Following the lead of Jacques Rancière, I argue in this essay that democracy andthe institution of literature share structural features that are inescapably historical in nature. The essay maps the interaction between literature and democracy in the case of two prominent contemporary Latin American authors: Peruvian José María Arguedas and Argentine Ricardo Piglia. In the same way that there is a notion of the literary peculiar to Latin America, there is a particular set of challenges that provide a unique shape to the Latin American democratic project. In the case of Piglia, the kernel of the engagement of literature with the political lies in the exhaustion of the nation as a site of the constitution of a popular will. In the case of Arguedas, whose work is deeply marked by the long colonial experience of the Andean people, repeated frustrations with modern notions of emancipation take him to propose a biological substratum as the irreducible site of a political affirmation. Thus Arguedas provides a thoroughly developed notion of positive biopolitics that has the potential to ground other engagements of colonial voices with the larger sphere of political domination.

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