E. San Juan Jr. 2000. After Postcolonialism: Remapping Philippines-United States Confrontations.
In his analysis of Philippine-United States confrontations, E. San Juan Jr. merges the fields of Philippine and Philippine-American studies. He discredits the mainstream view of the Philippines and Filipinos that exists in American scholarship and provides an analysis of the voices of Filipino dissent in the works of Carlos Bulosan, Jessica Hagedorn, and Kidlak Tahimik. Going beyond the analysis of these literary texts, however, San Juan Jr. identifies the "historical" and "materialistic" sources of Philippine oppression and the consequences of that oppression on a society that is no longer explicitly demarcated by the boundaries of the nation-state.
According to San Juan Jr., the material conditions of Filipino oppression have been determined by a modern-world system in which uneven development is the rule. For him, the process of uneven development integrated Filipinos into the world economy at different times, in different places and for different purposes. This differentiated process of integration into the world-economy created diverse experiences for Filipino-Americans, who in turn developed different perspectives on the Philippine-American relationship. To illustrate, he notes the contrasting experiences of Filipinos who came to the United States before World War II to work as farm laborers and those who have entered the U.S. since 1965 as professionals. He argues that it is the work of Bulosan, Hagedorn, and Tahimik, which incorporates the voices of the early Filipino immigrants, that reflects the class antagonism that exists between Filipinos and Americans.
Not limiting himself to the experience of Filipino-Americans, San Juan Jr. argues a common thread of oppression connects Filipino-Americans, the emerging diaspora of Filipina domestics in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Middle East and the impoverished Filipinos who remain in the Philippines today. For him, this oppression began in 1898 when the United States destroyed the first nationalist revolutionary movement in Asia and it continues because of the close relationship the Philippines maintains with the United States today.
For San Juan Jr., this oppression is frequently ignored by Filipino and American writers for three reasons. First, Filipinos lose sight of the unequal power relationship between the two peoples because of their belief in the "special relationship" that has supposedly existed between the two nations. Second, American dominance or hegemony is ideological as well as political and military, which privileges the American perspective of U.S.-Philippine relations. And third, pluralistic tendencies in postcolonial and postmodern writing tend to give equal validity to all voices, thus obscuring the privilege accorded to American perspectives.
San Juan Jr. is particularly disturbed by what he calls the structural-functionalism of mainstream American writing on the Philippines, which places the blame for Philippine problems on ahistorical attributes of culture and kinship without regard for the historical process by which these patterns emerged. He is most critical of the work of David Rosenberg, Glenn May, and Stanley Karnow, all of whom he considers to be apologists for American policies towards the Philippines. While the empirical portion of the book is focused on Asian-American authors, his critique of Rosenberg, May, and Karnow is compelling and worthy of further exploration. While he does not do this, he certainly sets the stage for alternative studies of the evolution of Philippine political culture.
The one logical inconsistency in this study comes in San Juan Jr.'s prescriptions for action. He calls for Filipinos to reverse their dependency upon the United States and to oppose and dominance of core economic interests in their nation. He clearly believes that the Philippines can achieve its own liberation. While I do not disagree that action can and should be taken, world-systems analysts generally believe that successful change must come at the systemic level, and that efforts by individual states to sever ties or liberate themselves from the periphery are unlikely to succeed. Thus, once San Juan Jr. concedes that it is uneven development in the modern world-system that has led to the oppression of the Philippines and Filipinos, it is not logical for him to argue that the Philippines can unilaterally solve its problems. Using his assumptions, the liberation of the Philippines can come only if there is a major transformation in the structure of the system itself. Of course, the activist cannot be satisfied with this logical conclusion. He/she must hope that "logic" does not prevail. It does seem, though, that San Juan Jr. is overly optimistic about the possibilities for change in the Philippines.
Despite the Asian-American focus of much of the analysis, this book is a must read for Philippine specialists as well as specialists of Asian-American affairs.
Steven D. Macisaac
Department of Political Science, Whittier College, P.O. Box 634, 13406 Philadelphia Street, Whittier, CA 90608, USA.
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|Author:||Macisaac, Steven D.|
|Publication:||Journal of Asian and African Studies|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2003|
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