The Ethics of Living in Diaspora in Filipino American Literature

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The contemporary phenomenon of globalization or the transnational circuiting of goods, information, capital, people, among others, has engendered untold and radical consequences on the people’s way of life, one of which is diaspora. Migration and diaspora have enabled people to settle in different parts of the world for various reasons. While the opening up of countries, like Japan, Korea, Singapore, Europe, Canada, and Australia, etc., has offered more job openings and choices for Filipinos, our colonial and neocolonial relations with the US render the latter as the classic destination for a large number of Filipino immigrants. Filipino American narratives and discourses revolve around assimilationist aspirations, border crossings, departures and returns, and the construction of “home.” They written from diasporic realities and consciousness. This diasporic identity and consciousness is not limited to the oscillation of subjects in transnational spaces but is formed and produced by US hegemonic norms, racialized immigration laws and policies, and the discourse of “white ideal,” rendering a diasporic subjectivity that is dialectically complex. Though the “American dream” or “desire to be white” can be elusive, it remains an overarching mythos and aspiration for Filipinos and Filipino American immigrants. The chasing of the “desire to be white” and/or “middle class” status (read as American dream) is contingent on a US citizenship, its award of which is underpinned by adherence to US’s regulatory norms. But while the compelled character of regulatory ideals that Filipino immigrant subjects are constrained to abide and identify with renders closer to the realization of the “American dream,” subjects are never totally constituted and that resistance against these norms and standards is possible. Thus, by its diasporic circumstance and condition, Filipino American literature, as demonstrated by selected texts, consciously or unconsciously write from an “ambivalent” position and subjectivity which can be recuperated to serve as a site for questioning the constitutive power of the American dream and the ensuing Filipino American immigrant’s realization of what is right and principled.