Contemporary fantasies of the Colombian nation: Beauty, citizenship, and sex


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Contemporary fantasies of the Colombian nation: Beauty, citizenship, and sex
Giraldo Isis
Cossy Valérie, Soltysik-Monnet Agnieszka
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté des lettres
Faculté des lettres
Université de Lausanne
CH-1015 Lausanne

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Framed within the field of cultural studies, the thesis aims at underscoring the connexions between certain spécifié cultural artifacts and the social order in the spécifié context of contemporary Colombia. Drawing on what McRobbie identifies as one of the great contributions Pierre Bourdieu made to knowledge — his approach to social science — I aim at carrying out an analysis of hégémonie Colombian culture that seeks to understand how such culture 'operates so as to shore up power in the hands of already privileged groups* (McRobbie 2005: 6). The analysis of my Colombian corpus — one telenovela {Chepe Fort ma), one male-oriented magazine (SoHo). pieces of news, and média events — stems from the assumption that such types of popular culture do in Colombia what Berlant argues literary culture does in Nathaniel Hawthorne's America: to produce "a constellation of national signs, both to provide for the people a National Symbolic, the common language of a eommon space. and to shore up the shaky state apparat us' (Berlant 1991: 21). Berlant reads Hawthorne's 'America' as "an assumed relation, an explication of collective practices, and also as an occasion for exploring what it means that national subjeets [...] share [...] a set of fonns and the affect that makes these forms meaningful' (ibid.: 4). Hence. 1 regard my corpus as a set of forms that connect the Colombian national subjeets while paying attention to how such connection is inflected by affect. which in turn. makes them meaningful. In similar fashion to Berlant with respect to (the United States of) America, I argue that the set of forms 1 am concerned with constitute "the political space of the [Colombian] nation', that is, the Colombian 'National Symbolic' (ibid.: 5). The concept of "the National Symbolic' is crucial for the work because it links "régulation to desire' (ibid.: 5) — as my analysis ofSoHo makes clear — while 'harnessing affect to political life through the production of "national fantasy" ' (ibid.: 5) — where there is no room for the 'abject other', as Chapter 4 shows. Further, the 'National Symbolic' — dominated by affect — transfers into the field of citizenship — dominated by law — so that it ends by partly overwriting it. as my analysis of the concept of ciudadano de bien, in Chapter 4, attempts to show.
Citing John Beverley, Gregory Lobo calls attention to the idea of 'nation' as being key to the question of hegemony which is the overarching theme of this dissertation: 'what nation is precisely in territorial or juridical terins [...] is less crucial [...] than the funetion of nation as a required signifier for hégémonie articulation' (Beverley 1999: 141 cited in: Lobo 2009: 21). Contemporary ideas of colombianidad are inherited from a particular historical context where the articulation of hegemony is partly played in their construction as being opposed to chibchombianidad. a term coined in the 1990s by humorists Martin de Francisco and Santiago Maure as a pun implying that the 'savagery' — corruption, aggressiveness, violence, lack of middle-class manners and taste — permeating late twenty-century Colombian culture was due to the indigenous (the Chibchas) héritage of Colombian people (Revista Semana 1998). Thus. hégémonie understandings of femininity in the Colombian context not only constitute individual capital (in neoliberal ternis) but national capital; that is, female beauty is discursively constructed as embodying the interests of the nation. One central argument of the thesis is that the female body is the terrain over which divergent ideas of the contemporary Colombian nation are lought upon: on the one hand, Catholic fundamentalism embodied in high instances of state juridical power wants to re-take control of female scxuality and the (restricted) reproductive rights so recently gained in the légal arena; on the other hand, the 'enlightened sexism' (Douglas 2010) brandished by the most visible head ofcontempo.ra.ry Colombian intelligentsia and reworked as the emblem of modemity — of which the men's magazine SoIIo (founded in 1999) and Daniel Samper Ospina (its director between 2001 and 2015) are the main bearers -- seeks to keep the grip on female scxual émancipation so that it remains entirely lïamed within sexist approaches to it.
The dissertation comprises two parts, one theoretical (Chapter 2) and one analytical (Chapter 3 and Chapter 4). The theoretical chapter engages critieally with a theoretical corpus that includes feminist theories, postcolonial studies, the decolonial option, and theories of postfeminism. The analytical part focuses on the specificallv Colombian corpus which is Consolidated around a variety of recent média events and cultural texts which include: SoHo, a male-oriented magazine produced by the Colombian elite and the second most read magazine in the country just after TV y novelas (Zuluaga and Martinez 2012: 21); Chepe Fortima, a very successful telenovcla aired in 2010 which was banned in Venezuela; the média and cultural construction of black female left-wing senator Piedad Côrdoba as reported in various press articles; varied news articles and reports from the main written national press ---Rcvista Semeina, El Tiempo, and El Especteuhr— linked with the issues raised by the main cultural texts and média events. The texts and events are organised thematically as I explore the two main ideas around which the dissertation is struc-tured: first, female subjectivity, which I claim depends on embodied spectacular femininity; second, female abjection (female subjectivity's counterpart), which 1 claim emerges in the Colombian context when black ness, fatness, and left-wing political affiliation intersect. The corpus was decided upon on the basis of the theme I was interested in exploring — the centrality of female 'beauty' and the restrictive lramework within wliich hégémonie femininity is understood in Colombian culture, a theme of deep personal interest to me as a Colombian feminist woman — and those cultural products that seemed to crucially relate to it at the time of writing. SoHo was unavoidable, while Chepe Fortuna — in its being a Colombian telenovela and its embedding of the Colombia-Uribe and Venezuela-Châvez conflict — was somehow paradigmatic of that historical moment. Both texts have generated a great quantity of polemical reactions about the issues at stake, and none of them have been analysed from the approach 1 take in this thesis.
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07/06/2017 12:39
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20/08/2019 16:13
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