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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Anthropology of the hometown : the workings of migration and intimacy in the Town of Dollars, Philippines Docot, Ma Ledda Brina (Dada)


Filipinos are now among the most mobile population in the world, and much literature on Filipino migration has focused on what happens overseas. This dissertation investigates the effects of migration at home, in an attempt to address the gap in existing literature, as has been noted by scholars of migration. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork as well as from an archive of experiences as returning resident of Nabua, a lowland riverine-agricultural town located in Southeastern Luzon Island, Philippines, I explore how migration and intimacy co-produce what is now called by its residents “Town of Dollars.” In the Bicol region, Nabua is known for the many male townsfolk who served in the United States Navy from the beginning of the 20th century until the closure of the U.S. Bases in 1991, and who sent dollars to their relatives who were left behind. Generations of people from Nabua have been shaped by this migration and by the stories brought home of the “American dream.” Therefore, this dissertation investigates Nabua as a site in which desires for and orientations for migrant futures are produced and conditioned. I look into the entangled workings of migration and intimacies in everyday life – including both quotidian and spectacular public events. The chapters in this dissertation make sense of several domains such as religious ritual, memorialization projects by returned retirees, and the private realm of the family. However, like many rural communities in the Philippines and elsewhere, Nabua has also been transformed by rapid globalization and neoliberal restructuring, resulting in the transformation and structuring of life, particularly of the majority of the non-migrating rural poor. Engaging with feminist, phenomenological, and postcolonial/decolonizing renderings of the lived experience, this dissertation argues for the need to bridge discussions of the much-studied Filipino diaspora with the investigation of what occurs in the origin community of migrants, including how migration-oriented state imaginings impinge on the lives of the rural poor. Finally, my effort in writing an “anthropology of the hometown” approaches questions of intentionality, self-reflexivity, and empathy for interlocutors who might also be kin, neighbors, and townsmates.

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