Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Drawing distinctions between Philippine social types conceptualizes forms of otherness as internal to the nation. This paper explores how images of Philippine differentiation play into the potentially endless reproduction of nested interior alterities, demonstrating the recursive character of coloniality. It considers a set of images, each of which entextualizes contrasts among Philippine types, and together enregisters such contrasts as ontologically real. These images—photographs, cartoons, advertisements—are necessarily performative in two ways. First, although these images purport to represent an already existing reality, they instead create the conditions for representations to be experienced as already real. Second, these images do not simply create Philippine distinctions but do so in the Austinian manner of performing other kinds of action: from justifying colonial intervention to resisting imperial rule. For instance, if Spain argued that Filipinos were too uncivilized to self-govern, then an 1890s photograph of the cosmopolitan Philippine elite might challenge this position, whereas an early 1900s cartoon of Filipinos throwing spears at US congressional members might confirm it. Considering the semiotic processes through which colonial “uplift” is depicted as both social and physical through time and tutelage, this paper explores the tensions surrounding Philippine differentiation as either immutable distinction or guided evolution in the ongoing perpetuation of colonial hierarchies.