Unless otherwise noted, all translations are mine.
1 I stress the scare quotes around this word, for the ‘‘peon class’’ was neither
a class in itself—not a sociological group defined by its position with
regard to the ownership of the means of production—nor a class for itself,
aware of its position vis-à-vis (and opposed to) the other dominant class. It
was a ‘‘class’’ imagined and created from above.
2 Though the study concentrates on the Rosas period, recurrently subalterns’
stories and the state’s history take the narration back into the 1820s, a
period recalled as a foundational era of both ‘‘freedom’’ and ‘‘anarchy.’’ The
Rosas era, with regard to this period of rupture, appears as a time of order
in the midst of a fratricidal political struggle and (at least for a part of the
population) as a reversion of an earlier experiment in ‘‘democracy’’ into
3 All this information is what we would expect from a police report, except
that the first part of the interrogation concludes with a ‘‘classification’’: the
person is classified as fit or not for service, according to his ‘‘type’’ or
‘‘class.’’ If he is unequivocally a member of the peon class, there is little
doubt that he will be drafted.
4 Perhaps the inquisitor left out important details of the life story of those
under interrogation and, quite likely, suppressed all verbal abuse directed
against him or the governor. But what was left is rich enough. Moreover,
this latter part of the stories did not seem to have been significantly cor-
rected or manipulated.
5 Other records permitted me to complement and understand the issues
referred to in these stories: reports on arrests sent quarterly by the justices
of the peace (Partes de Novedades), letters and petitions addressed to Rosas,
judicial records of military and civilian criminal cases, and the copious
correspondence of local justices of the peace.
6 Subaltern demands translated elite republican rhetoric (equality, freedom,
fraternity, and independence) into a more mundane, everyday idiom of
necessities, commitments, and reciprocities. Their demands are proper to
an epoch in which the subaltern became a political subject whose ‘‘armed
opinion’’ was crucial for the resolution of factional conflicts among the
elites. I borrow the allegory of ‘‘armed opinion’’ from González Bernaldo
7 Two important collections of the group’s work are Guha and Spivak (1988)
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