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Dr. Kim Compoc | Mourning in Public: Filipina Poet-Activists in Hawai‘i and the Political Potential of Elegy

Event Type
Department of Asian American Studies
Asian American Studies Conference Room | 1208 W Nevada St, Urbana
Mar 10, 2020   4:00 pm  
Dr. Kim Compoc
Kat Fuenty
Originating Calendar
Asian American Studies

In this talk, I offer a critical mapping of anti-imperialist politics in the poems of two Filipina activists from Hawaii in the post-9/11 era. Through a poetics of elegy, Darlene Rodrigues and reyna aiko leah lani ramolete hayashi pay honor to, respectively, a loved one killed in Iraq one month after joining the U.S. military (Myla Maravillosa) and a Lumad (Indigenous) leader tortured and massacred by U.S.-trained paramilitary troops in the Philippines (Dionel Campos). I argue these poems, as well as their performance and circulation, make legible the Philippines and Hawaii as both victims and accomplices of U.S. empire. Further, I argue their poems are not just mourning the dead, but are meant to rouse the living into fighting for justice. While Rodrigues laments the uneven price families on both sides of the gun must pay for endless U.S. wars in the Middle East, ramolete draws attention to another endless albeit undertheorized war: Indigenous land theft via corporate mining in the Philippines. While death can be paralyzing, these poems demonstrate that grief can also usher in profound clarity about the political and spiritual commitment necessary to enact truly decolonial futures. In their “radical bereavement,” these elegists weave together visions of genuine security and genuine sovereignty for the Philippines, for Hawaii, and beyond.

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