Works in cultural analysis, published and in-progress

1.   Monograph

2.  Essays & Chapters 


Contribution to Special Issue ‘Short Notice: Keywords for Our Time’, curated by Vincenz Serrano
2022, Critical Asia Archives

What felt remarkable in the piece’s naked structuration of liveness was the vulnerability induced by its injunction of the gaze. When Jocson pressed her face to her camera I counted the beads of sweat on her brow; as I distanced myself from the monitor, she saw me situated in the abstracted tableau of the exhibition space, a figure caught on surveillance tape. “Goodbye,” she chirped when I stepped up to the screen to wave farewell. A wave of shyness came over me, carrying me back to the hours of sitting by my father’s hospital bed. I felt helpless: my physical proximity to the trapped body materialized a distance I could not cross. I felt tender: the tensile moment of our togetherness had to be endured. Stepping out of frame felt like an exhale, both exhilarating and emptying. When I fantasized about being with Spock through my television screen I did not imagine it would feel this full of love, this lonely.

As a durational piece, Zoo also exposes the strange exhaustion of mediated life—the constricted and interminable intimacy of mutual beholding. Of course we would deflect the discomfiture of our live calls by swirling around in eddies of private distraction: we look out of (or into) other windows, or mute the monotone of the other’s voice. We fake the visage of politesse and participation. But even this is just an extension, after all, of the countless moments we inwardly check out of physical space shared with other bodies—a packed train, a long line, a meeting place without a meeting. May tagpuan, walang pagtatagpo.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Handbook on the Geographies of Creativity

Volume Co-Editor, with Lily Kong
2020, Edward Elgar
ISBN: 978 1 78536 163 0

Can the ‘where’ of creativity help us examine how and why it has become a paradigmatic concept in contemporary economies and societies? Adopting a geographically diverse, theoretically rigorous approach, the Handbook answers in the affirmative, offering a cutting-edge study of creativity as it has emerged in policy, academic, activist, and cultural discourse over the last two decades. To this end, the volume departs from conventional modes of analyzing creativity (by industry, region, or sector) and instead identifies key themes that thread through shifting contexts of the creative in the arts, media, technology, education, governance, and development. By tracing the myriad spatialities of creativity, the chapters map its inherently paradoxical features: reinforcing persistent conditions of inequality even as it opens avenues for imagining and enacting more equitable futures.

Read the Introduction and buy the book here.

Filipino Performing Artists on Tour:
Creative Mobilities of Cultural Identity

Chapter Contributor, The Elgar Handbook on the Geographies of Creativity
2020, Edward Elgar

This essay considers how mobility—specifically the short-term, transnational mobilities of tours, festivals, and competitions by performing arts groups—generates and configures creative production. Previous studies of the mobilities of non-Western creative workers have focused primarily on diasporic artists, and the ways through which they produce and construct cultural identity within the bipolar transnational context of home and destination societies. Such a focus occludes the predicament of touring (non-migrant) performing artists from the global South. While contending with overseas audiences’ inevitable expectation for them to embody exoticised imaginings of distinctive locality, ethnicity, and race, they simultaneously approach cross-border mobilities as a means to both strengthen their reputational standing in their home contexts, and connect with aesthetic genre communities from other countries and regions. Drawing from in-depth interviews with key personnel from Aleron Choir and Daloy Dance Company, two Filipino artist-run ensembles who have toured extensively in Europe, the U.S., and East Asia, I track the ways that performance-as-mobility forms contradictory geographies of cultural fixity and creative connectivity. I argue for the value of foregrounding mobility in the effort to understand not only what creativity means to performing artists from the global South tasked with the specific burden of cultural representation, but what it makes possible for them across competing imperatives—professional, collective, and subjective—on a precarious transnational stage.

To request the full chapter, send me a message.

Southeast, Contingent

Essay Contribtor, ‘South by Southeast’ Exhibit Catalog
2020, Osage Art Foundation, Hong Kong

It all seems very random, a fellow visitor remarked during the exhibit opening of ‘Present Passing: South by Southeast’, on a cool Hong Kong evening in March 2018. Questions rose unspoken in response: what did they mean by random? What did they mean about meaning it so? It is impossible to tell now, nearly a year since those words were said and heard. This is for the good: in a longer, slower moment of inquiry, we might recall this quotidian act of judgment to locate a new point of departure. What could the impression of randomness signify for a curatorial project that aims precisely to loosen a certain spatial fixity around contemporary art?  Of course, the spatial metaphor in question—that notion of space which undergirds our instinctive assumptions of where art is from, where it is able to move, and where it must arrive and stay—is that of the region, of which Southeast Asia stands as both exception and exemplar. Such a rethinking of space necessarily intersects with the ongoing task of contemporary art to reflect on its double temporality as historical discipline and cultural praxis, ‘the time of art (contemporary art) and the art of time (art history).’

Buy the Present Passing: South by Southeast catalog here. To request the full essay, send me a message.

Soft Skills for Sale: Eisa Jocson’s Body of Work

Essay Contributor, Fusebox Festival Catalog
2020, Fusebox Festival, Austin TX 

Each of Jocson’s works focuses on a specific phenomenon of dance labor mapped onto the racialized and gendered Philippine body: ballet, pole dancing, and macho dancing; the hostessing work of Filipina migrant entertainers in Japanese nightclubs; and the theatrical labor of portraying cartoon characters in theme parks, which selectively hires (in the case of animal creatures) and excludes (in the case of white-skinned princesses) migrant Filipino performers. All these are surveyed and critically interpellated by the artist herself in the performance-lecture ‘Corponomy’, where  she dances before her PowerPoint slides with the solemnity of delivering a conference exegesis, sometimes to humorous effect. There’s a moment when she duct-tapes a pair of stacked stilettos to her feet and executes pelvic rotations and wall gyrations with mute, stony-faced exaggeration, keeping in time with projected videos of ballet warmups and competitive pole dance routines. As Jocson configures her body again and again to the strictures of form, the Dusty Springfield ballad “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” plays mournfully over the speakers.

Learn more about Eisa Jocson’s Corponomy here, and the Fusebox Festival here. To request a copy of the full essay, send me a message

Filipino-Chinese Singers in Cantopop

Article Author, Manuscript-in-progress 

In this essay, I seek to complicate the notion and narrative of Cantopop’s hybridity through a retrograde motion: looking further past its definitive peak in the 1980s to consider its ecosystem of performance in the 1970s and early 1980s, immediately before the linguistic and industrial centering of Cantonese recorded music as the primary mode of Hong Kong popular music production. Through ethnographic analyses of in-person and online media interviews with Teresa Carpio and Christine Samson, two Filipino-Chinese performing artists from Hong Kong, I identify three sociocultural registers of musical performance that are necessary for understanding the distinct history and character of Cantopop as hybrid: spatial, linguistic, and racial-ethnic. Through this analysis I aim to further contextualize the decline of Cantopop and, more importantly, reframe contemporary geographies and histories of Hong Kong cultural identity through its manifold musical subjects and practices.

This article-in-progress is part of the two-year research project ‘Transpopular Musics: Diasporic Filipino Musicians in Cantopop in Hong Kong and Singapore, 1960s-1980s’, under the 2019 Early Career Scheme of the University Grants Council, Hong Kong. Read more about the project here and here.

Packaging Talent: The Migrant Creative Labor Management of Overseas Filipino Musicians

Chapter Contributor, International Migration in Southeast Asia: Continuities and Discontinuities
2016, Springer
ISBN 978 981 287 712 3

In recent years, research into labor market intermediaries in migration has sought to move away from the stereotypical image of the unscrupulous and exploitative recruiter, toward a more nuanced understanding of third-party processes in the mediation of migrant labor across borders. This chapter contributes to this field of critical inquiry through an analysis of the agents and managers who facilitate the employment of overseas Filipino musicians (OFMs) in hotels and cruise ships in Asia. I contend that as a sector of migrant creative labor, the provision of live music entertainment in these themed leisure venues constitutes a unique form of high-skilled specialized labor in work conditions characteristic of low- and semi-skilled migrant labor—namely, hyperflexible and racialized.

Using the concept of migration infrastructure, I frame the work of OFM agents and managers as a process of packaging talent. The process of packaging is further subdivided into the organizational practices of recruitment and training for the particular aesthetic and affective requirements of live music entertainment; and the representational strategies of  branding to strengthen the racialized and gendered reputation of OFMs as competent yet low-cost providers of creative labor. Beyond merely facilitating the movement of workers between origin and destination countries, or between the spheres of production and consumption, OFM agents and managers are actively involved in shaping the demand for migrant creative labor, responding to and ultimately seeking to profit from the paradoxical tension between high skill and low cost which constitutes the employment context of OFMs.

Purchase the book here. To request the full chapter, send me a message.