Playing Guns: Avant-Garde Aesthetics and Revolutionary Violence
Strayer, Michael McLachlan
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Playing Guns theorizes the avant-gardes in relation to the following revolutionary movements from the extended Caribbean: the Mexican Revolution (Stridentism and Antonio Helú), the Cuban Revolution (Julio Cortázar), the Sandinista Revolution (Gioconda Belli), and post-NAFTA Mexico (Roberto Bolaño, Subcomandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo II). These examples, in turn, help elucidate the following theoretical-historical problems: the Caribbean and Latin America as privileged sites of revolt and revolution; human emancipation in relation to interpellation and agency; and practices of confrontation vis-à-vis practices of resistance. I argue that Latin American avant-garde artists, movements and institutions engage in a radical variant of what Rancière theorizes as aesthetic free play—an egalitarian rearranging of our common sensorium that overturns social hierarchies. By doing so, the avant-gardes “recognize,” in Althusserian terms, the actual interpenetration of life and art and thereby call into question certain caricatures of the avant-gardes as counterrevolutionary and politically vacuous. I then propose that free play propagates radical modes of being that can lead to forms of human emancipation as they confront—not resist as Foucault theorizes—interpellating hierarchies from peripheral positions proper to Latin America. William Egginton and Eduardo González served as advisors for this dissertation.