Conference Ticker “TransPacífico. Conexiones y convivencias en AsiAméricas”

1st day, 02/17/2012
(Ticker by Tobias Kraft)

1:30 p.m. - Ottmar Ette, Horst Nitschack, Pablo Hernández, and Werner Mackenbach inaugurate the international TransArea Conference “TransPacífico. Conexiones y convivencias en AsiAméricas.”

 Nos reunimos aquí en esta conferencia, que forma parte de una serie de conferencias transareales, para seguir repensando lo que se conoce como “area studies” desde una perspectiva diferente. (Ottmar Ette)

 Mas allá de lo económico, lo que hace falta en las relaciones transpacíficos – es decir, las relaciones en las AsiAméricas – es profundizar y comprender con mayor calidad las relaciones culturales. (Horst Nitschack)

Reanudamos con esta conferencia una cooperación entre Berlin y Brandenburgo (en el contexto de ForLaBB) y lo ampliamos por las cooperaciones existentes entre Potsdam y Costa Rica (UCR) y Chile (U de Chile). (Werner Mackenbach)

2:00-2:45 p.m. – Opening the conference’s first panel Relaciones y miradas transpacíficas, Héctor Pérez Brignoli (San José) discusses “Las relaciones transpacíficas en las Américas. Un panorama en la larga duración”. Specifying the inmense distances of the Pacific as maritime space and region of negotiated borders, Pérez Brignoli shows different images of the most important Pacific islands. Discussing historical cartography by Waldseemüller and Guamán Poma de Ayala in comparison to Chinese maps, Brignoli points out the very diverse strategies of declaring/depicting center/periphery. With the aid of several geopolitical maps, Brignoli examines the Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch, French, and English maritime expansions in the Pacific from the 15th to the 19th century. In the 20th century eventually, the United States of America become the principal constituent of political, economic and military power in the (Trans-)Pacific, consolidating its 19th century expansion and annexation strategies (Alaska, Carribean protectorate, the Philippines, Hawaii, Panama Canal). In the 21st century, “el nuevo dato es la expansión china en el Pacífico y las Américas”, as Brignoli states. The Chinese export has given a new prominence to the Panama Canal as point of distribution towards Mercosur, the US Westcoast and Canada.

2:45-3:30 p.m. – In their joint lecture, Marianne Braig and Barbara Göbel (Berlin) discuss “Relaciones socio-económicas transpacíficas: ¿Nuevos espacios de desigualdades interdependientes?”. Their lecture has two objectives: 1) to analyze the Latin American-Chinese economic relations as an example of transregional interdependences, and 2) to exemplify its ecological costs.

Image of the City of Yiwu (simplified Chinese: 义乌; traditional Chinese: 義烏; pinyin: Yìwū) is a city of about 1.2 million people in central Zhejiang Province near the central eastern coast of the People's Republic of China.

Image of the City of Yiwu (simplified Chinese: 义乌; traditional Chinese: 義烏; pinyin: Yìwū) is a city of about 1.2 million people in central Zhejiang Province near the central eastern coast of the People's Republic of China.

Göbel draws attention to the enormous rise of Chinese exportation towards Latin America as well as its importance for Latin American exports (mostly primary products), as displayed by different slides on economic growth in the last decade. The best example for these new Chinese-Latin American interdependencies is perhaps the Chinese comercial megacity Yiwu as an epitome of a transregional space.

The lecture also offers recent figures on trade balances. As an export nation of high tech products, China is about to leave behind the US and Europe as principal exporters. The highest Chinese investments in Latin America has been made in those countries with the most important natural resources to obtain, which is already causing multiple ecological turmoils, resulting, as Braig points out, in an “externalization of ecological costs”.

The Chinese economic expansion in Latin America can be synthetized in two figures: 1) the translocation of mercantile production (i.e. Yiwu – Tepito), and 2) the agroeconomic expansion (i.e. transgenetic soya production in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay). As a mode of visualization of the ecological costs of this economic growth, Göbel discusses two slides, which show a world map of import/export balances of “virtual water” (water that is needed to produce a product and that “travels” with the product once exported), as well as a balance of nutrition loss as a cause of these global economic interrelations.

3:30-4:15 p.m. – In his lecture, Horst Nitschack (Santiago de Chile) presents a close reading on José Vasconcelos’ La Raza Cósmica and José Carlos Mariátegui’s Siete Ensayos under the title “Miradas sobre el Pacífico”.

Where, in which moment is the “trans” in “transarea” being produced?

This is the principal question of Nitschack’s theoretical reflections, which open his lecture. The foundations of this “trans” can only be given as part of a practice of “convivencia”, which is grounded in a shared system of legal and/or normative convictions. Hence, a “trans-practice” demands a concrete space to originate as a manifestation of accepted differences, as a starting point for negotiated transformations, and as a consequence of these (i.e. cultural) differences.

In order to better understand this idea from a perspective of the (Latin American) history of ideas, Vasconcelos and Mariátegui are epitomes of early 20th century intellectuals engaged in developing such practices, as Nitschack points out. La Raza Cósmica aims to constitute Latin America as a legal, cultural and ethnic laboratory of a future global order. Vasconcelos’ utopic prophecy of a “raza cósmica” – a synthesis of the “four” races (indigenous, white, african, asian) – targets this precise idea of a transareal human culture of global fraternity.

Mariáteguis’ Ensayos, in comparison, demonstrate a strong reflection concerning “la cuestión de la tierra”. His essays dismiss the Pacific as a maritime space of free commercial flux and reconsider the Peruvian/Latin American territory as the principal (indigenous) space of conviviality.

Latin America, so goes the (historical) argument of both intellectuals, needs to develop itself out of itself, in which transareal movements and interdependencies of other expansive forces of cultural and economic influence have to be answered with a “telluric reevaluation” of the Latin American space with an order in its own right.

4:15-4:45 p.m. Coffee break

4:45-5:30 p.m. - Opening the 2nd panel of this conference “Espacios y movimientos transoceánicos”, Werner Mackenbach (Potsdam) lectures on “Entrecruzamientos literarios transoceánicos”. The focal point of Mackenbach’s reflections constitutes the Panama Canal as fundamental metaphor for the discursive construction of a nation state in the Central American literatures (i.e. Nicaragua, Panama). Taking Stefan Zweig as a starting point, Mackenbach unfolds a comprehensive panorama of Latin and Central American literatures, which reflect upon the literary representations of Central America as the “Istmo space”. The pivotal role of the Istmo is best reflected in the “novela canalera” as primary genre of cultural critique of the Canal as formative object and passage space of the Centroamerican nation state. However, this critique contains a paradoxical argument in fray with the reality of the Canal, as Mackenbach indicates. On one side, it comprises a core refusal of the neoliberal hegemonic ideology, by which it was installed. On the other side, this same strand of narratives confirms a fascination with the economic advances, which the same interoceanic Istmo proposes as an “eco of a new transnational modernity” (Mackenbach). Hence, the canonized “novela canalera” must not be understood as part of a national(ized) literature, but as primordial examples of transareal and transoceanic discourse.

Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita

Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita

5:30-6:15 p.m. - Katja Sarkowsky (Augsburg) talks about “Conflicts, Cultures, and Third Spaces: Literary Representations of Los Angeles as contact zone between Asia and the Americas”. The main focus of her talk is dedicated to Karen Tei Yamashita’s novel Tropic of Orange, which Sarkowsky discusses in the context of postcolonial and urban theory. The novel debates about space and place, critically exploring the possibilities and limits of theoretical configurations like “contact zone” (Mary Louise Pratt) and/or “Thirdspace” (Edward Soja). The city of Los Angeles is presented as a destination and intersection of movements (people, goods) and a microcosmos of both real and imagined space of ever-changing discourse on global culture. Following the novel’s semantics, L.A. can be read as a palimpsestic city-space and the proto-contact-zone between Asia and the US. The focal point of different storylines of the novel is the L.A.’s Harbor Freeway, which in many ways contradicts the idea of a multilinear and multi-level urban palimpsest. In fact, it works as representation of an anti-flux, exemplified by a massive car accident. Concerning cultural and ethnic negotiation, the novel ironizes the omnipresent desire in US culture to clarify origin through the figure of Bobby Ngu,

the Chinese from Singapore with a Vietnam name speaking like a Mexican living in Koreatown. That’s it. (Tropic of Orange, p. 15)

6:15-7:00 p.m. - Georg Wink (Berlin): El diario indio de Severo Sarduy: ¿inspiración para una poética neobarroca? [brief summary will follow soon]

2nd day, 02/18/2012
(Ticker by Tobias Kraft)

09:15-10:00 a.m. - Alexandra Ortiz Wallner (Berlin) presents the opening lecture of the conference’s 2nd day and its panel “Representaciones literarias transpacíficas II”. The title of her lecture is “Mi otro yo: desplazamientos y afectos en la India de Augusto D’Halmar”. At first, Ortiz Wallner remarks on some biographical aspects of the Chilean author D’Halmar, highlighting his multiple travels to India, Turkey and Egypt, as well as his literary works, which reflect and narrate the traveler’s experiences. The semantics of the author’s name between “al mar” and “del mar” reflect D’Halmar’s lifelong involvment with his geographical origins and cultural belongings and point towards his “flujos de desplazamiento/desdoblamiento/despojamiento”, a persistant motif in his literature, as Ortiz Wallner states.

10:00-10:45 a.m. - In his lecture on Pablo Neruda, Cristian Montes (Santiago de Chile)  talks about “La Isla de Pascua: una experiencia inabarcable”. Neruda’s interest in the Easter Islands can be rooted in four poems of Neruda’s Canto general, written in 1945. The poems enunciate the Island as a pivotal point of reference for Chile’s oceanic belonging. In La Rosa separada (1972), published in the same year in which Neruda was named ambassador of Allende’s government in Paris and obtained the Nobel Prize, the author focalizes the Island’s nature as “una realidad privilegiada” and space of “una temporalidad mítica”, as Montes points out. Yet, the cultural alterity, which the ancestral Rapa Nui culture provoces in Neruda’s lyrical subject in its function as “tourist”, cannot be compensated and obstructs comunication.

El verdadero viaje es siempre un viaje respecto al otro. Si el otro es inaccesible, el viaje se reduce a turismo. En La Rosa separada se produce una especie de alteridad de esta forma como imposibilidad de asumir esta otredad que sobrepasa el sujeto y lo convierte en mero receptor de algo incomprensible. (Cristian Montes)

10:45-11:15 a.m. – Coffee break

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. - [Program update:] Luis Pulido Ritter (Berlin) talks about “Re-presentación de los chinos en la literatura panameña”. The paradigmatic enunciation “SALSIPUEDES” as synonym for Panama City’s Chinatown serves as Pulido’s point of entry. Pulido’s readings of authors like Siu Kam Wen, Joaquín Beleño, Sigrid Núñez, Eric Walrond, and Carlos Russell highlight narratives on Chinese-American relations, which recover the history of the transoceanic Asian migrations to and its conflictive presence and turbulent life experience in Panama and Central America. By means of this emergent literature, these authors aspire to incorporate a denied history of subaltern migration and cultural presence in the official historiography of Panama.

12:00-12:45 p.m. - Fernando Vela González (Madrid / Potsdam) presents his talk on the novel La vuelta al mundo en la Numancia by Benito Pérez Galdós under the title “Un viaje transcontinental y transoceánico de la literatura española”. Vela González reads Galdós’ novel as a critique of the Spanish colonial politics of the final decades of the 19th century, in which the Spanish Navy desperately tried to recover its lost dominance of the oceanic space.

12:45-2:00 p.m. Lunch

2:00-2:45 p.m. - Vicente Bernaschina (Santiago de Chile / Potsdam) opens the final panel of this conference “Miradas transoceánicas desde Europa II” with his lecture “De Cathay a China: necesidad y gobierno para un mundo uno”. Bernaschina presents the historiographical study Historia de las cosas más notables, ritos y costumbres del gran reyno de la China by the Spanish historian Juan Pedro González de Mendoza (1545-1618) as a threefold narrative focusing on “lo natural, lo sobrenatural y lo político”. González de Mendoza’s Historia proposes a new and positive understanding of China as a sort of blueprint for a modern administrative, political, and social design of the Spanish colonial empire. González de Mendoza never actually reaches China, therefore he is obliged to develop a new method of organizing sources on China, as Bernaschina points out.

2:45-3:30 p.m. - Gesine Müller (Potsdam) presents her lecture on “Coreografías de paisajes coloniales. Saber transpacífico versus saber transatlántico: Victor Hugo y Pierre Loti”. Reconsidering the theoretical axis of this conference between conviviality and connection, Müller takes the works of Hugo and Loti to provide reflections on the Atlantic and the Pacific as productive spaces of cultural knowledge, connecting both authors to the theory of contemporary critics like Raphaël Confiant – the Atlantic as paradigm of cultural theory – and Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio – the Pacific Sea as vinculum for transfers of cultural theory.

Müller identifies Hugo’s Bug-Jargal and Loti’s Le mariage de Loti as literary scaffoldings of oceans that encourage poetic inspiration, but also prompt cardinal challenges. Both authors share the notion of France as primary cultural and entrepreneurial force in these interoceanic framings. Both authors, as Müller points out, permit to expand our understanding of contemporary cultural theory if we incorporate their literary-theoretical contributions into our rethinking of multirelationality and archipelic logics.

4:45-5:30 p.m. – Ottmar Ette (Potsdam) finalizes this conference with his lecture “TransPacífico: continentes invisibles y archipiélagos inventados entre Asia y las Américas”. Ette’s starting point is Benedetto Bordone’s Map of the World in comparison to his map of Venezia, both published as part of his Atlas in 1524. An examination of these maps raises the question: how do we see the world? One traditional answer would be a vision of the world as a continental whole. In the context of a history of movement (Bewegungsgeschichte), the spatial configurations of our world can also be understood as a conjunction of islands in complex relations.

World Map (in: Libro de Benedetto Bordone, 1528)

World Map (in: Libro de Benedetto Bordone, 1528)

This idea, which is already present in Bordone’s maps, can be traced through the literary and cultural history (in the sense of Bewegungsgeschichte) in the framework of the “four phases of accelerated globalization” (Ette). As contemporary examples, Ette discusses the “theory landscapes” in Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s novel Raga: approche du continent invisible, Édouard Glissant’s La terre magnétique: les errances de Rapa Nui, l’île de Pâques, and Khal Torabully’s idea of the coral reef as a theoretical figure of hybrid forms of global migration (i.e. in Chair corail: fragments coolies).

Discuss your POINTS!