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Affect and History in Ninotchka Rosca’s

State of War


as if the shame in the origin of his being had to be purged by the

aid of some higher civilization. But the method of purgation results

in the creation of another ghost in the family, rendering the

bloodline of the family even more complicated and untraceable.

Significantly, the intimate family history is contextualized by the

transition of power from Spanish colonialization to American

imperial conquest of the Philippines, turning the predicament of

personal history into a metaphor for the collective history of the


The family history surrounding the generational shifts from

Maya to Mayang-Carlos Lucas, and from Mayang-Carlos Lucas to

Luis Carlos, foregrounds the broader history of the Philippine

Revolution against Spain (1896-1898), the Philippine-American

War (1899-1902), and Japanese occupation during World War II

(1941-1945). Rosca weaves the complex and precipitous histories

of multiple colonialisms with repeated intrusions of war, uprising,

violence, and revolution, creating a sensation of unending

repetition to the extent that the historical present starts to take on

a spatial dimension, forming the ambiance of the characters’ living

space. That is to say, historical violence often confronts the

characters on the level of affect before it is made available to them

as historical events. Instead of giving a full scale account of the

tumultuous history of the Philippine’s attempt to shed the shackles

of colonization and establish an independent republic, Rosca

concentrates on how the chaos of the period is experienced by the

Villaverde family, not as historical events, but as a crisis within the


not war, but the


of war. The characters are

constantly confronted with the intensity of the historical present

and are pressed to respond to it affectively. These moments of

affective reaction to the impending historical changes are translated

into magical realism accounts of the bizarre sensation for the

looming of a major historical event, or of some dumbfounding

change. On the eve of the Philippine-American War (1899-1902),

Maya’s son Carlos Lucas “was struck by the tremendous quality of