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Literature on the periphery of capitalism: Brazilian theory, Canadian culture Literature on the periphery of capitalism: Brazilian theory, Canadian culture

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Author(s): Imre Szeman

Journal: Ilha do Desterro
ISSN 0101-4846

Issue: 40;
Start page: 025;
Date: 2008;
Original page

Keywords: Canadian Postcolonialism | Brazilian theory | Roberto

ABSTRACT
In order to get past the blind spots that have developed in contemporary postcolonial theory, it is essential to seek out complementarities and solidarities in different national situations and in different modernities. This essay undertakes this task by exploring the homologous situations faced in Brazil and Canada in their respective attempts to create genuine national cultures. As in many postcolonial situations, the problem of creating an authentic culture is directly related to the sense that postcolonial culture is necessarily imitative and belated. In Misplaced Ideas, Roberto Schwarz exposes the hidden class character of the problem of cultural authenticity in Brazil, and in so doing, shows that the trauma of national-cultural identity merely reflects the contradictory structural position of Brazil’s postcolonial elite. Using Schwarz’s insights to explore the Canadian situation, the author shows that the same forces are at work in Canada. Though the crisis of a lack of an authentic Canadian culture has recently been surmounted as a result of the apparent international success of Canadian culture (especially literary fiction), that author cautions that this “success” story hides the class basis of Canadian culture in both its belated and isochronic phases (the latter being the moment when cultural belatedness is overcome). Making use of Brazilian theory to examine problems in Canadian culture allows us to see that Canadian modernity, long thought to be simply a derivative of the UK and USA, has similarities with Brazilian modernity that are essential to understanding the space and place Canada occupies in globalization. In order to get past the blind spots that have developed in contemporary postcolonial theory, it is essential to seek out complementarities and solidarities in different national situations and in different modernities. This essay undertakes this task by exploring the homologous situations faced in Brazil and Canada in their respective attempts to create genuine national cultures. As in many postcolonial situations, the problem of creating an authentic culture is directly related to the sense that postcolonial culture is necessarily imitative and belated. In Misplaced Ideas, Roberto Schwarz exposes the hidden class character of the problem of cultural authenticity in Brazil, and in so doing, shows that the trauma of national-cultural identity merely reflects the contradictory structural position of Brazil’s postcolonial elite. Using Schwarz’s insights to explore the Canadian situation, the author shows that the same forces are at work in Canada. Though the crisis of a lack of an authentic Canadian culture has recently been surmounted as a result of the apparent international success of Canadian culture (especially literary fiction), that author cautions that this “success” story hides the class basis of Canadian culture in both its belated and isochronic phases (the latter being the moment when cultural belatedness is overcome). Making use of Brazilian theory to examine problems in Canadian culture allows us to see that Canadian modernity, long thought to be simply a derivative of the UK and USA, has similarities with Brazilian modernity that are essential to understanding the space and place Canada occupies in globalization.
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