The Commodification of Everything
This dissertation examines how contemporary Filipino American novels narrate the experiences of immigrant Filipino workers in the US in the context of neoliberal globalization. In particular, I analyze how these novels depict neoliberal global capitalism's re-ordering of urban and suburban spaces in order to create safe spaces for consumption, and the impact of such re-ordering on immigrant Filipino service workers. This re-ordering of space, based on urban management principles pioneered by Disney Corporation that have become dominant across the US and in other places like the Philippines, has widened the gulf between those who have the means to partake of consumption and those who do not. The dissertation argues that the contemporary Filipino American novels under study perform the cultural task of capturing the disturbances brought about by the dizzying shifts in the nature of work, understanding of self, affiliation, and the world, and of reflecting back to their readers their personal and social costs. Chapter One traces the roots of Disneyfication to the world's fairs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, highlighting the imperialist legacy imbricated in the Disney theme parks' nativist and anti-poor tendencies. I argue that such bias underpin the strategies of Disneyfication that has dominated the US urban landscape beginning in the 1970s. Chapter Two analyzes Jessica Hagedorn's two novels on the Philippines, Dogeaters and Dream Jungle, focusing on her literary representation of the Marcos dictatorship's attempt to use the strategies of Disneyfication to cover over the regime's violent exploitation of its own people in connivance with the then US-dominated global capitalism. Chapter Three discusses how Han Ong's Fixer Chao depicts the transformation of the subjectivity of an immigrant Filipino service worker against the background of New York City's gentrification in the 1990s. Ong uses the motifs of fragmentation, displacement, and conflation of moral good and material goods to present a Filipino American critique of neoliberal global capitalism's ethos of consumerism. Finally, Chapter Four studies Brian Ascalon Roley's American Son and Evelina Galang's One Tribe in terms of the novels' depiction of the immigrant Filipino workers' experience of the strategies of exclusion and control. Both novels delineate formal and informal means of surveillance targeted at Filipino immigrant workers, highlighting the way immigrant Filipino families and communities discipline their members, in particular the young females, to argue for assimilation into the Disneyfied mainstream American society and culture.