Mapping Beyond the National Bourgeoisie

Reading Lesser and Fanon together can be a way of thinking about Fanon’s argument as a framework to think through the locally specific ways in which the national bourgeoisie continues power relations from colonialism and prevents the creation of an “authentic national culture.” In other words, Lesser is the local speaking to the universals about national culture in the postcolonial state that Fanon delineates. A crucial argument of “Trials and Tribulations” deals with the psychological factor driving the (universal) national bourgeoisie of the post-colonial state, “it identifies with the Western bourgeoisie from which it has slurped every lesson. It mimics the Western bourgeoisie in its negative and decadent aspects without having accomplished the initial phases of exploration and invention that are the assess of this Western bourgeoisie…it starts at the end. It is already senile, having experienced neither the exuberance nor the brazen determination of youth and adolescence” (101).  By saying that the postcolonial elite “mimics the Western bourgeoisie” and also is “senile…having experienced neither the exuberance nor the brazen determination of youth,” the text exposes the main contradiction of the elite: it has aspirations of grandeur that cannot be (economically) backed up. It is a moment of identification and dis-identification with the “fantasy” of the Western national bourgeoisie that must be unfulfilled in order for the postcolonial state to establish itself as a “subject,” a state. The use of “senile” is particularly apt as it implies an impotence, a lack of ability to even do something – a lack that is in a sense materialized in economic strife. In Brazil, as Lesser explains, the national elite tackled this contradiction through the code of race (remembering also that racism as Fanon points out is a hatred driven by the very lack of the postcolonial nation-state): “in his mind, and that of most political and economic leaders for the next 150 years, Brazil had to recreate itself as a European-like nation.” The “recreate itself as a European-like nation” refers to the practices of the elite of racist, selective immigration in order to attract Europeans not because they were white but because their whiteness would make the country wealthier. The racial codification signified a desired (fictitious?) economic class. However, as Lesser explains, this racial coding was not always successful, as happened with the acceptance of Protestant immigrants.
While I have barely scratched the surface of the multiple ways ways in which Lesser provides a vision into the ways in which Fanon’s universals take place at a local level, I’m also interested in thinking about ways in which we can think about the national bourgeoisie when doing our mapping. With Fanon and Lesser we can come to the conclusion that whatever map we have of a city in the postcolonial world, it will be a map highly influenced by the subjectivity of the national elite, a subjectivity that views land through the lens of neoliberalism and foreign investment. I started wondering how is it that we could interrupt this subjectivity and disclose the “masses” that are misrepresented by “the party.” In thinking about this, I thought that our premise of mapping art would be a good way to challenge the elite’s point of view in the map by inserting a critical perspective. Coincidentially, I found a map online of Ciudad Juarez that is mapping poetry about the city. I thought this would be an interesting example for the class. While the layout/aesthetic is not the best, I thought this could be a good text to ask the question: is this map telling us something about the national bourgeoisie? or something that the elite wouldn’t say about the city, the people who inhabit it, the companies that are buying and consuming the land and the people? I think that in Ciudad Juarez this question is particularly apt because it is a “special economic zone” that has been touted by the authorities as going through a “revival” despite the unresolved femicides that still take place. Can aesthetic practices challenge the view of the national bourgeoisie? What are the limits of mapping art and how can we use art in the map as a way to do what Fanon asks at the end of the chapter, to collectively “forging of a destiny,” to undertaking “responsibility on a truly historical scale”?