Date of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Type

Honors Project


College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Veena Deo

Second Advisor

María Jesús Leal


This project analyzes the literary works and the iconic role of Filipino nationalist José Rizal before, during, and after the Spanish American War of 1898. Rizal’s social activism and writing inspired a revolution against the Friarocracy in the Philippines. He also influenced Filipino American writers who reference Rizal’s construction of the Filipino woman in Christianity and Filipinos fighting against colonial oppression. Additionally, Filipino American writers illustrate how being Filipino in the US today is a transcultural experience rather than a simple binary of traditional Philippines and modern America. Recognizing Spain as an earlier colonizing force is critical in understanding the complexities evoked by Filipino American writers. Thus, the primary focus of this project is to read Rizal’s works through a concept that postcolonial literary theorist, Homi Bhabha, calls an interstitial cultural space as well as to read Filipino American texts “awry” as proposed by Martin Joseph Ponce to show how Filipino Spanish American identities have been constructed.

This project analyzes how Spanish writers and historians such as Unamuno and W.E. Retana have appropriated Rizal as the quintessential Filipino Spaniard of the Philippines. Additionally, this project addresses how American historian and biographer Austin Craig also appropriated Rizal as the quintessential representation of a “brown race” of Filipinos for American imperialistic purposes after Spanish colonialism. In addition, the project analyzes Rizal’s two novels: Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo alongside two Filipino American texts to argue that the Philippines is a country whose cultural history and literature must be defined in the context of both Spanish and United States colonialisms. Reading Rizal deconstructively elucidates how Filipino literature gestures to the United States, Philippines, and Spain and does not belong rigidly to a single national context. This study, then, suggests that Filipino American literature must be read transculturally and separately from Asian American literary studies and recognized as signifying a complex and fluid transcultural context. In other words, in agreement with Ponce, this study “un-ones” Asian American literary studies, unsettling Filipino American literature’s place in a discourse in which language is a terrain of struggle and contention between dominant colonial and marginalized voices.








Departmental Honors Project