Vernacular World Making: E. San Juan, Jr. and the Rehearsal for the New International

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Focusing on E. San Juan, Jr.’s The Radical Tradition in Philippine Literature, which forms the matrix of his thought as a historical materialist critic, this essay traces the development of a central argument in the author’s body of work: namely, Philippine literature—diverse in form, expansive in reach—is progressive and revolutionary. Using such a fundamental argument with complex effects, I explore its implications for rethinking not only the scope of Philippine literature, but also for reimagining human solidarity, which San Juan aptly terms the New International. As I will suggest, the New International is an important form of planetary consciousness from below that offers an alternative account of internationalism, one that signifies the incorporation of the dispossessed everywhere as new historical agents. To understand this original concept, I will argue, is to grasp the historical truth of decolonization wherein the unprecedented conjuncture of Marxism, anti-colonialism, and vernacularism has enabled the revision of human solidarity that proceeds from the nontotalizing universality of the vernacular, a concept that has huge consequences not only for revitalizing the political philosophy of freedom, but also, and perhaps more important, for securing its flourishing in the future.