It is a harsher, and at times even painful, office of ethnography to expose the remains of crude old culture which have passed into harmful superstition and to mark these out for destruction
- 1 A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the International Workshop “Identities as soci (...)
1Things attract sensual recognition and representations such as “Rankülche culture”, “Rankülche history”, “Rankülche rights,” “Rankülche Indigenous People” and, last but not the least, “The Re-Emergent Rankülche Indigenous People.” The latter is, undoubtedly, a social construction. Processes, actors, interests, emotions, values can be read into it as conditioning factorsof “agency”. However, in reconstructing that which is given asThe Re-Emergent Rankülche Indigenous People blind zones might appear. “Fetish” and “phantom” are my codenames for these zones (where others would use “experience,” “performative action,” etc.).
2Constructionism is a mode of re-cognition. To re-construct something entails the recognition of a constructed objectivity for the subject. But even the most controlled reflexive construction of the object cannot help sliding into some sort of reification. The constructionist claim to re-cognize what is given inescapably becomes at some point misrecognitionbecause the constructed subject and object must be linked by the given action/experience of something that is neither fully a subject nor an agent. This predicament is obviously acknowledged by what I here call constructionism. Yet the point remains whether more emphases on the “blind points” would if not resolve the dilemma at least approach it from a different angle, one that makes more justice to things.
- 2 See, for instance, on the problem of acknowledgment, objectifying and reification,Johannes Fabian, (...)
3Might things be acknowledged instead of mis-re-cognized as objects such as “social process”, “practice”, etc.? Might The Re-Emergent Rankülche Indigenous People be acknowledged? The answer is performatively contained in the narrative argument that follows. I shall try to acknowledge in and betwixt things what is happening around the Rankülche People and my analytical persona rather than restricting to their re-construction and re-cognition. 2 The argument is in itself a thing offered to The Re-Emergent Rankülche Indigenous People.It is a demand of acknowledgment to whomever or whatever is thereknowing that this gift cannot be definitively granted nor received. The argument is also a response to a supplementary question: what dispersions, interruptions, confusions and paradoxes are at the occasion of The Re-emergent Rankülche constructed by the politics of pluralist recognition? What does, if anything, take place alongside indigenous reemergence and in addition to the redrawing of group boundaries, the reorganization of identity categories, processes of trans-valuation and the reformulation of techniques of power and knowledge?
- 3 GuillaumeBoccara (editor),Colonización, resistencia y mestizaje en las Américas (Siglos XVI-XX), Qu (...)
- 4 Miguel Angel Bartolomé, “Los pobladores del desierto: Genocidio, etnocidio y etnogénesis en Argenti (...)
4I turn to the problem of ethnogenesis and indigenous re-emergence. In a review of Mapuche studies in Chile and Argentina, Boccara marks the renewed attention paid to the “indigenous point of view in reconstructing historical processes” and tothe “combined processes of resistance, adaptation, change and negotiation” that have led to the “emergence of new groups and identities through multiple creolization processes”3. Sharing this background, a growing scholarship has devoted to those particular cases involving the “identity actualization of ethnic groups considered culturally and linguistically extinct […] whose contemporary emergence constitutes a new datum, as topic for both anthropological reflection and public policy in multicultural contexts”.4While the previous studies focusing on ethnogenesis have always stressed the continuous politico-cultural transformation of indigenous groups and ethnicities overethnic essencesthat would rise and fall, the object “new Indians” necessarily puts the analyst before a higher degree of constructed-ness which is more acute when a sense of unexpectedness is attributed to the phenomena under analysis. We can symptomatically read all this in the stock-in-trade terminology: Indian “remnants” turning into “emergents”, “indigenous identities” becoming “new identities”, “old actors” with “new roles”, “mestizo” becoming “indigenous mestizos”, “hybrids” transforming into “stranger hybrids”, etc. Any of theseterms aptly describe the current situation of the Rankülche in La Pampa: the Rankülche people have been and are still considered “assimilated” if not “extinct;” due to this fact they are culturally and politically “re-emerging,” refurbishing identitiestransversed by creolization.
5Let us make some observations on the precedent conceptual script. To the question “what is on the other side of the self,? studies on ethnogenesis would respond: “theother in its different names and circumstances.”The self/other structure approaches, for example, “Indians”in relation to “non-Indians’” others, just as “contemporary Indians”are thought in relation to the “ancient ones’” others. Under these premises, the task is to analyze the institutional and loose interactional arrangements that “contain” the constant synchronic and diachronic rearticulationof these positional identities.This reconstruction may include a second level --produced by the perspective called “native point of view”-- which would allow tracking the cultural styling of identities, without affecting their structural character. In this manner, the reconstruction of thephenomenon of “new Indians” can be traced nestingup different planes of discontinuities.
6Perhaps we should also ask: “what liesin the underside of relational identities?” This is a question generally bypassed or deemed irrelevant in the standard constructionist approach predominant in studies of ethnogenesis and elsewhere. I suspect that, even if acknowledged, the new brand of studies interested in re-emergences of “vanishing Indians” does not coherently attempts to answer the question. I believe that this is due to a disavowal of the problem of the given (and the given as constructed) or to the hasty reduction of it to the problem of the object. For my part, I suggest that “what liesin the underside of relational identities” can still be acknowledged --evoked and guessed at--by trying out a hesitant constructionism. I already mentioned “fetish” and “phantom,” “experience” and “action” but also “alterity”, “relationality”, “life”, “being”, and even “materiality” can be some of the conceptual registers to explore in this endeavor. In any case, to give the given its due in order to obtain the constructed is clearly a ruinous transaction but does the opposite attitude --to extract the constructed out of the given-- promise anything more than a re-cognition leading to a re-institutionalization?
- 5 Michael Taussig, Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man. A Study in Terror and Healing, Chicago,Ch (...)
7Those of us interested in the topic of the not-quite-visible-Indians-wanting-to-be-Indians feel obliged to deal not only with the question of signification and representation, but fundamentally with the problem of the apparitional, the threshold of sensing and not sensing, of making sense and non-sense. Not unsurprisingly, magic, as a general paradigm linking sensuality to fabrication and potency, recurs in interpretations of indigenous re-emergence.Magical acts of material manipulation --like seeing old photographs, perambulating through ruins or wearing the masks of the ancestors--may explicitly be invoked to interpret theactors’ emotional identification with an origin. However, once this fetishistic consciousness is discovered in the constructionist account, its function is limited to significant, narrative, “cultural” and “political” aspects of Indian reemergence. Insofar as fetishism and “wildness” --“the death of the symbolic function”5-- continues to be recognized through avoidance, naming and compartmentalization, constructionist scholarship tends to fantasize engagement while at the same time immunization against the unpolitical.Can we transgress this limit? Which are the risks involved? The register in which I endeavor to situate my analysis pays attention to that which emerges, more precisely, to the autonomy of the appeared in face of the remains of the processes of identity actualization and empowering conventionally dubbed “indigenous re-emergence”. The task is to evoke apparitions as shadows or flashes in the sociocultural and historical chain of events.
- 6 Michel de Certeau,A Escrita da História, Rio de Janeiro, Editora Forense Universitaria, 1982.
- 7 See Axel Lazzari, Autonomy in Apparitions: Phantom Indian, Selves, and Freedom (on the Rankülche in (...)
8The para-history that will ensue is a mimetic emblem of things appearing and passing. It refuses recognition as “history” or “diachronic anthropology” insofar as they both entail tomb-making procedures. The historian (and the anthropologist-historian) works the past as though a dead matter broken apart from the living and proceedsto bury it within a scripture that appears as its memento mori.The narrative of the original, locatable, presence of the dead --the posited ancestors-- is the task of the “historiographic operation” 6, a set of procedures inscribingtime as past and past as history within a disciplined practice of writing and investigation. Modern figurations of the past as history mark the space of the dead as “already gone” establishing, in compensation,an ethical oracle for the living. What if the dead are not gone and live a supplementary life as ghosts? What if the materiality (matter-mother) of the dead attracts and repels beyond a tolerable limit for a reasonable cult? It is no other than the historiographical operation itself which creates this unstable relation between trace and representation, bringing the dead back into life by means of their entombing. And making a virtue out of a defect, this predicament signals the site of critique as a re-opening of that which was ill-sealed in order to re-seal it again. A different critical praxis may be rehearsed privileginginstead of the desire of a perfect “return of the dead” from death (past) into life (present), and attentiveness to the still dying and the not yet born. In attempting to reveal this movement, the weight of the past (the malaise of history) and the needs of the present (the poison of urgency) must be necessarily put at stake. Our para-history is interested in the emergences between and betwixtThe Re-Emergent Rankülche Indigenous People,striving to explore at some junctures the archive of its historiographical and anthropological recognition in order to acknowledge stranger realities than newer data. Springing from the crossroads of semiotic delimitation and overflowing concrete-ness,these realitiescan only be captured bya phantasm and fetish mode of material thinking 7.
- 8 Marilyn Ivy, Discourses of the Vanishing. Modernity, Phantasm, Japan,Chicago and London, The Univer (...)
- 9 Jacques Derrida, Spectres of Marx. The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New Internat (...)
- 10 See J.-J. Goux, “O feitiço da economia política: feitiço, idolo, utopia, não representação”, in VV. (...)
- 11 William Pietz quoted in Emily Apter, “Introduction”, in Emily Apter and William Pietz (editors), Fe (...)
9The phantasm is elusive materiality, a “movement of something passing away, gone but not quite, suspended between presence and absence, located at a point that both is and is not here in the repetitive process of absenting”8; as a revenant it also demands the payment of a debt to what/ who has been left over by logocentrism 9. Fetish thinking also acknowledges the immediate power of materiality. The fetish --animated object or reified person-- stands in contrast to the humanist ideal of the “good mediation,” epistemological and ethical, among persons, things and the sacred10. The fetish “is always incommensurable with (whether in a way that reinforces or undercuts) the social value codes within which the fetish holds the status of material signifier […] The fetish might be identified as the site of both formation and revelation of ideology and value-consciousness” 11. The phantom and the fetish, by way of a fugitive or a durable material obstacle, haunt the subject revealing to consciousness the incompleteness of the acts of knowledge, morality and control.
10Convoking ghosts and fetishes as method of capture lead us to Rankülche things in a manner that imitates their apparitional surface and twists their value. Fetishesand ghosts springing from the ideological mill of the disappearing and the returning Indians can only be critically curbed bycounter-fetishes and counter-ghosts. Short-circuiting what is fixed and what is changing, deconstructing demarcation lines between entities and between identities, as well as the solidities that organize them, surrendering to fetishes and phantoms might alter the present-past continuum along which Rankülche re-emergence is usually conceived, often resembling an epic in which a past of vitality, followed by an unjust destruction and decay is redeemed by a present full of promising signs.The para-history that follows rehearses a critique of the Rankülche as they are known and governed by the dispositives of the Phantom Indian and the Return of the Phantom Indian. Its premise is twisted:Rankülche things have always failed to completely die and to succeedly be re-born.
11The Phantom Indian appears as a mechanism of recognition and government in the post-war times following the so-called Conquest of the Desert in the late 19th century. The Phantom Indian, operating within Argentine national fantasy of desert-making and total refoundation, has been fabricated with techniques for the reclusion and dispersion of people, territorial control, physical violence, piles of corpses, and oracular discourses of de-Indianization, from Spanicization to Creolization to Vaccination. This dispositive recreates the negative other (the Indian) as vanishing installing two stereotypical ideological discursive monuments to the Phantom Indian: “there are scarcely any Indians left” and “Indians are almost like us.” It feeds on fetishistic, petrified quasi-dead as shown in this 1962 image celebrating the anniversary of Victorica, the first outpost in Indian Territory.
12Being the Phantom Indian not the Self’s other but the Self’s other’s othering, any attempt to make Indians dis(appear) under “obelisks” always performatively marks the future site of the revenant. This very eternal return of a wild rest makes the Phantom Indian a dispositive of government and self-government.
- 12 Walter Delrio, Memorias de la expropiación. Sometimiento e incorporación indígena en la Patagonia ( (...)
13Any set of actions on the post-conquest “Indian problem” in La Pampa was obliged to deny the presence of indigenous peoples. But this necessity, a performative counterpart of the fantasy of the deserted/refounded, cannot be viewed separately from a balance of power that, although favoring strategic State interests, left broad zones of territory and forms of sociability outside constant and direct control. This situation, as several authors have indicated 12, opened up interstitial possibilities for post-conquest indigenous leaders to reconstruct social networks and obtain land. Thus, the de-indianizing impetus was soon flooded with exceptions, making room for juridical provisions and social practices that allowed for the appearance of indigenous “groups,” “lands” and “names” in conjunction with an apparatus for maintaining the docility of Indians. In the context of this reemergence avant la lettre two Rankülche “tribes” stood out, theCabral’s who would form the Colonia Emilio Mitre and the Baigorrita’s who eventually settled down in so-called Lote 21.
- 13 Juan Carlos Depetris, “Los indígenas de la Pampa Central. Segundo Censo Nacional de Población de 18 (...)
- 14 The creation of agrarian colonies in La Pampa should be examined within the broader context of terr (...)
14In 1882, from the forts and Franciscan reducciones in the provinces of Córdoba and San Luis, the Cabral’s reentered into the newly created Gobernación de La Pampa Central and settled near the areas where they had lived before their military defeat in 1878. Among them were the friendly Indians (indios amigos) of the “Escuadrón Ranquel” that had participated in the attack on the Rankülche camps 13. Most of the 700 people belonged to Cacique Ramón Cabral’s former “tribe” which had been confined in San Luis since 1875. The group settled in La Blanca, a place near Victorica, until this fertile tract of land was claimed by whites. Facing land pressures, the Indian leaders asked national authorities for assistance in changing their domicile, quite possibly exhibiting their prior military service in the Argentine army. As a result, they were sent to the Hualichu Mapu (Land of Evil in vernacular), and arid zone in western La Pampa where the Colonia Mitre would be erected.14
15Founded in accordance with the Household Act (1884), Colonia Mitre covered 80,000 hectares, divided up into 128 plots of 625-hectare each,assigned to the heads of households belonging to the Cabral tribe and some other people. The colony was an instrument for transformingthe “last remnants of the old tribes” in colonos (settlers) inculcating agricultural production, individualized forms of social organization and the learning of civilized skills and values through school. Most importantly, in order to underscore that it was a colony devised for vanishing Indians, some plots were granted to criollos (mestizo) and gringos (white settlers) to attain the goal of criollo assimilation or criollización. The juridical regime worked in this direction by restricting access to land ownership. Settlers were considered permisionarios (permit holders) of a parcel of land to which a deed would be granted on condition it became productive. Furthermore, these permits were granted on an individual basis in order to prevent retribalization. To this juridical trap (not restricted to Indians to be sure), poor soil and inadequate water supply by civilized socio-productive standards must be added, making of Colonia Mitre a social experiment that put severe strains on the reproduction of settlers as a group and Rankülche as an identity. Nevertheless, due to the fact that something of the Rankülche did survive, Colonia Mitre became the fetish of the dispositive of the Phantom Indian in La Pampa, the place-symbol toward which diverse social experiments throughout the 20th century have turned when staging the spectacle of the civilizing mission. Among these the most important is the contemporary Rankülche movement whose hegemonic discourse identifies Colinia Mitre as the original space-time of regeneration.
- 15 Violeta Diez, Milna Marini de Díaz Zorita, Norma Benítez,Gobernadores de La Pampa: Ayala, Pico, Lur (...)
16A second group of around 300 Rankülche led by Cacique Luis Baigorrita had reentered La Pampa some years before the Cabral tribes. They had not been friendly Indians but combatants against the Argentine cavalry and also probably against the indios amigos. After being sent to Buenos Aires and imprisoned in a concentration camp, they were released to help the government forces defend the city of Buenos Aires against a secessionist faction. In compensation Baigorrita was allowed by the federal government to return to La Pampa and finally settled inLote 21 beside Colonia Mitre. The Governor of La Pampa struggled to prevent this move alleging that “tribes cannot, must not exist on national territory” 15.Arguments by the local government underscoring that a tribe was a social regression, a politically and morally dangerous entity were not heard by Buenos Aires and the land was finally granted to “the cacique and his tribe” not as colony but as reserva (land reserve). The techniques governing identity that I term Phantom Indian are in evidence again. The governor’s discourse does not attempt to erase Indians, which would have been impossible; rather, a field of visibility and enunciation is organized in which the appearance of Indians is subjected to a regime of exception and conditionality. Once this space is demarcated, the ideological fetishes of dis(appearance) are born.
17A comparison of the settlement on Lote 21 with that of Colonia Mitre shows in sharp relief the difference between molecular and atomizing governmental procedures. While the Colonia Mitre’s Rankülche were individualized by making heads of household responsible for parcel permits, the Rankülche from Lote 21 were given a reservation which implied the inalienability of the land. The two contiguous areas created a de facto territorialized Indian-ness under erasure for decades to come. By being legally protected from appropriation by third parties, Cacique Luis Baigorrita and some of his descendents developed strategies for evicting their own “family” members and “his tribe.” Conversely, many Rankülche leaders come from families that were evicted, sold their land or migrated from Colonia Mitre. The stereotype currently held by Mitre’s Rankülche according to which the Baigorrita are more civilized and richer than them but also perros (dogs in a derogative tone) is part of a larger ideologyof the Phantom Indian insofar as one of the instances of (dis)appearing is the “evidence” that “Indians are never united”. A croquis I was given by a Rankülche activist might throw some light on this if we take it as a counter-fetish.
18The croquis shows directions to arrive in Lote 21 in order to commemorate Luis Baigorrita at his tomb. What interests here is that the drawing intersects two planes not evident at first sight. So in order to follow directions to the destination, the image must be rotated counter-clockwise. Only then, the place of Baigorrita’s death is revealed.
19In this other dimension (in the upper left-hand corner), there appears a house with a sign “Cacique Luis Baigorrita’s den.” Superimposed over there is a drawing of the cemetery with tombs and crosses, and to the left, another sign reading “Lote 21.” Only now we sense that both Baigorrita’s tomb and Lote 21 are concealed from the Cartesianparameters of map reading, which conversely, allow for the visibility of “Colonia Mitre”. So if you look at the croquis in a normalized fashion, Lote 21slides down, and, in turn, when rotating the page and observing the latter, it is Colonia Mitre that crumbles away. This is a movable and temporal mechanism that combines two codes of visibility in the same material space as it were a sort of Moebius strip. The whole thing may well indicate a incongruousness but also a bond between Lote 21 and the Colonia which unsettles the idea of Indian disappearance as an effect of Indian disunion. I interpret this scrap of paper as a fetish countering and revealing the ideology of the Phantom Rankülche.
- 16 From a report quoted in Andrea Lluch, “Un largo proceso de exclusión. La política oficial y el dest (...)
20Juridical fragility of land tenure was a factor that decisively affected Rankülche identity and social strategies. Difficult legal criteria to obtain a land deed virtually transformed each head of household into a debtor to the State. The enforcement of these requirements was in charge of a body of inspectors who periodically visited the Colonia. Inspections were a key moment in the Indians’ manifestation before the State. From 1903 to 1914 they certified the systematic failure of Indians to become agricultural, productive settlers, that is, civilized subjects. Internal changes of residence, abandoning of plots and the demographic decline caused by migration were the negative factors most emphasized by the inspectors. However, between 1916 and 1928 the ideological rationale of the inspections changed from Spencerian evolutionism to Indigenism. As a result, inspectors no longer denounced Indian failures, placing the blame instead on the colony regime as a whole which came to be seen as a “trap” that obliged Indians to “pay a debt with counterfeit money” 16. Upon closer reading, the official documents denounced not the debt itself but the lack of means with which to pay it off. Civilization debts identified by inspectors conditioned juridical recognition of land ownership. There was a debt referring to settlement: unsettled, intermittently settled and unauthorized settlements (intrusions) of plots. Another debt referred to production: wealth was lacking on property inhabited by authorized settlers (poverty). And there was also a monetary debt to the State, either an outstanding balance on the tax to be paid by permit holders or the usually unpaid fee charged by the inspectors. In sum, debts reflected doubts regarding the tasks involved in Indian redemption. But where were exactly those Indians that had to cease being Indians? The physical location of the responsible agents was sensually articulated through the phenomenological spectrality of Colonia’s space. This was quite strange, since inspectors were there to see and record solid realities. Yet to the degree that they had to overcome obstacles in order to arrive and travel around the colony, to the degree that their planned trajectories were always only partially fulfilled, and to the degree that arrivals were usually delayed and departures hurried, the Colonia could only be made governable by its documental fetishization (notebooks, maps, photos, reports, etc.). Only on paper documents could the presence of some settlers, the absence of others, and uncertainty regarding the presence or absence of the rest be imagined. But even then, might the Phantom Indian have been neatly circumscribed? Does not the desert (one of its avatars) constantly return to unsettle demarcations? In this regard, it is noteworthy to compare the map of the original survey of the Colonia in 1901 and the map enclosed in the inspection of year 1920.
- 17 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari,A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, London and Min (...)
- 18 Informe General de la Colonia Emilio Mitre del Territorio de La Pampa, 1920, p. 75.
21The most striking feature of the 1901 map is the geometrically ordered space in the recognizable shape of an “H.” The perimeter is filled in with numbered graph squares. The colony is seen in the foreground against an apparently void space. On the contrary, the map annexed to the 1920 inspection can be read as a meta-map that softens the Cartesian geometry of the 1901 map, replacing fixed points with supple morphological volumes, properties with affectivities, predetermined segments with flexible segmentation 17. In this sense it documents the left-over of the “cold” civilizing State inscribed in the 1901 map. In that mute H, barely recognizable in 1920’s map, comes to inhabit the inspector’s denunciation of the “trap” and “artificiality” of the colony in the form a signature: “Mario Vera.” This cartographic representation of a “native land” is in accordance with the Indigenist rhetoric of the map-maker and inspector: “Argentine Indians from the Ranquel tribe; a heroic race almost extinguished by the conquest, with outstanding aptitudes for civilized life” 18.
22The maps enclosed in the reports to be officially decoded (according to usual spatial epistemology) as fetishistic proofs of control are themselves dialectical images of a tension existing between State-making and the wildness it creates in its vortex. Be they rigid or supple, cartographies of the other within cannot help turning into surfaces of becoming. The 1901 map uncannily realizes in its emptiness opened to “any-one” the possibility of there being subjects without identity and self-consciousness. Conversely, the 1920 map evokes through its names and curvy relief the contemporary imposing presence of the politics of identity recognition.
23The turning from National Territory into Province aggravated land issues in La Pampa during the 1960s. The undeeded public land of Colonia Mitre passed to the provincial government which then decided to “develop” the place by letting non-Indian, rationally oriented entrepreneurs in. In 1969 an attempt of evicting a Rankülche household was stopped by legal and political means. The case reached the provincial and the national press obliging the federal government, then occupied by the military, to devise an “Integral Study of Colonia Mitre,” also known as “Operation Colonia Mitre.” Its objective was to clean up the old, unkempt, entangled land of the Colonia, a constantly renewing chora-like space, in order to make way for houses, schools, police and (this time once and for all!) settlers. Regarding deed granting, the policy benefitedthe semi-legal occupants and intruders that were considered criollos and Indian mestizos. Notwithstanding these two and a half years of so-called “community development” in the Colonia, a group of Rankülche mobilized to demand a definitive resolution of the eviction and title deeds issues, obtaining an in-person interview with then President Alejandro Lanusse. The Rankülche commission of about eight persons, mostly belonging to the recently arrived Argentine Pentecostal Church, was led by Ambrosio Carripilón.
24Retrospectivley, the encounter with President Lanusse in 1972 appears to have been a watershed. For the first time ever, some Rankülche met face-to-face with “the body of the king” despite it being the one of a military usurper of the constitutional government. So this was an encounter between Phantom Indians and a ghostly President. In the course of an inaugural tour following Lanusse’s coup d’etat, a series of audiences were organized in the provincial capital for everyone to witness the highest authority looking into the problems affecting La Pampa. A fetish more powerful than the usual shaking of hands between the High and the Low unexpectedly appeared when the Ranquel commission met the president.
- 19 Primera Hora,Santa Rosa, La Pampa. June 17, 1972.
Nobody in the provincial capital expected to hear the dialogue that President Lanusse held with the Pampean governor and a delegation of Ranquel Indians “Mari, Mari; lumul padedin lonco, Ranqueles. Len mapú; elulen mapú compá quelpe hueinca; elumne quelai title deeds” –was the greeting of Elba Dora Carripilón […] Before a stupefied audience, the interpreter [the lawyer] translated: “We the Ranqueles have come to greet you, Mr. President. Leave us the plots; don’t take them away; they have never given us deeds to them” […] Lanusse looked upset. Uneasy, he lit a cigarette, put it out, lit it again. He asked the governor to explain the situation […] The President (visibly nervous) – “The national government and the president of the Republic resolve to grant definitive deeds to this tribe in the place they currently occupy. And later on, once they are installed, they will be consulted as to whether or not they want to change the place. Let the settler that wants to stay where he is, stay.” 19
25Was this meeting a topamiento, the customary way for “Old Indians” to greet an enemy? Perhaps. The old signs of the parley, with its rhetoric, its vernacular and interpreter seemed to be alive. Was this an indigenous identity tactic? Undoubtedly, and half-unaware at that. Was this a fugitive mutiny of Indian soldiers? There were all those dark faces threatening and interpellating the President “one soldier to another.” The Indians “took a stand” like any soldier facing his general, and Ambrosio Carripilón knew that his name was the same as his grandfather’s, who had been the leader of the friendly Ranquel Squadron. The uncanny return was shocking. The sovereign managed, at first, to reach for a cigarette, and the cigarette told him that he had a body “on fire.” Then, regaining possession of himself, Lanusse turned to the Governor only to proffer the dictator’s verdict “They shall have it” in response to the demand “Indians Wanting Land.”
26It was a veritable dictum emitted from behind a mask --look at that large, bald, white head--what everyone wanted to hear in order to “know who’s in charge.” Immediately after, the illegitimate President began to approach another fetish, wanting to touch it and letting himself be touched by it. The scene of a macho in distress: Juana, was being given back as a poisonous gift to the President by his husband, Ambrosio Carripilón with the intention of making him his “compadre” and sealing the old civilizing alliance.
- 20 La Arena, Santa Rosa, La Pampa. June 17, 1968.
27Juana, the friendly Indian’s wife, the colonial fetish, the one cursed by demons and cured by an evangelical pastor (therefore an inauthentic Indian) was --is-- being seduced by the virile usurper with a caressing embrace and the same old story: “Argentina thanks you for your patience and forgive us for taking so long to keep the promise made by Roca and Sarmiento” 20. The grandson of this woman, himself a key protagonist in the Rankülche movement, told my friend the anthropologist in the midst of the scene of fieldwork about the real thing:
- 21 Quoted in Juan Ignacio Roca, “La construcción de la subjetividad indígena en la disputa por las tie (...)
Why do you think the President responded favorably? He responded because he saw people in need…he felt love…how they lived, in misery, in the solitude they were left in where there was no water…then this macho saw this…and the grandma introduced herself and, well, he felt…he felt…how can I put it…he felt…sorry for her. He felt affection for her, they say he hugged her, she kissed him, they say that the granny said to him “they suffer so much,” they say that he says ‘Give me your hand so I can give you strength, I am going to get you out, your family is going to get their land, don’t think anymore, don’t think any more, get united, be always united,’ you see, that’s what he said. 21
28In a landscape of misery and desolation, a passionate crescendo between the Indian woman and the conqueror Lanusse takes place before us (…love…this macho saw this…and the grandma introduced herself…and…he felt…he felt…he hugged her…she kissed him…don’t think anymore…don’t think anymore…get united). Looking back in time and concerned about this militaristic contamination in the movement’s beginnings, my friend the anthropologist posed the big question to a Rankülche leader: “The paisanos at that time knew that Lanusse was President because of a military coup, right?”
- 22 Quoted in Roca, op.cit.
Lanusse was a very special person…[…] What I mean to say is…he was really a military man that had traits of… See that nobody questioned him, nobody denounced him or put him in jail? So he evidently wasn’t like the other ones. And this attitude he had with us…you saw that Trapaglia [the governor at the time] didn’t want to know anything about it, but Lanusse came and told him…[the interviewee hits the table]. 22
29Hitting the table, the coup, this is what cannot be articulated. Was Lanusse imitating his alter ego and intimate enemy, Juan Domingo Perón? Was –is-- Lanusse like Perón for these Rankülche?
- 23 Diana Lenton and Mariana Lorenzetti, “Neoindigenismo de necesidad y urgencia: la inclusion de los p (...)
- 24 Axel Lazzari 2010a, op.cit.
30“To return,”“to revive,”“to reemerge”and “to recover”are some of the ideological verbs that today castthe demand of recognition by the Rankülche. Since 1990s, the Rankülche got politically and symbolically organized by interpellating from within the institutions and subjectivations produced by the cracked mausoleum of the Phantom Indian. Converging with the ideological trends of local multiculturalism (so called “pluralismo étnico y cultural”) and neoliberal Indigenism 23 they pressed to seek recognition as an active, self-conscious indigenous presence. In the process a new dispositive, The Return of the Phantom Indian, started its workings. The Re-emergent Rankülche Indigenous People is a figment of this old new way of framing and governing the Phantom Indian. In effect, the former acriollado Indian-ness, ruled by the regime of dis(appeareance), is today (dis)appearing into the Rankülche Indian identity while conducts are directedby presupposing an educable, morally responsible subject and a cohort of self-monitoring experts24. In this new field of ideological (in)visibility clauses such as “not sufficientlylike us” and “not yet civilized” are still effective but the subject changed at a critical point: it is the phantom Indians (acriollados) themselves that aren’t yet (authentic) Indian enough. Theideological reproduction of the Rankülche indigenous movement and multicultural official neoindigenism depends on making Indian subjectivities recognize their lack of real Indian-ness.
- 25 Axel Lazzari, “Autenticidad, sospecha y autonomía: la recuperación de la lengua y el reconocimiento (...)
31Since its inception in 1996 the Rankülche Language and Culture Workshop has targeted Rankülche-dungun revitalization as one of the strategic spaces of the Rankülche return. Among the many dimensions to be discussed concerning the workshop’s assumptionsandtrajectory 25the issue of “loose words” deserves closer attention. This is an expression referring to the maximum that can be learned of a dying language; the idea of “loose words” also lend credence to the belief that Rankülche can only be learned and taught as a means for symbolically communicating an ethnic identity by employing a museum of haphazard phrases and words. Is it all that there is?
32Classnotebooks are an important record of how the Rankülche difference is inscribed in the classroom. They can be approached as a mechanism for controlling the intercalation of Rankülche into Spanish, based on the assumption that the former is precisely a set of “loose words” that lends itself to a certain degree of manipulation. Also, “loose words” are based on a code for social interaction that, at the level of the language, presupposes translatability. However, the translatability of Rankülche to Spanish is only possible when words are “let loose” from the language system and from (what is seen as) the original cultural semantic field, thus rendering meanings commensurable. Inversely, when “let loose” words and phrases also serve to petrify a state of affairs that, as in this blackboard, signals the aboriginal difference.
33On the other hand, “loose words” operate through an excessive materiality --they are too visible, sound extremely strange and are difficult to pronounce--which cannot be contained in the intra- and inter-language network of equivalences. Neither signs nor symbols, they can also be conceived of as counter-fetishes that inoculate heterogeneity and confusion into the fields of representation and consciousness. Let us compare some of the usual fetishes of recognition appearing in student notebooks from different workshop courses. Exercises of translation abound; theywork by drawing a hierarchy that articulates two systems of differences with Spanish on top.For instance:
From puel (1) I saw you coming on cauel (2)
Curru (3) and leu (4) with a bit of
Antu (5) and another of curruf (6), etc.
1 Puel (east)
2 Cauel (horse)
- 26 Translated from Spanish.
3 Curru (black), etc. 26
34In this example the Rankülche word is inserted in the Spanish text replacing its equivalent and making the two languages temporarily coexist. Simultaneously, the loose Rankülche word grafted onto the sentence is seized upon and coded numerically, with numbered meanings “explained” in Spanish below. Aboriginal difference is thus presented in three operations: grafting, unfolding and reordering. But the hierarchy sought in this translation is subverted by the ghostly effects produced by writing. Graphically fixation on a blackboard and in the notebooks grants language a substantive duration and corporeity transforming it into a counter-fetishrevealing the very practices of recognition at work. In the above example, one can sense how the gesture aimed at framing the non-familiarity of the Rankülche word slows down the semiotic process, diverting attention to the graphic dimension of the text instead. By becoming aware of the written page, the medium in which the Spanish text, the Rankülche loose word and its numerical index contact, the writing of the translation process itself --oriented toward the normalization of Rankülche-- is evinced. Graphicness is revealed indexicallyby words that are not images by themselves. As image of a form of the expression, a “loose word”plays host not only to a meaning, but also to a thing that, although not directly represented in the graph, is nevertheless present. Each “loose word” is a counter-fetish evincing otherness in between the Spanish alphabet that also goes beyond the Rankülche language. This demonstrates not only the inability of Rankülche-dugun to stand alone, but also the incapacity of Spanish to assign the indigenous language a subordinate position without bringing it into play.The writing of language is risky insofar as it registers a drift that affects any language, thus casting doubt on the identity of all languages, be they oral and written, dominant and dominated, Rankülche and Spanish, mother language and second language, etc.
35Images of the human body recorded in class notebooks exhibit another mode of counter-fetishism. Let me considerthe typical group photograph glued on the page as a souvenir. One portrays a group image of the participants in the Victorica Workshop. The photographwas taken during a field trip to Leubucó, former Rankülche settlement and current site of the Mariano Rosas mausoleum.
36We see a group of people posing in front of the camera. Upon closer examination, we discover that the people are placed halfway between the objective and the pyramidal mausoleum. Double-ness governs this relation of a human group to the ancestor’s shrine: indeed the group’s pose imitates the pyramidal shape of the mausoleum half hidden beneath them. In this iteration of the sacred object, disrespectful and respectful attitudes can be pointed out. On the one hand, piling people on top of the tomb simply to take a picture indicates its constructed, profanable materiality; on the other, the transposition of the silhouette of the pyramid into the group disposition reveals certain veneration. “The form of the pyramid,” the text reads, “signifies the journey from the navel of the earth to the light.” Which pyramid has the camera recorded then? The “real” one --the site of the original-- or the “human” image of it? Both or neither of them? The iterability of the fetish triggers its own de-fetishization process. The seizure of the origin as both a constructed given and a given construction is obliterated once again on a third level by the opaque body of the photo itself. This re-fetishization of the image is accomplished by the combination of the narrative elements of the photo within the genre of a souvenir. The introduction of a simple photograph, whose manifest intention is to make contact with authenticity, reveals a circuit that does not necessarily underscore the domestication of the indigenous difference into identity --The Return of the Phantom Indian-- demanded by conventional multiculturalism. Indeed, by interchanging Rankülche and non-Rankülche, humans and non-humans in the positions of constructors and the constructed, observers and the observed, the photograph acknowledges something beyond the structure of stereotypical recognition.
37I have tried to show in the guise of a para-history the workings of fetishes and ghosts –in croquises, newspapers, written translations, photographs-- against the fetishistic recognition of The Emergent Rankülche Indigenous People. In my view, things Rankülche have always failed to die no more than their rebirth is still pending. In discovering this constant rewinding I distance from historical continuity and the cult of origins and endings that resides not only in essentialism but also lurks in constructionism.
- 27 Edward Tylor, Primitive Culture, Two volumes. New York, Harper Torch Books, 1958 (original edition (...)
38I conclude with a musing on the category of Indian-ness and its relation to the political. In many conversations with Rankülche activists they would express concern about being taken for politicians, feeling obliged to say that they want to “keep the Indian separate from politics. The challenge for them seemed to be to discover how “to do” politics disavowing the hybrid figure of the “Indian as politician” (“indio politico”). This is but another predicament of the Return of the Phantom Indian now converging with the moral negativity attributed to “doing politics,” the outcome being an aggravated problem of legitimization. But what would happen if the “indio politico” itself turns out to be a counter-fetish and a phantom rather than an ideology? It is in this sense that the “indio politico” has been appearing and reappearing throughout this para-history interrupting signification and making the mask sovereign. The “indio politico” works as the wild underside of both the recognition regimes of the Phantom Indian and the Return of the Phantom Indian. It redirects our analytic dispositions to what is appearing as incommensurable, political thing in The Re-Emergent Rankülche Indigenous People. Time may have come for the harmful superstitions of multicultural recognition, strategic thinking and one-sided constructionism to be “mark out for destruction” 27. Would the new office of ethnography consist in showing how things interrupt sociomaterial networks in the guise of phantoms and fetishes?