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Affect and History in Ninotchka Rosca’s

State of War


breaking the spell of repetition of the family shame and misfortune

in a new socio-political setting, and with the aid of modern


IV. Betrayal, Becoming, and Story-Telling

Anna’s life story takes place mostly during the emergent reign

of Marcos’ military dictatorship, which sought to gain total control

of the country by imposing martial law and monopolizing lucrative

private industries. The novel underscores the terrorist reign of the

Marcos regime by creating allegorical figures, such as Colonel

Urbano Amor, the head of the secret police and the symbolic figure

of the state oppression and control over the people in neocolonial

Philippines, and the Commander

the distant, fictional version of

President Marcos, who controls the country and the military. The

oppressive social and political condition forces the people to go

underground in their resistance, resorting to guerrilla warfare and

peasant revolts. People who fight the government either take on

double identities or act in disguise. Since disguise and elusiveness

are important strategies in the popular war against totalitarian

government, the opposition between government and resistance

forces is elusive and hard to pinpoint, for the dictatorship faces an

enemy who appears to be ordinary people. Thus, Anna describes

the war as an “illusory war that was everywhere and yet was

nowhere” (Rosca, 1988: 20). The invisibility of the enemy

constitutes the crisis of the environment to which the military

government responds by resorting to measures of surveillance,

arrest, torture, and terror. In other words, the history of

dictatorship is propelled by government fear of an elusive and

invisible enemy.

Viet Thanh Nguyen has rightly pointed out that the

struggles between the government and the people signify “the

contestation over the manipulation of appearances and meaning

that contribute to the rule of society” (2002: 130). One of the