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Kinetic Cities: Travels Through Inter-Asia

Anjeline De Dios, 'His Master’s Voice: Cinematic Sonicities Of Authority In The Philippine Drug War', Roberto Castillo, 'Out of place in a Chinese village: Urban Transformation and Precarious Migrant Bodies' and Soo Ryon Yoon, 'Performative Tactics: Camp or a Place that Became the Dead and Garibong’s Informal Survival'

Soo Ryon Yoon in action

His Master’s Voice: Cinematic Sonicities Of Authority In The Philippine Drug War
Anjeline de Dios

The Philippine drug war, or the state-sponsored campaign against suspected drug addicts and pushers, has become the emblematic line tracking the country’s political impasse. On the one hand, supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte’s authoritarian regime stand firm in their conviction that his flagship programme of extra-judicial killings (EJKs) delivers long-desired reforms of security and justice. On the other, the oppositional minority’s appeals to human rights fall on deaf ears within the national public sphere, even as they resonate with the censure from the international media community. How does one begin to make sense of, let alone intervene in, this mutual incomprehension defined by both the inability and unwillingness to arrive at a common understanding of the urban Philippine present—a present defined by a conflicting ethics of authority? Rather than attempt a solid answer, this essay instead proposes to clarify this question of (in)comprehensibility through a comparative reflection of two cinematic engagements with the drug war, zeroing in on their use of sonic and symbolic dimensions of the voice to depict the complexities of power and violence: Amo (“Master,” 2018), a 12-episode Netflix series by Brillante Ma. Mendoza, Cannes-winning auteur filmmaker; and Respeto (“Respect,” 2017), a locally lauded indie film by first-time director Treb Montreras. Although occupying opposite ends of the political divide, Mendoza and Montreras both focus on the singular figure of the drug runner—the lowly lackey and disposable hustler caught in the crossfire of the drug war—and their relations of acquiescence and disobedience with various figures in the overlapping circles of family, community, and the state. By listening to the ways that the drug runner speaks and silences through these relations—in dialogue and through the musical and narrative element of hiphop—I hope to amplify to the subtler dynamics of affect which constitute the politics of authority in the Philippines. I offer the insight that this seemingly intractable divide of incomprehension might be better perceived, if not entirely understood, by attuning to its inherently contradictory dissonances of respect and authority, audible in the voices of those neither victims nor masters.


Neferti X. M. Tadiar, 'Life-Times of Disposability within Global Neoliberalism', Social Text 115 s Vol. 31, No. 2 s Summer 2013, pp 19-48 (download here)

Out of place in a Chinese village: Urban transformation and precarious migrant bodies
Roberto Castillo

To claim that the socioeconomic transformations that China has undergone over the last three decades have been dramatic is by now almost a cliché. However, it is true that the Chinese economic reform unleashed multiple processes and movements that have radically changed the urban geographies of cities and the everyday lives of people in the country. Very few places in China are as good to explore the impacts and consequences of these transformations as is the ‘urban village’ of Dengfengcun, in Xiaobei, central Guangzhou. Engulfed by Guangzhou’s urban development, this chengzhongcun (‘village within city’) rapidly became a (translocal) space where multiple types of mobile subjects encounter themselves ‘out-of-place’ - and in rather precarious positions.

In this roundtable talk, I’ll take you through a photographic journey that explores the intersections of migrant bodies (foreign and domestic), with ‘local’ populations, regimes of governmentality, discourses of nationalism, development and globalisation, and the cultural politics of transnational research. I will argue that spaces such as Dengfengcun are the outcome of ‘kinetic’forces unleashed by economic reform and global flows. Loosely following Rahul Mehrotra (2017), I will show how these kinetic forces produce spaces that challenge the pervasive binary of formal/informal in the study of global migrations. Moreover, I will demonstrate that notions such as kinetic, ephemeral, and transient are more accurate to understand the logic of ‘out-of-placeness’that underpins contemporary migrant experiences. Ultimately, I will make a connection between contemporary forms of population control in China - or what I call‘neoliberal authoritarian governance’ - with the long history of population management and control in ‘imperial port cities’.


Wilczak,Jessica, '‘‘Clean, safe and orderly’’: Migrants, race and city image in global Guangzhou', Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 2018, Vol. 27(1) 55–79 (download here)

Performative Tactics: Camp or a Place that Became the Dead and Garibong’s Informal Survival

Yoon Soo Ryon

Camp or a Place that Became the Dead, a site-responsive performance co-created by Korean artist collective Miwansung Project and Japanese visual art group OLTA in 2014, straddles the past and the present of Seoul’s Garibongdong district by exploring the streets and urban ruins of Garibong with its audience members.
Audience members follow the performers who lead their ways through the streets filled with grilled lamb skewer shops, Chinese hot pot restaurants, and dumpling shops, where factory buildings, honeycomb-like flats, and shopping centers once stood like monuments of the South Korean export economy. In these sites, Camp stages a lion dance procession followed by an adaptation of the 1980s’ play Deep Sleep, shuttling the audience between the reality and the dream world, rituals and norms, and the official and the informal histories of Garibong.
This  was home in the 1980s to young factory workers who migrated to Seoul from rural areas across the nation. Once an underbelly of the South Korean export economy between the 1960s and the 1980s, Garibong has gradually transformed itself by accommodating Chinese migrants of Korean ethnicity after the immigration law was reformed to usher in cheap labor from the PRC in the wake of global neoliberalization. This Korean-Chinese space has been in tension with the district office’s desire for a “digital business city,” a futuristic IT district proposed by the city planners in 2005. The city government and the district office have for years come up with proposals to “regenerate” Garibong: to get rid of crime, “sanitize” the neighborhoods, and bring in more high-tech business opportunities. In the process, Garibong has survived in the liminal spaces between various binary oppositions: between racial authenticity (embodied by Korean residents) and fakery (projected onto the ethnic Korean Chinese migrant residents); between the desire for gentrification and the need for urban preservation; and between optimism of urban middle class living and pessimism for abject migrant communities.

I contend in this presentation that Camp allegorically performs the story of Garibong’s informal survival over time, which is often omitted in the official history. Furthermore, I discuss how a performance such as Camp can generate an opportunity to critique the representations of Garibong seemingly rife with poverty and crime, which is to be upended by respectable middle class urban life. In considering these acts of survival and critique as performative tactics, this presentation proposes to understand Garibong’s “unofficial” changes as an active embodiment of liveness rather than morbidity as some popular discourses around Garibong seem to suggest.

Shin, Hae Ran and Soyoung Park, '
The Regime of Urban Informality in Migration: Accommodating Undocumented Chosŏnjok Migrants in their Receiving Community in Seoul, South Korea', pg 459-480 (download here)

From Manila, Philippines, Anjeline de Dios is Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University. Her research explores the cultural and economic geographies of music, migration, and creative labour. She is co-editor (with Lily Kong) of the forthcoming Elgar Handbook of Geographies of Creativity and is developing a book manuscript based on her research on Filipino migrant musicians in Asia. Anjeline is also a chant performer and facilitator who has worked with contemporary dance and sound artists in Manila, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

Roberto Castillo is an Assistant Professor at the Cultural Studies Department of Lingnan University. His academic training is in Cultural Studies, International Relations, History and Journalism (Ph.D., Lingnan; MA, Usyd). For the last several years, he has been working around foreign communities and urban spaces/politics in the southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Hong Kong. His research/teaching interests are: transnationality; migration and mobility; China’s changing ethnoscapes; Africa-China relations; (cultural) research methodologies; Afrofuturism; Sinophobia; ethnographic-based knowledge production; the cultural politics of media representation; race/ethnicity; critical theory; and Chinese politics & social development. He administers the website:

Soo Ryon Yoon is an Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. She is currently working on her first monograph on performing blackness and its racial politics in contemporary South Korea. Her writings are published or forthcoming in Beteum (비틈), Theatre Journal, Journal of Contemporary Research in Dance (当代舞蹈艺术研究), ASAP/J, positions: asia critique, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, and an edited volume Dancing East Asia (edited by Emily Wilcox and Katherine Mezur). Soo Ryon Yoon received her PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and was a postdoctoral associate in the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University.

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