Reproductions: Political and Aesthetic Education in Contemporary Chile and Argentina, 1980-2015
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Reproductions examines the politics of cultural reproduction in Chile and Argentina by analyzing literary and educational institutions in the era of neoliberal governance. I advance two arguments: (1) parallel to neoliberalism’s consolidation, the university and an emerging theory canon become necessary prostheses for the literary institution’s reproduction and, (2) study, when understood as a form of unwaged, reproductive labor, transforms educational institutions into potential sites for anti-work politics. Reproductions explores the implications of the increasing dependence of literary production on educational institutions and their social reproductive functions. Part One joins the growing consensus that struggles against capital have moved from the terrain of waged, productive work to that of unwaged, reproductive labor. I assemble an archive that exposes a representational crisis in the ranks of Chile’s 2011 student movement. Beneath the opposition of peaceful, student protestors to violent, masked rioters, I suggest a point of solidarity in their shared marginalization from wage-labor. This helps me reconceive study as reproductive labor against the neoliberal model of study as human capital investment. Turning from university politics to its theorization, I contend that philosopher Willy Thayer’s genealogy of Chile’s neoliberal university defends academic labor at the cost of reifying the myth of university autonomy and obscuring the work of study. My argument culminates in what I call study-without-end, at once an alternative pedagogy and anti-work politics, developed in dialog with the research militancy of Colectivo Situaciones, a theory collective active in the wake of Argentina’s 2001 economic crisis. As practiced by the collective and their interlocutors in Argentina’s unemployed workers’ movements, study-without-end heralds the possibility of instituting ephemeral moments of political-economic autonomy. Part Two shifts from social reproduction through educational institutions to the cultural reproduction of the literary institution. I contend that the consecration of theoretical fictions penned by two generations of contemporary Chilean and Argentinean writers is symptomatic of a convergence among literary, critical, and educational institutions since the 1980s. In Ricardo Piglia’s understudied late works, I see a critique that intervenes in the reproduction of the literary institution. Piglia blurs the boundaries between criticism and fiction in order to prefigure his works’ reception and contribute to their canonization. Among the youngest generation of novelists, Pola Oloixarac adopts similar novelistic strategies. By addressing her work to a university-educated audience, she ingratiates herself with the literary institution’s gatekeepers. I return to the earlier generation to show how Diamela Eltit’s writing insists on the banal objecthood of literature. Unlike her contemporary Piglia, Eltit threatens the literary institution’s reproduction by voicing a non-reproductive desire.
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