Center for Race and Gender Thursday Forum Series:

Mapping Colonial Amnesia: Filipino/American Cultural Landscapes
Thu, Oct 18, 2012

Blues Narratives and Indigenous Imaginaries: On a Critical Filipino/American Poetics of Place
Thea Quiray Tagle, UC San Diego

This talk engages with transformations in the poetics and politics of Filipino American decolonial cultural productions made by San Francisco Bay Area-based artists and activists in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Beginning from the blues poetry of Al Robles, my talk will explore the ways in which his work deploys concepts of Filipino indigeneity in order to track Filipino bachelor male (manong) migration to, settlement in, and displacement from the International Hotel specifically and the Manilatown district in particular. Robles’s poetry is then contrasted to the work of Filipina American poet Barbara Jane Reyes, which explicitly foregrounds a feminist and queered framework that imagines different forms of relationality between people of color, native peoples, and the material and discursive landscapes of the Bay Area. Read together, I argue that the work of these poets transvalue the lives and labor of Filipino/American workers and communities, from ones wastefully occupying valuable real estate in downtown San Francisco, to a people whose continuing presence in the Bay Area serves as witness to the nation’s ongoing investment in settler colonial and imperialist relations as the foundations of American multicultural democracy.

This is talk draws in part from a chapter-in-progress of my larger dissertation project, tentatively titled: Grounded Struggles: Filipino/Americans in San Francisco and the Hunger for Justice. In this larger work, I am interested in exploring the following questions and concerns: How, in the afterlife of the struggle to save the International Hotel in the 1960s and 1970s, has the material and social landscape of Filipino San Francisco been forced to reconstitute itself differently? What have cultural productions—including site-specific performances; poetry and prose; and urban farming projects among others—contributed to our understandings of both the hidden history of the manong generation as well as the embodied repertoires of Filipino/American peoples in the present moment? Moreover, how have these works gestured towards an alternative futurity that places Filipino/Americans not in contention to, but in solidarity with, native and Third World peoples and other communities of color?  Finally, how might these works, alongside or differently from other forms of political activism, help us transform the material and affective architectures of San Francisco from a geography produced out of racial and gendered violence to one built upon other structures of feeling?

Gambling with Debt: Lessons from the Illiterate
Prof. Sarita See, UC Davis

What debt do we owe the subprime debtor? What purchase, the kind of knowledge and literacy produced by the contractual illiterate, the debtor who seemingly does not know how to read a contract? Analyzing the twenty-first century theatrical adaptation of Carlos Bulosan’s 1940s short story “The Romance of Magno Rubio,” Sarita Echavez See makes a case for the renewed relevance of Bulosan’s insights about the illiterate Filipino American fieldworker of the Great Depression for the contractually illiterate subprime debtor of the current era.  Bulosan’s juxtaposition of the abstract with the literal in his portrayal of the exploited labor and desires of Filipino American seasonal fieldworkers exposes new forms of knowledge about debt, obligation, and reciprocity that ironically emanate from the illiterate and the uneducated. As the critic-scholar E. San Juan, Jr., has put it: “Bulosan will not ignore us.” This presentation attempts to “not ignore” Bulosan in order to understand how structures of ignorance–who is deemed ignorant and who is deemed knowledgeable–fortify the United States empire. Then we may be able to more clearly understand, reaffirm, and revive how alternate and anti-capitalist structures of  debt circulate in Filipino America.