Dogeaters is a political and historical tale of the Philippines, enacted on a world stage, whose characters are both human and symbolic. It is a spectacle, a parody, a fantasy, a farce, a roman à clef, and a bildungsroman. It is a postmodern, satirical, allegorical, realistic, stream of conscious, dramatic narrative that is at times pornographic. It is an indictment of colonialism, dictatorship, and religion. It is angry, sad, poignant, repulsive, violent, disjointed, and funny. Its themes explore colonization, exploitation, reality, sexuality, politics, religion, and the search for identity. Its characters include mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, political leaders, movie stars, porn stars, pimps, prostitutes, generals, and guerrillas. There are three main narrators and two minor ones who have different versions of the truth. The timeline is disjointed and unstable, making use of flashbacks and flash forwards. It is a chaotic tale of a third world “banana republic," set in a former United States colony whose people both emulate and revile America. The novel is a mixture of the history, memories, and images of life in Manila during the Marcos regime. Dogeaters is a hectic cacophony that challenges the boundaries of the traditional novel.
Dogeaters is the first novel of Filipina-American author Jessica Hagedorn. It was published in 1990. In 1998, Hagedorn turned the novel into a play that was performed first at the La Jolla Playhouse and then at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre in 2001. Most of Hagedorn’s work focuses on the identity struggle of Filipino Americans trying to assimilate into American culture without having to relinquish their roots. Although Dogeaters is considered the best known and most widely taught novel about the Philippines, many were offended by its title, an insulting slang expression for Filipinos. The pejorative term was coined by American soldiers during the Philippine-American War. It is a reference to indigenous dog-eating tribes in the Luzon area of the Philippines. The author defends the title, however, calling it “a fittingly harsh, confrontational title” for a novel that portrays a turbulent period in Philippine history.