Monday, November 15, 2010
Fun With Footnotes Mina'Kuatro!
I wrote a poem several years ago which described Guam as one "Big American Footnote," and that was in one way the first seed which later became my dissertation, various articles, some of my favorite talking points and numerous posts on this blog. The metaphor of the footnote was something I felt could help me explain Guam and its colonial predicament, and how it exists, it means something, it matters, it reveals something crucial or important, but like most footnotes it is assumed to matter in a way that doesn't matter. I remember when I was in grad school at UCSD and in one class, another student who had read a draft of my Masters Thesis noted that my long footnotes were irrelevant and pointless since she, like everyone else in the world didn't read them anyways, and to make them any longer than a single line, meant that they would not only not be read, but sneered at for their pretentious pointlessness.
But that was the point. The United States has fifty states. It is a nice round number, it has a flag to prove it. It feels like it has been that way forever. It is something which functions like the body of a text. It holds everything important. That which is at the margins matters in some ways, it is connected somehow, but if it truly did matter then it would be in the body, it would be a star on the flag, it would be in the real paragraphs on the real part of the page. Part of the reason why Guam doesn't matter is because it is, like so many other places a messy little footnote. It is something which doesn't fit, doesn't make sense along with everything else and therefore has to be cordoned off, isolated and marginalized.
It is a detail, something which has to be noted, but is better off subsumed or reduced to an emptiness. There are plenty of ways to do this. Unincorporated territory is the most legal and formal way of doing it. Other prefer the more celebratory way of doing so which is akin to celebratory sloganeering "Where America's Day Begins." Or you can take the rotue of our non-voting delegates and argue our political status as "state-like treatment." All of these are footnotes and they are tiny, minute footnotes. They are glib, succinct and don't describe much, but exist in that way because that is their purpose. Reduce the sprawling inconsistency or hypocrisy of what cannot or should not be included (or taken out completely), to a single, faint line. To make it a trace of nothing and not a trace in Derrida's sense.
This is part of my argument as to why I use long, overflowing footnotes in my academic work. It is my own metaphoric way of challenging that ease by which Guam is reduced to nothing by so many people, and reduced to nothing in a variety of ways. In some of my papers, the footnotes have more text than the body of the article. Some footnotes go on for several pages. They are not long for long-sake however. They are not rambling pointless discussions, but rather reflect the fact that even a place which appears on a map as a tiny dot in the Pacific, is a universe, connected to other universes and although academic conventions require that it be limited to be readable or legible, we should never mistake the ease at which something is read, digested or incorporated as being the truth of it or the reality of it.
Below I've collected some of the more interesting footnotes from the second chapter of my dissertation.
#2. As will be made more and more clear in this dissertation, much of Guam’s anxiety over its identity in the world and in relation to the United States is the way its ambiguous political status and geographic distance from the United States, constantly trap it between the status of being a first world colony and a third world country. The regular tropes of Guam being only mentioned or recognized as a site in the world through the movement of military tropes and a site of an impoverished people in need of humanitarian aid however does not skew Guam’s identity one way or the other, but instead maintains the desperate ambiguity. They identify it as more similar to third world developing nation’s, full of violence and in need of help, but they are also acts of God and man which bring the gaze of the United States to Guam and allow it to be recognized, most importantly by the rest of the United States. Kelly Kautz-Marsh, “Guam: Year in Review,” The Contemporary Pacific, 16:1, (2004), 120.
#12. Obama was very successful in using his otherness as a means for invoking some very practical and everyday feelings of American exceptionalism and greatness. Being born from a black father from Kenya and with a name like “Barack Hussein Obama” it could be assumed that Obama had little to no chance of being elected president of the United States, simply because he was too different, too much “change” for America to handle. But in truth, this otherness served him well in being able to touch the exceptionalist core of the United States. As he regularly stated on the campaign trail, that only in America is there place where a skinny kid, with a name like Barak Hussein Obama could ever hope to rise to the highest office in the land. Senator Barack Obama, Speech Given to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, http://www.barackobama.com/2004/07/27/keynote_address_at_the_2004_de.php, Boston, Massachusetts, 27 July 2004. Site Accessed 15 January 2010.
#23. Matt Corley, “Brown-Waite Refuses to Apologize for Referring to Puerto Ricans and Guamanians as ‘Foreign Citizens,’” Think Progress, http://thinkprogress.org/2008/02/09/brown-waite-apologize/, 9 February 2008. Site Accessed 29 May 2009. The initial press release which contained the dread phrase referring to the people of the territories as foreign was later changed by the Congresswoman’s office, to simply refer to the residents of Puerto Rico, Guam and other territories. She defended herself by saying that she might have used the wrong terminology (and that ‘territorial citizens’ would have been a better term), but that the spirit of her statements, that these territories are unfairly receiving money and benefits from the United States was still true. Interestingly enough, the blog post which I cite for this incident, which was one of the main articles about it, contains a very glaring error, in that it states that Chamorros became US citizens in the year 1900.
#30. On the May 9th episode of Hardball with Chris Matthews, the show’s host Matthews engaging in an interesting discussion with a Senator Clinton representative about whether or not Puerto Rico should count as a primary since they don’t get to vote in the election that counts. Some of Matthews’ more interesting remarks were when he demanded to know of Howard Wolfson whether or not Clinton’s campaign was “willing to say that you have a right to the nomination based on Puerto Rican votes?” After Wolfson responded by asking which votes Clinton should exclude when arguing for her right to the nomination, Matthews exclaimed, “Just people that are not American—are not voting in the American presidential election. That‘s all.” After more discussion about whose votes should and should not count, Matthews out of nowhere mentions Guam, and how its nice that they get to participate and all. The exchange on American territories ends with Matthews making a joke that if territories like Guam and Puerto Rico get to participate in the US Democratic primary elections, shouldn’t “the canal zone” participate as well? “Do we still have the Canal Zone?” he asks referring to the former military colony that controlled the Panama Canal, “I guess we don‘t have that one anymore.” Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC, Transcript: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24540537/, 9 May 2009. Site Accessed 14 May 2009.
#37. A Slate blog called the “XX Factor” described the long drawn out primary as a long boring long-term relationship, and invoked Guam as one of those minute meaningless things you should care about, but for some reason seem to in those types of situations. Under a post titled “All Politics are Relational,” Melinda Henneberger blogged the following: “I've started viewing it like any long-term relationship, in which just when you think you will never laugh at that stupid joke ever again—well, you do. And just when you're sure that if one more person says superdelegate you will run screaming into the traffic, you suddenly find that embarrassing as it is, you do care about Guam. Or so I can imagine.” Melinda Henneberger, “All Politics are Relational,” Slate, http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/archive/2008/5/4.aspx, 4 May 2008. Site Accessed 18 February 2009.
#39. We see a similar dynamic in the primary race itself, over the issues of whether or not America is “ready for a woman or a black man” to be their leader. In one of his more lucid moments, Jon Stewart, in an interview on Larry King Live, dismissed the stupidity of these discussions about how much change America could handle, sarcastically characterizing the fears implicit in these comments. So if Obama were to be elected, will black people be allowed to do whatever they want? If Hillary gets elected, will men still be allowed to drive? Interview with Jon Stewart, Larry King Live, 20 February 2008. Transcript: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0802/20/lkl.01.html, Site Accessed 14 November 2008.
#45. Ironically the “ghost of Guam” is usually used in reference to George Tweed, a US Navy radioman who was the sole survivor of the Japanese occupation of Guam in World War II. He was considered to be a symbol of American belonging during World War II, a desperate soul in need and through helping him Chamorros could therefore act upon their desires to remain and stay loyal to the United States. Following the war, he became a much loved and much loathed figure. Towards the end of the Japanese occupation, searches for Tweed, who had been sheltered and provided for by hundreds of Chamorros during the war, became more violent and more intense, resulting in deaths of several Chamorros and near death beatings of others. Many Chamorros thus recall him as a kubåtde or coward for letting innocent Chamorros die or be beaten for him, while he cowered in the jungle. His memoirs were published immediately after the war, and a universally panned movie titled No Man is an Island loosely based on his story was released in 1962. While most Chamorros today have never heard of this film, those who do know of it, tend to have very angry opinions about it. The film is not remembered as being particularly good, interesting, or historically accurate. For those Chamorros who do know about the film, it’s most memorable qualities are sources of ethnic irritation. Hollywood in general doesn’t have a very good track record for ensuring that ethnic roles are taken by actors who are of that ethnicity, or that films are shot in the locations where the story take place, but for Chamorros unaccustomed to having their island or their race featured on the silver screen, their particular holiday treatment in the film was not appreciated. No Man is an Island was filmed in the Philippines, with Filipino actors playing the roles of Chamorros, and when the actors speak to each other in Tagalog, it is referred to (in the film) as Chamorro. George R. Tweed, Blake Clarke, D. Turner Givens, Robinson Crusoe, U.S.N.: The Adventures of George R. Tweed, Rm1 on Japanese Held Guam, (California: Pacific Research Institute, 1995).
#54. The liminality of Guam in this conversation is connected to the idea that colonialism is over, or that whatever form it takes now isn’t so bad. Such is the argument of the book The Last Colonies, the old colonial wish, that the taking and conquering of these lands could be accepted as based on the need of the newly acquired colonies. Or the idea that this system of dominance was based on their (the colonized’s )need. That they were dependent upon the colonizer. This is authorized the text The Last Colonies where they argue for not calling the “last colonies” colonies, but instead dependencies. To be fair, they support his claim based on the idea that the calls for independence or decolonial nationalism of the previous century have long died out. Robert Aldrich and John Connell, The Last Colonies, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 3-4.
#62. One of the great difficulties of the decolonization process in Guam, is that despite the fact that it is meant to provide (should Chamorros chose it) a path outside of the sovereign authority of their current colonizer, the United States has long insisted that any attempt at “self-determination” or “decolonization” in Guam must be consistent with United States Federal law, such as the US Constitution. Underwood, Status of Having No Status…
#63. This will be discussed more in Chapter 6. In framing of texts such as Sovereignty, the WTO, and Changing Fundamentals of International Law and The Twilight of Sovereignty: How the Information Revolution is Transforming Our World, the thing sovereignty, already exists, and so questions of its existence are never directed to a previous moment which might deal with issues of how it comes into being, but rather these questions are securely focused on where sovereignty is going. Rather than called into being, we find sovereignty articulated as a once relatively stable and secure concept, which because of various shifting factors is now being called into question, or more appropriately being besieged or threatened. The how of sovereignty here becomes a topic of analysis, but only through the trope of threat. Whether it be, Empire, illegal immigrants, Capital, rhizomic terrorist cells, the internet, there is a cavalcade of subjects and objects which are crossing borders constantly, and making discernible and open for interrogation the existence of sovereignty, but always in such a way that the “future of sovereignty” is the focus, while the questions of its everyday existence and production are lost. This is also known as the “erosion-of-sovereignty-thesis.” Karen Litfin, “The Greening of Sovereignty: An Introduction,” The Greening of Sovereignty in World Politics, Karen Litfin (ed), (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1998), 3. For some texts which are examples of this see: John Jackson, Sovereignty, the WTO, and Changing Fundamentals of International Law, (Cambridge, Cambridge, 2006). Gidon Gottlieb, Nations Against States: A New Approach to Ethnic Conflicts and the Decline of Sovereignty, (New York, Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1993). Walter B. Wriston, The Twilight of Sovereignty: How the Information Revolution is Transforming Our World, (New York, Scribner Book Company, 1992).
#73. It is likely that I can be criticized for using a voice such as Senator Alan Cranston’s in this dissertation in order to establish academically durable ideas or claims. Cranston, although the author of several books and papers on international affairs, is not an academic and I could be accused of using his text to help set up a straw-target, due to the fact that it isn’t very academically sophisticated in its writing. Cranston invokes sovereignty in more clear and essentialist ways than most academics might, and so citing him is like shooting fish in a barrel. I don’t entirely disagree with this point, however I chose to use Cranston despite this potential critique because of the way in which non-academic texts, or those which are so mired in the conventions of a discipline, often times say better or say more clearly, the very things which that discipline is built up, but secretly disavows. Cranston for instance, will say openly and wholeheartedly things which the discipline of political science has a mess of discursive formations which will appear to qualify and minimize and neutralize the same idea, while nonetheless allowing it to remain intact at the foundation of the conversation. Slavoj Zizek, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Center of Ideology, (London: Verso, 2000), 257.
#94. In Lisa Lowe’s article “The International Within the National: American Studies and the Asian American Critique,” she provides an example of this. She frames her discussion of what Asian Americans studies as offering American Studies a means of understanding the ontological structure by which the nation and its I and the rest of the world as Other are created. She argues that “Asian American critique asks us to interrogate the national ontology through which the United States constructs its international “others,” and through which the nation-state has either sought to transform those others in subjects of the national, or, conversely, to subordinate them to objects of the national ontology.” Lisa Lowe, “The International Within the National: American Studies and the Asian American Critique,” The Futures of American Studies, Donald E. Pease and Robyn Wiegman (eds), (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2002), 76.
#110. Candace Fujikane in several of her texts makes a very similar argument about indigenous issues of sovereignty in the Pacific in relation to American-based Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies. Despite the critical or radical dimension of disciplines such as Asian American Studies, American Studies or Ethnic Studies, they still nonetheless have difficulty reconciling with what the political persistence of native/indigenous populations in the American territories and colonies indicate. Namely, that part of any attempt at understanding that nation or that nation-state require that distinctions between settle/native and indigenous/minority not be swept aside, but be understood to be an integral part of making those things possible or legible. Fujikane details a number of reasons why there might be quiet yet firm resistance in these intellectual domains to what pushes for sovereignty of the native peoples of the United States. These include a general distrust of nationalist-sounding arguments, claims of native movements as being essentialist as in harkening back to an essence that never existed, or relying on simplistic and impossible binaries of colonizer/colonized or settler/native. One of the most interesting arguments that Fujikane invokes, is when she draws from the work of Native Hawaiian activist/scholar Haunani-Kay Trask to up the ante of indigenous struggles, by pushing beyond identity into the realm of materialty. Trask argues that indigenous people seeking sovereignty are not limited in their claims to one’s of identity or wanting the ability to define their own identities, they also seek to gain control over the resources, the land upon which all in the United States rely upon to position themselves. The difficulty in recognizing the right to self-determination, decolonization that indigenous people have is that it, as Fujikane notes it requires self-interrogating and reeducation. Effectively supporting that right or that struggle means first implicating yourself and admitting to how regardless of how critical of the United States nation/nation-state you may be, you nonetheless occupy that category of settler. Second, it means accepting that any possibility of justice in this situation will require that something be given up. This does not mean that power or security only be taken away from some massive institution or from white people or racist people. It means that you might be required to give something up as well, a pound of theoretical flesh so to speak, which could mean setting aside claims to belonging or owning this nation which you may not want to verbalize in polite company, but are nonetheless the ground for your own identity and place in the world. In line with the earlier critique of Andrea Smith with regards to the inability of American Studies to see beyond America, this very much extends into the inability for American Studies to see the Pacific beyond their own imaginary, as a region with some cases which should be analyzed without America, and movements to move beyond America which should be supported as well. Candice Fujikane, “Foregrounding Native Nationalsims: A Critique of Antinationalist Sentiment in Asian American Studies,” Asian American Studies: After Critical Mass, Kent A. Ono (ed), (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2005). Asian Settler Colonialism: From Local Governance to the Everyday Habits of Life in Hawai’i, Candice Fujikane and Jonathan Y. Okamura (eds)., (Honolulu, Hawai’i: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008). Michael Lujan Bevacqua, “Apologies, Power and Justice,” No Rest for the Awake – Minagahet Chamorro, http://minagahet.blogspot.com/2009/05/apologies-power-and-justice.html, 29 May 2009. Site Accessed 16 January 2010.
#112. One of the reasons that I don’t see my project possible in the same way, is because Kaplan’s model for her chapter on Hawai’i is a common form of American Studies engagement with the Pacific, whereby you follow a noted and accepted American figure who sojourns into the region and then unpack his writings. One of the ways in which I half-jokingly resist any embrace of American Studies with regards to Guam is because no famous American author has ever visited the island and written racist things about it.