TALKS TUPI OR NOT TUPI Anthropophagy and Hospitality
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Anthropophagy and Hospitality

on Oswald de Andrade and Haroldo de Campos

Oswald de Andrade signed his most famous text, the Anthropophagic Manifesto (Manifesto antropófago), first published in 1928 in the first issue of the Revista de Antropofagia, with his name and a peculiar situating: "In Piratininga, in the 374th / Year of the Swallowing of Bishop Sardinha’".1 Dom Pedro Fernandes Sardinha (his last name means sardine in German) was the first bishop of Brazil between 1552 and 1556. On a voyage to Lisbon, he was shipwrecked off the Brazilian coast, captured by the Tupi people living on the coast, and eventually eaten. Piratininga refers to a "drying" or "dried" fish in the Tupi language, and still serves as the name of various places along the Brazilian coast. But what's the deal with the reference to this iconic scene?

At first glance, one might think that Oswald's homage to this "swallowing" is an expression of a mere defence against European colonial influences – a call to defend and keep pure an indigenous, and thus genuinely Brazilian, identity. The country's history is rich with such attempts to construct an identity. But Oswald de Andrade and the Tupi to whom he alludes had other things in mind. Strange as it may sound at first, he recognizes in this swallowing something more like hospitality. Anthropophagy, the practice of ritual cannibalism, which was widespread among the Tupi peoples of the coastal region, is for Oswald de Andrade an expression of a comprehensive opening to the Other. The great French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who met Oswald de Andrade personally in São Paulo, went even further and declared the indigenous societies of the entire American double continent to be anthropophagic, i.e. devouring people, and the European ones to be anthropoemic, i.e. vomiting people out.2 Whereas European cultures tend to reject alterity, which is expressed in institutions such as prisons or psychiatric wards, he diagnoses a fundamental candour and openness to the Other in the indigenous societies of the Americas. Devouring is thus precisely not a defence against, but a reception of the Other, the willingness to change one's own through the incorporation of the foreign.

The influence that Oswald de Andrade's little manifesto has had on twentieth-century Brazilian culture can hardly be overestimated: not only in anthropology, but also in music, theory, literature, and the visual and performing arts, it was and continues to be taken up and developed in countless ways to this day. The famous poet, theorist, and translator Haroldo de Campos also found in the concept of anthropophagy a paradigm for his own theory and practice of translation. Translation for him is a practice of radical hospitality, a receiving of the foreign into one's own language and culture. But it means at the same time an active transformation, even a re-creation, of one’s own: Haroldo de Campos therefore speaks of a transcriação, a neologism that interweaves translatio with creation (criação).

Title page of the first issue of the Anthropophagy Journal. At the bottom is a quote from Hans Staden's  famous travelogue, that reads in German: "da kompt vnser essekost her hueppende"

The manifesto was first published in the Anthropophagy Journal. In the middle of the page is a sketch of the famous painting "Abaporu" by Tarsila do Amaral.

This idea of hospitality, according to which "receiving the stranger" amounts essentially to transformation, if not the revolutionary re-creation of one's own, goes beyond the framework of the bourgeois philosophy of right. In his essay Perpetual Peace, Kant developed a concept of hospitality (he uses the word Hospitalität) that has directly and indirectly influenced the wording of numerous legal and constitutional texts, of numerous statutes and resolutions of international institutions:

"We are here concerned not with philanthropy, but with right. In this context, hospitality means the right of a stranger not to be treated with hostility when he arrives on someone else’s territory."3

Kant attaches particular importance to treating hospitality as a matter of right and not of good will or charity. The stranger's right to hospitality even has a special status for Kant: namely, it is the only right to which every person is entitled, regardless of citizenship, simply by virtue of being a "citizen of the world". According to this bourgeois understanding of rights, hospitality is thus a human right. But this right, which can, at least ideally, be claimed always and everywhere, has narrow limits: while the stranger is not treated with hostility, nor is he supposed to seek to make himself at home. He should stay for the minimum amount of time necessary, and not disturb or not demand anything. Above all, he should not change the receiving society, the local culture. He should leave it as he found it. He should also leave it as he entered it: without the rights and duties of a citizen, as an anonymous stranger, as a mere citizen of the world.

The hospitality that Haroldo de Campos and Oswald de Andrade have in mind is not about regressing to a stage prior to this achievement of the bourgeois philosophy of right. The devouring of Bishop Sardinha is not the symbol of some return to a supposed state of nature, to a "war of all against all" in which the stranger is treated solely with hostility. Rather, it is meant to stand for a radicalization of hospitality. But how is this radicalization to be understood? An initially somewhat puzzling passage from the Anthropophagic Manifesto can provide important clues:

"I asked a man what Right was. He answered that it was the guarantee of the exercise of possibility. That man was named Galli Mathias. I ate him"4

This is a typical example of Oswald's "telegraphic style": individual authors, or even entire literary or philosophical traditions, are reduced to extremely abbreviated, cubist-parodic formulas, which are then stacked up against elements from Brazilian popular culture, mixed with stock phrases from indigenous and African or Afro-Brazilian cultures. In the case at hand, we have a nimble parody of modern, European political philosophy. It is not just a political parody, but a parody of the political itself – the political as understood by modern Western philosophy.

The answer to the question, so central to this tradition, of what right is, sounds familiar and strange at the same time: right, that is "the guarantee of the exercise of possibility". One is reminded of such formulations as the "condition of possibility", that is, of transcendental philosophical philosophemes, and even of Rousseau, to whom a formulation such as the "guarantee of the exercise of freedom" would suggest itself. But the "guarantee of the exercise of possibility"? The formulation sounds almost right, but only almost. In the end, it makes no real sense. That is why the aforementioned man’s name is "Galli Mathias", which refers to an old expression for "gobbledygook", namely the word galimatias, the origin of which is not known with any certainty. But behind this expression hides possibly still more. The trail leads to Rousseau's The Social Contract, more precisely to the sixth chapter, in which Rousseau actually gives a definition of what right is. To this end, Rousseau goes to the hypothetical origin of all right and all law. He picks up the thread where he left it in another famous text, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. According to this text, humankind has already left the first state of nature, a state of unrestricted freedom and unboundedness, and is in a state of perpetual war that is as lawless as it is dangerous. In this state, the supposed "right of the stronger" prevails, which he addresses in the third chapter of Le Contrat social with the following words:

"Right of the Stronger

The stronger is never strong enough to be forever master, unless he transforms his force into right, and obedience into duty. […]

Let us assume this alleged right for a moment. I say that it can only result in an unintelligible muddle (galimatias inexplicable). For once force makes right, the effect changes together with the cause; every force that overcomes the first, inherits its right".5

Tarsila do Amaral gave her husband Oswald de Andrade the famous painting "Abaporu" as a birthday gift in 1928.

The crucial point is that mere strength, mere force cannot produce right. For Rousseau, right always presupposes an agreement. The expression "right of the stronger" is therefore only an "unintelligible muddle" (galimatias inexplicable). The only way out of this precarious and nonsensical situation is the social contract, which he declares in the sixth chapter to be the origin of all right. But as Louis Althusser and other Marxist theorists have noted, Rousseau also makes use of a language game:6 for the possibility of entering into a binding contract always presupposes the social contract, which it is supposed to establish in the first place. To be sure, Rousseau was aware of this, and in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality he also tells a very different story about the origin of right: in fact, the rich and powerful invent law in order to secure their rule. In actuality, the social contract is more of a goal, a project, but Rousseau wants to help it achieve a breakthrough precisely by presenting this peculiar contract as the origin of all right. And this presentation requires a play on words: he claims that people make a contract with themselves. Thus, it seems that Oswald has not been deceived. To all appearances, he has seen that the subject before the social contract, the imagined or real lawless "savages" living by the law of the stronger, are not at all the same subject as the "civilized" united by the contract. He has seen that in Rousseau's social contract there is a fundamental confusion about what actually guarantees or enables what. And this is exactly what he says:

"I asked a man what Right was. He answered that it was the guarantee of the exercise of possibility. That man was named Galli Mathias. I ate him."

But do we really have to eat up the bourgeois philosopher right away just because he also produces an "unintelligible muddle (gallimathias)"? Isn't that a little too hostile? In fact, the act of symbolic "eating up", this parodic reduction of the philosophy of Rousseau and Kant to a mere play on words, is probably meant more as an act of a broader and radicalized hospitality. It is an act of appropriation that transforms them into something they are not, that makes them say something they do not want to say. But this act may be what allows the European strangers to become truly at home, to transform the society that welcomes them in new, unheard-of ways. This act is actually meant as an expression of an extended hospitality that transcends the bourgeois imagination. Oswald de Andrade, Haroldo de Campos, and the numerous other "anthropophagi" are not concerned with a closure, with an insistence on an imagined cultural identity that gives the Other and the Stranger only short-term refuge. They are concerned with an identity of non-identity, with an incomplete process of absorbing the foreign, with an alienation and expropriation of one's own. The "devouring" is thus precisely not a reversion to a supposed state of nature in which the law of the stronger prevails. It serves as an expression and symbol of a radicalization of the European revolutions:

"Rousseau. From the French Revolution to Romanticism, to the Bolshevik Revolution, to the Surrealist Revolution and Keyserling's technicized barbarian. We push onward"7




Oliver Precht is a philosopher and literary scholar at the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, where he is working on a research project on Marx in France: the self-determination of French theory (1945-95). He is also co-editor of the series Neue Subjektile, published by Turia + Kant, for which he has translated and edited several classic texts on Anthropophagy (by Oswald de Andrade, Haroldo de Campos, Suely Rolnik, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro). His own publications include Heidegger. Zur Selbst- und Fremdbestimmung seiner Philosophie (Meiner 2020) and Der rote Faden. Maurice Merleau-Ponty und die Politik der Wahrnehmung (August 2023).

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