THE PHILIPPINES MATRIX PROJECT

PROBLEMS OF CULTURAL POLITICS IN VIGILANTE TERRITORY
(Circa 1987)

By E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

The  little horsecarts with gilt decorations
And the pink sleeves of the matrons
In the alleys of doomed Manila
The fugitive beheld with joy.

–BERTOLT BRECHT, “Landscape of Exile” (1940)

In September 1987 I was invited to give a talk on contemporary trends in critical theory at a colloquium sponsored by the research office of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. After summarizing recent philosophical and aesthetic developments in the West, and focusing on reader-response (Rezeptionsaesthetik) theory in particular, I was suddenly plunged into what I discovered later on as an ongoing shouting match on the topic of whether we should junk Rizal or not in our curriculum. The upshot of it was that it was as if I never spoke at all. In the melee I became a pretext for continuing the factional squabble among…

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