Querying/Queering Imaginaries and Memories Panel



Archipelagic Imagination and Decolonial Aesthetics: Enduring Imperial Duress, Colonial Detritus, and Fantasies of National (Be)Longing

Imagination archipélagique et esthétique décoloniale: Endurer la contrainte impériale, les débris coloniaux et les fantasmes du désir national


Sunday, October 24, 2021


11:00 – 12:45

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This panel probes the interconnectedness of the geo-political, historical, and cultural imaginaries of the insular, and the archipelagic ways of being and becoming, doing and undoing, making, and remaking in the Philippines and in the Filipino global elsewhereness. We explore the temporal-spatial connections between the sea of islands and the imperializing continent—the hauntings of empire that conjure abiding abjection, violence, death, and displacement. The empire’s recyclable rubbles, and ruins, durable detritus and debris are juxtaposed with the repeated refusal, rejection, and resistance of the archipelagic in constituting colonial reciprocities and resilient residual relations. Fictions of belonging and fantasies of nationhood endure as rubbish remainders and reminders of racial capitalism, patriarchal heteronormativity, and imperial homo-nationalism.  Meanwhile, islandic relations, intimacies, and diverse modes of desiring are wrapped around enactments and embodiments of decolonizing paradigms, and unsettling performances embedded in art production, circulation, reception, and consumption.

Convenor/Animateur: Ferdinand Lopez, University of Toronto

Chair/Président: Roland Tolentino, College of Mass Communication and Likhaan Institute of Creative Writing, University of the Philippines

Discussant/Intervenant: Roland Tolentino, College of Mass Communication and Likhaan Institute of Creative Writing, University of the Philippines

Event poster


The Weapon of Cultures: Necropolitics and Death in the Cinema on the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanaw

Jay Jomar Quintos, University of the Philippines

This paper probes the contours of Lumad (a collective term for Indigenous Peoples in Mindanaw) and death in “Ang mga Tigmo sa Akong Pagpauli” (Riddles of my Homecoming) (dir., Arnel Mardoquio, 2013), a film based on Mindanaw settler’s belief that the souls of dead Lumad return to their homeland to resolve unfinished businesses. Through a set of tableaux and other surreal images in the sphere of dreams, the film may seem to homogenize various Lumad circumstances and life-worlds. On the one hand, it may be deduced as essentialist construction, but on the other, may be opined as productive articulation of Lumad collective experiences, forgotten and sidelined in the detritus of the Philippine national imagination.

Using Achille Mbembe’s concept of necropolitics, this paper explores how the rendering of death in the film is entwined in the unequal economic distribution, anti-poor policies that favour foreigners, and draconian power interplay propagated by the Philippine state. The systemic disenfranchisement towards the Indigenous Peoples is significantly evident in natural disasters, human rights abuses, and political violence in Mindanaw, specifically during the Rodrigo Duterte regime. Finally, this paper investigates how Lumad death in the film can be conspicuously tragic but at the same time, a weapon of cultures.

Hail Mary, Full of Waste: Philippine Postcolonial Residue in Mia Alvar’s “The Virgin of Monte Ramon”

Matthew Mucha, University of Toronto

In her collection, In the Country, Mia Alvar examines the postcolonial legacies manifested in the modern-day Filipino subjects. She problematizes the marginalization of certain groups in Philippine society, and by extension, delineates their social stratification along the lines of class and ethnicity. In the short story, “The Virgin of Monte Ramon,” characters are ostracized because of their physical conditions. Danny, an upper-class mestizo boy, is born without legs. His friend, Annelise, a lowly negrita girl, suffers from excruciating menstrual cramps during her periods. In conceptualizing the relationship between history and trash, Susan Morrison declares that “In the search for a narrative, we inevitably create waste,” forcing subjects and their stories to the margins.

This essay examines the author’s employment of American neo-colonial legacies in the Philippines as imperial detritus. Through the use of characters that embody various historical entanglements and their interactions with each other, Alvar presents the absurdity of internal divisions among postcolonial subjects who pursue fictions of nationhood. Her postmodern narrative unflinchingly stares at the more than three centuries of imperial decay, colonial abjection, and toxic cultural garbage in the Philippine archipelago.

Queering Folklore: Reading Diwata as Archipelagic Mythologizing of Desire and (Be)Longing

Ferdinand Lopez, University of Toronto

As divine beings, these old deities are literally
entangled with stars and oceans, heavens and earths
not to mention forms belonging to the allegedly
“opposite sex” and other possible embodiments.

– Zairong Xiang, Queer Ancient Ways: A Decolonial Exploration

Since a myth is a type of speech, everything can be
a myth, provided it is conveyed by a discourse.

– Roland Barthes, Mythologies

Diwata: Queering Precolonial Philippine Mythology is an online photography exhibit of young queer and trans folx from Mindanao: Renz Botero, Natu Xantino, and Ram Botero. This visual art display is a part of the month-long Southeast Asian Queer Culture Festival held last February 13 until March 13 2021 on the theme, “Be/longing.” The artists-mythmakers and curators reinterpret figures from pre-colonial Philippine history, and folklore to explore the various instantiations of queer (be)longings and transformations. While the general reception of the virtual exhibit remains positive, critics interrogate the limits of cultural appropriation, the extent of artistic license, the slippages in conceptual translation, and the lack of faithfulness to the archival sources informing the 16-piece visual art collection.

What I propose to do in this paper is to deploy the notion of “strange temporalities of use” conceptualized by Sarah Ahmed, in order to map the messy entanglements of queer desire, and (be)longing exemplified in Diwata’s mythopoetic ekphrasis. I use archipelagic elsewhereness (extending Rabasa and Xian) to strategically read the out-of-use, wild, strange, queer, and startling transformations of beings in Diwata.

Dramaturgy in Lockdown: Re-Thinking the Role of the Dramaturg in the Digital Space

Dominique Beatrice T. La Victoria, Ateneo de Manila University

The transposition to digital theatre by Filipino theatre artists due to the COVID-19 pandemic should prompt a necessary shift in the Filipino dramaturg’s role in a theatre production. Using the Auction of Yoyoy Moonbuggy’s Head (2021) performance under the “MAKBETAMAXIMUS: Theatre of Destruction” online production—a deconstruction of Shakespeare’s Macbeth by university theatre organization Tanghalang Ateneo—as a case study, this presentation traces a shift in the dramaturg’s role: defined by scholarly research and public relations and confined to one physical space pre-pandemic. In this production, the dramaturg takes on a role that fuses directorial and curatorial work, collaborating with performers and designers to devise a performance streamed live online to a public audience. Negotiations of physical space scale up due to the confinement of participants in different parts of Metro Manila, with the dramaturg having to negotiate inter-city restrictions (i.e., checkpoints and curfews). This concern for space has also expanded to an ephemeral digital space, wholly dependent on third world resources (i.e. internet access, reliability, rotating brownouts). Given the politically charged nature of the performance (drawing on the fanaticism of the Rodrigo Duterte regime prevalent in the online space), and the ethnographic relationship between Filipinos and social media, the dramaturg’s role in relation to the audience extends to social media strategy: discerning the best platform to host the performance and optimal time of streaming, while ensuring the safety of the performers. As we move towards a post-pandemic theatre, the Filipino theatre industry must begin to see dramaturgs as creators, curators, and planners able to negotiate spaces and audiences beyond their pre-pandemic responsibilities.

CCSEAS Conference 2021 | ccseas@yorku.ca