Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies

Lecture: "Witnessing Death: Photographing the Philippine Drug War"

Lecture by Prof. Vicente Rafael (Department of History, University of Washington) for the Philippine Studies Summer Lectures at HU-IAAW
  • When May 24, 2018 from 06:00 to 08:00
  • Where Room 117, Invalidenstrasse 118, 10115 Berlin
  • iCal

Lecture: "Witnessing Death: Photographing the Philippine Drug War"




In this paper, I inquire into the narco- and necro-politics of the war on drugs under the regime of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. While popular, the war has also called forth other responses. One example has been the work of photojournalists. In the context of the drug war, how does photojournalism become a kind of advocacy as much as a form of mourning? How is trauma and witnessing braided together in the experience of photographers covering the drug war? What are the ambivalent effects of aestheticizing the image of those killed by the police and their death squads? How does the aesthetic rendering of death make possible the act of witnessing even as it repeatedly endangers it? What is the fate of photographic images once rendered into commodities by the global media and put into circulation for the consumption of anonymous viewers? And among families of the victims, how is the dead remembered in ways that elude photographic capture?


About the speaker:

Vicente L. Rafael is the Giovanni and Ann Costigan Endowed Professor of History at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the author of several works on the cultural history and politics of the Philippines, including Contracting Colonialism, While Love and Other Events in Filipino History, The Promise of the Foreign and Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language Amid Wars of Translation, all published by Duke Univ. Press. More recently, he has co-edited with Gina Apostol a collection of Nick Joaquin's stories, The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic (Penguin Classics). 


2018 Philippine Studies Summer Lectures schedule
Time: 18-20 Uhr (ST)
Venue: Room 117, Invalidenstrasse 118

May 3: Spectacular and Slow Onset Mining Disasters in the Philippines: Lessons for Risk Society - Emerson Sanchez, PhD candidate, Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Governance, University of Canberra


May 17: Inhabiting the Everyday through the Bangsamoro Imaginary: Insights from an Ethnography of Moro Islamic Liberation Front Adherents - Rosa Cordillera A. Castillo, Department for Southeast Asian Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


May 24: Witnessing Death: Photographing the Philippine Drug War – Prof. Vicente Rafael, Department of History, University of Washington


June 7: (re)Thinking Philippine Migration from the "Margins". The Case of Muslim Migrant Domestic Workers to the Middle-East – Dr. Julien Debonneville, Department of Socio-Cultural Diversity, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen


June 14: Duterte’s Violent Populism: Legitimacy and Injustice in the Philippines - Prof. Mark Thompson, Department of Asian and International Studies, City University of Hong Kong


June 20: Social Media and Collective Activism: Reclaiming Marawi City – Dr. Elin Anisha Guro, English Department, Mindanao State University-Marawi


July 2: Long-Distance Care: Filipino Migrants’ Engagement in Development Projects at Home - Dr. Helena Patzer, Institute of Ethnology, Czech Academy of Sciences/Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw


July 9: Stories from the Ground Up: Newspaper Accounts of the Chinese in the Philippines at a Time of U.S. Expansion in the Pacific, 1899-1905 - Prof. Richard T. Chu, Department of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst


July 18: Bakwit as Protest: Displacements and Evacuations as Form of Resistance and Medium of Social Campaign - Andrea Malaya Ragragio, PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology, Leiden University
About the Philippine Studies Series Berlin
The Philippine Studies Series Berlin is a platform for lectures, discussions, and art and film events regarding the Philippines, Filipina/o/x, and the diaspora. Formed in December 2014, it aims to promote Philippine and Filipina/o/x studies in Berlin and Germany and open spaces for dialogue. It is now part of the HU Department for Southeast Asian Studies. For more info, please visit: