Proyecto DiAspora(s) and the Poetics of Violence

The many different works that the samizdat Diaspora(s) reprints have the following characteristics in common: they are unmapped and mostly from Central European authors, many of them dissidents with similar conceptual and aesthetic perspectives. The most salient one is what I call the poetics of defacement. This poetics points (as it were in a deictic manner) to the contradictions of a normative regime of totalizing forms. The poetics of defacement mars heroism, sacrifice, and utopia in their construction of the revolutionary nation. More specifically, it questions the revolutionary understanding of violence as a necessary force for national reconstruction. The revolutionary rhetoric of the sixties and seventies conceived of violence as a materialist and humanist practice with Nietzschean undertones. That is, on the one hand, it calls for a Marxist socialist humanism and, on the other hand, it reminds us of the Nietzschean allegory of the eternal return. Cuban subjects can only become revolutionary through a sacrifice that requires them to give their lives for the cause. In this regard death becomes, as we saw in chapter 1, the way to build the nation, as individual sacrifice becomes a communal renaissance. This Cuban revolutionary logic is articulated as Marx’s theory of socialist humanism in that man attains real materialization of his being by abolishing alienation: “Abolition as an objective movement taking back into itself what has been alienated—this insight expressed within the alienation is the adoption of the objective essence by eliminating what alienates it. . . . Only by first removing this interceding element—which, however is a necessary prerequisite—does positive, self-created humanism come into being” (Marx and Engels 1947, 62).

While in the Cuban revolutionary logic “man” creates himself through his own death (subjects become heroes), for Marx “man” attains “his” being through labor. It is precisely this difference that gives the revolutionary logic its Nietzschean undertones. Like the Nietzschean overman, the hero must have a will to power as if his life were to return anew. Death, in contrast, although not absolutely affirmed as a positive force in Nietzsche, also leads to the renaissance of life in the world as a consequence of the overman’s deeds.

The poetics of defacement shows the contradictions of this humanist logic based on the building of the nation through sacrifice and death, that is, through violence in a more abstract sense. This poetics proposes an antihumanist ontology that can only be articulated through the death drive, and that unravels as a negative dialectics of sorts. Violence as a concept is a part of the Diaspora(s)’s theoretical vocabulary that articulates its poetics. Not only because this concept reappears in many of the theoretical pieces, but also because it is part of the Diaspora(s)’s aesthetics. The group’s manifesto and some of its fiction articulate the idea that violence is aesthetic, and that aesthetics are violent. This paradox is precisely what hinders libidinal cathexis between aesthetics and the world, and creates an approach to reality mediated by the death drive. If there is no libidinal cathexis between these negative forces (namely, poetry and the world), can these forces be productive or are they simply nihilistic? This question cannot be posed without taking into account that the death drive finds pleasure in what is most perturbing, which means that the attraction to the negative perversely produces pleasure. If it is the case, then, that pleasure (affirmation) and displeasure (negation) are part of the same force, can this union produce any type of knowledge? Or, would it, like the Adornian negative dialectic, dissipate fundamental antagonisms? Is violence the creative and revolutionary part of negation? It is with these questions in mind that I will examine the Diaspora(s)’s understanding of violence, especially in its relation to aesthetics.

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