Sound politics reveal that which coloniality tries to normalize: acts of silencing accomplished through history books, genocide, police violence, and a stream of (and collusion with) news sources and shady political negotiations. Those masses of blindfolded women, in Chile and around the world, remind themselves and everyone else that whenever coloniality tries to obstruct ways of seeing, that sounding, moving, and listening will stand as the most effective weapon for challenging, redirecting, and disrupting the insidious mechanisms of coloniality.
Porque lo que queremos, o lo que pensamos, es un mundo nuevo, o un sistema nuevo. No copia del que ya hay o darle un agregado a lo que ya hay. Esto es el problema que decimos, porque no hay libro, manual que nos diga cómo. Ese libro o manual, todavía no está escrito, está todavía en los cerebros con imaginación, en los ojos listos con mirada de algo nuevo que se quiere ver, en los oídos muy atentos para captar lo nuevo que se quiere.
Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (2016)
Sound politics preclude, respond, prefigure, and oftentimes expose the possibilities of new worlds and new imaginations. Here we see a clear preoccupation with the sonic as a site of radical political articulation, but we also see (and listen) to configurations of the sonic that strive to maintain the underlying structures of coloniality in place. Musics are criminalized, languages stolen, mass media sound bites repeated to exhaustion. Sound is (made) territory, and the ebbs and flows of sub-bass funk 150bpm and perreo collide directly with authoritarian shouts of order, religious ritual, and violence, revealing the groans, moans, screams, and sounds that were once written of, as sound scholar Ana Ochoa Gautier (2014) reminds us, as belonging to a state of “nature” rather than “reason.”
All the articles presented in this issue deal, in one way or another, with overcoming the conviction of this eternal solitude Gabo spoke and wrote so much about. In articulating the multitudes of the sonic, they also shed light on the contradictions that make Latin America the site of production of different modernities and concomitantly, different subjectivities. Silent protests unfurl themselves to reveal insurgent gestures, while loudness is contemporaneously criminalized and weaponized through an adherence to modern/Eurocentric ideals of what silence should mean. Tapping into the necessity of maintaining memory through practices of archiving unfolds itself to reveal new grammars of and for noise. On a similar note, practices of sonification with and within national (and symbolic) identities cut across urban planning to reveal the potentialities of listening to intervene within the organization of political and cultural space. Class separation in city architecture is blurred, obscured, and revealed by the occupation of the sonic space through informal economic models, troubling the idea of public and private spaces as being fundamentally opposed to one another. The erasure of spiritual practices, their movements and music, reveals the unequal distribution of safety, while massive sport events exercise sound politics in conflating aggressiveness and community.
None of these contributions, however, seeks to romanticize the violence of colonialism into a beautiful narrative of a struggle for survival; rather, they make clear that ambiguity, conflict, and contradiction are not markers to be erased or ignored. They do not present sites of "ontological resistance," for that, as decolonial theorist FrantzFanon (1952: 90) has long reminded us, remains in the realm of impossibility. Instead, they are mechanisms through which we can better understand how Latin America has consistently attempted (and must continue) to untangle itself from any imposed notion of a colonial modernity in order to become something else – something multiple and pluriversal.
We present the articles of this issue framed within this series of reminders and acts of revealing offered in this introduction. It is but a small attempt to learn a bit more how to differentiate the inherited from the imposed (Anzaldúa 1987: 104). And as we march on, seemingly in unison, the multitudes of Latin America walk beside us, as loud as ever. Eager to tell other, neglected, or unimagined stories.
Eager to – in the words of Krenak – postpone another end of the world.
Anzaldúa, Gloria (2015). Light in the Dark/Luz En Lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality. Durham: Duke University Press.
Anzaldúa, Gloria (2007). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.
Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (2016). “El arte que no se ve, ni se escucha.” Enlace Zapatista.
Fanon, Frantz (2008). Black Skin, White Masks (trans. Richard Philcox). New York: Grove Press.
Ochoa Gautier, Ana Maria (2014). Aurality. Listening and Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Colombia. Durham: Duke University Press.
Krenak, Ailton (2019). Ideias para adiar o fim do mundo. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras.
Las Tesis, 2019. Performance colectivo Las Tesis “Un violador en tu camino.”
Márquez, Gabriel Garcia (1982). “La soledad de America Latina” (Nobel Lecture).
Walsh, Catherine (2003). “Las geopolíticas del conocimiento y colonialidad del poder. Entrevista a Walter Mignolo.” In Catherine Walsh, Freya Schiwy and Santiago Castro-Gómez (eds.), Indisciplinar las ciencias sociales. Geopolíticas del conocimiento y colonialidad del poder perspectivas desde lo andino (pp. 17-44). Quito: Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar. Revista Latinoamericana.
Pedro J S Vieira de Oliveira
Nobel Prize 2015 acceptance speech by Gabriel García Márquez
Poetas y mendigos, músicos y profetas, guerreros y malandrines, todas las criaturas de aquella realidad desaforada hemos tenido que pedirle muy poco a la imaginación, porque el desafío mayor para nosotros ha sido la insuficiencia de los recursos convencionales para hacer creíble nuestra vida. Este es, amigos, el nudo de nuestra soledad.
Gabriel García Márquez (1982)
The solitude of Latin America is loud. It has always been.
It is loud in the words of indigenous leaders taking again a (long overdue, much neglected) central role in making sense of the ongoing disaster of the world, which the native populations of Latin America have long foreseen and for which they have warned. It is loud in the ousting of democratically elected leaders and, concurrently, the emergence of imperialist, think-tank-backed self-appointed saviors. It is loud in the rise of Christian-conservative, twenty-first century schizoid militias with a particular penchant for eighteenth-century moral values. It is loud to such an extent that the threads linking the wounds inflicted by colonialism and the sustainment of patriarchal Latin America cannot be clearer, albeit seemingly silenced and obscured by the idea that there is an ongoing turmoil that our solitude has forever condemned us to dwell in.
Opening up this journal’s special issue on Latin America with the words of Gabo can seem like the overuse of a cliché. Yet, some clichés are powerful exactly because they reveal the atemporality of specific gestures. For the underprivileged, the indigenous, those deemed to be unfit to become fully human, the world ended in the sixteenth century – and since then it has never ceased to end (Krenak 2019: 38). Even though it might have seemed for a fleeting moment that our arrival at a different point of history was on the horizon, we are again reminded what colonialism has told us: that we lack the means to render our lives believable. The biggest asset of colonialism is that it has painted itself as insurmountable; within this mindset, dystopia presents itself to us as a tangible and loud shadow lurking alongside our path.
There needs to be, however, a shift in attitude that refuses to accept the solitude of Latin America as inevitable or inescapable. Something that works against this illusion of incommensurability. That something is a rejection of the devices of colonialism, to not fall into the discursive traps of modernity, that is, "the illusion that knowledge is disembodied and de-localized and that it is necessary for all regions of the world to 'ascend' to the epistemology of modernity" (Mignolo in Walsh 2003: 2). As author, poet, and activist Gloria Anzaldúa reminds us, there needs to be an attuning to "the grounds from which [we] speak" (2015: 182) so that the refusal to let our "wild tongues" (1987: 75) be tamed becomes, in fact, the terrain from within which we enunciate our profound desire for a continued existence. That something is what indigenous thinker Ailton Krenak has called the "expansion of subjectivity," a way of being and belonging inherent to the cosmologies of indigenous peoples, entailing a profound embodiment and understanding that "we" are not equal (Krenak 2019: 15–16) and that "we" do not own the sole perspective on the world. The world is a multitude of stories in which we are implicated. Our solitude, of which Gabo so elegantly spoke, is but one of these stories; but we cannot claim ownership of its narrative.
That something is, indeed, a profound ontological shift.
There are masses of women standing, blindfolded. They dance, they shout, and they sing to remind everyone else how patriarchy and colonialism are but one and the same. A violator stands in the way, and he (porque "el estado opresor es un macho violador") takes the shape of the State, manifests himself in the justice system, is enacted by the police, and elects (or ousts) the president.
“Performance colectivo Las Tesis ‘Un violador en tu camino’” (posted on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB7r6hdo3W4 on 26 November 2019)