Association of Asian Studies (AAS) Annual Conference

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

Description of Activity

I delivered a paper entitled 'Cream of the Caciques: Duterte, Oriental Despotism and the Crisis of Liberal Orientalism'. To get to present at this conference is a competitive process.

Abstract: In recent years, liberal Western authors and journalists have tried commendably to educate a largely blasé Western reading public about the horrors of Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign of extra-judicial killings (EJKs) of drug dealers, petty criminals and political enemies. However, in doing so, these writers have often reached for some of the more moth-eaten clichés of orientalism and Western mass-culture. This is evident in their constructions of Duterte as a monstrous neo-cacique whose masculinist charisma and vulgar populism successfully brainwashed a helplessly gullible Philippine public. As Reynaldo C. Ileto asserts, “Images of the Filipino elite (oppressive caciques, bosses, patrons) and masses (blindly loyal and manipulated táo, clients of the bosses [...] reappear in modern journalistic garb”. (2017, 270) Firstly, this paper provides some historical background to the cacique archetype as it has inhabited British and American reportage, popular nonfiction and fiction since the late Spanish colonial period. It then argues that, lately, the cacique model and its related notion of “oriental despotism” (Grosrichard, 1979) have been employed rhetorically and ideologically by Western writers including Jonathan Miller and James Fenton when – consciously or unconsciously – distorting, simplifying and/or mystifying Philippine affairs. A crucial concomitant of this discourse is omission, denial or apologism about Western complicity in Duterte-era devastation; from large UK and US arms sales to the regime to the longer-range pathologies caused by IMF/World bank policies and US colonial rule. Such posturing is redolent of other orientalist and ethnocentric portrayals of non-Western societies in crisis.
Period18 Mar 2023
Event typeConference
LocationBoston, United StatesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Asian Studies
  • Philippines
  • Media Studies
  • journalism