I was born and grew up in the town of San Fernando, La Union, in the northern part of the Philippines, until my family moved to Manila around the time I turned twelve, when I had gained entrance into the Philippine Science High School, a project of the Marcos government to make Filipino scientists to aid in the development of the nation. In college, at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, I departed from this prescribed route to becoming a scientist, switching majors in my second year from a Bachelor of Science in Psychology to a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. Before getting a Fulbright scholarship for graduate study at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, I taught courses in English language, composition, and literature while at the same time taking courses for a new Bachelor of Music in Piano for several years at the University of the Philippines.
After getting my Master’s in Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota, I went to Duke University for doctoral study, obtaining a Ph.D. in Literature in 1996, with a dissertation that eventually became my second book, Things Fall Away: Philippine Historical Experiences and the Makings of Globalization (Duke University Press, 2009). My first book, Fantasy-Production: Sexual Economies and Other Philippine Consequences for the New World Order (Hong Kong University Press, 2004), examines the dominant cultural codes organizing international political and economic relations – including centrally dominant codes of heteronormative gender relations and racialized being – during the emergence of the New World Order (1980s-1990s), and the ways that Filipino/a national actors deployed such codes both to claim and contest power within this established ideological and political-economic order. Both Fantasy-Production and Things Fall Away explore dominant forms of political imagination and subjectification and the limits they impose on subaltern forms of social experience, viewing the social, cultural, political and economic transformations from the late 20th century to the present in the Philippine national context, but always situated within broader regional and global contexts of U.S. imperialism and transnational capital.
I am currently finishing a third book, entitled Remaindered Life, which will conclude what has become a trilogy of sorts on the contemporary global moment. This book develops the theoretical contributions of the previous work through an extended meditation on the disposability and surplus of life-making under global empire.
I am currently Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College and Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University, as well as co-editor of the journal, Social Text.Neferti X.Tadiar