My dissertation reads diasporic Filipina/o literatures that destabilize the dominant representations which position Filipinas as "mothers" in and of the global economy and Philippine nationalism. The project is situated after the moment of US imperialism, as attempts to deliver a materially prosperous and psychologically uplifting national identity coincided with the rise of post-fordist global economic strategies, the results of which were the brokering and exporting of Filipina/os overseas. As the nation struggled to assert itself under poor and corrupt leaders, as the social unrest of anti-imperialist organizing did not wane but transformed into anti-capitalist critiques, establishing a formal global visibility for Filipina/o workers became imperative to assuage political, economic, and cultural uncertainties. The turmoil would culminate in the 1974 Presidential Decree 442, which authorized and institutionalized overseas employment as a state-managed program.
The role diasporic Filipina/os play in the global economy--participating in older, traditional industries such as logging, manufacturing, and shipping, to newer service industries such as nursing, domestic help, and call centers--has been well-documented in recent scholarship, identifying the national service being performed. As numerous reports indicate, Filipina/os send more than ten billion dollars in remittances not just to families, but also to the nation. Such financing is so critical for the national economy that Philippine presidents have hailed them as both "national heroes" and "overseas investors." This workforce is not only highly gendered insofar as it is predominantly feminized, but it may be further specified as having a maternal character--literally but also, more broadly, symbolically. If nationalism and globalization work in tandem to inscribe Filipinas as a transnational, maternal underclass, what is the significance of texts that do not cohere with this inscription? My dissertation contends that in order to disrupt the authority of nationalism and globalization, which despite their differences collude to represent and employ Filipinas, one must destabilize those racialized, gendered, and sexualized representations. My dissertation thus seeks to bring to crisis the transparent and empiricist epistemologies that underwrite nationalism and globalization, outlining the ways that diasporic Filipina/o literatures critique these state-sanctioned ways of knowing and being.
My first chapter, "Mother, Navel, Nation: Disseminating the Dictionary of Philippine Heteronationalist Globalization," lays out the theoretico-political scope of the project by reading Nick Joaquin's short story, "The Woman Who Had Two Navels." It is an appropriate text with which to begin, given both Joaquin's role as a leading nationalist writer in the early phase of independence as well as given the dubious rumor that circulates in the story, spread by a young woman who, along with her mother, entices and repulses various male suitors. The story represents the postwar Philippines as a gendered landscape, newly independent and luring Filipino men who have left for other shores to return--only to offend and threaten them, driving them back overseas. While it explicitly negates the role of Filipina mothers, I draw on certain moments that reveal a more complex theorization of gender and sexuality for both nationalism and global capitalism. The contemporary neoliberal consensus collaborates with Philippine nationalism to produce Filipina-as-mothers as ideal subjects according to particular racial, gender, and sexual categories.
This reading contributes to the genealogy of hetero-masculinist nationalism I trace within the chapter. As many scholars have analyzed and often reproduced, "revolution" has circulated as an "unfinished" discourse emerging from within anti-imperialist mobilizing in the Philippines. Not unlike both liberal and revolutionary nationalisms around the globe, the dominant character of such discourse has proven to be profoundly and constitutively heteropatriarchal. The mourning that is concomitant with the notion of an "unfinished" or "incomplete" "revolution" can thus be understood as a mourning and failure of native masculinities to protect their families, women, and land. Building on postcolonial feminist critiques of nationalism as well as recent conceptualizations of the rhizomatic, biopolitical field of global empire, the chapter critiques nationalism not only for its unexamined heteropatriarchy, but also its potential obsolescence given the complicity of revolutionary and liberal Philippine nationalisms with global capital.
My second chapter, "Letting the Cat(achresis) Out of the Bag: Transnational Filipina Motherhood," reads two texts that represent motherhood in distinct ways. In Eleanor Coppola's published diary of the filming of Apocalypse Now, the narrator aspires to overcome the inequality between her and her husband's professional work by conceptualizing an ambitious marriage dependent on imperialist strategies and settings. Her writings probe the assertion of an empowered identity that, strikingly, only seeks that liberation in the Philippines; when returning to the national-domestic space, she appears content to return to her own national-domestic-maternal duties. Rizalina, the young Filipina mother of Jessica Hagedorn's novel Dream Jungle, the second half of which fictionalizes the Apocalypse Now film production, distances herself from maternal, nationalist, and imperialist norms. In this way, she resists being recodified into a visible, legible, rational representation that reproduces either Coppola's imperialist feminism or an equally unexamined nationalist feminism. The terms of her liberation are not spelled out, but neither can one deny the happiness she claims; what can be specified is her obsession with a white tiger that is flown in for the film shoot. That cat, rather than a Filipina elder or Coppola's fictional counterpart, inspires Lina most of all. In doing so, Lina performs a catachresis on the production of racialized, gendered freedom.
My third chapter, "Carlos in Medford and Gabe in Meridan: Attempted Erasures of the Filipina Mother for Hetero/Homonational Masculinity," examines two novels, Carlos Bulosan's America Is in the Heart and Brian Ascalon Roley's American Son, to consider how multiple efforts to represent freedom and agency draw from and reproduce imperialist and heteronormative authority. Even as Roley's novel stages an unannounced but noticeable homonationalism--which can be understood as a contemporary revision of the heteronationalism of Bulosan's novel--it is quickly rescinded back into a heteropatriarchal space. Neither narrator can liberate themselves on the grounds of masculinist identifications, whether heteronational or homonational. Whereas the masculine characters of both texts thus struggle in the attempt to speak for themselves, the mother in the second text recognizes the dilemmas representational strategies pose. Many characters try to speak for her, on her behalf, but she renders their attempts futile and does not aspire to represent herself. She rejects representations that interpret her as a redemptive figure for either national heteronormativity or globalization. Such a move does not mean she accepts invisibility; to the contrary, her presence persistently disrupts the text and stymies its efforts at resolution.
The fourth and final chapter, "Learning to Listen: Nation, Film, and Children in Kidlat Tahimik's Mababangong Bangungot," reads the eponymous film, which demands critical audiences who listen as well as they watch. I argue that listening to a film is just as significant as watching it; in spite of what seems like a formalist argument, I examine in what ways such an approach intervenes in the production of Philippine history and Filipina/o bodies, especially as those bodies get translated for the interests of nationalism and globalization. In the film, an overprivileging of the visual aids and abets the film's masculinist nationalism, which is promoted as a liberatory alternative to globalization and imperialism. In this chapter, the visual pathos of the Filipina mother--neglected, then remembered, by her son after warning him of the seductions of the west--fails to complicate her identity, employing her strictly for the purposes of nationalist mourning. But in the aural rendering of Filipina/o children, which works in sharp contrast to their visual rendering, it is possible to discern a critique of the film's heteronormative nationalism. That is, by listening to the film, one can hear a moment of liberatory potential not in the service of heteronationalist global empire.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2010. Major: American Studies. Advisor: Roderick A. Ferguson. xi, 229. Ill. (some col.)
Suarez, Harrod J.
The insolence of the Filipinas: mothering nationalism, globalization, and literature..
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