Panethnic Moments: Mestizaje and the Philippines in Discourses of Hygiene and Disease


Gloria Anzaldúa’s mestiza consciousness refers to a new consciousness defined by ambiguity and an attentiveness to difference; mestiza consciousness’s refusal to let go of difference is what sets it apart from earlier theories such as Jose Vasconcelos’s La Raza Cosmica. My essay explores the linkages between Asian identity and the Latin American concept of mestizaje through the lens of public hygiene in colonial discourse, particularly within leper colonies established in the Philippines at Culion in the early 1900s. Through these historical examples of racialization via public hygiene ordinances, I locate Filipino identity in a liminal space both in between and within Asian and Latin American identity. By examining the linkages between hygiene, coloniality, and race, I investigate how Filipino identity operates separately as an Asian identity, and a Latin American identity, while simultaneously existing independently and as a composite of these two identities. Put simply, I argue in this essay that Filipino identity’s position between and within multiple racial identities brings it into alignment with Anzaldúa’s conception of mestiza consciousness. I expand on this idea by analyzing Anzaldúa’s Borderlands and her development of the new mestiza consciousness––which finds its foundations in a special attention to difference––in conjunction with a literary analysis of Filipina expatriate Jessica Hagedorn’s 1990 novel Dogeaters. By reading Anzaldúa’s theory alongside Hagedorn’s seminal work on Filipino culture, identity, and history, my hope is to illustrate how it is that the suspension of Filipino identity between the worlds of Asia and Latin America has a generative panethnic potential.

Author Information
Everet Smith, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, United States

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2020
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon