Annotation: Fajardo, Kale, B. 2011. Filipino Crosscurrents

Fajardo, Kale, B. 2011. Filipino Crosscurrents: Oceanographies of Seafaring, Masculinities, and Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

As 90% of the world’s goods and commodities are transported by ship, and with the Philippines being the world’s top supplier of shipping labor (providing 20% of the 1.2 million seamen working in international shipping), there is no question that Filipino seamen play a crucial role in the sustenance of economic and cultural globalization (4). Filipino seamen are essential to the project of neoliberalization and capitalist globalization (5). Conducting research in the ports of Manila and Oakland (California, USA), as well as on container ships as passenger-ethnographer, Fajardo uses a method which he calls “situated traveling fieldwork,” a mobile and situated approach that maximizes short-term ethnographic encounters happening in the “crosscurrents” of maritime border zones (32-3). The author finds that Filipino seamen have found non-normative spaces and ways to “create, embody, and imagine” other kinds of masculinities than the ones “sanctioned” by the Philippine state. The author questions dominant notions of maritime masculinities as forms of “reiterations” (following Butler) that benefit state and globalization agendas, using concepts from decolonized indigenous psychology (e.g. kapwa or shared identity) to stress the “complexities, fluidities, and contradictions” (14) of Filipino seamen. He gives as an example (in Chapter 2) the case of “deserters,” or seamen who “have jumped ship”, who are constructed by the state as weak men who have abandoned their duties as new heroes of the nation. On the other hand, using the concept of lakas ng loob (gut) as framework, Fajardo argues that desertion, in fact, is a strategy to escape and resist violences. It is an unconventional act in which one removes the self from the state-sanctioned neoliberal developmental agenda. Borrowing from feminist “intersectional” framework, Fajardo studies Filipino masculinities as not merely an “additive” to the interacting axes that include race, class, culture, sexuality, citizenship, temporality and geographies. The book argues against the diminishing of the Filipino/as as disempowered and marginalized peoples in the diaspora, and suggests instead to reflect on the Philippines and the diaspora as “crosscurrents” where different discourses, imaginaries, and ideologies come together (39).

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