Events: Kritika Kultura Lecture Series presents The Archipelago as a Moving Archive: Orature and Performance in Southern Mindanao

April 08, 2017

Kritika Kultura, the international refereed journal of language, literary, and cultural studies of the Department of English, Ateneo de Manila University presents “The Archipelago as a Moving Archive: Orature and Performance in Southern Mindanao,” a series of lectures featuring Jose Jowel Canuday, Anne Christine Ensomo, and Maria Natividad I. Karaan. The event is on Apr. 17, 2017, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m., at the Faura Hall AVR, Ateneo de Manila University. The event is open to the public.

About the forum

In this forum, the reconfiguration of the topos of Southern Mindanao as a liminal, confluent zone in imagination, discourse, and history will be explored from literary and anthropological perspectives. The imaginary cartography of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi will be redrawn through close engagement with Sama orature, including such kata-kata as Tandanan and Usaha Dilaut, as well as Tausug oral repertoire, notably the kissah and tarasul, derived from the Sulu Studies and the Rixhon/Revel collections. Across these oral narratives, the tension between the insular and the dispersive will be recast in terms of spatial flux, with the Sama concept of navigation as dwelling counterposed with the fractal, expansive nature of islandness proper to Tausug polity and society. In laying down this dialectic, the forum aims to show the peculiar and contemporaneous character of transculturation in Southern Mindanao, and the endurance of forms and sources beneath it, as a veritable archive, as against the erasures santioned by state and regional geoimperialism. As a fitting interposition to this dialectic, the performance of the “pangalay” as a micro-site of everyday, enduring cosmopolitanism will be examined to show the continued revision of the popular repertoire. In this anthropological examination, the embodiment of memory in actual and continuing practice could be used as a commentary on popular historiography. In and across these texts and sources, the enactment of the popular imaginary amidst a shifting archipelagicity will be used to demonstrate critical modernity as it had emerged, and continues to evolve, in Southern Mindanao vis-a-vis maritime Southeast Asia.

About the lectures

“Re-visioning Obscure Spaces: Enduring Cosmopolitanism in the Sulu Archipelago and Zamboanga Peninsula” by Jose Jowel Canuday, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

In popular imagery, the littorals of Sulu and Zamboanga conjure pirates, terrorists, and bandits marauding its rough seas, open shores, and rugged mountains. Hidden from this imagery and the painful reality of everyday acts of violence are lasting cosmopolitan traits of openness, flexibility, and reception of its ordinary constituencies to global cultural streams across the ages. The distinctive features of these cosmopolitan sensibilities are strikingly discernible in inter-generationally shared narratives, artefacts, and performances that were subsequently embodied by the blending, among others, of the time-honoured dance of pangalay with recently celebrated pop-musical dance genre on actual spaces, and analogue and digitally mediated worlds. Furthermore, these embodied sensibilities are evident in song compositions that proclaim the humanistic themes of hope, peace, and prosperity to their place and the world in ways that exemplify the local people’s broader sense of connections beyond the narrow association of family, community, ethnicity, religion, and identity. These mixed bag of age-old and recent imaginaries evoke a sociality that links the spaces of the troubled region to continuing acts of transcendence in history, memory, and visions of the future. In these marginalised and unlikely places, therefore, we see enduring acts that have been invariably described as everyday, down-to-earth, pragmatic, interstitial, and practical cosmopolitanism.

“A Poetic Historiography of Sulu” by Anne Christine Ensomo, Department of English

In this paper, the tropological construction of Sulu—coded in the category lupah sug, meaning “land and current”—will be analyzed and elaborated, with the intent of contributing to, and complicating further, incipient discourse on the kapuluan. Using this category, the paper aims to show Sulu as a liminal frontier situated at the cross-currents of the Spanish Filipinas and an Islamic wordliness, a historical index or reference which is implicit in representative kissah and parang sabil drawn from Sulu Studies and the Rixhon/Revel collections. Framing Sulu this way would prove generative to the extent that it decenters primordial assumptions, often land-based, regarding territoriality. In doing so, the paper foregrounds a deterritorialized conception that highlights principles of movement, migration, and dispersion. Representing Sulu as a dynamic space, which accommodates a history of contact and exchange, the paper offers a contrapuntal reading geared toward reversing colonial and statist assumptions regarding Sulu. 

“Navigating the Kata-Kata” by Maria Natividad I. Karaan, Department of English

The primacy of the terra—terrestrial and territorial—has relegated the sea as a space of alterity, but the geography of the archipelago blurs the land/sea binary, calling for a turn to the sea that reconsiders the concept of dwelling. The Sama Dilaut, who inhabit the islands and seas of Tawi-Tawi, challenge the dominance of the terra by revealing the possibility of inhabitancy without territoriality through their lifeway in the littoral. In this paper, I employ a method of Navigation, which examines the manner through which the Sama Dilaut traverse their seascape as revealed in the tropography that arises from their orature. Specifically, I explore two sacred songs of healing sung by the wali-djinn called kata-kata: Tandanan chanted by Jimsu Sarali, and Usaha Dilaut chanted by Panglima Isnang Jorolan. These kata-kata demonstrate the Sama Dilaut’s navigational tekhné, an intimate understanding of the archipelagic space that allows them to ascertain the best routes around the obstacles within the spaces they occupy. The kata-kata becomes a trope for the manner through which the community navigates the physical and temporal currents, resisting the forces of militarization that attempt to destroy their lifeway, and reimagines dwelling as constant resettlement. 

About the resource persons

Jose Jowel Canuday is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Ateneo de Manila University. He holds a doctorate degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Oxford. 

Anne Christine Ensomo is an instructor affiliated with the Department of English. Her research interests, which revolve around island studies, Southeast Asia, and comparative theology, have been shaped by her foray into Southern Mindanao and Central Java, and also guided by her interest in Muslim-Christian dialogue both in its translocal enactment in Mindanao vis-a-vis Southeast Asia and as a historical and global phenomenon. She recently completed her MA thesis on Sulu Literature and Historiography, and has previously participated in such fellowships as the J. Elizalde National Workshop and the Asian Research Institute Graduate Fellowship.  

Maria Natividad I. Karaan is a graduate student under the MA in Literary and Cultural Studies program of the Department of English, Ateneo de Manila University, where she also teaches English Literature and Philippine Literature in English. Her research pursuits revolve around Philippine indigenous cosmology, memory, and geopoetics. Her thesis navigates the topography of the orature of the Sama Dilaut from the Sulu archipelago. She was a fellow for the University of Santo Tomas J. Elizalde Navarro Critical Writing Workshop in 2012 and the Asian Graduate Student Fellowship of the Asia Research Institute in 2013. 

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