(Re)Solving the South(ern) Puzzle: Katitikan as Alternative Discourse

The impetus for the Katitikan project- a literary journal embedded firmly in the intersections of national, regional, and postcolonial discourses- lies in an often misarticulated necessity for the interrogation of various notions of “South” and its socio-political implications vis-à-vis literary production within the Philippine Archipelago. Crucial to this investigation is the critical turn in moving away from understanding the “South” merely in terms of geographic, identity politics, but instead understanding its theoretical potentialities through a poetic and representational practice that straddles the interconnection of various regions in the Philippines while simultaneously problematizing and deconstructing the notion of a “regional” literature.

Perhaps much of the difficulty, of which this theoretical proposition must first negotiate with, results from earlier discourses on the theoretical and creative production inscribed within the inchoate spaces that emerge from national-regional boundaries, which has prematurely signified “regional” writing as a marginal subject haunted by the Metro Manila spectre, articulated through problematic national-regional binaries. Nevertheless, attempts to carve out a regional space has only further elided discursive, intersectional possibilities by which writers, located throughout the Philippines, may negotiate with their own socio-historically situated subjectivities. The notion of a Southern literature is precisely located in what has been a tumultuous discourse that has had to content with unstable, naturalized contentions from both the center and margin attempting to contain it within specific modalities of enunciation which, while offering opportunities for writers in these spaces, can only be considered a limited articulation at best, a restricted silence at worst.

Relevant then to the Katitikan Literary Journal is understanding the South as an intersectional rubric that is informed by various political discourses – class, gender, race, etc- that inform numerous national-regional narratives, and offering a discursive space which critiques specific, homogenous cultural articulations, while reflexive to its own contingency to similarities and differences encountered by writers and within the understanding of the South (as within the nation, but also as nation-forming) as a mode of lived experience. What this entails is a deconstruction of binary categories, regional as opposed to national, Luzon as opposed to Visayas/Minanao, and instead proposing a rearticulated, discursive space that recognizes the stabilities and instabilities of these socio-cultural subjectivities, that a writer can and is informed no matter their location, by the notion of a Southern cosmology in the Philippines but also through a reconsideration of the Philippines as South. The South emerges then no longer as an inchoate space in these binaries, but as a narrative of being that illuminates the rich specificities of multiple subjectivities throughout our archipelago and their negotiations with vastly unique ways of being.

Here, Katitikan allows a reconfiguration then of South as hybrid, as interaction between and through various literary and social lines, as nonbinary, and as trans! This means that the journal places a premium on writing and/or authorship that is crosscultural, translational, regional and national, and transnational. Katitikan forwards writing that is informed by an understanding of production as transformative, as crossing and creating various fields, and as a contestation and negotiation with numerous social boundaries both in the present and as reified by prior discourses. The journal thus celebrates sameness and difference as shifting interfaces to a larger cultural voice that emerges and is reclaimed through a dynamic, heteroglossic field of production.

Ultimately, the South in “Philippine South” is inscribed as a means of reappropriating the term to indicate a postcolonial, discursive field of production that recognizes but also goes beyond simplified identity politics. Highlighted are ways by which both existence within and an understanding of the Philippine South, in all its connotations, is enabled, limited, or expanded by a continuously changing political climate and informed by unique cultural formations and practices. Katitikan then is not simply an articulation of a “Southern” voice, which is perhaps the inclination for earlier scholarship, but rather a means of talking about and through both the Southern Philippines and a Philippine South.

Perhaps then this is where Katitikan, as bridging of “ka” and “titik”, the linguistic rhapsodizing of a coming together under letters, or simply put a union in literature, that we are most able to absolve the contradictions of regional, national, binary productions, while understanding that it is in the coming together we are most able to understand the intimacies of our own visions of the South. We belong to a world that is offered to us through literature but it is also literature offered to us through our union, through the machination of a space carved out not merely as a reaction but also as a necessity to our differences and similarities. It is in Katitikan then that we are allowed a moment in Philippine literary history to rediscover, reinscribe, and reposition ourselves in a webbing simultaneously archipelagic, national, and global.

Thomas Leonard Shaw is a queer, liminal poet-critic who lives in perpetual transit from Siargao to Metro Manila. Once a Creative Writing student and Palanca Foundation scholar at the University of the Philippines Diliman, and a poetry fellow at the 1st Philippine National LGBTQ Writers’ Workshop, the 1 st Cebu Young Writers Studio, and 26th Iligan National Writers’ Workshop, Thomas now majors in Comparative Literature, and studies what it means to be a writer and critic in this global age of cultural and artistic production. He was an awardee at the 2019 Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio Literary Awards and has been published by Voice and Verse Magazine. With a research interest in memory studies and the intersections between literature, history and imperial expansion, he hopes to one day teach literature and to help organize the first creative writing workshop in Siargao. His current project is an exploration of the dialectics between memory and history in the fiction of Angélica Gorodischer.

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