Thursday, July 29, 2010

The permanence of texts

or the impermanence of texts.

I was reading a new book (2010) last night that mentions the first book that I wrote. In his two-page critique of my work, the author writes:
- Strobel's "decolonization" is premised on the putative Filipino American self's idealist transcendence of a colonial history's intertwined social materialities, including its contemporary neocolonial and postcolonial formation
- Strobel's warped decolonization pivots on a strident appropriation and alienation of an undifferentiated "Filipino indigenous"...that restores a foundational premise for "post-1965 Filipino American" identity formation.
- For Strobel and others in resonance with her framing, the abstracted "indigenous" is really a compilation of distant cultural artifacts and composes a project of cultural reification that postpones or erases the current life of actual indigenous peoples and movements in (and beyond) the Philippine nation-state...
- Strobel's conception of identity formation as a linear progression toward a self-realized Filipino American fundamentally an edification of Filipino American cosmopolitan subjectivity...
- Strobel's...prescriptive narrative of the self-actualized Filipino American as a good citizen-subject a cooperative partner in the multiculturalist civil formation of the U.S. In this rhetorical structure, "decolonization" becomes a partner in the U.S. multiculturalist national project...

I actually appreciate this critique because, based on his own framework in this book, it makes sense. This is what scholars do, after all; in order to build up their own theorizing, they must deconstruct others and displace them in the name of the project they are building. And I agree with the project of this new book: that race, white supremacy, genocide must figure into the reading of the Filipino condition. Without such reading, the Filipino historical subject remains in a sort of "suspended apocalypse."

I quibble, though, with the permanence of texts because my work that is being cited freezes the narrative that I have been living and writing about into a time frame. Time, of course, is what fixes us as historical subjects. (In one of the essays in my second book, I write about my attempts to free myself of Time).

It is important to know one's self as a historical subject and our attempts to articulate and practice a Filipino American historical subjectivity is always contingent, impermanent, perhaps flawed, and always incomplete. The author's contribution to this project is worthwhile. I hope it becomes popularized and accessible to those who do not have easy access to academic theorizing.

I find it interesting that my work is cited as an example of a Fil Am "cosmopolitan subjectivity" and "idealist transcendence" and "appropriation of Filipino indigenous". I can understand how this reading happens and how it is framed as an accomplice to the US multicultural nationalist project.

However, I think those who know me and my work for the past decade a little bit more closely will see that such reading can't be farther from the reality of what I do.

And this is what I decry about the permanence of texts or textuality. As I become more interested in embodied knowing, in storytelling, in indigenous ways of being and doing, I also become conscious of wanting to be more than an overdetermined historical subject. I have devoted time and years to decentering the modern historical narrative in my life and now I want to see this sliver recede into the background of a larger reality.

But I may not have the time nor the desire to theorize about this right now. I just want

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