This article aims to offer a new route into the study of Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart by going beyond the usual sociocultural focus and turning instead to the material, specifically the illnesses and injuries borne by Filipino bodies—tuberculosis, syphilis, hunger, injuries, even death—to learn about their colonial and migrant experiences. In the novel, tuberculosis affects working-class migrant Filipinos disproportionately in both the Philippines and the United States of America. Migrant Filipinos are also constantly haunted by hunger and are always injured, or even shot; and working-class women frequently die from syphilis. Applying ecocritical theories to study the entanglement between the novel’s material and social environment, this article argues that human bodies are socialized bodies: the Filipino characters’ bodily illnesses and injuries are testimony to the cruel social injustices they have suffered. This article further uses Rob Nixon’s concept of “slow violence” to argue that tuberculosis, syphilis, and hunger are manifestations of the slow violence that bring into light the hidden cost of colonialism, racism, sexism, and class oppression, while images of shot or beaten Filipino bodies are “quick violence” that force us to face the bloodiness of racial oppression directly. Lastly, this article examines where healing and hope for resistance lie.


ecocriticism, body, slow violence, sexuality, racialization, COVID-19

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)