Reclaiming the Indigenous Body: Discourse, Social Media, and the Aesthetic of Igorot Activism

Jose Kervin Cesar CALABIAS*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This essay analyzes online activist media addressing the red-tagging and trumped-up criminal charges against members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance in the wake of the Anti-Terror Law in 2020. Engaging with critical scholarship on the archiving, colonial discourse, and representation of the Igorot body, I argue that these online activist media published on the organization’s official Facebook account deploy strategic essentialism by subverting the colonially othered and criminalized marker of the savage-terrorist. The Igorot body is rendered as a quasi-heroic figure of the Igorot warrior who invokes and appropriates traditional bodily customs on warfare and gender relations to embody a self-styled heritage of resistance and martyrdom that undergirds the performance of their self-acquittal against the charges of terrorism and the authority of the colonial archive. Concurrently, the protested/protesting Igorot body moves against the “sovereign trickster” by staging an online fetad or the traditional mass mobilization of communal support, consolidating power from the “networked publics” against the threat of state terrorism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-544
Number of pages25
JournalKritika Kultura
Issue number39
Early online dateAug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Jose Kervin Cesar B. Calabias is an Igorot Kankana-ey scholar from Baguio City, Philippines. He holds a BA and MA in Language and Literature from the University of the Philippines, and he is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, where he is a recipient of the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme and the Belt and Road Scholarship awards. He previously taught courses on literature and arts at De La Salle University in Manila.

Publisher Copyright:
© Ateneo de Manila University.


  • fetad
  • Igorot
  • Philippine Anti-Terror Law
  • red-tagging
  • strategic essentialism
  • Worcester archive


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