Indians and the national unconscious: Discourses of nationalism and democracy in the United States and Bolivia, 1780--1850
Goble, Luke J.
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In the period of transition from colony to independent nation-state, texts from both the United States and Bolivia used representations of indigenous peoples for the purposes of independence and nationalism. A comparison of these representations from countries with such divergent histories reveals both similarities and differences in national formation that inform the democratic possibilities of the present. For example, while writers like Thomas Jefferson and Simón Bolívar were similarly concerned with grounding the nation's origins in a distant past that required the appropriation of indigenousness, Bolívar recognized the contradictory exclusion of Indians from full participation in the life of the nation, whereas Jefferson never acknowledged this paradoxical gesture of needing Indians as symbols but refusing indigenous people as citizens. A critical examination of this constitutive paradox of nationalisms throughout the Americas reveals the contours of the national unconscious--the amalgam of drives and desires that seek to ground the identity of the nation but never fully can. Drawing on a variety of concepts related to politics and language from theorists like Jacques Lacan, Ernesto Laclau, Slavoj Zizek, and Homi Bhabha, this study argues that the consolidation of national identity, as conceived in and revealed through language, works against the practice of a more radical and liberating democracy. A discussion of texts from the United States that depict the conquest moment known as King Philip's War shows how and why conflicting representations of Indians were such an effective tool for the purpose of national identification in the United States, as in John Augustus Stone's Metamora, but that the hegemony of representation is never total, as the writings of William Apess demonstrate. An examination of hybrid texts from the Andes that connect another conquest moment--that of the Inca Atahualpa in Peru--to the rebellions of Túpac Amaru and Túpaj Katari shows how indigenous people, as an ontological and semiotic presence, effectively contested the meanings that could emerge out of the discursive space that became Bolivia. As a result, early Creole nationalists could not effectively consolidate a homogenous national identity, leading to a high degree of national political instability. While this failure to articulate a national identity and the subsequent political instability have had real and enduring consequences for Bolivia's inhabitants, it has also kept the terrain of national symbolization, the terrain on which politics happens, open to new possibilities. Such possibilities for a form of politics that is beyond the nation or postnational, have begun to take form in the administration of Bolivia's Evo Morales, though the insidious underside of a regressive kind of nationalism is also always lurking nearby.