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Bearing Witness to Slow Violence's Atmospheres

convened by:

Ferdiansyah Thajib
(KUNCI Study Forum & Collective)

Thomas Stodulka
(FU Berlin)


Organized as a part of DGSKA (GAA) Conference 2021, this lab explores possibilities and challenges of representing the effects of slow violence on environmental, more-than-human, and personal atmospheres. According to Rob Nixon (2011) “slow violence” and its consequences are invisible at first sight, sometimes even difficult to detect after long-term analytical scrutiny.


The lab invites scholars, activists, and artists to showcase their works, understand them as seismographies of slow violence, and share their reflections on questions such as: What makes it so difficult to represent the effects of slow violence on material and immaterial atmospheres? Can transdisciplinary collaborations open up new pathways of understanding and communicating the affective dimensions and inner atmospheres of slow violence? Can collaborations between anthropology, activism, and art become effective worlding tools and sites of resistance that withstand human and environmental exhaustion, exploitation, and disillusion? In addition to methodological questions related to diversified modes and media of representation and exploration, the lab probes the theoretical question, how collaborations between arts, activism, and anthropology can contribute to the worlding of local infrastructures particularly in the context of colonialism, sexualized violence, disasters, and totalitarianism.

The lab contributors are:

Rosa Cordillera A. Castillo

Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin 



Jeanne Rohleder and Sonja Keßner

The Performance Collective Owdnegrin 

( –

Raffaele Gallo 

Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin 


Veronika Kusumaryati 

Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University 



Conference details:

30 September 2021, online

Session 1: 11.00 – 12.30

Session 2: 14.00 – 15.30


Conference website:


Only for registered participants:

A Politics of World-Building Amid a Regime-Made Disaster in Duterte's Philippines

Rosa Cordillera Castillo

Collaborative works by artists, photojournalists, academics, activists, and drug war survivors have been at the forefront of the resistance against the brutal 'war on drugs' of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a policy that has killed thousands since 2016. Through photographs, theatre, participatory performance, music, and film, these multi-sensorial and participatory works unmask and resist the drug war as a "regime-made disaster" (Azoulay 2012). This is a disaster that is built on and reproduces a body politic that differentiates between those who are considered by the Duterte regime as citizens on the one hand, and "flawed citizens" on the other hand, where the latter are dehumanized and eradicated. In reimagining citizenship and thus reconceptualizing the political community, these collaborative works are furthermore enactments of a "politics of world-building" where "an ethics of dwelling" and "becoming otherwise," rather than being trapped in the violence of the everyday, are made possible (Zigon 2014). As such, beyond the quest for justice, these collaborations are also processes of healing, caring, and creative building of an alternative world.

ROSA CASTILLO Stop the Killings collage[19627].jpg

Filipinos, Filipino-Germans, and other nationalities came together in Cologne in September 2021 as part of a participatory-performative protest action to rebuild RESBAK’s Stop the Killings banner. RESBAK (Respond and Break the Silence Against the Killings) is an alliance of artists, media practitioners, and cultural workers based in the Philippines and abroad that has been pushing back against the Duterte government’s drug war. The banner is made of mourning pins, with each pin representing a victim of the brutal policy. It was first constructed in 2017 in Manila when the death toll was around 8,000. The death toll currently stands at more than 27,000 people, according to human rights monitors. Since it was created, the banner has been traveling to various parts of the world in international solidarity protest actions such as in Colombia, the United States, and now Germany. It will continue its journey within the EU where the International Criminal Court is conducting a preliminary investigation of the Duterte government for crimes against humanity.


Photos by Kiri Dalena 

Related work:

Castillo, Rosa Cordillera. 2021. "A politics and ethics of viewing photographs of Duterte's 'drug war:' Towards reconceptualizing the political community," Akda: Asian Journal of Literature, Culture, and Performance, 1(2): 54-70.

RESBAK: Respond and Break the Silence Against the Killings:

SANDATA: Art and Data Against Disinformation and the War on Drugs:

On the deep surface I swim like a fish catching the mirrors of the stars – Performance
Jeanne Rohleder, Sonja Keßner

(Trigger warning). The Performance Collective Owdnegrin explores the possibilities of artistic research, art and anthropology to address the effects of slow violence using the example of sexualized violence during childhood. The public discourse around that topic often addresses the traumatic experiences itself, while the long-term consequences remain hidden from society´s consciousness. Missing practices to communicate and interact with affected persons and the overwhelming brutality of the topic itself often lead to re-traumatizing situations that perpetuate the experienced violence on a social level. Victim and single perpetrator narratives do not reveal the structural and institutional conditions in which personal experiences are embedded and which continually affect people. Art is a tool to disseminate knowledge and to create spaces in which meaningful encounters can take place and influence the discourse. The performance addresses the traces of trauma, resilience and everything in between that are so deeply inscribed into the body that words remain silent.


She crossed the desert. She could not remember how long she had already been here. She was hungry, she was thirsty. And she was burning. Within her burned a fire, hotter than the ember of the desert. Her whole spirit was blazing and we can´t tell or be sure she still knew where she was or how she came here. I am pretty sure she did not even know who she was. She was that fire, this ever blazing flame, consuming everything. She was those pictures rising from her memories, pictures rising within the glow of the fire just to sink back into it. Fire pictures, crackling, unbearably hot, burning pictures. She just walked on, without destination. And still, she had one, the fire inside of her knew the only true destination and she would walk until she reached it. But right now, she did not know, she knew nothing, just that she had to keep on walking and so she did, the scorching heat falling down on her.

Image: Fredrik Kinbom 


Related work:

Images of disasters: Slow violence and the challenge of representing it
Raffaele Gallo

The visualization of natural disasters is one of the most significant parameters by which the perception of hazards and risk are socially constructed. During the last two decades, mostly due to media coverage, awareness of natural disasters has been growing worldwide. Photographs of natural disasters undergo global distribution as iconographic motifs and the increasing circulation of images transforms the processes of interpretation and elaboration both during and after a catastrophe. Nationally and internationally, images are becoming a set of repertoires to glean from – topoi that form a collective imaginary of catastrophes - but the long-term effects that these events generate at the community level are largely underrepresented. They pose acute representational challenges and require creative ways of drawing public attention (Nixon 2011). Building on a corpus of images about the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, its aftermath and the reconstruction process, this contribution discusses how these images gained political functions in the process of re-elaboration of the disaster and its consequences both at the community and national levels.


Image: Raffaele Gallo, Onna, L’Aquila 2009

Under Duress: Violence and Its Temporality in West Papua
Veronika Kusumaryati

This presentation seeks to experiment with audiovisual archives as a durational medium to understand slow violence in West Papua, a self-identifying term referring to Indonesia’s troubled provinces of Papua and West Papua. Fighting for its independence since 1965, West Papua has become the site of Indonesia’s most prolonged military operation. Moreover, West Papua’s rich natural resources have paved the way for the extractive industry to intensify violence against the indigenous population and their land through the militarization and industrialization of West Papua’s landscape. West Papua’s exposure to violence has been understood through different lenses: ethnonationalist conflict, genocide, ecocide, occupation, and colonialism. These different terms refer to violence that has become a structure, rather than events, of everyday lives. Using various archives from West Papua’s digital and analog sphere, this experiment will attempt to understand the temporality that it takes to endure this violence and how the Papuans deal with the durational length of slow violence.


Image: Veronika Kusumaryati

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