"Feeling the Manilatown and Fillmore Blues: Al Robles's Politics and Poetics of Place," Critical Ethnic Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Fall 2017), pp. 99-125.
This essay analyzes the radical spatiotemporal critique produced by Al Robles, the late Filipino American artist born and raised in San Francisco's Fillmore District. Robles is remembered as the “poet laureate” of Manilatown's International Hotel struggle, even as he also produced prose and poetry about Black, native, and other Third World peoples who placed their struggles for housing and livelihood in deep relation to that of Filipino Americans in the Bay Area. Through critical geography-inflected close readings of Robles's poem “Fillmore Black Ghetto” and his poems on Manilatown's elderly manongs, I argue that Robles draws upon and produces a blues epistemology that constitutes Filipino American subjectivity relationally not only to whiteness, but also to blackness and to Filipino indigeneity in the “homeland.” This Filipino American blues aesthetic transvalues the lives of the city's black and brown workers; it illuminates how the continuing presence of Filipino Americans and African Americans in the Bay Area serves as witness to the survivance of these communities in the face of multiple waves of “urban renewal” schemes initiated by the city. Finally, Al Robles's blues map not only past histories of Filipino American and black socialities, but also gesture toward alternative futurities that place Filipino Americans in solidarity with African Americans and other communities of color. His work provides timely lessons for ongoing antigentrification and housing rights movements, as the second dot-com boom in San Francisco continues to violently displace poor communities of color in the name of progress.
"Silent Shouts: Michael Arcega's Code-Switching," Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas 3.1-2 (2017): 199-203.
Michael Arcega’s Code-Switching (2013)—a solo exhibition staged at the Al Riwak Art Space in Adliya, Bahrain—resituates the artist’s interests in trans-oceanic voyages and linguistic wordplay to the Middle East, a geographic region rapidly displacing the United States as the primary receiving zone for migrant labor from the Philippines, India, and other Southeast Asian nations. As is Arcega’s style, Code-Switching avoids making didactic commentary on the sociopolitical Bahraini landscape, smartly so given the nation’s cozy relationship to the militarized Saudi regime that rapidly quelled the people’s resistance in the Arab Spring of 2011. The show’s seemingly disparate works, instead, lets the materials speak, each object carrying the weight of the labor conditions and transit routes that brought it into this place. Largely absent of figurative representation, Code-Switching gives evidence of lives exploited through the objects they have made and through the objects that comprise their daily lives.
Book review of The Decolonized Eye: Filipino American Art and Performance, by Sarita Echavez See. The Middle Ground Journal of World History, Issue 6, Spring 2013.
"Theoretically and methodologically, See’s project is innovative for its incorporation of multiple interdisciplinary frameworks including museum studies, performance studies, Filipino psychology, psychoanalysis, feminist and queer theory, and critical race studies. Significantly, See’s close readings show how Filipino American visual cultural productions and performances not only subvert imperialist discourses about the native Filipino, but also reveal the limits of the dominant Western theoretical paradigms used to analyze cultural productions themselves."
Audio for "Blues Narratives & Indigenous Imaginaries: On a Critical Filipino/American Poetics of Place," for Mapping Colonial Amnesia: Filipino/American Cultural Landscapes, October 18, 2012.
This invited presentation was prepared for UC Berkeley's Center for Race & Gender, and was delivered on October 18, 2012. For more information about CRG's Thursday Forums, visit the CRG website.
- “Manongs, Picket Fences, and Martial Law: Barbara Jane Reyes’s ‘Placemarkers’ and the Remapping of Filipino America.” Undercurrents. Mariam Lam and Chuong-Dai Vo, Eds. Brill Publishers. Forthcoming 2018.
Manuscript [In Progress]
Salvaging Community: Socially Engaged Art, Urban Renewal, and the Remaking of San Francisco