Manalansan, Martin F. 2003. Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora. Durham: Duke University Press.
The book fills a gap in the literature on globalization and transnationalism through an ethnography of Filipino gay (bakla) immigrants in New York, and the processes of identity formation in their everyday life. Manalansan discusses: the permeable boundaries of the bakla and the Western/cosmopolitan gay; the use of queer language in translating/vernacularizing the diasporic experiences; the exoticization/marginalization of the non-white gay man; the “intimate geographies of suffering” of the bakla infected with HIV; their daily lives imbued with experiences of racism and exclusion, etc. Manalansan discusses the identity performance of the bakla within the idioms of byuti (beauty, health, personhood, social-being, fate, etc)and drama (daily life struggles). As he writes, “The byuti of the bakla is confronted by various displacing processes of immigration, racism, class elitism, and cultural dissonance” (190). The Filipino gayimmigrant is “multiply positioned between bakla and gay traditions, between notions of Filipinoness and Americanness, between memories of homeland and the glaring realities of living in another country” (191). The drama of their lives is the struggle for survival, and to survive is to create a sense of citizenship or belonging within this complex stage that is the diaspora. For example, cross-dressingprovides a space for Filipino gay men “to reinvent themselves according to their own terms” (151). He concludes that the bakla, rather than an identity assumed by particular men, is “more accurately a slippery condition, a performative event or a series of events of self-formation” (186). The bakla continually perform according to “changing stages or performative spaces and conditions” (186), as seen for example in their linguistic practice called swardspeak (Filipino queer language). The home and nation “occupy a persistent yet vexed place” in the lives of the bakla in the diaspora. The family plays an important role in their lives in such a way that the family “occupies, if not haunts” both of their quotidian and spectacular lives, and also “marks both the continuities and the discontinuities of diasporic living” (187). The family is the “invisible chain” that links the bakla’s present to the past (99).