Querying/Queering Imaginaries and Memories Panel



Postscripts from the Pacific: Reflections on Archival Research into Cultural Memory, Historical Trauma, and Political Struggle in the Philippines

Post-scriptum du Pacifique : Réflexions sur la recherche archivistique concernant la mémoire culturelle, les traumatismes historiques et les luttes politiques aux Philippines


Sunday, October 24, 2021


13:45 – 15:30

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The value of archival memory-keeping practices to the structure of social and cultural life is often explained through the universal human instinct for “collective cultural self-preservation.” But rarely do traditional archives venture outside archival institutions or outside the boundaries of the archival discipline to interact with and learn from other areas of study.

This panel discussion brings together four scholars, two from archival studies, one from history, and another from applied theatre, who share a common experience of studying archives and memory work in the Philippines. The Philippines is home to many archival traditions, including Indigenous memory-keeping practices and a national archives born of the Spanish and American colonial projects. Though researching different topics, these panelists nevertheless encountered similar questions regarding the role that archives play in national and local consciousness. What is the importance of archives in maintaining cultural and community memory around historically significant or traumatic events, such as the audience engagement approach of the Marcos dictatorship, the Igorot struggle against the Chico Dam, the aftermath of a natural disaster, or a global pandemic? How have community efforts to collect and preserve records contributed to present day political struggles for survival and self-determination, and against state repression?

Convenor/Animateur: Lara Maestro, University of British Columbia

Chair/Président: Chandu Claver, Damayan Society for Migrant Education and Resources

Discussant/Intervenant: Vanessa Banta, University of Toronto Scarborough

Event poster


Alternative Becomings, Alternative Belongings: Cordillera Case Studies of Records in Context

Lara Maestro, Master of Archival Studies and Library and Information Studies Graduate, University of British Columbia

The creation, maintenance, transmission, and preservation of knowledge over time is common to human cultures around the world. Knowledge-keeping practices differ based on social and cultural context, and can take a variety of forms, including the oral, the embodied, and the written word. This paper considers two examples of knowledge-keeping mechanisms—the bodong and Cordillera Day— in order to determine community-based approaches to the subjects of the record and the archives: the bodong system and Cordillera Day. It provides an analysis of how the bodong, an Indigenous socio-political system used in the Kalinga province of the Philippines, functions as a record among the Basao, Butbut, and Tanglag tribes. It also provides an analysis of how Cordillera Day, an annual political and cultural event bringing together the various Indigenous tribes in the Cordillera region of Luzon, functions as a living archive. This exploration was conducted using unstructured interviews, participant observation, and content analysis during fieldwork conducted in the Cordillera region of the Philippines, primarily in Kalinga province. The study concludes that the bodong and Cordillera Day function in such a way that they are analogous to established archival definitions of the archive and the record, but that they do not need to be understood as such by the community in order to be useful or successful. Further, this thesis finds that the recordkeeping practices of these Indigenous communities is inextricably linked with political struggles for the defence of ancestral lands and for self-determination.

Reconstructing Mass Media Audiences in the Philippines: Notes on the Salvage of Archival Debris

Teilhard Paradela, University of British Columbia

This paper traces the intensification of the imperative for audience discipline in the Philippines by examining mass communication research, programs, and policies from the commonwealth period (1930s–1940s) to the Marcos regime (1960s–1980s).

Using the pioneering on “media exposure” in the early decades of the Philippine republic, this dissertation examines how the local elites imagined the audiences as belonging to— and thereby manifesting the existence of—a market, a public, and even a nation. Such performative imaginings had powerful implications on how the state engaged "the people" and how the people participated in national affairs as well as how they related to each other. The declaration of Martial Law in 1972 by then President Ferdinand Marcos pushed into stark relief the particular currency of knowing the audiences. As it took full control of the mass media, the state under Marcos wielded audience research to support the disciplining, in both its repressive and productive sense, of the people. At stake for the state was the sole power not only to communicate to the people but also to constitute them as audiences of Marcos’s spectacular dictatorship. By engaging what the author calls “archival debris,” the paper reflects on the challenges of archiving in the Philippines from environmental disasters to institutional indifference and their impact on collective memory, history making, and political action.

Performing Disasters: Indigenous Ecological Knowledge in/within Applied Theatre as Post-Disaster Response

Dennis Gupa, University of Victoria/University of Winnipeg

In this paper I will illustrate decoloniality in dramaturgy work by using the processes and enquiry of applied theatre informed by ontology of ritual performances and fishing traditions. I will build my discussion of climate change, Indigenous environmental epistemology, and applied theatre through multi-narrative discourse that underpins creativity, agency, and relationality. Through my methodological interventions, I formulated a theatrical practice deployed in a typhoon-battered site in Eastern Samar, Samar Province, Philippines that reinforces social emancipation through collective performance creations and curations. This theatrical practice uses a performance method informed by the ritual of sociality and fishing traditions and was conceptualized through a series of collective and collaborative artistic-academic processes of transforming disaster stories into community-based theatre performances. The conceptualization of this performance method aimed to theorize applied theatre as a practice of post-disaster response art. Eventually, I argue that by Indigenizing a performance method, community-based-theatre performances mobilizes a decolonial theatre that broadens, equalizes, and diversifies climate change dialogues.

Haunting, Imagined Records, and Indigenous Intergenerational Memory

Isabel Carlin, University of British Columbia

Using archival theories of haunting and imagination, this project examines the imagined harp of the author’s Indigenous grandmother, which functions as a personal and political record in the northern Philippines. It seeks to answer the question: What is archived and what is not archived in/about Indigenous communities in the northern Philippines, and how does this parallel the absence of the imagined harp as record? Political theories of haunting use ghosts, which are materially absent but deeply felt, such as the sociological “ghost” of imperialism or the more literal ghost of an ancestor passed, to uncover the affective dimensions of political violence and oppression. Like haunting, imagined archival theory also reckons with political violence, by surfacing human rights issues and desires for unattained perspectives and justice through imagined or impossible records. The political implications of this imagined harp as a record will be uncovered through participatory research based on Indigenous methodologies of relationality, with the aim of understanding this harp in the context of Indigenous political resistance against sustained state terror. Building on the political activism and worldviews of Indigenous communities in the northern Philippines, theories of imagined archives, and the phenomenon of haunting, this project politicizes personal archival records and leverages archival theories to serve Indigenous intergenerational memory. This project contributes to a history of Indigenous political resistance in the northern Philippines and offers a political intervention in critical archival theory.

CCSEAS Conference 2021 | ccseas@yorku.ca