This article historicizes the transnational counterinsurgency that the U.S.-Philippine governments have conducted against diasporic Filipino/a/x activists. In examining the period of the Cold War to the early 2020s, it makes a case for recognizing existing continuities of counterinsurgency tactics targeted at Filipinos in the United States, such as extradition, deportation, surveillance, and assassination. The Philippine state’s resort to red-baiting during the Cold War and contemporary “red-tagging” has aimed at the elimination of communism and terrorism at home and beyond its national borders, at the expense of human rights. This long history of counterinsurgency also highlights the acceleration and formalization of diasporic Filipino organizations dedicated to promoting democracy in the Philippines during the period of martial law under President Ferdinand E. Marcos, showing how diasporic Filipinos organized opposition not only to dictatorship, but also U.S. support for violent regimes. The transnational opposition against Marcos and then President Rodrigo R. Duterte has characterized diasporic Filipinos as a primary component of democratic movements in both the United States and the Philippines who have linked domestic racial oppression to U.S. imperialism and state fascism in the Philippines.
This essay examines the Alpha Gallery, an independent artists’ cooperative that Malaysians and Singaporeans established, which staged art shows during the 1970s to spark an artistic renaissance in Southeast Asia. The cooperative’s transnational vision involved showcasing Balinese folk art as a primitive and, therefore, intrinsically Southeast Asian aesthetic, while asserting that it shared cultural connections with the Bengali Renaissance of the early 20th Century. Alpha’s leaders believed these actions might awaken indigenous artistic traditions across Southeast Asia. Their project underscores the lasting cultural impact of colonialism on Southeast Asia and the contested character of the region. Alpha’s condescending view of Balinese folk art echoed the paternalism of Euro-American colonial discourses about civilizing indigenous peoples that persisted because its key members received much of their education or training in Britain and the United States, a by-product of their countries’ pro-U.S. trajectory during the Vietnam War. Equally, Alpha’s transnationalism ran counter to Southeast Asian political elites’ fixation with pressing art toward nation-building. Indeed, the coalescing of nation-states does not define the region’s history during and after the Vietnam War. Rather, non-state actors like Alpha’s members, in imagining and pursuing their versions of Southeast Asia, contributed to the persistent contingency of the region.
The Third Indochina War called forth dramatic changes in the international relations of Southeast Asia. Foremost among these changes was a shift in the geopolitical orientation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean). The organization’s founders established asean in 1967 to contain Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. But in the wake of the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in late 1978, asean forged a tacit alliance with the People’s Republic of China to pursue a campaign of rollback against Vietnam. This article argues that asean’s volte-face and China’s reentry into networks of regional diplomacy depended upon a shift in Indonesian threat perceptions. As political Islam displaced Chinese communism as the key threat fixating Indonesian policy, the Suharto regime abandoned its longstanding attempts to integrate Vietnam into the architecture of regional order and instead accommodated itself to a Thai-led effort to enlist China as a counterweight against Vietnam. The reorientation of Indonesian diplomacy reveals the dynamics of a phenomenon that anthropologist Heonik Kwon has called the “decomposition” of the Cold War – the geographically and temporally uneven erosion of the Cold War as a social reality and the gradual elaboration of a post-Cold War era.