FAQ 2: Decolonizing Creative Writing? Decolonizing Publishing? Is it possible?

“Do we break the rules? How do we get what we want, as individual and community artists? How do we get to do what we love to do as artists? And then finally: are we interested in social change? If we are interested in social change, what are we doing, how are we participating in movements towards social change?”

That’s what I wrote a couple of years ago, when a group of young Pin@y MFA students invited me to chair their panel for AAAS.

I am thinking about this again; I am always thinking about this. Rather than consenting to being embattled by the whiteness, maleness, and heteronormativity of MFA culture. Rather than bringing those dominant cultural standards into our own communities, and replicating those power structures, and eschewing critical thought. What does it look like for POC and WOC to write with rigor in a culture and space where rather than operating in reactionary mode, we are centered, where our discourse and politics are centered, where our aesthetics are centered. Where our discourses, politics, aesthetics are complex, contradictory, intersectional. Not the dominant culture’s standards, with ethnic reference neatly plugged into it, but messed the fuck up, picked apart, Frankensteined. Truly hybrid, liminal space. Third, fourth, fifth space. What would decolonized creative writing praxis look like? Both on the individual level, and on the community level?

There is nothing wrong with pursuing an MFA degree. There is nothing wrong with pursuing publication with nationally recognized publishers. How can you get yo shit, but be woke, be critical of motivation, mess with the power structure, not replicate it, not succumb to respectability politics, which serves to erase our dissent, and makes us docile, grateful subjects. How can we clarify and foreground our values, build and maintain/make sustainable our own shit.

I am thinking about this, writing all of this, of course, from the POV of a Pinay who is overworked, burning out, whose free emotional labor is constantly expected and demanded. I believe this is something that also requires decolonizing.


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