The Return of the Native: Narratives of Ethnicity in Contemporary Indigenous Novels



Much of the discourse of ethnicity centers on the politics of identity formation particularly for members of ethnic groups who live dispersed among cosmopolitan societies. Although assimilated into the new culture, the diasporic self sometimes longs for a home to return to, a problematic issue that is complicated with concepts of belonging, identity and community. This paper examines the ways that the native’s return to the homeplace can take by investigating two contemporary indigenous novels: Driftwood on Dry Land by Telesforo Sungkit Jr. and Igorotdō: The Enlightened Warrior Within by Rexcrisanto Delson. The paper unpacks the process that the diasporic return takes and how identity functions in this return. The analysis shows that the mode of return undergoes different stages starting with the impetus to go back and ending with the decision to stay in the native home or to return back to one’s second home. The phases of this return are undertaken as journeys to the cultural past, a search for one’s origins, for ethnic identity. This reconstruction is not just a journey through a personal past but the collective past of the tribe. The paper posits that one’s ethnic identity is a product of historically contingent forces and that the return to the past is a metaphorical and not necessarily a physical journey one takes to make sense of this evolving identity.

Keywords: diaspora, ethnic identity, Higaonon, Igorot, indigenous peoples, return

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