[Insert Expletive Here]: The Poetics of Vulgarity, The Spectacle of The Ordinary, And the Construction of Affective-Political Space in Dutertean Speech Performances

Alwin C. Aguirre

Built on the Bakhtinian premise that the vulgar and obscene are the domain of the powerless in resisting dominant culture, I view Duterte’s penchant for strong and offensive language in his official speaking events as an appropriation of said subversive potential. In speaking the supposed vernacular of the masses, he arrogated upon himself the persona of the ordinary, which ironically, is transformed into a spectacle in various speaking engagements as covered by mainstream media in and out of the country. When asked for an explanation behind his ‘crude’ (bastos) language, Duterte claims that he is ‘pursuing the limits of civility’ (Romero 2019), essentially admitting an intentionality to his actions as opposed to attributing it to mere force of habit or unconscious predisposition. Employing an affective-discursive analysis (Wetherell 2012) of presidential speech transcripts, media coverage of his speaking engagements, and post-speech discursive interventions (e.g. official clarifications of the president’s statements), I demonstrate, in accordance with Mbembe (2001), a particular kind of poetics (e.g. manner, materials, context) by which state power deploys obscenities and vulgarities in order to ‘dramatize its own magnificence’ to its subjects (p.104) and construct a limited affective space of political engagement.


Alwin C. Aguirre teaches at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He finished his PhD at the Institute of Culture, Discourse and Communication, Auckland University of Technology. He is co-convenor of the UP Diliman Discourse Studies Group.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.

Photo Credits: Visit Victoria

© 2019 Conference Design Pty Ltd