- Queering the Global Filipina Body: Contested Nationalisms in the Filipina/o Diaspora by Gina K. Velasco
Filipinas—too often stereotyped in contemporary popular culture as care workers, sex workers, and mail-order brides—evoke the gendered and sexual politics of the Philippine nation, but how have those in the Filipinx diaspora reconciled with such tropes? Gina K. Velasco's interdisciplinary study, Queering the Global Filipina Body: Contested Nationalisms in the Filipina/o Diaspora, reimagines representational politics, boldly challenging the discursive terrain which indexes Filipinas as "devalued, flexible" (2) laborers within capitalism's global labor market. Extending theoretical work across Filipinx Studies, transnational feminism, and queer of color critique, Velasco exhibits the indispensable use of queer diasporic analysis, illuminating a defining tension within Filipina/o American cultural production from the 1990s to the mid-2010s: queer and feminist critiques of the heteropatriarchal nation, on the one hand, and the liberatory potential of popular nationalism as a form of anti-imperial resistance, on the other. Gender, sexuality, and race emerge as consistent vectors of analysis, as do migration, labor, and homonationalism. A mixed methodological study, Queering the Global Filipina Body combines ethnography with visual cultural analysis as it introduces a queer engagement with national belonging. Required reading for Filipinx scholars and activists alike, this book brings rich texture to the queer, feminist, and leftist pursuits that embolden the diasporic nationalisms of the US's former colony. It is an ideal text to assign in graduate seminars and advanced undergraduate courses in feminist theory, queer diaspora, and critical ethnic studies.
Unique to Velasco's debut monograph is its extension of a "loving" critique, one foregrounded from a position of solidarity. Originally discussed in a previously published essay, the author's notion of "loving" critique articulates shared political commitment with the subject under inspection. Indeed, while the book forwards a sustained critique of the nation's ruthless investment in heteropatriarchy, it also wholeheartedly believes in the political potential of diasporic nationalism. These "contested nationalisms" shape the book's organizational structure; the first two chapters intervene into the gendered and sexual politics that undergird representations of the global Filipina body as a national symbol; the last two chapters spotlight Filipinx performance art, shifting the book's attention towards queer renditions of the global Filipina body which disrupt [End Page 343] both the heteronormative and masculinist ethos of Filipina/o American cultural nationalism and the homonationalism of US-based LGBT politics.
Each chapter centers a different iteration of the global Filipina body. Chapter 1 looks closely at the balikbayan, the migrant who returns. Drawing on fieldwork conducted at the Philippine Studies Program—a heritage language program based at the University of the Philippines, Diliman—Velasco brings romanticized narratives of home to bear on the tensions that arise when Filipina/o Americas travel back to the "motherland." Regarded with "envy and scorn" (26), as traitors with a coveted privilege, Philippine expatriates awaken a deep-seated sense of national betrayal. As sites of politicization, heritage language programs incite a nationalist consciousness in Filipina/o Americans whose affinity to the island country complicates notions of betrayal. Heritage programs function as affective structures of diasporic nationalism that expose its participants to the Philippine revolutionary charge not without reproducing the nation's upholding of the nuclear family. Insofar as Philippine revolutionary nationalism is characterized through figures like Andrés Bonifacio and José Rizal, the implicitly male (diasporic or otherwise) national subjectivity is contingent upon its opposite: the feminized global Filipina body. Through interviews and participant observation, Velasco triangulates the heterosexual male balikbayan, the global Filipina body, and the queer balikbayan, addressing the contradictory and divergent commitments that define queer subjects' investments in anti-imperial nationalism. With critical and historical context, Velasco outlines the fraught ways in which efforts for liberation sustain the reproductive logic of the nation.
Chapter 2 asks how representations of the Filipina trafficked woman / sex worker collapse narratives of sexual, affective, and domestic labor to satisfy alternative political...