Translational Desires: Performing Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Philippines
by Professor J. Neil C. Garcia
Professor in Comparative Literature and Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines, Diliman and the Director of the University’s Press.
Date: 28 June 2018 | Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, Main Building, SOAS | 1800-2000
What does it mean when we render opaque the cultural specificity of the language in which we have been inquiring and theorizing, especially when the location in which they occur and to which they pertain is not monolingual or monocultural but rather culturally hybrid, syncretic, and helplessly mixed?
My presentation reflects on the question of interlinguality or translation, and how it may prove critically generative to frame our inquiries into the specificities of critical and theoretical work in gender and sexuality studies in our and perhaps other global locations from the perspective of how translational it all is. This is especially the case to the degree that, in many different places around the world, feminist, LGBT, and “queer” discourses are mostly being conducted in the anglophonic register, which of course merely reflects trends in technological and cultural globalization, as a whole.
I will argue that what I’ve repeatedly called out—and relatively endorsed—as the “moderately nativist” position in the study of gender and sexuality in the postcolonial context is nothing if not another register of the critical position that recognizes the translational dynamic between local and translocal—between “oral” and “textual,” “traditional” and “modern,” “Western” and “postcolonial”—conceptual histories. It is these histories that my presentation seeks to unpack, primarily through a reading of a recent Filipino independent film about the southern Tagalog tomboy identity, directed by Lemuel Lorca. This film—titled Ned’s Project—demonstrates the productive and unfinished conversation between traditional concepts of gender and modern sexual categories, flagging the importance of a self-reflexive translational approach in the study of Philippine LGBT representations.
J. Neil C. Garcia is a Professor in Comparative Literature and Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines, Diliman and the Director of the University’s Press. He is the author of numerous poetry collections and works in literary and cultural criticism.