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Friday, June 9 • 2:45pm - 3:05pm
persistence & rupture: Cross-Cultural Friendship and Poetic Post-Colonial Methodologies

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From 2020-2021, we were awarded CalArts’ REEF Residency, through which we undertook a poetry and research project titled persistence&rupture. For the HASTAC Conference, we hope to present a paper on both the process and content of persistence&rupture, prompting critical reflection on collaborative scholarship, documentary poetry as critical methodology, and the possibility of alternate histories.

We began our project in 2020 by considering the Acapulco-Manila Galleon trade, a surging global trade route from the late 1500s-1800s. This was the beginning of the still existing relationship between Mexico and the Philippines, our two countries of origin. Glorifying the positive effects of trade, most of the writing that exists on the galleon trade lacks a consideration of the people who inhabited the port cities of Manila and Acapulco. Similarly, when searching online, the friendship between the Philippines and Mexico continues to be framed within the context of a mutually beneficial economic relationship. Yet what a singular focus on the economic fails to account for is the ways in which friendship is a revolutionary intimacy that survives as archival excess through actualizations of, what Jacques Derrida in The Politics of Friendship calls, the perhaps.

Derrida defines the perhaps as a "category of the future" necessary in the "possibilization of the impossible possible." True friendship inhabits the realm of perhaps as it necessitates a giving over of one’s self amidst the ever-present risk of rejection and betrayal. It is a disruption of permanence and stability for the uncertain yet intuited possibility of connection. The locus of our project stemmed from the organic and genuine friendship between the two of us, Christine and Sarah. We found overlap in memories of our large families—the foods they ate, the way they gathered—as well as in the larger forces that had shaped us—religion, diaspora, orbiting the in-between of language. We asked ourselves if it was possible to locate a genealogy of our friendship within and beyond the conditions of colonialism. We sought to extend Derrida's formulations of the perhaps and friendship by reading alongside and against Homi Bhaba’s articulation of the post-colonial not as a sequential “after” colonialism, but rather as both a “salutary reminder of the persistent ‘neo-colonial’ relations with the ‘new’ world order" and as “a gesture to the beyond.” A post-colonial intervention allows for a speculative analysis of the friendships engendered between Filipinos and Mexicans as participation in a shared futurity “unthinkable” (Trouillot) to colonial powers: a postcolonial perhaps.

A question that we asked ourselves was: could this project serve as the emergence of a mythology of friendship? We wanted our work to consent to the truth of this mythology by positioning narrative and lived experience as a primary source. Resonating Sadiya Hartman's writing practice of "critical fabulation (Hartman, 11)," we "strained against the limits of the archive" to draw out narratives of intimacy, resistance, and friendship.

The year-long project culminated in two chapbooks––a documentary poetry chapbook of our own writing, and an anthology we commissioned with work from Filipino and Mexican writers, invited to respond to several prompts centering on water, relics, and spices. We also organized an exhibition of relics and related ephemera, largely centered on an experimental video piece, set to Derrida’s reading of Politics of Friendship. We presented the findings of this project for a graduate-level Letters and Conversations seminar at CalArts last Spring, and this HASTAC paper will cover similar grounds. We hope that this presentation will extend the scope of this project, inviting audiences to engage with a version of critical making that makes space for history’s illegibility, poetics, and friendship.

Barot, Rick. The Galleons: Poems. First edition, Milkweed Editions, 2020.

Campling, Liam, and Alejandro Colás. Capitalism and the Sea: The Maritime Factor in the Making of the Modern World. Verso, 2021.

Derrida, Jacques, et al. The Politics of Friendship. Verso, 2005.

Evelyn Rodriguez. “Primerang Bituin: Philippines-Mexico Relations at the Dawn of the Pacific Rim Century.” Asia Pacific Perspectives, vol. VI, no. 1, May 2006, pp. 4–12.

Fish, Shirley. The Manila-Acapulco Galleons: The Treasure Ships of the Pacific: With an Annotated List of the Transpacific Galleons, 1565-1815. AuthorHouse, 2011.

Giráldez, Arturo. The Age of Trade: The Manila Galleons and the Dawn of the Global Economy. Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Gray, Jeffrey, and Ann Keniston, editors. “The Politics of Docupoetry:” The News from Poems, University of Michigan Press, 2016, pp. 67–83,
http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3998/mpub.9227505.7. JSTOR.

Hartman, Saidiya. “Venus in Two Acts.” Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, vol. 12, no. 2, June 2008, pp. 1–14. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1215/-12-2-1.

Lowe, Lisa, and David LLoyd, editors. The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital. Duke University Press, 1997.

Ocampo, Anthony Christian. The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race. Stanford University Press, 2016.


Sarah Yanni

mfa student, California Institute of the Arts
avatar for Christine Imperial

Christine Imperial

University of California, Davis, United States of America

Friday June 9, 2023 2:45pm - 3:05pm EDT
PS 401 (Design Center)