Talk Title

Freshwater: The rise of aquaculture in Filipinx/o visual cultures


In the 1970s, amid fears of declining fish stocks in international marine spaces, state agencies began industrializing Philippine freshwater sites and introducing standardized aquaculture (fish farming) technology to lakes around the archipelago. This inward shift altered the look and organization of lakes, and textured how freshwater appeared in research and development reports, fisher manuals, and films. In this presentation, I outline the ways that literary freshwater sites have been aesthetically shaped by competing visions of scientific development, state repression, and protest. Through a feminist, science and technology studies (STS) oriented visual analysis of two films—Ishmael Bernal's 1976 film Nunal Sa Tubig (Speck in the Water) and Alix Adolfo Jr.'s 2007 film Isda—I ask how freshwater shapes the visual field. Bernal's documentary aesthetics re-narrate the explosive story of freshwater lake Laguna de Bay through a female friendship threatened by a love triangle. Adolfo Jr.'s film captures a fabled story in which a woman gives birth to a fish and, through innovative camera shots, imagines how human relationships might change with fish at their center. Ultimately, I argue that both films engage in a countervisual aesthetics and focus on women and fish perspectives to critique aquaculture's "extractive view," a term theorized by Macarena Gómez-Barris that appraises environments only through their resource outputs. Instead, these films reach for submerged visions of creative, interspecies flourishing, which flow outward from the Philippines to impact literary cultures of the Americas. Freshwater and its histories of extraction, environmental management and community revolt, then, are important extensions of Asian/American literary formation. Through freshwater optics, I offer a diasporic approach to Asian American literature studies that sees environmental struggles in the Philippines not only as specks in the water, but as aesthetic archives for living differently.


Trisha Federis Remetir is a Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She specializes in narratives of race, extraction, and migration in and across the Pacific. She received her PhD in English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her book project, Unfamiliar Waters, traces how extractive industries and waterscapes have altered and influenced contemporary Filipinx/o films, poetry, and experimental media. Her published and forthcoming works may be found in Environment, Media and Popular Culture in Southeast AsiaPhilippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints, and ASAP/Journal. In her research and creative life, she is interested in witnessing the racial and environmental histories of the Philippines and connecting to other sites of environmental survival and struggle through the comparative potential of water.


Event Details

0 people are interested in this event

User Activity

No recent activity