Date of Submission

Spring 2020

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Yuka Suzuki

Project Advisor 2

Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The balikbayan box is a large cardboard box sent by Pilipinx migrants back to the homeland. Tax-free, duty-free, with no weight limit, the box is packed with everyday items, from clothes, toiletries, appliances, to, of course, the ubiquitous canned meats. While it is sent on the premise of economy and pragmatism, that logic quickly falls apart as the contents are often available locally and sometimes even criticized for their useless contents. The question of the practice turns from simply “why not send money” to what does sending a variety of objects do that sending only money could not? And so the balikbayan box emerges out of the ethos of migration fostered by the labor brokerage state of the Philippines that seeks to market out the labor of its population. In its form as a box full of seemingly valueless items, it is a critique of global capitalism, but is simultaneously imbued with the consumerist culture it seeks to devalue because of the economic aspirations that the ethos of migration inspires. It captures dreams that run beyond and through capitalism and seek imported commodities, but denies consumerism its valence by forming worth out of the wrong items, accumulating the objects that are supposed to be discarded. Instead, it values the priceless affect of home and family expressed through its waste. Footnotes in this project are also vignettes from the author’s memory, weaving the affect and excesses of the personal into the text, just as the box seeks to capture home.

Open Access Agreement

On-Campus only

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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