Filipino PrimitiveAccumulation and Resistance in the American Museum

Filipino PrimitiveAccumulation and Resistance in the American Museum

Sarita Echavez See

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9781479842667

Publisher: NYU Press


This book takes Karl Marx’s concept of “primitive accumulation,” usually conceived of as an economic process for the acquisition of land and the extraction of labor, and argues that we also must understand it as a project of knowledge accumulation. The material collection and display of things associated with racially backward or so-called primitive peoples form the epistemological foundation of American knowledge production, which should more accurately be called knowledge acquisition or extraction. Nowhere can we appreciate so easily the intertwined nature of the triple forces of knowledge accumulation—capital, colonial, and racial—than in the imperial museum, where the objects of accumulation remain materially, visibly preserved. The Philippine exhibit in the American museum serves as an allegory and a “real” case of the primitive accumulation subtending imperial American knowledge just as the extraction of Filipino labor contributes to American capitalist colonialism. With this understanding of the Filipino foundations of the development of an American accumulative drive toward power/knowledge, this book then turns to Filipino American cultural producers like Carlos Bulosan, Ma-Yi Theater Company, and Stephanie Syjuco, who have created powerful parodies of an accumulative epistemology that has been naturalized in different sites and spaces (the museum, the art gallery, and the agribusiness farm) even as they also have proposed powerful alternative, anti-accumulative social ecologies.