The Case of Daniel Folkmar

From box 66 (759), Records of the Department of ­Anthropology, United States National Museum / National Museum of Natural History, Division of Ethnology, Manuscript and Pamphlet File, National Anthropological ­Archives, ­Smithsonian Institution.
From box 66 (759), Records of the Department of ­Anthropology, United States National Museum / National Museum of Natural History, Division of Ethnology, Manuscript and Pamphlet File, National Anthropological ­Archives, ­Smithsonian Institution.

This is a digest of Campomanes, Oscar V. “Images of Filipino Racialization in the Anthropological Laboratories of the American Empire: The Case of Daniel Folkmar.” PMLA 123, no. 5 (2008): 1692-699. Accessed November 3, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25501971

American Studies scholar Oscar Campomanes brought my attention to the work in physical anthropology of Daniel Folkmar (1861–1932). Like Dean Worcester, Folkmar accumulated a photographic archive, recording extensive anthropometric data on 838 Filipino prisoners for the United States Philippine colonial exhibit at the 1904 Saint Louis World’s Fair. Campomanes’s study presents an account that looks at the parameters used by Folkmar in establishing conjunctions between ethnocultural difference, racial somatology and the general elaboration of American imperial power at the time of the Philippine-American War. His local and critical instantiation of what David Lloyd calls the “visual structure of racism,” in his seminal volume “Race under Representation” details the ways in which racism, especially in an imperial context, “constantly makes appeal to the immediacy of its discriminations, to their self-evidence.” It is important to mention Campomanes’s study of Daniel Folkmar’s anthropological work in making a point that Dean Worcester was acting at the behest of colonial authority as much as his own personal curiosities. His work constitutes only a portion of the numerous scientific experiments conducted on Filipino bodies during the period of American Colonization. 

Campt mentions the use of “rigidly formatted, serial images” that grouped traits and identity “through their static systematization of physical attributes” as an instrument of criminologists to gain insight into the nature of the criminal body (75-84). Sekula also touches upon this in his study in “The Body and the Archive” (13, 26-33). The positivist obsession with visual cataloguing overtook the “textual” attributes of the person (Sekula 6). The purpose of the clerical codification of the criminal body is to mute the person’s guises and diminish his agency to speak his alibis (6). It seemed like a theoretically sound system except that subtle acts of resistance and humanity hums through the lower sonic frequencies of criminal metric identification (6). My attention is fixed on the scar around the ear of one of the prisoners in Plate 76 of Daniel Folkmar’s archive; likely sustained from fencing. Apparently, Folkmar’s attention was caught by something else; the flatness of the subject’s nose. He drew several noses of inmates in an attempt to illustrate that the shape of the nose signifies a deviant inclination. The tightness of the frame was intended to aid a craniological study but Folkmar’s racist science which divided the human body into quantifiable segments ultimately distracted him to look elsewhere. Folkmar’s obscure archive along with numerous studies on Dean Worcester’s photograph, reinforce David Lloyd’s observation that “the discourse of race . . . undergoes a crucial shift in the late eighteenth century from a system of arbitrary marks to the ascription of natural signs” (1)    
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Allan Sekula, “The Body and the Archive,” October, Winter, 1986, Vol. 39 (Winter, 1986), pp. 3-6.
Oscar V. Campomanes, “Images of Filipino Racialization in the Anthropological Laboratories of the American Empire: The Case of Daniel Folkmar.” PMLA 123, no. 5 (2008): 1692-699. Accessed November 3, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25501971.
Tina Campt, “Haptic Temporalities,” Listening to Images, Durham : Duke University Press, 2017.