This chapter deals with the question of how the notion of mestizaje (miscegenation) has influenced and been influenced by the field of Latin American colonial studies, and of how it ultimately shapes our understanding of colonialism and its forms of persistence. Approaching these questions requires a working definition of mestizaje, a map of certain developments in Latin American colonial studies in relation to this notion, and an understanding of colonialism as a multifaceted problem that cuts across but also exceeds this field.

With these aims in mind, mestizaje will be considered in this chapter as a dispositif, a dynamic, somewhat elastic concept that Michel Foucault introduced in The History of Sexuality Vbl I. (1978) and elaborated in the later stages of his work, and for which there is no stable, closed definition.1 Though the concept has been the subject of extensive debate, there are certain aspects that Foucault himself emphasized in a 1977 interview, such as the multiplicity and heterogeneity of elements that comprise the dispositif (which include the discursive and the non-discursive), the connections and relations among them, the strategic and situated function of the resulting formation, and the various and shifting positions produced within it (Foucault 1980, 194—228). What interests me about the notion of dispositif is the possibility of examining mestizaje from transdisciplinary perspectives that could point to practices, discourses, institutions, and intersubjective relations placed in motion by Iberian colonialism, as well as the subjective, discursive, material, and practical aftermaths of this process.2 Furthermore, this approach entails developing an overview of the critical and disciplinary configuration of Latin American colonial studies and understanding that the field itself is crisscrossed by effects of what Anibal Quijano has called the coloniality of power, ’ a model of geopolitical relations sustained by a racial axis of colonial origin that has superseded the nominal end of colonial domination (2008, 181).

Also, 1 argue that mestizaje is crucial for situating specific attributes of Iberian settler colonialism in Latin America, as well as the social, economic, and cultural relations that this system of domination set in motion. According to Lorenzo Veracini:

The successful settler colonies ‘tame’ a variety of wildernesses, end up establishing independent nations, effectively repress, co-opt, and extinguish indigenous alterities, and productively manage ethnic diversity. By the end of this trajectory, they claim to be no longer settler colonial (they are putatively ‘settled’ and ‘postcolonial’ — except that unsettling anxieties remain, and references to a postcolonial condition appear hollow as soon as indigenous disadvantage is taken into account).


In this regard, the topic of mestizaje constitutes a pivotal and somewhat overdue discussion in the context of the larger debate about the Latin American and Caribbean colonial and postcolonial experiences, which pose a specific set of historical and theoretical problems, as Mabel Moraña, Enrique Dussel and Carlos Jauregui have noted (2008,20). Also, the ongoing discussions on the coloniality of power and their emphasis on race and classification seem to run parallel to Latin American colonial studies, and would benefit from considering the extensive research on mestizaje in order to reassess it as a specific mode of racialization that exceeds racial classification, a process in itself far from transparent and systematic, as Joanne Kappaport (2014) has argued. Thus, this chapter aims to show that it is possible to shorten the distance among various lines of research and debate.The larger and main purpose of this chapter is to draw attention to the critical possibilities that a complex approach to mestizaje as a dispositif represents for a field that focuses on the colonial but, arguably (Verdesio 2001,633—658; Catelli 2012,44—55), has not been entirely engaged in the larger debate on colonialism, settler colonialism, and decolonization.4

The first section of the chapter is dedicated to clarifying certain points about the idea of mestizaje that will aid in mapping the development of the field in relation to this concept. It stresses that the term mestizaje only appears toward the end of the nineteenth century, while a strategy of establishing carnal relations as well as various types of relations of kin with indigenous men and women in order to facilitate colonization can be traced back to the very first years of settlement (Rosenblat 1954, 1—2; Deagan 1996, 2004; Catelli 2010, 69—115). I am referring to Ann Laura Stoler s expression here and of course to her study, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule, which “treats sexual matters not as a metaphor for colonial inequities but as foundational to the material terms in which colonial projects were carried out” (2002,14). Furthermore, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui uses the expression mestizaje de sangre,“ the practice of rape and the hoarding of women by encomenderos, priests, and Spanish soldiers. In this way the invaders accessed a double benefit: womens labor (...) and the sexual services so eloquently denounced by Waman Puma” (2010,72, my translation).The section focuses on the effects of this strategy and on making some relevant terminological and semantic nuances around mestizo and mestizaje to indicate a long-term process that involves practices as well as discourses.

Many researchers in our field have studied these aspects of mestizaje, in a diversity of contexts. Even though it is impossible to account for such a vast bibliographical corpus, and also not my aim, the second section offers a comparative review of relevant works about mestizaje as well as major critical directions formulated from some of the disciplines in the field.

In the third section, I draw attention to political aspects at stake in the construction of mestizaje as an object of study. I discuss Rivera Cusicanqui s claim that mestizaje is intrinsic to internal colonialism5 in the present and relate it to my own model of mestizaje as a dispositif. I also explore the idea that mestizaje as a dispositif can be deployed in Latin American colonial studies toward the decolonization of the field by promoting analytics and a critique of postcolonial epistemic and power dynamics that is still lacking in our field of studies.

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