Tuesday, August 30, 2016

KUMANDER PARAGO VERSUS ONE-BILLION RISING



KUMANDER PARAGO VERSUS ONE BILLION RISING: POLITIKANG SEKSUWAL  SA PANAHON NG TERORISMONG U.S.

-- ni E. San Juan, Jr.
Professorial Lecturer, Polytechnic University of the Philippines


Ang tao ba ay katumbas lamang ng kanyang katawan, o bahagi nito? Ang kasarian ba ay walang iba kundi organong seksuwal? Seks ba ang buod ng pagkatao? 

Kung hindi man ito kalakaran, ang tumututol ay siyang nagtatampok ng problema, bagamat salungat sa namamaraling opinyon o doxang pangmadla. Sinomang bumanggit ng seks ay kasabwat na ng mga bastos at mahalay. Sabi-sabi ito. Batikusin mo, ikalat mo't palaganapin. Bakit mali ito?

Ang usapang seksuwal ay di na masagwa o mahalay ngayon. Buhat noong maging sikat, bagamat kontrobersiyal, ang "Vagina Monologues" ni Eve Ensler, tila hindi na nakasisindak tumukoy sa mga maselang bahagi ng katawan ng babae (Wikipedia 2015). Ang estilong bugtong o talinghaga sa seks--gawaing pakikipagtalik--ay itinuturing na sintomas ng neurosis o maselang sakit ng budhi. Paano ang seks ng transgender, hybrid o cyborg? 

Ordinaryo na lamang ang seksuwal chitchat sa kontemporaryong praktika sa sining at publikong huntahan. Bakit hindi kung laganap na ang advertisement sa Viagra at iba pang drogang nagpapaudyok sa hindutan? Anong masama sa masarap na "dyugdyugan"? Di ba utos kina Eba at Adan: "Multiply...Magparami kayo!" Kung di kaya, uminom ng pilduras o di kaya'y virgin coconut oil. OK ito sa mga pariseo ng simbahan.

Wala bang sariling ating pukaw-pukyutan? Katutubong pukyotan-putakang pangsarili. Biro ng iba, kung instrumento ng progresibong sektor ang popularidad ni Ensler, bakit di pumatol ang "Penis/Balls Monologue"? Kung sobrang tsobinismo o makismo ito, e di symposium o colloquium ng mga genitalia? O sunod kina Bakhtin at Levinas, diyalogo ng balun-balunan, bukong-bukong at puwit? Demokratikong pagpapalitan ng kuro-kuro at kiliti. May reklamo ka?

Pambihirang Pakulo

Iwan na muna natin ang katawang performative. Dumako tayo sa milyung  espirituwal, sa palengkeng neoliberal. Pambihira talaga. Walang clone si Ensler. Isa na siyang korporasyon ng Power Elite ng Global North. Isang haligi ng Imperyong U.S. Naging selebriting burgis si Ensler, kumita ng di-makalkulang yaman at prestihiyo sa di umano'y peministang hamon sa moralidad ng puritanismong lipunan. 

Nagsilbing kultural kapital ang cause de celebre, ginawang passport o pretext para isalba ang kababaihan saan mang lupalop tulad ng neokolonyang Pilipinas. Talo pa niya si Mother Teresa. Ililigtas sina Mary Jane Veloso, Andrea Rosal, Wilma Tiamson, at iba pang inaaping babae sa rehiyon ng BangsaMoro at Lumad (San Juan 2015).

Huwag nang idawit ang Birhen, o babaylang Reyna sa TV at pelikula. Hindi biro, naging talisman o magayumang lakas ang seks ng babae. Sino ang  may reklamo sa One Billion Rising ni Ensler? Ang Vagina Men sa Quezon City o sa Congo? Pati mga gerilya ng New People's Army ay nagsasayaw sa direksiyon ni Ensler sa tulong ng mga kakutsabang kabaro. HIndi na monologo kundi koro ng mga diwata sa gubat kung saan ang masa ay mga isda, ayon kay Mao.
Magaling! Tuwang-tuwa ang mga hito, talakitok, dilis, bia, tanggigi, bakoko at tilapya. Mabuhay ang rebolusyong umiindak, naglalambing. Kung hindi tayo kasama sa sayaw, sambit ni Mother Jones, bakit magpapakamatay?

Karnibal ng mga Paru-Paro?

Kaalinsabay ang usapang puk# sa liberalisasyon ng diskursong seksuwal sa klimang anti-kapitalistang protesta sa buong mundo. Tampok dito ang Women's Liberation movement (simula kina Simone de Beauvoir o Shulamith Firestone) noong dekada 1960-1970. Bumunsod na nga sa pagturing sa prostitusyon bilang sex work/trabahong makalupa. Ewan ko kung anong palagay ni Aling Rosa at mga Lola ng "Lolas Kampanya Survivor" na naglakbay sa kung saan-saan, salamat sa tulong ni Nelia Sancho, ang coordinator ng grupo (tungkol sa industriyalisasyon ng seks, konsultahin si Barry 1995, pahina 146-51). 

Sa ngayon, 300-400 Lola ang buhay pa sa bilang ng 2000 "Comfort Women" sa Pilipinas. Wala pang hustisya sina Lola Julia, Lola Fedencia, atbp hanggang ngayon. Patuloy nilang iginigiit na ang ginawa ng mga Hapon noong giyera ay hindi pag-upa sa babaeng trabahador kundi talagang gahasang tortyur, panggagahis sa sibilyan, isang masahol na krimen laban sa humanidad. Usapang putangna iyon, walang duda. Ang babae ay makinang ginamit upang magparaos ang mga sundalong Hapon, tulad ng mga "hospitality girls" sa Angeles City, Olongapo, at iba pang R & R sentro ng US sa kanilang pandaramong sa Vietnam, Cambodia at Laos noong mga dekada 1960-1980.

Sa kasalukuyan, walang pang artista tulad ni Kenneth Goldsmith na mangagahas sumulat ng isang tula tungkol sa "Katawan ni Lola Rosa, "Comfort Woman."  Nang sambitin ni Goldsmith ang kanyang tulang konseptuwal, "The Body of Michael Brown" (Goldsmith 2015), katakut-takot na puna't panunuri ang sumabog sa Internet at mass media. Bakit? Ang katawan ng Aprikano-Amerikanong biktima ng karahasan ng pulis sa Ferguson, Missouri, ay tila naging banal, sagrado, hindi puwedeng gawing paksa sa makalupang aktibidad. "Off Limits," wika nga, sa mga puting naghahari, puting makapangyarihan (White Supremacy). 

Akala natin ay nasira na ang mga hanggahan, regulasyon, o bakod na naghihiwalay sa iba't ibang uri, paksa, ugali, kaisipan.  Akala natin, kung popular na ang "Vagina Monologues," maaari nang pakialaman ang anumang bagay; wala nang pag-aaring pribado o di kakabit ng espasyong komun o komunidad. Paano mangyayari ito kung umiiral pa ang pribadong pag-aari ng mga kasangkapan sa produksiyon ng ikabubuhay? Umiiral pa ang tubo, salapi, pribadong lupa o espasyo. Binibili pa ang lakas-paggawa, hindi lamang lakas kundi buong katawan at kaluluwa mo. Pati panaginip mo, damdamin, iyong matimtimang pagnanais o pangarap mong kalakip ng iyong puso't budhi. Walang sagrado sa korporasyong multinasyonal, sa palengke ng kapitalismong global. Biniro ni Goldsmith, kaya siya natisod sa apoy ng umaatikabong alitang di lamang kultural kundi tahasang politikal at moral.

May aral kaya ito sa mga alagad ng ONE BILLION RISING? Anong panganib na sumusunod tayo sa modo ng publicity ng isang haligi ng burgesyang imperyo? Paano mababago ang diwa at institusyong mapang-api kung wala tayong kabatiran sa maselan at masalimuot na rasismo't makauring ideolohiyang kaakibat ng patron ng produktong inilalako ni Ensler?

Radikal at Mapanuri?  Bawal!  Huli 'yan!

Bago sumabog ang peminismong radikal, mahaba na rin ang tala ng rebelyon ng mga alagad-ng-sining laban sa sensura, ipokrisya't pagbabawal sa malayang paglalahad. Historya ito ng ebolusyon ng modernidad. Kasi, laging pinaglalangkap ng Patriarkong Orden ang militanteng sining at pornograpya. Hindi sumusunod sa istandard ng burgesya. Taktikang pagbubusal iyon sa kritikang kamalayan. Isipin na lang ang kaso sa dalawang nobelang Ulysses ni James Joyce at Lady Chatterley's Love ni D.H. Lawrence, o mga libro ni Henry Miller. Pati Catcher in the Rye at Huckleberry Finn ay pinagbabawal sa ilang aklatang pampubliko sa U.S. 

Nakakabagot itong ipokrisya, testigo sa paghahati ng lipunang mapagsamantala't makahayup. Huwag na nating balik-tanawin pa ang mga sinaunang halimbawa ng Satyricon ni Petronius, Decameron ni Boccacio, Gargantua at Pantagruel ni Rabelais, at mga akda ni Marquis de Sade. Sinubok nilang sugpuin at pigilin ang pag-unlad ng kamalayan. Laging umiigpaw sa kontrol ng mga naghahari ang lasa at nais ng madla, hindi ng mga awtoridad na umuusig sa mga "ideological State apparatus" ng makauri't mapagsamantalang lipunan.

Sa larangan ng pintura, masilakbo't maengganyo ang balitaktakan. Armadong puwersa ang nakapangingibabaw, hindi argumentong rasyonal. Nakasalalay ang kapangyarian ng Patriyarkong Burgesya. Pwedeng banggitin ang eskandalo tungkol sa "Olympia" (1865) ni Edouard Manet, "The Origin of the World" (1866) ni Gustave Courbet, "Ecstatic Unity" (1969) ni Dorothy Iannone, at mga litrato ni Robert Mapplethorpe. Halimbawa naman ng mga paggamit ng tema o imaheng relihiyoso, mababangit ang eskandalo tungkol sa "Piss Christ" (1987) ni Andres Serrano o "The Holy Virgin May" (1999) ni Chris Ofili (Frank 2015).. 

Sa atin naman, magugunita ang pagsasara ng "KULO" exhibit at ang "Politeismo" (2011) ni Mideo Cruz. Kung itinanghal ang "KULO" sa Pransiya o Italya, marahil walang problema. Baka naging mabenta pa ang mga mapangahas na likhang-sning, karibal ng mga milyong dolyar na produkto nina Andy Warhol at De Kooning.

Ngunit sa neokolonyang mahal, ang diskurso ng libog o praktikang pukaw-pukyutan ay tabu pa rin, sa pangkalahatan. Merong pasubali. Sa akademyang sekular, umiiral ang regulasyon sa takdang lugar ng usapang libog. Ngunit nananaig pa rin ang tradisyonal na moralidad ng iba't ibang simbahan--mga ugali, gawi, kostumbre sa kilos, salita, at sentido komun ng bayan.Sino ba ang nakikinabang sa ganitong paghihigpit? Di na tayo makababalik sa hardin ng karinyo't lampungan (hinggil sa kontrobersyang legal at etikal kaugnay sa pornograpiya, konsultahin si Strossen 1995). 

Magtiyaga na lang kayo sa kampo ng mga nudist, susog ng mga miron. O pornograpikong eksena/video sa Internet. Mag-ingat ka, ang surveillance ngayon ay di lamang estratehiya ng pulis, kundi maniobra ng mga espiya sa Internet, satellite, drones---wala kang ligtas! Puputaktahin ka ng isang katerbang buwisit at kamyerdahang panghihimasok.

Hamon kina Gabriela Silang at Mga Babaylan

Paano kung ambisyon mo ang tumulad kay Shigeko Kubota? Lalaki ka man, puwede ka ring gumaya kay Kubota. 

Sino itong Kubeta? Kubota po, hindi kubeta. Ipinanganak siya sa Niigata, Hapon, noong 1937, kalahi ng mga Budistang monghe (Wikipedia 2015). Naging kasapi siya sa organisasyong Fluxus sa New York noong dekada 1960. Si Kubota ay tanyag na avantgarde video-iskultor,  lumilikha ng video installation, sumusuri sa pamana ni Marcel Duchamp, ama ng modernismong sining. Kalahok ang mga maraming likha niya sa Dokumenta 7, Kessel (1982) at iba pang museo't galeri. Naging propesor siya ng teknolohiya ng video/pelikula sa iba't ibang unibersidad at institusyong global. Unang napag-aralan niya ang komposisyon ni John Cago noong 1963 sa pagsasanib niya sa grupong musikero sa Tokyo, ang Ongaku, kasama si Yoko Ono. 

Naging tanyag si Kubota sa "Vagina Painting," na ginanap sa Perpetual Fluxus Festival,Cinematheque, New York noong Hulyo 1965. May foto ng akto niya sa libro ni Peter Osborne, Conceptual Art (2002), pahina 71. Subaybayan din siya sa Internet sa dokumentasyon ng "Vagina Painting" at iba pang likhang-sining niya (Godfrey 1998).

Sa pangyayaring ito, inilatag ni Kubota ang isang malapad na papel sa sahig. Doon nagpinta siya nang abstraktong linya sa pulang kulay sa bisa ng galaw ng brotsa. Nakakabit ang brotsa sa singit. Huwag mo nang itanong kung gaano katagal ang aksyon at ano ang reaksyon ng awdiyens noon.  Sinasagisag ang kanyang vagina bilang bukal ng inspirasyon. Ang pulang pinta ay kahalintulad ng dugo sa regla na hulog mula sa lugar na tinaguriang kawalan ng phallus (sa metaporikang pakahulugan; ibig pahiwatig, hindi penis o titi). Sa gayong palabas, pinasimulan niya ang isang perspektibang makababae sa tipikal na pagtatanghal ng Fluxus hinggil sa operasyong pagbabakasakali, pasumala o patsansing-tsansing("chance operations"). 

Iminungkahi ni Kubota sa kanyang akto ang isang alternatibo sa agresibong teknik ng action o drip painting ni Jackson Pollock. Isang hamon din ang ginanap ni Kubota sa papel ng babaeng artista na laging pinapatnubayan, ginagabayan, at inuugitan ng kalalakihan--awtoritaryong disiplina ng mga Patriyarko. Dagdag pa, pinuna ni Kubota ang paggamit sa babae bilang brotsang buhay, nilubog sa pintang kulay asul, na pinagapang sa kanbas, na masasaksihan sa Anthropometrie serye ni Yves Klein noong dekada 1950-1960. 

Salungat si Kubota (na asawa ng bantog na si Nam June Paik) sa ganoong paggamit ng katawan ng babae, isang uri ng "human traffiking" ng kababaihan. Kapanalig niya sa krusadang ito sina Yoko Ono at Carolee Schneeman, na hindi masyadong nagustuhan ng kanilang grupong Fluxus (Osborne 2002).

Makibaka, Huwag Magsipsip

Sunod ba ang One Billion Rising sa pintang pukyutan ni Kubota? Aktibo pa rin si Kubota sa New York. I-Google ninyo. Uliran ang kanyang halimbawang napasimulan sa pagpukpok sa pukyutan upang pukawin ang bihag at nakukulong na kamalayan. Isang sandata iyon sa conscientization ng madla.Bakit hindi? Bakit hindi gamitin ang katawan--na siyang lugar ng "Kingdom" ng Tagapagligtas--upang palayain ang pagkatao't kaluluwa (kundi pa naisangla o naipagbili)? Bakit pa nagkaroon ng inkarnasyon kung tayo'y mga anghel na walang puwit o bunganga, walang titi o puk%? 

Anong reklamo mo? Manunuod na lang ba tayo ng "Fifty Shades of Grey" at YOUTUBE seryeng pornograpiko, at mga artifaktong pabalbal sa Internet tulad ng  "Kakantutin ka lang nila" (mahigit 4,081,933 ang taga-subaybay sa YOUTUBE; Lordganja 2015). Kuntento na ba tayong laging nakatungaga sa mga strip-tease at sirko ng mga egotistikong selebriti sa TV at pelikula? Marami tayong reklamo, sigurado, kaya dapat ipahayag na ito. Pasingawin at ibilad ang mga pasakit, himutok, hinanakit. Kundi, baka magkarambulan sa sikolohiyang pantayo't pambarkada.

Alam nating lahat ang tunay na situwasyon. Tulad ng anumang bagay, puspos ng masalimuot na kontradiksiyon.  Lahat ng bahagi ng katawan ay may reklamo, laluna ang sikmura, uhaw sa hustisya. Marami nang pasubali: kaya bang ipahiwatig ang damdamin ng buong body politic sa makitid at partikularistikong paraan ng Vagina Monologue o Vagina Painting? Binugbog at pinarusahang mga katawan ng sambayanan, isinasangkot sa pambansang mobilisasyon ang lahat ng kasariang inaapi. Bukod ito sa One Billion Rising.  

Pag-ugnayin muli ang pinagwatak-watak na bahagi ng katawan upang mabuo muli ang kalayaan at pagkakapantay-pantay na winasak ng imperyalismo't kapitalismong global. Usapang mapagpalaya, hindi lang usapang puk%, ang rebolusyong sumusulong, kabilang ang lahat ng nakikiramay ngayon kina Ka Leoncio Pitao at  Ka Vanessa Limpag, biktima ng barbarismong kabuktutan ng rehimeng Aquino at US imperyalismo (Dulce 2015). Mabuhay sina Kumander Parago at Ka Vanessa, bayani ng lahi, laging buhay sa puso ng masa.



SANGGUNIAN

Barry, Kathleen.  1995.  The Prostitution of Sexuality.  New York: New York University Press.  Nakalimbag.

Dulce, Leon.  2015.  " 'Taytay Parago' and the Defiance of Paquibato."  Kalibutan.  Nakapost sa Bulatlat (2 July). 
<bulatlat.com/main/2015/07/02/tatay-parago>  Webpage.

Frank, Priscilla.  2015.  "A Brief History of Art Censorship from 1508 to 2014."  HuffPost Arts and Culture <www.huffingtonpst.com/2015/01/16/art- censorship_n_646510.html>  Webpage.

Godfrey, Tony.  1998.  Conceptual Art.  New York: Phaidon Press. Nakalimbag.

Goldsmith, Kenneth. 2015.  "The Body of Michael  Brown."  Facebook of Kenneth Goldsmith.  Entry for March 15, 2015.   Webpage.

Lordganja.  2015.  "Kakantutin ka lang nila  lyrics."  <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVDZWJoFzO>  Webpage.

NPA Panay.  2014.  "One Billion Rising, by the Red Detachment of Women." YOUTUBE.  Webpage.

Osborne, Peter.  2002.  Conceptual Art.  New York: Phaidon Press Lit. Nakalimbag.

San Juan, E.  2015.  Between Empire and Insurgency.  Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.  Nakalimbag.

Strossen,Nadine.  1995.  Defending Pornography.  New York: Doubleday.  Nakalimbag.

Wikipedia.  2015.  "Eve Ensler."  <https://en-wikipedia.org/wiki/Eve_Ensler> Webpage.

Wikipedia.  2015.  "Shigeko Kubota."  <https//en-wikipedia.org/wiki/shigeko- kubota>  Webpage.
____________________________________________________________

E. San Juan, Jr.
Professorial Lecturer, Polytechnic University of the Philippines

E-mail:  <philcsc@gmail.com> <philcsc@sbcglobal.net>

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

FILIPINIZING CULTURAL STUDIES


SPECULATIVE THESES TOWARD FILIPINIZING CULTURAL STUDIES

By E. San Juan, Jr.
Director, PHILIPPINE STUDIES CENTER, Washington DC, USA


      The election of Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte was believed to signal, at first glance, a much needed change in neocolonial traditional politics in the Philippines. His brutal campaign to rid the country of endemic drug addiction (implicating “drug lords” in prison as well as generals, mayors, bureaucrats and corrupt legislators) was initially greeted with approval, including by leftwing organizations like BAYAN. His announced desire to make peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army (branded as terrorist by the U.S. State Department) has run aground, with his failure to release hundreds of political prisoners and his kowtowing to Washington’s behest and the U.S.-supplied and advised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Populist aura has quickly mutated into oligarchic terrorism, with the National Police killing hundreds of suspected drug-pushers and the AFP rampaging in killing community leaders of indigenous communities (Lumad) right in his Mindanao backyard. This conjunctural phenomenon offers an ideal case-history for scholars interested in analyzing a postcolonial formation, especially given the smoldering geopolitical controversy over the rights in exploring the resources of the South China Sea after the recent Hague Court decision in favor of the Philippines’ claims (San Juan 2015).

But orthodox Cultural Studies of EuroAmerican vintage has become problematic with its poststructuralist penchant for aporia, radical skepticism, and end-of-ideology resignation to the diktat of the neoliberal marketplace. We need to find an alternative weapon of critical appraisal and judgment. Filipino followers of Derrida, Foucault, Zizek and Agamben can only decry the Hobbesian world of Duterte, betraying ignorance of Hobbes’ own affirmation of the natural right to rebellion against tyranny. Meanwhile, the oligarchic Establishment is maneuvering for a coup d’etat either via impeachment or
popular discontent, waiting for Washington to give the signal. All the archaic institutions are still in place, functioning to maintain the status quo ante Duterte. This is the occasion for public intellectuals to intervene with a historically specific diagnosis of the local and international roots of Duterte’s pettybourgeois Caesarism, a parody of the Marcos dictatorship of 1972-86, with Duterte himself allowing the burial of the embalmed Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani against widespread public protest. Contradictions abound, making this crisis of the solitary U.S. neocolony in Asia a perfect example of the perverse mutation of postcolonial hybridity. Can Filipino critical sensibility rise up to the occasion to vindicate the long, durable tradition of revolutionary resistance against imperial terrorism and white-racial supremacist barbarism? The speculations below are designed to stimulate dialogue on the convergence of the disciplines, the dialectic of audience and author, and exchanges between master-narrators and the Others of Fanon’s “wretched of the earth” party in the contested domain of an ideal public sphere, wherever it may be discovered or set up.

Prologue to Interrogation

“Cultural Studies” (CS) originating from UK and North America focuses on the complex relations of “power” and “knowledge” (knowledge-production) at a specific historical conjuncture (Seventies and Eighties). Its axioms include the rejection of Enlightenment modernity/progress, metanarratives (paradigms; world-views), premised on the rational subject. Symptomatic of the alienation of Western intellectuals from technocratic market-society during the Cold War, CS reflects the crisis of finance/ monopoly capitalism in its imperialist stage. It seeks to transcend reified systems by way of privileging the differend,differance (Lyotard; Derrida), diffuse power (Foucault; Deleuze), life-world or everyday life (Habermas; de Certeau) inspired by Nietzsche, Heidegger, Freud, and Saussure.

Orthodox CS identifies modernity with capitalism, hence its postmodernist temper. Despite acknowledging the historicity of the discipline, postmodernist academics (Geertz, Grossberg, Clifford) give primacy to “the flow of social discourse”
and the “essentially contestable” genealogy of culture. Engaged with the singularity of events centering on love, sentiments, conscience, and the existential or ethical moment in order to “bring us in touch with strangers,” with Others, postmodern CS seeks to interrogate the foundational aims of linguistics (Jackobson), psychoanalysis (Freud), philosophy (Kant, Hegel) and political economy (Marx) by substituting the ambivalence, contingency, and hybridity of “lived experience” for labor/social praxis as the focus of investigation. Focused on what escapes language and thought, CS has fallen into the dualism it ritualistically condemns, complete with the mystique of a neoliberal individualism enabled by presumably value-free, normative “free market” absolutism.

Anti-foundationalism and anti-metanarratives distinguish orthodox CS today. Rejecting classical reason, CS refuses any grounding in political or social action as a perversion of knowledge for the ends of power. Valuing negative critique as an antidote to ideology, CS leads up to a fetishism of the Void, the deconstructive “Sublime” as a substitute for a thoroughgoing critique of the authority of received values and institutions. By various ruses of irony, uncanny cynicism and “sly mimicry,” It ends up apologizing for the status quo. Anti-authoritarianism is trivialized in careerist anecdotes, and CS becomes reduced to conferences and publicity about fantasies of revolutionary social movements.
Submerged and eventually displaced, the critical dimension of CS drawn from Western Marxism (Gramsci, Althusser, Lukacs) has disappeared in the neoconservative tide that began with Reagan/Thatcher in the Eighties. This neoconservatism continues to this day under the slogan of the “global war on terrorism.” Meanwhile, attention to racism, gender, sexism and other non-class contradictions, particularly in the colonized and peripheral formations, sharpened with the Civil Rights struggles in the US, the youth revolt, and the worldwide opposition to the Vietnam war and the current if precarious hegemony of the Global North.

From Orthodoxy to Heterodoxy

Mainstream CS today still focuses on consumption, audience response, Deleuzian desire, affects, irony, avoidance of the critique of ideology, the culture industry, and unequal division of social labor. However, some versions of CS invokes Simone de Beauvoir, Fanon, CLR James, W.E.B.Du Bois, Rosa Luxemburg, Paulo Freire and other “third world” activists in an effort to renew its original vocation of contributing to fundamental social change. Its Foucaultian notion of “specific intellectuals” addressing a “conjunctural constituency” may call attention to the need to address state violence and hegemonic apparatuses of public control and repression.

Like any global trend, CS can be “filipinized” by the creative application of its original radical critique to our conditions. Various forms of CS, as mediated by “subalternists” and other “third world” conduits, have influenced such historians concerned with the marginalized Others (peasants, women, religious and ethnic communities, etc.). But except for the Latin American “theology of liberation” as a form of CS, they have all wrongly assumed that the Philippines is no longer a neocolonial, dependent formation, replete with diverse contradictions centering on the oligarchic- comprador domination of the majority of the people (workers, peasants, OFWs, Moros and other indigenous groups). The question of a singular Filipino modernity—genuine national sovereignty, autonomous individuals free from Spanish or American tutelage, a bourgeois public sphere—has been conflated and transmogrified by insidious postmodern mystifications legitimized by the illusory promise of emancipation by avid consumption epitomized in megamalls, Internet/Facebook celebrity culture, and a predatory commodifying consumerist ethos.

     The examples of what I consider the inventors of Filipino cultural studies—Jose Rizal (in “The Indolence of Filipinos” and “The Philippines a Century Hence”), Isabelo de los Reyes (folklore and ethnic studies), counteless vernacular novelists, poets, and playwrights; and memoir-writers (Mabini, veterans of 1896 and the Huk uprising)— applied criticial principles derived from Europe to the specific political and socioeconomic situations in the colony/neocolony. In the process, the power/knowledge
complex acquired concrete elaboration in terms of how “everyday life”—culture as ordinary habits or patterns (Raymond Williams)--cannot escape its over-determination by the historical institutions and practices imposed by the colonial powers and mediated by regional/local ruling bloc. Time and space offer intelligible meanings by way of the contradictions between the colonial/neocolonial hegemonic institutions and the acceptance/resistance of the colonized natives. Such meanings can be found in the narratives of individuals/collectives in which the notion of subjectivity defined by various levels of contradictions (Filipino versus American, patriarchal power versus women, “civilized” versus indigenous,etc.) can be discerned embedded in the totality of social relations at specific historical moments. I am thinking of a “knowable community” with institutions and habitus, structure of power relations, not just a “structure of feeling” constituted by heterogeneous experiences

In Philippine CS, the question of language assumes primacy because intellectual discourse and exchanges cannot sidetrack the problem of communicating to the larger public. Democratizing the means of communication is apart of the process of overthrowing the oligarchic elite and the reproduction of class and gender inequality. Such a public needs to be developed by the pedagogical program of a developing CS curriculum. The prevalence of English as an elite marker/imprimatur of privileged status will prevent this public sphere from emerging. Linked to this is the position of popular culture which has always radicalized CS by eliminating the divide between the elite/ canonical culture and the proletarian/mass culture. Control of the means of communication needs to be addressed as well as the participation of a wider public in dialogues and exchanges.

CS, if it aspires to actualize its critical potential and transformative, needs to always address the major and minor contradictions of each society within a globalizing planet. The neoliberal market ideology that pervades everyday life/consciousness militates against the growth of a critical sensibility and the development of the faculties/ powers of the species, hence CS needs to focus its analytic instruments on the commodification of the life-world and everyday life by the oligopolistic capitalist order. In
the Philippines, the unprecedented diaspora of domestics and overseas contract workers (OFWs) constitute the prime specimen for study and critique. This involves not only the symbolic violence of language use but also the material violence of hunger, disease, State torture and extrajudicial killings.

Problematizing Knowledge-Production

In a critique mainly focused on the aborted promise of CS in the Global North, it is neither strategic nor propitious to describe in detail what the adaptation--or indigenization, if you like--of a Eurocentric CS paradigm would look like attuned to the needs and demands of neocolonized subjects in the Global South. Parts of that description may be found in my previous works (San Juan 1996, 2000, 2008). It would certainly require a longer, sustained mapping of the sociopolitical terrain of six decades after the 1946 formal independence. A political economy of group consensus and habits of belief such as, for example, the inventory of contradictions drawn up by social scientist Kenneth Bauzon (1991) would be useful to calculate the scale and degree of continued Filipino mimicry of inhumane models to perpetuate inequity and underdevelopment.

My task here is circumscribed: to indicate in broaf strokes the limitations and inadequacies of that paradigm for subjugated or dependent constituencies of the Empire. It is foolhardy to undertake this task until we have cleared up crucial theoretical hurdles. The first is the problem of naming the subaltern agency. Obviously the identification of "Filipino" and "Filipino nation" remains contentious, unsettled, intractable. At best we can only handle the "interpretants" (both denoted and connoted items) of those signifiers provisionally, given not only the existence of heterogeneous components of that ethnic signified "Filipino" but also the fact that the whole ethos (moral, aesthetic, evaluative) of Filipino culture, not to speak of its cognitive and existential aspects, remains suspended in the undecided battlefields of the national- democratic revolution. Mutating modes of inclusion and exclusion of group actors prevail. We can only stipulate our parameters of discourse in the light of what has been
accomplished so far in liberating ourselves, neocolonized subjects, from imperialist political, sociocultural, economic strangleholds.

For now, suffice it to remark on the need to adhere to the axiom of historical specificity (Korsch 1971) and a measure of philosophical rigor in defining such parameters. Above all, the question of ideology and the political economy of knowledge- production cannot be ignored. We cannot escape both the rules of our own communities and that of the totalizing diplomatic-technological state apparatuses of empire that modifies, coopts and sublimates those rules. The dialectical laws of motion of interlocked asymmetrical nation-states cannot be dismissed as simply reactive or aprioristic. In this light, Virgilio Enriquez's project of inventing sikolohiyang Pilipino during the nationalist resurgence of the 1960s and early 1970s may be symptomatically read as a culmination of all previous decolonizing initiatives (from Rizal and the Propagandistas to Recto, Constantino, and Sison) to articulate a program and world- view for the masses struggling for social justice, popular democracy, and genuine independence. It was institutionally predictable but also serendipituous.

An analogous clarification can be offered for the roles that Filipino historians adopted before, during, and after the Marcos dictatorship. While inspired by Indian subalternist historians (laboring under the aegis of Foucaultian/post-structuralist thought) to de-center what was perceived as bourgeois-oriented chronicles such as those by Teodoro Agoncillo and Renato Constantino, Rafael Ileto (1998) succeeded to some extent in assaying the value of popular culture (the pasyon, etc.) and other marginal practices in the construction of a “non-linear” narrative of Filipino events before and after the 1896 revolution. It is doubtful whether Agoncillo or Constantino really pursued a linear, one-directional bias. Nevertheless, the revisionist method is not an original “native” discovery. Even before the late-twentieth century diaspora, the Filipino intelligentsia has been open-minded, highly susceptible to global influences. Subalternist historiography is the product of a long record of countering the positivist, Comte-Rankean version of historicism, from the British social-history tradition (Samuel 1981) to the French Annales school and its evolutionist/functionalist offshoot in the
Alfred McCoy-Ben Kerkvliet interventions in re-writing Philippine history in a more sophisticated way than Stanley Karnow's apologetic product, In Our Image (1989). Meanwhile, the Marcos Establishment historian Zeus Salazar tried to retool Enriquez's sikolohiya by purging it of its liberatory impulse and anchoring a populist version of the past in an evolving Filipino idiom via his pantayong pananaw scheme. It may be premature to judge the reformist efficacy of this effort in renewing or rehabilitating the fields of local historiography and moribund anthropology. Salazar’s disciples seem resigned to the neoliberal dispensation of the post-Marcos order, ensconced in the academic commerce of fabricating idiosyncratic terminology for archaic ideas.

We Versus They?

The problem of thematizing local knowledge offers both theoretical and political conundrums. Ramon Guillermo (2003) has provided us a useful inventory of Salazar's heroic effort, together with proposals for improving its method and scope. But both Salazar and Guillermo have so far sidestepped the fundamental issue (which transcends the old emic/etic binary) of how the notion of rationality--communicative action, in another framework--central to the intellectual metier of a global community of scientific inquirers to understand and appraise cultures can be surpassed or transcended. This issue has been elaborated in the volume Rationality (Wilson 1970)— just to cite one compilation--in which a survey of the conflicting arguments prompted Alasdair MacIntyre's observation that "the understanding of a people in terms of their own concepts and beliefs does in fact tend to preclude understanding them in any other terms" (1970, 130).

MacIntyre does not fully endorse the functionalist view that institutions must be grasped not in terms of what they mean for the agents, but in terms of what necessary needs and purposes they serve; however, he does not fully agree with Peter Winch's untenable belief that communities can only be properly understood and judged in terms of their own internally generated norms and beliefs--a proposition that pantayong pananaw advocates seem to favor, despite earnest denials (see Sta. Maria 2000). But even assuming that isolated communities in a capitalist-gobalized world is possible,
long after Max Weber took time off from “value-free” pursuits to distinguish explanation from interpretation, proponents of the primacy of hermeneutic understanding still need the benefit of analytic explanation if they want to avoid circularity and self-serving solipsism. After all, why bother understanding Others? Oppositional American thinkers such as Marcus Raskin, Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, Susan Buck-Morss and others have begun to engage with the antinomies of knowledge-production faced earlier by the British in the context of the challenges of the postmodern era (Raskin 1987), an engagement coopted by the debates on terrorism, Islamophobia, and other alibis of Empire.

My own position strives to be a dialectical-materialist stance that privileges historical specificity and counterhegemonic imperatives on the question of adapting ideas originating from other sources (San Juan 2007). In my view, language is only one of the criteria for hypothesizing the nation as "imagined community,” to use Benedict Anderson’s formula. However, the quest becomes more problematic when the language at issue, "Filipino," is still a matter disputed by other participants of the polity such as the Cebuanos, the various Moro groups, and by the English-speaking intelligentsia and bureaucracy. More seriously, it is not possible to conceive of the notions of "pantayo" and "pangkami" without the whole dynamic network of differences first outlined by Saussure but complicated by the wide-ranging semiotic principles explored by C.S. Peirce, Lev Vygotsky, Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco, and Roman Jakobson, far beyond the findings of Whorf, Sapir, Humboldt, Frobenius, etc. The linguistic symbol, as Jakobson reminds us, is not only a vehicle of the sedimented past (icons) or the present (indices) but also of the future. He quotes Peirce's speculation premised on the triadic theory of the sign: "The being of a symbol consists in the real fact that something surely will be experienced if certain conditions be satisfied....The value of a symbol is that it serves to make thought and conduct rational and enables us to predict the
future" (1987,427).


Language is, to be sure, only one signifier of national identity, not an absolute qualifier, whose correlation with other practices and collective actions needs delicate orchestration (Yinger 1976, 200-02). Earlier (San Juan 2008), I registered my discomfort with the logocentric tendency in Enriquez's otherwise conscientious indigenization
attempt. In the total program of liberating the majority of Filipinos (workers, peasants, women) from market exploitation and alien oppression, a nationalist ideology as such should prioritize the act of foregrounding democratic national rights and collective welfare. Hence we need an internationalist worldview such as that provided by Marxism (articulated, of course, to our specific conditions) with its universalistic, critical position grounded on a "concrete universal," with all the richness of the particular social- formation in the Philippines, in creating a sense of Filipino nationhood (Lowy 2000). 

Filipinizing CS thus requires not merely linguistic readjustment but, more importantly, reconceiving the sense of rationality, justice, equality and democratic participation that cannot be hermetically encapsulated within the bounds of a single Filipino language-in- the-making. My firm conviction is that no indigenization project will fully succeed unless it includes a program of systematic decolonization, particularly an uncompromising indictment of U.S.  colonialism/neocolonialism in its totality, together with its complicit transnational allies. Neither postcolonial hybridity, modernizing technocratic pragmatism, nor transnational flexibility will do; we need dialectical cunning and a bricoleur’s resourcefulness in taking advantage of what our forebears--Rizal, Recto, Agoncillo, Constantino, Hernandez, and others--have already won for us. After all, the enemy can also speak in Filipino and even dance the tinikling and sing "Dahil sa Iyo" in more seductive, innovative, postmodernist ways. We need to combine specifics and universals in both strategic and tactical ways that precisely cannot be learned at this time from orthodox CS and its postcolonial. transnationalist variations.

Unconcluding Postscript

To recap: Conceived as a reaction to capitalist high culture in the late twentieth century, CS initially challenged Cold War norms and Western hegemony. It promised a democratic, even radical, renaissance of thought and sensibility inside and outside the academy. Its early practitioners drew heavily from the Marxist and socialist traditions. But when it became institutionalized in the Eighties and Nineties, CS distanced itself rapidly from mass political struggles in the metropoles and the “third world.” It reverted to ethical individualism, aestheticism, Nietzschean performative displays, and the
fetishism of differences/hybridity, becoming in the process a defensive ideology for predatory finance capitalism and technocratic globalization. If we want CS to be meaningful to the majority of Filipinos, it needs to address the urgent realities of our society and contribute to the democratic and egalitarian ideals of our history.

In the Philippines and other subordinated formations, CS can be regenerated by renewing its anticolonial, popular and democratic inspiration and re-engaging in a radical, transformative critique of oligopolistic corporate power, the political economy of global finance capital and its commodified/commodifying culture. It can challenge US imperialism and its subalterns in its current modality of warring against “terrorism”or extremism (codewords for anti-imperialists) by returning to, first, the primacy of social labor; second, the complex historical articulations of the mode of production and social relations; and, third, the importance of the materialist critique of norms, assumptions and premises underlying existing inequalities, injustices, and oppressions.

To Filipinize CS is to reconfigure the modality and thrust of Western CS in order to address the persistent and urgent problems of the exploitation of Filipino labor worldwide, the lack of genuine sovereignty and national independence, and the profound class, gender and ethnic inequalities that have plagued the country for so long. In short, intellectuals engaged in CS need to situate their practice and vocation in the actual society that underwrites their labor and provides it some measure of intelligibility and significance. Otherwise, they will continue to serve the interests of global capital and undermine their own claims to integrity and independence, not to speak of “academic freedom,” humanistic ideals, and scientific objectivity.

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