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.