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Wayreading Chamorro Literature from Guam

  • Author(s): Perez, Craig Santos
  • Advisor(s): Piatote, Beth
  • et al.
Abstract

Wayreading Chamorro Literature from Guam

This dissertation maps and navigates contemporary literature by indigenous Chamorro authors from the Pacific island of Guam. Because Guam has experienced more than three centuries of colonization by three different imperial nations, Chamorro language, beliefs, customs, practices, identities, and aesthetics have been suppressed, changed, and sometimes completely replaced. As a result of these colonial changes, many anthropologists and historians have claimed that authentically indigenous Chamorro culture no longer exists. Similarly, literary scholars have argued that contemporary Chamorro literature is degraded and inauthentic because it is often composed in a written form as opposed to an oral form, in English as opposed to Chamorro, and in a foreign genre (such as a novel) as opposed to an indigenous genre (such as a chant). This discourse of inauthenticity, I suggest, is based on an understanding of Chamorro culture and literature as static essences that once existed in a "pure" and "authentic" state before colonialism, modernity, and globalization. Countering these arguments, I view Chamorro culture as a dynamic entity composed of core, enduring values, customs, and practices that are continually transformed and re-articulated within various historical contexts and political pressures. Relatedly, I contend that Chamorro literature is a dynamic phenomenon comprised of an aesthetic genealogy that has also been transformed by colonialism and re-articulated by every successive generation of Chamorro authors. To understand these complexities, I enact a literary methodology that I term "wayreading," which involves tracking how the primary themes (the content) of Chamorro literature express the survival and vitality of Chamorro language, customs, values, and practices, as well as how the primary narrative structures (the forms) of Chamorro literature embody Chamorro aesthetics, technologies, and ecologies. While the first chapter of this project launches into a discussion of Chamorro cultural identity and literary authenticity, the subsequent chapters focus on representations of important Chamorro cultural symbols—including land, housing, navigation, and storytelling—in a wide range of contemporary Chamorro literary expressions. In the Conclusion, I assert that Chamorro literature is a symbolic decolonial act and a pragmatic decolonial tool in ongoing decolonization, demilitarization, and sovereignty movements in Guam. This dissertation is significant because it highlights a relatively unknown indigenous literature, thus contributing to the intellectual traditions of Pacific Islander, Native American, and Global Indigenous Cultural and Literary Studies. Beyond the realm of the indigenous, this study also contributes to the fields of Hispanic, American, Post-colonial, and Comparative Ethnic Cultural and Literary Studies.

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