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An Aesthetics of Liberation: Gonzalo Arango's Neglected Thought and Cultivating Un Sentido de Vivir
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In this dissertation, I focus on the theme of liberation explored through the work of 20th century Colombian poet-philosopher, Gonzalo Arango (1931-1976). Gonzalo Arango founded the countercultural movement, Nadaísmo, in 1958 as a response to what he saw as an increasingly oppressive political, ethical, religious, and social climate. I focus on key texts within Arango’s oeuvre to demonstrate his aesthetic approach to liberation, while distinguishing between two distinct periods in his work: his Nadaísmo period (roughly from 1958-1968) and his post-Nadaísmo period (from 1970-1976). Arango’s Nadaísmo philosophy, grounded in rebellion and liberation, was meant to usher in a cultural renewal by a people (ideally) rebelling against the dogmas of social institutions and contributing to a creative reconstruction of these institutions that reflect the people’s own needs and desires for self- and historical development. However, his post-Nadaísmo writings reveal a sharp turn toward a theological framework for his liberation philosophy. As I will show, his later period retains the robust commitment to aesthetic living and liberation operating in his early work. In presenting Arango’s vital, yet neglected liberation philosophy, I also critically intervene in the intellectual history of the philosophy of liberation movement. The historiographical work of Horacio Cerutti-Guldberg traces the movement’s geographical and temporal origins to Argentina in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Subsequent histories and discussions of the movement reproduce Cerutti-Guldberg’s historical work. Thus, today the philosophy of liberation movement is considered synonymous with its Argentinian variant. Yet, this dominant narrative represents a singular and incomplete view of the movement. Contrary to this history, Gonzalo Arango was already producing an explicit discourse on liberation in late 1950s Colombia, outside the time and place that had been fixed by the currently accepted history. For this reason, I contend that the accepted history of the movement in Latin America must be problematized in a way that questions its limited scope and invites further investigation into liberation discourses taking place outside Argentina. Arango’s response to the exigency of human liberation and the fact of oppression reveals a philosophy rooted in embodied living and affective perception. I argue that this approach represents an unacknowledged current within the philosophy of liberation movement, what I have termed the aesthetic current. As I show, both periods in Arango’s career, though divergent, each represent an aesthetics of liberation that withstands the robust critiques to which notable figures of the philosophy of liberation movement have fallen. To that end, I focus on Ofelia Schutte’s critical engagement with the Argentine movement, which highlights the limitations and failings of early contributors to the movement, such as Enrique Dussel. Using Schutte’s critical work, I draw out five criteria for a genuine philosophy of liberation in order to evaluate Arango’s own contribution. It is through Ofelia Schutte’s critical treatment of liberation philosophy that I re-situate Gonzalo Arango as an important philosopher of liberation and point to the need for a more inclusive revision of its history. In focusing on the writings of Gonzalo Arango, my dissertation will be the first in the English-speaking world to reconstruct the philosophical ideas in this author’s understudied, but enduringly relevant work. Through an examination of his philosophical development, I will show the contributions and lessons of his work that will enrich current discourses on human liberation and oppression.
philosophy of liberation
Yarzagaray, Diana Adenike (2019). An Aesthetics of Liberation: Gonzalo Arango's Neglected Thought and Cultivating Un Sentido de Vivir. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from