Rosa Cordillera A. Castillo, M.A.
PhD Candidate
Imagining violence: Production of the subject under conditions of violence in Muslim Mindanao

Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies

Tel.: +49-30-838 57390

E-Mail: castillo[at]

Imagining violence: Production of the subject under conditions of violence in Muslim Mindanao

Despite the proliferation of exciting bodies of work on subjectivity in the context of violence and suffering, some scholars still cite the lack of theoretical and empirical attention being given to how individuals learn a system of cultural meanings, internalize these meanings and then are motivated to act for or against violence. This dissertation project aims to address this gap in the study of subjectivity by looking at the role of imagination in the production of the subject as this takes place in the life world of a Muslim community living in a context of violence in central Mindanao, the Philippines. How imagination, various representations of the conflict and modes of affect and action interact will be explored to understand how the subject is produced under conditions of violence.

Imagination forms part of a person’s subjectivity, what Ortner sees as “the basis of agency.” Conceptualized in accordance with Andriolo’s notion of “embodied minding” and Strauss’ exposition of the imaginary as the internalization of cultural meanings, imagination opens the possibility for understanding the links between what we think, what we feel and what we do. It is articulated through and shaped by cultural products such as stories, images, narratives, legends, and so forth and is simultaneously individual and social.

Using primarily an ethnographic approach and secondarily, discourse analysis, this project will focus on a Muslim community in North Cotabato, one of the provinces most affected by the various wars between Moro separatist groups and the Philippine state. Rooted in the anti-Muslim policy of the Spanish colonizers at the turn of the 16th century, subsequent generations of Muslims have since experienced economic, political and socio-cultural marginalization with persistent anti-Muslim stereotypes. Muslims resisted this marginalization eventually leading to a wider nationalist movement in the 1970s. Since then the clashes between the Philippine state and separatist groups have killed over 100,000 civilians and displaced millions. And despite peace accords, the conflict persists to this day. Particular attention will be given to various forms of representations of the conflict circulating in the community such as narratives, tropes, rumours, idioms and “silent pauses,” as well as narratives of history and the discourses of various institutions such as the media, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, NGOs, the government and the military. These representations will then be analysed in accordance with how they are made sense of by a Muslim community that has gone through years of violence and how the representations enter the realm of their everyday lives and form part of their subjectivities. Studying how violence, suffering, victims and perpetrators are imagined may lead to understanding the processes that make people act for or against violence.


Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies and the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology Freie Universität Berlin



Hansjörg Dilger, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology Freie University Berlin Vincent Houben, Institute for African and Asian Studies, Humboldt University Richard Baxstrom, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh