Academic journal article Tamkang Review

Run through the Jungle: Uncanny Domesticity and the Woman of Shame in Jessica Hagedorn's Dream Jungle

Academic journal article Tamkang Review

Run through the Jungle: Uncanny Domesticity and the Woman of Shame in Jessica Hagedorn's Dream Jungle

Article excerpt

In colonial discourses, the jungle has been a symbol of primitive force as well as a location of imperialist conquest. Once incorporated into the chronology of modernization, the jungle is inevitably rendered the metaphor of quintessential Otherness as well as a contesting site between colonialism and indigenous force. Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1894) and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1902) are two founding texts that address the jungle in what David Spurr has called "the rhetoric of empire." (1) More recently, the jungle has been recast as forest and ecological systems which need to be valorized in order to counter "green imperialism" brought upon by political and cultural imperialism (Grove). (2) Against this background, Jessica Hagedorn contributes to refiguring the jungle in the Asia-Pacific as a space of attempted decolonization in the era of emerging globalization. In Dream Jungle (2003), Hagedorn lays out the jungle as the site to rethink the Philippines' specific postcolonality in the 1980s, when globalization encroached to claim the country as a subservient provider of cheap labor and natural resources for multinational capitalism. The country is shown to be caught in an impossible process of nation-building, and an ambiguous ascension into global capitalism. Hagedorn's jungle can be read as a site in which the postcolonial elite nationalists project their imagination for the nation. In the meantime, from a global perspective, the jungle can also be deemed as the object of exploitation by American cultural industry that seeks to critique, and reflect upon America's imperialist enterprise in the Asia-Pacific. In this light, the jungle is a space plagued by a specific uncanniness that haunts the decolonizing efforts conducted by local as well as global agents. Namely, while attempting to break off from the bondage of colonial legacy, they are nevertheless caught in a deadlock of repeating the colonizers' logic of conquest, exploitation and civilizing mission.

This paper seeks to investigate the uncanniness of the decolonizing projects conducted by the local and global agents in the novel to accentuate the spectral afterlife of imperialism that continues to haunt the Asia-Pacific in the age of globalization. Linking the uncanniness of the jungle with the formation of the subjugated and subjectivized body of the Filipina, I argue that the male characters' uncanny projects of nation-building and their failed attempts of decolonization mark the beginning of the impoverishment of the Philippines in the restructuring of global capitalism in the 1980s. The outcome of the impoverishment is especially acute for Filipinas, for they are the group that bears the brunt of the economic change in the Philippines. (3) I suggest that the conditions in which the Filipino women are forced to take up service-oriented jobs as domestic workers or prostitutes are the sign of the uncanny return of the failed projects of domestic management, nation-building and aborted decolonization. My reading of the text consists of two parts. In the first part I draw upon Amy Kaplan's conceptualization of "manifest domesticity" and the Freudian concept of the uncanny to examine the Filipino male characters' nation-building and the neocolonial tendency that belies America's self-reflection on its overseas expansion in the Asia-Pacific. In the second part I trace the lower class female character's life story to analyze the way in which she is biopolitically produced to serve as a provider of sexual and affective labor in her intimate encounters with the male characters. I explore the outcome of the process in which her sex and affect are commodified to conceptualize her as a subject of shame. Furthermore, I suggest that, despite it's excruciating effect, shame has a positive energy of motivating the subject to act through an open-ended mobility by running away, which destabilizes the power structures at home while drawing a unique trajectory of global mobility. …

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