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Epistemology and The Lettered City: Ángel Rama, Michel Foucault and Ibn Khaldun

  • Author(s): Gorman Malone, Cora
  • et al.

Ángel Rama’s La ciudad letrada/The Lettered City (1984), an expansive literary-historical study of Latin America, has had widespread impact in the study of Latin American literatures and cultures. This article examines Rama’s turn to Foucault for a theoretical and methodological basis for his study. In Rama’s schematization, Foucault’s classical episteme and its “knowledge of order” provide the key to understanding the Spanish colonial model of urban development and the role of the lettered urban elite. However, reading The Lettered City in conjunction with Ibn Khaldun’s descriptions of conquest in the Magreb and Al-Andalus in the Muqaddimah (14th century) presents certain similarities between the two historical projects. This article proposes that a comparative look at the historical methodology of the Muqaddimah and The Lettered City calls into question how in the latter the implicit understanding of “modernity” as a Western concept shapes its attempt to explain the role of the lettered urban elite in Latin America.

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