Domestic Shifts: Reproducing Peripheral Realism in Philippine Call-Center Fiction
Keywords:Philippines, call-center fiction, peripheral realism, world-literary system, social reproduction
This essay situates the recent rise of literature about Filipino call center agents within the social, economic, and political shifts occurring as a result of the Philippine economy’s waning reliance on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to support domestic social reproduction. While the Filipino business process outsourcing (BPO) industry positions itself as a domestic solution to the supposed diasporic fragmentation of home, family, and nation engendered by the Philippines’ long dependence on its overseas workers, call center fiction critically reveals how the disorienting temporal, affective, and spatial realities of call center labor merely reconfigure and shift the terms of the Philippines’ continued transnational subordination to global capitalist imperatives. Interrogating these domestic shifts, 21st-century Philippine call center fiction reproduces a unique mode of peripheral realism made uncanny by the late-20th-century global dispersal of OFWs and the attendant crises of representation in both national identity and literary form that stem from this unparalleled labor exodus. Typified by experimental interruptions in both content and form, Philippine call center fiction’s uncanny reproduction of peripheral realism registers a self-reflexive awareness not only of the BPO industry’s domestic-national contradictions but also of the Philippines’ extraordinarily outsized and increasingly disorienting role in reproducing global capitalist modernity.