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Rosa Cordillera Castillo discussing fellow-feeling in the context of Maguindanaons in Cotabato during the Marcos regime

“How do anthropologists study emotions? And what is the relationship between emotions, memory, imagination, and the (un)making of an imagined community, particularly in contexts of violence, the liminality of uncertain peace, and the struggle for the right to self-determination?” Sociocultural anthropologist Rosa Cordillera A. Castillo from Humboldt University Berlin approached this question during the 3rd Pagpakabana Lecture-Forum hosted by the Department of Sociology on February 22, 2018 at the CASSalida Theater, MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology through a discussion of particular Maguindanaon emotions such masakit sa ginawa (painful) that are borne out of remembering and imagining violence, especially the massacres committed against Muslims. This is based on her long-term ethnographic research among Maguindanaons in the Cotabato region, who participate and have a stake in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Bangsamoro struggle for the right to self-determination. She said, “In analyzing narratives and commentaries during my months of living in Mindanao, giving particular attention to words, phrases, expressions, and gestures related to emotions, I began to understand masakit sa ginawa as an emotion that is very much oriented towards one’s fellow to the extent that the pain of the other is felt in the self, hence fellow-feeling. Much later, I came across David Hume and Adam Smith’s discussion of fellow-feeling and found it to be a useful frame for a deeper analysis and more elaborated conceptualization of the term, particularly when put into dialogue with the anthropology of empathy of Douglas Hollan, Jason Throop, and their colleagues, as well as with current kinship theory.” She provided several vignettes and narratives of her interlocutors. She quoted one of them, for instance, who said that when he heard stories about the massacres committed against Muslims,“I felt the pain that was inflicted on my fellow Bangsamoro. It was as though it was really inside me.” This, he said, motivated him to join the Bangsamoro struggle.

Fellow-feeling, she suggested, are “sentiments that involve slippages between empathy, compassion, considerateness, and pity. It is an affective identification with the other whereby imagining the other’s plight and/or imagining our self in the other’s situation plays a central role in a process that involves both emotions and cognition. Fellow-feeling is particularly cogent in creating affective solidarity or feeling for the suffering of one’s fellows, and collective responsibility or doing something to ease their suffering.” And as Hume and Smith point out, it is shaped by imagined identification. That is, the emotions invoked when people remembered and imagined the violence that they and fellow Muslims suffered from “were often attached to imaginings of the circumstances of violence as well as to somatic and bodily metaphors of kin, through which identification with members of the imagined community of the Bangsamoro that overlaps with the umma (Islamic community) were imagined, felt, and expressed.”

She also provided insights into some of the dynamics of clan feuds and how kinship metaphors and idioms play a significant role in it. Castillo concluded the lecture-forum by emphasizing that imagined identification are shaped by political circumstances, by Islamic and Maguindanaon ideals of brotherhood and solidarity, by somatic and bodily metaphors of kinship, by the relational self, as well as by shared experiences with violence, marginalization, and neglect of Muslims in Mindanao.

The lecture-forum, entitled Emotions, Memories, and Imaginings of Violence: Insights from an Ethnography of Maguindanaons in the Cotabato Region, is the third instalment in the Pagpakabana lecture-forum series which aims: (1) to provide a venue for dialogue and sharing of experiences and perspectives; (2) to raise awareness of students and faculty on various pressing issues; (3) to offer an avenue that promotes engaged learning and critical thinking; and (4) to stimulate potential research engagements, partnerships and collaboration.

The first two sociological conversations on Re:Reading Rodrigo Duterte and Sociology in Latin America were hosted by Nicole C. Curato of the University of Canberra, Australia and Maria Cristina M. Cielo of Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Sede Ecuador, respectively. Both lecture-forums were conducted in January.

Castillo (center) with CASS faculty and students

Topics : sociology  lecture series  fellow-feeling