“constant vigilance is still needed to prevent undesirable aliens from entering America.”
Beyond the Nation charts an expansive history of Filipino literature in the U.S., forged within the dual contexts of imperialism and migration, from the early twentieth century into the twenty-first. Martin Joseph Ponce theorizes and enacts a queer diasporic reading practice that attends to the complex crossings of race and nation with gender and sexuality. Tracing the conditions of possibility of Anglophone Filipino literature to U.S. colonialism in the Philippines in the early twentieth century, the book examines how a host of writers from across the century both imagine and address the Philippines and the United States, inventing a variety of artistic lineages and social formations in the process. Beyond the Nation considers a broad array of issues, from early Philippine nationalism, queer modernism, and transnational radicalism, to music-influenced and cross-cultural poetics, gay male engagements with martial law and popular culture, second-generational dynamics, and the relation between reading and revolution. Ponce elucidates not only the internal differences that
mark this literary tradition but also the wealth of expressive practices that exceed the terms of colonial complicity, defiant nationalism, or conciliatory assimilation. Moving beyond the nation as both the primary analytical framework and locus of belonging, Ponce proposes that diasporic Filipino literature has much to teach us about alternative ways of imagining erotic relationships and political communities.
In 1997, when the New York Times described Filipino American serial killer Andrew Cunanan as appearing “to be everywhere and nowhere,” Allan Punzalan Isaac recognized confusion about the Filipino presence in the United States, symptomatic of American imperialism’s invisibility to itself. In American Tropics, Isaac explores American fantasies about the Philippines and other “unincorporated” parts of the U.S. nation that obscure the contradictions of a democratic country possessing colonies. Isaac boldly examines the American empire’s images of the Philippines in turn-of-the-century legal debates over Puerto Rico, Progressive-era popular literature set in Latin American borderlands, and midcentury Hollywood cinema staged in Hawai’i and the Pacific islands. Isaac scrutinizes media coverage of the Cunanan case, Boy Scout adventure novels, and Hollywood films such as The Real Glory (1939) and Blue Hawaii (1961) to argue that territorial sites of occupation are an important part of American identity. American Tropics further reveals the imperial imagination’s role in shaping national meaning in novels such as Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart (1946) and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters (1990), Filipino American novels forced to articulate the empire’s enfolded but disavowed borders. Tracing the American empire from the beginning of the twentieth century to Philippine liberation and the U.S. civil rights movement, American Tropics lays bare Filipino Americans’ unique form of belonging marked indelibly by imperialism and at odds with U.S. racial politics and culture.
New books from my friends
It’s always excited to celebrate the publishing of new books in Filipino Studies. It’s especially excited when the books are by dear friends and colleagues.
Associate Professor of History at San Francisco State University, Dawn B. Mabalon, just came out with her book, Little Manila is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California.
Also coming out this month is Vernadette V. Gonzalez’s book Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai’i and the Philippines. She is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa. Vernadette and I not only met in graduate school and became friends, we also collaborated on two major projects while we were both at UC Berkeley (Dette was in Ethnic Studies, I was in the Sociology department). The first piece we worked on was a book chapter entitled, “Filipina.com: Wives, Workers and Whores on the Cyberfrontier” in Asian America.net: Ethnicity, Nationalism and Cyberspace. That essay got republished in An Introduction to Women’s Studies: Gender in a Transnational World by Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan. The second was, “Asian American Auto / Biographies: The Gendered Limits of Consumer Citizenship in Import Subcultures,” a book chapter in Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America edited by Mimi Nguyen and Thuy Tu. I had a fantastic time working with Vernadette. I attribute my development as an Ethnic Studies and Feminist Studies scholar in part to our working relationship. She challenged my somewhat narrow disciplinary sensibilities and introduced me to a whole host of scholars that I was not reading in my PhD program. Vernadette is incredibly sharp and I’m sure the book will make huge ripples in the field.
My book may not be as fun as Dawn’s and Vernadette’s but it may intrigue some of you. I will be posting on my book, Migrants for Export on my blog. I’ll elaborate more on academic terms that non-academic readers may not be familiar with as well as some provide some “behind the scenes” discussion on my field research. Please make sure to send me an email if you have specific questions.
This poem was written by Philip Vera Cruz and published in the 1992 edition of PHILIP VERA CRUZ: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF FILIPINO IMMIGRANTS AND THE FARMWORKERS MOVEMENT by Craig Scharlin & Lilia V. Villanueva.
While still across the ocean
I heard about the U.S.A.
So thrilled by wild imagination
I left home through Manila Bay
Then on my way I thought and wondered
Alone what would the future be?
I gambled parental care and love
In search for human liberty.
But beautiful bright pictures painted
Were just half of the whole story…
Reflections of great wealth and power
In the land of slavery.
Minorities in shanty towns, slums…
Disgraceful spots for all to see
In the enviable Garden of Eden,
Land of affluence and poverty.
Since then I was a hungry stray dog,
Too busy to keep myself alive…
It seems equality and freedom
Will never be where billionaires thrive!
A lust for power causes oppression
To rob the poor in senseless greed;
The wealthy few’s excessive profits
Tend to enslave the world in need.