Deconstructing Territorialized Identity and Performance Through Post-Humanist Studies: Examining La Virgen de Concepcion/ Concha in El tiempo principia en Xibalba by Luis de Lion
El tiempo principia en Xibalba challenges the construction and performance of identity through gender, status, and locality through a post-humanist deconstruction. The character of La Virgen de Concepcion or Concha exemplifies the simultaneity of the violent construction of gender that patriarchal institutions impose on women and the usage of body-politics to challenge the regulation of a women’s sexual morale through a decolonial lens. A post-human deconstruction of the text asks for us to imagine to the possibility of the unraveling of modernity, one might infer that it entails the end of era of the human race. The infatuation Juan and Pascual have to the Virgin de la Concepcion or the prostitute that “looked” like the Virgin desacralizes the image by differentiating the profane versus the sacred and its linkage to modernity, capitalism and religion. The virgin of wood represents the Catholic Church and the act of desacralizing by describing Concha as the prostitute as looking like but not quite to the Virgin. The duality between the indigenous and non-indigenous world in which modernity is present at both times and imagine the possibility of the destruction of colonial powers as we saw with her metaphorical image becoming a profanation with the violent construction of gender of Concha. The way the priest interacted with La Virgin and the attitude the authorities had towards her analyzes how women are limited within the limits of modernity and how everyone is critical of Concha and her desires, but everyone is contributing to the corruption of modernity and colonialism and adding a sense of superiority in policing each other, imposing onto one another. Moreover, the locality of where Concha prostitutes is crucial, as her prostitution is unacceptable in the center of town because that is where the Church is located; however, her expulsion towards the margin of the town was deemed acceptable and the time and space is important in the text.
Literature written on indigenous peoples by nonindigenous scholars often romanticizes and perpetuates indigenous groups as victims of colonization yet limit the possibility of projecting a world where indigenous people revolt and dismantle capitalism, modernity, and the state as unrealistic. Women are expected to perform assigned gender roles as “good wives and daughters”, yet patriarchal institutions demonize “bad women” who reclaim their sexuality as adulterers who challenge the hetero-normative idea of a monogamous Christian marriage. The Church and the state doubly stigmatize indigenous women if they do not embody a multiculturalist projection of what it means to be indigena in their respective country of origin; yet multiculturalism does not defend indigenous women against femicide or labor exploitation.
The Church’s historical colonization and indoctrination of its religion and its violent infliction towards indigenous communities linger as historical and political traumas and unhealed wounds. What if we could create an alternative space where we can conceptualize indigenous people destroying the Church that has been a historical and dominant system of oppression towards them? To picture a Ladina virgin statue, the embodiment of the mother of Christ and “protector” of the indios compared to an indigenous woman who prostitutes herself and the statue is sexually violated by an indigenous man is an abomination and goes against Christianity/ Catholicism’s projection of a virgin and its infrastructure as an entity. The literary text El tiempo principia en Xibalba by Luis de Lion, invites us to imagine the possibility of decolonizing the colonized mind and envisioning the destruction of colonialism, a system that perpetuates hegemony and oppression, and creating indigenous autonomy through hyperbolae prose. My argument is that the literary text El tiempo principia en Xibalba challenges the construction and performance of identity through gender, status, and locality through a post-human deconstructionist point of view. For the purpose of this research paper, I will be focusing on the character of La Virgen de Concepcion also known as Concha.
La Virgen de Concepcion and Concha share a simultaneity construction of gender as a hybridity of an oppressive and restorative mechanism navigating through and against hegemonic powers. Bourdieu argues that [hegemonic powers] apply [fixed] categories constructed from the perspective of the dominant projecting them as naturalized classifications to which [a] social being is produced (Bourdieu 339). The text introduces us to La Virgen as a statue in the Church who looks like Concha the prostitute, and a rumor spreads that the Virgin is a prostitute (De Lion 10). La Virgen de Concepcion and Concha’s’ name and identity are interchangeable throughout the text, yet the first narrator makes sure to distinguish the sacred inanimate object and Concha through descriptors of phenotype, human anatomy (physical breasts, flesh, and bone), and her fixed identity as a prostitute (10). Concha’s identity has symbolic facets that reflect on her prescribed identity as a prostitute, her locality where she can perform her sexual behavior, and her change of status and expectancy of her behavior to perform her gendered role of a “decent woman” upon amalgamation. Concha’s identity and sexual behavior is regulated and criticized through the priest who stands as mediator between Christ, the colonial institution of the Church and the townspeople. Bourdieu would argue that the priests’ hegemonic influence on the town about Concha’s identity through his agency of the Church contributes to the naturalization of systematic classifications of a violent construction of gender (Bourdieu 339). Deleuze would concur with Bourdieu on the idea that identity is confined under social and political parameters within essentialist forces that imply territorialized categorizations of race, gender, class, nationality, etc., as a violent political mechanism. Identity is a violent mechanism because it presupposes humans to stereotypes in effort to preserve hegemony. Stereotypes become definitive markers of humans that fuel and influence political turmoil and war. To imagine the possibility of humans rejecting these categorizing markers is abstract. Socially, we have conditioned ourselves as the only way as existing in society. Deleuze and Guattari use el rizoma as a metaphor to describe an unconstrained identity (Deleuze and Guattari 12) arguing that the formation of identity impedes movement through these territorialized spaces and perpetuates repetition without allowing room for transformation. Throughout the literary text, we continue to see Concha’s identity trapped and resisting the narrator because he does not adhere to transform like a rizoma.
Osborne is critical of time as universal and its views of modernity in the prospect of progression as it systematically excludes indigenous communities and reinforces a Eurocentric social construction with colonial remnants (Osborne 19). Lion’s dual construction of La Virgen and Concha desacralizes the inanimate object from its systemic elements of Euro-centrism and religion paradoxically reducing it to Concha’s identity as an indigenous woman. Osborne and Lion syncretize on an imagined possibility where the destruction of colonization and hegemonic powers is possible, as the literary text does not hold a concept of time, halting the linkage of power and capitalism of the Church and development of the town. To profane a religious object is to go against the religion of capitalism and colonialism. By comparing Concha’s sexual morale to that of the sacrilege object, we are forced to deconstruct and imagine a world where modernity abruptly clashes and the profane has desacralized the sacred (Agamben 99). Agamben defines the sacredness [of religious objects] as that which is separate from common use. As the sacred objects are desacralized, the transformation strips the sacred objects power away and reverses the mechanism through which it became sacred (99).
Concha does not identify as neither good or bad, but the narrator and the town of Xibalba through the Church’s influence have diagrammed her into a geographic locality [on the outskirts of town] for her sexual encounters with the townsmen.
Concha’s locality of where she is allowed and prohibited from prostituting is crucial in the literary text, as her prostitution is deemed unacceptable in the center of town because that is where the Church is located. The profanity of Concha and the priest’s sexual relationship is ludicrous to imagine, as priests are expected to practice celibacy, yet he commits sin with a prostitute (De Lion 12-13). He has desacralized his role as a priest to abstain from having sexual intercourse when he participates as another consumer of Concha’s sexuality. Ironically as the priest expulses her to the outskirts of town where her sexual behavior is acceptable, her identity changes. Her new geographic space defines her status as a “non-civilized” individual, allowing the townsmen and authorities to continue to consume her body. Concha is prescribed an invisible “value fund” from the town. The town is inclined to look past her sexual history and determine if her sexual morale could be sustained, eroded, or depleted. Her desires challenged the sexual and moral norms that subject women’s sexuality to maintaining a “respectable home”. The sexual relationships she has with the townsmen, authorities, and the priest and their attitudes of patriarchal superiority and entitlement to degrade her because of her sexual behavior perpetuates a violent construction of gender. Bourdieu would argue that the priest has adhered to [dehumanization and dominion] of Concha through the process of symbolic violence (Bourdieu 339) when referring to her to the townspeople. Symbolic violence is the embodied form of domination from the dominant group, which in the literary text would be the priest and embodiment of the Catholic Church as a colonial and [historically] repressive institution towards indigenous communities and those who challenge the Christian ideal of marriage. Although Bourdieu captures the historical internalized sexism [indigenous] women are subjected to [by the Church], Concha rejects conforming to Xibalba’s patriarchal society and continues to be prostitute herself despite the dehumanization she faces.
Patriarchal society prescribes women’s performance through two statuses: good and bad women (Montoya 70). These statuses attempt to regulate women through the interplay of gender, place, and power (Hurtig, Montoya and Frazier 9). Concha’s prescribed marker of the “prostitute” has a negative connotation of a “bad woman”. Concha does not identify as neither good or bad, but the narrator and the town of Xibalba through the Church’s influence have diagrammed her into a geographic locality [on the outskirts of town] for her sexual encounters with the townsmen. The irony of this is that the same men that dehumanize and perpetuate this violent construction of gender continue to seek her body. These men fail to realize that she embodies this and is part of the deconstruction of colonial and patriarchal powers of the town. The domains of the house and the street are gendered and the construction of “place” as a fixed locality subordinates Concha to her husband Juan. Juan embodies the indigenous that attempts to gain entrance into the ladino world but is continually excluded from these elitist and racist spaces despite his rejection to his indigenous identity and accumulation of wealth. Although Juan’s marriage to Concha and their relocation to La Casa Blanca was an attempt at maneuvering their way into positions of respect in the local society, she fails to follow dominant prescriptions of appropriate gendered performance as a married woman. One must be critical as to why Juan marries Concha: Juan does not fall in love with her, rather he is infatuated with La Virgen statue and only marries Concha because she looks like the statue and is the statue’s living portrait made of flesh and bone. Juan’s fixation of transforming Concha from a prostitute to a woman with respect entailed a sexual moral economy. Juan wanted Concha to receive public recognition as a protected, respected woman; however, his thoughts and actions fall under a patriarchal bargain (Kandiyoti 1999). For Concha to receive the protection and respect from him, she would have to perform respectability of the house. Unfortunately, Juan is not sexually interested in her thus allowing her to find pleasure elsewhere. Concha exercises her agency from a position of social subordination to undermine social constraints by using her sexuality and sexual desires. She reconfigures her relationship to her own body and sexuality by contradicting the dominant sexual norms of remaining faithful to her spouse. Concha’s decision not to conform to the status of “woman of the house” rather than continue to express her sexual desires denaturalized her gender performance of what it means to be a “good woman”.
The domain of the house becomes a disciplinary mechanism into keeping Concha in “her place”, physically and behaviorally. The domain of the streets is a culturally constructed concept connotated to sexual promiscuity, unsuitable for a respectable social position (Montoya 70). Being a woman of the streets, Concha was able to express her sexual freedom and desires despite being subjected to public scrutiny and used as pleasure. She challenges systems of oppression by choosing sexual desire. Her marriage to Juan and her relocation diagramed her into participating in a patriarchal and sexist society that would have immobilized her from her sexual desires. Juan’s sexual rejection of Concha makes her seek out townsmen who reject her because she is now a married woman. Her social role and her acceptance into society have changed her identity and it becomes too much for her. Her sexual repression escalates, and she decides to abandon her status as a married woman living in La Casa Blanca and return to her old identity as the prostitute, where she is free from colonial powers dictating her sexual morality and desires.
Concha’s decision to reject diagrams foreshadows an embodiment of what Deleuze would call “the war machine”. Deleuze describes this machine as post-humanist and invites us to imagine a war against the state that continuously attempts to [violently] subject humans into fixed categories. Concha’s fluidity to navigate against these patriarchal institutions symbolizes a continuous simultaneity of territorialized and re-territorialized diagrams. The ultimate profanation is committed at the end of the text, when we find out that Pascual causes chaos in Xibalba by fornicating with the actual wooden statue of La Virgen. Pascual is the opposite of Juan as he is a troubled indigenous character who was recruited by the army and deserted. He faced physical and psychological traumas of war and returns to the town of Xibalba with a colonized mentality and [self] hatred and loss of connection towards his indigenous identity. He is accepted into society upon arrival to the town because of his assimilation process into the dominant culture’s way of life and resentment of indigenous peoples. Like Juan, Pascual also becomes infatuated with the wooden statue of La Virgen and ends up in a relationship to Concha because of her similarity, but no so similar resemblance of the statue. Because of his horrors in the war and his internalized racism, he is explicit with Concha and her sexual desires by bluntly telling her that he does not want to birth an “Indian”.
When Pascual steals and sexually violates the statue, he desacralizes the no-longer Virgin, causing the destruction of the Church that held the ultimate power of the town. One must remember Pascual’s identity as an indigenous man raping a white, Spanish virgin. As the townsmen search for the statue in Pascual’s home, La Virgen becomes diagramed as “filthy thing” and is then gutted with machetes. The town then turns to the Church and demolishes it. The destruction of the Church creates disruption in the town of Xibalba, but it also allows us to visualize the destruction of colonialism and allowing the townspeople to reclaim their [indigenous] autonomy. The text ends with Concha narrating her side of series of events and destroys the simultaneous and intertwined identity of La Virgen and Concha as one. Concha breaks her violent construction of identity that everyone has perpetuated [a prostitute, a married woman, and a virgin statue] and she has created her new identity and regains her autonomy.
Concha’s defiance to submit towards gender performance embodies the idea of a nomadic, decolonized mind; disrespecting diagramed spaces modernity attempts to impose on indigenous communities, particularly women. Braidotti concurs with Deleuze’s rejection of physical or metaphysical borders that humans categorize one another. She argues that these borders diagram humans to live by the social norms of humanistic thinking and rather, suggests the idea of [the] disappearance of [humans] as a possibility to destroy performance subjectivities that were arbitrary constructed by man (Braidotti 127; 129). Barad’s interpretation of queer theory invites us to question institutions that perpetuate gender performance through the policing and disciplining of the body (Barad 29). As mentioned prior, Juan attempts to subjugate Concha into the domestic sphere; however, she fails to perform her gendered role of the “respectable wife”. The Church perpetuates a colonial structure that has historically regulated women’s sexuality and body through virginity and purity. Concha is subjected to scrutiny because of the priest’s status and power to condemn her as a “woman of the street”. Barad allows us to imagine the possibility of dismantling gender binaries and performativity through queer theory, a space that is undefined and anti-heterosexist. The blurriness of identity allows one to reject subjectivity, gender performativity and de-territorialize spaces that the state continues to diagram us in (Barad 29). The fact the town subjects her as a sexual object yet accepts her into society once she regained her “value fund” as a married woman living in La Casa Blanca under the Christian ideal of marriage is problematic because she expected to perform “as a respectable woman” by the institutions of Church. Concha is described as an indigenous woman that Ladinos seek, for pleasure and in a way, it perpetuates colonization. On the other hand, Concha uses her sexual desire to challenge and destroy gender binaries of what constitutes being a woman, rejecting gendered performativity, and using her body as a mechanism to fight the oppressive institution of religion. Barad’s disapproval to society’s common idea of the body and outward appearance representing who we are allows us to explore the idea of transcendence and understanding post-human performativity. Post-humanism is a critique of liberal thought and humanism that derives from the French revolution and invites us to imagine other ways to view identity formation.
Understanding post-human performativity questions, the discourse of categories between the human and nonhuman by tearing down binaries and intertwining them as subjects of matter. By matter, I do not limit the definition of matter as of importance but invite you to broaden the possibility of viewing matter as scientific and post-humanist. Post-human performativity and matter entangle our bodies through amoebae’s, a creature that does not have a shape or boundary and acts as an isolated unit (Barad 27). Matter transcends into becoming “the other [undefined]” and questions the territorializing of identity. Claire Colebrook uses the theoretical “embodied eye” to illustrate how we as humans categorize other humans, nonhuman objects, and concepts. This “eye”, she explains, organizes the world for us and when the “eye” spots an object, it applies a predisposed concept, and embeds it into our minds depending on its characteristics (Colebrook 14). The text introduces the simultaneity La Virgen de Concepcion and Concha on purpose, forcing our “eye” to process the distinction between the wooden, sacrilege statue and a prostitute. Lion intentionally desacralizes the wooden Virgen by comparing it to Concha in order for us imagines the possibility of modernity [which embodies racism and capitalism as subliminal markers towards progress] forcefully halted and perhaps destroyed. To imagine the destruction of modernity, one might infer that it entails the end of era of humans. Let’s imagine the possibility of the Anthropocene through a “disembodied eye” that tears away human perception and allows for a machinist perspective [not like a computer which is controlled by man] on the remnants of humans (Colebrook 20). Identity and performance are social and cultural constructs created by man and enforced by institutions of power and societal norms. The end of humans would mean that these constructions would seize to exist. Colebrook believes that being human is not an automatic thing and destroying identity allows for the possibilities of imagining being something other than human, something that our human obsession impedes. At the end of the text, we find out that Pascual causes the end of the human race in the town of Xibalba, by fornicating with the actual wooden statue. He desacralized the no-longer Virgen, causing the town to destroy the Church, which held the ultimate power. Their destruction of the Church allows us to visualize the destruction of colonialism, a system that perpetuated hegemony and oppression and allowed the townspeople to reclaim their indigenous autonomy. Braidotti fuels the idea of the post-human and the disappearance of humans from diagrams, by arguing that it destroys subjectivities of humanity. Colebrook attests that humanity functions by how “the embodied eye” organizes the world for us (Colebrook, 14).
El tiempo principia en Xibalba challenges the construction and performance of identity through gender, status, and locality through a post-humanist deconstruction. The character of La Virgen de Concepcion or Concha exemplifies the simultaneity of the violent construction of gender that patriarchal institutions impose on women and the usage of body-politics to challenge the regulation of a women’s sexual morale through a decolonial lens. A post-human deconstruction of the text asks for us to imagine to the possibility of the unraveling of modernity, one might infer that it entails the end of era of the human race. The infatuation Juan and Pascual have to the Virgin de la Concepcion or the prostitute that “looked” like the Virgin desacralizes the image by differentiating the profane versus the sacred and its linkage to modernity, capitalism and religion. The virgin of wood represents the Catholic Church and the act of desacralizing by describing Concha as the prostitute as looking like but not quite to the Virgin. The duality between the indigenous and non-indigenous world in which modernity is present at both times and imagine the possibility of the destruction of colonial powers as we saw with her metaphorical image becoming a profanation with the violent construction of gender of Concha. The way the priest interacted with La Virgin and the attitude the authorities had towards her analyzes how women are limited within the limits of modernity and how everyone is critical of Concha and her desires, but everyone is contributing to the corruption of modernity and colonialism and adding a sense of superiority in policing each other, imposing onto one another. Moreover, the locality of where Concha prostitutes is crucial, as her prostitution is unacceptable in the center of town because that is where the Church is located; however, her expulsion towards the margin of the town was deemed acceptable and the time and space is important in the text. The Church perpetuates colonial structure that regulated women’s sexuality through virginity and purity. Lion invites us to imagine the possibility of dismantling the construction of colonialism and gender by allowing us to understand the nature of how we as bodies are created with matter and incorporate matter and question the discourse that is fixated in defining identity and performativity.
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Seccion de Mil mesetas: Capitalismo y esquizofreniade Gilles Deleuze y Félix Guattari: Introducción: Rizoma (9-32); "Tratado de nomadología: La máquina de guerra" (359-431); y "Lo liso y lo estriado" (483-509)
Secciones de Lo posthumano de Rosi Braidotti: Capítulo 2: "Postantropocentrismo: La vida más allá de la especie" y Capítulo 3: "Lo inhumano: La vida más allá de la muerte".