Luzio’s piece delves into the aesthetics of the ivory Christian figures that circulated through the networks of trade established within the colonies of the Portuguese empire in order to unsettle understandings of space. The very title of the piece “The ‘Orient’ in the ‘New World’” points towards the essay’s gestures of deterritorialization and reterritorialization. However, this interpretation of his piece leaves unaddressed the relationship between space and language, or in other words, the relationship between claiming of space and claiming a word that is said to describe a place.
Luzio turns India/Goa into synecdoches for “Asia” as he is trying to prove that “Asian memory and imagination were present in the urban centers…in the form of cultural materials.”  The same synecdochical move happens with the use of “New World” when he is referring mostly to Brazil. What is Luzio trying to do with this move? What is the result of unsettling space through claims to “Asia” as opposed to a more pluralized approach? Why Asia and not Asias? Why Asia and not India/Goa?
One thing that this synecdoche does is foreclose the heterogeneity Luzio himself calls attention to. He writes that Portuguese empire was a complex “multicultural” space: “Portuguese colonial possessions scattered from the Cape of Good Hope and the East African coast to the Moluccas, Macau, Nagasaki, and Timor, including the Arabian Sea, Indian subcontinent, Gulf of Bengal, and Southeast Asia. Ships embarking from Macau in Southern China or from Goa carried much more than subjects of the empire. In addition to the people, Eastern imagery, objects, plants, textiles, reminiscences, and accounts also arrived in the New World via the ocean routes, bringing Asia closer to Portuguese America.” In listing these locations, he neatly summarizes them with “Eastern imagery,” a category that I’m suspicious of because it makes me wonder: what kind of erasures happen when Nagasaki and Goa are put under the same continental entity, a continental entity of “Asia” that supposedly has distinctly “Asian” aesthetics. Was such a unitary understanding happening during the reign of the Portuguese empire among the “Asian people”? What aesthetic practices are lost when the basic unit is an Asia that assumes established nations – nations that must necessarily suppress certain others in order to establish its own legitimacy?
On a different note, thinking back on our discussion of Machida from last class, the argument can be made that in “recovering” the history of “Asian material culture,” Luzio is providing the framework for a mobilization of memory that might allow “Asians” (used here as whoever has access to defining themselves through that label) to claim space. The urgency of this action is tied with racialization, discrimination and exploitation that is still present in contemporary Brazil. At the same time, I wonder what kind of reification and erasure happens when one utters sentences such as “As important as the Oriental taste promoted by the circulation of Asian products and merchandise was the dissemination of aesthetics and concepts that became the modus operandi of the imagined memory of the peoples of the so-called Southern Portuguese Orient in Brazilian colonial spaces.” This was a most intriguing point as it suggests that part of the desire within the essay to claim “Asia” is to connect the experiences of exoticization and racism experienced by those who can identify with the category of ‘Asian’ to a larger history/episteme of Orientalism, as exposed by Said. It is a recovery of a history that proves that the “genesis” of Brazil is a multicultural space, and thus “Asians’ belong to Brazil from its very conception. From the diasporic point of view, this is a remarkable endeavor that works to claim space as one’s own.
I’m still wondering whether the history described by Luzio can be used to imagine other Asias, other New Worlds and others epistemes to understand mobility and racial formation that can remain open to not only the diasporic but also the localized. Is claiming an “Asia” in the New World a way of disavowing the responsibility of thinking through those subjects lumped under the category of Asia who have been subjugated for the cohesion of the entity? One example of this are the indigenous people of India and the Dalits (the once known as untouchables).
Can there be a map where multiple asias are charted, where the desire to claim space does not come at the expense of the suppression of difference for the sake of a legible cohesiveness? Many of the maps produced even in different “regions” of the “world” rely on knowledge from colonialism and expansion. For example, the Piri Reis map compiled in 1513 by the Ottoman Empire relies on Arab, Indian and European sources. The map thus performs a level of syncretism that defies an easy characterization, a syncretism present in the ivory statues.  And at the same time, the syncretism seems to be forgotten through the delineation of stably differential “territories.” Similarly, the Kunyu Wanguo Quantu is a traditionally termed “Chinese map” that syncretizes particular geographic insights of Chinese scholars with the cartographic techniques introduced by Mateo Ricci. In other words, it is as “Chinese” as it is “European” It makes me wonder if the map as form is fatally limited by the demand of cohesion, of guidance, of “knowing”? And if so, how can we as cartographers work with maps in order to reimagine other Asias, other pluralities that are foreclosed when continental thinking demands homogeneity?
Piri Reis map: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piri_Reis_map#/media/File:Piri_reis_world_map_01.jpg
Kunyu Wanguo Quantu map https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/71/Kunyu_Wanguo_Quantu_%28%E5%9D%A4%E8%BC%BF%E8%90%AC%E5%9C%8B%E5%85%A8%E5%9C%96%29.jpg