Ageing in Subic Bay: Transnational Filipina-American marriages, care and subjective transformations

Authors: Michael Hawkins*, UNC-Chapel Hill
Topics: Cultural Geography, Gender, Social Geography
Keywords: ageing, military geographies, gender, Philippines
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Mid-City, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Recent geographic work understands age as a socially and spatially constructed marker of identity, suggesting that ageing bodies carry with them specific social meaning, needs and desires (Del Casino 2009, Hanrahan 2015). Through interviews and fieldwork conducted in Subic Bay, Philippines, a site once home to the largest overseas US military base, in this paper I analyze transnational Filipina-American marriages in Subic today. Decades after first meeting in the bars, dancehalls and restaurants that catered to American soldiers, many of these men and women have returned to Subic together in retirement.

Centering transnational marriage, I first draw on the pervasive way ageing American veterans described initial desires for a wife who would “take care of them”, situating this within racialized, colonial and historical conflations of Filipina bodies with care. I analyze the emergence of an economy of care in which American men and Filipina women described the performance of care over time as a measurable category that either opened up or closed off women’s access to a US military pension following the death of their American spouse. I conclude by using Filipina women’s life histories to suggest that framing these marriages solely as sites of exchange problematically occludes how decade-long marriages transform lives and subjectivities over time. I instead draw on Lieba Faier (2009) to understand transnational marriage as sites where discrepant dreams and agendas come into “productive relation” highlighting how marriages remake and transform subjectivities, redraw boundaries of belonging, corrode old social ties and introduce new opportunities and desires.

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