About Homelands Speaking\Her Bodies of Stories
Date of Award
Craig Santos Perez, Chair
Asian American Diaspora; Decolonization; Performance Poetry; Experimental Poetry; Settler Colonialism; Spoken Word
This dissertation, About Homelands Speaking\Her Bodies of Stories, has stakes in the intersections between being a light-skinned woman of color in Hawaiʻi, land colonized and controlled by the United States, living as a mixed-race (Ilocano, English, Hakka, French, Visayan, and German) diasporic settler on indigenous lands, and how we might build positive decolonizing conversations out of traumatic historical narratives. About Homelands Speaking began as a collection of poems meant to perform on the page that were translated to a cohesive performance script, which became Her Bodies of Stories, incorporating vocal play and choreographed movements. This play-poem has been fueled by my interest in how the stories of women and people of color have often been silenced or co-opted to suit the dominant story line. For example, I incorporated ideas of the Babaylan (religious leaders in the Philippines, who are often women) and the aswang (multi-faceted demons in the Philippines, which are often feminized), because it has been suggested that Conquistadors, when faced with resistance from the Babaylan, began to connect these leaders with the aswang narrative in an attempt to break their influence and power. Thus the script begins with women being the first place colonized and continues with scenes that look at how we could be seen as caricatures on an assembly line of objectification.
The setting of this work is also in and of the Pacific, which continues to be a contested space heavily impacted by militaristic and cultural imperialisms, so About Homelands Speaking and Her Bodies of Stories incorporate conversations and questions around belonging and place. What does it mean to be part of the diasporic legacy of colonial labor practices living on an indigenous land that has been unlawfully taken from its original caretakers? How can we call these places home? How should we call these places home?
In the past, I have often found the flat dimensions of the written word limiting, thus experimental approaches to poetry add a performative component to the page and allow me to envisage the entire written space as offering the potential for performance. In this project, I wanted to extend that exchange back into stage performance, so I conceptualized About Homelands Speaking\Her Bodies of Stories in two parts. First, I wrote poems that were meant to live on the page. Some of these poems incorporated diagrams and tables as integral parts of their form, thus they were created to be seen and to be read. Second, these poems were re-sculpted into a cohesive script that translated these poetic forms into bodies of performance. This translation includes voiceovers and interwoven vocals, which incorporates a spoken interpretation of infinite canon.
Her Bodies of Stories also integrates movement as part of the expression of poetic form. In this work, I am particularly interested in how different elements of content and interpretation catch fire, depending on the mode of delivery and reception and how staged performance can both add sublety and create codification. Her Bodies of Stories closes with a multi-voiced scene considering how we might decolonize our conversations and our communities. In my work, as a teacher and an organizer, I have held witness to many of the resiliant, imaginative, and innovative projects being cultivated in our communities. I have also held witness to the fractures that continue to tear down our communities. These scars are entrenched in the silences that allow anger and frustration to fester. “Becoming Decolonized,” the closing scene of Her Bodies of Stories and the last poem of About Homelands Speaking seeks to imagine a future where our resiliance and imagination allow us to break our silences and speak.
Soto, Elizabeth, "About Homelands Speaking\Her Bodies of Stories" (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1.