Pedro Lemebel's Manifesto (Hablo por mi diferencia)

Gwendolen Pare


This paper looks at Chilean artist Lemebel’s 1986 intervention at a gathering of leftist oppositionals. By that time, Chilean society had been exposed, under dictatorship, to the neoliberal abstraction machine at hitherto unprecedented levels for more than a decade. On the one hand, Lemebel’s 1986 Manifesto sensitively renders socially concrete some of the workings of this abstraction, notably patriarchal and heterosexist violence. Lemebel was arguably Chile’s first publicly travesti artist whom unerringly identifies with his proletario background, easily for instance as opposed to bourgeois conformist homosexual writers. On the other hand, Lemebel’s Manifesto is deliberately entangled in a Latin American Marxist iconography of the second half of the 20th century. His critique of colonial and neo-colonial politics in Latin America is virulent. In this 1986 explicit address to Marxism, Lemebel deplores that social concretions mobilised for official culture’s tortuous politics, again notably patriarchal and heterosexist violence, are shared by some Marxist oppositional icons, such as a militant masculinity, such as el hombre nuevo. Thus, the Manifesto leaves no doubt whom Lemebel’s solidarity is owed: Lemebel rather candidly and unapologetically seeks recognition within Marxist utopia.
Introductory remarks of this paper introduce Lemebel’s project of cultural criticism and intervention. Then, the paper will look at how Lemebel’s self-descript “contamination” of utopia through a different, travestí, imagery, speaks to Marxist theoretical re-presentations of real labour. Lemebel’s utopia does not envision a further addition (to official culture; to Marxist opposition), à la intersectional identity politics – but instead the end of the reductions of “real labour” / difference.

Class - uneven and combined development - Identity - LGBTQI