Friday, November 20, 2009

Late Post- Week of 11/2/09: The Problem of Representing Movements

Perhaps it is the culture of the United States but I believe the cell phone for a majority does not carry connotations of a political tool or power. Vincent L. Rafael seems to shed light on a historical group and event that in fact did view the cell phone and the communication form of “texting” in such a light. His essay “The Cell Phone and the Crowd: Messianic Politics in the Contemporary Philippines,” “explores,” what he calls “a set of telecommunicative fantasies among middle class Filipinos” (399). These fantasies emerged out of the movement that “overthrew President Joseph Estrada in January 2001,” fantasies that belonged to those who “ the power communication technologies to transmit messages at a distance and in their own ability to posses that power...[to] utilize the power of crowds to speak to the state...they imagined themselves able to communicate beyond the crowd, but also with it, transcending the sheer physical density of the masses through technology” (399). While Rafael is clear that this is a “fantasy” one that engages with the “fetish of communication” for “middle-class demands,” in his descriptions Rafael's text seems to loose its critical edge. Especially in the narrative of one of the “People Power II” crowd's member “Flor C.” These passages while remaining a certain engagement seem to glorify these movements for their potential if nothing else.

This seems especially problematic in that the following crowd the Filipino urban poor is given as an ending anecdote. While it is not simply a question of glorifying the proletariate mass gathering for its own sake (it too as Rafael points out contains many eerie connections to Estrada's party) but that it is given nearly no representation. Put against the middle-class (who seem to be the only subjects who give a narrative in this text) call this mass a “'mob, 'rabble,' or 'horde,'” one must question what it means to represent different and conflicting mass demonstrations (424). What role did the mediation of People Power II both doubling as a historical archive and a political tool play in casting these representative problems?

No comments: