Searching for Manila
: personal and political Journeys in an Asian megacity

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Searching for Manila: Personal and Political Journeys in an Asian Megacity is an
autobiographical travelogue based on a period I spent living and working in Manila, the Philippines in 2009-10, and on two subsequent visits to the city. The book, which is slightly abridged for this submission, addresses themes both personal (such as the difficult processes of deciding what to do with my life, of falling in love and of becoming a surrogate father) and political (the struggles of marginalised communities against official oppression, the impact of neo-liberalism on various aspects of Philippine society and the ideological reasons why Filipinos selectively remember national traumas). I interweave my lived, empirical experiences of people and places with data researched from other Manila-focused texts both historical and contemporary: novels, memoirs, travel books, media reports, statistical surveys and historiographical analyses.
The critical commentary element of my thesis begins with an analysis of what I term ‘Manilaism’, a trajectory of Anglo-American travel writing, literary journalism and realist fiction set in Manila dating from the mid-Victorian era to the twenty-first century, and goes on to argue that Searching for Manila contests the reactionary and ethnocentric assumptions of these texts by employing a variety of research methods, narrative strategies and linguistic devices. The result of these creative decisions has been to situate Searching for Manila as a ‘radical travelogue’; that is to say radical according to both the formal and political senses of the word: my mobilisation of parody, self-reflexivity and inter-textuality are complemented by my endeavours to evoke Manila through the lens of my leftist commitments to peace, social equality, economic justice, anti-racism and anti-imperialism.
Date of Award15 Jul 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
SupervisorBart Moore-Gilbert (Supervisor), Ardashir Vakil (Supervisor) & Tamar Steinitz (Supervisor)


  • postcolonialism
  • travel writing
  • Philippines
  • orientalism
  • Asian studies

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