The following article by Andrés Guerrero is an unedited translation of the sixth and final chapter of his recent book, Administración de poblaciones, ventriloquía, y transescritura (Admini stration of Populations, Ventriloquism, and Trans-writing, 2010), a remarkable text of political history and philosophy that has been largely inaccessible to readers outside the Andean region. 1 Our publication of that chapter in this issue, with commentaries on it and an interview with the author, reflects the unusually loud “echoes” (to use a Guerreroism) we heard in it of Focaal’s efforts to promote unorthodox ways of addressing the global and historical composition of political critique. Extracting a chapter such as this from its source cannot but leave scars. Here we aim to fill in some of the missing pieces to the story that follows.
An introduction to the post-colonial critique of Andrés Guerrero
Originally published in 2014, Gavin Smith’s Intellectuals and (Counter-) Politics: Essays in Historical Realism felt like a jolt of adrenaline for politically engaged scholarship, in anthropology and beyond. One of the book’s core provocations was methodological: it asked how exactly, in a pragmatic sort of way, we might do intellectual work that is not only politically effective (i.e. that gives additional “leverage” to collective struggle) but also works with, not against, the unique forms of intervention open to members of our profession. Its answer was deliciously heretical. Smith suggested the most politically valuable contributions of intellectual work might not come from the orthodox methods we tend to adopt when we commit ourselves to joining political struggles, such as aligning ourselves with the collective movements we support and offering them an audience and theoretical lens for their voices of dissent. The importance of ground-level solidarity work cannot be overstated. But allowing such alliances and their immediate challenges to shape the scope of our intellectual practice may confuse the kinds of practical knowledge necessary for one mode of activist struggle with that necessary for, and made possible by, another.
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