Forgiveness Work (Arzoo Osanloo, 2020)

Photo taken from medieval manuscript by Qotbeddin Shirazi (1236–1311), a Persian Astronomer. The image depicts an epicyclic planetary model. In Forgiveness Work, Arzoo Osanloo offers ways of understanding an Islamic notion of justice by looking closer at experiences and infrastructures that illustrate the centrality of compassion and mercy in Iranian criminal law. She argues how the compulsion to… Continue reading Forgiveness Work (Arzoo Osanloo, 2020)

Rodel Tapaya/ Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

Rodel Tapaya Can't See the Forest for the TreesJack Bell Gallery (London, UK)May 2023 In this series of portraits filled with lush flora and fauna, Rodel Tapaya signals an intellectual turn to the ecocentric, spotlighting nature as the primary actor in the folklore that fuels his artistic imagination. The composition recalls a peculiar Southeast Asian artifact:… Continue reading Rodel Tapaya/ Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

What is Islam (Shahab Ahmed, 2015)

First page of the manuscript of Hafez Shirazi's Divan. Preserved in the Treasury of the National Library and Museum of Malek, Tehran Using encyclopedic historical and theological data, Shahad Ahmed criticizes the unsatisfactory ways Islam has been taken as an object and category, and conceptualized in popular and academic discourses. According to Ahmed, a valid… Continue reading What is Islam (Shahab Ahmed, 2015)

Inscrutable Surface

Java - Topeng: Ken Angrok.: Wayang Topeng play "Ken Angrok" performance at Java Institute, Jogjakarta [Yogyakarta]. Photo: NYPL/ Claire Holt Vivian Huang’s first book, Surface Relations: Queer Forms of Asian American Inscrutability, examines the ways in which Asian and Asian American artists have advantageously reconfigured the erstwhile detrimental stereotype of inscrutability as “a dynamic antiracist,… Continue reading Inscrutable Surface

Questioning Secularism (Agrama, 2011)

Hussein Ali Agrama’s Questioning Secularism distills the layers of the modern nation and exposes the entrenchment of a ‘deep-state’ that works for a political elite. He describes how revolutionary legitimacy is often undermined in favor of a liberal secularism, which is both the mode in which the state wields power over belligerent citizens and the… Continue reading Questioning Secularism (Agrama, 2011)

Gender / Sexuality / Theory of Power

Harry Styles at the Grammy Awards in 2021. Boas are a fashion must-have at Styles’ concerts.(Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP) In "Bodies with New Organs" Jasbir Puar examines the neoliberal appropriation of the trans body to reconstitute the pool of able bodied individuals for economic productivity and the development of the national economy. According… Continue reading Gender / Sexuality / Theory of Power

Queer Companions (Omar Kasmani, 2022)

Religion, Public Intimacy, and Saintly Affects in Pakistan An illustration of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar's shrine in Sehwan as it was in mid-1800s. Photo: Sindh Culture Department Lauren Berlant writes that unexpected consequences of communicating with meager signs and gestures are the “secret epitaphs” of intimacy. “Often brief and eloquent,” intimate situations also convey an aspiration… Continue reading Queer Companions (Omar Kasmani, 2022)

Knot of the Soul (Stefania Pandolfo, 2018)

Madness, Psychoanalysis, Islam The 72nd chapter of the Qur'an entitled Al-Jinn (The Jinn), as well as the heading and introductory bismillah of the next chapter entitled al-Muzzammil (The Enshrouded One). In Knot of the Soul, Pandolfo ties together seemingly disparate areas of study such as madness and cartography to address, among many others, the compatibility of modern psychology and Islamic eschatology. Towards this end, she… Continue reading Knot of the Soul (Stefania Pandolfo, 2018)

Jinnealogy (Anand Vivek Taneja, 2017)

Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi Taneja's plaiting of themes in contemporary Indian politics and vestiges of unsanctioned Islamic practice reveal the multi-layered undercurrents of Islamic sovereignty that shape the present. Her insights into secularism, political ecology, ethics, and religiosity afford us a deeper look of Islamic ethics and its… Continue reading Jinnealogy (Anand Vivek Taneja, 2017)

Rouge (dir. Stanley Kwan, 1987)

Critics hailed Stanley Kwan’s genre defining ghost film Rogue during its Criterion Collection release as a beautiful allegorical melodrama, “the likes of which are no longer done in the West”. Bliss Cua Lim offers a reason why this is the case: “ghostly women embody a strong notion of spatiotemporal nonsynchronism—the existence of noncontemporaneous aspects of… Continue reading Rouge (dir. Stanley Kwan, 1987)

Area/ Region

Walker Gavin’s article “The Accumulation of Difference and the Logic of Area” tells us that some of Michel Foucault’s ideas on biopower can still be improved. According to Gavin, Foucault didn't think past the spatial term “territory” to consider the even more ambiguous term “area”, which according to Gavin is more encompassing of the unboundedness… Continue reading Area/ Region

Semicoloniality, Agency and Occupation

The Bogor Botanical Gardens was officially established by the Dutch East Indies Government on May 17, 1817, which became an important part in the history of science in Indonesia. (Wikimedia Commons) In Race and the Education of Desire (1995), Ann Laura Stoler writes about the central role of the construction of race and empires in… Continue reading Semicoloniality, Agency and Occupation

The Counter-Archive of Alfonso Ongpin: A Methodological Essay

Binondo Church, Chinatown, Manila, 1902. Photo: University of Michigan Abstract This essay defines the methods I am using to examine a selection of Real Photo Postcards (RPPC) from two sets of archives. Both sets were taken in the Philippines during the early years of American colonial rule (1898-1946). One consists of ethnological portraits of tribesmen… Continue reading The Counter-Archive of Alfonso Ongpin: A Methodological Essay

The Ilian in two Baguio films by Mike De Leon

Joey (Christopher de Leon) and Anna (Hilda Koronel) in Mike De Leon's Moments in a Stolen Dream, LVN/ Cinema Artists Philippines/ ABS-CBN Entertainment, 1977. Photo: Mike de Leon/ MoMA. Covered by fair use, no copyright infringement intended. This essay revisits the films of Mike De Leon (1947—) on the occasion of his retrospective at the… Continue reading The Ilian in two Baguio films by Mike De Leon

Machete of Paete and other Petrified Idols of Underdevelopment

Machete Poster and sculpture by Paloy Cagayat. Photo: Lakan Sining. The town of Paete, Laguna in the Philippines is an artisanal community famous for its living tradition of wood carving of religious santos. In 1580, the town came under the administration of Spanish friars Juan de Plasencia and Diego de Oropesa, who encountered a native… Continue reading Machete of Paete and other Petrified Idols of Underdevelopment

Grupos Filipinos Ilustres, 1911

Photo: Grupos Filipinos Ilustres, NCCA/ National Museum Collection This lithograph called Grupos Filipinos Ilustres by Guillermo Tolentino from 1911, created the National Pantheon according to historian Resil Mojares. It imagined heroes, intellectuals, artists, activists and politicians together in a studio portrait. It was a popular fixture in homes during the American occupation of the Philippines,… Continue reading Grupos Filipinos Ilustres, 1911

Lingua Franca (2019, dir. Isabel Sandoval)

Isabel Sandoval plays Olivia, a caregiver to Olga played by Lynn Cohen. Filipino director and actress Isabel Sandoval paints the portrait of freedom, inspired by her own journey as a transgender migrant in Donald Trump's America. Alongside filmmakers Lav Diaz and Brillante Mendoza, Sandoval is among a new breed of filmmakers who are committed witnesses… Continue reading Lingua Franca (2019, dir. Isabel Sandoval)

Manta Ray (dir. Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, 2018)

There is a stealthiness and a dreaminess in Manta Ray (2018), the first feature film by cinematographer Phuttiphong Aroonpheng who was born in 1976. The film is one of the first fiction films to evoke the crisis of the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in western Burma (Myanmar), from the perspective of Thailand, the land… Continue reading Manta Ray (dir. Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, 2018)

Bulletproof Equations

Preliminary Investigation Into The Possible Origins of Agimat Burmese Yantra Jacket, vegetable ink on cotton, date unknown, Collection: Herbert Johnson Museum. Photo: Author In his memoirs, Benedict Anderson (1936-2015) recalls a story from Soemarsaid Moertono (1922-1987), his Indonesian fellow student in the mid-1960s who showed him drafts of his MA thesis on aspects of traditional… Continue reading Bulletproof Equations

Memoria (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2021)

Jessica (Tilda Swinton) and the archaeologist (Jeanne Balibar) In Cemetery of Splendor, characters dispense zen-like nuggets of wisdom in a lethargic state. Paced like a Buddhist meditation, the plot marches to a slow and subtle but abundant poetic song under the branches of psychotropic jungles, crossed by bizarre animals, tropical diseases, erotic projections, and otherworldly… Continue reading Memoria (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2021)

Bophana (dir. Rithy Panh, 1996)

Photo from Michelle Nijhuis: Filmmaker Rithy Panh's passionate story of the Cambodian national tragedy is told through a documentary centered on the enduring love of two of its victims. Panh, who was interned in a Khmer Rouge labor camp before finding refuge in France, returned to a Cambodia traumatized by a massacre that saw… Continue reading Bophana (dir. Rithy Panh, 1996)

The Lover (dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud, 1992)

            The Lover (dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud, 1992)  is not the typical epic historical romance in the same way as Gone With the Wind might be but it plays on the same elements. While the plot of this well-worn genre revolves around the loss of innocence—which is often an allegory for the colonial experience—and of having… Continue reading The Lover (dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud, 1992)

On Visual Sovereignty

Tuscarora artist and scholar Jolene Rickard called for art historians to recognize the visualization of multiple systems of governance in studies which employ “indigenous methodology”.[1] The Art historian's ability to “synthesize between multiple worldviews ” is indeed crucial in revisiting the role of images (in Rickard’s case, photographs) as a powerful tool of colonization. Demonstrating… Continue reading On Visual Sovereignty

Rama Hari

Ballet Philippines’ Rama Hari (1980), Cultural Center of the Philippines In November 2017, the Times of India published a story about Prime Minister Narendra Modi applauding a ballet performance based on the Ramayana during the opening of the ASEAN Summit in Manila. According to Modi, the event which was attended by Donald Trump, Shinzo Abe,… Continue reading Rama Hari

Children of Srikandi (2012)

Scene from Children of Srikandi. Photo: Director: Laura Coppens (concept) and Children of Srikandi collective. George McT Kahin wrote in his Introduction to Benedict Anderson’s Mythology and the Tolerance of the Javanese (1965) that “anyone interested in contemporary Indonesia, its organization and social and political articulation... comes to realize that in order to achieve… Continue reading Children of Srikandi (2012)

Marriage (Mas Ruscitadewi, 1995)

Eave hanging (ider-ider) with scenes from the Baratayuda (Great Battle) from the Mahabharata, Ink and pigments on handwoven cotton cloth 18th-early 19th century, 39 3/8 × 276 3/4 inches (100 × 703 cm). Donated originally by Claire Holt and Ben Anderson and transferred from the Echols Collection at Cornell University's Kroch Library. Photo: Collection of… Continue reading Marriage (Mas Ruscitadewi, 1995)

Mystery Object

Tabing temple painting depicting 'TheAbduction of Sita' from the Hindu epic,'Ramayana'. Painted probably by artistKak Lui (c.1860-1930) in 1930s inKamasan. AM Balinese Collection E74186.Image: Howard Hughes/ Australian Museum This brass cylinder is made distinctive by the incisions of figures that resemble reliefs from temples or medieval goblets. Roughly a meter high, the object is shaped… Continue reading Mystery Object