Coincidence and Consequence: Marianism and the Mass Media in the Global Philippines

Abstract

In this essay, I examine several events involving Filipinos at home and abroad that organize themselves around convergences of mediation: sites and events where figures and practices of religious mediation interact with modern technologies of the mass media. Illustrating these at the center of the essay is an ethnography of a festival celebrating the Virgin Mary's birthday that was organized by a Filipino devotional group and took place in New York City. Framing this event in the essay is a seemingly unrelated incident: the kidnapping of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) by a group demanding that the Philippine government withdraw its coalition forces from Iraq. One extraordinary coincidence and the appeal for divine intervention immediately links the two. What further draws these two events into relatedness, however, is that they both entail imaginaries of the global Philippines that are rooted in a shared history of transnational movement, but diverge owing to significant differences in socioeconomic status and physical vulnerability. For the religious imaginary wherein the Philippines is firmly and safely situated in a worldwide order of Marian redemption betokens the privilege to assume preemptive control over dangerous worlds via particular frameworks of interpretation. Using Filipino Marianism first as a lens through which to understand the range of affinities between religious and technological mediation, I then examine the ways in which such intermedial relationships reveal the associative paths that generate class-inflected interpretations of crisis and danger, as well as the strategies of power and control to which those paths give rise.

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"Virgin Mary."

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"Weeping Mary."

Editorial Footnotes

Cultural Anthropology has published other essays on Phillipinos in diaspora. See Lieba Faier's "Runaway Stories: The Underground Micromovements of Filipina Oyomesan in Rural Japan" (2008) and Nicole Constable's "At Home but Not at Home: Filipina Narratives of Ambivalent Returns" (1999).

Cultural Anthropology has also published many essays on religion. See particularly Omri Elisha's "Moral Ambitions of Grace: The Paradox of Compassion and Accountability in Evangelical Faith-Based Activism" (2008), Brian Silverstein's "Disciplines of Presence in Modern Turkey: Discourse, Companionship, and the Mass Mediation of Islamic Practice" (2008) Todd Ochoa's "Versions of the Dead: Kalunga, Cuban-Kongo Materiality, and Ethnography" (2007) and Anne Meneley's "Fashions and Fundamentalisms in Fin-de-Siécle Yemen: Chador Barbie and Islamic Socks" (2007). 

About the Author

Deirdre de la Cruz is an assistant professor in the Asian Languages and Cultures department at the University of Michigan.  She received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University in 2006. Entitled "All His Instruments: Mary, Miracles, and the Media in the Catholic Philippines," her dissertation examines several apparitions of the Virgin Mary and the devotional communities that attend to them, paying particular attention to their conjunction with the rise of mass mediated practices and cultures in modernity. Other research interests include: history and anthropology, U.S. cultural imperialism, visual culture and the anthropology of the senses, theories of temporality, language and translation, and the "power" of prayer.

Multimedia

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Philippine Daily Inquirer, "Even in the layout of several newspapers’ front pages, the miracle of the bleeding statue appears to intervene in the political drama.." July 14, 2004.
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Loren Ryter, "A pageant of Marys."

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Loren Ryter, "World Marian Peace Regatta." September 11, 1999.

Questions for Classroom Discussion

1. What does de la Cruz mean by the 'global Philippines'?

2. What role does spectacle play in mediation?

3. What is the role of media in religious experience?

4. What role did the media have in Arroyo's decision to pull out of Iraq?

5. How can Marianism mediate between geographically dispersed Filipinos?

Related Readings

Constable, Nicole (1999) - At Home but Not at Home: Filipina Narratives of Ambivalent Returns. Cultural Anthropology 14(2): 203-228.

Elisha, Omri (2008) - Moral Ambitions of Grace: The Paradox of Compassion and Accountability in Evangelical Faith-Based Activism. Cultural Anthropology 23(1): 154-189.

Faier, Lieba (2008) - Runaway Stories: The Underground Micromovements of Filipina Oyomesan in Rural Japan. Cultural Anthropology 23(4): 630-659.

Meneley, Michael (2007) Fashions and Fundamentalisms in Fin-de-Siécle Yemen: Chador Barbie and Islamic Socks. Cultural Anthropology 22(2): 214-243.

Ochoa, Todd (2001) - Versions of the Dead: Kalunga, Cuban-Kongo Materiality, and Ethnography. Cultural Anthropology 22(4): 473-500.

Silverstein, Brian (2005) - Disciplines of Presence in Modern Turkey: Discourse, Companionship, and the Mass Mediation of Islamic Practice. Cultural Anthropology 23(1): 118-153.

Editorial Overview

In the August, 2009 issue of Cultural Anthropology, Deirdre de la Cruz examines several events involving Filipinos, organized around the convergence of religious mediation practices and mass media technologies. The essay focuses on an ethnography of a festival celebrating the Virgin Mary's birthday in New York City, as framed by a hostage situation involving a Filipino worker in Iraq. Through what de la Cruz describes as an extraordinary coincidence, which involved a sighting of a bleeding statue of Mary, the two events converged through concurrent media coverage and appeals for divine intervention. 

Both events, de la Cruz argues, are drawn together by similar imaginaries of the global Philippines, rooted in a shared history of transnational movement but divergent in their treatment of socioeconomic status and physical vulnerability. Using Filipino Marianism as a lens to understand the ties between religious and technological mediation, de la Cruz examines how intermedial relationships are implicated in the generation of class-inflected interpretations of crisis and danger. 

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