Title

Refusing to be Occupied: The Role of History and Literature in Reclaiming and Awakening the Chamoru Self

Date of Award

5-2022

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

First Advisor

Dr. Grace Livingston

Abstract

I began my journey of reading Chamoru literature and history written by Chamoru people after taking an African American Studies course entitled “Black Fictions and Feminisms.” We focused largely on Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought. In Collins’ book, On Intellectual Activism, she reveals how writing Black Feminist Thought “became [her] chosen terrain of intellectual activism," a means through which she presented African American women’s experiences as marginalized by the intersections of race, class, and gender, bringing to the forefront their voices and narratives to challenge their erasure and misconceptualization throughout history and to the present day. While reflecting on my own experience and history as a Chamoru woman whose parents and ancestors come from the U.S. territory of Guam, I began to question what has become lost, taken, and erased from Chamoru people, culture, identity, and the island as a result of U.S. colonialism and imperialism on Guam. I first read Craig Santos Perez’s "from unincorporated territory [hacha]". He tells how his poetry is a “strategic” position and site for the island of Guam to take on a decolonized meaning as the native land of Chamoru people, and for Chamorus to “begin re-territorializing the Chamorro language in relation to [their] own [bodies] by way of the page.” His motive to write "from unincorporated territory [hacha]" reminded me of Collins’ spirit in writing Black Feminist Thought. I started to wonder how much more literature and history was out there about my people and island that counteracted the dominant narrative of Guam as a strategic military location whose worth depended on its usability by the United States. As a Chamoru person who was born and raised in the United States (also referred to as a “mainland Chamoru”) this personal investigation invigorated a desire to connect with my culture, history, and identity through reading. Furthermore, this form of self-education has equipped me with the tools to criticize the United States’ ownership of and relationship to Guam, realizing that as the Indigenous people of Guam, Chamorus are entitled to their land and the opportunity to govern themselves free from colonial rule.

In reflecting on my journey as a “mainland Chamoru,” I wondered the following: How would engagement with Chamoru literature and Chamoru history on Guam, told by experts on Chamoru history, influence cultural and identity reinvigoration for Chamoru peoples living in the United States? It remains necessary to learn about the experiences of colonized peoples from their perspectives, especially when the group at hand is one’s people.

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