Tuesday, February 28, 2006
For example, this line goes in nearly all bios,
"Michael Lujan Bevacqua is a graduate student in Ethnic Studies at The University of California, San Diego and the editor of the Chamorro Zine Minagahet (http://www.geocities.com/minagahet)"
The next line I always try to sneak in, but almost always gets taken out by the people who read it or publish it,
"He is the grandson of Elizabeth Flores Lujan (familian Kabesa) and the Chamorro Master Blacksmith Joaquin Flores Lujan (familian Bittot)"
I guess its a somewhat unconventional thing to have in someone's bio, but this is how I am known throughout Guam, as the grandson of Bitbit or Tun Jack, so why should I try to reformat this part of myself for here? If anything, I should try bring that here with me and not leave it on Guam.
This last section is always my favorite because here's where I get to play around. This is the "work" or "project" section where I come up with a few phrases, concepts or buzz words to describe within what disciplinary, theoretical or creative frameworks I am producing within in academia. Sometimes I just make things up and then later actually produce work which articulates it. I've been emailed a few times about what exactly certain things mean, and its always an interesting conversation, because usually I figure out what I meant by it in typing up my response.
For example, here's my "work" list from my info on the UCSD Ethnic Studies website:
Everything Chamorro, anything Guam, all things Zizek. Guerilla psychoanalysis, patriotic perversions, colonizing joissance, militarizing desires, death, ideology study, decolonization in the Pacific, indigenous expectations, impossible cultures and identities.
There are a few others that I through around here and there. What I'm going to try and do below is define a few of these things as best I can, for both your information and my articulation.
Patriotic Perversions, was something that came to me through Zizek's definition of perversion from The Ticklish Subject, in which it is a sort of short-circuit between the I and the Other, in which the unconscious is lost in the process. It is therefore clearly differentiated from the hysteric who continually creates a distance between himself and the Other (and its joissance) by his incessently questions, and the psychotic who proposes himself as the object of the Other's joissance. The pervert has therefore in a way bypassed this gap between the I and the Other through a convincing direct recognition of what makes the Other Other.
This led me to basically give up patriotic perversions and instead take up patriotic blowback, which I started developing in December of last year on this blog.
Negative universality and the indigenous critique. I'm still working on this one, although an interview between Zizek and Glyn Daly is proving promising in theorizing what exactly I mean by this.
Colonizing joissance: I am still not sure what I meant by this or what I will mean by it. My understanding of joissance changes constantly, especially since I started reading Lacanian theorists other than Slavoj Zizek. Darian Leader's work for example has really helped give me a more thorough understanding of Lacanian theory. The paper that I posted earlier today would not have been possible or would have been much narrower in reading if I hadn't read pieces of Why Do Women Write More Letters Than They Post? Needless to say, I get very different conceptions of what joissance is from these two. This isn't to say that the readings aren't mutually exclusive, they aren't, but they emphasize different aspects in my opinion. So basically I'm not clear at all and that's why this paragraph is so evasive.
Militarization of Desire: I throw this around alot, but I have no intention of developing a grandiose theory around this. My understanding of militarization has changed alot since moving to San Diego, and ending up in a political/social space which is much less militarized then Guam. There are plenty of critiques of the military here, but they are often superficial and sometimes pointless, because of the way they can unravel themselves by simulteanously recognizing a split or problem in the military and making it transparent and outside of critique. We find this interpassivity for example with politicians. Where the recognition of the split, takes on such a pathological quality that it becomes a strange natural transparency, a new form of mis-recognition. The fact that politicans are always corrupt becomes the critique that puts them beyond critique, beyond intervention.
I don't want to say that Guam is the most militarized space in human history, but like with most colonies, things which the colonial Centre must desperately disavow become the natural order of being in the colonies. This lead me to start thinking about the militarization of desire in order to get a more nuanced critique of the military in Guam for sure, but elsewhere as well. When discussing this, I often use the phrase, "how the military gets under your skin and into your desire." I have done a number of papers which I feel discuss this issue, but as I said, I'm not interested in providing some unified field theory for it.
Indigenous Expectations: My attempt to describe what I mean by this was a paper that I've discussed several times on this blog and also wrote parts of here, The Whale Rider vs. The Terminator: Resisting Expectations in the Pacific. For me the film Whale Rider provided a profound but unfortunate example of indigenous expectations, or a point whereby we can see how the expectant gazes of non-indigenous people become the expectations through which they see themselves.
Guerrila Psychoanalysis: Initially I came to use this term after another grad student at UCSD I was a reader for, used the term "guerrila reading." We were meeting with him about the papers we were grading for his class on Ethnicity and Film, and someone read an example of a student's paper to see what sort of grade it should get. The student basically said that the only way the student could come to that conclusion was by doing a real "guerilla reading" of the film. Since then I've used the term guerilla psychoanalysis to refer to my intentionally bad or incorrect use of psychoanalytical theories.
How this has most recently manifested is through my attempt to occupy the impossible distance between the terms "indigenous" and "Lacanian." As we all should know the indigenous person is never meant to occupy the position of the subject as created by modernity and there are a billion different reasons for this. What I enjoy however is nonetheless forcing these terms to go together to see what happens.
Part of my thinking on this stems from Zizek's book on Lenin, Revolution at the Gates. Although he has in-depth theoretical arguments that can prop up his fidelity to Lenin, ultimately it all boils down to Lenin being a signifier of impolite disruption. Lenin and what he represents today is a signifier of so many things that the current liberal democratic deadlock is built upon disavowing.
Impossible Identities and Impossible Cultures: Basically what my current master's thesis is on. Stay tuned for more.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Bente singko anos yu', kao esta bihu yu'? Achokka' sigun i calendario ahe' siempre, i siniente-ku na sina.
"The Scene of Liberation"
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Refocusing Our Lenses Conference
Oberlin University, February 18, 2006
Much of my work during the past few years has revolved around a complex yet sometimes traumatically simple question: Why have Chamorros from Guam become so patriotic and loving of the United States in such a short time? How did a people barely imagined as being part of the United States and as Chamorro historian Robert Underwood has noted “who had no interest in being American” suddenly become what a 1944 news article called natives whose “patriotism would put many a US citizens to shame?” Why do Chamorros serve in the US military in such high numbers? Five Chamorros have died in the Iraq War so far, and in Guam, the dreams of military recruiters literally come true. According to the Army, 4 of its highest 12 recruitment producers are found in Guam.
Although answers to this question may take many forms and attempt to move in different directions they will always share common point of reference, from which none dare escape, World War II. The traumatically simple explanation often leaves me reeling as invisible waves of colonizing common sense wash over me. They can be best summed up, as one Chamorro survivor of World War II told me, “Ma satba hit.” Translated, it means, “they (the Americans) saved us (from the Japanese).” The saving of this statement refers to the American invasion of Guam during World War II and the “liberation” of Chamorros from brutal Japanese occupation. Many Chamorros today cite this “liberation” as one of the reasons they are willing to fight for the United States, despite the fact that Guam remains a colony and although Chamorros there are American citizens, they are second class in that they rights are not full or guaranteed by virtue of their residence in Guam. (this means, they can’t vote for president, have no representation in Congress, despite the fact that all Federal laws supersede all Guam laws). But this statement of “ma satba hit” actually reveals more than it seems, and hints at a much more complex answer. In Chamorro the “us” pronoun is either inclusive and exclusive. For example, in the sentence “they saved us,” the “us” can be either exclusive ham, which means “us, but not you,” or the inclusive hit, “both of us.” The fact that this war survivor used the inclusive pronoun, saying that America saved both him and me, reveals something about the way that history, or rather particular moments or scenes from history, do not remain so, but in fact structure, or hegemonize, the possibilities of the present. That the present must in some way return to that moment to find meaning.
Returning to my initial question, why do indigenous bodies in Guam stand at attention, ready and willing to die for their colonial master and enthusiastically wave its flag? My answer today is the scene of liberation.
The scene itself is one of Chamorros, starving and dying after being herded by the thousands into concentration camps around Guam, are rescued by invading American servicemen, who provide them with Spam, powdered milk as well as freedom. After the war ends, this image becomes the fundamental scene in Guam upon which political articulations either find consistency and meaning or flounder in rancid unreadability. What this means is that all identities and identifications in Guam will be made to mean based on where they fit within this image. The different positions within the image itself, thus have material effects on how Chamorros understand themselves and the potential relationships they have to themselves and to the United States.
It is my opinion that the discourses on Chamorro/Guam dependency upon the United States for economic sustainability, for improvement, for life itself all derive from the reinforcing of the subject positions within this scene. Questions of who has agency, who is the victim, who has sovereignty, who has power, who is alive, who is dead are all answered through the visual cues provided in this image.
It is this image that I am interested in replacing or at least irritating. So long as it remains hegemonic in Guam, expressions of identity, or culture, or possibility which reinforce the relationships found in the image, such as military as savior, America as the provider of life, the Chamorro as the eternal dependent will reign supreme, and critiques and counter-hegemonic interventions will consistently be judged in relation to where they fit within the image as well.
To give some background on this image. It is the “liberation” of Guam in 1944. After 32 months of brutal occupation by the Japanese, the majority of the Chamorros on Guam had been forced marched into a valley in the island’s center, where they were kept without shelter, water or food for weeks. On July 21st, 1944 the Americans began their re-invasion of Guam, and within a few days scattered patrols of Marines stumble across these Chamorros, thus saving them from death. For more than 60 years, that day is celebrated annually on Guam as “Liberation Day,” which is the island’s largest celebration and combines carnivals, parades, beauty pageants, as well as tearful reunions with Chamorros and some of the Marines who took part of that invasion, and memorials for the number of massacres that took place on Guam during the war.
Now, the two basic subject positions within this image are obvious. There is the Chamorro, the passive victim of war. The destitute barely subject who can do nothing else but wait for sustenance, wait for salvation. Towering above this Chamorro is the United States Marine, the soldier. He beams with power, with prowess, with authority and agency. His uniform is covered not just in sand, mud and blood, but also stained with glorious ideals like freedom, democracy. He brings to Guam so much which is not just appreciated, but by the rules of the event itself is necessary. He does not just bring with him, the tools which make life possible, as the soldier, the military is survival, he brings with him life. There is no life without him.
This image now becomes the scene of liberation, a privileged scene upon which political articulations are either perceived to be consistent or rejected as inconsistent in Guam. With this privileging, World War II itself becomes an obtrusive presence, it becomes, even as I so innocently refer to it as “the war.” Chamorros on Guam all become drawn to this event, as the scars it left on Guam can be found in the landscape (why are there so many military bases on Guam?), the choices for public monuments (why is there a monument for war dogs on Guam?), and on bodies and gaps in speech and narrative from our elders (why does Tata hate the Japanese tourists so much?) We are always in some way or another forced to return there, and therefore we are not just drawn to it, but also drawn into it. We are in a sense either forced to, or forced to choose to occupy the position of those Chamorros always in need of rescuing and in need for salvation.
A serious analysis would of course require I look carefully at both of these positions, the first, the Chamorro as the eternal dependent, without agency or sovereignty, the second, the American soldier, as the subject of agency. But given the time limits, I’ll focus only on the second position because of the way it more concretely relates to the focus of this panel.
Attempts to escape this position by Chamorros are too often judged by the virtue of this scene and therefore rejected or mocked as being ungrateful. Those who seek to leave behind this dependency, implying seeking something outside of the United States and its offerings are often shot down as being unrealistically and more importantly ungrateful. Chamorros who attempt to reject this image are accused of instead refusing the Spam. Or as Chamorro scholar Laura Souder puts it in her article Psyche under siege: Uncle Sam, Look What You’ve Done to US, the autocritique that lies waiting for this attempt is, “Naughty, naughty, you should not bite the hand that feeds you. Remember, life boils down to this, he who holds the purse strings rules the roost.” Those who seek something other than what this image implies are refusing the benevolence of America. Refusing its kindness and generosity. They are refusing the ability to survive, life itself.
Given this limit that stalks all attempted movements away from this image, one might assume that agency isn’t possible for Chamorros, that they are forever condemned to lie barely alive, waiting for their liberators to come and save them. While I would argue that agency is extremely possible, what makes it frustratingly difficult to conceive is that the image itself implies it own means of securing agency. An escape from this eternal victimhood and position of hopeless passivity seems to lie in occupying the position of the soldier, by joining the military, either in spirit or in body. Meaning physically joining and serving or handing their hearts and therefore also their lives to the United States military and its interests.
In order to discuss the terrifying consequences of occupying this position, I’ll describe two articles about Guam “liberators.” The first was published in 2005 in The Pacific Daily News, Guam’s largest newspaper, the other came in 2004 in the Liberation Day issue of Guahan Magazine, a local lifestyle magazine.
The first article titled is “7,000 Marines, Pentagon announces shift to Guam,” describes the most recent intended troop increase to the island, which will over the next few years transfer several thousands Marines from Okinawa to Guam. Articles like this are common, and usually read like bored bureaucratic ramblings, “More military to Guam, uh duh, that’s what its there for.” What makes this specific troop movement interesting is what its history is in relation to Guam. These Marines belong to the infamous 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, the original and very legendary liberators of Guam. Guam’s non-delegate to the United States Congress, Madeleine Bordallo sums up the kismet well with her remark that “We will now celebrate many Liberation Days in the future beside the men and women that carry on the tradition of those that freed our people. It will be a wonderful reunion.”
Other than the possibility of more military in an island already inundated with militarization, what makes this article particular frightening is the fact that the language used to describe this new increase is hardly new. Although it took more than 60 years for this particular battalion, Guam’s initial liberators to return, the rhetoric used to describe their glorious arrival has been used over and over throughout the years, to describe, explain and justify any number of military increases and expansions in Guam.
At least one reason for why such an uncritical relationship exists between Chamorros on Guam and the United States military has to do with the fact that due to the hegemonic status of this scene of liberation, all military coming into Guam potentially stands in for those original liberators. Whether it be a new aircraft carrier, new surveillance drones or a new squadron of Stealth Fighters every new arrival can be made to fit the silhouettes of those liberators and therefore be made to feel necessary and intimate in a similar way.
The second article is ominously titled “The Next Generation of Liberators.” In it the tales of Chamorro soldiers stationed in Iraq are told “in their own words.” They recount fights with insurgents as well as the glorious giving of freedom, education and infrastructure to the Iraqi people. The connection between the generations of liberators (those of 1944 and those of 2004) are made crystal clear both in the article’s title and its introductory image which connects the arrival of Guam’s “aging liberators” for Liberation Day celebrations with the liberating young Chamorros in the United States military are doing in Iraq.
For these young men and women, agency has been achieved. They have escaped the local destitution of Guam and its passive particularity and become “heroes of which our island and our country can be proud.” They now appear to be able to speak on behalf of all Chamorros, all Americans and even Iraqis. They have escaped the riddling dependency Chamorros are cursed with, by standing beside the liberating soldier. By sharing his position and his name.
The result of this new occupation however is that the image appears to be closed. The United States military has become transformed, no longer is it some Other whose arrival I need to survive, but now I can only find myself through them. I am them, but they are not me. The military is no longer something which can be critiqued from any distance, because I will always see myself, as exemplified by those in uniform, in them. To critique them, to resist, to oppose them, means to oppose not just those close and dear to me, but potentially to resist and divide myself.
The concept of “the military” thus becomes naturalized as a local and yet not local. It can easily be viewed locally, as many would describe a member of Guam’s family, partially for the simple reason that so many family members serve in it. However its interests resist localization and are inevitably linked to larger and absolutely non-local concerns. This split invariably works against Guam and the possibility of a critical relationship with the United States military both in Guam and in its interventions elsewhere.
Take for example the most recent planned military increase in Guam, which eventually amount to 7,000 new Marines in Guam. The interest that brings about this influx will most likely remain unscathed in Guam, unquestioned (national/local American interests with global action and effect), and it will be so precisely because the face through which those on Guam receive and perceive this will almost always be one of familiarity, a local one, a Chamorro one. The liberating Marines need not be identified anymore as tall, white, American soldiers. Wearing the uniform of Americaness, American power and military might, these liberators are now my children, my cousins, my relatives, my neighbors. The military’s interests anywhere, not just in Guam, must now be my interest, because as so many who leave home to go to war, or to serve in the military say, they are only fighting to defend their homes, their families. As they leave to defend me, while I remain on Guam, they, entangled with the interests of the military, will be defended as well.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
*** Please Forward Widely ***
thirdspace - an anti-racist feminist magazine - is looking for submissionsfor our next issue (volume 24 number 3). The theme is "Food" - interpret how you wish - and submissions are due by FRIDAY, MARCH 31st, 2006.
Possible topics (just to float some ideas out there):- What nourishes you? (Body? Mind? Soul?)- How do you see the future of food?- What's your relationship to food?- How does food intersect with your politic?- What's the food situation in your community?- How have you learned about food?- What is your favourite food or recipe and why?- How have your ideas about food changed over time?- Where does your food come from?- the list will grow according to your submissions...
Remember, we also love reviews of relevant books/films!
And we always need photos and images to illustrate written pieces.
Anyone from anywhere may submit!
thirdspace accepts comics, poetry, short fiction, artwork, rants, creativenon-fiction, book/film/music reviews, drawings, photography, graphics,essays: whatever you've got, we can probably use it... as long as it isanti-racist, feminist, queer- and trans-friendly.
Email the file(s) to email@example.com
Mail to thirdspace, UVic, Songhees Territory, P.O. Box 3035 Stn CSC,Victoria, BC, Canada, V8W 3P3
Article submissions should be no more than 1500 words. Artwork should beprintable in black and white. Please include contact info and a 3-4sentence biography to be included with your piece.
We reserve the right to edit and submission does not guaranteepublication.
Our next issue: FOODSubmissions due: FRIDAY, MARCH 31st
Please contact us if you have any questions :)
UVic's anti-racist feminist publication
SUB B107a, University of VictoriaP.O. Box 3035 Stn CSCVictoria, BC V8W 3P3Songhees TerritoryPhone: 250-721-8353Fax: 250-472-4379Email: firstname.lastname@example.org://mail-man.ca/mailman/listinfo/thirdspace-l
Now Available for Download at http://uvss.uvic.ca/thirdspace
Friday, February 24, 2006
Manmahuchom i mata'-hu lao sigi ha'
Annok hao, ya mikilot-mu
Humalom kombalachi ya mala'mok
Lao masi'eng hao, un na'fitme
Agang, agang, sotta hinasso-ku
Agang, agang, na'ketu yu' guatu
Ya bei hu ketungo'
I siniente ni' huma'lak yu'
Kumonne' yu' guenao guatu?
Un na'i yu' esta korason-mu
Lao nai manhoben hit, lao sigi ha' magahet?
Dos diha mit desde ma'pos hao
Achokka' ti ya-mu, bei hu aligao
Agang, Agang, na'tungo' mangge hao
Agang, Agang, chalani yu' guatu guenao
Ti bei sotta hao
Esta ki un admite
Nai un dingu yu'
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Published on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 by Inter Press Service
"Leninists!" Cries Neo-Con Nabob, Suing for Divorce
by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - Francis Fukuyama, best known for his post-Cold War essay proclaiming the historic inevitability of liberal democracy, "The End of History", argued in the Times article that neo-conservatives so badly miscalculated the myriad costs of the Iraq war that they may have empowered their two foreign policy nemeses -- realists, who disdain democracy promotion; and isolationists, who oppose foreign entanglements of almost any kind.
Even more provocatively, Fukuyama called the Standard's editor, William Kristol, his ideological sidekick, Robert Kagan, and their neo-conservative comrades who led the drive to war in Iraq "Leninist" in their conviction that liberal democracy can be achieved through "coercive regime change" or imposed by military means. "
(T)he neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was ...Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will," according to Fukuyama. "Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States."
"Neoconservativism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought," he went on, "has evolved into something I can no longer support."
Fukuyama's break with the neo-conservatives marks the latest -- albeit among the most spectacular -- fracture in the ongoing splintering of the Republican foreign policy elite that has included aggressive nationalists, such as Vice President Dick Cheney; the Christian Right; traditional realists in the mold of former President George H.W. Bush; as well as neo-conservatives.
His divorce from the movement is particularly remarkable given his long and close friendship -- dating back to his college days -- with former deputy defence secretary (and now World Bank President) Paul Wolfowitz, perhaps the neo-conservative movement's most idealistic luminary. He also played a role in the development of the unilateralist Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an organisation founded in 1997 by Kristol and Kagan and designed to forge an alliance between the neo-conservatives, the Christian Right, and aggressive nationalists in the run-up to the 2000 elections.
Along with Cheney, Wolfowitz and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, Fukuyama was one of just two dozen PNAC charter members. He also signed a 1998 PNAC letter to then-President Bill Clinton urging him to "undertake military action" aimed at "removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power".
Indeed, as late as Sep. 20, 2001, nine days after 9/11, he signed another PNAC letter to Bush that also called for Hussein's ouster "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack". Anything less, the letter argued, "will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism".
Despite those hawkish antecedents, Fukuyama had second thoughts even before the Iraq invasion, particularly about the democratic messianism and unilateralism with which the "war on terror" was being conducted.
In a December 2002 Wall Street Journal article, he warned that "the idealist project" of transforming the region may "come to look more like empire pure and simple" and that "it is not at all clear that the American public understand that it is getting into an imperial project as opposed to a brief in-and-out intervention in Iraq".
But by late 2004, he was writing that anyone -- particularly neo-conservatives -- who believed that the situation in Iraq would become sufficiently stable after elections in early 2005 for U.S. troops to begin withdrawing was "living in fantasyland".
And one year later, Fukuyama was already warning that failures in Iraq were paving the way for a return to U.S. isolationism. He believed that the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, coupled with Washington's failure to marshal international support for its efforts in Iraq and its incompetence in stabilising the country, had largely destroyed its credibility as a "benevolent hegemon" to which the world, Kristol and Kagan confidently predicted, would willingly, if not eagerly, defer.
Fukuyama's latest article, "After Neoconservatism", is essentially an elaboration of these ideas in a more comprehensive form, as well as a plea for a more modest and classically "conservative" foreign policy that, without abandoning "the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights", will also be conducted "without its illusions about the efficacy of American power and hegemony to bring these ends about".
To Fukuyama, as to foreign policy realists among both Republicans and Democrats, events of the past few months, particularly the victory of Islamists in elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, as well as their strong showing in Egypt, has bolstered his critique of the neo-conservatives' project in the Middle East.
In his view, the way in which the Cold War ended created among neo-conservatives like Kristol and Kagan "an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow at the core and would crumble with a small push from outside" -- and that Hussein's Iraq would be no different. "
The war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform," according to Fukuyama.
He noted that that expectation helps explain "the Bush administration's incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq".
The administration and its neo-conservative backers also assumed, mistakenly, that the rest of the world would accept Washington's unilateralism, including pre-emptive war, because, as a "benevolent hegemon", Washington would be seen as both more virtuous and more competent than other countries.
These delusions have come at a very high cost, according to Fukuyama, who, notwithstanding the sweeping pro-democracy rhetoric in which both Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continue to indulge, "the neo-conservative moment appears to have passed".
But Fukuyama is most concerned that these failures may spur an "anti-neoconservative backlash that coupled a sharp turn toward isolation with a cynical realist policy aligning the United States with friendly authoritarians".
"What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a 'realistic Wilsonianism' that better matches means to ends," he wrote in what appears to be a bid to delineate a new foreign policy consensus -- some already call it "neo-realism -- around which centrist Republicans and Democrats can rally.
Indeed, in the prescriptive part of his essay, he calls for "reconceptuali(sing) …foreign policy in several fundamental ways" that are broadly compatible with ideas put forward by critics in both parties.
These include "demilitaris(ing)" the "global war on terrorism" by focusing more on winning "hearts and minds;" relying less on "coalitions of the willing" and more in multilateral mechanisms "that can confer legitimacy on collective action;" and placing more emphasis on "rule of law and economic development," as well as democracy promotion, which "in the Middle East is not a solution to the problem of jihadist terrorism; in all likelihood it will make the short-term problem worse, as we have seen in the case of the Palestinian election bringing Hamas to power."
"Neoconservativism, whatever its complex roots, has become indelibly associated with concepts like coercive regime change, unilateralism and American hegemony," according to Fukuyama. "What is needed now are new ideas, neither neoconservative nor realist, for how America is to relate to the rest of the world."
Copyright © 2006 IPS-Inter Press Service
Thursday, February 16, 2006
This issue is of supreme importance and it shows one of the limits of most vocal forms of activism on Guam over the past few decades. In his afterword to Penelope Bordallo Hofschneider's text Campaign For Political Rights on the Island of Guam (1899-1950), Robert Underwood makes the point that issue of tano' or land have been at the core of any Chamorro radicalization since World War II. Land issues were the one thing that could turn anyone, whether a nurse, a teacher, a farmer or a soldier into an activist, indigenous or otherwise.
Over the past decade indigenous activism has settled into a sort of lull on Guam. Some attribute this to the death of Angel Santos or poor economic conditions (such as that urban legend that the closing of bases on Guam was in response to Chamorro critiques of the US and its military presence in Guam), but it could also have to do with the fact that some of the goals which radicalized Chamorros have been met. One of my friends made this point to me several months ago when I was on Guam. Some people have gotten their lands back, so you can no longer paint the United States as an indifferent adversary who is ruthlessly hording your lands. In the public mind, some justice has been meted out over this issue. Some people have received their lands, other people made landless from the war, can now get lands through the Government of Guam (lao u tinaka' apmam siempre). For many, the battle is over.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
If anything, the creation of programs such as the Ancestral Lands Commision and the Chamorro Land Trust Act will soon create a powerful discourse on Chamorro exceptionalism, and help ferment a movement by moronic haoles who will be pushing for real old fashion American style equality on Guam, and no "special treatment" for anyone. These programs and others such as the Department of Chamorro Affairs and the Commission for Decolonization exist to attempt to correct injustices of the past, and should not be dismissed as mere favoritism and exceptionalism. Anyone who believes that America truly is the land of equality, where everyone has the same chances to get ahead, should not be allowed to pass their genes on. The privileges of white people in the United States go beyond a few government programs here and there, but are so powerful that the law can actually claim to be neutral while they reap the benefits of their positions. (Power is at its apex not when its invisible, but when it can claim to have never been visible. Isn't this the perfect example of how the rhetoric around American democracy and freedom work? This privilege, this power can always find a way to be lost, to have never existed.)
Those who argue for good old American equality on Guam among settlers and the Chamorros, need to first remember that Guam is NOT equal with the United States in the first place, and that one cannot even speak about a local equality when this colonial relationship persists so openly and blatantly. The blind stupidity of claims that everyone on Guam should be equal based on some mythic lore of American wonderfulness, both omits the history of deliberate and brutal racial exclusion in the United States as well as its contemporary manifestations, whether in terms of minorities in the United States, those of us in the colonies, as well as those whose lack of sovereignty in the global or local sense is strategically necessary. So long as these injustices continue to be naturalized and explained off as necessary evils or worse yet necesary good forms of colonization or paternalism, then all claims for an ethnic equality under some rubric of American wonderfulness and democracy must be ignored as the babbling those who continue to colonize us, and those who cannot perceive an existence for themselves outside of the colonizer. In other words, they have nothing to do with Guam, but are all about protecting the United States in Guam.
It is times like this that I wish humans were equipped with truth genes, so that when people spout racist rhetoric while claiming neutrality or commonsensical positions, their eyeballs will pop out of their faces and their lungs will collapse. It is unlikely however that major corporations or the Bush administration would want to fund that sort of research.
What this new scandal over the Tiyan landowners shows is that the battle is far from over, and would require far more then the return of some lands for any of us to rest. It can only be won when the nature of Guam's relationship to the United States and the rest of the world is changed. Furthermore it can only be won when locally Chamorros and others perceive their relationship to the United States differently.
What I want in my work, both academically and elsewhere, it to push to privilege the local in how we perceive reality. As I've often posted on this blog, colonization in Guam was about stretching the Chamorro imaginary, so that where they derive their consistency, identity, history and meaning from, is always elsewhere. Their freedom is in American history. Their sovereignty is in American military history. Their progress and survival is in American economics and civility. Their existence is supposed to depend upon this uprooting, this persistent movement across thousands of miles of ocean to the United States proper. What happens from this form of colonization is that how we think about Guam is always through how we think about America in Guam.
The recent push for privatization of water on Guam illustrates this well. Publicly, the push by the Chamber of Commerce and the CCU has been about fixing the water system, getting better delivery, decreasing the suffering of the people of Guam, etc. But what lies beneath this "betterment" of Guam is the desire to increase the military presence in Guam, and enhance Guam for its current military presence. What is claimed to be "good for Guam" in scenario's such as this, is in reality meant to be "good for America in Guam." The local concern becomes a simple effect, fortunate if it works out, but if not, too bad.
That is the current character of our relationship with the United States, if our interests run parallel, then things are solid, gof maolek! However, what happens when the interests conflict, and when it can't be simply covered over by patriotism or self-denegration?
It is moments such as this which have to be focused upon by those of us interested in a better future for Chamorros and for Guam, detatched from whatever the United States wants. The Tiyan scandal represents one of these moments, where a conflict arises. Where Felix Camacho and all his patriotic pandering is threatening to crumble. The veneer that has covered his political existence is shaken by this issue. Whom is he to side with, his role as the representative of "the people of Guam" is now split between his colonial function which is to basically do whatever he thinks the US wants, and his local function which is to side with Guam and Chamorros and their rights and their interests.
It will be interesting how this works out, because alot of the inconsistencies of life become too uncomfortably visible at times like this. Recently for example, the autonomy and sovereignty of Puerto Rico was questioned in a similar way that the Feds are threatening Guam with.
There was a conflict several years ago, over Puerto Rican law and US Federal law over the execution of someone in Puerto Rico. The US sought to execute two men in Puerto Rico despite the fact that Puerto Rico's constituion forbids it. In 2000 a Federal judge ruled that the US could not seek the death penalty because it was locally inapplicable. A year later however this decision was reversed, basically reaffirming the sovereignty of the US over Puerto Rico and its laws.
We might expect a similar Federal slap in the face soon over the Tiyan land issue.
Monday, February 13, 2006
by Mindy Fothergill, KUAM News
Monday, February 13, 2006
Governor Felix Camacho will stand by original landowners as they fight to keep their recently returned Tiyan properties. After concerns were raised about the possible reversion of Tiyan land to the federal government, Guam's case has made it to the White House, as the island's chief executive says the battle against the feds has just begun.
The plight of original landowners faced with the possibility of their land being condemned so a highway can be built in Tiyan has made its way to the nation's capitol. Governor Felix Camacho contacted inter-governmental affairs officials in Washington, D.C. to see what can be done about the Federal Highway Administration's threats to take back Tiyan lands. Optimistically Camacho forecasted, "The battle has just begun, but it's one we're going to win."
The Governor is working on Guam's game plan saying the goal is simple: find a win-win solution that allows original landowners to keep their property. "As governor I need to stand up for the rights of our people," he told KUAM News.
On Friday FHA regional division administrator Abraham Wong admitted that he has not completely reviewed the quitclaim deed that spells out the government's obligations for the Tiyan property. The Governor reacted saying he believes a solution can be reached with Wong's superiors. "I think Mr. Wong is going to have to reconsider what he has done because it goes beyond him," continued Camacho. "This is a big regional issue, not only the Department of Transportation, but Department of Defense, GovGuam, the people of Guam, the United states military. One little highway is not going to deter our future or throw it off-track. I'm going to make sure of that."
The Governor expects to hold a meeting with the family leaders of original landowners in Tiyan this week to hear their concerns and begin working on a strategy. Camacho admits he will ask for an extension, saying thirty days to respond to the Federal Highway Administration is not enough time to resolve the situation. "They drew the line in the sand and said you cross it or you deal with us. I'm not going to take this lightly. As governor, I'm not going to sit back and certainly I represent our people and their best interests, and I'm going to do that."
While original landowners wait anxiously for answers, trying to figure out who to blame for this land fiasco, the Governor says he's committed to fight for their land rights - no matter what the consequences. "This person I think didn't understand the magnitude of this problem and how fiercely our people are going to defend their land rights," he said of the ultimate culprit. "This is a fight that everyone here's going to take up on behalf of our people. No one's going to let a federal official tell us what to do or threaten us without putting up a fight. "I'm certainly going to fight for them."
Original landowners ready for fight over Tiyan
by Mindy Fothergill, KUAM News
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
It's a controversy that's been brewing for months now. As KUAM News has been reporting, the federal government is pushing for the return of Tiyan lands designated for the construction of an access road. The problem is that same property has been returned to original landowners who have since renovated and moved into the homes.
The government has been put on notice and now has less than thirty days to respond to the feds who visited last month to assess the situation. What will happen to original landowners who have waited decades for the return of their property with a possibility of that land being taken back again?
Catherine McCollum is frustrated - primarily that the federal government wants to take back her family's property in Tiyan that was recently returned. After decades of waiting for her grandfather Bernardo Punzalan's property, McCollum isn't going to leave without a fight. "The people are here to stay. If they do get up and leave, my heart goes out to them because maybe they don't have the fight in them, but the ones I've spoken to are willing to put up a fight," she told KUAM News.
Now with the local government's looming deadline to explain why the land was returned, McCollum says she wanted to send a message to the government to protect the interests of original landowners. This morning the tamuning resident staged a one-person protest in Tiyan today parking her car in the middle of the road, a Guam flag prominently raised.
She was arrested on charges of obstructing a public highway, assault on a police officer, and resisting arrest."
This is the first of many fights...a knee on my rib is not going to stop me from going out there and making my statement again," McCollum says. She feels appalled that elected leaders have failed to fight for original landowners and property that she maintains is rightfully theirs, adding, "The elected officials should come up and start saying no enough is enough you guys leave these people alone. They're home now. You don't do this to my people. Don't tell me what to do on my land. He's got the power. They've all got the power but they're not doing anything about this power."
United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration division administrator Abraham Wong wrote a letter to Governor Felix Camacho, expressing concerns about the Government of Guam's "unauthorized actions".
In October 2000 a quitclaim deed conveyed Tiyan properties to Guam's public sector for the sole purpose of building a highway - specifically to develop the land for three parkways from Route 20, Route 16a, and an extension of Route 10. The deed prohibited the government from further transferring the property without the consent of the Federal Highway Administration. On May 31, 2005 the government, through the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, conveyed the Tiyan property to original landowners like McCollum's family. A reversionary clause in the contract provides that in the event the government decides not to build the highway, the property would be given back to the feds.
Wong threatens that without correction, Guam's actions may result in reversion of the land, the withholding of federal funds or other legal action.
Governor Camacho says there's no easy answer to the predicament the government is in, but he was made clear that the feds are threatening to pull money if the property isn't taken back. "There's threats of losing federal dollars in grant money in the millions of dollars either way there's a high price to pay," he told KUAM News.
The Governor says his legal counsel is currently reviewing the feds' letter to draft a response. For now, Camacho says he's looking for a win-win situation. When lawmakers passed legislation to return excess lands to original landowners, the Governor says he was told by certain senators that he refused to identify that it was unlikely the federal government would take the land back."
I believe their bluff has been called and we're stuck with having to decide," said the Governor. "Either way there's going to be a loss one way or another, either to the landowners or to the government or to the highway. There's no easy answer here and not everyone's going to be satisfied in the end."
It's not an answer residents like Catherine McCollum are pleased to hear. "This is sad - it's really sad," she dejectedly expressed. "It's a stab in our back when our own people have to do this to our own people."
Sunday, February 12, 2006
For the first time ever, I have been invited to attend a conference, and the best part it, they are taking care of all the travel, hotel and food arrangements and expenses! I've been to conferences where my expenses were paid for, but this is the first time that I was invited to come and speak and didn't have to submit an abstract. BIBA!
The conference sounds very interesting, its full title is "14th Biennial Mid-west Asian / Pacific American Conference. REFOCUSING OUR LENSES:Confronting Contemporary Issues of Globalization and Transnationalism." The bulk of the conference will be four panels, immigration, human trafficking, militarization and environment. I'll be on the militarization panel. They have it set up in an interesting way, we're only supposed to to talk for 8-10 minutes for our presentations which leaves the vast majority of the sessions for discussion. I seriously hope I don't run out of things to say.
Here's the link for the conference,
Friday, February 10, 2006
Returning to the call for papers, they are looking for film remakes, in a very literal sense, meaning there was a film and someone came along and made another based on it or to contest it. When I first read their call I didn't really think of any of these sorts of remakes, the first thing that popped into my head was the anime Evangelion and how it was re-made through the two films that followed it Evangelion: Death and Rebirth and The End of Evangelion. How because of the strange nature and approach of anime's last two episodes, these two films were brought in to attempt to finish what the season could not.
For those unfamiliar, the first end of Evangelion takes place at the level of three minds, Shinji, Asuka and Rei (all pilots of the Evangelions), who represent the whole of humanity as it undergoes Human Instrumentality, which is a process through which man is to be re-united with God and all conscious is to beome One consciousness together. Each undergoes a type of hysterical vaporization, and their processes slip into each other, continually inverted the process. At one moment Asuka will accuse Shinji of living in fear, and the next Rei will accuse Asuka.
From what I've read online, this end did not match the hopes of many of Evangelion's fans. Although this ending is deep and very intense, it didn't match the scale of viewers expectations. Also, it left things for many unclear as to what EXACTLY happened. The final scene is Shinji, surrounded by all the characters from the entire season who tell him "congratulations" and clap their hands. The last image is of Shinji smiling, a little embarassed, telling everyone "thank you." For those hoping for some mythic apocalyptic end, it does take place, but not in the way people anticipated.
The End of Evangelion and Evangelion: Death and Rebirth arrive to try to take the place of this imagined ending which the first end could not escape. The scope becomes far more physically violent and epic. A huge battle takes place over the Evangelions and their pilots. The Human Instrumentality project is not shown in its Human dimensions (the human condition, the hyterical annihilation and rebirth of the first attempted ending) but instead in human terms, through visual representations of the struggles and battles, as well as the symbolic processes of humanity's evolution or devolution (the creation of the tree of life, the new world emerging from Rei, Eva Unit 01 floating off into the universe). The Human dimensions are dealt with, but in a way which dillutes their intensity. The overcompensation for the first try is obvious as the scale of this moment of instrumentality is constantly reinforced and reiterated, whether in the moments of the characters' new life/death or the live action footage which moves throughout Tokyo.
Several interesting things emerge as it should be obvious to all, that what we are dealing with is not a simple remake in terms of a correction or another try. In fact, these endings both require each other, they only truly make sense together, and because of this, the idea that one simply corrects the other doesn't hold. But when I say make sense, I don't mean that Evangelion said to The End of Evangelion "you complete me," and that the complete story has at last been told, but more so that through a reading of both of these endings, we arrive at why I feel Evangelion is truly an epic narrative, because of the way it illustrates so beautifully the impossibility of that completion. How through its hyteriscal illustration of the Human, we can trace the basic limits of our existences. To mention Zizek briefly since I don't feel that I've mentioned him enough lately on my blog, this reading of Evangelion provides an account of Zizek's version of Hegel's "concrete universality."
I'm still putting together my ideas for this call, and still deciding whether I should spend any time on it, since after all my reading of remakes probably wouldn't be accepted by the editors. If I do end up putting in an abstract, I was thinking about this title, Anime Re-Made: The End of Evangelion to the Beginning of Cowboy Bebop.
The reason for mentioning Cowboy Bopeep (again this is what I call it, on purpose) deals with one of my posts last year about the anime. I found it very interesting that when they made the film version, despite the fact that digetically it is supposed to take place before the end of the 26 episodes, it is obvious in terms of Spike's development that it takes place actually AFTER the 26 episode season. (Meaning that Spike's death, his act in the last episode is what paves the way and allows for the solidarity that is found in the film, but not in the season.)
If I do this paper, the majority of it will be on Evangelion, and maybe I'll just have a long footnote on Cowboy Bopeep. Hekkua'.
The great thing about having a blog is that it operates as my brainstorming board. I can come out here and toss out some ideas, ramble on about them and then at some later point I have a record here which I can return to if it sounds like a good idea. (this is what happened at the last conference I attended. Elements of the paper were already scattered throughout my blog and so I just pasted them together to form the bulk of my paper) I already have several posts on here about Evangelion I think I might already have enough for this paper.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Part of the reason for this absence of writing on my blog has been because I'm writing way too much crap elsewhere. I'm trying to get my latest master's thesis done by May, and so I'm neck deep in that. At the same time I deal with an extra couple dozens emails each week about the Famoksaiyan conference that I'm helping put together. This extra couple dozens emails means more time spent responding to emails. Then there's the fact that I've got three conference presentations coming up in the next three months, each of them different papers. PLUS, I've got one article that I'm trying to work on with my friend Madel to be finished by June.
I've got to get back to the point where I see my blog not as some extra work, but as something which helps to produce my work. A test board if you will, where the chaos of things floating around, or perhaps swimming around in my head, can be sucked out and slapped onto this blog, and finally I can then see whether it works or not. Kao sense este, pat ahe'?
When people ask me what my work is on, I always respond in a very earnest, lao frihon, lao jackassish sort of way. As an academic we are each supposed to have those one or two lines prepared and polished which will present our work in a very contained and concise yet topical and possibly vibrant way to those who probably don't care, but probably should. I thought about formulating something like this, but later decided not to.
Hafa i che'cho'-hu? Mismo todu nai, mismo i lina'la'-hu!
So what then is my answer when this question comes up, as it always does?
Question: "And what is your research on?"
Answer: "Anything Guam, everything Chamorros."
Recently I've developed an abbreviated version, which is "Guam and Chamorros."
I che'cho'-hu guini gi eskuela, ti sahnge ginnen Guahu. Achokka' guaha papet academic na hu tuge' ya guaha nai bai hu famanu'i gi conferences siha, i mas impottante na che'cho'-hu, Guahu.
One night I was driving down from Atascadero, the Central California cowboy town that most of my immediate family lives in. The drive from their to San Diego is usually around 5 1/2 hours, but can quickly become 6 1/2 or 7 1/2 hours if you hit traffic in Los Angeles or Santa Barbara. To avoid becoming a sickened smog heaving sardine awaiting distributing on more free flowing freeways, I usually drive literally in the middle of the night. Like from 8 - 2, or 10 - 4.
This particular night I was driving through LA, very late and I was listening to this interesting leftist liberal radio station whose name and number I can't remember. What they were presenting was a recording of a public panel of different activists talking about religion and activism. The person that they were focusing on was a Buddhist monk who was speaking on reflection, personal change and political change, etc. He told an interesting story which has stuck with me since.
It was about a heroine rehab clinic in a South East Asia country. According to this monk, heroine addiction is notoriously difficult to cure, but yet this small clinic or monestary had gained a big reputation for its success. So this monk travelled there in order to see what the secret to this success was. What were their strategies, whether in terms of food, medication, therapy, physical exercises. When he arrived he found a typical monestary, nothing obvious from its structure what would make it so unique. Inside he found heroince addicts meditating and eating some sort of broth mixture. Each day, the addicts would meet with and meditate with the leader of the monestary, a monk who had formerly been a narcotics agent for the government. The American monk asked the leader of the clinic what the secrets to his success were, since the broth they ate seemed to be harmless, the mediations were just regular medidations and the addicts didn't seem to do anything else. The monestary leader asked this monk a series of cryptic questions, but said little more. There didn't seem to be much of an answer.
It was only later when the monk learned the history of this leader, how he had once been a narcotics agent who had become disillusioned by the prevelance of addiction and drug abuse and there seemed to be little that could be done to combat it. His grandmother however told him that if he became a monk, she would tell him a way to cure heronie addiction. So he radically changed his life, and renounced a number of things in order to live a monk's life, in fact renouncing more than he was actually supposed to, purifying himself. When he had done this however he didn't return to his grandmother to ask her what the cure was, because through this process, as the activist monk recounted, he had become a cure for heronie addiction. There was something in his presence, in his energy, which brought about this change in those within his clinic.
I haven't told this story out loud for so long, so the details have become fuzzy, and this shows in my re-telling, but the end of it has always stayed with me. This is very much connected to Gandhi's famous sinangan, "be the change that you want to see in the world," because only by coming this thing can you change the world.
This is a vital part of my new master's thesis. Getting at this dimension of social change, bringing out the necessity of a self-violence. I intend to critique Fanon in my last chapter, because although he can be reformatted to work with my theories, he nonetheless privileges the violence against the colonizer. While I can see the necessity of this for Africa and its era of decolonization, in the Pacific (primarily Micronesia) this emphasis would be pointless.
The primary justification for our relationships with the United States deal with comfort and with material happiness. When decolonization is discussed in Guam, schizophrenic paranoid collages writhe up from the discussions, and ruined villages are invoked, rampant drug addictions, an inability for capitalism and markets to run, government breakdowns, corruption, dictatorships. This schizophrenic (ti clinical) response emerges from a fear of this self-violence, a fear to question the things which are supposed to be unquestionable. There can be no happiness beyond the United States, no possibility, nothing lies beyond it but death and chaos.
I do not in anyway believe this, and although many people may also say, "well of course we know its not true, but...," we must identify that "but" as the signification of that belief. All rationalizations of "we can't live without the United States" come from a colonizing fear that we are nothing without it.
Two of the interviews for my last master's thesis make this clear for me. The first is from an Chamorro raised up during the colonial era prior to World War II. According to this elder Chamorro students were instructed on proper hygenie and bodily maintenace, which to her was insulting, "do they think we don't know how to use the bathroom! That they have to teach us!" Read this statement along with that of a 2002 Senatorial candidate for Guam's Legislature, who said that he was against decolonization because he didn't want his children to use "outhouses." What an incredible distinction, according to this logic, we have been taught how to take' by the United States (take' magof) and without them we revert back to intolerable outdoor plumbing, (take' baba).
Decolonization must mean that there are those of us who assume this violence against ourselves, who are willing to embody these irrational and insane fears, to show their absurdity. When I speak to people about returning to the land, I speak of it in all seriousness. There are those who say that Guam is an island and "blah blah blah" it has no natural resources and therefore can't ever sustain itself. A regime of comfort emerges to protect this form of being, that this is the only way that we can be, and an island could never provide this, so we must depend on the US in everyway possible to make sure this form of being isn't threatened. But it must be threatened! It must be revealed to be not the end of history, the end of progress, but just another contingent historical moment. So many of us must chose wrongly, chose badly.
We must chose to return to the land despite what predictions of doom and impossibility follow us there. And we must not do it for capitalistic gains, but in order to offer alternative ways of social organizing. Different ways that we can relate to each other and the world around us. Acts such as these are the key to decolonization, because the change becomes embodied because of those who accepted the risk, the sacrifice, who have chosen the impossible and done it, these are what can pierce that veneer of comfort and happiness which is actually so shallow, yet bleeds necessity and eternalness.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Professor Da Silva
Theories in Ethnic Studies
Thinking Fragments, Jane Flax
(apologies for the unfinished sentences)
I’d like to begin with a few banal statements which will hopefully help in finding a way to begin talking about this text. As I am typing, and thinking about the ways in which I might begin, I am resisting the urge to respond directly to the response papers which have already been circulated. That would be a more satisfying and engaging experience than blandly describing the text using such romance killing words such as “generative.”
The writing of papers which elaborate on the main points of any text is always a difficult task for me. In thinking of this, I am reminded of an interview Derrida gave for an American documentary crew, where the initial inquiry boiled down to “love, elaborate.” He responded that he couldn’t do it, and that he had an empty head for love in general. When assigned these sorts of things for classes, I feel confronted with a similar task. “book, write.” But the command “write” comes with all sorts of requirements for profundity or articulation or hints as to how, and when staring into the abyss which is nearly any text (or any person for that matter), it is easy to feel anxiety over how to accommodate the others which are forcing this confrontation. It is so much easier when prompted, whether by culture, by a question, by an event.
It is not that there is very little I can say. That is never the case. Although when encountering dense texts like these, it is usually a choice strategy of representing our choices or our opinions to say that there is very little to say, or that we understand, the problem is always that there is too much to say. And when confronted with the abundance of it, we recoil because of the impossibility to know it or represent it.
Of Flax’s text, I particularly enjoyed her section on Freud. In the construction of the pioneer that Freud was and is, there is nearly always reference to the innovative cartography and mapping devices he created for the human self. But as Flax notes several times, Freud’s works are riddled with an anxiety. After facing the abyss of human consciousness and the possibilities which lay beyond modernity and Enlightenment proposals, Freud notes important things, but in critical ways, also retreats into his class, cultural and gender biases in order to stave off the possible postmodern or antimodern deluge which lay beyond. Depending on whom you believe, Lacan makes the same conscious or unconscious mistakes in his proposal of certain transcendental forms such as the phallus which do exist outside of language.
I guess it would be important here to say make some general statements about the main points of the text before I continue to ramble on. Flax brings out the main theoretical roots and underpinnings of psychoanalysis, feminism and postmodernism in an attempt to seek the best possible critical tools and space in a world fraught with uncertainty over the possibility of ethical action. These three discursive institutions are towering forces in the ways the worlds of today (namely post-nearly everything) and the past (Enlightenment, modernity, etc.) are commonly constructed (although many would say that psychoanalysis is no longer what it once was, the spectre of Freud continues to exert much force, even in just the way people on a day to day basis use his language and his concept, without knowing where they come from). The strengths of each give clues as to the deficiencies in the others. In relating this to Freud, Lacan and psychoanalysis, feminism and its attention to gender provides an important critical tool for taking apart the more obvious gender biases and anxiety in Freud, but also...
Although I would agree with anyone who says that feminism is a postmodern theory, I would also agree with anyone who said it needed to something separate as well. Postmodernism and liberalism suffer from the same easy short circuit, pre-existing statements or edicts makes it difficult to form antagonistic or transformative basises for political action. In liberalism, the existence of formal and admitted symbolic rules for existence, tend to obscure contrary and often more powerful obscene rules. In Flax’s text, Lacan is the perfect example. Of someone who can talk a good game, who can say the right things about women being oppressed, but will still shoulder and palm off deeply rooted biases, which continue to assert men as the unmarked, mobile and agency drunk wraiths of existence, while women, are subordinated by the impossible neutrality of his works, once again the derivative. Returning to the postmodern, feminism is one way in which that theoretical framework can find political success.
I am thinking specifically here of Hardt and Negri’s text Empire, and their idea of absolute democracy. (I guess I should qualify something here, no one is postmodern (in any essential or real sense), but everyone has postmodern tendencies. And it is not because of huge shifts in consciousness because of French theorists who were able to gandha the scene of writing. But more so because postmodernity reintroduced and fused into the language of modernity what are inadequately referred to as pre-modern tendencies to hybridize things actively and openly. (this is not a hybrid’s “return to nature” or a cyborg’s return to the home/factory, although it can of course be interpreted that way). If Latour is correct when we claims that we have never been modern, then all postmodernism does is make valid or legitimate hybrid identities or hybrid political projects. An important point I think in learning to attempt to look awry the walls that are determined to confine and define us. This tangent exists, because my mind snagged on whether or not Empire constitutes a postmodern project.) When reading their thoughts about absolute democracy, I was reminded about the idea of feminist democracy from Mohanty and Alexander’s text, Feminist Genealogies. My first instinct was, they’re working on the same or closely similar projects! But the more I considered the position of the European or white, often times hardly organic intellectual, and the transparency and mobility of their voice that they often engineer in order to speak or represent the plights of others, I began to think that although these two movements may be articulated in roughly similar ways, in that they both take into account the intersections of gender, race, class, and so on. But in today’s intellectual climate, these things are the new political rhetoric, (its morning in America!), it is easy to say these things, but what makes life so frustrating is that it is so difficult to conceptualize and actualize things based on these variables. Postmodernity needs feminism to remind it of the biases which are easily recuperated, namely the naturalizations and easy paths to essentailization based on the things we call realities, whether biological, statistical, social, etc.
My mind persistently returns to Freud, because it is in Flax’s analysis of psychoanalysis that I feel she makes her interesting points. I particularly liked her critique on transference and the problematics of Freud’s analyst. I have always felt that the role of the psychoanalyst and the relationship between the patient was the central part of Freud and also (other than gender issues) his largest source of festering contradictions. After charting a world in which desires and thinking are far more complex and unknown than we know, which amounts to a leveling of the playing field of human life in a way previous proponents of modernity dared not do, in the role of the psychoanalyst, Freud saved modernity’s metaphysical privileging by rhetorically garbing his ideas in a desperate scientific aura, as well as doing his best to prove that the analyst was set apart from the general uncertainty of human life, because of their positionality as an analyst. He infused that position with all the rationality and scientific fabrication he could muster. But because of the very nature of what he was prescribing, the science could never be realized. The analyst cannot be objective, (as Flax notes Freud never was, as he even lent his patients money, and kept correspondence with some of them, after analysis had concluded), it is part of the didactic that he be intimate, that his language only carry the shell of indifference or disinterest. The analyst is the one who must control but not control. Who must be close but distant. It is interesting though. By psychoanalytic terms, this is a doctrinal conflict, however when snatched up by postmodernists or feminists, it can be an important point of departure for thinking about the other, obligations to it and the ethical possibilities involved.
Flax’s text ends with no answers and no conclusions, which I appreciated. Her use of the word partial and fragmented throughout was something I also appreciated. Since we can only deal with partiality, we must begin to think in that way, always with a self-reflective, self-critical qualifier which makes known this fact. Most scholarship and nearly all interactions do not make this formally known, they deny this fact, and continue to assert, even sometimes when attacking modernity, the tenets of its assured self-knowledge and knowable truth. As Buddhist monk once said that “if you resist or confront power, without losing the shell of individualism, then you are only confronting power with a smaller version of itself.” Therefore, you are never doing so much as you think you are, and more importantly CAN so long as you do not rid yourself of the limits which are both imposed on...
I feel that so many people have trouble with postmodern texts because they assume that what must replace modernity (if this can be done, and I believe it can, although, the creatures which inherit this planet after we have destroyed ourselves will only know its benefits), must resemble modernity, or must play its games, must most importantly, live up to its standards of epistemological existence. Noam Chomsky is the perfect example of this. In his discussions about the possibility for language not being merely just a social tool, he always says, well maybe, but any connections which you could make, don’t meet the scientific rigor needed to prove something. Therefore in proving something outside of the limits of something, Chomsky requires that you first prove it using the limits of something. We are all to some extent like this, because what exists beyond what we think we know is by its nature frightening (I’m not sure it is frightening by its nature, or by our nature, or instead because of modernity’s disdain for that which it cannot know (and is therefore not worth knowing)).
When Rumsfeld spoke of the known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns, he was as Zizek says, doing some amateur philosophizing (I really feel he should quit his day job). Zizek points out that what Rumsfeld leaves out is the unknown knowns, namely the Freudian unconscious, or even the Real (Lacanian). In places such as the unconscious, the Real, answers lie, but sorry to be so cliché, how can we unlock them? In recent years Zizek’s work has taken more of an interest in deciphering the Real, and hoping that transformative resistance might lie in the things which to us are not only indecipherable, but must be so. But so long as we search or investigate based on the rules of modernity (and the ways we in our own ways embody those rules), we will be lead nowhere except into the quagmires which most of the students in this class, seem to be stuck in, or have fears of being stuck in.
Finding a way out of modernity means taking risk and chances, both politically and theoretically. It means as Spivak says admitting to an intense vulnerability and accepting that. Spivak, Derrida and De Man all admitted to deconstruction as not making a very good model for long term political action, it is instead useful in tactical situations. And while some may see this as a deficiency, it is far from it. It is instead a refusal to explicitly play modernity’s game. To not replace something with a smaller version of itself, and to refuse to play the game. Instead of seeking universals or eternal projects or tactical acts, it sees that type of thinking about time and mina’ok as modern and violent.
(I admit, I am romanticizing this a bit, but its all in honor of Derrida who passed away last year, and who therefore remain that distant other with whom I shall always seek ethical/hospitable interaction.)
I’d like to conclude with a fairy tale, which may seem out of place, but to me, it illustrates some of the anxiety over the postmodern. The Grimm’s Brothers retell the story about the Golem, a clay (in other versions it is made of something else) creature who protects villagers. By inscribing “aemaeth” or truth into the brow of the Golem, the creature would draw energy from the word and come to life and fight off attackers or invaders. By removing the “ae” from the word, truth became “maeth” or death, thus returning the Golem to clay.
I see modernity in this. Because of its enacting powers, its ability to give life requires an explicit violence and control. It is only because the life and death of the Golem can be controlled, that this method, this act is even allowed or pursued. Because the centrality of humanity, the rational, can be assured in the creation of this creature that it is created. Wandering into the postmodern, or beyond it (if its possible), means ascribing “aemaeth” into the Golem’s brow, but with no “maeth” to stop it.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
I was speaking to a Chamorro woman who had been raised stateside, and never taught a word of Chamorro by her parents. I asked her why her parents had been so antagonistic about everything Chamorro. I expected to hear the usual response about the parents wanting their children to have more opportunities and a chance for a better future. I was surprised however when she said that her parents had left Guam because they were afraid another war might break out, and didn’t want their children to have to endure that as they had. They sold their land cheap and never looked back, and they were not alone.
In a presentation regarding war reparations for Chamorros, retired Justice B.J. Cruz talked about his mother and her experiences from the war. All his mother would ever say was this, “it was terrible, and every night I pray to God that you and your sisters don’t have to go through what I went through.”
These are not unique stories or perspectives, but they are the ones that don’t get publicized each July. The war created intense wounds on so many different levels and the lack of direct discussion about these issues has allowed diaspora and issues of inferiority to reak havoc on Chamorros. Many people write off and ignore these types of psychological and emotional barriers because Chamorro culture is not expressive about those things, or because those are personal issues, and of course it would be difficult because their experiences were so traumatic.
While these things may be true, the way in which we remember Liberation Day or the war, and the way it is remembered for us in books, in television has also played a role in making sure a lot of those issues never see the light of day. The celebrations that we shroud Liberation Day and Marine Drive in have basically steamrolled over many Chamorros who hurt and ache to this day, and turned them into flattened patriotic cut-outs.
While doing research for my master's thesis I found dozens of Chamorros who were angry at America for the war, more so than the Japanese and not always because they lost land. But so many of these manamko' whom I interviewed have asked that their names not be revealed when I publish my work. The feelings of these Chamorros have merit, but their issues of disaffection continue to go unvalidated and hidden, by the news media which tends to celebrate like drunk college kids, whenever a new tank, ship or plane ends up on Guam. Or by people who have become blinded by their patriotism to the fact that so many hurt because of the racism they have felt by being treated as a colony, a second-class citizens, not really an American, but not really anything else.
In the war, people were beaten, tortured, raped and made to watch all manner of horrors by both Americans and Japanese. Many were able to heal their wounds quickly by grabbing flags and offering their children up to future military service. They shouted loud patriotic slogans, and of their pride to be Americans, and in doing so drowned the voices of those who hadn't healed, and who weren't proud to be Americans.
For many the war did not end in 1944. There were wars for life that went on amongst families who were suddenly landless and without homes. And many other wars to find peace and comfort after seeing and enduring so much, when all anyone seemed willing or able to offer were American flags. For others, there is still a war on, fighting for survival in the face of increasing US militarization and forces that threaten to reduce Chamorro history and culture to the naming of a street, or a newspaper insert which can be hummed to the tune of Uncle Sam Won't you Please Come Back to Guam.
Blind patriotism to the United States has gotten Chamorros some things, but there are many things it won't get them. It doesn't heal the soul which cannot deny that for decades and possible til the present day many Chamorros are second class citizens. Doesn't heal the fact that many Chamorros felt abandoned in 1941. It certainly doesn't heal for many families who were tricked or lied about their land being taken, or being needed for defense. And blind patriotism won't improve Guam's status, but just ensure that Guam remains a colony, until it is destroyed by nuclear war, or swallowed up by the sea because of global warming.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
So if anyone out there is interested in presenting their work or ideas at this gathering please feel free to get in touch with me, my email is below as well as a description of what Famoksaiyan is supposed to be. Right now we are looking for people to present on possibly Chamoru/Chamorro language, Chamorro creativity whether in arts, theater, literature, Chamorro/Guam history, or Chamorro activism/networking (whether in Guam or the US mainland). These are the topics that we've received one, two or three proposals on and are just looking for one or two more to form a panel.
Even if you don't have any topic for presentation, if you are interested in the future of Chamorros and their islands and can make it to this conference, I encourage you to attend. We are setting this up in such a basic way, that what it is will only depend upon what is brought to it by those who present and those who attend. If you are interested but would like to know more, please get in touch with me. In the coming weeks we might be able to secure some money to help pay for student travel, and we can also help people find hotels in San Diego, or families that they can stay with.
CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS
FAMOKSAIYAN: Decolonizing Chamorro Histories, Identities and Futures
April 14-15, 2006
Ginnen i Manaina-ta siha. Ginnen i Mangguelo-ta siha. Hita I Chamoru, I taotao Guahan yan Luta yan Saipan yan Tinian. Hita i taotao tano yan i tasi. Mungga en fanmaleffa I Manma’pos yan Fanmanhasso todu tiempo put I Manmamaila.
Ginnen Manu Hit? Hayi hit pa’go? Para Manu Hit? These are questions of our past, present and future which we can never ever let go. As simple as these questions may appear, finding indigenous answers to them is harder than one would think. While questions of cultural preservation (What to keep?) and adaptation (What to change?) are vital to our survival, they must always be asked in relation to less visible and potentially more difficult problems which nonetheless greatly impact our lives. Banal colonialism, familiar and frighteningly familial militarism and enthusiastic patriotism are just a few of the dire and generally undiscussed issues Chamorros around the world are confronted with today, which offer us particularly unhelpful answers as to the questions of where we came from, who are we, and where are we going?
An invisible minority in the United States, their island of Guam one of the world’s last “official” colonies and recently christened the tip of America’s military spear in Asia, with the arrival of 7,000 new Marines, the future of Chamorros and their islands seems inevitably entangled with that of the United States and its strategic military interests. Is this the fate of Chamorros and the Marianas, to be forever linked to the United States in this way, and do little other than follow and attempt to live up to as well as within its mandates, its examples and its dreams? In seeking to improve their lives and communities, is the only hope for Chamorros to follow the advice of the Bush Administration and “let go” of their cultures that hold them back and at last seize the American dream?
How can Chamorros chart a future for themselves that escapes this mentality and therefore doesn’t automatically assume that “what is good for America must be good for Guam?” What role does the possible re-unification of the Marianas islands play in making a different future possible? How does the realities of Chamorro diaspora, where more Chamorros are in the United States than in the Marianas force us to develop different strategies to include and connect to those thousands of miles away? How can Chamorros resist or critique the incessant and overwhelming demands of the United States military, when our lives, whether through relatives in Iraq, frequent editorials on our unavoidable military dependencies, and images of America as our saviors from World War II, make those demands seem so intimate and necessary? What are the educational issues facing Chamorros both in the islands and elsewhere? What are the vital political and not just cultural roles that community organizations, artists and dance groups must play in our movements? Lastly, what can our hopes be for decolonization, whether as a political process or a displacement of ideology or meaning, when for the majority of Chamorros, such a prospect remains a terrifying (im)possibility?
To this end, the Chamorro Information Activists are inviting all interested in critical discussions around the future of Chamorros and their islands to participate in Famoksaiyan, a Chamorro gathering to take place at the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club in San Diego, April 14 and 15, 2006.
Famoksaiyan translates to either “the place or time of nurturing” or “the time to paddle forward or move ahead.” It is in this spirit that we hope to provide a space where vital conversations can take place, and possible solutions to the above mentioned issues be strategized.
We welcome those interested in taking part in these discussions to submit individual or panel presentation proposals on any topic which relates critically to Chamorros in the Marianas and the rest of the world. As this is our first attempt at a gathering such as this, we are interested in getting as diverse a group as possible together. We stress that this is not solely an academic conference, rather a community conference including our manamko’, community activists, student leaders, and other interested people. Therefore people who consider themselves outside of academia are welcomed to submit presentations as well.
Your submission should include a one page proposal of either your paper or description of the panel you are organizing, as well as brief biography and your contact info (mailing address, telephone and email). Topics may include (but are not limited to): 1) Culture as Resistance (Chamorro art, literature, dance). 2) Militarization of life/land/desire. 3) Environmental racism (Nuclear fallout, toxic waste dumping). 4) Ensuring Educational Access (Recruitment, retention, reform). 5) Diaspora. 6) Social Movements and Political Activism (Self Determination, land rights, political reform). 7) Chamorros and Cross Racial Coalitions. 8) Mental and Physical Health Issues (Diabetes, Cancer, Ice, Suicide). 9) Language and Cultural Revitalization. 10) Historical Interventions. (Spanish era, Pre-War, World War II, Post-War). 11) Reparations? (From whom? In what form?). 12) Decolonization and the Indigenous Critique.
The deadline for submissions is January 25, 2006. We will continue to accept presentations submitted after this date, but those received before it will be given priority.
Please email your submissions and any questions to Michael Lujan Bevacqua at email@example.com.
Si Yu’us Ma’ase! Biba Chamoru! Na’la’la’ Mo’na I Taotao I Islas Marianas!