Society for Economic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
My fieldsite/hometown is the “Town of Dollars,” located in Southeast Luzon Island, Philippines. This self-ascribed moniker is linked to historical events from 1901, when Filipino men began to be recruited to the lowest and racialized ranks of the U.S. Navy as stewards. Migrations following this colonial encounter have opened opportunities to people in the Town of Dollars aspiring for the “good life.” However, the non-migrating bamboo basketmakers-farmers in the Town of Dollars tell narratives at the heart of which is the permanence of precarity. The lingering home-based bamboo craft production in the town originates from an export-oriented crafts industry that began in many rural villages in the Philippines in the late 60s. This was also supported by the export-oriented policy of the American colonial period in the Philippines. Unable to compete with global prices and the demand for mass production, bamboo craft production in the Town of Dollars eventually collapsed in the early 90s, producing a surplus of villagers highly skilled in weaving bamboo baskets, yet without a demand to meet. In this paper, I engage James C. Scott’s work on “moral economy” with local concepts of “supog” (shame) and “ginikanan” (genealogy) which are productive in understanding the basketmakers’ responses and affects related to craft production that were, in the anthropological parlance, “strange.” My discussion is complicated by my methodological intervention – “crafts entrepreneurship”– that blurred ethnography into design, practice, business, and personal/familial history, following provocations that anthropologists proceed without fear in “a time of blurred genres” (Behar 2007).