Transnational Affect and the Making of a Moral Public: The War on Drugs in the Philippines

Tremlett, Paul-François (2023). Transnational Affect and the Making of a Moral Public: The War on Drugs in the Philippines. Sociological Research Online (Early Access).



In 2019, IBON International and the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines UK (CHRP-UK) made preparations for some relatives of some of the victims of former Philippine President Duterte’s war on drugs to travel to meet members of the European Parliament as well as diasporic and other publics in Europe and the UK. At the same time, the play Tao Po! – ‘Is Anybody There?’ – a dramatic monologue exploring different perspectives of those involved in Duterte’s drug war including those of victims and perpetrators, was touring Europe. These affectively saturated actions and performances were accompanied by social media posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, among other platforms, using hashtags such as #Stopthekillingsph and #Warondrugsph. I juxtapose two very different interpretations of these actions and performances. On the one hand, I frame them as elements of a political strategy performed to solicit particular affective responses as a means of assembling a transnational public that could bring international political pressure to bear on the Duterte regime. On the other hand, I suggest that these actions were performed to cultivate a sense of belonging to a moral public. I conclude by arguing that the enactment of affects such as grief and loss – affects which are constitutive of the war on drugs – suggests a model of social and political change that works from the bottom-up, with affective experience as the primary catalyst.

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