4/15/2007

Bringing It Home

Stuff sorta mulling around in my brain pan... likely a side-effect of working on this paper about decolonization by reclaiming, renaming, and reinhabiting an interior landscape through storytelling.

I think it started with BJ writing about Filipino American Literature and "Originary Points" of Geography where she muses about the intractability of Location and her own ambivalent view of geography in relation to identity...

Later BJ writes of diaspora and dystopia in the same breath...

So... the dystopian landscape, the after-place of nuclear/biological devastation is the space that diaspora communities inhabit, even when living in the relatively safe confines of the US... which I question in our post-9/11, Patriot Act society, meaning, we, here in the US, are experiencing our own sort of post-apocalyptic dystopian social structure...

Then in my own blog, a conversation is emerging about the role of Telling mixed in with the re-membering of heritage and what drives us Tellers to find and tell stories from locations far removed from where we are at this moment.

Yesterday, after Saturday Telling at the Public Market (in which my sleep-deprived brain struggled to string words together - not my best performance), the Guild president and I mused about how to help people realize that they cannot just take/translate stories and fail to give credit for at least the culture the story came from. He's learned several new stories since traveling to one of the oldest (and arguably /the/ oldest) continuous storytelling villages in the world, located in a remote village in China. He and the other tellers who visited the village last year want to be sure that the stories they brought back with them are protected - but how to preserve and give credit for stories and still perform them to an audience so that the village can be recognized?

Stories in diaspora. Stories in decolonization.

Not /about/ diaspora or decolonization, but in the /process/ of being relocated and de-imperialized. Is that remotely possible or are we simply looking at damage control?

But my friend writes on the previous post about the difference between heritage and identity which I thought was really smart - often I find folk who require me to 'identify' solely to my 'heritage' or to redefine me as having an identity removed from my heritage. Which I think is the reason why I become ambivalent toward both identity and heritage.

So why care enough to only research and tell Filipino stories if I identify as biculturally Filipino and American? Shouldn't I also allow myself access to traditional American tales (not the Disney-fied Euro stories, btw)?

Perhaps... But do I have a 'right' to these stories simply by dint of my location? Is being "American" only about acquisition? Can I really tell stories of Old Blue the Ox and Johnny Appleseed along with Tales of Raven and Crow along with Creole and Hawaiian Tales? Or does that just reinforce the diasporic aspects of those stories, rendering them as objects of colonization?

2 comments:

Gladys said...

hi bec,

i just read your comment on bj's blog; you won't find my thoughts on the issue of fil am literature's "originary" points on my own blog. rather, bj and i exchanged e-mails before she started her series of posts. but i did want to share my e-mail to provide some context for the blog/comment discussion going on over there, which started out as a discussion over a syllabus i wanted to propose to a university down here. here is my response to bj's e-mail question of whether or not we can read fil am lit as originating in the us rather than from a purported philippine "homeland":

I actually originally imagined the course for Southeast Asian Studies, if you can believe it. So I wanted to focus on Fil Am lit and authors, but texts that were set wholly or in part in the Philippines, where the Philippines was the real point of the narrative rather than the US. My pedagogical philosophy here was to point out the porousness between Asian and Asian American studies; transnationalism in the Filipino diaspora seemed the best way to go about that. And yes, absolutely, I wanted to focus as much on the authors'/speakers' perspectives as the actual transpacific movements of bodies. I wanted to get at what [Oscar Campomanes] was saying, that it is a gestural movement that happens in these texts. But you know, it sounded like it was almost compulsive for you when writing, that movement to Asia. Would love to hear more about that (I think my students would, too, if I ever teach the syllabus).

I know what you mean by framing it slightly differently with the US more centered but also not pushing the PI to the periphery (I loved the way you put it, expanding our self-definition). This to me is what diaspora means, really; the PI is always the center in some ways. There is a growing number of second- and later-generation Filipinos in other countries than the US, and for years now -- since a "bridging the gap" conference with Filipino and Filipino American scholars in 2001 -- I have come to think of the Filipino population all over the world as a rooted diaspora, with "the homeland" always something to go back to, to remember, to mourn, to dream about. And it's a place that we will keep mourning and leaving until at least politics and economy there change.

I wanted to include Noel's book, Catie's book, and your Poeta for a very specific reason relating to this formulation of diaspora and transnationalism: I think the narrators in these texts in particular exhibit a marked self-consciousness about being in the United States versus the Philippines, as both a guilty privilege and an undeniable and un-excisable component of their bi/multicultural, multifaceted identities. And more, of course, which is something I want to explore in the course.


i have more to say on the social/cultural construction (and reasons thereof) of "the homeland" and a "rooted diaspora" in filipino america, which i'll probably post in bj's comment box sometime.

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

Thanks for dropping by, Gladys! I appreciate you taking the time to bring your side of things to the fore. I really like the idea of pointing out the "porousness between Asian and Asian American studies." Often I think much is made literally out of the ocean that divides rather than how each culture forms and informs the other.

I put together a syllabus one year for a 300-level lit course for what I called Post-Colonial Literatures of the US. Basically I gathered literature from Africa-America, Native America, Hawaii, Cuba, American Samoa and the Philippines to show how the writings reflected the complex/difficult relationships between each group and the dominant socio-political structures happening in the US at the same time. It largely focused on protest literature but we also looked at themes of diaspora and displacement. I think it would have been interesting to talk about 'homeland' specifically - how each writer spoke about 'home' and where their physical bodies were in relation to that perceived 'home.'

I'll be mulling over the idea of 'rooted diaspora' and if/how it might exist among 2+ gen FilAms.