The state is not united, uniform, or even arranged in a hierarchical fashion(Poulantzas). As visual form, it is not found in representations but in the way of seeing they call forth (or called forth, in the case of this book). This way of seeing social relations as a natural and historical given, or better, as a gift from history and nature to the state.
More: national development is seen as the work of transcendental agents transforming older colonial representations. First, nature and history gave the nation-form, then the state transformed society in accordance with its providential destiny. So the state is always seen to be expressing something natural and providential.
In the Argentine case, Patagonian nature is posited as the origin of state power…. Interestingly, history also takes on the form of nature; it is turned into an external frame of society given by sovereign acts of foundation rather than made by the people-nation. Thus the state is sacralized as the political expression of a natural or historical destiny.
The state’s abstract remoteness makes it possible the space in which the caudillo can operate: it is thus inconsistent with the real practices of exercising power while it also contributes to their existence and reproduction. Thus it is under pressure from social practices that threaten to undermine its claim to stability and endurance. So the truth claims of the state’s visual forms always seem insubstantial, hollow.
And in fact, many of the images and forms of display were created to contest that undermining, to hide that insubstantiality. These images are thus haunted by the very controversies they sought to expunge from their visual space (and there, once again, is my thesis on race). They kept having to be refocused to maintain the state’s apparent exteriority to social practices. What has remained unchallenged even to the counterimages put forth by the national-popular left is the visual form itself and the way it removed the nation-state from history into myth.
The notion of the state as a natural form was about the exclusion of the people as a political subject, though not as a subject of spectatorship. In the 20th century the “people” would be placed there, but as silent spectators and also actors. Interesting discussion of the role of ruins on 211 — conservative nationalism finds essences in ruins and drought ridden areas, and counterposes these to the hollowness of visual forms, uses them to perpetuate optic of the state … nowadays our project should be to free ourselves from this optic.
There is more to understand here but now I am going to go back to Lund and before. The heart of my project seems to start with Isaacs and Villaverde and run to Freyre, and it is not just another discussion of mestizaje. It radicalizes Sommer, it looks at what does not get resolved, and it looks at this specular movement: evoke and elide.
To see like a state (as per that book I read earlier) + Lund + this + more … it is the hauntedness and short circuits, plus the constant return of difference even as one attempts to homogenize it, that interest me. What situation does this bespeak? Why does this keep coming up? Ferreira da Silva says it is because of modernity, is this enough?