Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Two Weeks Til My Defense

A little less than two weeks before I defend my dissertation. Sumahi and I are heading to San Diego this morning to prepare for my defense and graduation. For those of you who have been interested in what my dissertation is about, and I haven't been able to tell you, or told you I would tell you later. Here's the fragment that I've written to introduce it.


GUAM! Where the Production of America’s Sovereignty Begins!

This title might seem odd for a number of reasons. It collapses, or causes a collision between, a number of different concepts that many might not be familiar with, or feel go together. First we have Guam, a colony of the United States, or as it is more formally known, a territory or a dependency of it. Then we have the United States, which most likely needs no introduction, but the reference to its sovereignty might cause a few eyebrows to be raised. Sovereignty can refer to many things, but generally deals with nations, their rights, their ability to govern themselves, and their ability to provide stability and security for their way of life. Lastly we have the idea of production, representing the link between Guam and the United States (and its sovereignty). Aside from the literal interpretations, this marker is meant to convey that somehow Guam plays an active role or is a source of the constitution of American sovereignty. It is the curiosity that this title might instill or, the curiousness it exudes, that is the impetus for this dissertation.

The title is drawn from a phrase which began as a tourist slogan for Guam, but has become a slogan representing Guam in general. Guam: Where America’s Day Begins! can be found on t-shirts, websites, blogs and furthermore, makes appearances in the speech of US Generals, Guam Governors and Senators. Its influence goes beyond its being a mere slogan for tourists, but extends into grounding the political identity of Guam. For those of us from Guam, this slogan represents a way in which we can overcome the colonial difference that marks all aspects of our lives, so that we may somehow embody America and claim to finally be a secure piece of it. It joins other slogans - most notably: Guam: America in Asia, Guam: The Edge of America, Guam: The Tip of America’s Spear. - meant to re-mark or remake the colonial tie between Guam and the United States, Chamorros and their Mother Country, not as a point of inequality or exploitation, but rather as a point of celebratory exceptionality.

These slogans are a point of frustration for someone such as myself who is interested in Guam’s decolonization rather than the maintenance of its colonization. Despite the superficial nature of these slogans, their impact, their power runs very deep in terms of reinforcing/reproducing very real and intimate worlds of dependency. They reinforce colonial fictions as to who makes the colonies possible and who makes them function.

What defines Guam, or more deeply, what makes Guam possible, what makes it secure and prosperous, makes it a place that can be recognized as having value or purpose, is this link to the United States. It authorizes Guam as a place in the world through different geopolitical, military, economic and other discourses. As a result, Guam is reduced to an object, an inactive supplementary fragment within the political metaphor - something made by America, a weapon used by America. It is a place that signifies in so many ways Guam’s powerlessness; it is rendered as nothing but a dependency, a dot on a map, the tip of a spear, something that does nothing more than signify the prowess and greatness of the United States.

Although as a colony, one might consider sovereignty to be absent with regards to Guam, this is hardly the case. The concept appears everywhere in a multitude of ways, especially by virtue of Guam’s exceptional, ambiguous political status. So when I refer to sovereignty in this dissertation, there is no single way I am intending it, but will constantly move throughout the variations of the concept, dragging the site of Guam along with me, seeking its traces.

I will refer to sovereignty as a dream and a nightmare, a goal and an obstacle; a force or which some strive and struggle for, while others jealously defend. It is considered to be the lynchpin of the world order, a concept which cannot be questioned or supplanted for fear that the world will regress or return to a previous violent moment. It is a theory of rights (and wrongs) for nation-states, a theory for who should have power and who shouldn’t. It can be a show of power or strength, it can be the force through which the inconsistencies of a nation are dismissed or dispelled, and a feeling of stability and order is maintained.

Specifically for colonies and people still struggling for self-determination, sovereignty can be a frustrating paradox, a source of authority for colonizers and those who build their foundations upon conquest and discovery. At the same time, sovereignty signifies a hope for a radical change of meaning, an end to the trauma of colonization and a path towards decolonization. For indigenous people, such as Chamorros, sovereignty is a source of power, it can be a path towards finding oneself and one’s true powers in a world which is built upon their reduction to ghosts in their own lands.

In this dissertation, Guam’s place, or non-place, in that ever-growing body of knowledge on sovereignty will be interrogated, with the intent of revealing the structure of Guam’s colonization and decolonization. The various chapters will each start with a different definition of sovereignty, and then proceed to answer the following questions: What role does these definitions of sovereignty play in creating that colonial status? How can they help us enhance our view of that status and how that status can be challenged or changed?

In order to reveal this structure, I will use not only academic and theoretical texts on sovereignty and imperialism, but also deploy as text the discourses that reveal the everyday sentiments of those seeking to produce or prevent sovereignty for Guam. Just as Guam sits at the edge of America and the edge of the world, it also sits at the edge of sovereignty. And so this dissertation will not just ground itself in academic texts on sovereignty, but also in the stories, statements and blog comments of Chamorro activists, cultural preservationists, US Congress-people and US military commanders. Since Guam persists as more of a ghost with reference to sovereignty than an acceptable object of political inquiry, the capturing of its non-/place can only be achieved through a similar sort of intentionally ambiguous methodological engagement, and a constant movement between different level of official and unofficial texts. Therefore in terms of evidence, an off-hand remark made by a US Naval Admiral can lead us closer and more quickly to capturing the political status of Guam, than an entire shelf of academic texts on sovereignty or on Guam’s political status.

This dissertation is not about sovereignty, it is about Guam, and about decolonizing it. However, to decolonize Guam requires first that its place in the structure of American sovereignty be revealed. This means that throughout this dissertation, Guam will be repositioned, reimagined, and reorientated, from a supplementary, dependent effect of American power, to something which plays a role and holds a place in creating that power. It is for that reason that this dissertation possess the peculiar title of “Guam!: Where the Production of America’s Sovereignty Begins!”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hami na Dos

Hami yan Si Sumåhi para bei in hanao gi agupa'ña para lågu, ya ti para ta bira mågi Guahan este ki i tinituhun July. Para bei hanao lagu put iyo-ku graduation gi i otro mes ginnen iyo-ku Programman Ph.D. giya San Diego. Gof ya-ñiha i familian-måmi gi lagu na manali'e yan Si Sumåhi. Meggai matulaika-ña siha esta gi i ti apmam na lina'la'-ña. Manlinemlam i familia siempre. Estaba kulang “eggplant” gui', fihu kumetu, ti siña kumuunanaf, ya-ña chumalek lao taya' kuentos-ña.

Sesso, (pi’ot annai mampos machalek Si Sumåhi) siniente-ku minahalang para ayu na klasin haggå-hu. Achokka’ ya-hu este na nene-hu på’go na momento, sa’ siña umakuentusi ham, ya esta humuhuyong ginnen Guiya iyo-ña personality, sen mannge ayu na mas hoben na nene lokkue’. Ayu na otro nene mas fa’set para u na’maigo’, ya gof ya-ña mumaigo’ gi pecho’-ku. Este na nene-hu på’go, kada na manna’oppop gui’ gi i pecho’-ku, manggaogao “I wanna baila!”

Ai adai, hu komprende na todu i famagu’on mangguaha mitminalagon-ñiha! Lao hinassosso-ku, kao todu i mañaina siha, kao mamparehu i sinienten-måmi? Para Guahu, gi minagahet hinassosso-ku na este na haggå-hu i mas gaiminalago na patgon gi hilo’ tano’! Mama’titinas essitan yu’ didide’ guini, lao guaha nai hinasso-ku na tåya’ mas gaiminalago’ kinu Si Sumåhi fuera di Militat Amerikånu (put tåno’)!

Despensa na manabak hit gi i tinige’-hu. Para bai hu kechalåni hit tåtte para i fine’nina na punto-ku.

Tåya' nai hu pulan Si Sumñhi taiguihi, para ayu na klasin apmam na tiempo. Puede ha' maolek ha' todu.

Para Hamyo, yanggen guaha un konne’ un dikike’ na patgon taiguini, teneki un komprende i piligron hinanao! Kalang manmasohmok todu i manma’u’u’dai gi i batkon aire, ya humuyongña mas mas a’gang i katen i nene. Fihu lokkue’ para i mangof hoben na nene siha, yanggen ti mampåyon nu ayu na klasin na u’dai, siempre mapopokka’ i sanhalom i talangå-ña siha.

Ai, esta på’go hu hahasso put i chinatsaga’ gi i batkon aire. Siempre para bei in ayaoyao yan mumu. Lao sinembatgo, hu diseseha mohon na siña in singon este na hinanao ya ti para bai hu chinatli’e ni’ i haggå-hu put este.

Annai hinasso-ku put i “piligro” gi este na hinanaon-måmi, ensigidas tumakhilo’ gi i tintanos-hu i manga Lone Wolf and Cub. Mamomokkat ayu siha na dos gi un gof piligrosu na chålan. Hinahatme siha todu tiempo ni’ enimigu siha ni’ manespipiha emnok. Lao para Hami yan Si Sumåhi i mas kalåmya na enimigu-hu siempre i “Cub” i haggå-hu ha’!

Annai finafaisen ni’ taotao “Para månu siha?,” fihu ilek-ña i tata, na “lumalåhu siha gi i chalan asta Sasalåguan” Para Hami, yanggen finaisen ham ayu lokkue’, este i ineppe-ku: “Para San Diego ha’, lao olaha mohon na ti Sasalåguan i chalan!”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Apologies, Power and Justice

Ideas of restitution and reconciliation have been on my mind alot lately. One of the main reasons for this, is the possibility that the long-standing, shameful issue of War Reparations for Chamorros may soon be resolved. In January, Congresswoman Bordallo resubmitted the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act (giya Guahan mafa'na'an este "War Reparations"), and it was passed by the House in February. At present its in committee in the Senate, and since the Democrats hold a clear majority now and Barack Obama was on record as a presidential candidate supporting the bill's passage, it looks like it might actually get throught his time.

Kalang ti hongge'on este. Kuantos tiempo esta maloffan desde i gera? Kuantos na manamko' esta manmatai?

The legislation was almost to this point last April, after passing through the House and even making its way onto the Senate floor. Once there however it was stalled by an objection from South Carolina Senator Jim Demint. The legislation was never considered again.

For Chamorro activists, this is one of the issues which is often used to inflame people, to try and coax them into being more critical about the United States and its treatment of Guam and influence over Guam. The War Reparations issue is something that can drive even older Chamorros, those who experienced World War II, into anti-American tirades. The war, left many many wounds, physical, cultural, mental and emotional, and the war reparations issue is taken so seriously, because it appears to provide some closure for so many things that Chamorros may have been upset about, may have truly hated the United States about, but could not. Despite the fact that they could not articulate their distrust or their anger, it still persisted, and War Reparations appears to provide one avenue in which those wounds can be healed, or those angry demons can be laid to rest. Chamorros lost their island, lost their culture, lost land, lost language because of that war, although on some of these issues Chamorros played a large role in facilitating those losses, the United States was a culprit as well. But if you cannot confront the United States on those issues, if you aren't willing to become an activist, protest to get your land back, or aggressively pursue an agenda of decolonization, War Reparations can be the perfect sort of replacement. You receive recognition, you receive some compensation. It is not what caused your trauma, it does not heal your trauma, but it is something that you can point to to help you move past it, or help you articulate the way you owned or defeated your trauma.

The War Reparations issue has been ongoing for decades now, and although there are regular moments where it looks like it will finally happen, it has yet too. From this sort of long view it might seem like reparations will never happen. But this isn't necessarily true. As I said in my first paragraph, the climate probably won't get any friendlier than it is right now, so its very possible that it will happen this time.

I've been wondering then, what will this mean for activists such as myself if we don't have this talking point anymore? I mean, the issue is still a shameful one, it took more than 60 years for this compensation to take place, and the majority of the people who deserve it, are the ones who suffered the most have all passed away. But nonetheless in the minds of most Chamorros, the issue will be done with, it will at last be put to rest. One of the key ways in which Chamorros were able to recognize and articulate the colonial difference, or the gap between them and their colonizer, which despite all the attempts to cover it up, can never simply be erased, was through War Reparations. I doubt that decolonization movements will stutter or falter too much, but a change such as this, might truly change the discursive landscape of Guam and require a lot of retooling and rethinking.

All of this was in my mind when I was attending the Indigenous Studies Engages Ethnic Studies symposium that I spoke at earlier today. There was one presentation in particular today that stuck out in my mind as I considered the War Reparations issue, it was titled "Lost between memorialising and forgetting: a reflection upon the recent trend towards apologies made by modern settler States to Indigenous peoples," and given by Mark Harris, who teaches at La Trobe University in Australia, and sometimes teaches classes in my department at UCSD. In his presentation he outlined in broad strokes official apologies that have been made in recent decades by governments and large organizations, and in particular discussed two apology gestures by the Australian government since the 1990's to Australia's aboriginal people.

The 2008 apology by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to "the stolen generation" was a huge shift in Australian national policy in terms of the rhetoric it used towards its indigenous people. Although I am not from Australia and don't know much about it other than its national cricket team and the academic works I've read on Aborigines and their relationship to the Australian state, I'm often shocked at the crass and violent relationship that Australia has to its indigenous people. In the United States and Canada, there is a liberal facade that these people are the "first" people of our nations, and so we have to treat them well or take care of them before they disappear. But in Australia, it seemed for the longest time that the relationship between between its settler society and its indigenous people was pure antagonism, with no pretense of caring for the indigenous, but almost as if Australia would be forever stuck in its frontier and wilderness outlaw phase.

I will admit then that when I watched excerpts of the apology on Youtube, I was touched by this change in tone. Achokka' esta hu tungo' na taibali este na "apology," pinacha' i korason-hu. There are even pictures of him hugging members of the stolen generation, ya kalang annok gi i mata-na na kumekekasao gui'.

But like all national apologies of this nature, to indigenous people that have been colonized, had their land taken, been the victims of genocide or had their governments overthrown, there always seems to be a poisonous intent at work. The apologetic tone, the openess, the earnestness of these gestures is a spectacle meant to infer that they are broader, grander and most justice-orientated gestures than they actually are. The image of a head of state bowing symbolically or metaphorically beneath those the state has damaged or traumatized and requesting their forgiveness is a bit deceiving. It gives the impression of something truly unique or benevolent happening, history being made, justice being done or something incredible taking place. But in general, as was seen in the Australian stolen generation apology, and in the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the US over the 1993 apology to Native Hawaiians, these apologies are more spectacle than anything else. Merely shifts at the rhetorical level to appear more benevolent or inclusive, but do not really open any route to justice.

The spectacle is meant to infer that the state or the government is willing to right a historical wrong, when in reality the apology is generally meant to close off a chapter of history, and to keep the traumatic questions and injustices of the past beyond any chance of restitution or reparation.

The profit of saying that something is over and done with, the burying of traumas, without allowing those on the other side of the trauma, the ones who carry the trauma in their hearts, in their lives, who carry it in the lives they had been forced to live without land or without language, a chance at restitution is actually quite valuable. In the case of most indigenous people the issues at stake go straight to the core of a nation's sovereignty and management, land, resources, original myths. All of these things involve violence against indigenous people, the taking of their lands, their resources, the stripping of their sovereignty and genocide. Almost all modern nations are built upon these violences and struggles for reparations involve trying to get some sort of justice for those atrocities, some of which happened hundreds of years ago, some of which happened very recently. Regardless though of when these things took place, their violence and the profit from their violence and their taking of resources all builds up until today. It all evolves and mutates into structures and networks of privilege, power and wealth.
Alot of people when the issue of reparations comes up, especially for something which took place several generations ago, they say that I wasn't there, I had nothing to do with it, why should the present moment and the people who inhabit this present moment have to suffer or pay for something they had nothing to do with? This thinking seems to be commonsensical, like duh, I don't have any slaves, no one has slaves anymore, so why should I or anyone else have to pay anything or take any blame for slavery? This point however, is completely stupid and no one should be able to seriously take this position without their brain exploding or at least start to leak and ooze contradictions.

People, families, communities, countries take full credit for the legacies or the histories that they perceive to be positive or good and progressive. In the United States for instance, people have not problems (ti mammamahlao) with taking credit for saving the world several times, promoting democracy to every corner, and always keeping the world from slipping into chaos. They do not proudly embody or celebrate their numerous sins, both big and small over the centuries. For more on this check out my 3/28/2007 post "Manifest Destiny, 300 and the Collective White American "We".'

The blessed gift of the founding fathers is my gift as an American, so is America's history of liberating and saving the world, I continue their grand legacy, I can take credit for it as an American and claim that rich and exceptional heritage. The legacies of slavery, genocide, imperialism, colonialism, those all belong to people who are dead and gone. They certainly aren't mine. Ti iyo-ku enao siha. Manmatai todu esta i manggaiisao.

In the United States for instance, there is no law that says that white is better or white people are better. But centuries of slavery and discrimination build up, and can't be overcome with the election of a black president or the celebration of the first nomination of an Asian American to the Supreme Court. An entire nation became rich off of genocide, the taking of massive amounts of land and the use of slave labor, and all Americans (of any color) today benefit from that historical fact. So as a nation, the United States and all its people do owe particular groups a chance at justice for those wrongs. But there are those who benefit in particular from that history, those for whom specific privileges or powers have emerged, and they are the ones whom resist reparations the most, because frankly its not in their best interest at all to revisit that past which has given them so much by taking from so many others.

There are two basic ways in which an apology of this sort functions.

First off, we should all come to an agreement that justice is always impossible. But that in no way means that when violent acts or oppression, aggression or colonization take place, that simply because what is lost or killed or banished can never authentically be replaced, or the clock turned back, that nothing should or can be done. Justice is all about what happens to the power or the privilege that has been built up taking that sin as its foundation.

Thus an apology can function as a gesture which closes off that foundation. An act meant to take the place of any further action. By apologizing for those things I seal myself off from any further demands, any further criticizes. I take verbal responsibility, I put up a big show of how I feel terrible, but I only do this so you can't ask for anything else. My apology is therefore a forcefield, to keep my ill-gotten gains. If you think about this from the perspective of a fighting couple, you apology for something so that it never needs to be mentioned again. You apology in order to move on, to try and keep the other person from remembering what happened or asking that you do something to make up for what has happened.

This of course naturally brings us to the second function of an apology, which is, if justice is the intent, to open up the foundation built upon that violent injustice, and to pave the way through which a process of restitution and reparations beyond simply saying "despensa yu'" or "I'm sorry." In the previous version, an apology is meant to make that foundation, to make that source of power impenetrable, to keep it from being attacked or keep it from giving anything up that it feels it owns. This type of apology though is offered to make that foundation vulnerable, to admit that something terrible happened and we must correct it somehow, even if it means we who have profited, we who have benefited from that injustice, have to give up something in the process. In the example of a relationship, this type of apology is the one which comes with presents attached. If you fight with a friend, it could mean letting him punch you and hit you to get you back for what you've done. In a partnership it could mean giving up something to show that you truly are sorry.

Obviously one is far more relevant to justice and to actually apologizing for something, or providing the means for getting past a foundational trauma, but naturally communities or privilege and governments tend to act in their selfish interest and operate based on fantasies that if you ever gave an inch, then all the natives would take their land back. But that is precisely what justice, not in the criminal justice system sense, entails. It is about giving more than you feel you can. It is about shocking your system, rocking it and leaving it open for critique or for judgement because of someone that has been wronged in your name, on your behalf, even if you weren't the one doing the slaughtering or the whipping. This is why justice is about the most debilitating form of gineftao or generosity.

Outside of the Parliament House in Canberra where Kevin Rudd gave his apology speech to the stolen generation, a memorial of thousands of lit candles which spelled "Sorry is the First Step" was placed on the lawn. But this is always the issue with "sorrys" or with apologies, is it truly meant to be the first step or is it simply meant to be the last one?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reclaim Guahan Rally


Ginnen i GFT


We need to address important areas of concern in our island such as the military build-up, protecting our land and natural resources and preserving the Chamorro culture. The Angel Leon Guerrero Santos Memorial Water for the People Act (Bill 73) is one piece of legislation that will give back to the people of Guam. Those who have been given land from the Chamorro Land Trust have a difficult time living comfortably when there is no water sewage infrastructure in place. Bill 73 will have GWA provide free water infrastructure for those leasing under the Chamorro Land Trust. For years we have been trying to give back land to the Chamorro people but we must give back land that provides suitable living. This is just one of the many issues we need to address. The youth of Guam has recognized the downfalls of our island and is gathering together in hopes for real change in our island’s leadership. Guam’s youth along with grassroots organizations are hosting a rally, “Reclaim Guahan: Chule’ Tatte Guahan” on Saturday, May 23rd from 2-8pm at Skinner’s Plaza. The rally will give people the opportunity to express their thoughts in improving our island through speaking, poetry, music and art. This is the perfect time for everyone to start getting involved in their democracy and build Guam’s future. Now is the time, we need to work together as a community to make positive changes that will improve our quality of life.


A Community Rally to Educate, Express and Empower
Hosted by Guåhan Youth

Saturday, May 23
2:00pm - 8:00pm
Skinners Plaza

The people of Guam have been watching in silence as the future of our island drastically changes before our eyes. Due to our political status and current leadership, we have had little-to-no say in plans for our future.

A collective of youth and grassroots organizations have come together to organize a rally for change entitled “Reclaim Guåhan: Chule’ Tatte Guåhan.” The collective aims to break the silence and empower people to express what they envision for our island.

The rally will take place May 23, 2009 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Skinner’s Plaza and will feature honored speakers, poetry, local bands, art, film showings, carabao rides and much more. The rally will end with a candle light vigil at 7: 30 p.m.

“Reclaim Guåhan: Chule’ Tatte Guåhan” will be a space for education, expression and empowerment. The people of Guam are invited to:

• Learn about the most critical issues affecting our island, including political status, the military build-up, going green and protecting the land, the threats to Chamorro culture and ways of life, and the importance of uniting as a community during this time. Information tables with personal notes, creative work, research, documentaries, and other published literature pertaining to these issues will be available.

•Speak out on open mics and express things normally only discussed around the BBQ grill or in the outdoor kitchen (kusinan sanhiyong). Only there will be more people listening and sharing.

•Contribute to the “UNITED art PEACE,” a 12-by-6 foot wall for expression.

•Share and listen to stories from our past, and create stories for our present and future.

•Ask questions and seek answers from each other.

•Come together consciously to be more aware of how we exist as a people.

•Promote and practice unity by being open to different ideas and accepting of people's opinions.

•Take actions that will make a difference.

•Embrace diversity and celebrate the struggles we experience together.

For more information please email

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Eternal Sands of Sovereignty

The dissertation writing continues today. It is such a horrible feeling when the issues that you take to heart and normally write about so passionately, get reduced to horrid chores of editing, re-writing, re-structuring. I guess it is a part of all dissertation project or large research projects such as this, where you start to loathe the work you are doing.

I'm sure it will pass though, but in the meantime I can take a small amount of joy, when I get the chance to write some interesting things. Today I am finishing up the second draft of my methodology chapter, in which I discuss using "traces of sovereignty" to support my academic arguments about sovereignty and what we can learn or tease out from the concept through the political status of Guam. These traces of sovereignty come from everyday sources, my blog, my email account, my interactions with people. As I wrote today:

They are traces, fragments of discourse which circle around the link or lack thereof between Guam and the concept of sovereignty. They come from Chamorros of all shapes and colors, seeking for sovereignty for their island, or actively seeking less. They come from US politicians, military commanders, Chamorro sovereignty activists, Chamorros seeking a closer relationship to the United States, and those wishing to move further away, whether politically or culturally. There is no one single way in which these statements emerge, they are found all throughout the discursive formation that is Guam. As I have conducted my research I literally find them everywhere, in emails, letters to the editor, blog posts, newspaper articles, documentaries, activist literature, off-hand remarks, statements by politicians and members of the United States military and stories.
In writing a series of sections justifying the use of this evidence as central to my analysis, I wrote up the following sentence, which ended up striking a deep nerve for me.

The evidence that I call traces of sovereignty, appear as traces or mere fragments in contrast to the vastness or the formalism of sovereignty as concept that sutures the globe. They represent ephemeral gestures, short gasps, which flicker and fade like the statues of Ozymandias surrounded by the eternal sands of sovereignty.

The images from the poem, the sand and the statues didn't come from the comic Watchmen, but rather from a set of poems from the 19th century, one of which was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley. The poem titled Ozymandias is much quoted because of the many fehman images of time, loss, tragedy that are packed into just a few lines. I don't have time to write much more, so I'll just paste the words to the poems below:


by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below
by Horace Smith

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand." The City's gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tres Sinangan

I'm down to the last few weeks to finish up my dissertation. I'm finishing a year ahead of schedule, so everything is a bit crazy and last minute, but its very important for me that I finish up as soon as I can and move on to other things. I've been in some sort of college for twelve years straight now and its starting to wear down on me, and the need for decent money to pay off loans and support a child and health insurance as I start getting older is also compelling me to finish up.

Obviously, there won't be much blogging for the next few weeks, unless I'm just posting stuff from my dissertation on here. (Gi minagahet, maolek este na hinasso.)

Before returning to writing I did want to share three quotes which have sustained me through the writing process, and are keeping me going as I type. The first is critical, the second is more reflective and the third is a call to action. They represent in a very nice (maninos) way the spirit of my dissertation.
Sandy Grande, Red Pedagogy

The United States is a nation defined by its original sin: the genocide of American Indians…American Indian tribes are viewed as an inherent threat to the nation, poised to expose the great lies of U.S. democracy: that we are a nation of laws and not random power; that we are guided by reason and not faith; that we are governed by representation and not executive order; and finally, that we stand as a self-determined citizenry and not a kingdom of blood or aristocracy…From the perspective of American Indians, “democracy” has been wielded with impunity as the first and most virulent weapon of mass destruction.

Chief Seattle of the Duwamish

You Europeans did not weave the web of life, you are only a single strand of it. Whatever you do to the web, you do to yourself. Tribe follows tribe, nation follows nation. It is like the waves of the sea, it is the order of nature and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come. For even your god who walks and talks to you as friend to friend cannot escape the common destiny. We may be brothers and sisters after all. We shall see.

Epeli Hau’ofa, “Our Sea of Islands”

Oceania is vast, Oceania is expanding, Oceania is hospitable and generous, Oceania is humanity rising from the depths of brine and regions of fire deeper still, Oceania is us. We are the sea, we are the ocean, we must wake up this ancient truth and together use it to overturn all hegemonic views that aim to ultimately confine us again, physically and psychologically, in the tiny spaces that we have resisted accepting as our sole appointed places and from which we have recently liberated ourselves. We must not allow anyone to belittle us again, and take away our freedom.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Bay Area Screening of "The Insular Empire"

If you're in the Bay Area on May 13th, and you're interested in the Marianas Islands or Micronesia, you should check this film out and join the discussion. I'm pasting the info below and continue my post beneath it:


What is it like to be a colonial subject of the greatest democracy on Earth?

Voices from Guam and Saipan, a work-in-progress of a new PBS documentary by Vanessa Warheit.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Cal State East Bay (Cal State Hayward)
Old University Union
Room 102

Suggested donation: $10-$20

Music performance by Saipan musician Gus Kaipat
Discussion will follow screening.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here is the link to the driving directions: http://www20. csueastbay. edu/about/ visitor-informat ion/driving- directions. html

Here is the link to the campus map: http://www20. csueastbay. edu/about/ visitor-informat ion/maps- campus-locations /hayward- campus-map/ index.html

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 510.885.2598 or 510.410.9052

Si Yu'us Ma'ase and hope to see you then...


I was asked by the director Vanessa Warheit a few years back to come up with some poetry that might be used as narration for the film, to help transition from different points. I came up with a few pages of things, based on stories of the film's main characters and the images being shown. Some of it was pretty cool and so I thought I would share some of them below. The last cut of I saw of the film was more than a year ago, but I'm excited that Vanessa is screening it everywhere she can to get feedback and support. You can read more about what's going on with the film at its blog at The Insular Empire.


1. Hacha:

The liberating Marine brings more than just my freedom, he brings Spam, powdered milk, Coca Cola, nuclear submarines, mustard gas and Global Hawks, all apparently the building blocks for a better life in Micronesia.

As one hand giveth though, the other condemns land and lives left and right.

As the land and language is ripped from the fingers and mouths of my parents, never to be mine, I know the price is not only too much, but that the wares of this way of life are suspect, rotten to the core.

2. Hugua:

There are those who say that our islands are invisible, especially to those we call “country-men” “fellow Americans” yet who constantly respond to our national pleas of inclusion which incredulous questions of “Where or What is a Guam?”

But invisible misses the most strategically important point. We are not silent and we are not absent, instead we are drowned out by the drums of war, the echoes of battles past and the visions of violence that loom on the horizon. Our voices are lost as our islands become hypervisible, as American military sites.

The Marianas Islands make constant appearances in the documentaries of American war, the fantasies of its military historians and the collections of its war buffs.

We endure this daily hypervisibility as we drive upon the names of military officers, are instructed in colonialism in schools that continue to honor our Naval governors, the toxic waste buried in our yards, the rusty relics in our jungles, and the atomic footprints that lead from Tinian to Hiroshima and on to Bikini.

3. Tulu:

A vicious, almost cruel circle of belonging awaits the Chamorro. The flag that was raised above Guam in 1898 and then again in 1944, which Chamorros now raised proudly as their own, cuts our island colonially, constantly.

It states with the emphatic content of a school song, that this land is their land, and no longer my land. The sea of historical and political inclusions and exclusions that comprise the daily existence of a Chamorro, exist at the whim of Congress, the President. When they see military necessity, citizenship we receive. Belonging to the United States is meant literally, why else would we be eligible for welfare, but not voting rights?

4. Fatfat:

A Chamorita cuts the soft heat of the dawning day, as we walk to the fields.
Tilling, planting, harvesting, we once sang of the sweetest taste, the smile and grateful eyes of a well fed community.

As the landscape changes, so do our tools and our songs. We cut new crops and work for new tastes. We now sing of the sweetness of sugar, of copra, and the wants that are met with the wages of a day working for a stranger.

5. Lima:

“self-government” American style, in these dots of overwhelming strategic value, looks suspiciously like colonialism.

A news flash for many American who think it died with the declaration of rich wigged white men that slaves, woman and poor people were inferior, or the imperialist flings of 1898, or was solely the province of lesser freedom loving nations.

In the name of democracy, the United States has assumed the throne of global colonizers, precisely because the exploitation, intentional underdevelopment and lack of democracy all gets portrayed and understood as necessary, for security, for freedom, for democracy.

From the lips of Washington’s legislators, military officers and policy shills, we encounter the height of hypocrisy, namely that the smooth running of American democracy requires its absence on Guam. The prospect of “alien races” having two senators might wrench the nation asunder.

6. Gunum:

As the ornate orient yellow of Asia is re-dyed a menacing red curtain, I find my island still covered in the ashes of war, being pushed towards it, at the tip of America’s military spear. This wound of freedom, rends deeper in my back, as we are thrown by the thousands into Korea and Vietnam, our service crawling in contradictions, fighting for a democracy we are ordered to force at gunpoint to others, but that we dare not be given on Guam.

7. Fiti

Each day, I am compelled to see my island through the gaze of another, to feel its warmth and cool winds through the slogans that place its ownership elsewhere, “Where America’s Day Begins” “America in Asia.”

Welcome to Guam.

An island where the scars of war have healed in sickly tones of red, white and blue, which twist and tangle our tongues so that the language we are meant to speak becomes foreign to the soil that nurtured it for so long.

Stolen even are the sunsets and sunrises, replacing the colors that welcomed the Chamorros to these islands millennia ago, with the colors with which America will begin its day.

8. Gualo

This nation to which we are taught to think of ourselves as a fortunate footnote, is indivisible when its strategically important, but easily divisible otherwise.

What a strategic schizophrenic experience I live, when every Liberation Day, the President places me at the center of what makes America American, while the media, the State Department, and the military places me last on the list of democratically acceptable options.

What am I to think when in the same day, the Department of Interior will call Guam a “partner” in negotiations and then NBC will refer to military exercises taking place on the “US owned island of Guam?”

9. Sigua:

Our homeland prime real estate for the projecting of power and the potential waging of war, we find ourselves well versed in seductive possibility in geography, or what the colonizer wants. On the edge of America and the edge of Asia. But the cost of this knowledge is dear and on a daily basis we are all haunted by a simple question: Would Reagan, Clinton, Bush the Second, or any other Commander in Chief, affirm an Americaness for me, second class or otherwise, if Guam lay on the edge of nothing?

Monday, May 04, 2009

What I'm Doing Next Week

Indigenous Studies Engages Ethnic Studies
A Symposium hosted by the Department
of Ethnic Studies at UCSD

For a schedule of all panels, please see below or go to the event blog at:

Date & Time: Friday, May 8, 2009, 9:30am-5:00pm
Location: Room 107 of UCSD’s Social Science Building

If you are not familiar with the geography of UCSD,
go to- and type “Social Science Building”


Mission Statement: As scholars in the Ethnic Studies Department at UCSD, we stand incredibly proud of the cutting edge critical race and ethnic studies work developed in our department, and in its potential to push the limits of the larger Ethnic Studies project. In this spirit, we find that in order for Ethnic Studies to move beyond the usual emphasis on immigration, diaspora and slavery paradigms, the critical potential of Indigenous Studies should become an integral part of our intellectual agenda. Just as the scholarship ‘about’ people of color does not describe our notion and practice of Ethnic Studies, scholarship ‘about’ indigenous people must reflect more than merely the violent history of the academy within indigenous communities. It must, in fact, engage the sophisticated indigenous theories, which have been circulating for many years, especially those that confront the ways in which colonial power still operates in nation-states. In the last few years, a number of graduate students and faculty have taken important steps towards facilitating this integration. These include the creation of the “Voicing Indigeneity” podcast, the Post-colonial Futures in a Not-Yet Post-colonial World Conference, and the proposal for an indigenous studies focused cluster hire.

Building on these efforts, we are organizing a one-day critical indigenous studies symposium to be held on May 8, 2009. The symposium focuses on native feminism scholarship because we believe it offers a critical perspective missing in both indigenous studies and in most analysis of race, gender, sexuality, colonialism and citizenship. We have invited Andrea Smith, Audra Simpson and Noenoe Silva, scholars who are at the forefront of this field of thought. Additionally, we have invited 3-4 senior graduate students who are not only moving the field in new directions, but more excitingly are doing so by employing theories emerging from our Ethnic Studies department, thereby highlighting the critical possibilities that lie at the interstices of these fields. Furthermore, this symposium anticipates our desire to improve the recruitment of indigenous graduate students, post-docs and faculty.

We hope the department will actively participate in this symposium in order to push the limits of our scholarship and political commitments, whether they directly fall within what is traditionally seen as the indigenous field or not. Ultimately, this symposium is an invitation to engage in a productive troubling of the ethnic studies project as well as to expand our understanding of what indigenous studies can be.



Friday, May 8, 2009
9.30 AM - 5.00 PM
UCSD Social Sciences Building, Room 107

9.30 AM: Breakfast

10.00 - 11.45 AM: Panel 1
Moderator: Ross Frank, Associate Professor in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego

Noenoe Silva, Associate Professor of Hawaiian and Indigenous Politics, University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
The Study of Indigenous Politics at the University of Hawai'i.

Michelle Erai, University of California, Office of the President Post-doctoral Fellow
Gender: A site of engagement for Indigenous and Ethnic Studies?

Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
The Delicacies of doing Indigenous Studies within Within Ethnic Studies...or Why Sovereignty Sucks

Traci Brynne Voyles, Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
Queer Ecologies: the 'Navajo Problem' and Intimate Cartographies of the Navajo Nation, 1928-1943

11.45 AM - 12.45 PM: Lunch

1.00 - 2.45 PM: Panel 2
Moderator: Denise Ferreira da Silva, Associate Professor in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego

Andrea Smith, Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, University of California, Riverside
White Supremacy and Settler Colonialism

Chris Finley, PhD Candidate in American Culture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Conquest: A Love Story in the New World

Mark Harris, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, La Trobe University, Australia
Lost between memorialising and forgetting: a reflection upon the recent trend towards apologies made by modern settler States to Indigenous peoples

Lani Teves, PhD Candidate in American Culture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
We're All Hawaiians Now: Kanaka Maoli Alterities and the 21st Century Ahupua'a

3.00 - 4.45 PM: Panel 3
Moderator: Adria Imada, Assistant Professor in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego

Audra Simpson, Assistant Professor in Anthropology, Columbia University
Indigenous Resistance and Etiologies of Consent: Mohawk Nationalism, "Proper Citizenship" and Settler Emergency

Ma Vang, Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
Statelessness and Citizenship in the Hmong Veterans' Naturalization Act of 1997

Maile Arvin, M.A./Ph.D. Student in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
Sovereignty Will Not Be Funded: Indigenous Citizenship and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

*** Co-sponsored by: Department of Ethnic Studies, California Cultures in Comparative Perspectives, Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor, Office of the Dean of Social Sciences, Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor, Faculty Equity ***

Friday, May 01, 2009

Translating Oasis

I've always thought it very interesting, that of all the things I write about on this blog, the posts which elicit the most comments or negative feedback are one's dealing with the Chamorro language. Its so strange, because I say some pretty negative things about the United States, militarization and have some pretty radical political and social positions compared to most Chamorros, but I don't get much feedback in that direction. Most of it is all related to me mis-using the language, abusing it, not speaking it or spelling it authentically, sabotaging it or perpetuating poor grammar or English-affect Chamorro.

Its possible, that I could simply be the worst speaker of Chamorro in the world, and all of these people are angels who are doing the Lord's work in protecting the Chamorro people from my evil damaging influence. Sina, lao hu dududa este.

One of the reasons that I think this may be the case, is that unlike issues of history, culture, politics and current events which people may not feel comfortable discussing, arguing or attacking someone on, the language seems an easy target, it seems like anyone who can speak the language or who has some knowledge about it can act and pretend to be a genius. For people who can speak Chamorro fluently today, this ability to fa'fayi is increased even further by always shrinking group of fluent Chamorro speakers in the Marianas islands and throughout the diaspora. The language is dying, it doesn't have to die, but a multitude of forces are converging and Chamorros are letting it die. Those Chamorros who are fortunate enough to be able to speak the language, hold a shred of authenticity that the majority of Chamorros do not, and sadly it goes to the head of alot of people, and then become what others call language nazis, wardens of language, but what I call language losers.

One thing which I often hear fluent speakers complain about and hear them cite as one of the biggest problems and reasons why the language is dying, is that those who are learning it and trying to speak it today (pi'ot i esta mangaiidat) aren't speaking it in its true form, but simply translating from English into Chamorro when they speak. Their thoughts aren't truly authentic, but merely translated, they don't really think in Chamorro, but constantly have to find ways of forcing the Chamorro that they know into the grammar or style of an English sentence or English slang. This is doing serious harm to the language because the real grammar is being lost and being replaced with Chamorro that is just translated from English. This is most apparent in the ways in which Chamorros translate phrases or slang into Chamorro, and how the literal translation doesn't quite work, or doesn't really make sense unless the person speaks both English and Chamorro. This is the key point in this argument is that this way of speaking Chamorro isn't "sovereign" or authentic since it requires English in order to make sense, as for people who only speak Chamorro these translations are basula, taibali pat ti komprendeyon.

First of all, I understand this argument and don't necessarily disagree with it. The influence of English in Chamorro life has already dramatically affected the way Chamorros speak. Even amongst fluent speakers, the language is already starting to decay. Prefixes, suffixes and infixes which are meant to be fluid and open in their use are not being used to form any new words, but simply being preserved in accepted, known forms. New uses are commonly rejected or told to be incorrect. For instance, the use of the word chagi instead of keke- or ke- is a clear sign of English influence. Both can communicate "to try" but keke- and ke- are an older form, which gets attached to the verb which is "being tried." Whereas chagi means "to try" meaning to "test or taste something." But chagi operates the way the word "try" does in English, as a separate word, which is not fused to the verb in question. So we can see everyday around us a clear example of how English grammar is taking over and affecting the words we chose and how we understand our language.

But most who complain about this change and focus those learning the language today or trying to speak as the culprits in runing the language, aren't really thinking very clearly about first how languages work and second how languages are acquired or how they come back to being vibrant after decaying for so long. To complain about this as being the way that people who are speaking Chamorro speak, and blame them for ruining or losing the language is ridiculous. To complain about this doesn't recognize that the language in this stage need not be the end result that their speaking takes. To complain about this doesn't recognize that, in particular for those who are trying to learn the language as adults, this process of translating from English to Chamorro when you speak is a necessary stage, there is no way to learn the language without going through it. Its part of becoming comfortable in the language, part of making it your own, learning how to use it and manipulate it, be creative with it. If you are fluent in English and trying to becoming fluent in Chamorro, that regular translation is the only way to get there.

The mistake that those language losers make however is complaining that this stage is the end result or simply the way that those people who aren't speaking Chamorro properly speak and that its usually an issue of them not learning the language naturally, or from childhood.

This is of course a stupid position, languages are social communities, the ways in which one person speaks and learns to speak, or the ways in which someone does not learn to speak have, for the most part, nothing to do with that person's choices. For instance in my case, I did not choose to not speak Chamorro as a child, it was kept from me. As an adult I did not learn Chamorro naturally just by picking it up from people, since that would be impossible, since Chamorro isn't pervasive enough for anyone to do that anymore. What I did, and others like myself are trying to do is push against the prevailing language attitudes of today, which are all tilted towards celebrating the language as an abstract concept (something that is ours and ours to preserve), and not actually enable its use as a mode of our expression or communication. We made choices to try and force the language community to accept us, even if our Chamorro was ti kabales or appleng.

The way in which someone like myself speaks however isn't up to me, its a result of my interactions with that language community. I reflect the ways in which people speak Chamorro around me, just in the way in which Chamorro children today reflect the value the language has in our lives, very little, except as a little bit of flavor, for cuss words, slang or t-shirt brands. So while it is true that many who start off trying to speak Chamorro speak in ways which are heavily influenced by English, it doesn't have to stay that way. For those who see these changes and don't like them, they should not be wasting their time sending me emails or complaining gi fino' Ingles! If they feel that the languag is being misrepresented or being misused, one strategy is to complain about it and tease people or look down on people, but a far better strategy is to lead by example. To provide a different grammatical form, put them out there so those learning can change and adapt accordingly. You have the responsibility to perpetuate the language. Complaining about how young people aren't learning the language or are too lazy or are ruining the language is attractive sure, because it means you don't have to do anything, you can just relax and enjoy your authenticity. But those who are truly interested in making our language healthy and vibrant again, it is all about putting your words into actions.

For those of you who are trying to learn Chamorro, one thing to help you through the translation stage, and help get your mind more comfortable shaping ideas or crafting sentences in Chamorro is music and translating the lyrics to English songs. There are two ways that you can do this. The first is to take lyrics, your dictionary and translate the song as sort of an academic or classrooms exercise. Listen to the song, try and find the right words to match the lyrics and the tune.

The other way in which you can do it, which as you get better will become easier, is to translate lyrics on the fly, as you are listening and singing along to a song. Take a favorite song whose lyrics you know really really well and anticipate, translate and sing along. This will help increase your fluency, make you more comfortable with Chamorro, and can also be alot of fun. Its also a way of making more personal the language, connecting it to songs or singers who you really enjoy or like.

I've been doing this for years, sometimes trying to translate the lyrics other times making up my own stories and lyrics, sometimes just to say things silly. One of my favorite band's to sing along or translate along to is Oasis.

Here's the way I usually sing the chorus to the song Live Forever.

Ilek-hu Nene,
Ti ya-hu tumungo’
Put i hatdin-mu
Sa’ ya-hu gumupu ha’

Ilek-hu Nene
Kao guaha un siesiente?
Este klasin piniti?
I pumapacha’ i te’lang-mu?

Here's the translation:

I said baby
I don't want to know
About your garden
Because I just want/like to fly

I said baby
Are there times that you feel?
This type of pain?
That kind that touches your bones?

Its not very advanced Chamorro or deep, but especially when your first starting off, its not about saying the most complex things, but just becoming comfortable, and being able to get the words out of your brain and then out of your mouth into the ears of the world around you.

For Live Forever, because the words are so simple I usually translate exactly what is being sung by the band. But for other songs, which are longer or more complex I often trail off into my own stories or adventures. For instance with the song Some Might Say, because the song is so damn long and has this weird style to it, I often can really get into telling ridiculous stories. So for instance, one of my favorite things to do is talk about Dynasty Warriors or historical figures from the Three Kingdoms Era of Chinese History.

Sa’ gof matatnga Si Guan Yu, ya ha na’suha Si Cao Cao tåtte para Wu
Lao umåburidu Si Ca Cao sa’ mismo yu’ taotao Wei!
Ya chumålek Si Liu Bei, ya umachiku gui’ yan Zhang Fei!

Because Guan Yu is so valiant, he chased Cao Cao all the way back to Wu
But Caocao became confused because he's actually from Wei
And Liu Bei laughed/smiled, and he and Zhang Fei kissed each other!

If you've played Dynasty Warriors before or know about that period of history then you'll know who those people are, and why its silly or funny. If not, then it sounds like some weird children's song.

Lastly, one of my all-time favorite Oasis songs, to sing, to listen to and to karaoke and play Rock Star Band to is Don't Look Back in Anger. Here is how I usually sing along to the chorus. Its close to the English lyrics, but still with some differences mixed in.

Nangga ha’ guenao guatu
Sa’ ti apmåm i suette-ta siempre u fåtto
Masakke’ i ante-hu
Lao mungga ma atan båba yu’ nai ta’lo!

Wait there where you are
Surely soon our luck will come
My soul is stolen away
But don't give me those angry looks again!


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