Sin vergüenza

It’s amazing how having constant high-speed Internet and cable tv means that one no longer has to go out as much. I’ve been doing my best to get caught up on watching cartoons, reading comics, and generally lounging about in sybaritic fashion. For instance, I spent last Sunday afternoon eating grapes and watching the dvd boxed set of Season 1 of Carnivale.

It’s wonderful to waste free time. And yet, time is not wasted when one’s mind is productive. Even when I’m not thinking about my thesis, I’m thinking about my thesis, and connections spring up during my relaxation in many delightfully surprising ways.

In this case, I’m talking about Eden, another Japanese comic book series (also known as manga) that I’ve recently come to like (thank you MangaProject). It’s about a young man living in a world where a pandemic has brought the world to the brink of disaster, and where a new world order has sprung up as a result. I have to tell you, in the following discussion of Eden I’m going to dispense spoilers like crazy. So read on at your own risk. There’s too much stuff to cover in one post so I’ll revisit the series again later. If you want my thoughts on Eden in a nutshell: Cyberpunk, biopolitics, near-apocalypse — rock! Read it if you need something to flip through when you want to pretend to yourself that you’re working.
A recumbent android girl is opened up and examined by lab technicians.
Anyway, the new disease is called the Closure Virus, which has killed 15% of the world’s population decades before most of the story’s action takes place. Bear in mind that 15% may not sound like a lot, but that’s still hundreds of millions of people dead, not to mention the many more that are implied to have died from the chaos that erupted. Governments collapse and a new organization exploits the power vacuum to put itself in charge — the Propater.

In the book, Propater is a neoliberal theocracy of federated nation-states controlling what we would call the “West” plus most of the Americas. I know, “Propater” sounds made-up. The name actually comes from Gnosticism, a religious movement from the same era as early Christianity. In fact, if you’ve got some knowledge of the Gnostics and of early Christian theology then you’ll be able to appreciate better some of the references in the series. I feel embarrassed I hadn’t caught on to the Gnostic elements until I’d read the series glossary, where it was all spelled out. Gnosia and agnosia, the aeons, God as insane: these are all things that are mentioned in the book, and they’re all important in some way to the story and its themes. Actually, googling around reveals that the major characters are named after Gnostic deities and they all play similar roles in the story as in Gnosticism.

The Catholic Encyclopedia (take that Wikipedia) says this about Gnosticism:

The doctrine of salvation by knowledge. This definition, based on the etymology of the word (gnosis “knowledge”, gnostikos, “good at knowing”), is correct as far as it goes, but it gives only one, though perhaps the predominant, characteristic of Gnostic systems of thought . . . Gnostics were “people who knew”, and their knowledge at once constituted them a superior class of beings, whose present and future status was essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, did not know. A more complete and historical definition of Gnosticism would be:

A collective name for a large number of greatly-varying and pantheisticidealistic sects, which flourished from some time before the Christian Era down to the fifth century, and which, while borrowing the phraseology and some of the tenets of the chief religions of the day, and especially of Christianity, held matter to be a deterioration of spirit, and the whole universe a depravation of the Deity, and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of the grossness of matter and the return to the Parent-Spirit, which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the appearance of some God-sent Saviour.

However unsatisfactory this definition may be, the obscurity, multiplicity, and wild confusion of Gnostic systems will hardly allow of another. Many scholars, moreover, would hold that every attempt to give a generic description of Gnostic sects is labour lost.

Oh, and apparently Christian Gnostics were responsible for early Christian fanfiction:

The Gnostics developed an astounding literary activity, which produced a quantity of writings far surpassing contemporary output of Catholic literature. They were most prolific in the sphere of fiction, as it is safe to say that three-fourths of the early Christians romances about Christ and His disciples emanated from Gnostic circles.

Setting aside the fact that this version of the Catholic Encyclopedia is rather old and it’s often amusing to read the snide jabs at other religions, it’s interesting that anyone would structure a manga around Gnosticism. However, Eden isn’t the only manga or anime to take its inspiration from Christianity and related religions. I’ve never read the manga or watched the anime, but I know Neon Genesis Evangelion also explicitly explored themes from Christianity and Kabbalistic Judaism, though its treatment of such was apparently problematic. I did watch two episodes of Ninja Resurrection, a godawful anime miniseries about rebellious Christians in feudal Japan and the rise of the Anti-Christ or something.

Anyway, I think it’s fair to say that there’s a widespread fascination with Christianity in Japan, perhaps analogous to the fascination with Buddhism in the reified West. Perhaps this fascination comes from a desire for authenticity, with that authenticity being searched for in the foreign. So foreign = Other, Other = authentic, and conversely, domestic = Same, Same = inauthentic. This BBC article on one manifestation of Christianity in Japan presents an interesting but somewhat exoticizing view on the topic.

However, it’s debatable just how alien Christianity really is to Japan. It’s been in the country for 450 years, meaning that Christianity in Japan is almost as old as it is in South America. Christians have played major roles in Japanese history, perhaps most famously in the rebellion of Amakusa Shiro (depicted in Ninja Resurrection), not to mention the extensive meddling in feudal Japanese politics that Catholic missionaries engaged in. And as the BBC article shows, certain Christian sects are quite popular in modern Japan. So just how Other is Christianity really?

Oh whatever, I’m hungry and my rice just finished cooking. I’m definitely coming back to Eden, but see you some other time.

Parte segundo de la traducción

Remember when I tried to explain the meaning of Sarapen? Well, ice_of_dreams, who I encountered on LiveJournal through our mutual appreciation (or former appreciation) of Ranma 1/2 and fanfiction thereof, has offered a more complete translation. Following is the comment left on my LJ:

World keeps getting smaller. I am Filipino too. :) And you’re fortunate I still live in the Philippines and can translate. (and let me tell you these words are deep and aren’t used in daily conversation so I have to ask my dad and helper who’re from the Tagalog region to make sense of some of the words)

I hope you’re ready for this, this is long Continue reading Parte segundo de la traducción

Stuff that is free

Free online access to SAGE journals until October 18
The announcement by SAGE Publishing:
“If your institution subscribes to one or more SAGE journals, free online access to ALL SAGE journals is available for you, your colleagues, and your students until October 18, 2006! No registration is required, so start accessing articles in your discipline on SAGE Journals Online today! Search leading SAGE journals covering a wide range of subjects in Business, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Science, Technology, and Medicine.

If your institution does not subscribe to any SAGE journals, click here to register for free online access to the trial today!”

They’ve got journals on ethnic studies, communication, history, sociology, and even one on video games (look under Media and Communication). I’ve mostly looked through the anthropology ones, I like Anthropological Theory and Critique of Anthropology.

Jiggety Jig

I just realized that I haven’t mentioned this before, so let me tell you all now that I’ve finished my research and data collection. I’ve looked at the blogs, I’ve interviewed people, I’ve sat around and done analysis. All that’s left is the writing. So that’s what I’ll be doing from now on. Anyway, this is the abstract that I have so far for the thesis I’m working on:

My research focuses on Filipino bloggers and their expression of Filipino identity on blogs. Following from the data I gathered from bloggers both in the Philippines and overseas in a content analysis of Filipino-written blogs and from several interviews, my thesis begins from Stuart Hall’s conceptualization of identity as contingent and arising from difference. I explore the complexities behind the expression of Filipino identity on blogs and the numerous factors that such expression is contingent upon. I answer three basic questions in my exploration of this contingent identity: Why is Filipino identity expressed on blogs? How is it expressed? And why is there no single Filipino blogging community?

It’s clumsy here and there, but bear in mind it’s a work in progress. It gets the job done, which is telling the reader what the whole thing is about. I’ve also got an outline and some notes specifying what goes where, plus two notebooks full of analytical scribblings I’ll have to pore over, not to mention the notes I’ve taken on the books and articles I’ve read.

So what does the data I’ve gathered tell me about Filpino bloggers? I can only offer tidbits, of course, since there’s so much information to convey. Anyway, I’ve noticed that there seems to be five major categories of Filipino bloggers: Cosmopolitans, the Philippine Elite, Im/migrants, Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos, and Younger Filipinos in the Philippines. These are not absolute categories; there is overlap, and besides which, this is not the ultimate typology of Filipino bloggers which can be constructed.

Cosmopolitans are those Filipino bloggers originally from the Philippines who readily discuss such things as trips to Hong Kong and favourite restaurants in New York. They don’t speak of these experiences as extraordinary, but instead discuss them as normal and common. They live all over the world, though quite a few live in the Philippines. They tend to be neutral towards Philippine politics, at least judging by the fact that they rarely discuss such matters.

The Philippine Elite are Filipino bloggers based in the Philippines who – from the way they present themselves on their blogs – are clearly part of the ruling class. I don’t mean that they’re necessarily amazingly wealthy, but they definitely have power in the Philippines. They can be doctors, lawyers, journalists, and so on. They often discuss Philippine politics and they frequently display their nationalism in some way on their blogs. Cosmopolitans and the Philippine Elite are quite clearly connected to each other, and there is much overlap between the two.

Im/migrants also often discuss Philippine politics and make nationalist statements, but they also discuss things that the previous two groups do not. For example, Im/migrants often blog about adjustment difficulties to their new countries. They also speak of the Philippines in nostalgic rhetoric that Cosmopolitans and the Philippine Elite do not use (“I remember when I used to be a kid in the Philippines that we used to do x”). Blogs written by Im/migrants many times end up discussing those Im/migrants’ children as well. Many Im/migrants, you see, are mothers. This is because of the particular way that migration from the Philippines is gendered. The Philippines is one of the world’s leading exporters of trained female nurses, and I’ve found a few blogs written by such. I’ve also seen a couple of blogs written by what I suspect are mail order brides, which are another export commodity of the Philippines. The country is also a leading exporter of female domestic workers (maids), but I’ve yet to find one blog written by one, probably because maids tend not to have the time to blog, and seldom the resources.

The children of those Im/migrants also constitute another category of Filipino bloggers, the Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos. I’m also including under this category 1.5 generation Filipinos and those Third Generation and later, but it’s simpler to have the one title. Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos rarely link to blogs written by the preceding groups nor leave comments. More than the other groups, these Filipino bloggers discuss race and ethnicity. Im/migrants also discuss such things, but these topics seem especially relevant to the Second Generation, judging by how much they blog about race and ethnicity. I’ve noticed the same in my interviews.

Finally come Younger Filipinos in the Philippines. Generally, they don’t link to blogs written by Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos, even though they’re the same age and often have similar interests. They’re far more likely to link to blogs written by the other groups. However, Younger Filipinos and Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos do link to each when their blogs are hosted on bloghosting services that attempt to foster community. In contrast to, say, Blogger, where the focus of the service is more on the individual blogger who attracts readers to their blog, services like LiveJournal or Xanga make it possible to make a group blog or to form a blogring. A group blog is a blog written by multiple bloggers, while a blogring is a group of blogs linked to each other; both are organized around a certain theme. The theme can be something like knitting, but the blogrings and the group blogs I’m interested in are ones organized around being Filipino. Bloghosting services don’t want their users to use competing bloghosting services, and one of the ways they do this is to make it difficult for their users to link to blogs hosted on other services, while at the same time making it easier to link to blogs hosted on the same bloghost. What effectively happens is that self-contained communities form that are centred around the fact that they all use the same bloghosting service. So when someone should create a new group blog or blogring for Filipino bloggers, what ends up happening is that both diasporic Filipinos and Filipinos in the Philippines end up joining. Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos and Younger Filipinos in the Philippines thus end up in the same blogging groups, unlike their fellows who use individual-oriented bloghosts or host their blogs on their own paid servers.

I have more stuff about racialization, exclusion, nationalism, internalized norms, print capitalism, and technologies of the self and regimes of truth and power, but all that stuff is really too big for a blog post. But stay tuned and I’ll probably get around to discussing them eventually.

Le mission civilatrice

Stages of sociocultural evolution

Finally, finally, I have cable tv and high-speed Internet at home. I have now passed from late savagery and skipped straight into middle barbarism. I don’t have a tv remote, so I’m still not civilized and bourgeois, but now I have a goal in my life. After a year of no tv, I can feel my brain rotting just from being in the same room as the infernal device.

UPDATE: Sweet Jesus, there’s nothing on. Bonanza? The Young and the Restless? I thought I got cable so I wouldn’t have to watch this. Oh look, it’s old episodes of The Weakest Link. My, it’s been a while since I’ve shouted at idiots on the tv, it feels so nostalgic. Lets see,

In Dante’s “Inferno,” which of these is not one of the three men being devoured in the lowest level of hell?’

A: Judas, B: Brutus, C:Nero, D:Cassius

Good thing I wasn’t playing, I thought it was Cassius. The answer was Nero by the way.