Puro Arte

Filipinos on the Stages of Empire

205 pages

12 halftones

December, 2012

ISBN: 9780814725450



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Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns is Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

All books by Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns

Winner of the 2012 Outstanding Book Award in Cultural Studies, Association for Asian American Studies 
Puro Arte explores the emergence of Filipino American theater and performance from the early 20th century to the present. It stresses the Filipino performing body's location as it conjoins colonial histories of the Philippines with U.S. race relations and discourses of globalization.
Puro arte, translated from Spanish into English, simply means “pure art.” In Filipino, puro arte however performs a much more ironic function, gesturing rather to the labor of over-acting, histrionics, playfulness, and purely over-the-top dramatics. In this book, puro arte functions as an episteme, a way of approaching the Filipino/a performing body at key moments in U.S.-Philippine imperial relations, from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, early American plays about the Philippines, Filipino patrons in U.S. taxi dance halls to the phenomenon of Filipino/a actors in Miss Saigon. Using this varied archive, Puro Arte turns to performance as an object of study and as a way of understanding complex historical processes of racialization in relation to empire and colonialism.


  • “A wonderfully crafted study of the Filipina/o performing body that utilizes a cross-historical, multi-sited and capaciously analyzed set of archives.”

    —Martin Manalansan, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  • “A magnificent work by a stellar Filipino/a American scholar attuned to the transnational and cross-racial dimensions of embodied struggle....The book displays the very astonishing creativity and sense of possibility that it brings to light.”

    —Neferti Tadiar, Barnard College

  • “[PuroArte] is foregrounded in deeply observed historical context and a well-measured assessment of culture and politics imbued with thoughtful and caring sentiment. Puro Arte is an important study not only for those with interest in theater studies but important for students and scholars of ethnic studies, postcolonial theory, and Asian American history.”

    —, American Studies

  • “Situating Filipino mimicry within the logic of empire and globalization, Puro Arte is an original, insightful, and ultimately delightful take on the possibilities of the Filipino/a performing body to exceed its own erasure.”

    Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas