Speaker: Javier Irigoyen-Garcia, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Insults and infamy are usually treated as infallible mechanisms of social control and aggression seeking the social destruction of its recipient. Yet, as theorists such as Louis Althusser, Judith Butler, and Didier Eribon have shown, the process of subjectification is always susceptible to failure, as stigmatized categories may identify with the insult and appropriate it as a form of resistance. As I propose in this talk, early modern Spanish authors already considered the notion that insults could turn into a failed speech act, a possibility that they did not frame as a form of resistance, but rather as a cultural fantasy of social chaos and as an exploration of the regulatory uses of infamy. This talk analyzes literary fantasies (most notably from Cervantes’ Don Quixote) reflecting ongoing intellectual debates about the effectiveness of marks of infamy in early modern Spain, either by creating alternative political communities or by exposing the essential role that some insults may have to structure collective identity even when they have been theoretically stigmatized by society.
Javier Irigoyen-García is Associate Professor of Spanish Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on the representation of race, ethnicity, and class difference in early modern Spain. He has published The Spanish Arcadia: Sheep Herding, Pastoral Discourse, and Ethnicity in Early Modern Spain (University of Toronto Press, 2013) and “Moors Dressed as Moors”: Clothing, Social Distinction, and Ethnicity in Early Modern Iberia (University of Toronto Press, 2017). His current project, tentatively entitled Dystopias of Infamy, deals with the political value of insults as a source of collective identity in early modern Spanish imaginary.