In his sixth thesis on the philosophy of history, Walter Benjamin wrote, “The only writer of history with the gift of setting alight the sparks of hope in the past, is the one who is convinced of this: that not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious.” Edgar Garcia
is one such historian…and if you’re not yet convinced of Benjamin’s dictum, you should listen to this interview.
In Signs of the Americas: A Poetics of Pictography, Hieroglyphs and Khipu
(University of Chicago Press, 2019) Garcia sets sparks flying by inviting us to explore the literature and theory created by 20th and 21st century writers who deploy sign systems that, according to the creation myth of European hegemony, alphabetized thought supposedly superseded and destroyed. Akin to Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic
in ambition and originality, Signs of the Americas
not only pries open a fascinating archive but also forces us to question the organizational principles that govern intellectual history and cultural criticism in this hemisphere. In this interview, we discuss work by Jaime de Angulo, Cecilia Vicuña, John Borrows, and Gloria Anzaldúa, as well as Garcia’s own Skins of Columbus: A Dream Ethnography
(Fence Books, 2019), which serves as a kind of poetic companion to Signs.
David Gutherz is a Teaching Fellow in Social Thought at the University of Chicago. His research deals with the history of the human sciences, with a special interest in how intellectuals have aided and undermined authoritarian movements. You can find out more about his work at www.davidmaxgutherz.com