UC Berkeley History of Art Department

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Indigenismos: Amerindian Inscriptions in the Art of the Americas

Mariana Wardwell


Mariana Wardwell is a candidate for our faculty position in Global Modern Art History.  A summary of her presentation follows.

My presentation will examine the ideological tensions and contradictions implicit to the political use of the indigenous as a symbol—to what extent it operates as an ideological slippage between nation and state, as cultural Other and fantasy of the race, as a critique of capitalism and colonialism and as supplement to the formation of Latin American revolutionary ideology. The lines of inquiry that I will be proposing suggest that the iteration of Indigenism is in fact a constitutive element of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic cultural formations across the hemisphere. By presenting a critical revision of the many modalities of Indigenism, as discrete modernist idioms, my research premise underlines the extent to which it becomes necessary to mark a theoretical distance from the common conceptualization of the “indigenous problem” in social, political, and anthropological discourses and move toward the construction of an “empty signifier” or “constitutive foreclosure” (phantasmagoria) that punctuates and operates in the cultural text—that is, connecting the points of dissemination and tension between the figurations and inscriptions of Indigenous America during the development of modernity as a horizon of signification.