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Christian Suhr

Comment on Dada Docot's "Taking the Long Route: Ethnographic Metacommentary as Method in the Anthropological Film Practice"

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Dada Docot takes us into a world where certain human beings must carry so-called “alien cards” to be able to demonstrate their legality when the gazes of other human beings—undercover police officers—single them out as potential “illegal migrants,” or subjects for detention or deportation. Her film is recorded at the Shinagawa railway station in Tokyo, but the world depicted is not confined to this locality. It is our world: a peculiar place in which human existence has been separated into categories of legal and illegal, separations that more often than not trail the markers of skin color, dress, or other signs of perceived racial, ethnic, cultural, or religious difference. Docot’s film provokes us to reflect upon the extent to which we have come to live in such a world. It draws our attention to the ways that national borders are enacted within cosmopolitan cities and what it means to have the privilege and freedom of mobility or to be deprived of it. In her article, Docot courageously analyzes how her film materialized in a political and aesthetic disagreement between herself and her cameraman, Jong Pairez, who initially hoped to be involved as a collaborator or coauthor. She details how the urge to “own” the project and appear as authors of the film prevented the recognition of their “shared identity” and “unity,” both attempting to confront the challenges of being Filipino migrants in Japan. Docot’s discussion highlights how we need to carefully consider the struggles we want to invest ourselves in and who we want to conceive of as our opponents. If the struggles we have with each other over intellectual and aesthetic preferences do not enhance but rather obstruct our ability to address issues of wider concern—issues such as the brutality of the system of surveillance, control, and illegalization that Docot critically addresses in her film—then they are not trivial but rather deeply problematic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Pages (from-to)791-792
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

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