Friday, March 4, 2011

an exercise in thinking outside of empire

an art history teacher from the Phil asked (via Fb - where else?) if having an MA degree will allow him to find a college teaching job in the US. i told him i've not seen it happen and that, in fact, a lot of people with phds in the US are currently underemployed or unemployed. i asked why he wants to come to the US and he tells me that he wants to pursue further studies in art history and then return and be useful to the Phil. he says that Manila universities do not have good research facilities and art theorizing is not current.
winona laduke said that when she went to harvard she was told that if she wants to study european art she should go to the fine arts department; if she wants to study indigenous art she should go to the anthropology department. so there....

she also said that it's time to start thinking outside of empire...
so i tried to tell R that if he wants to be useful to Kapampangan culture, maybe he should look to other indigenous artists or communities who are way ahead in theorizing and practicing sustainable arts and crafts -- like the Maoris in NZ or even our own Heritage and Arts Academies of the Philippines. i also mentioned the names of two Fil Am artists that he could dialogue with. i said that with the availability of online information, books, and social media networks, perhaps he could learn what he wants to learn without an academic degree.

i don't know if this was good advice or not since i'm a beneficiary of a graduate degree. how can i discourage someone else who want to pursue higher education? it may not seem fair but i also recognize that the federal program that gave me a doctoral fellowship no longer has the funding; access to educational opportunities (in all levels) has been dwindling since then (just listen to the rhetoric around or against public education in the US these days). nowadays, most students take out loans to pay for a college degree. one of my former students who recently graduated from law school ended up with a $250,000 educational loan and she told me she couldn't even land a well-paying job that will allow her to support her family and pay off her loan at the same time. 

on the other hand, some students are leaving college without employment prospects and so they stay in school for an MA or Phd program thinking that they are improving their future prospects. sadly they also feel that their undergraduate program doesn't really prepare them for the current realities not just in the workplace, but in the larger context of the global economy, and the even larger context of an imploding ecosphere under the weight of manic global capitalist structure.

thus, i feel burdened by the questions of younger folks like R in the Philippines who think that going to the US to work and study is feasible and if so, how. part of me feels that i should encourage this desire and another part of me wants to challenge him to reflect more deeply about his love for Kapampangan culture and what is really necessary to nurture indigenous arts, crafts, practices to make them sustainable.  
winona laduke tells the stories of scientists seeking the advice of indigenous elders on problems like global climate change, the disappearing salmon, etc...and the elders answer: we didn't create these problems, you did. solve them.
what does it mean to think outside of empire in this case of R's question?  and why is it necessary to learn to think outside of empire?
i stop writing and i go to google: "thinking outside of empire"...
well, i didn't really have to google because i've been meditating on civilizational collapse for awhile now along with many others who are asking the same questions: the 20,000 at the World Social Forum 2010, for example; the Great Turning movement; Bioneers; Indigenous Environmental Network; Seventh Generation Foundation; Indigenous Science  Network, Post Peak Oil, Global Climate Change, Pachamama Alliance,, etc...

i can point to so many movements (within the empire) that are thinking outside of empire. and yet those who still perceive themselves as being on the margins of empire, seem to want to move closer to the heart of empire. maybe that is the just the yin-yang of phenomena. 
as for R who wants to come to the US...perhaps he should come and see for himself. but only if he finds a fellowship or a grant or a wealthy auntie who can fund his sojourn; this way he wouldn't have to sink himself into the debt pit which no one seems to get out of these days including the good ol' USA.

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