chapter  4
26 Pages

Civilisation and Barbarism: New Frontiers and Barbarous Borders Online

Following on from our previous chapter which focused on models of literary creativity as encapsulated in Macondo, here in Chapter Four we move onto another founding discourse which maintains some elements of spatiality via the image of the frontier, but which more properly sets up conceptual rather than geographical borders: the well-established and much-debated dichotomy between civilisation and barbarism. As early as the first chronicles of the conquistadores whose depiction of barbarous cannibals ‘marked Amerindians as savages’ (Restrepo 2003:53), and Jan van der Straet’s emblematic painting America (c.1575) which functioned as a ‘visualization of discovery as the advance of civilization’ (Montrose 1991:5), the Americas has been figured as a zone in which the competing forces of civilisation and barbarism are played out. The civilisation/barbarism dichotomy is thus, in the words of Mabel Moraña, one of ‘the enduring dichotomies established by imperial authority’ (Moraña 2004:643), a legacy which in itself was an import of prior theories from Europe which stretch back as far as Greek and Roman times.1 In this way, dating from classical antiquity, the barbarian has been figured as foreign/ alien, and the civilisation/barbarism dichotomy has functioned as the theoretical framework through which colonial actors conceived of the Americas.