Filipino Transient Labor within the US Imperial Pacific
Sunday, January 10, 2016: 9:10 AM
Room A703 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Myriad studies have illuminated the histories of Philippine diasporic labor in the United States and Hawai’i on one hand, and peasant histories in the American colonial Philippines on the other. Few studies, however, have been able to situate these two particular histories within the large-scale historical changes erupting from tensions between an increasingly financializing global economic system prone to crisis and attempts to manage these crises through imperial and inter-imperial modes of governance. Concentrating on the era between the two world wars, this paper explores the intensified dispossession and dislocation of agricultural workers due to the increased financialization of plantations across the Pacific. In particular, I focus on how the combination of changing political and legal rights of Filipinos shaped and were shaped by, changing modes of agricultural production. These multi-scale shifts in political and economic regimes consequently led to an intensification of precarious and transient labor. At the same time, however, workers struggled against these exploitative conditions through increasingly militant and affective modes of resistance. These modes of resistance were inherently political assemblages demanding, in diverse ways, self-determination and equitable distributions of wealth. These modes of resistance consequently led to imperial and capitalist anxieties, articulated throughout interwar archives such as: official colonial, state, and federal government reports; public and counter-public texts; and cultural artifacts such as literature and prayer. I examine these archives to not only highlight anxieties but to also trace how new ways of life were collectively experienced, invented, and imagined by workers across the global Philippines.