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SEAP Gatty Lecture Series

Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Kahin Center
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

"Seeing Necropolitics: Memory Work in Philippine Photographs Then and Now"

Nerissa Balce, Associate Professor, Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, State University of New York at Stony Brook

Necropolitics is a theory about violence and the nation-state. It refers to the absolute power of a state to kill, to allow to live, or to dehumanize people. In the early 20th century, we see necropolitics at work in American colonial photographs that depict Filipino natives as dead or docile bodies. In stereographs, postcards and other photographic images from the Philippine-American War, the Filipino corpse became a symbol of American victory, modernity and "peace." More than a hundred years later, Filipino corpses appear again in Western popular media — in this case, as victims of President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war. Mr. Duterte, who continually brings up American atrocities committed during the Philippine-American War, has himself resurrected the image of the Filipino corpse in his ongoing genocide against the poor. Mr. Duterte has been inspired by the necropolitics of former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, whom he has given a hero's burial, against widespread protest, in the national Tomb of Heroes (Libingan ng Mga Bayani). Duterte is a "fascinating fascist" whose presidency is haunted by a corpse — that of the late dictator's — as well as the corpses of 11,000 victims of extrajudicial killings. In the early 21st century, what is the work of death in past and present photographs of Filipino corpses? What necropolitical ghosts do we see in the edges of the photographic frame?


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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, History of Art and Visual Studies, Southeast Asia Program, Anthropology, Government

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SEAP Graduate Student Committee

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Nerissa Balce

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Stony Brook University

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