Sunday, May 22, 2005

Homo Sacer Soldiers

Here's the abstract I just finished the other day for a chapter that is going to be submitted for an anthology on feminisms and militarisms. Its the first time anything I've ever written has been requested to be part of a book (as opposed to a newspaper, magazine or internet site, which I've experienced), so I'm filling a little giddy about it.

On December 8, 2004 Christopher Rivera Wesley, a Chamorro from Guam was killed in Iraq. Four months later, another Chamorro, Michael Aguon Vega also died. The next October, a third Chamorro, Jonathan Pangelinan Santos would be also be killed. Despite the unequal status of Guam in relation to the United States, all media reports and public discourse surrounding these deaths made little to no mention of Guam’s colonial status. When family members in Guam commented on the deaths of the soldiers, no one expressed anger over their not being able to vote for the President of the United States. No one said with regret that they wish they had a voting representative in Congress. Instead, local representations and discussions hovered around issues of justified sacrifice, honorable duty and service to country. Rather then being situated in the century’s long history of colonial abuse, exploitation and control in Guam, these deaths are celebrated as sad but appropriate payments for debts Chamorros owe the United States for their freedom and liberty. This loyalty has been numerically proven in countless ways, whether through high levels of Chamorro military enlistment, casualty rates or spectacular parades of devotion for the “liberation” of Guam during World War II.

This paper is an attempt to explain these high levels of Chamorro military participation and patriotism despite their colonial status, through the creation of a genealogy which connects contemporary Chamorro impulses to join the military to the colonization of the Guam by the United States Navy from 1898-1941. During this period before World War II, the Navy established several spheres of influence (such as health care, political tokenism, civil service, compulsory education) in Guam to assist in controlling Guam’s strategic space as well as its indigenous inhabitants. Chamorros entering these zones were bombarded with differing forms of instructional presence or absence, which intersected to form heavy and invasive discourses on Chamorro inferiority, incompleteness and impossibility. Two effects in particular are the subject of this paper, first the colonizing insinuation of the Chamorro as a non-teleological thing and second the enticing construction of easy means through which movement and agency can be attained or regained, namely military service. But this “new and improved” teleology isn’t without cost, the price is the sacrifice of the Chamorro soldier’s body, as evidenced in the deaths of Wesley, Vega and Santos, which in turn cover up the inconsistencies of the US nation, most importantly its colonies and its Empire.

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