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Banal spectacles : on the production of the 'Filipino' subject through performance and display

  • Author(s): Tagle, Thea Quiray;
  • et al.

My thesis makes a critical intervention into both scholarship and activism that privileges a heteronormative Filipino/American subject at the center of its political and ethical claims. Using the historical cases of the Iwahig and Bilibid prisons, the Culion Leper Colony, the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, and the contemporary YouTube videos of Filipino dancing prisoners, I explore the ways that all Filipino subjects have been produced as queer or non-heteronormative through the technique of banal spectacles of performance and display by both the colonial and the contemporary neoliberal regimes. This history, I believe, has been disavowed by leftist Filipino/American scholars and activists, who instead focus their human rights appeals on explicitly heterosexual, feminized 'victims'--the trafficked women, the mail-order bride, and the self-sacrificing overseas migrant worker--to the exclusion of any and all others. I argue that due to their reliance on heteronormative notions of the family and the nation in their political discourse, liberal and radical political activists and scholars are stymied in their ability to imagine a Philippine nation-state that is not economically and politically dependent on the United States and on global institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. Rather than claim the heteronormative Filipino/American subject as the only one deserving of rights and recognition, how can we as committed scholars and activists develop a radical queered politics of liberation for all?

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