One of the tenets of postmodernism (if indeed it can be said to have tenets) is the denial of the metanarrative. A metanarrative is “an overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences.” For many, these metanarratives provide a framework for understanding the world. What’s sad is that sometimes these same metanarratives also provide a framework for oppression and hardship, if you happen to be on the wrong side of the narrative.
Postmodernism has it detractors, mostly people who adhere to a different philosophical system (cough ‘Modernism’ cough). One of their complaints is that denying a metanarrative is a metanarrative in and of itself. Apart from being a bit of a copout because it doesn’t seek understanding, this argument misses the point because it presumes that denial is single-stage process.
For example, in the 1970s, a number of Filipinos devoted their lives to overturning the metanarrative that basically denied their place in the world. Zeus Salazar started telling a new history with his Pantayang Pananaw. Virgilio Enriquez started telling a psychology story with his Sikolohiyang Pilipino. Pospero Covar started telling a new anthropology story with his Pilipinolohiya. Jose de Mesa started telling a new theology story with his work on contexualisation. These four men began telling stories that overturned the metanarrative that prioritised the West and saw places like the Philippines as “deviant.” In retelling the story with indigenous languages, using indigenous concepts, and respecting indigenous knowledge, they were able to open up a new chapter to a previously incomplete metanarrative. We have a lot to thank these pioneers for. And people are continuing the process today in ways that include anti-colonialism and post-structuralism.
But the process must necessarily continue past that point because, even though these guys fulfilled an essential service way back when, that service has now led to claims of essentialism among them. Essentialism meaning a specific definition of what ‘Filipino’ is. In their efforts to make the Filipino voice heard, they by necessity saw that voice as one voice. It was the Filipino voice.
What we realise today is that the Filipino voice is perhaps best characterised as “voices.” The Philippines is an archipelago of just over 7,400 islands of varying sizes, shapes, and populations. There are just over 180 languages in use on a daily basis. Filipinos are also present in all the countries of the world and live in both the most populated and least populated areas of the world. Filipinos are both fiercely nationalistic and regionally loyal. The family is the basic building block of society. All of this creates a rich diversity of identities. I like how Dr. Exiomo puts it: “Being can be expressed in many different ways.”
In other words, the metanarrative still needs to be denied because it doesn’t accurately tell everyone’s story in the proper way. It’s a continuous process of editing and revising that will ultimately lead to a fulfilled humanity.
Where do you fit into the metanarrative? Where does the metanarrative fail you? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!
Remember sharing is what friends do.
Image by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash.