Witnessing beyond the Human

Addressing the Alterity of the Other in Post-coup Chile and Argentina

By Kate Jenckes

Subjects: Latin American Studies, Literary Criticism, Literature, Literary Theory, Literary History
Series: SUNY series, Literature . . . in Theory
Paperback : 9781438465708, 252 pages, January 2018
Hardcover : 9781438465715, 252 pages, May 2017

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism: Apostrophe and Survival in Juan Gelman’s Poetry

2. Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities of Community in Sergio Chejfec’s Los planetas and Boca de lobo

3. Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity: Roberto Bolaño and the Alter-immunological Potential of Literature

4. Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human: Eugenio Dittborn’s Photocollages

Works Cited & Bibliography

Provides an innovative and theoretically rigorous approach to the subject of testimony in Latin America.


This book rethinks the nature of testimony beyond the ground of the human in works produced in Chile and Argentina from the 1970s to the present. Focusing on literature by Juan Gelman, Sergio Chejfec, and Roberto Bolaño, as well as art by Eugenio Dittborn, Kate Jenckes argues that these works represent life, death, and the relation between self and other "beyond the human," that is beyond the sense that we can know and represent ourselves and others, with powerful implications for our understanding of history, community, and politics. Jenckes engages with the work of Jacques Derrida together with the intellectually rigorous field of Chilean aesthetic theory to explore issues related to the nature of testimony.

Kate Jenckes is Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan and the author of Reading Borges after Benjamin: Allegory, Afterlife, and the Writing of History, also published by SUNY Press.


"Witnessing beyond the Human is nourished by a myriad of different philosophical, theoretical, literary, and visual artistic sources. Jenckes's comparatist perspective is on full display, as is her extensive knowledge of the Argentinian and Chilean political, intellectual, and cultural scene. The book engages in a sustained and profound reflection on, and with, the thought of Jacques Derrida—in a way that is not typical in our field." — Revista de Estudios Hispánicos

"Kate Jenckes's Witnessing beyond the Human investigates the political implications of decentering the human subject as a coherent and stable entity … The conclusions of Jenckes's study are useful for any scholar interested in the posthumanities: her articulation of Chefjec's myopic practice of writing as akin to the exposure to the unknown, or account of life, following Gelman, as more than an individual self-contained biological self, as that which contains difference, rather than effacing it." — Chasqui