Ilokano and Amianan Studies, Northern Luzon Cultures, and the Universities from the Regions: Towards a Theory and Praxis (Part 3)

(Aurelio S. Agcaoili, PhD, teaches at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and coordinates the Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program of the Department of Hawaiian and Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures. You can email him at: [email protected] or log on to his website: for other articles on Ilokano life, culture, and society.  – Ed)

HERE we deny the equation of difficulty and impossibility, arguing that in the building up of an imagined nation—an imagined political entity that serves as the instrument for the pursuit of common ends for all the ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines and the various Philippine communities in the diaspora—it is, indeed difficult to come up with a balance between all these opposing realities but nonetheless, there is the political and ethical obligation to find that balance as is demanded by the social contract, and which, in itself, one of the organizational bases of the social contract.

Forms of Knowledge and ‘Knowledges’

One of the key problems of the ‘scientificization’ of the current understanding of knowledge is that when ‘knowledge’ does not go through the rigor of what is generally understood as ‘the scientific method’ that begins with a problem and the search for that predictable, calculable, and repeatable procedure to subject the problem into ‘anatomical’ parts, such a body of knowledge must be rendered ‘unscientific.’ This kind of a position brings into the extreme the ‘shanghaiing’ of knowledge by today’s positivistic science and arrogating unto itself all claims to knowledge that follows the rigid scientific procedure that is hewed on prediction, calculation, and repetition. We register here an objection to this view of knowledge and propose the broad understanding of what human knowledge is all about and the even more democratic possibility that, in fact, human knowledge cannot be one and entire and whole even if this is the ideal but is, in reality, plural, tentative, exploratory, more-or-less, fluid. In looking at human knowledge this way, we are able to give a discursive space for other knowledge/s apart from the kind of knowledge that is familiar to us, and thus, is convenient and comfortable to us. It is discourse that we are after here—that reality that we have to guard in the coming into a conversation with all ‘others’ that are not really ‘others’ in the grand political project to create unity in diversity, a sense of the ‘et pluribus unum’ that allows the co-existences of all forms of expressions of human life.

In IAS, we reject this subtle tyranny of this model of ‘scientific knowledge’ that marginalizes and erases the sincere and honest attempt of the ‘studies on the human and the social’ to make us understand what is it to be human and what is in human society that makes that society ‘human.’  This rejection does not reject the constructed truths of   the ‘studies on the natural’ which studies is sometimes referred to as ‘the hard sciences’ or, in some instances, in its most extreme form, ‘the real science.’ In IAS, as in the PS, we see the creative connection, the constructive interface of both models of human knowledge, seeing that one needs the other for insight, and the other needs the other for explanation. For indeed as it were that ‘the studies on the human and social,’ also called ‘the studies of the cultural,’ presents to us insights that require explanation while the ‘studies of nature and physical world’ presents to us explanations of phenomena but such explanation needs re-framing so that we can draw from it an insight into what the world as ‘kosmos’ is all about. In practical terms, we ask the question: Does IAS need ‘the hard sciences,’ to wit, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, botany, genetics, botany and the like? The answer is yes. Corollary to this question is: Does botany have to have a nation? The answer is no, but it pays to have botany that makes use of itself in a particular culture, language, and body politic. For what would the use of botany if it cannot even tell the floral diversity of a place and therefore a culture or a language that have something to do with botany in the first place?

At best, our understanding of modern science today must have to be reformulated and brought back to its conceptualization that roots itself from the notion of the Latin ‘scire,’ to know. There is this act of knowing—this ‘to know’—in the cultural studies as there is  in the studies of nature, if, for some reason, we recognize the tentative split of these two forms of knowledge. But in recognizing the beginnings of human knowledge as we understand it today, human knowledge with a broader, more encompassing strokes—in recognizing these two broad forms—we realize that there is no set logic that prohibits and prevents us from looking at other forms, other models, other possibilities. This is also in keeping with the fact that ‘the science of nature’ has yet to give us a full explanation of what is in there in nature and so is ‘the science of the human and the social’—also called ‘the science of the cultural.’ A re-reading of many cultures and societies and their models of human understanding and thus, of their own version of ‘human knowledge’ would make us realize that human knowledge comes in various forms and packaging depending on so many variables, including the variables of the cultural and the linguistic.

IAS as Resistance and Re-Claiming

The relevance of IAS is that of its project and program to resist and to re-claim.

Resistance is seen here in the context of appreciation of the plurality of cultures and languages, and the plurality of societies and thus the need to draw up guarantees in order for this plurality to not become homogenized and ‘massified’ in the end. The idea of homogenization of languages and cultures may be a grand political project that has some genesis in the need for the ‘nationalization’ of a language, for instance; or it may mean the need to ‘purify’ a society, and thus the culture of that society by going the route of ‘Aryanism’ and thus the eventual ‘Dachauwization’ of all that is impure, which could be those related to immigrants and exiles, and those of the margins, those that are not part of the mainstream—or of anything not held sacred and dear by the holders of power.

While the project to ‘nationalize’ a culture or a language, for example, is a political necessity for the survival and unity of the ‘national’ body politic, the act of ‘nationalizing’ is not value-free as it carries with it the burden of recognizing one culture and thus, one language, against all those ‘other’ cultures and ‘other’ languages. In effect, there is something laudable in the effort to bring together seemingly disparate groups of people in a nation and country by reason of their various ethnolinguistic heritages so that a ‘national’ conversation could come about.

(To be continued)