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  • Maternal Diasporas and Posthuman Subjectivity in Hagedorn’s Dream Jungle and Roley’s American Son
  • Harrod Suarez (bio)

In the Philippines, the members of the overseas workforce are reminded to serve the interests of the families and nation they have temporarily left behind. Through intensive training programs, women and men are disciplined to be submissive and compliant workers in order to secure the income that will support both their families and the national economy.1 In 1982, toward the end of martial law, the short-lived Executive Order 857 required remittances to be processed directly through the national bank. Since Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in 1986, a succession of presidents has only reinforced this diasporic nationalism. In recent decades, these workers have been hailed as Bagong Bayani (“new national heroes”) for the sacrifices they make as overseas laborers and investors, a term that obfuscates the exploitative conditions of their labor in favor of a euphemism referring to the income they remit home (Rodriguez 88).2 In this case, diasporic affiliations are dangerously conservative and suture the collaboration between Philippine nationalism and globalization.

Recent work on diaspora has sought to conceptualize it beyond these essen-tialist formations.3 Diaspora, that is, cannot be understood solely as filial migrations emanating from a homeland, as if one’s connection to a place, nation, family, community, and culture can preserve, consolidate, and celebrate cultural identity in spite of the (forced) departure due to the consequences of imperialism, slavery, capitalism, and globalization. This essentialist understanding of diasporic identity ostensibly spearheads efforts to challenge the damage done by colonialism and restore the nation, as if identity itself acts as a bulwark against history. Yet such strategies, as has been well documented, often occur under the banner of heteropatriarchy, manifesting at both concrete and symbolic levels in the Philippines and elsewhere.4 In the first instance, heteropatriarchy emerges in the training sessions for primarily female overseas workers, sessions that attempt to produce docility and morality by policing them into proper and diplomatic femininity. In the second instance, heteropatriarchy emerges in the mythical figure of Inang Bayan (“mother country”) that must be protected by masculinized [End Page 74] heroes. Responding to the need to further conceptualize alternative diasporas that challenge heteropatriarchal narratives of diasporic nationalism in the Philippines, this essay examines two texts, Jessica Hagedorn’s Dream Jungle (2004) and Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son (2001), whose Filipina characters explore potent, intersubjective relations with animals. The alternative diasporas staged in these novels transform cultural politics into posthumanist forms that highlight and disrupt the signifying chain between heteropatriarchy, nationalism, and humanism.

The shift toward a posthumanist critique ruptures humanist efforts to consolidate a diasporic, neoliberal subject in the service of capitalism, nationalism, and patriarchy. By referring to the humanist aspects of neoliberalism, I am addressing those attempts to discipline and manage populations through the discourse of individualism and rationalism. In the case of overseas Filipina workers, for example, disciplining them as docile subjects reproduces neoliberal structures insofar as workers are trained to police their behavior overseas. On one hand, they are responsible for whatever happens to them (if a Filipina worker is abused by her employer, it is because her actions invited it). On the other hand, since they are overseas, the nation cannot protect them, having no legal jurisdiction abroad. Both ideologically and materially, diasporic subjects are taught that they are on their own and that their decisions will lead to certain outcomes, as if the structural inequalities (economic, national, racial, and gendered) constituting their labor are inconsequential. All they are left with is their humanism: reasoned choices will have to guarantee their safety. This is the neoliberal thesis: their humanity—its very survival—depends solely on their actions, irrespective of the intertwined politics of empire, globalization, and nationalism. The Filipina human is subject to the amnesia of empire in the Philippines.5

In Dream Jungle and American Son, two diasporic Filipinas articulate alternative trajectories through intersubjective posthumanist affiliations with a tiger and a dog, respectively. The protagonist of Dream Jungle, Lina, resists two forms of potential feminist alliance representing nationalism and global feminism. Instead, while working on the set of a Hollywood film being produced in...


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