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Managing the (Post)Colonial : race, gender and sexuality in literary texts of the Philippine Commonwealth

  • Author(s): Solomon, Amanda Lee Albaniel
  • et al.

"Managing the (Post)Colonial" investigates a range of literary texts - from American newspaper articles to Philippine state-sponsored poetry - which circulated just before and during the Philippine Commonwealth period (1934 -1946), when the islands were neither an official U.S. colony nor an independent nation. I argue therefore that the Commonwealth period was an ambiguous and contradictory political moment which I signify through the parenthetical use of "post" in "(post)colonial." I thus call into question whether or not an entire nation and its subjects could be simultaneously colonial and yet not, for it is at the moment of seeming official separation from the U.S. that political, economic, cultural and social policies actually ensured U.S. hegemony under the guise of independence. Ultimately, I analyze cultural and literary texts of the period to show how sexualized and gendered representations of the Filipino subject were not only utilized in an attempt to reconcile this contradiction of the Commonwealth, but also to imagine alternative nationalisms and forms of social emancipation. In the first chapter, I focus on the patriarchal formulation of benevolent assimilation and on American journalist Katherine Mayo's 1925 book Islands of Fear. I argue that Mayo discursively enabled her own access to the masculine realm of imperial power by positing a theory of Anglo- Saxon racial superiority meant to overwrite the patriarchal hierarchy between genders. This chapter demonstrates the mutually constitutive yet simultaneously contradictory nature of the imperial systems of racialization, sexualization and gendering. I trace the lines of this argument further in the second chapter as I investigate the 1940 Commonwealth Literary Awards. As the formal structure of an independent nation was established, state-sanctioned cultural projects such as the Awards not only obfuscated but also enabled the persisting economic and political ties between the islands and the U.S. Such projects did so by cultivating a canon of Philippine writing in English that posited normative masculinist nationalism as the telos of American democratic tutelage. In the third chapter I focus on what I term the hypersexualization of Philippine independence and the (im)possibilities of queer moments of desire in Carlos Bulosan's prose and Josè Garcia Villa's poetry - the impossibility of asserting a normative Filipino American subject and the possibility of imagining an America that is in the heart. Focusing on the queer moments in Bulosan and Villa's texts, I trace how the relationships between race, gender and sexuality are not only inundated with power but are also productively contradictory, allowing one access to spaces and acts of freedom

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