Ulster Logo
Link to facebook  Link to INCOREinfo on twitter  Link to INCORE rss feed    Linkedin link Linkedin link

The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .

Puerto Rican Jam: Rethinking Colonialism and Nationalism
Edited by Frances Negr6n-Muntaner and Ramon Grosfoguel

(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997)
Distributed by Taylor & Francis
303pp. Index. Hb.: ISBN 0-8166-2848-3. Pb.: 16.95; ISBN 0-8166-2849.

This book is unusual for an edited volume in that its thirteen essays contribute to a cohesive and integrated analysis of the chosen subject - how to think about Puerto Rican conceptions of self and community - of puertorriquenidad (Puerto Ricanness). The central argument is that both nationalist and colonialist political and cultural agendas, and the frameworks of thought in which they flourish, are inappropriate for understanding Puerto Rican society and aspirations. The authors argue that the mass of Puerto Ricans recognise the inapplicability of both these projects for Puerto Rico -having a much more sophisticated understanding of politics and culture than the elites who represent them in government. That this is so is born out in referenda where the majority of Puerto Ricans have rejected both independence and statehood (that is becoming part of the United States of America).

La puertorriquenidad cannot be understood through nationalist and colonialist tropes which are essentialist, simplistic and exclusionist - tending to flatten multivariate experiences and feelings of identity. The book therefore investigates the multiple identities which constitute different sorts of puertorriquenidad and it does this by privileging difference and awarding value to fluidity. If identity can be spoken of at all it is as a thing in motion, a constitution in the making, composed of multiple, overlapping, changing but still culturally specific senses of self and community. Thus Spanish and English and Spanglish are equally legitimate, equally valid signs of puertorriquenidad.

More radically, but equally convincingly, the authors' argument is not simply that homosexual and heterosexual; Black, White, Latino, the different experiences of class location constitute equally valid sets of Puerto Rican experience but that the categories themselves need to be questioned. The articulations that attempt to imagine and construct the individual within the constrains of a preconceived identity have themselves been socially and historically constituted through practice - the practice of the individuals themselves as well as the practice of colonial and nationalist discourse. Categories and practice need to be unpacked, historicised, denaturalised and textualised. The book provides fine examples of accessible and pertinent use of post- structural analysis used as de-textualising methodologies to complement de-reifying strategies. The authors demolish notions of ethnic fixity - in the case of puertorriquenidad or in any other case - by the arguments and the epistemology, by juxtaposing and integrating form and content.

The theme is Puerto Rico but the book has important things to say to all scholars of politics, sociology and literary theory as well as to those who blindly pose nationalism - always by its nature cruel and exclusive - as the only alternative to forms of colonialism. It deserves to be widely read.

Hazel Smith
University of Warwick

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Monday, 10-Aug-2015 12:20
contact usgoto the search page
go to the top of this page