Postcolonial Pharmakon: Traumatic Transmission in Tony Perez’s Cubao-Kalaw Kalaw-Cubao

Ryan Ku

Published Date: Feb 28, 2022


Tracing Tony Perez’s Filipino modernism in Cubao–Kalaw Kalaw–Cubao to trauma, this article considers whether the novel’s processing of psychic trauma also amounts to the processing of national trauma. Seemingly positing representation as the means of traumatic processing, Perez, in distinguishing the unconscious transmission of the traumatic event from the conscious narration of its aftereffects, in fact premises representation on deconstruction. Consisting in the displaced and deferred repetition, or writing, of trauma, this process is facilitated in the novel by three discursive practices—Catholicism, psychotherapy, and creative writing—that are derived from the colonial history of the Philippines. Rather than corresponding to the nation’s postcolonial trauma, psychic trauma in the novel is thus processed through the remainders of national trauma. Of these postcolonial legacies that serve as psychic cures, Perez privileges one that causes him to disavow not only the others but also kapwa, the indigenous concept of sociality recuperated by sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino psychology) after independence to counter colonial history. Rather than working through national trauma with psychic trauma, Perez ultimately overcomes psychic trauma through the disavowal and repetition of national trauma, thus potentially inducing further psychic trauma.


Catholicism, deconstruction, kapwa, modernism, postcolonial, trauma, writing

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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)