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Taking the Long Route : Ethnographic Metacommentary as Method in the Anthropological Film Practice Docot, Dada 2019

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 Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  1  Taking the Long Route: Ethnographic Metacommentary as Method in the Anthropological Film Practice  Dada Docot Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia  Screening   I begin with an invitation to watch Performing Naturalness (2008), at The short film was shot with an 8 mm camera, on a single roll of film, at the end of my four-year stay in Japan as an international student. Opening with a close-up shot of myself talking on my mobile phone while waiting at the train platform, the scene changes to a train car where I ride surrounded by Japanese passengers whose faces are digitally blurred. I get off the train at Shinagawa station in central Tokyo. At the intersection of six train lines, Shinagawa is one of Japan’s most bustling stations, and the one closest to Japan’s busiest immigration office.2 I walk toward the station exit. Captions along the bottom of the screen explain that the film is documenting a one-off experiment. Namely, I am testing the hypothesis that, as a Filipina, I would be stopped by the Japanese police for inspection within 3 minutes, even if I do not do anything out of the ordinary. As I expected, within a minute two plainclothes Japanese policemen stop me to check my documents.  Tracing Routes  In the foreword to Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s, Luis Camnitzer et al. (1999:vii-viii) argue that conceptual art, beyond merely embodying oppositional politics by becoming anti-aesthetic, also helps to “enlarge and deepen the scope of what art could be.”  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  2  Visual anthropology has a comparable aim: to problematize representation by going beyond the merely visual/optical, to explore in an expanded way the ideas and processes surrounding an anthropological research project. In recent decades, the genealogical tree of visual anthropology has branched off in a variety of directions, each of which aims to complicate the ethnographic narrative in different ways. Recently examined topics include how anthropologists draw from art practice (Clifford 1988; Marcus 1990, 2010; Russell 1999), the artist-envy of anthropologists (Foster 1996) on one hand and the ethnographer-envy of artists on the other (Schneider and Wright 2006), the performative dimensions of visual ethnography (Castañeda 2006; Pink 2011), art-anthropology experiments (Brodine et al. 2011; Russell 1999), and the sensory aspects that often retreat from anthropological investigation (Cox, Irving and Wright 2016; MacDougall 2006) – to name only a few.   To contribute to these conversations, I turn to two pivotal discussions that have appeared in Current Anthropology about how visual anthropologists deal with the complexity of the anthropological subject, and about visual anthropology’s methods of representation insofar as they concern the problem of visibility. In his 1997 article Televisualist Anthropology: Representation, Aesthetics, Politics, Weiner asks what Faye Ginsburg means by “complexity” when referring to the film clips produced by aboriginal peoples that Ginsburg had screened during her keynote lecture at an anthropological meeting held in Australia in 1994. Weiner (1997:197) wants an “explanatory passage,” and he asks that anthropologists perform the role of critic so that visual projects can be understood by their audience. In order to deal with complexity, Weiner (1997:198) suggests that anthropologists begin seeing filmic media simultaneously as “tool of our ethnographic craft and as an object of our ethnographic inspection.” He demands: “I want Ginsburg to tell me what I can’t know about the film just by  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  3  inspecting it,” in effect commenting on the “mode of repression” in the ways that anthropologists unpack stories depicted on-screen (Weiner 1997:206). To brace his claims about the unproblematized Westernizing effect of the camera, he draws our attention to non-constructionist discourses in the non-West, in particular, the case of the Avatip in Papua New Guinea. For the Avatip, acts of non-revelation (such as the harboring of secrets) are means for protecting knowledge and wielding power. Weiner argues that such forms of non-visualist knowledge production contrast with strategies of signifying a revelatory “real” that underlies Western forms of visual representation.   Weiner’s critical attention to non-revelatory modes of elicitation and non-constructionist sensibilities calls for the need to acknowledge the existence of non-visual forms of self-representation by aboriginal and indigenous peoples, but it strikes me as paradoxical that he also wants a “full-blooded anthropological treatment” (Weiner 1997:206) through ethnographic writing on the visual work. He critiques anthropologists for being party to the effacement of the memory of non-Western peoples who now wield new visual media technologies, but at the same time, he demands an explanation which leads him to effectively assign the power of narrative concealment or revelation only to anthropologists. Complexity, it appears from Weiner’s perspective, is a matter constituted by the anthropologist’s agenda, falling outside of the agency, will, and understanding of the studied “other.”  Fifteen years after Weiner’s critique of Ginsburg’s lecture, Christian Suhr and Rane Willerslev (2012) returned to Weiner’s points about concealments in anthropological practice. Suhr and Willerslev propose the use of montage to reduce the gap between the visible and the imperceptible. Montage, they assert, is a “key cinematic tool for evoking the invisible, without reducing it to forms of visibility” (Suhr and Willerslev 2012:285). Through montage it becomes  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  4  possible to imagine the expanse of the universe of possibilities that exist beyond our limited visual scope (Suhr and Willerslev 2012:286). In their proposed methodology, vision must be understood as infinite and therefore ungraspable in its whole. In montage, the invisible is maintained as an “excess” of vision (which is limited, be it through the human eye or its extension in the camera). It is through montage that “views of a multidimensional ‘thick’” can begin to supersede the “‘thin’ 2-D” of revelatory visual representation (Suhr and Willerslev 2012:288). Suhr and Willerslev’s idea that the images, through montage, acquire “super-real quality” nevertheless remains to over-privilege visual representation, leading them to retreat from inquiring beyond the visually im/perceptible dimensions of the ethnographic object (Suhr and Willerslev 2012:288). They fail to break away from anthropology’s fixation on revelatory visuality and its attachments to the observable that Weiner critiqued. Their proposal suggests that the only interpretations that can be conjured are necessarily bound to the visual, as if vision is the only available sense through which we could extend our perception, understanding, and experience of the image.  I revisit these conversations, more than 2 decades after Weiner opened a polemic which I believe continues to be central to visual anthropological debates. In Beyond Text?: Critical Practices and Sensory Anthropology (Cox, Irving and Wright 2016), the editors push conversations in visual anthropology towards the sensorial dimensions of ethnography. The editors write that a key concern of contemporary anthropology is how to productively bring together theory and method “so as to practically research the complex realms of imaginative expression and experience” (Cox, Irving and Wright 2016:16). In resolving this dilemma about complexity, the editors curiously return to the idiom of montage which they suggest “is already prefigured in lived experience” (Cox, Irving and Wright 2016:7). They write that an  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  5  anthropology that seriously considers the sensory dimensions of research produces a “lived montage” that contains “those that go beyond or challenge those that can that be effectively represented...” (Cox, Irving and Wright 2016:17). They recognize the expanse of “productive possibilities of engaging in forms of perceptual investigation and creation…” (Cox, Irving and Wright 2016:19). This recent discussion leads me to think that anthropologists remain to be attached to finding new modes of experimentation that produce the end or means of their ethnography. Rather than finding new ways to produce research by engaging with various artistic forms and “experiments,” I am more concerned with treating the creative projects of anthropologists as “‘ethnography’ in itself” (Ssorin-Chaikov 2013:9, my emphasis). It appears that conversations loop back to Weiner’s and Suhr and Willerslev’s concerns about complexity and visuality.  To contribute to these conversations, I introduce what I call the ethnographic metacommentary, a conceptualist method that can be used in approaching creative projects and that contextualizes the visual ethnographically. The method of ethnographic metacommentary is located within Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov’s (2013) proposal for ethnographic conceptualism (EC) which “refers to anthropology as a method of conceptual art but also, conversely, to the use of conceptual art as an anthropological research tool” (Ssorin-Chaikov 2013:6). Conceptual art practice, for Ssorin-Chaikov, problematizes art, dematerializes the art object by attending to analytics rather than form and aesthetics, critiques the institution from which it emerges, and extends conversations to the discussion of processes that underlie art production. The conceptualist process pierces through different dimensions of production, which means that Ssorin-Chaikov (2013:7) sees EC as a way to depict anthropology’s and the anthropological project’s (e.g., film or experiment) “operational infrastructure.” In illustrating what EC might  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  6  look like, Ssorin-Chaikov looks at the visitors’ book from an exhibit he had curated with Olga Sosnina at the Kremlin Museum in 2006. The book, Ssorin-Chaikov points out, did not merely archive the visitors’ comments; it had become an “exhibition artifact…[that] collapsed the distinction between commentary and the objects of commentary, between the visitors and the exhibits…between an ethnographic notebook and a conceptualist means to produce an ethnographic situation” (Ssorin-Chaikov 2013:7).3 Through this example, EC seeks to illuminate “not only what [this] anthropology looks at but how” (Ssorin-Chaikov 2013:9, italics in original). In short, EC is “ethnography conducted as conceptual art” (Ssorin-Chaikov 2013:6, italics in original).  In the present article, I engage with EC’s propositions by ethnographically writing on Performing Naturalness (2008), the film introduced above.4 I use a very short film “as an end as well as a means” (Ssorin-Chaikov 2013:6) of anthropological ethnography. My personal involvement in Performing Naturalness, as filmmaker-anthropologist and as a subject appearing in the film, will allow me to demonstrate the method of ethnographic metacommentary more effectively. Following EC’s critical note about complexity as a “good question but a bad answer” (Ssorin Chaikov 2013:16), I do not merely reiterate complexity (Weiner) nor do I simply recognize visibility and invisibility in practices of representation (Suhr and Willerslev). In its overall form, this article demonstrates ethnographic metacommentary as a method of expanding our thinking beyond what is representable on-screen, and in our writing. It is also an auto-ethnography that fleshes out difficulties of representation in relation to locatedness, as well as an ethnography of knowledge production from the Global South, and its conversation with the discipline of anthropology and others. It serves as an ethnography of the nuanced experiences of racialized bodies in transnational migration.   Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  7  Just as the postmodern investigation in anthropology sees culture as open-ended, ethnographic metacommentary is a method that offers a flexible itinerary. I continue below with two sets of commentaries. The first set discusses Performing Naturalness in various terrains such as its background in relation to: political situation, experimentation, and art/anthropological practice. The second set of commentaries is composed of what I call “furtherings” of the film. Furtherings are self-reflexive explorations that surround or are embedded in the object of study itself (in this case, film), and which flesh out aspects that are not immediately visible to the public. These furtherings, undertaken after the film’s release, unpack ethnographic situations arising from the film project such as: contestations on the film’s concept, audience feedback, collaboratory “failings,” and finally, issues of relationality. The chosen subheadings in these commentaries are represented by succinct keywords for investigating the operational infrastructure of my film. I make reference to an eclectic mix of discourses ‒ performance theory, anthropology, race, gender and migration studies, art and personhood theory, knowledge production, autoethnography ‒ which in itself demonstrates the multiple positions and experiences that anthropologists inevitably become linked with in the process of ethnographic metacommentary. Ethnographic metacommentary extend conversations about creative works in anthropology (and beyond) by proposing that we take the long and laborious route to reflecting on and writing about cultural production. Through the descriptive power of EC, I hope to demonstrate a way how to deepen contextualization and to further the narrative beyond the personal and political themes already discernible on-screen.5  Contextualizing Performing Naturalness  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  8  I agree with Weiner’s concerns about anthropology’s tendency to use the notion of complexity to summarily punctuate, rather than to ethnographically engage with, visual works.6 Following EC’s push for “an ethnography that does things – and not just by saying them” (Ssorin-Chaikov 2013:8), I provide in this section an elaborate contextualization of the film. The task of providing context in the postcolonial world includes the meticulous peeling off of “‘mercurial’ layerings” – of politics, histories, memory, and many others (Manalansan IV and Espiritu 2015). I begin by writing about the immediate context of my film – Filipino mobilities to Japan, and gendered and racialized surveillance at the Shinagawa Station. Political Situation  Today, Filipinos find themselves in Japan (one of the Philippines’ former colonizers) because of the mobilities arising from post-World War II image-amelioration and cultural diplomacy programs.7 This mobility correlates with the experiences of turbulence culminating during Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos (1972-1986), when the Philippine government saw the opening of the international migration market as an opportunity to increase revenue and to repay debt. Japan’s continued industrialization, coupled with a program for intensive internationalization in the 1970s, facilitated the initial entry of Filipino women as entertainment workers. Migration from the Philippines to Japan has been strongly gendered since the beginning, resulting in a highly feminized Filipino migrant population mainly concentrated in the entertainment industry. The stigmatization of Filipino women in Japan because of the sexualized nature of their work at the nightclubs facilitated a surveillance practice that have rendered them as targets.8 This situation is influenced additionally by the United States’ colonial and neocolonial relations with both the Philippines and Japan, which mirror Japan’s own links with the Philippines. For example, as a way of applying pressure, the U.S. Department of State (2014)  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  9  keeps Japan on Tier Two of the Watchlist for Trafficking in Persons, compelling Japan’s sustained crackdown on illegal migrants and its tightening of immigration controls.9  The Kōnan Exit of Shinagawa station in Tokyo, the one that leads to the Immigration Bureau, is known among Filipinos as a place where undercover Japanese police are dispatched to “spot/stop” foreigners. As one long-term Filipino resident of Japan shared with me after seeing the film, Shinagawa train station is “abunai (dangerous) for people from the so-called Third World, whether they have a valid visa or not.” The idiom frequently used by Filipinos in Japan to refer to being “spotted” is “nahuli,” which can be translated as “captured.” The implication of nahuli is that surveillance is experienced or perceived by Filipinos in Japan as a violent act. Like other Filipinos, I felt vulnerable, uncomfortable, and anxious in that place, so I would avoid it whenever possible. Going there felt unsettling. To be singled out from the hurrying crowd is “nakakahiya” (shameful), as it brings a conscious moment of difference and a disruption of one’s sense of normalcy.10 Performing Naturalness was conceptualized within a context of persistent racialization. Experimentation Performing Naturalness documents a performance controlled by my choice of equipment, but this was a choice consequently influenced by the “field” in which the project was executed. The decision to use 8 mm film for Performing Naturalness arises from larger conversations about the camera as a tool in contemporary systems of surveillance. The history of film tells us about experiments with narrative by filmmakers who worked within the early limitations of film technology.11 Rather than for the “graininess” that filmmakers today may find nostalgic or aesthetically appealing, my decision to use 8 mm film came from a number of contingencies, including the purchase of an 8 mm camera in 2008 by Jong Pairez, a Filipino  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  10  artist who was also living in Japan with whom I discussed my initial ideas about the project. It was after his proposal to lend his camera and skills to a project that I began to imagine different possibilities for a filmic commentary on the experience of racialized surveillance of migrants in Tokyo. I conceived of Performing Naturalness as both a performance work and cinematic experiment. The idea is that Pairez turns on the camera when we get off at Shinagawa station, and he just lets the camera roll while I walk to the exit where I may or may not be spotted/stopped by surveillance agents. The temporal control on my experiment comes from the 8 mm technology itself; a single-8 film roll runs for exactly 3 minutes and 20 seconds, at 18 frames per second. Hence the gamble that I would be spotted/stopped by the police within 3 minutes. The idea of limitation (i.e., limited recording time) of camera equipment from the past is used in Performing Naturalness as the experiment’s controlled variable. By documenting a time-constrained performance of “natural” everyday behavior and the racial interpellation it elicits, I hope to comment with this film on the persistent surveillance of the other in contemporary Japan – historically linked to the power relations between post-industrial Japan and migrant-sending Philippines as discussed above. In the world of performance, artists often re-stage performances, while in academia, anthropologists repeatedly visit the “field.” Practitioners in both domains often cultivate creative or scholarly practice through acts of repetition. However, the field that serves as the anthropologist’s site for research is often a space filled with everyday anxieties, and the anthropologist is, in many ways, vulnerable to being affected by the stories unfolding in these spaces. In Performing Naturalness, the adversity I encountered ultimately made it impossible for me to repeat my planned experiment in the way that it might have been possible to do in another,  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  11  less hostile public space. The performance envisioned for Performing Naturalness was conceived as what artist Dick Higgins (2002) terms a “chance operation” and was meant to be staged only once.12  Filming techniques such as Sarah Pink’s (2011) “video walk” and other participatory or observatory methods, with their expansive use of time, were not well-suited for Performing Naturalness. Thinking about “dialogic encounters” during fieldwork, Cox, Irving and Wright (2017) liken the act of walking with the filmmakers’ practice of strolling-while-perceiving. They suggest that while in motion, filmmakers “perceive images and mentally record their visual experiences” (Cox, Irving and Wright 2017:17). They conceptualize movement as a “creative act of poesis” that splices “dialogues and juxtapositions of sound, image, texture, taste and aroma within the flow of everyday life” (Cox, Irving and Wright 2017:17, italics in original). However, this idiom of moving as poesis appears to be a luxury for the racialized body in motion. Surveillance society apprehends racialized bodies even when at rest, as we have seen in many accounts about bodies of color being policed while merely driving, eating, lounging, and other everyday acts. In the case of documenting a moment of surveillance, one must film quickly under potentially inhospitable conditions. Thus the documentation of the mise-en-scène (Rouch 1974, 2003) may not only be difficult but taxing.13 As a temporary resident-other in Japan recurrently subjected to the type of surveillance depicted in the film, my gender, race, and nationality made the act of filming tense, if not frightening. Such anxieties experienced in the field are not necessarily obstacles, but can themselves become platforms from which new methodological experiments can be imagined.  The context illustrated here points to the need to expand conversations about how tensions wrought by situations such as surveillance and racialization press upon anthropological  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  12  representation and experimentation. Ethnographically elaborating on the raison d'être for the deployed tools and experiments of our ethnography highlights the situation from which ethnographic experiments flourish. In the case of Performing Naturalness, its use of “alternative” methods and tools emerged from a situation of persistent racialization in the postcolonial world that affects how bodies move in space/the field, consequently pressing upon ethnographic experimentation. Practice  At the background of this project conceptualization is a mélange of influences from the Philippines’ artworld and beyond. I find myself often struggling with conflicting epistemologies and praxes. Educated in the Philippines (in a system patterned after the United States) and in Japan (where a commitment to internationalization is projected alongside a strict protection of nationalist traditions), afterwards trained more rigorously in anthropology at a Canadian institution, and, finally, identifying overall as a globally mobile citizen rooted in the “Global South,” the world for me is hybridized by multiple cultural encounters. Beyond stating this background, I return to what “might” be the roots of my practice, just as conceptualism in art problematizes art itself. Weiner calls for an “ethnographic background,” and I show here that visual works can also be better understood by examining the intimate enmeshments of one’s visual production with the ideologies found at home, in turn linked to events and debates happening outside its national borders. The positioning that I provide here is admittedly an uncomfortable balancing act because of how self-regarding, or even vainglorious, auto-ethnographic works can appear. Numerous feminist scholars have already considered how dynamically the political and the personal intersect, and I align my present work with these efforts (Behar 2013; de Jesus 2005; Narayan 1993; Okeley 1996; Ryang 2005).   Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  13   My position stems from being an intermittently exhibiting artist and a student of Roberto Chabet, an artist widely recognized as a strong force in the Philippine conceptual art movement. However, as an undergraduate at the University of the Philippines, I was also a writer-photographer for the activist student publication Philippine Collegian. Today, I am an international student funded by scholarships. My main area of study is Filipino migration, and I belong to a family whose members are spread all over the globe as immigrants or temporary workers in a range of occupations. Given this background, I recognize that my practice, when set in the art context of my home country, can be located within the two “camps” of art, namely “conceptualism” and “social realism.”   In the Philippines, artists who identify with social realism create works committed to directly promoting social change and raising socio-political awareness in the public sphere (Guillermo 1987). Social realist aesthetics are often, although not exclusively, painterly, made up of images that reflect the artists’ activist orientation – as seen for instance in their straightforward portraits of urban and rural poverty. Conceptual artists, in contrast, often critique the explicitness of social realist aesthetics.14 I recognize that the writing of this anthropological text, which ends up as a reading of my own work, is potentially antithetical to Filipino conceptualists’ non-revelatory practice.  The persistent tensions between these two “camps” in the Philippines reflect the larger debate within the conceptual art world that began in the ‘60s and ‘70s: the rift between what has been called tautological conceptualism, prominent in North America, and the political conceptualism adopted in Latin America. Art critic Simón Marchán Fiz (quoted in Ramírez 1999) stresses the mainstream-periphery divide in art production by comparing the conceptualist practices between the two regions from the 1960s and 1970s. At the source of this divide lies the  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  14  art of “pure” conceptual tautology in North America, a historical position articulated perhaps most explicitly by conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth (Ramírez 1999:551). For Kosuth (2008), tautological conceptual artworks “provide no information whatsoever about any matter of fact.” It is through art’s existence as sheer tautology that art can “remain aloof from philosophical judgements” and to “[exist] for its own sake.” Kosuth’s work One and Three Chairs (1965) exemplifies his theory. The work is a three-piece installation consisting of a wooden chair, a mounted enlarged photograph of this same chair, and a mounted enlarged definition of the word “chair.” As in One and Three Chairs, Kosuth’s work often deals with different explorations of an object’s meaning in relation to its varied visual or linguistic representations, an investigation that can be paralleled with his own investigations into the definition and boundaries of art (Russell 1976:1055).   Political conceptualism in South America, on the other hand, subverts the very “art for art’s sake” principle professed by artists like Kosuth. For critic Mari Carmen Ramírez (1999), the Latin American “inversion” of North American conceptualism can be characterized by the credo of intention over aesthetics, in which the artist works with “the real situation itself” (of actually existing social relations) rather than with metaphors (Meireles 1999:410).15 For example, Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles, in Insertions into Ideological Circuits (1970) removed Coca-Cola bottles from circulation upon which he printed political messages (such as “Yankees Go Home”) before re-inserting the bottles into circulation. In this way, Meireles tricked the company into spreading his anti-capitalist and anti-colonial messages through its mass distribution system. Mereiles’ tampering exposes and critiques contradictions and possibilities inherent to capitalist systems of mass distribution and consumption. In this instance, rather than form and representation (as in Kosuth’s work), the “larger social circuit” understood through Marxist  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  15  political theory constitutes the art object that acts a “conveyor of political meanings within a specific social context” (Ramírez 1999:555).16  Kosuth later became more interested in the politics of art rather than in tautological explorations of its premises, borrowing from anthropology in revising his position. He turned to a model of art practice that he called “anthropologized art” through which he concluded: “art cannot be apolitical… it is necessary to make one’s politics explicit (in some way) and work toward constructing a socio-political context of one’s own in which (cultural) actions are anchored for meaning” (Kosuth 1999:346). Kosuth ultimately reconciled himself with the idea that political content need not contravene art’s conceptual bases.17 This elaborate contextualization is important for two reasons. First, the above consideration of artistic genealogies in my home country lead me to think that the comparable Philippine version of the tautology-versus-political-agenda dichotomy has been remarkably long-lived. Marchán Fiz characterizes it as a state of “impasse” (quoted in Ramírez 1999:551) – a junction at which conceptualists and social realists in the Philippines also find themselves in. A recognition of this historical parallel can help reconcile the opposing traditions of production in the Philippines into a more complicated and richer understanding of the country’s art and knowledge production. Visual anthropology is still young in the Philippines, where it still has only a limited number of practitioners, remaining (in 2018) unhosted by any institution. Consequently, the circulation and the value of visual anthropological works might be mediated not only by the academy but also by the social yet divided world of visual artists in the Philippines. The work of future practitioners of visual anthropology in the Philippines might also become caught between these conflicting traditions from the visual art world.  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  16   Second, conceptualism that sees art production as a political project serves as a guide for anthropological film practice in the “peripheries” that might be concerned with tense layers of context and other artistic expressions beyond visibility. As I have discussed above, Latin American artists use their self-awareness about their geopolitical marginalization as the starting point of their own inquiries. North American conceptualist works, meanwhile, exemplified by Kosuth’s eventual and conscious shift towards anthropologized art, speak of the need for political explicitness grounded in one’s own socio-cultural context. Of course, it is a mistake to consider the ideological clash between North and South American conceptualists as resolved, given their ongoing relationship with each other (and with Europe), on account of the entangled colonial histories and enduring post-colonial (and arguably neo-colonial) relations of these continents.  To end this contextualization, I recall Filipino critic Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez’s (2011) clarification that while conceptualists are ostensibly repelled by the idea of their works “being read” into, they cannot be dismissed as apolitical. It must be noted that social realist artists in the Philippines also do often use conceptualist strategies, blurring the divide between the two traditions. For their part, Filipino conceptualists are not completely apolitical, even if their art practice largely avoids, or only very subtly engages, topical social concerns. Their aversion to having their works “read” is grounded in a reaction to the recognition of political explicitness as a defining characteristic of social realism. Thus, as exemplified by the above cases from Latin America, the political can and ought to be employed in production (within visual anthropology or otherwise). The artist should, however, despite affiliations with either tradition of art/politics, retain the agency in how to articulate the social/cultural situatedness of their works. Political  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  17  intentionality, this contextualization shows, can be made explicit even in projects that align themselves as conceptualist.  In the next section, I discuss Performing Naturalness beyond what is visible on the screen, as well as beyond the political commentary that I intend to communicate. I do this by peeling away some of the many layers of the material itself, as well as layers of the intricate social world inherent in its production. I refer to this part of ethnographic metacommentary as furtherings, in order to suggest that acts of expanding one’s horizon of understanding (about a visual work, for example) lead to problematizations and discussions, rather than to definite conclusions.   Some Furtherings  Roger Sansi-Roca (2015:25) asks what it means to go beyond the so-called politics of representation, and how must anthropologists proceed within the “traps and devices” that pervade our ways of crafting representation. To his question, I propose furtherings as a tool for extending, branching out, and opening new itineraries that anthropologists could venture into more intentionally as part of their ethnography. Furtherings do not only affirm the incompleteness and open-endedness of the anthropological project; they take on a “performative stance” in ethnography (Ssorin-Chaikov 2013:16). In the furtherings that follow, I take the route of ethnographically writing down some narratives that comprise and surround my very short film.  Contestations  An internationally successful male Filipino artist, who was doing his graduate studies in fine arts in Tokyo, suggested that I stage a “grand performance” for this project. According to  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  18  him, my clothes should emulate the “stereotypical” Filipina entertainer’s outfit: a mini-skirt, full make-up, high heels. By doing so, he said that I would surely attract attention at the train station, especially from the police, and thus be successful in my experiment. Dressing in this way, to deliberately attract attention, would have contrasted with the practice of Filipinos who admit to wearing “masks” to avoid confrontations with the police. These purported masks pertain to the superficial “Japanizing” of the self through clothing, dyed hair and skin bleaching. Vera Mackie (1998:52) calls such self-masking “border-crossing,” which she defines as manipulating one’s racially-coded physical characteristics to blend in with the crowd. As confirmed by some of the film’s viewers, this conscious and laborious effort of “dressing up,” as one viewer called it, helps the othered body escape the attention of the police. Reflecting on his experiences of being constantly stopped by police in Tokyo, a Paraguayan student who saw Performing Naturalness commented: “It was bothersome, so I started ‘dressing up’ a bit more, and shaved much more often than I did previously... There was no need for me, being a college student, to wear shirts and dressy coats, but it freed me from the annoyance.”  The Filipino artist’s suggestion has important implications for how anthropologists’ identities are performed or crafted in the field. In anthropological ethnography, the wearing of multiple masks as we socialize with people of different levels of power is a celebrated strategy for obtaining the data that we will later analyze (Berreman 2007; Fabian 1983). To a certain extent, this mask-wearing is valued as a testimony to the anthropologist’s purported perseverance, patience, and flexibility during fieldwork. As I argue below, gender and race need to be considered to complicate “impression management” (Berreman 2007; Goffman 1959) as a politically charged aspect of ethnography.  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  19   While writing this article, I found literature on surveillance and performance theory useful in problematizing the choices I had made for this project. In Bodies That Matter, Judith Butler (1993:x) writes that: “Thinking the body as constructed demands a rethinking of the meaning of construction itself.” The suggestion that I should dress like an entertainer for this project encouraged what Butler calls a “reiterative and citational practice” (1993:xii). In this case, it is the unproblematized adoption of a characteristic gendered, and racialized identity (i.e., the stereotyped Filipino woman in Japan). An uncritical acceptance of the artist’s suggestion could have merely contributed to the unwitting reproduction of precisely the exclusionary profiling that the project comments on. Successfully eliciting the profiling attention of the police, as I wished to do, if it had been effected by the performance of a stereotype would have only reiterated the “formative” and discriminatory surveillance practices rather than commented upon or critiqued those practices.  It was after gathering thoughts from fellow foreign students I knew in Japan, and who had themselves experienced profiling and surveillance, that I decided that simply performing my everyday “naturalness,” dressing and behaving as I would on any other day, was more appropriate for the project. However, as Butler reminds us, what we assume to be “natural” always bears a history of normativization. The “natural” in Performing Naturalness is necessarily also a reiteration of certain embodied gendered modes into which we have been enculturated. While this “naturalness” remains circumscribed within socially ascribed norms, it was chosen over the suggestion of dressing ostentatiously as a means of avoiding the infliction of further “injury” (Butler 1993:84) to Filipino women, who are often targets of the deployed systems of profiling and surveillance in Japan.  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  20   This brings me to thinking about performance versus perfomativity in our ethnographic projects, including visual ones. For Butler (1993:178) “performance… is distinguishable from performativity insofar as the latter consists in a reiteration of norms which precede, constrain, and exceed the performer and in that sense cannot be taken as the fabrication of the performer’s ‘will’ or ‘choice’; further, what is performed works to conceal, if not to disavow, what remains opaque, unconscious, unperformable.” Embodying “naturalness” (a performative act) instead of the donning of a “mask” (a performance) for this project was therefore conceptualized as a form of resistance, albeit still categorically what Butler calls a “bounded ‘act.’”   Feedback  Earlier, I situated Performing Naturalness within different layers of contexts, and through them, I directly articulated the messages that I wished to impart to the film’s audience. Whether these messages are delivered to the audience in full or only partially is an issue that needs further discussion. Despite its short duration, Performing Naturalness aims to “call(s) forth a world” (Kondo 1999) of shared experiences for its viewers, and thus works as an evocative tool for data-gathering. To test the generalizability of my personal experiences of surveillance, I collected over 50 comments from people who have lived in Japan for various durations and who have watched the film. Many of these testimonies attest to reality of surveillance of foreigners, non-Filipinos included: I can relate to this because I always get checked! One day, even twice, also at Shinagawa station!!! - Female, Philippines, 3 years in Japan  I’m annoyed by the trend of ‘reading bodies’, as if being a Filipina would automatically imply not having the right visa in the passport. - Female, Israel, 3 years in Japan Japanese feel superior to other Asians and inferior to Caucasians! - Male, Iran, 8 years in Japan  I remember once they stopped me and asked for my alien card. The card was renewed and the expiration date appearing on the front had already passed. They didn’t look at the  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  21  back and immediately called for back-up. After 5 minutes, I was surrounded by a dozen Japanese policemen in both uniform and plain clothes. They threw me in the patrol car and headed to my place to have me show them my passport. After showing them the passport and the back of my alien card, which clearly stated the visa renewal date, they finally let me go, without any apologies for not checking the card carefully. How rude. - Male, Vietnam, 10 years in Japan  For me, the experience is different, but I can safely say that after having been here for 10 years now, there are still reminders every day. But when the authorities are involved, the stereotyping not only disgusts you, it also chips away at your pride and your confidence. - Female, Romania, 10 years in Japan  One time, I got checked twice in less than a minute. I told the second inspector that I just showed my card to the officer downstairs, but he still insisted on checking my card... I find it rude when they gang up on any foreigner they choose to check. I guess it’s true that in Japan you are guilty unless proven innocent. - Male, Philippines, 3 years in Japan   Institutions maintain their power through surveillance systems that discipline subjects and that assure the functioning of institutional authority (Foucault 1975). Applying this statement to the surveillance system in Shinagawa Station, the panopticon of omnipresent surveillance cameras is supplemented with human eyes that filter certain people from the crowd according to observable traits and pre-formulated profiles. Reflecting on his experience of being surveilled in Japan, the Paraguayan student also shared, “...they stopped me whenever I had a beard... I was also stopped more often in the summer... when I was more tanned, than in the winter, when I was whiter.” Ahmed (2007:154) argues that race structures a world in which the “body-at-home is one that can inhabit whiteness;” the orientation of the world towards whiteness produces the “noticeability of the arrival of some bodies more than others” (Ahmed 2007:150). Under these conditions, the body out-of-place becomes an object of state control, as well as a site for the display of state power. In public spaces such as the Shinagawa train station, policemen often work in small groups or in pairs, and assume “naturalness,” as I did in this project, by wearing everyday clothing to camouflage the force of the law that their uniforms would represent. The encounter of the racially profiled subject with state power, through the apparatus of surveillance  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  22  and profiling in Tokyo, as shown in my film, unfolds in distinct stages. First, a subject’s mobility is halted when they are suddenly surrounded by two or more police agents. This isolates the subject from the rest of the rushing crowd. How the inspection proceeds thereafter depends on the circumstances. Often, the agent will ask for the subject’s “alien card” to check their nationality and to confirm the legality of their stay and status in Japan. The agent may also ask the subject in the Japanese language where they reside or work, the duration of their residence in Japan, or if they live alone or with others. It is nevertheless common for the agents, before exiting the scene, to perform the traditional ojigi (bow) to the subject as a form of delivering apology (or perhaps respect), upon confirmation of the subject’s legal status. The agents then fade back into the crowd to continue their surveillance. This “manual” and performative practice of surveillance creates what Hille Koskela (2000) calls “emotional space” through face-to-face interaction, rupturing emotions on the side of the surveilled. One male Filipino student commented on the film: “I was emotionally shaken and felt that I was ‘profiled’ because of my ethnicity.” He added that he believed the faces of the police officers “showed suspicion and condescension.” Violence takes many forms. The form of surveillance shown in this film, the experience of othering, includes a brand of violence that injures self-worth and self-value (Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois 2004). Steven Nock (1993:15) describes profiling in Japan as a “form of categorical suspicion that connects the operational requirements of surveillance systems with historical legacies of racism.” Ryoko Tsuneyoshi (2011:131) tells us that in contemporary Japan, the “new types” of foreigners are identified easily by their skin color, especially compared to the “old foreigners” like Chinese and Koreans, who blend in more easily with the Japanese majority. In addition, Apichai Shipper (2002) argues that Japan organizes its foreign labor market not by skills or qualification, but hierarchically,  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  23  according to race and nationality. In this hierarchy, the nikkeijin (foreign citizens of Japanese descent) are at the high end, while the darker South Asians are at the low end, taking inferior jobs with low pay and poor benefits.  Surveillance of foreigners in Japan is linked to these gendered and racialized dynamics and to how the Japanese surveillance agents look at other “aliens” outside of these categories with a tempered ambivalence. A Filipino who has been living in Japan since the 1980s commented: “I was interrogated… at the JR Shinagawa Station in 2008... They do not choose particular people, they said, and that they ask any kind of foreigner. I then challenged them to approach the white foreigner who passed by, but of course they could not do it.” A Turkish Caucasian male commented, “I haven’t been questioned by the police even once in my 10 years of stay....” Such examples show how the visibility of the “new types” of foreigners is arranged according to ingrained hierarchies which make persons of darker skin color the most frequent subjects of surveillance. However, comments from the Israeli, Romanian, Paraguayan and Turkish viewers mentioned above also tell us about the slipperiness of categories based on skin color on which the profiling of foreigners in Japan are founded. As Sara Ahmed (2007) writes, “You learn to fade into the background, but sometimes you can’t or you don’t.” Racial hierarchization has many injurious effects, one of which is the self-congratulatory inhabiting of a skin color that is fairer or whiter than the rest. As observed by a Filipina who also lived in Tokyo: “...when I shared this film [Performing Naturalness] with fellow Filipinos who were lighter than me and looked Chinese or Singaporean... they told me that they are thankful they are not brown-skinned.” Here the fairer-skinned persons in the group trade the bonds of solidarity for safe shelter in racialized/racializing categories – a tragic repercussion.  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  24  Finally, other viewers questioned my objectivity in making the film. A French female friend who also lived in Japan asked, “Do you think the experiment would have worked if you had been anywhere else than at Shinagawa?” Another Filipino commented, “I have been here for 3 years, did not encounter police even once.” Other foreigners find the Japanese surveillance system worthy of emulation. “But police are police, they are on their duty... I wish our police worked just as hard,” wrote a male Mongolian who lived in Japan for 6 years. While the diversity of these comments demonstrates how broadly and differently the film resonates with foreigners in Japan, they also furnish clear evidence of an active racialized and gendered surveillance system. Failings  In the contextual terrain titled “Practice” discussed above, I considered the divide between conflicting artistic camps in the Philippines. In “Contestations,” I explained why the choice of performativity over performance became the political choice for Performing Naturalness. I continue below by writing about the unintended repercussions of some our ethnographic choices. This furthering contributes to the self-reflexive writings on the interpersonal relations surrounding a project, visual or otherwise (MacDougall 2006). I focus here on my filming and post-production interactions with Jong Pairez, a Filipino artist whom I asked to film my performance. During our prolonged, sometimes impassioned exchanges, I came to realize that in practice, pushing for one’s own kind of politics might result in the silencing of another.   Filmmaking, and the demanding act of editing, are exercises in subjectivity. Pairez applied his own subjectivity to the process before we had even reached Shinagawa station. Despite our preliminary discussion about a straightforward shoot, Pairez brought along a detailed  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  25  storyboard, something I had not anticipated. Pairez is a temporary Filipino migrant like myself and he also held his own feelings of exclusion in Japan that he wanted to articulate as a practicing artist. I realized at that point, that he understood the project as a collaboration. Pairez and I are co-nationals who shared feelings of marginalization in a country that is not our own. Our different genders and subject-positions, diverging art practices, and political ideologies, as I will expand below, left tangible marks on the short film, however imperceptible these are in the film itself.   In addition to my short encounter with Japanese police officers, Pairez shot “evocative” scenes to use up the single film roll. He directed me to stand in one corner of the station as people rushed by, to depict my isolation from the crowd. During the very instance of filming, my intention of performing everyday “naturalness” slipped through my fingers. The difference between our respective positions was further highlighted when he put together a film out of our shoot without consulting me. Pairez had the film developed, spliced, and he then edited a sequence according to his own concept and storyboard, thus dismantling the original sequence of the film material. Pairez had also decided to use up the remaining frames to shoot the words “Filipina,” “Homogeneous,” and “Control,” written on pieces of paper, which he then integrated into the scenes shot in Shinagawa. I reacted strongly when the raw footage I had anticipated receiving arrived in my mailbox instead as a completed and digitized film. I found that his version spelled out his ideas too literally, while glossing over my personal experience of profiling and surveillance, which I had intended to be at the center of the film. Replying to my frustration, he emailed an eloquent response: “You want to deny the cameraman... his participation by reducing his subjective perception of your performance into a mechanical machine. You want to centralize Power by not sharing it. Therefore in your stance,  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  26  the COMMON [capitalization in original] experience of racial profiling is ridiculously patented. Ironically, this act replicates the very essence of racial profiling itself – the act of exclusion” (Pairez, e-mail, March 17, 2008). In Pairez’s view, his initiative in assembling the film, and subsequent arguments, were acts of subversion that exposed my own privileging of concept and authorship as the “essences” of a project. Pairez’s assertion of a decentralized position of power over a personal commentary on the experience of surveillance also reflects the critique made by Latin American conceptualists of the tautology exhibited in the works of North American artists that privileged concept over political content. Our argument came to a head when we started discussing the representation of the two Japanese police officers who carded me. I insisted on blurring their faces while Pairez argued that exposing these agents of the panopticon would fulfill our shared desire to “unmask the wild beast” (Pairez, e-mail, March 14, 2008). But for me, revealing the faces of the police officers would mean we were effectively subjecting them to the very surveillance that I resist. At the same time, it would deny them individual agency. For example, one Japanese police officer I know refuses to arrest undocumented Filipinos because, for him, Filipinos work hard and do the Japanese society no harm. Having such knowledge makes me more sensitive to the persistence of the person behind the “mask.” While it was among the aims of the film to use obsolete technology to record historically rooted and persistently manifesting issues of surveillance, it was outside my intention to use the camera as a “predatory weapon” (Sontag 2007:10). To do so could intrude into the lives of those whose images we captured. For Pairez, it was quite absurd to extend consideration to the oppressor, as represented by the individual police agents, and even more absurd to seek permission from a certain “authority” (in this case, me) before assembling his version of the film.  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  27  The original sequence became completely irrecoverable when, in reaction to my criticism, Pairez divided the single film roll between the two of us – giving me the frames in which my image appeared, but withholding the rest. He may have seen this as a symbolic act of asserting his claim to the knowledge he had created through the act of framing and shooting the scenes, while recognizing my rights over my own image. The film version presented here is digitally constructed from the film created by Pairez. I rearranged the sequence he had already assembled and removed the frames displaying the text. The faces of other persons who appeared in the film were blurred, and I added slow motion effects to the “evocative” scenes. Finally, I added a musical soundtrack whose dramatic progression and title Your Empty Lives I thought suited a film on surveillance culture at a time of increasingly atomized urban lives. My version takes on not only this one-time event, but also dark-skinned foreigners’ experience of consistent profiling in Japan.  This furthering contributes to nuancing “identity” in the diasporic space. In her ethnography of an exhibit at The Field Museum titled Art and Anthropology: Portrait of the Object as Filipino, Almira Astudillo Gilles (2017:152) observes a “strong dichotomy” between participating artists belonging to two groups: Filipinos from the Philippines, and Filipino-Americans from Chicago. In Gilles’ assessment, the former were more interested in constructing a “national” identity whereas the latter were more interested in depicting an identity that was a “personal construct.” This particular furthering complicates Gilles’ findings as it exposes identities as shifting beyond macro-categories such as the “nation.” In the case of Pairez and myself, our interpretations and ambitions for presenting the subject of surveillance of foreigners in Japan turned out to be remarkably different. While both Filipinos raised in the Philippines, Pairez and I entered and lived in Japan with different subject-positions. Performing Naturalness  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  28  runs for exactly 3 minutes to approximate the duration of the film roll. In my version of the film, Pairez is credited as cameraman, not as a collaborator. This furthering reveals no grand surprise as many researchers have already written about the different degrees to which collaborations have failed.18 Pairez and myself ended up creating separate projects out of this “failed” collaboration. Within our respective disciplines’ expectations for production, it could be argued that this venture did not fail. In the furthering that follows, I move away from thinking about the successes and pitfalls of ethnography through its material production, towards thinking about “failings” in relation to the collapse of culture-specific relationalities. Relationality  In July 2012, I e-mailed conceptual artist Luis Camnitzer, whose articles on Latin American conceptualism I also cite here. I introduced myself as a graduate student interested in visual anthropology, Filipino overseas migration, and conceptual art. I asked if he would comment on my draft that interweaves these issues. He sent short but scathing comments on the draft the following day: “While ego is important in hegemonic art, I think it is a negative trait in culture-shaping, which is the mission of resistance of art on ‘the periphery.’ So, even if your personal work may be on target, your mentioning it contaminates the paper” (Camnitzer, e-mail, July 15, 2012). What are the implications of Camnitzer’s arguments for academics who reflect on their own visual practice through writing, and who are thus critics of their own projects (Jackson 2004; Picton 2011; Torresan 2011)? What does it mean for persons from the “peripheries” who conduct their political and emotional labor in self-referentiality, in the foregrounding of the self or one’s “home,” in the articulation of one’s positions and subjectivities, to have their efforts thus construed as solipsistic and contaminated by the ego? Confused and defensive, my reply to Camnitzer included:   Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  29  I did recognize in my paper that reflecting on my own work might be construed as a kind of solipsism. While I was writing the first draft, I was in fact not very comfortable with the mention of my own work and struggled to decide whether there is any value to be found at all in such an attempt or not. However, in the history of anthropology, it has been a struggle for “native” anthropologists to insist on the necessity of writing about and reflecting on their own culture... The difficulty in articulating one’s positionalities and subjectivities may perhaps even be more complex with the conflicting layers of “nativity.”   It was during the moments of reflection aroused by this exchange that I revisited Philippine personhood theory, a route that many Filipino scholars have also taken during moments of confusion with their work or with the social relations that they are embedded in.19 Filipino scholar Virgilio Enriquez (2008:52) defines the concept of kapwa as “the unity of the ‘self’ with ‘others’... a recognition of shared identity, an inner self shared with others.” The related term pakikipagkapwa is the “fundamental ethical relation between the self and the other” (Guevara 2005:9). I emailed Camnitzer again on August 25:  ...I am inhabiting and embodying the roles of student and occasional artist... roles that are often assessed based on individual merit. As a person who claims to “come from the periphery,” I think that I may have overlooked the aspect of relationality in the art-/film-making processes, and I realize now that while I may have been guided by a certain politicized intentionality for this film project, I eventually chose to mute the voice of the cameraman who, like myself, was also only aiming to deliver his own statement. However, I think that it was not my mention of my work/film that, as you wrote, “contaminates” the paper. I would suggest that it was my failure to listen to and to acknowledge the positionality of the cameraman, and the failure to reflect on my individualism, that “compromised” the paper.  This discussion of interpersonal relations in the context of production contributes to the further nuancing of conceptualism as practiced outside its mainstream definitions. Okwui Enwezor (1999:110) suggests that in African conceptual art, objects “were never ends in themselves” – a statement that reflects Kosuth’s shift from tautological conceptualism to anthropologized art. Jean Rouch advocated for the transfer of authority to his anthropological subjects as early as the 1950s. In the case of Pairez and myself, the accusations of exclusion and  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  30  othering were traded between co-nationals whose shared status in their host society (Japan) could only ever be that of foreigner. Pairez, a friend from my undergraduate years, studied fine arts in the Philippines. After following his family to Tokyo, he found himself working unstable grocery store jobs while occasionally teaching art to Japanese children. He frequently expresses his own politics as an anarchist artist through guerilla performances that address the perennial marginalization and disenfranchisement of part-time foreign workers in Japan. Yet it was through the intersections of our lives as temporary migrants in Japan that the idea for staging Performing Naturalness arose. Despite imagined solidarities, the divergent experiences that Pairez and I had in Japan resulted in challenging differences in our positionalities and agenda.  My reflection here on pakikipagkapwa demands further background. As mentioned earlier, it was after Pairez’s purchase of his camera that I began to conceptualize Performing Naturalness. Furthermore, Pairez was willing to accept only a partial payment for the cost of film and processing – perhaps anticipating co/ownership or a collaborative role in the film through his material contributions, without explicitly expressing this expectation to me. His willingness to help and contribute can further be interpreted as his way of acknowledging our both being kapwa. Indeed, to expose his presence during the shoot to the same surveillance that he detests was an act of solidarity – pakikipagkapwa – not only with me as a fellow Filipino, but also with any racialized others in Japan. Asking Pairez 4 years later about our acrimonious exchange, he confirmed that because the project was “based on a common/shared experience,” he saw the project as “a shared oeuvre.” For him, the conflict between us arose because one of us (referring to me) wanted “to own” the concept. He resolved, “We could not escape that because we were brought up in a romanticist/modernist foundation in school.” Asked about what he thought of what had happened  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  31  in terms of pakikipagkapwa, he said, “I think we did realize kapwa one way or another, but one has to cease to be an artist to fully actualize it.” For Pairez, the act of individualist-oriented creative production itself impedes solidarity. Indeed, as Jaime Guevara (2005:19) writes, it is through the concept of kapwa that a person “transcends egotism in a radical way... because it requires the self to let go of his [or her] egotism and to be touched by the otherness of the other.” My exchange with Pairez demonstrates that the process of knowledge production within the terms of kapwa comes in conflict with Western, capitalist-individualist rationality. Neferti Tadar (2009:433) comments on the effect of Western individualism on kapwa relations: “In a society tending toward the production of humans as either individualist subject or undifferentiated objects, kapwa increasingly becomes obsolescent as a vital term of social interaction.” During production, Pairez implicitly expected to “share” a lot more, while I had envisioned myself as the film’s sole author.  Our later interaction revealed to us that our subjectivities were, in fact, not shared. Our denial of kapwa to each other can be read within the issues penetrating the project’s concept, which revolved around the racialized and gendered experience of surveillance and profiling in Tokyo. While we shared the same racialized experience of surveillance, Pairez’s unexpected input on the day of the shoot could be read as a manifestation of his exercise of power as the male artist who wields the camera and thus frames the scenes, with a woman as his subject. Tadiar (2009:386) critiques earlier literature for neglecting the dimension of gender in the operation of kapwa. As the originator of the concept and as the performer of my own narrative, I demanded self-representation of my own gendered experience. Meanwhile, Pairez asserted his rights as co/creator by controlling the framing of the scenes, grounded also in his perspective as a racialized temporary migrant. Kapwa became finally subsumed by our argument over authorship,  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  32  made still more complicated by our respective positionalities. In the end, neither of us took the smooth route that pakikipagkapwa prescribes as a manifestation, despite gender differences, of unity of the self with the others. Having been friends since our undergraduate years, we had both expected (but eventually failed) to acknowledge each other’s voice. My conceptualization of the project was perhaps seen by Pairez as strikingly at odds with my privileged status as a government-funded student at Japan’s top university, a position which I held while trying to assert my authorship. Our differing trajectories inevitably impacted our pakikipagkapwa relations, and kapwa came to be “individuated in the Western sense” (Enriquez 2008:54). With both of us wanting the right to speak and to be heard, we were ultimately unable to resolve our dispute in terms of either kapwa or in terms of Western rationality.  This part of my ethnographic metacommentary exemplifies how valuable personhood theory can be in processes of self-reflection, as a way of better understanding some of the challenges faced in the era of post-colonial knowledge production. Researchers already offer conceptualizations of persons as perceiving in “dividual” or multiple modes (Strathern 1986), as characterized by selves that are porous or permeable (Smith 2012), as drawing from “multiplicitous” identities (Lugones 2003), and others. Visual anthropologists need to consider relationality in knowledge production more seriously as they deepen their problematization of issues of power and authority in the making of their subject, and in the production of their experiments and ethnography. By understanding knowledge production as inevitably linked to our interpersonal and social relations, we may be able to better understand each other amid the white noise that suffuses contemporary personhood and thought (Filipino or otherwise). Writing this furthering has led me to reconsider how I understand my multiple locations: in the sometimes conflicting and interweaving worlds of art, anthropology, and migration, and as a  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  33  globally mobile person from post-colonial Philippines, whose lifeworld is entangled in messy ways with others’.  Conclusions  This article introduces and demonstrates what I call “ethnographic metacommentary,” a method that I locate within the framework of “ethnographic conceptualism” postulated by Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov. My proposal that we take the “long route” of ethnographically writing up our visual and other creative projects is an intervention into approaches to ethnographic methods in visual anthropology, and in anthropology in general, especially to those concerned with issues of the complexity and visibility of the subject and object of representation. I bring in conversations from conceptual art which I believe are productive to the anthropological project of understanding the multiple narratives inherent in visual and other forms of cultural production.   Critiques such as those by Weiner have failed to fully problematize the paradoxes of representation in their demands for an elaboration of the “complex.” Suhr and Willerslev have fallen short in showing in practice the infinite possibilities in unpacking the non-visual dimensions of the objects of our interest. More recent conversations loop us back to the same debate, and I hope that my suggested ethnography metacommentary will be useful in resolving this tautological impasse. Ethnographic metacommentary is useful for anthropologists interested in disentangling both the visible and the invisible aspects of their projects. Ethnographic metacommentary does not simply aim to deliver the “explanatory passage” that Weiner demands. The writing on the political situation from which the project emerged, the experiment that the project employed, and the genealogies and flows of art practice, situates the project within different terrains of context. Furtherings that are experiential, processual and protracted  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  34  attest to the value of anthropology’s immersed and in-depth research methods. Furtherings uphold the open-endedness of the anthropological project. My borrowing of methodological toolkits and epistemologies from other disciplines shows how anthropological production – in visual, performed, written, and other forms – inescapably intermingles with multiple fields and thus demands inquiry into different modes of knowledge production and learning.  Reflecting on personhood concepts from the Philippines, self-reflexive processes were set in motion, allowing me to identify further ruptures in the fabric of the social and the self that had remained hidden to me. I argue for the need to read beyond the message sent through visual work, for example, about the policing of racial difference and strategies for immigration control in the contemporary world. Through this demonstration of the method, I suggest that there is a need for anthropologists to take the laborious, and sometimes emotional – yet productive – route of ethnographically reflecting on their own performances of “naturalness” in the field, as well as on the different kinds of data produced from their research.  Ethnographic conceptualism pushes for ethnography to begin doing things, rather than merely stating complexity as the defining characteristic of their projects. Investigating layers of contexts and furtherings locate the project’s operational infrastructure and entanglements that would otherwise retreat from anthropological ethnography. In my illustration of the method, I zoomed in and out of focus, and folded in conversations on auto-ethnography, politics, art, race, theory about surveillance/performance/personhood and a blend of issues that all together make up this ethnographic metacommentary. Performing Naturalness and this accompanying ethnographic writing about the film raise important questions about the inexhaustibility of stories behind rolls of celluloid and gigabytes of footage and the thousands of images and pages of our fieldnotes. We also have yet to hear the reflections of Pairez himself and perhaps his version will  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  35  may be radically different from my own. Engaging with ethnographic metacommentary can offer an auto-transformational (and to an extent, decolonizing) potential that could help anthropologists think about the unresolved tensions between competing concepts of personhood that we hold. A deepened reconsideration of our interactions with others could open space for the renegotiation of our kapwa relations.   Finally, fleshing out these stories stemming from a very short film serves as a methodological example for scholars from the Global South and the “peripheries” who are struggling with their multiple locatedness, persons who might find themselves negotiating their way through education carved by colonial histories, interlaced with indigenous worldviews and upbringing in an increasingly globalized world. On this note, I briefly return to the introduction of this article where I cited Camnitzer et al.’s Global Conceptualism. Their book has been critiqued for bidding to enforce a certain political agenda (Morgan 1999), as well as for failing to critically interrogate its own paradoxical positionality of revising art history by advancing the marginal, while playing the convenient yet dangerous card of globalization (Meyer 1999). My article reflects the critiques leveled against Global Conceptualism. As I understand my own positionality, it can be taken as wielding the twin cards of “the marginal” (or peripheral) and the “global.” I have unpacked here this self-positioning, while demonstrating that these efforts at complicating positionality also involve a laborious journey along a long road. This demonstration of ethnographic metacommentary shows that one’s self-aware situatedness and political intentionality, carried on from within the intersecting worlds of art, the home/s, education, friendship, and others, are useful guiding principles in grounding visual works (in visual anthropology, art, or elsewhere) in the domains in which we are multiply situated.    Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  36   Acknowledgments: I am grateful for the comments of Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov, Luis Camnitzer, Reagan Maiquez, Teilhard Paradela, Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez, Maureen Gaddi dela Cruz, Danielle Gendron, Lieba Faier, Donato Mancini, Deyan Denchev, and anonymous reviewers of the different versions of this manuscript. My tremendous gratitude goes to Jong Pairez and the Filipino migrants in Japan and across the globe. My sincerest respects are extended to my most inspiring teacher, Roberto Chabet (1937-2013).    Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  37  References Cited Ahmed, Sara. 2007. A phenomenology of whiteness. Feminist Theory 2(8):149–168. Behar, Ruth. 2013. Traveling heavy: a memoir in between journeys. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Berreman, Gerald. 2007 (1963). Behind many masks: ethnography and impression management. In Ethnographic fieldwork: an anthropological reader. A.C.G.M. Robben and J.A. Slukka, eds. Pp. 137–158. 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Toronto: University of Toronto Press.  1  This invitation assumes ease of internet access among contemporary readers, as it also pushes for a more open sharing of visual and other works by academics, which until today have been difficult to access. 2  According to compiled statistics for the operators of the six lines, in 2008 Shinagawa Station was the 8th busiest station nationwide, with daily ridership of 913,182 (Hatena Diary 2009). 3  Borrowing from typical film screening formats, I begin this article with a film screening, followed by an extended discussion. My demonstration of ethnographic metacommentary begins from a filmic media in the same way that Ssorin-Chaikov saw the visitors’ book as the starting point for thinking about ethnographic situations arising from one object. 4 Running for only 3 minutes, the film is among the shortest films ever screened at the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Film and Media Festivals.                                                   Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  45                                                                                                                                                               5 I first encountered ethnographic conceptualism in 2011, 3 years after making Performing Naturalness. 6 A brilliant work that critiques Western representation, but which has not attracted much anthropological attention, is Marlon Fuentes’ Bontoc Eulogy (1995). The filmmaker depicts a visit to the archives from the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, interwoven with accounts on the American colonial period in the Philippines and Fuentes’ faux auto-biography (Homiak 2000).  7 One major post-war effort is the Japanese government’s scholarships program, which many Filipinos, including myself, have availed themselves of.  8   The “entertainment” occupation in Japan mostly employs foreign women. There is no clear definition what this occupation entails. Women entertainers may work as bar hostesses, performers, and in some cases, prostitutes. 9 The September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City also spurred the tightening of surveillance in Japan. However, as argued by several authors, surveillance has played an important role in Japan’s internal security policies since the Meiji restoration period (Wood, Lyon, and Abe 2007:266).  10 Eve Sedgwick (2003) explores the affective experience of “shame” upon interpellation. 11 Rouch’s (1974) first-person ethnographies were among visual anthropology’s groundbreaking works produced within these very limitations.  12  Fluxus, a conceptualist artist network with members using various media, called their brief happenings “chance operations.” Beginning in the 1950s, Fluxus-affiliated artists have produced such a wide range of works that it would be impossible to describe a definitive Fluxus style or aesthetic.  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  46                                                                                                                                                               13  Rouch’s idea of the everyday mise-en-scene is among the many intersections between art and anthropological practice that Sansi-Roca (2015:25) writes about. Situationists abandoned formal art spaces such as the museum and have used and engaged the city as an expressive platform in their public performances and other interventions. 14  Two artists whose works cross the divide are conceptualist Alvin Zafra and activist filmmaker Kiri Dalena. In his “painting experiments,” Zafra uses live bullets to scratch out on sandpaper portraits of victims of political killings in the Philippines. Dalena’s film Washed Out, documenting the aftermath of a typhoon that wiped out several villages in the southern Philippines in 2011, was shown in an art gallery in Manila alongside the actual uprooted tree trunks from the disaster-stricken island. 15 Comparing the Latin American conceptual art movement with North American and European conceptualism does not mean it should be seen as subsumed within the latters’ practices. Latin American conceptual artists were self-aware of their anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist stance and wary of being bundled together with the conceptualism of the hegemonic centers of art production (Stimson 1999:497). 16  Tautology was not exclusive to North American conceptual artists, and as Luis Camnitzer (2007:126) recognizes, even tautology was reappropriated by them, albeit “with a twist.” Compared to what Camnitzer calls the “noise-free” tautology of North American artists, Latin American artists borrowed texts and language from literature to empower their works, and at the same time delivered critiques of issues such as human rights violations, capitalist social relations and neocolonialism.  17  The strong presence of feminist conceptual artists in North America complicates the “tautological” discourse because of their engagement with gender politics in a manner that  Published in 2019, in Current Anthropology  47                                                                                                                                                               often rejected, tautology. An excellent example is Martha Rosler’s video/performance piece, Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), in which she stands behind a kitchen counter and shows the audience various kitchen tools, one for each letter from A to Z. She contrasts the mundane objects with incongruously wild gestures, highlighting distorted gendered boundaries at home.  18  Researchers have reflected on collaborative tensions and failings between researcher-informants (England 1994, Young 2005), between researcher and family/elders (Docot 2017), and between artists and anthropologists (Schneider and Wright 2006, Strohm 2012), to mention a few. As an intersubjective activity, collaboration, like anthropology itself, is an open-ended enterprise. Timothy Choy et al. (2009) suggest that this open-endedness in collaboration offers endless possibilities that are “intriguing,” but at the same time, the “merging of creative personalities” could also be “terrifying” (Choy et al. 2009:381). Schneider (2016:25) writes of failings as related to disciplinary differences, for example, about how artists tending to be more “ethically transgressive” than anthropologists. Choy et al. add that failings in the collaborative process link to single authorship expectations in anthropology. The collaboratory failings between Pairez and myself reflect these tensions about the dichotomizing effects of our respective disciplines on our creative and ethical practice. 19  I recognize the generalizing and essentializing ramifications of Philippine personhood theory, as there are many different streams of culture in the archipelago that may have their divergent respective value systems.  


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