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Performing Elusive Homecomings: Mobility, Embodiment, and Diasporic Filipino Youth

Martin IV Manalansan


The Filipino global diaspora has precipitated the circulation of embodied modesof identification and belonging. This paper focuses on the experiences of Filipinoyoung people who were born and/or raised abroad, and who have returned to thePhilippines to seek fame and economic mobility in the entertainment industry.These migrant hopefuls, unlike older counterparts, enact the material tensionsand semantic contradictions that form part of popular discourse around lifeabroad. As such, institutional media practices and mass audience perceptionsmirror such conditions and create shifting systems of valuation around suchthings as skin color, accent, and bodily comportment. To respond and conformto these demands, these migrant returnees refashion cultural citizenship bydeploying performances of locality and authenticity with varying successes. Suchcorporeal revisions enable the displacement of attachments to and affinities forvarious expressions of home, citizenship, and selfhood. The main contention ofthis ethnographic and media study is that these experiences constitute what isbeing called an “aesthetics of mobility” where the shifts and travels of meaningsand value inherent among this group return migrants are embodied in ways thatunravel notions of class, gender, race and national belonging. The experiences ofthis youth group provide a distinctive narrative about the travails and travel ofbodies and generations of modern Filipinos in the world.


balikbayan; cultural citizenship; identity; performance studies; popular culture; return migration

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/1881