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Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora (Perverse Modernities) [Paperback]

Martin F. Manalansan
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Book Description

28 Feb 2004 Perverse Modernities
A lively ethnography of the global and transnational dimensions of gay identity as lived by Filipino immigrants in New York City, "Global Divas" challenges beliefs about the progressive development of a gay world and the eventual assimilation of all queer folks into gay modernity. Insisting that gay identity is not teleological but fraught with fractures and fissures, Martin Manalansan IV describes how Filipino gay immigrants, like many queers of color, are creating alternative paths to queer modernity and citizenship. In this study, he makes a compelling argument for the significance of diaspora and immigration as sites for investigating the complexities of gender, race, and sexuality. Manalansan locates diasporic, transnational, and global dimensions of gay and other queer identities within a framework of quotidian struggles ranging from everyday domesticity to public engagements with racialized and gendered images to life-threatening situations involving AIDS. He reveals the gritty, mundane, and often contradictory deeds and utterances of Filipino gay men as key elements of queer globalization and transnationalism. Through careful and sensitive analysis of these men's lives and rituals, he demonstrates that gay identity is not merely a consumable transnational product or lifestyle. It is, he explains, one pivotal element in the multiple, shifting transnational relationships queer immigrants of color mobilize in confronting the tribulations of a globalizing world.

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press (28 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822332175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822332176
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,396,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Filipinos are among the world's most energetic and high-profile emigrants and migrant workers... Moreover, they're seen as good-humored and possessing a fun-loving exuberance, at least in the popular imagination.These qualities, together with other attributes, are considered and assessed with admirable caution and wit in this accessible ... book... [M]ore than half the book consists of discussion of the experience of Manalansan's 58 interviewees, and there's plenty there to interest the general reader, especially one alert to the style of one of Asia's most flamboyant peoples."--Bradley Winterton, Taipei Times "Nothing is as transforming as viewing the world through another pair of eyes. By illuminating such a specific fragment of multicultural New York, Manalansan sheds light on the universal notion that migration, and travel in general, can be the ultimate reality check."--The Out Traveler "[E]ngaging and informative to people of all colors, gay as well as straight, immigrant as well as American... Uplifting, empowering, and provocative..."--Ximena Gallardo, Reconstruction "A recommended book for academic libraries."--AIDS Book Review Journal "From the perspective of studies of modern homosexualities in the West, this book's strength lies in its convincing account of the ways that a community of immigrant men do not passively assimilate themselves to American gay culture but contest and rearticulate Western notions of gayness in building new lives and new forms of same-sex relationships in their adopted home... Manalansan helps us understand the diasporic Filipino homosexual experience in America..."--Peter A. Jackson, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies "[U]seful for those of us researching sex, sexual and gender differences in these intersections and in intersections with race, ethnicity, and other relationships of power."--Andre P. Grace, Journal of International Migration and Integration "[E]ngaging...[C]ompelling."-- Stephen O. Murray, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute "Global Divas is part of a new and exciting body of literature that disrupts totalizing discourses of globalization within L/G/B/T Studies and popular culture... [I]ts examination of the intersections of class, culture, and citizenship on individual and community identity make it an important text for those of use who write in Global, Ethnic, and/or L/G/B/T Studies."-- Linda Heidenreich, Journal of American Ethnic History

About the Author

Martin F. Manalansan IV is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the editor of "Cultural Compass: Ethnographic Explorations of Asian America "and coeditor of "Queer Globalizations: Citizenship and the Afterlife of Colonialism."

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4.0 out of 5 stars Meeting Global Divas 25 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is indeed a very interesting book, also or perhaps especially for non-gay readers. It is written in clear and accessible language. The cultural, Filipino dimension is fascinating. During a few hours I entered a new world.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Manila Must Be Burning! 14 Jan 2004
By Jeffery Mingo - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book starts of with the author and another gay Pilipino man going up to a bakla and asking, "Why so sad, sister?" Miss Thing responds back, "My beauty can't stand the drama in this gay club!" SNAP! [They didn't really snap but this whole book will put you in a diva!, swishy mood, so I added some flourish.]
Now if some camp like that doesn't convince you to read this book, then I don't know what will. Seriously, many have noted that homosexuality is the love that dare not speak its name, Pilipinos are the forgotten Asians in America, and the subaltern has no voice. Thus, by creating a book where gay, immigrant, femmy, Pilipino men are the center, Manalansan has valiantly filled a tragic void. This book says much about gay men of color and gay immigrants. It shows how many gays have other issues on top of homophobia to battle. This was a critical intersectional text.
In this book, the author places a minority within a minority within a minority at the center. His main point is that non-Western same-gender-loving immigrants are not some homosexual primitives waiting for white, Western gays to liberate them. The subjects here are active agents in their lives. They balance multiple cultures and influences. They oftentimes look at this country and its mainstream gay community and find it lacking. This book is quite empowering.
Manalansan covers multiple topics here, including how gay male Pilipinos juggle Pacific and Western constructions of homosexuality, an argot called swardspeak, the difficulties that these men face in New York City, everyday struggles besides homophobia, bakla beauty pageants, and bakla anti-AIDS activism. The author does an excellent job in inviting the reader into the gay Pilipino immigrant's world. I thought the chapter on AIDS was the best; activists from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds should find it useful. The author ends many chapters with a review of the literature that I found somewhat awkward and at times overly opinionated, however. Like many academic books, this is just an amassing of the author's individual articles (and a celebration of his tenure?), but readers who haven't been exposed to extensive Manalansan writings will find this whole book especially refreshing.
Quotes from interview subjects are first cited in Taglish (Tagalog mixed with English phrases) and then translated into complete English. Even without being a comparative literature or cognitive science major, I found this code-switchi fascinating. Moraga and Anzaldua have already demonstrated how they practice Spanglish as U.S. Latinas. This is the first time I've seen gay men's and Asians' use of this intriguing practice. Manalansan discusses swardspeak, a gay Pilipino slang. So the Brits are not the only ones with their Picadilly parlary. Along with the Latino practice of picardia as detailed in Fernandez-Alemany's book, this is another example of gay men of color having their own catchy phrases and in-words.
To the book's credit, I think straight Pilipinos and non-Pilipino, gay immigrants will find this book useful as well. Still, this book is filled with academic jargon and I don't any gay, Pilipino immigrant without an extensive background in gay studies and cultural critcism would understand it. As a black gay man, I found this book very depressing. Any time brothers are mentioned it is to put them down in nasty, racist fashions. After this book, absolutely no one can say it's blacks' fault that people-of-color unity is so fragile. Further, given that Manalansan teaches in the Midwest, I'm surprised that Midwestern gay Pilipinos are not brought up here. They exist after all! To only mention those members in New York and California re-establishes that ideas that diversity only exists on the Coasts.
Still, I loved this book. Do peep it!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, Informative Book 30 Nov 2007
By sayock - Published on
I basically agree with Jeffrey's review but wanted to add/debate a few of his points.

To add: if you're someone who reads other works about queers, whether white queers and/or queers of color, this book presents a different take on ideas many of us have been exposed to a lot by examining the gay Filipino male diaspora. One major example is the idea of the effeminate gay Asian male and interracial relationships with white males, which also brings to mind the popular discourse (in some circles) about the prevalence of (and why) Asian female/white male relationships. The author discusses a lot of centralities to gay Filipino male identity, such as religion and family, and backs up his points with quotes from his interviews with gay Filipino males, i.e. "informants." These informants often reframe the "why" of Asian/white male interracial relationships away from the typical response of white oppression/control and self-hatred towards the suggestion that many Asians may simply be, in a sense, using white males' status (primarily financially) to get what they want/need, thus presenting the image of the Asian as the one who actually has some control. This is not to say there isn't any real love in these relationships, as one informant basically makes clear.

Another "why" framed in a new light is the possibility that many gay Asian males embrace and even self-label themselves in feminine terms as opposed to Asian male femininity being a negative that is always imposed on Asian males by racist/sexist/etc whites, regardless of sexual orientation, as some Asian writers such as David Eng seem to suggest. Other incredibly interesting ideas presented in this book are that many Filipinos don't feel accepted/connected with other Asians and even reject being labeled "Asian," and the notion that "coming out" is a white American ideal that is shunned in the Philippines. The book also demonstrates that many of these men do not come to the US looking to assimilate or, if they do, assimilation for these men is essentially impossible, not so much because whites won't allow them to but more because of unbreakable ties to their homeland. Many of these ideas are very similar to ones you'll find in works by other non-Asian queer of color writers, especially the idea of blatant outness being more of a white norm.

However, the major task of the work seems to be demonstrating the ways in which gay Filipino males who immigrate to the US/NYC integrate various/divergent aspects of their identities (race, class, sexuality, gender, nationality)/homeland with aspects of their new home, creating spaces for themselves where they don't fit in (i.e. the white gay community, despite many white gay males' affinity for [feminine and darker/yellow] gay Asian males) and creating the identity and freedom that they, in a sense, have always longed for. I completely agree with Jeffrey's point about NYC/CA, and I've noticed that a lot of queer writers mainly seem to discuss major areas.

To debate: I don't read this book to have a lot of academic jargon; actually quite the contrary. I have found most--if not, every other--queer studies books that I've read to be more difficult to understand because of academic jargon and/or native language that was not always translated. Given that experience, I was pleasantly surprised with this book. I must admit, I'm not a Filipino immigrant (I'm also black, like Jeffrey), and I'm a lawyer. I'm not from a queer studies background and have only read such books for courses in school, and I found them very frustrating (including Anzaldua, Moraga and Eng)--with the exception of this book. The author is a fantastic, very clear writer and is far from being overly-academic, and he consistently translates everything from Tagalog and Swardspeak to English. What is most problematic about the way he writes probably is the fact that he throws so many non-English terms at the reader, but that, of course, wouldn't necessarily be a problem for Filipino readers.

Final debate--there are certainly racist ideas presented in the book, but I think Jeffrey gives the impression that these ideas come from the author himself when they really don't. He simply conveys what many Filipinos think about Latinos and, particularly, blacks--many of these thoughts coming from what his informants had to say. I take the discussions of race as presenting a double-view of all the races+Latinos in the US, i.e. these Filipino informants have problems with everybody here but there is also some level of embrace of everyone, as well. With whites, it's the rejection from the gay community and the US in general (immigration services, police, etc) vs. primary relationships being interracial with whites; with Asians, not feeling like they belong with other Asians vs forming groups/organizations with some of them; with blacks and Latinos, placing blacks and Latinos below them on the social hierarchy vs feeling like they identify more with black and Latino drag queens/shows/spaces as well as some even identifying more with Latinos than Asians, period. If anything, the informants acknowledge the value of whiteness over color in their homeland and how that has affected them/their decisions about dating/friendship (as well as how this affects their views of Filipino immigrants from a different class station than theirs), but also say that being in the US allows them to forge relationships with people they never would have back home. Indeed, some of the informants were dating Latino or black men.

Other than that, I also highly recommend this book. It is an easy, engaging read, and demonstrates that not everyone fits into the white American discourse/ideals of what being queer is, queer community and what all queers do or should do.
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