the Pacific Lowlands to mine the gold two or three hundred years ago, and that Africa is the magical name of the land from which they had come. How to understand what someone could interpret as a sort of ‘collective forgetting’? How has it been possible that these African descendents did not have a sort of oral register of the experience of slavery that ended only one hundred and fifty years ago? How have they elaborated their identities without the African reference and the dynamics of resistance to slavery that are both so important for other Afro-descendents? What are the implications of these phenomena for the process of ethnicization that black communities engaged in during the last decade in that region of Colombia? And, in a more general sense, what does this case suggest about the theories of the politics of memory, ethnicity and identity?1
In order to address these sorts of questions, one must start by abandoning an essentialist and transcendental category of ‘black’ or ‘blackness’ to understand how the black community as an ethnic group is a historical configuration in a multisided struggle over meanings, social locations, and subjectivities. In fact, I will argue that what I have called ethnicization of the black community must be understood as a novel articulation of the politics of representation of blackness into changing modalities of alterity in Colombia. As I will elaborate in detail in the first chapter, arguing that the black community as an ethnic group is a historical configuration does not mean that it is not real or just an illusion with no ground and impact on the social and political life. Quite the contrary, locating black ethnicity into a regime of representation recognizes its historical density and materiality immersed into webs of meanings, experiences and power relationships.
Needless to say, this conceptualization confronts those tendencies anchored in a naturalized, homogenized, and non-historicized assumption of blackness. My approach is deliberately non-essentialist in the sense that it assumes that there are “[…] no guarantees of identity or effects outside of the determinations of particular contexts” (Grossberg 1996: 165). There is no a sort of primordial ontology that constrains a necessary representation of blackness. Paraphrasing Hall (1993: 355) in his application to nationalism of Laclau’s statement that class has no necessary political belongingness, I would argue that black historical experiences have no necessary political belongingness.
Rather than a natural or trans-historical fact, the black community as an ethnic group in Colombia constitutes a set of novel objects, a polyphony of narratives, orders of subjectivities and political practices as well. As Peter Wade correctly argued, the ethnic identity inscribed in black community must be analyzed as “... a relocation of ‘blackness’ in structures of alterity ...” (1997a: 36). In this sense, the order of the representation of blackness emergent in objects such as ‘casta’, ‘cimarron,’ ‘libre’ or citizen, is not analogous to the ‘black community’ because the latter implies a sort of re-localization in the plane of ‘ethnicity’. The black community as an ethnic group has been made possible through an arduous political, conceptual and social process of re/inscription of blackness in a novel order of alterization. This order is novel because it implies crucial ruptures with the precedent articulations of blackness. Nevertheless, this new localization in the social and political imaginary has re-articulated through the precedent representations of blackness.
The constitution of a novel imagined community and political subject based on ethnic criteria has impacted in many ways not only the Colombian national imaginary, but also the local memories and identities such as in the case of Satinga River in the Pacific lowlands. Thus, this paper will demonstrate in what senses and through what means these memories and identities have been actively produced, transformed and contested in the process of ethnicization of the black community. Describing the modalities and domains in which the black community has been articulated as an ethnic group in Colombia constitutes the core task of this thesis. Therefore, my analysis is a sort of ethnography of the articulation of ethnicity in the politics of representation of blackness in Colombia. Hence, my main aim in this thesis is to briefly describe the ethnicization of the black community in Colombia and, more specifically, to show how this process implies a particular articulation of memories and identities in the politics of representation of black community.
This thesis must be read as both an explicit and an implicit engagement with different sets of ongoing conversations. The first one is obviously related with the theoretical frameworks about ethnicity, memory and identity that have been produced both by the dominant academic factory and by the subaltern scholars. As an effect of what Chakrabarty (2000) has called ‘inequality of ignorance’ or what Mignolo (2000) has defined as ‘geopolitics of knowledge,’ I could not avoid engaging in a conversation with the ‘discourses/commodities’ (Ibáñez 1985) that the Euro-American academy has produced around these topics. Along with these theoreticians, this paper is also a conversation with other scholars and intellectuals that are invisible to the dominant academy because they have not made their interventions through the formats, styles and languages of the dominant anthropological factory, and also because the provincial politics of knowledge and authority that constitutes the regimes of truth in the mainstream academy do not recognize them as valid interlocutors but, in the best of the cases, as ‘informants.’ My theoretical and methodological assumptions have been shaped in many ways for this dual conversation. Any reader with enough competence in either the dominant and subaltern literatures (or better ‘oralitures’ in the last case, to use a word coined by Ki-Zervo for another context) must recognize my own location and inflexions.
The other ongoing conversation that inscribes this paper, also in both settings, is related with the studies and analysis of Afro-descendents, Afro-Americans or the African diaspora. Here there is an ocean of literature that includes not only what has been published in U.S and U.K, but also in France, Brazil, or Colombia. Only about Colombia, a few years ago I made a bibliographical compilation of titles of articles, books, dissertations and manuscripts with hundreds of entries and almost seventy pages long (Restrepo 1999). As it will be clear through my paper, I engage in an explicit and detailed conversation with the literature that analyzes the Colombian case. However, with the exception of a couple of marginal commentaries, I decided not to make explicit my conversations with the body of the literature that deals with the Caribbean, South and North America. Again, it is a matter of pertinence to my unit and the horizon of analysis of my paper. Nevertheless, as it will be obvious for those who are familiar with this extensive literature (and oraliture), I must recognize that my own research has been directly or indirectly influenced by many studies that transcend those that are focused on Afro-Colombians.
Before presenting the structure of this paper I would like to spend a couple of paragraphs on clarifying to the U.S. audience my particular conception of ethnicity in order to avoid a very common and unfortunate misreading. For most of the literature produced in the U.S., there is a tendency either to read ethnicity through the racial glasses or to use ethnicity as a (politically correct) euphemism for race (Banks 1996; Fenton 1999; Thompson 1989). Even though it is commonplace among U.S. scholars to argue that race and ethnicity are historical constructions, I have encounter many of their analyses that either naively project the category of race to other historical contexts or to easily racialized social relationships of difference and inequality. It is not my task here to demonstrate this statement (which implies an archeological project in the Foucaultian sense), but to make the readers aware that my notion of ethnicity is not an euphemism for race nor a simple way of inscribing blackness in a general regime of difference.
As I will illustrate in the first part, my notion of ethnicity is radically historical and contextual. It is one that is specifically defined by the discursive practices and techniques of visualization that produce a specific regime of representation/intervention of blackness —a representation/intervention that introduce and articulation (in Hall’s conceptualization) among a shared territory, identity, cultural tradition, nature and otherness. I would argue that this specific regime is closer to the regimes of ethnical invention of indigenousness in Latin America that have emerged since the seventies (Gros 2000) than the racial representation of blackness in the U.S. or in other parts of the Americas, including most of the blacks in the urban contexts in Colombia. As Alvarez (2000) has argued, this notion of ethnicity is inscribed in an ‘eco-ethno boom’ and, in this sense, one could defined it as ‘eco-ethnicity.’2 ‘Eco-ethnicity’ highlights the conceptual and political implication of the particular place of nature in the definition of the black community as an ethnic group.
This thesis has five chapters. The first one attempts to locate theoretically the analytical perspective embedded in my analysis of the black community as an ethnic group in Colombia. Rather than offering a compressive description of the different approaches about ethnicity, (c.f. Bank 1996, Briones 1998, Thompsom 1989) this part has a heuristic propose of indicates the place of my own intervention. Moreover, it allows me to define with detail both the theoretical context and the assumptions of my working hypotheses. It is important to keep in mind that these hypotheses are closely grounded in my own fieldwork as well as they inform my understanding of what has been happened during the last two decades in the representations and experiences of blackness in Colombia. The relevance of this part lies precisely on to make explicit my theoretical standpoints giving to the reader a much more clear perspective of my limitations and contributions with this work. As Eriksen brilliantly states: “[…] the choice of an analytical perspective or ‘research hypotheses’ is not an innocent act. If one goes out to look for ethnicity, one will ‘find’ it and thereby contribute to constructing it” (1994: 320)
The following four chapters are unevenly developed. Chapter two and three refer briefly to the local and national domains of emergence of the ethnic representation of blackness. In fact, chapter two attempts to offer a broad picture of the local juncture in the eighties in the north Pacific region of Colombia where for first time the representation of the black community as an ethnic group was distilled. Chapter three shows how this local elaboration reached the national domain through the multiculturalism as policy of state and the negotiation of the blackness as an ethnic group on this level. These two levels have been studied in detail by other scholars.3 That is the main reason why I present a broad description making references to these authors.
Chapter four constitutes the main body of my specific contribution both to the increasing literature about the politics of ethnicity of blackness in Colombia and to support my working hypotheses and theoretical assumptions about ethnicity, memory and identity. This chapter is a description of the modalities of inscription/contestation/re-creation in another local setting (the southern Pacific region) of this discourse of ethnicity once it had reached the national level and arrived to this locality as a legislative act. As it will be evident, the ethnography of this chapter is mainly based on my own fieldwork in the southern Pacific region, where I have been working since the early nineties. I witnessed and participated actively in the processes that I will describe, even though as a matter of style some passages were written in a impersonal form. That is more the expression of my linguistic limitations to write in English (a language that is very strange to my thoughts and feelings) than an epistemological agreement with the ‘modern anthropologies’ with their narratives to achieve a realistic effect (Manganaro 1990; Marcus and Fischer 1986).
The final chapter illustrates the contradictions and contestations among the ‘cultural brokers’ (using Vail’s concept) about this regime of visualization of the black community as an ethnic group. This chapter frames this particular discussion in a broader theoretical setting of instrumentalism/essentialism. The paper ends claiming for a more complex understanding of the politics of black ethnicity beyond these reductionisms.
Methodologically speaking, the paper constitutes an ethnographic exercise. Nevertheless, rather than a conventional ethnography defined by a particular place or group of people toward the description of a whole or an aspect of culture, the kind of ethnography attempted here is a description of the cultural practices, relations and representations that account for the ‘black community,’ beyond the ontological and discrete conception of culture, place and community (Escobar 2001; Gupta and Ferguson 1992, 1997; Inda and Rosaldo 2002). It attempts to be a kind of theoretically oriented ethnography that follows some of the pertinent interstices, networks, interchanges and transversalities in which these practices, relations and representations around the black community as an ethnic group are articulated, contested and transformed.

Chapter I



THEORETICAL HORIZON

During the eighties and in the first half of the nineties, associated with the seminal contributions of Said (1978) on Orientalism as a regime of truth, of Anderson ([1983] 1991) on nation as a modern imagined community, and of Howsbam (1983) on the invention of tradition, the theoretical discussions about ethnicity were focused in the anti-essentialism debate (Briones 1998; Mato 1996). Nowadays, arguing that ethnicity is historically constituted has become sort of ‘commonplace’ in contemporary social theory (Alonso 1994). As Norval puts it: “[…] much current theorization on questions concerning race and ethnicity take as a starting point the socially constituted nature of categories of race and ethnicity” (1996: 59).


According to Vermeulen and Govers (1997), this starting point of ethnicity as an historical construction corresponds with the second and more recent shift in the study of ethnicity. For them, the first shift was produced during the seventies by the well-known work of Fedrik Barth (1969). They argued that Barth’s claim that ethnic identities are produced through the interaction of ethnic groups rather than by their isolation constituted a radical shift from those approaches that understood ethnic identity as the natural consequence of primordial ties and timeless shared cultural features. Thus, ethnic groups could no longer be analyzed as self-contained and immanent cultural islands. In this sense, Levine notes that: “Barth stressed the importance of boundaries rather than the cultural contents of ethnic groups” (1999:167). Vermeulen and Govers (1997:2) defined Barth’s analysis as a ‘situationalist approach’, which: “Instead of considering ethnic solidarity as primordial in the sense of ‘given from the beginning,’ it claimed that it is a product of interaction and varies in intensity, depending on circumstances.” As Yeros has recently stated, Barth’s approach:
“[…] had three interconnected parts: the first, emphasizing the importance of the subjective understanding of ethnicity, or the ‘native model’ of ethnicity, held ethnic groups to be categories of ascription and identification by the actors themselves; the second, emphasizing social process, viewed ethnic groups as being generated and maintained for social-organisational purposes; and the third, emphasizing group boundaries and their maintenance, viewed boundaries as social effective and meaningful” (1999: 110).
Even though Yeros used the term ‘transactionalism’ to characterize Barth’s approach, he agrees with Vermeulen and Govers in considering this approach as a main shift in the study of ethnicity. Barth’s work meant a shift from the primordialist, substantivist or essentialist approaches of ethnicity. These approaches share the assumption that ethnicity is the natural consequence of the internal driven expression of an ontological sameness among the members of a group. In other words, from these perspectives ethnicity is as the natural manifestation of communal ties that are anchored in social and cultural specificities of a given discrete group. Among these approaches, one must identify those who follow the work of sociobiology, the soviet theory ethnos, and the cultural primordialism of Clifford Geertz (Thompson 1989). To a greater or lesser, these approaches involve a naturalization of ethnicity.
According to Vermeulen and Govers (1997), the second and more recent shift in the study of ethnicity is the ‘constructionist turn’. However, Vermeulen and Govers do not consider constructionism as a school or as a movement. On the contrary, they used this term to refer to: “the changes in the study of ethnicity in a much broader sense, as these are indicated for example by the popularity of statements which refer to the social or cultural constructedness of ethnic identities and by attention to the meanings of ethnic terms, discourse and ideology” (Vermeulen and Govers 1997: 2). From this point of view, there is not a constructivist approach in singular, but different and even contradictory approaches that may be defined as such. In this sense, Comaroff (1996: 165) broadly defined that constructionism as the assumption that social identities are the result of human agency. Thus, he has identified different sorts of constructivism: realistic perspective, cultural constructionism, political constructionism, and radical historicism. Yeros (1999: 125) added to these the normative approach to ethnicity.
In a broad sense, my own analytical perspective might be considered constructivist. Nevertheless, it is a constructivism anchored both in Foucault and Stuart Hall’s works, which introduce the particular implications that I want to explore in detail in this chapter. To put it in a very general way, an analysis based on Foucault and Hall problematizes those constructivist approaches that maintain the arbitrary dichotomies between objective given and subjective constructed, real and discourse, and structure and agency. Also, Foucault and Hall have been considered post-structuralist writers engaged with the critique of the naïve realist epistemologies as well as of the methodological individualism and reductionism. All of these features are embedded in my approach to ethnicity and its linkages to memories and identities.

A. Power, Discourse and Knowledge: A Foucaultian Account of Ethnicity

1. Putting Ethnicity into Discourse


A Foucaultian perspective must examine how ethnicity has been ‘put into discourse’. This has some theoretical and methodological implications. In fact, ethnicity must be analyzed as inscribed and produced by ‘discursive formations.’ In general terms, this means that in this level of analysis ethnicity constitutes a ‘space of possibility’ of a set of discursive events that are methodologically differentiable from other kinds of facts such as technical, economical, political or social events. However, this does not mean that ethnicity is just discursive. Broadly speaking, discursively ethnicity is constituted by all those statements actually produced to name, describe, explain, account and judge it. This polyphony of statements does not refer to a unique and monolithic object that has configured the unity of a unitary discursive formation. In this sense, it is a matter of a genealogical analysis to define if ethnicity constitutes a specific and differentiable discursive formation or if ethnicity constitutes a ‘statement’ that belongs to a variety of discursive formations, in which its place changes at different historical moments.4
Whether ethnicity constitutes a specific discursive formation or belongs to a variety of them as a changing statement, there is not a pre-existing object of ethnicity that in its constitutive identity explains the unity of any discursive formation or set of statements. On the contrary, there are different objects and multiple relations among them configured by certain rules of formation, transformation and correlation of this discursive formation. Therefore, ethnicity as discursive formation implies a plurality of statements, concepts and objects historically produced according to determined conditions of possibility.5 In addition, as a discursive formation ethnicity is less a positive and monolithic doctrine, but one that refers more specifically to a set of constraints upon and limitations of thought. As Norval nicely put it: “Of necessity, ethnic discourse, like other discourses, contains traces of its own construction, and it is the task of the genealogist to investigate the ignoble process through which those discourses come into being and attempt to conceal their own historically constituted characters” (1999: 92).

In this sense, one may establish between ethnicity and etnia6 an analogous relationship to that defined by Foucault between sexuality and sex. In fact, both Said (1979) and Escobar (1995) made a similar methodological movement with Orientalism/Orient and development/ underdevelopment-Third World respectively.7 Foucault (1978a: 157) states how sex has historically subordinated to sexuality. Between sex and sexuality there is not an equation in which sex is on the side of reality and sexuality on the side of illusions or confused ideas. Rather than that relation, Foucault claims that “[…] sexuality is a very real historical formation; it is what gave rise to the notion of sex, as a speculative element necessary to its operation” (1978a: 157).


This argument does not mean that ‘sex’ is just an illusion and that sexuality is a natural thing. Rather than reproduce the dichotomy material reality/ illusory representation, Foucault introduces a novel epistemology in which reality is discursively constituted. Sexuality appears, then, as a discursive formation historically located and associated with a set of non-discursive practices; whereas sex has been produced as such into this discursive formation, which means that it has been made thinkable and operable precisely under the conditions of possibility configured by this discursive formation and by its associated non-discursive practices.
From this perspective, whereas ethnicity appears as a discursive formation that is articulated with a set of non discursive practices; etnia is, paraphrasing Foucault, a speculative element necessary to its operation. Thus, etnia must be understood as historically subordinated to ethnicity. Like sex, etnia must be analyzed as a deployment of ethnicity beyond the specific somatic and behavioral features used to characterize and define it. Therefore, etnia does not exist as such independent of the discursive formation and non-discursive practices that have constituted it. In fact, what emerges as etnia not only has changed through time and place, but also what matters is to describe its multiple locations and transformations into a particular discursive formation as well as in its relations with non-discursive practices.
A relevant consequence is that etnia does not have a clear and a unique referent in the ‘real world’. Rather than trying to find this pristine referent outside and previous to any discourse event, one must focus on the description of the plurality, contradictory and overlapping discursive and non-discursive practices that have constituted ethnicity as such: In “[t]he analysis of the discursive field […] we must grasp the statement in the exact specificity of its occurrence; determine its conditions of existence, fix at least its limits, establish its correlations with other statements that may be connected with it, and show what other forms of statement it excludes” (Foucault 1972: 28).
From this framework, then, the question is not what is the referent in the world that has been defined by ethnicity, but what kind of objects, practices and relationships have been made possible by ethnicity as a discursive formation. Nor is it a ontology of the true essence of etnia, but a description of discursive events in their occurrence and in their conditions of existence. The goal is not a hermeneutics of hidden meanings behind the speeches and texts, but a careful account of the discursive facts and their connections, emergence, ruptures and disappearance. Neither is it a history of a mental idea that has been developed slowly, but a material examination of a set of statements inscribed in their materiality in speeches or texts. In a word, from a Foucaultian perspective, rather than a phenomenology, a semiotics or a history of mentality, ethnicity must be made the subject of an archeological and genealogical inquiry. As Foucault states for sex, in sum, the point must be in the analysis of etnia

“[…] to account for the fact that it is spoken about, to discover who does the speaking, the positions and viewpoints from which they speak, the institutions which prompt people to speak about it and which store and distribute the things that are said. What is at issue, briefly, is the over-all ‘discursive fact,’ the way in which sex [or etnia] is ‘put into discourse’ ” (1978a: 11-12).


An important aspect of the analysis of ethnicity as discursive formation is its immanent relationships with power. Rather than a neutral and objective transcription of ‘social reality’, ethnicity as discursive formation is an instrument and an effect of power that configures that reality. Through the discourses of ethnicity not only circulate power relationships, but also these relationships are exercised and contested in many and contradictory ways: “Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it” (Foucault 1978a: 101). In the plurality and dispersion of discourses of ethnicity, as much in their cores as in their interstices, power is deployed and resisted. Hence, ethnicity as discursive formation must be examined as an open space of multiple confrontations: “Discourses are tactical elements or blocks operating in the field of force relations; there can exist different and even contradictory discourses within the same strategy; they can, on the contrary, circulate without changing their form one strategy to another, opposing strategy” (Foucault 1978a: 101-102).
2. Ethnicity as Historical Experience

Ethnicity could be analyzed also as an historical experience. One can make a methodological analogy between sexuality and ethnicity. If this analogy is correct, there are two principal implications. On the one hand, ethnicity must be examined as a historically singular experience that has been constituted by the correlation of three axes: (1) the fields of knowledge that refer to it, (2) the types of normativity that regulate its practice and (3) the forms of subjectivity associated with it.8 On the other hand, both archeological and genealogical approaches are indispensable to understand ethnicity as an historical experience.9 One could follow these three axes and two approaches as if they were separated to account for what ethnicity as a specific historical experience means from a Foucaultian point of view.


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