Sunday, March 02, 2014

Machalapon na Tinituhun

Next week I am giving a colloquium on Chamorros their creation stories, the village of Humatak and decolonization. It brings together some of the important things I've been helping organize and simply participating in over the past year in a nice way to talk about decolonization and how we can make it a reality in our lives. The colloquium presentation I am working on would not be possible without the help of my Male' Victoria Leon Guerrero, who was key in organizing all the activities I'll mention, far beyond my meager contributions. We did a first draft form of this presentation last year to a group of visiting scholars from Taiwan. I'm hoping to improve on it and eventually we'll co-author it as a article for the journal Micronesian Educator. 

Writing for me isn't that difficult a task. Para Guahu mamange' ti gof mappot. Editing, that is hard. Kinirihi. Enao sen ti ya-hu. Every article that I write starts with a writing session, either on paper or on computer, where I right down all the majors points, forms of evidence and rhetorical turns that will be interlocking in my paper. There will of course be changes later and the writer always has to allow for serendipity or for your writing mind to just get completely tipped over and a new path to emerge, but that first try, filled with an assortment of strong points, one-liners, quotes that you might not be quoting correcting is so important in getting started.

Below is one such tinituhun na tininge'. It was for a presentation I gave at UC Riverside many years ago. I came across this while I was going through some of my old Word files looking for an early draft of my dissertation. This presentation and several others that I did where I was theorizing decolonization have helped build the series of definitions I use today. Decolonization can be very practical and very corporeal, but it can also be very ideological and very spiritual. It can be about the physical removing of things. But this can be a very shallow and hollow experience. As many countries that have decolonized learned, the physical removal of the colonizer often times leaves the apparatus of his power in place, to be taken over and then maintained by the same bodies it once oppressed.

The emphasis on that physical removal or attaching the colonizer's presence into the physical world and to objects is incredibly problematic and in a sense plays into the colonizer's game. It gives you things to fixate and focus on, that can drain your energy and waste your time, give the appearance of having control over the word, when in truth you are busy obsessing over grains of sand while someone with a bulldozer piles it atop and around you. The colonizer gives you a new way of seeing yourself and their effectiveness depends on how much of that new story you accept or who much you reject. In that new story you are reborn as a dependent, impure and helpless thing. You are so disempowered and pointless in that story to the point where you will celebrate others for "discovering" you and your lands even if that is such a hideously stupid thing it should make your brain want to crawl out of your head through your nostrils. That story is a tale of disembodiment, disempowerment and dismemberment. You can change flags, currency, the colors of the skin of chief executives, your name on the map, but if that story is not challenged and replaced, colonial ideas will continue to reign and while you may have political sovereignty, you will not live a sovereign existence.


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Begin with Avery Gordon quote
What do you do with an absence?

For the Chamorro people of Guam such issues are constant as they attempt to understand and improve their status in the world today. Guam was the first island in the Pacific to be colonized by Europeans, and it remains one of the last remaining territories left in the world as recognized by the United Nations. Colonization in Guam begins with the Spanish who establish a mission in the Marianas Islands in 1668. Later the US buys Guam from Spain during the Spanish American War. The Japanes invade the island in 1941, but are pushed out by the returning Americans in 1944. Since then Guam has been a comfortable colony of the US. Enjoying many benefits of being close to such a powerful country, but at the same time, being something owned, a possession and as such fundamentally unequal.

With such a long, continuing colonial history the issues of silences and gaps are paramount, especially as Chamorros work to decolonize themselves. Decolonization is a very diverse term, it contains many possible meanings and in every context can be defined in slightly different ways. What all definitions commonly refer to is a process over what to do with the legacy of colonialism. What to do with the things it has left behind, the ways it has changed things, and most traumatically, the silences and gaps it has left in continuity, culture or history.

These gaps can sometimes be due to the loss of life or other forms of violence that disrupt, but they are also part of the process of colonization.

The colonizer offers himself, his arrival as a new beginning. Prior to their arrival there was lawlessness, chaos, savagery. For those amongst the colonized who accept this premise, they also accept the necessity of colonial rule as life without it could mean a traumatic return to the precolonial moment.

History begins with them, history comes from them. This is not history in the sense of events, but History with a capital H. Colonization allows the participation of the colonized in universality, in History. There is a feeling that without colonization one might be invisible or might not exist or have any meaning.

Create a genealogy.

Colonization creates gaps and it occupies those gaps.
You become cut off from things and the colonizer proposes themselves as the only thing that can fill those holes in your being. It is meant to create naturalized, very intimate forms of dependency.

Colonization for the colonized is a ripping, a rending. It leads to the creation of a series of gaps in continuity. Practices can be obliterated. Entire communities lost. Lands taken. In addition to the physical forms of displacement, ideological displacement takes place as well. A stripping away of the authority of the colonized and an attempt to foster a fundamental dependency, an unequal relationship whereby all that is good is meant to trickle down to the colonized.

Decolonization is therefore not simply a removal of “the colonizer.” But also a challenging of the ideological system that propped up the colonizer and south to make his rule necessary or natural.

A critical task of decolonization is to reassert a new beginning. A challenge to the colonizer as the Alpha and the Omega. This beginning can be an old Beginning as some articulate. Or it can be more contemporary as Fanon might argue.

Such is the task of this paper. A reasserting of their creation story in a decolonial context.

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