Kritika Kultura Lecture - August 3

"Cuban Yankees and Resurrected Sphinxes:
Stagings of America and the Orient in El Filibusterismo"

A lecture by

Dr. Adam Lifshey

3 August 2007
Natividad Galang Fajardo Conference Room
Ground Flr. Dela Costa Bldg.
4:30-6:00 pm

The national novels of the Philippines, Joss Rizal's Noli me tangere(1887) and El Filibusterismo (1891), are written in Spanish, a language that began evaporating in the archipelago when the United States defeated Spain in an 1898 war and imposed English as a lingua franca. As a result,the only Asian literary tradition in Spanish is inaccessible to virtually all Filipinos today and often is passed over in both Spanish and Asian studies programs. Where does a foundational author like Rizal fit into a larger discussion of Asian literature when the Philippines is commonly framed as a historical and cultural hybrid seen as neither quite Asian nor quite Western? Rizal's El Filibusterismo, a novel sharply critical of Spanish colonialism yet reluctant to promote Philippine independence, provides a particularly complicated space in which such tensions are engaged. The sinister pro-colonial protagonist, Simoun, freshly arrived in Manila from years of supporting Spanish imperialism in Cuba, turns out to be an equally nefarious anti-colonial revolutionary apparently named after the South American independence hero Simon Bolivar. The inchoate national project that is the Philippines is thereby imagined in a literary sense not in Asia at all but in complex allusive dynamics that emanate from the Western hemisphere. It is via the metaphoric body of Simoun/Simon, for instance, that Orientalism of a more traditional variety takes place, as he and an American proxy enrapture the Philippine colonial elite with tales of pyramids and sphinxes and jewels once belonging to Cleopatra. In effect, Rizal, like the Philippine nation hein large part authored, appears staged as both Asian and otherwise inthat epistemes Eastern and Western, subaltern as well as hegemonic, interact in a ceaseless flow that resists any easy categorization.

Speaker's Bio

Dr. Adam Lifshey is Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. As a comparatist, he works on all periods of Latin American literature within transatlantic,transpacific, hemispheric and global contexts. His recent publications have studied early African novels in Spanish but his current research focuses on Philippine literature in Spanish. These fields are part of his overall interest in Spanish-language literatures produced outside of Spain and Latin America. In June, he gave a paper on Rizal's El Filibusterismo at the "Asia and the Other" conference of the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. from the University of Virginia, and a B.A. from Harvard University.