This article examines the role played by “third world” queer place-making practices in the reproduction of postcolonial dreams of urban and global modernity. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Manila, the Philippines, the article investigates the transformation of the Brutalist structures erected under the Marcos dictatorship into sites of transgender performance. More specifically, it examines the conversion of the Manila Film Center (1981)—a long-abandoned structure rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of entombed construction workers—into the host site for the Amazing Philippine Theater, a “drag” production marketed to tourist audiences as “the largest transvestite show in Asia.” The paper suggests that the Film Center can be read as a modern ruin: a spectral environment that elicits a lost sense of optimism and globalism, while inducing feelings of terror and dread by serving as a reminder of what awaits those who subscribe to the dictatorship’s promise of modernity. In turn, the paper reads the Amazing Philippine Theater as a queer space emergent in the ruins of modern dreams: a space that has inherited the never-to-be-completed task of becoming global and that thus enables the aspirations embodied by dictatorship architecture to have a life beyond death. By drawing links between transgender performance and the production of a third world city in “first world drag,” the paper demonstrates the relations of complicity that bind “third world” queer place-making projects to the postcolonial state’s monumentalist attempts to materialize claims of truth, beauty, order, and progress through the adoption of modern aesthetic forms.
Figures & Tablessupplements