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Affect and History in Ninotchka Rosca’s

State of War


times a specific sense of intensity to which Anna’s unborn


Ismael Villaverde Banyaga

must respond in his becoming-



One can imagine that history as is recorded in such

sensory manners can capture the affective apprehension of the

historical present that might break the inert abstraction of official

history. In her final effort to teach the children and pass down the

memories of the ordinary people’s life and resistance, and with her

prospect of welcoming the arrival of an heir who “would be the

first of the Capuchin monk’s descendants to be born innocent,

without fate” (

Rosca, 1988:

382), Anna manages to occupy, if

temporarily, the position of a long-lost Babaylan priestess by being

mother, history teacher, healer and the healed, all at the same time.

V. Conclusion

State of War

tells the tumultuous history of the Philippines

from Spanish colonialization to the Marcos military dictatorship by

delineating the intersection of pubic history with private, everyday

life. While the historical narrative is structured on a national scale,

the ways in which the institutional powers impact individuals are

revealed as part of everyday life experiences. As such, colonial

violence, military oppression, and epochal changes in the nation

are considered crises in the environment, to which individuals must

respond affectively in order to survive. Instead of taking these

changes as devastating, traumatic events needing to be worked

through and redeemed, I read them as episodes in which the

present of history opens up to reveal the affective relations among

different agents of history. My arguments therefore underscore

affects which have been produced and mobilized in encounters

between those who are positioned in unequal power relationships:


Anna names her unborn child “Ismael” after Ismael Guevarra. But the name

Ismael also resonates with the narrator of

Moby Dick

, Ismael, a storyteller

and a social outcast.