Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fun with Footnotes!

I'm about to have my first actual, official, professional article published in an anthology about feminisms and militarisms. The article is titled "The Exceptional Life and Death of a Chamorro Soldier: Tracing the Militarization of Desire in Guam." I'm pretty excited about it, especially because the editor let me keep all the insane footnotes I write.

Several years ago I wrote an interesting poem titled "My Island is One Big American Footnote," since then all my academic papers or texts have been filled to the brim with sprawling footnotes.

I just wanted to share some of my most recent footnotes, especially since few people ever seem to actually read them (I encountered a strange thing recently, where an academic actually rooted her radicalism in her choice never to read footnotes.). I'm biased of course, but my take on footnotes is that you should always read them, and in fact more closely than the "main" text. In the book Hegemony, Contingency and Universality by Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Zizek, I actually read all the footnotes before every touching the main body of the text.

Three reasons why one should pay careful attention to footnotes. 1. Alot of times, people don't really have the evidence to back up what they are saying, so careful attention to footnotes can help you spot the weak points in their arguments. 2. For those looking to deconstruct a text, the footnotes or notes are a perfect place to start. 3. The author can often times make more important and radical claims in a footnote, precisely because it does not properly belong in the main body of the text.

With that said, here's few of my footnotes from my article:

#5: Patricia Taimanglo Pier, An Exploratory Study of Community Trauma and Culturally Responsive Counseling with Chamorro Clients. (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1998), 151-155. The use of an American inclusive doesn’t quite sit right with me, there are too many discontinuities in Guam and in its relationship to the United States for me to call Chamorros Americans without supplying a book length footnote. Michael Lujan Bevacqua, “These May or May Not Be Americans: The Patriotic Myth and the Hijacking of Chamorro History in Guam, (M.A. Thesis, University of Guam, 2005). Despite enthusiastic admissions of patriotism from Chamorros themselves, the discontinuities are not only difficult, but often impossible to speak around. While eating dinner at Denny’s in Guam with my family, I pointed out to my nephews and niece that all the white people were sitting in at the center tables which are much bigger then the one’s we were at against the wall. My nephew Dylan responded, “Oh I see Uncle Mike, those tables are for the Americans and these tables are for us.”

#28: The images are of course more complex then drive by descriptions such as these can contain. Thousands of Chamorro females are in the military; they are photographed in similar postures and backdrops. How does this either reinforce of complicate dominant discourses? Furthermore, how are matan inosensia, or “faces of innocence” received? What I mean by this are faces such as Jonathan Pangelinan Santos, where the looks directly at the camera, face somewhat level (as opposed to chin up slightly), with hardly a proud smug countenance, but instead an uncertain one. Do they challenge characterizations of these images as masculine or strong? From the meager research that I’ve done into these types of image I find that they perform a powerful patriotic function. With Jonathan Pangelinan Santos for example we see the active creation of a worthy sacrifice and worthy role model, as the language of loyalty intersects between family anecdotes (of the young man not wanting to go, but going anyways) and his young, uncertain, but nonetheless loyal face.

#37: Any discussion about political maturity often drips hypocritically with the infantilization of the other. Those seeking a good example of this need only visit any Senator or Congressional representative office in Washington D.C. and discuss with them Guam’s possibility of becoming a state. If you aren’t completely pandered to or dismissed, then a discussion around unreadiness for that sort of political obligation will take place. Government corruption will be discussed, as will the inability of Guam to become “economical self-sustaining.” Of course what will be gracefully negated from this conversation is any meaningfully mention of any similar inconsistencies within America itself.

#50: Tracing this process can be a fun yet horrifying endeavor. In any positive notion on Guam, one can find a colonizing contestation taking place. On occasions it can be an ignorant yet productive distortion, a mere flipping of chronology. For example, in Spanish times the assertion that Chamorro didn’t have fire prior to contact by Europeans. In American times, this can be produced for example, in a discussion of cleanliness, as most Chamorros will describe the source of clean living as coming from American civilizing and something which didn’t exist prior to that (despite the fact that the cleanliness of Chamorros had been well documented by explorers and government officials for centuries). Most recently I have noticed a shift in the way “family closeness” is discussed. Once a powerful point of departure for Chamorros seeking to create a sense of Chamorroness in contrast to the United States, since September 11th, 2001 in particular this point has been contested constantly as Chamorros attempt to use love of family and family closeness as another way of overcoming the political, historical and social gaps that make Chamorros and Guam as a normal member of the American family untenable.

#56: Diaspora and diaspora discussions are of course the most pressing of all these ways, however such would require a paper in itself. But briefly what such a conversation would begin with would be the eastward movement to the United States and how ideas drastically change and how that dictates what the local can mean in Guam. How does “corruption” change as a Chamorro and their thinking move eastward? How about “family?” Or “respect?” “Culture?” What all this leads to is how the United States as a concept in Guam and often times when Chamorros recreate home in the states functions as a very particular “fantasy space.” One in which colonizing fantasies are played out and joissance imbibed. The United States operates as the place where concepts such as “democracy” “freedom” “fairness” “progress” and so on can be projected and “enjoyed” without the pathological local taint of Guam. Some of the most difficult ideological tasks in Guam are complicating this purity and revealing the inconsistencies of the United States. Much like the unlucky engineer in Patricia Highsmith’s story The Black House, I too have felt the anger of other Chamorros over my attempts to reduce that fantasy space to everyday reality. Zizek, Looking Awry…,8-9.

#57: This example may seem trifling, considering how little votes mean in the United States or its empire. But in reality it does carry a lot of symbolic value, and some of it derives from the pathetic ways that Chamorros and people on Guam are tokenistically placated. For example, people in Guam do cast votes for the President of the United States. These votes are counted and published, but they mean nothing. Guam has no Electoral College votes, so these votes are worth the paper that they are published upon, they mean nothing, except as a tokenistic gesture to feign an inclusion. Similarly, the delegate for the United States Congress from Guam (like the delegates from the other colonies) cannot vote in session, only in committee. At one time however, the delegates were allowed to vote and be counted, but only so long as their votes do not affect the outcome of the vote. So in landslide votes delegates count, but when the vote is close, their votes were taken out of the total.

#69: Zizek discusses how this operates in films such as Beau Geste or Dangerous Liaisons. Zizek, On Belief, 67-70. Another function of the sacrifice which I initially felt might be productive but then dismissed later, is the sacrifice not to cover up the inconsistencies of the other, but to sacrifice precisely to determine whether there is an “other” or not. Semi-Americans are familiar with this as its actualization is “spontaneous citizenship.” The Chamorro who sacrifices to prove that America does really exist is thus “spontaneously” awarded Americaness. The article which I will discuss further down is evidence of this process. The maintaining function of this process is powerful, because even if the other desires attached to the sacrifice aren’t fulfilled, the colonizer is nonetheless humanized as someone who does respond! Who is not just a disinterested colonizer, but someone who cares!

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