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Inventing Vernacular Speech-Acts: Articulating Filipino Self-Determination in the United States

E. San Juan, Jr.


How vital is an immigrant’s native language for group self-affirmation? While the Filipino American community in the US (now the largest group of citizens of Asian descent) has not so far demanded bilingual education in the way the Chinese Americans or Chicanos have, the influx of new immigrants more conversant in “Filipino” (the official term for the national language of the Philippines) than in English is producing changes in ethnic self-identification more serious than before. The demand for college courses in Filipino is only a symptom of the greater awareness of exclusion and marginalization within the larger polity supposedly characterized by pluralism and multiculturalism. Filipino professionals and workers speaking in Filipino are growing, but they have been penalized in many ways. Can language serve as a means to assert national autonomy? The right to speak or communicate in one’s native language is not just a minor attempt in identity politics but represents a crucial index to elucidating and unraveling the liberaldemocratic rationale for the continuing neocolonial subordination of the Filipino people to white-supremacist corporate globalization.


bilingualism, Filipino-American, identity politics

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/1554