By M. Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi

Confronts the cultural demanding situations of globalization.

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It is, he says, “a European phenomenon . . constituted in a dialectical relation with a non-European alterity that is its ultimate content” (1995, 65). 6. Dussel’s formulation points to an axis of tension with little visibility or importance in the center, but which is extremely significant everywhere else: the contradiction between modernity’s need for fixed otherness, on the one hand, and its diffusionist, subject-producing program, on the other hand. Frederick Buell speaks of the incompatibility of the metropolitan attempt to both produce subjects on the periphery and to maintain their alterity (1994, 335), between the imperative, on the one hand, to fix others in order to define itself and, on the other hand, to modernize others through processes of assimilation.

Crops such as sugar, coffee, tea, or cocoa concretely tied together populations separated by oceans (Trouillot 1980; Mintz 1985; Brockway 1977). This first moment of globality also produced its self-proclaimed hybrids, from the many convertos who joined the Castilian venture, to the early Americans who discovered they had become Indians, to the mulattos of Cuba, Brazil, or Saint-Domingue. Cafe con leche is not new, certainly not in Latin America. Already in 1815 Simon Bolivar had officialized a narrative of hybridity: “We are .

We have simply moved closer to it. Chinese laborers stood next to African slaves on Cuban sugarcane plantations without much surprise on their or their masters’ parts. The example brings home a difference of our times set in three propositions: (1) wonder is premised in the incompatibility between essentialist categories and the products of global processes; (2) the nineteenth century has left us with the habit of conceptualizing humankind fundamentally in essential terms; (3) the speed of the late twentieth century makes it impossible for us not to notice the nonessentialist products of global flows.

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