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Latin American Studies Transculturation and Literature
by
Luis Duno-Gottberg

Introduction

In 1940, Cuban ethnographer Fernando Ortiz coined the concept of “transculturation” for the sphere of anthropological research. His purpose was to explain the different stages and results of cultural contact among people brought together by European Colonial expansion into the Caribbean. Forty years later, when Uruguayan critic Ángel Rama applied the concept to Latin American literature, it became the core of a vast field of inquiry and debate, with a wide impact on the humanities and social sciences. Beyond the seminal work of Ortiz and Rama, this article covers numerous critical applications of the concept, metacritical approaches, and the production of alternative theoretical tools that challenge or complement the concept of “transculturation.”

General Overviews

The concept of “transculturation” appears for the first time in Ortiz 1995 (originally published in 1940), as a contribution to the study of Cuba and to the general field of Social Sciences. It can be read as an epistemological stand advancing the understanding of Latin America through Latin-American theoretical tools. Although Ortiz’s concept was adopted very early on by Venezuelan writer Mariano Picón Salas (in Picón Salas 1965), it remained rather dormant until Uruguayan critic Ángel Rama re-elaborated that notion in Rama 1982. Rama’s particular elaboration of the concept attempts to explain the way in which some Latin American authors incorporate diverse elements in their work of popular, rural, and indigenous cultures—words and grammatical structures, for instance—while, at the same time, adopting and adapting the literary techniques from the European and US literary avant-gardes. Larsen 1990 provides an early criticism to Rama’s theory, suggesting it entails a form of hegemonic aesthetic for Latin America’s peripheral Modernity. Cornejo Polar 1994 called into question both Ortiz’s and Rama’s articulations of the concept. Drawing from his own research, dating back to the 1970s, the author stated that “heterogeneity” would be the proper alternative to a conceptualization that is otherwise reminiscent of the problematic notion of assimilation. Cornejo Polar thus emphasizes the contradictory and conflictive nature of Latin American literature and culture, instead of what he sees as an illusion of harmonic synthesis. Sobrevilla 2001 offers a useful overview of the theoretical web surrounding Ortiz and Rama. Kraniauskas 2000 and Moreiras 2001 offer some of the most sophisticated approaches to the ideology of transculturation, suggesting that it responds to anxieties about Latin America’s uneven modernity. The concept of “transculturation” is part of a heated debate within postcolonial and Latin American studies, intersecting with other concepts of cross-cultural exchange such as Mestizaje, (Cosmic Race) Anthropophagy, Contact Zones, Hybridity, Heterogeneity, Motley Society, Border Thinking, Créolité, and Poetics of Relation, among others discussed in this article.

  • Cornejo Polar, Antonio. “Mestizaje, transculturación, heterogeneidad.” Revista de Crítica Literaria Latinoamericana 40 (1994): 368–371.

    DOI: 10.2307/4530779Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While Ortíz emphasizes that transculturation has a cultural as well as material dimension (sugar and tobacco are not only metaphors, but also indicate socioeconomic relations), Cornejo Polar points to the traces of a colonial power relation reproduced not only through the literary representation but also in terms of social class and ethnic positioning: who wields authorship, who publishes, and who is or is not able to consume literature.

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  • Kraniauskas, John. “Hybridity in a Transnational Frame: Latin-Americanist and Postcolonial Perspectives on Cultural Studies.” Nepantla: Views from South 1.1 (2000): 111–137.

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    This essay provides a unique reading of Rama’s and García Canclini’s critical project in light of larger discussions of Subaltern and Post-Colonial Studies. Kraniauskas explains that Rama’s project is “concerned with reflecting on the processes by which historical memory is sedimented into contemporary cultural forms . . . in ways that undermine ‘civilizing’ ideologemes of development” (p. 113).

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  • Larsen, Neil. Modernism and Hegemony. Critique of Aesthetic Agencies. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1990.

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    In a chapter entitled “Magical Realism Revised: From Transubstantiation to Transculturation,” Larsen offers one of the first criticisms to Rama’s concept. He states that “transculturation” entails a form of hegemonic aesthetic for Latin America’s peripheral Modernity. This reflection is also important in that it brings forth the connections between the discourse of transculturation and populism.

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  • Moreiras, Alberto. The Exhaustion of Difference: The Politics of Latin American Cultural Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.

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    Moreiras explains that transculturation is not a natural sociocultural phenomenon, but an ideologically marked project. It is “a war machine, feeding on cultural difference, whose principal function is the reduction of the possibility of radical cultural heterogeneity” (pp. 188, 195–196).

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  • Ortiz, Fernando. Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.

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    Published for the first time in 1940, this book launches the neologism of “transculturation” to the critical arena. The concept is defined in the second part of the book, in a chapter entitled “The Social Phenomenon of ‘Transculturation’ and Its Importance in Cuba.”

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  • Picón Salas, Mariano. De la conquista a la independencia: Tres siglos de historia cultural hispanoamericana. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1965.

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    First published in 1944, this is one of the first applications of Ortiz’s concept. The fourth chapter of the book, “From European to Mestizo. The First Forms of Transculturation,” describes the development of a criollo culture in 16th-century Latin America.

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  • Rama, Ángel. Transculturación narrativa en América Latina. Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1982.

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    This is the first application of Ortiz’s concept to the field of literary studies. The author analyzes the ways in which Latin American writers preserve the particularities of “original” popular cultures while employing the aesthetic resources of North American and European avant-gardes.

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  • Sobrevilla, David. “Transculturacion y Heterogeneidad: Avatares de dos categorías literarias en América Latina.” Revista de Critica Literaria Latinoamericana 27.54 (2001): 21–33.

    DOI: 10.2307/4531171Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article offers a detailed commentary of Ortiz’s and Rama’s concepts. It also provides a good background to understand the historicity of these concepts and the way they connect with the larger issues of literary studies in Latin American.

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The Concept of Transculturation

The concept of transculturation attempts to explain mechanisms and consequences of contact and exchange between different cultures. After Ortiz’s first formulation of the concept and Rama’s first reconfiguration of it as tool for literary analysis (see General Overviews), it gained great interest in the fields of anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, literary studies, and linguistics.

Fernando Ortiz

There are several excellent books and essays on the work of Fernando Ortiz. Font and Quiroz 2005 includes multidisciplinary contributions to the understanding of Ortiz’s work. Santí 2002 challenges the semiotic framework used by Ortiz to create the concept of “transculturation,” while Duno-Gottberg 2003 understands this neologism as a discourse of hegemony formation within the logic of what he calls ethno-populism. Coronil 2005 frames the intellectual project of Fernando Ortiz in the realm of epistemology and power. Gregory 1998 compiles a comprehensive volume of primary and secondary sources.

  • Coronil, Fernando. “Transcultural Anthropology in the Américas (with an Accent): The Use of Fernando Ortiz.” In Cuban Counterpoints. The Legacy of Fernando Ortiz. Edited by Mauricio A. Font and Alfonso W. Quiroz. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2005.

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    This essay shows that Ortiz’s concept functions in the field of political negotiations and epistemology by focusing on relations between power and knowledge. Coronil further contributes to the understanding of the concept by suggesting that the creation of a neologism by this Cuban anthropologist must read as a response to the coloniality of knowledge.

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  • Duno-Gottberg, Luis. Solventando las differencias: La ideología del mestizaje en Cuba. Madrid: Iberoamericana Vervuert Verlag, 2003.

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    The author sees a direct correlation between the emergence of Afro-Cuban popular agency and the activation of a “pacifying” or “assimilating” discourse in the writing of novelists, poets, historians and social scientists (like Fernando Ortiz). Mestizaje and, later, “transculturation” are seen as key devices in the process of hegemony formation, along the lines of what the author terms “ethno-populism.”

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  • Font, Mauricio A, and Alfonso W. Quiroz. Cuban Counterpoints: The Legacy of Fernando Ortiz. Western Hemisphere Studies. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2005.

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    In this collaborative volume, twenty essays address not only the concept of “transculturation,” but also topics such as race relations, religion, music, and literature.

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  • Gregory, Rubin J. Miscelanea II of Studies Dedicated to Fernando Ortiz (1861–1969). New York: Inter Americas, 1998.

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    This book includes an excellent bibliographical reference with primary and secondary sources on Ortiz.

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  • Santí, Enrico M. Fernando Ortiz: Contrapunteo y Transculturación. Madrid: Editorial Colibrí, 2002.

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    Santí provides an erudite exploration of Ortiz’s Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar, revealing unknown sources and intellectual traditions that led to the writing of this important book. Following a discussion on etymology, the author also challenges Ortiz’s discussion of “acculturation,” which had led him to the creation of his famous neologism, “transculturation.”

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Ángel Rama

Several studies provide a useful context for the development of Rama’s theorization. Rama and Sánchez 2006 provides access to several texts belonging to different moments in Rama’s intellectual endeavor. D’Allemand 1996 situates Rama’s intellectual project in the framework of Latin American’s complex modernity. Moraña 1997, an edited volume, places him within a rich theoretical field comprising not only the Latin American tradition but also the European, including such figures as Foucault. Poblete 2002 and Ríos 2003 provide a good understanding of Rama’s larger concerns and intellectual trajectory. Drawing from Subaltern Studies, Beverley 1999 provides an important challenge to Rama’s cultural project.

  • Beverley, John. Subalternity and Representation: Arguments in Cultural Theory. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

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    This important book invites thinking about “transculturation from below,” displayed in everyday subaltern practices.

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  • D’Allemand, Patricia. “Ángel Rama: el discurso de la transculturación.” Nuevo Texto Crítico 8.16–17 (1996): 133–151.

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    This widely quoted article explains in great detail the contributions of Rama’s critical project. The author states that his model allows the preservation of rural and popular cultures within “an alternative modernization model” (p. 139).

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  • Moraña, Mabel, ed. Ángel Rama y los estudios latinoamericanos. Pittsburgh: Series Críticas, 1997.

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    This compilation of essays places Rama’s writing in the larger context of Latin American studies. The introduction allows a good understanding of the discursive network in which Rama’s theorization must be read.

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  • Poblete, Juan. “Trayectoria crítica de Ángel Rama: la dialéctica de la producción cultural entre autores y públicos.” In Estudios y otras prácticas intelectuales latinoamericanas en cultura y poder. Edited by Daniel Mato. Caracas: CLACSO, 2002.

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    Shows the continuities between Ángel Rama’s early work and two of his most discussed books: La ciudad letrada and Transculturación narrativa en América Latina. Poblete concludes by explaining that the tensions observed by numerous critics in Rama’s theorization respond to his desire to preserve a space for the popular and the counter-colonial through the cultural practices and products of high literary culture.

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  • Rama, Ángel, and Lozano C. Sánchez. Crítica literaria y utopía en América Latina. Medellín, Colombia: Editorial Universidad de Antioquia, 2006.

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    This is a compilation of Ángel Rama’s writing. It is preceded by a lengthy introduction to the biographical background of the Uruguayan critic.

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  • Ríos, Alicia. Dossier: Homenaje a Ángel Rama. Revista Estudios. Caracas: Universidad Simón Bolívar, 2003.

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    This excellent volume gathers the work of eighteen critics on Rama. Although the discussion on “transculturation” appears only as a tangential issue in these essays, they do provide a valuable reading to understand Rama’s intellectual project.

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Metacritical Approaches

There is a vast bibliography devoted to both Ortiz’s and Rama’s concepts. Works like Schmidt 1994–1995 and Arnedo-Gómez 2008 offer the best discussions about the origins of these concepts and their relationship to Latin American discursive traditions. Other authors have expanded their evaluation beyond a metacritical contribution, advancing theoretical variations and new concepts, in works such as Cornejo Polar 1994, Trigo 1996, Beverley 1999, Moreiras 2001, Taylor 1991, Williams 2002, and Coronil 2005 (cited under Fernando Ortiz).

  • Arnedo-Gómez, Miguel. “Notes on the Evaluation of Ángel Rama’s Concept of Narrative Transculturation and Fernando Ortiz’s Definition of the Term ‘Transculturation’.” Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 17.2 (2008): 185–202.

    DOI: 10.1080/13569320802228039Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is an interesting contribution to the debate on Rama and Ortiz, as the author suggests that the theory of transculturation (Rama’s “transcultural narrative,” to be precise) acknowledges a space for heterogeneity.

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  • Beverley, John. Subalternity and Representation: Arguments in Cultural Theory. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

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    This leading scholar in Latin American Subaltern Studies suggests that Canclini’s (see under Hybridity) and Rama’s formulations deny everyday practices of resistance by privileging markets (in the case of Canclini) and literature (in the case of Rama). Beverley invites thinking about “transculturation from below,” through new literary forms such as testimonio.

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  • Cornejo Polar, Antonio. “Mestizaje, transculturacion, heterogeneidad.” Revista de Crítica Literaria Latinoamericana 40 (1994): 368–371.

    DOI: 10.2307/4530779Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This has become a classic text in the debate about transculturation and literature. Cornejo Polar speaks of the hegemony of mestizaje as the locus amoenus” where the indigenous and the Hispanic traditions are supposed to find a harmonious reconciliation. The author questions this model and opts for a theoretical device—heterogeneidad contradictoria—that responds to non-syncretic cultural phenomena as contradictory and conflictive realities.

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  • Moreiras, Alberto. The Exhaustion of Difference: The Politics of Latin American Cultural Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.

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    Ortiz’s and Rama’s notions are seen here as “war machines . . . feeding on cultural difference” and erasing cultural heterogeneity (pp. 195–196). The author also establishes an interesting connection between “magical realism” and “transculturation,” suggesting that the former functions as a technical device for the latter (p. 185).

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  • Schmidt, Friedhelm. “¿Literaturas heterogéneas o literatura de la transculturación?” Nuevo Texto Crítico 7 (1994–1995): 193–199.

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    Offers an illuminating discussion of Rama’s and Cornejo Polar’s theories. This concise and well-organized essay explains how “transcultural narratives” unify the Latin American literary system and, therefore, tends toward a homogenizing conception of culture. Schmidt opts for “heterogeneity” as it permits the coexistence of multiple literary systems: high literature, popular literature, and indigenous literature.

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  • Taylor, Diana. “Transculturating Transculturation.” Performing Arts Journal 13.2 (May 1991): 90–104.

    DOI: 10.2307/3245476Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Taylor is the leading scholar in Performance Studies and this perspective informs her understanding of Ortiz’s concept. In this article, the author defends the “counter-hegemonic” potential of transculturation.

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  • Trigo, Abril. “On Transculturation: Toward a Political-Economy of Culture in the Periphery.” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 15 (1996): 99–118.

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    This excellent metacritical reflection situates the polemic around “transculturation” in the sphere of epistemology and power. The reading of Trigo’s chapter in Critical Studies: Unforeseeable Americas: Questioning Cultural Hybridity in the Americas is also highly recommended (see Grandis and Bernd 2000 under Hybridity). The critic explores there the viability of Rama’s concept in a realm traditionally reserved for (the most postmodern) notions of “hybridity” and “heterogeneity.”

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  • Williams, Gareth. The Other Side of the Popular: Neoliberalism and Subalternity in Latin America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.

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    Explores the “ideology of transculturation” as a cultural expression of populist discourse and state power. He concludes that this notion is closely related to the formation of hegemony.

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Other Related Concepts

In an attempt to describe the social formations that resulted from colonial encounters, Latin American and Caribbean writers conceived multiple theoretical tools. Many of these appeared in an explicit dialogue with each other (such as cosmic race, mestizaje, heterogeneity, hybridity, and contact zones); others developed independently, while responding to similar problems and concerns (anthropophagy, créolité, poetics of relation). No single source provides a holistic revision of this conceptual web.

Mestizaje

The notion of mestizaje, roughly translated as miscegenation, derives from the Latin word “mix.” Although initially rooted in the realm of racial formation, it evolved to encompass cultural realities. The term has been widely used in Latin America since Colonial times and played a crucial role in the discourses of nation building around the continent. Mörner 1967, a classic book on “race mixing” and acculturation, is a good place to start any inquiry into this notion. Gruzinski 1999 embarks on an erudite study of Mexican sources and concludes with a reflection on contemporary culture, mostly trying to trace Latin American readings of European discourses. Castro 2002 offers a general review of the role of mestizaje in Latin American and Chicano literature. Miller 2004 also provides an excellent revision of the role of mestizaje in Latin America, going beyond the field of literary studies. Centered on Cuban literature, anthropology, and historiography, Duno-Gottberg 2003 studies mestizaje as an ideological device deployed to assimilate “unruly” social forces. The author sees the mechanism as analogous to populist interpellation. Sanjinés 2004 advances a radical revision of mestizaje by drawing theoretical tools from Aymara intellectuals and suggesting a process that develops from the periphery toward the center of power. Latino writers have developed an important reflection on the discourse of “transculturation.” Anzaldúa 1987 broke the ground for a postcolonial, queer, and feminist reading of mestizaje, thus suggesting a radically different understanding of the process of cultural contact.

  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1987.

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    This is an influential book in US Latino Studies, as well as in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Anzaldúa provides a queering of the discourse of mestizaje, thus allowing a conceptual framework that challenges binary thinking. Mestizaje is seen here as a critical “inbetweenness,” where the subject never fits the dominant culture, and thus carves out a particular position from which to think critically about these cultures while at once complicating any stable notion of identity.

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  • Castro, Juan E. D. Mestizo Nations: Culture, Race, and Conformity in Latin American Literature. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2002.

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    Studies the discourse of mestizaje in 19th- and 20th-century Latin American and Chicano literature as it relates to nation building.

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  • Duno-Gottberg, Luis. Solventando las differencias: La ideología del mestizaje en Cuba. Madrid: Iberoamericana Vervuert Verlag, 2003.

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    Understands mestizaje as an ideology purposely articulated by intellectual elites as a means to dissolve sociocultural formations deemed problematic or threatening. The author connects this ideology to the discourse of populism and the aesthetics of the baroque and neo-baroque.

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  • Gruzinski, Serge. La Pensée métisse. Paris: Éditions Fayard, 1999.

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    The book focuses mostly on the cultural production of Mexico during the 16th and 17th centuries. Gruzinski opts for identifying European influences on indigenous cultural expressions, which is not devoid of problems, as Ortiz’s and Rama’s theorizations have shown. The book closes with a discussion of contemporary artists and films. An English translation by Routledge is available.

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  • Miller, Marilyn Grace. Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race: The Cult of Mestizaje in Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.

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    Covering a vast region and a large historical compass, this book provides a good introduction to the persisting debate about mestizaje in Latin America.

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  • Mörner, Magnus. Race Mixture in the History of Latin America. Boston: Little, Brown, 1967.

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    This well-known book traces the history of miscegenation in Latin America, as well as the discourses that attempted to explain it, celebrate it, and/or control it. If the more recent theoretical debate seems distant, this is still a remarkably useful source in that it covers the history of the whole continent over four centuries.

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  • Sanjinés, C. J. Mestizaje Upside-Down: Aesthetic Politics in Modern Bolivia. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004.

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    This original study combines history, politics, literature and the arts to deconstruct the mestizo ideal of the Bolivian nation. Turning such discourse upside-down, he concludes by advancing an “Indianized” Bolivian nationhood.

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  • Wade, Peter. “Rethinking ‘mestizaje’: Ideology and Lived Experience.” Journal of Latin American Studies 37.2 (2005): 239–257.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022216X05008990Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Drawing on popular expressions of Colombian music, Venezuelan religion, and Brazilian Christianity, Wade exposes the ideology of mestizaje as a process of national homogenization and exclusion.

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Anthropophagy

The “Anthropophagic Manifesto” in 1928), by Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade (see Andrade 1972), offers a fruitful precedent to Ortiz’s theorization in that it celebrates the assimilation of cultural traits, assigning an active role to the so-called colonized peoples. Andrade thinks of “anthropophagy” as a metaphor for the counter-colonial assimilation of the “other.” The ideal subject of this subversive process of identity formation is the “cannibal”: Tupi, or not Tupi: that is the question; Só me interessa o que não é meu. Lei do homem. Lei do antropófago (I am only interested in what is not mine. Law of man. Law of the anthropophagus) are two of the most well-known lines of his manifesto. See Ferreira de Almeida 2002 and Jáuregui 2008 for further discussion of the cannibal.

  • Andrade, Oswald de. “Manifesto Antropófago.” In Do Pau-Brasil à antropofagia e às utopias: Manifestos, teses de concursos e ensaios. 2d ed. Introduced by Benedito Nunes. Obras Completas 6. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1972.

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    Originally published in Revista de Antropofagia (May 1928), this manifesto was produced in the context of Brazilian modernismo. The text advances the concept-metaphor of “anthropophagy,” a notion that is closely related to Ortiz’s concept of transculturation.

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  • Ferreira de Almeida, Maria Cándida. Tornar-se outro: A topos canibal na literatura Brasileira. São Paulo: Annablume, 2002.

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    This excellent book explains the importance of the “trope of the cannibal” in Brazilian literature. The author suggests that cannibalism created the primary image of indigenous Brazilian culture.

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  • Jáuregui, Carlos A. Canibalia: Canibalismo, calibanismo, antropofagia cultural y consumo en América Latina. Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2008.

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    An erudite revision of the trope of the cannibal throughout the history of Latin America, this book covers from the Renaissance to the most contemporary expressions of cultural assimilation.

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Contact Zones

Mary Louise Pratt advances an important concept when she speaks about “contact zones” in her study of 18th- and 19th-century travel narratives; see Pratt 1991 and Pratt 1992 for comprehensive treatments of this concept. She explores the tensions derived from cultural encounters between different peoples, separated by geography and history, and participating in power dynamics characterized by coercion, conflict, and inequality.

  • Pratt, Mary Louise. “Arts of the Contact Zone.” Profession (1991): 33–40.

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    This is Pratt’s first formulation of the concept of “contact zone.” She explains: “I use this term to refer to social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today” (p. 33).

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  • Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes. Travel Writing and Transculturation. London and New York: Routledge, 1992.

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    This important book departs from the concept of transculturation as it pertains to what she calls “contact zones.” If the metropolis selects and absorbs some elements from the periphery of colonial power while transforming and erasing others, the subjugated peoples struggle and negotiate what to assimilate, and how to signify those adoptions. Pratt concludes that “[t]ransculturation is a phenomenon of the contact zone” (p. 8).

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Hybridity

Thinking about contemporary Latin America, Néstor García Canclini proposed the use of “hybridity” in García Canclini 1995 to understand the ways in which a peripheral modernity negotiates identity construction under the pressures of global markets. This concept attempts to explain cultural products that result from the clash of traditions generated by new communication technologies and the deterritorialization of symbolic processes, goods, and peoples. He opts for the use of “hybridization [. . .] for the purpose of naming not only the mixing of ethnic or religious elements but the productions of advanced technologies and modern or postmodern social processes” (p. xxxiv). Antonio Cornejo Polar has questioned this theoretical model in “Mestizaje e hibridez: Los riesgos de las metáforas. Apuntes” (see Cornejo Polar 1997). Another important criticism of Canclini’s theorization can be found in John Beverley’s Subalternity and Representation (Beverley 1999). The fifteen essays compiled by Grandis and Bernd 2000 provide an outstanding discussion of “hybridity” in relation to concepts such as mestizaje,” “transculturation,” and “heterogeneity.”

  • Beverley, John. Subalternity and Representation: Arguments in Cultural Theory. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

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    Suggests that Canclini’s theory of “hybridity” denies everyday practices of resistance by privileging markets as sites of symbolic exchange and instead invites thinking about “transculturation from below.”

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  • Cornejo Polar, Antonio. “Mestizaje e hibridez: los riesgos de las metáforas. Apuntes.” Revista Iberoamericana 63.180 (1997): 7–11.

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    This essay represents one of the first and strongest responses to García Canclini’s Culturas Híbridas.

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  • García Canclini, Nestor. Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.

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    Moving away from the traditional concern about the survival of pre-modern traditions in the clash with modernity, García Canclini theorizes the meeting of cultures in the context of the global marketplace. The 2005 University of Minnesota Press edition of Hybrid Cultures includes an extremely useful introduction by Renato Rosaldo.

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  • Grandis, Rita, and Zilá Bernd. Unforeseeable Americas: Questioning Cultural Hybridity in the Americas. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000.

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    Gathers the contribution of fifteen leading scholars who explore literary and cultural hybridity in Latin America.

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Heterogeneity

Applied to the result of cultural encounters, this concept refers to identity formations that are dissimilar in their constitution or display some form of disparateness. The notion is explicitly opposed to others such as mestizaje, which aim at assimilating and/or dissolving cultural differences. Although the concept became very popular in British and North American Post Colonial Studies toward the end of the 1990s, the Latin American formulation dates back to the 1970s, when Antonio Cornejo Polar employed it to understand the particularities of the Andean literary system and, more specifically, to the work of José María Arguedas. Cornejo Polar 1982 and Cornejo Polar 1994a engage the problem of heterogeneity in Andean culture. Cornejo Polar 1994b provides the most complete overview of his theory of heterogeneity. Bueno 2004 historicizes Cornejo Polar’s theoretical model. Mazzotti and Zevallos 1996 and Schmidt-Welle 2002 are excellent compilations of metacritical approaches to Cornejo Polar’s work. Both place his writing in the larger context of Latin America’s critical thought.

  • Bueno, Raúl. Antonio Cornejo Polar y los avatares de la cultura latinoamericana. Lima: Fondo Editorial, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 2004.

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    This is the best in-depth study of Cornejo Polar’s work. Bueno provides a clear map of the theoretical debates, as well as a precise outline of Cornejo Polar’s location within the Latin American critical tradition.

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  • Cornejo Polar, Antonio. “El indigenismo y las literaturas heterogéneas: Su doble estatuto sociocultural.” In Sobre literatura y crítica latinoamericanas. By Antonio Cornejo Polar, 67–85. Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela, 1982.

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    This is Cornejo Polar’s first formal articulation of idea of “heterogeneity.” The text was originally read in Caracas in 1977.

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  • Cornejo Polar, Antonio. “Mestizaje, transculturacion, heterogeneidad.” Revista de Crítica Literaria Latinoamericana 20.40 (1994a): 368–371.

    DOI: 10.2307/4530779Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author questions the theoretical framework of “transculturation” and mestizaje,” opting for the concept of heterogeneidad contradictoria.

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  • Cornejo Polar, Antonio. Escribir en el aire. Ensayo sobre la heterogeneidad socio-cultural en las literaturas andinas. Lima: Editorial Horizonte, 1994b.

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    This book gathers Cornejo Polar’s critical enquiries but it also offers an excellent window into his theoretical endeavor.

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  • Mazzotti, José A, and Aguilar U. J. Zevallos. Asedios a la heterogeneidad cultural: Libro de homenaje a Antonio Cornejo Polar. Philadelphia: Asociación Internacional de Peruanistas, 1996.

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    This compilation of essays offers an excellent overview of Cornejo Polar’s work.

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  • Schmidt-Welle, Friedhelm. Antonio Cornejo Polar y los estudios latinoamericanos. Serie Críticas. Pittsburgh, PA: Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana, Universidad de Pittsburgh, 2002.

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    This compilation of essays offers an excellent overview of Cornejo Polar’s work. The contributors accurately place Cornejo Polar’s contributions in the larger context of Latin American studies.

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Formación Social Abigarrada (Motley Society)

Bolivian sociologist and philosopher René Zavaleta coined the notion of “motley society” to describe a social formation characterized by asymmetric cultural power relations. Zavaleta Mercado 1986 provides the first formulation of the concept. Tapia 2002 is by the leading scholar on Zavaleta Mercado’s work. Antezana 1993 and Ouviña 2010 provide helpful background on the author.

  • Antezana, Luis H. “Dos conceptos en la obra de René Zavaleta Mercado: Formación abigarrada y democracia como autodeterminación.” In Bolivia: En la hora de su modernización. Edited by Pacheco M. Miranda. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1993.

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    This excellent article explains Zavaleta’s theoretical contributions and provides useful background on political and philosophical considerations.

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  • Ouviña, Hernán. “Traducción y nacionalización del marxismo en América Latina. Un acercamiento al pensamiento político de René Zavaleta.” OSAL 28 (November 2010): 193–208.

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    This article offers a useful intellectual biography of Zavaleta, laying out the political foundations of his theorizations.

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  • Tapia, Luis. La producción del conocimiento local: Historia y política en la obra de René Zavaleta. La Paz: Muela del Diablo Editores, 2002.

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    This is the one of the best overviews of Zavaleta’s work.

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  • Zavaleta Mercado, René. Lo nacional popular en Bolivia. Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1986.

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    Zavaleta conceives the notion of “motley society” to think about the coexistence of diverse historical temporalities, modes of production, world-views, and languages in Bolivia. This coexistence of different social and cultural orders does not lead to a homogeneous mixture, but to an uneasy overlapping.

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Border Thinking

Advanced by Mignolo 2000, the concept of border thinking responds to a radical revision of discourses about epistemology in the realm of Post Colonial and Subaltern Studies. The author moves beyond the dichotomy of Colonizer/Colonized to identify forms of knowledge that are based on plurilinguism, multiple logics, and global displacements. The notions of dialectical synthesis observed in the ideology of mestizaje is thus abandoned within this model. Michaelsen and Johnson 1997 provides an early theoretical background for this concept.

  • Michaelsen, Scott, and David E. Johnson. Border Theory: The Limits of Cultural Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

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    A compilation of essays theorizing the notion of “border” but also explaining the political and philosophical limits of “border theory.”

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  • Mignolo, Walter. Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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    Introduces the notions of “border thinking” and “border gnosis” to describe the knowledge that responds to the perspective of an empire’s borderlands or margins.

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Créolité

The French Caribbean has produced a series of notions related to Ortiz’s and Rama’s concerns, although without establishing an explicit dialogue with the Spanish-speaking theoreticians. Most important are Martinique-born Édouard Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphaël Confiant, and Guadeloupian-born Jean Bernabé. Bernabé, et al. 1993 proposes the concept of créolité as the literary response to colonial alienation. Theirs is a celebration of métissage culturel but at the same time, a rejection of homogeneity and assimilation.

Poetics of Relation

Édouard Glissant 1997 discussion of Antillanité and his Poétique de la Relation take distance from the project of negritude and its attempt to define Caribbean culture in terms of an exclusive connection to Africa. For him, resistance to French dominance is expressed through a far larger transactional aggregate.”

  • Glissant, Édouard. Poetics of Relation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

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    Arguably one the most influential contemporary thinkers from the Francophone Caribbean. This book outlines his theory of creolization as a phenomenon of identity construction that operates in dialogic terms and not in isolation. Although the notion might remind readers of the “ideology of mestizaje,” the author thinks of non-hierarchical and homogenizing processes: “In Relation the whole is not the finality of its parts: for multiplicity in totality is totally diversity” (p. 192).

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Édouard Glissant

Bibliography on Édouard Glissant is abundant. Dash 1995 provides the best overview. Britton 1999 offers a postcolonial reading, while Miller 1999 explores Glissant’s reliance on Deleuze and Guattari.

  • Britton, Celia. Edouard Glissant and Postcolonial Theory: Strategies of Language and Resistance. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia; New World Studies, 1999.

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    Explains Glissant’s contre-poetic as a subversive strategy that allows the colonized subject to express him- or herself with the tools imposed by the colonizer.

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  • Dash, J. M. Edouard Glissant. Cambridge Studies in African and Caribbean Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511549847Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is the first full-length study of Glissant’s work. Dash provides an excellent introduction to his “cross-cultural poetics” and to his contributions to the francophone Caribbean discourse of the créolité.” Chapter 5, “Towards a Theory of Antillanité, and chapter 6, “A Poetics of Chaos,” are particularly relevant for this discussion.

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  • Miller, Christopher L. Nationalists and Nomads: Essays on Francophone African Literature and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

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    Miller’s book provides an insightful debate on the notion of “nomadism” of Deleuze and Guattari (A Thousand Plateaus), which informs Glissant’s theoretical apparatus.

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Literary and Cultural Criticism

There are numerous applications of the concept of transculturation to cultural and literary analysis. Emery 1996 does not engage the concept, but her reflection on anthropology and literature is very relevant to the issues of cultural exchange that Ortiz and Rama address. Spitta 1995 provides an excellent example of the critical application of the concept while expanding its reach to advance the notion of the “transculturated subject.” Arrizón 2006 applies the concept of transculturation to the study of body politics and culture in a transnational framework. Hernández 2005 studies the realm of architecture. Zamora 2006 connects the discourse of transculturation to the discourses of Baroque and Neobaroque.

  • Arrizón, Alicia. Queering Mestizaje: Transculturation and Performance. Triangulations. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006.

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    An original approach to the discussion on “transculturation.” this book explores body politics and sexuality in United States, Latin America, and the Philippines.

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  • Emery, Amy F. The Anthropological Imagination in Latin American Literature. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996.

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    This book explores the relationship of anthropology and literature in the works of 20th-century Latin American writers Alejo Carpentier, José María Arguedas, Miguel Barnet, Gregorio Martínez, Darcy Ribeiro, and Juan José Saer.

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  • Hernández, Felipe, Mark Millington, and Iain Borden. Transculturation: Cities, Spaces and Architectures in Latin America. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005.

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    This book provides an interesting application of Ortiz’s concept to the realm of architecture.

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  • Spitta, Silvia. Between Two Waters: Narratives of Transculturation in Latin America. Houston, TX: Rice University Press, 1995.

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    This is an excellent inquiry on the literary expressions of transculturation in the Americas across several centuries. One of Spitta’s many contributions is the concept of the “transculturated subject” who is “consciously or unconsciously situated between at least two worlds, two cultures, two languages, and two definitions of subjectivity, and who constantly mediates between them all” (p. 24).

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  • Zamora Parkinson, Lois. The Inordinate Eye: New World Baroque and Latin American Fiction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

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    The author explores the aesthetics of Baroque and Neo-Baroque in Latin America as expressions of transculturation. She successfully engages visual and literary texts from indigenous as well as from mestizo sources.

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Transculturation and Translation

More recently, Mignolo and Schiwy 2003 developed an interesting reflection about transculturation and translation. The authors explain that although translations have functioned according to the needs of colonial power, as a means to articulate and control colonial difference, it is nevertheless possible to think of mechanisms of reciprocity—”translanguaging”—by which subaltern knowledge is conveyed. Transculturation/translation can function in this way as “border thinking,” a form of intellectual production that challenges national languages and the postcolonial order. Pérez 1989 worked the notion of translation in terms of the identity formation of a transculturated subject.

  • Mignolo, Walter, and Freya Schiwy. “Double Translation: Transculturation and the Colonial Difference.” In Translation and Ethnography: The Anthropological Challenge of Intercultural Understanding. Edited by Leland M. Searles, 3–30. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2003.

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    States that transculturation/translation can function as a form of intellectual production that challenges the postcolonial order.

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  • Pérez, Firmat G. The Cuban Condition: Translation and Identity in Modern Cuban Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

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    Argues that Cuban identity is translational rather than foundational and inscribes his reflection in the intellectual tradition of Fernando Ortiz.

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LAST MODIFIED: 10/28/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199766581-0036

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