Politics & Political Theory

The place of the dead, the time of dictatorship: Nostalgia, sovereignty, and the corpse of Ferdinand Marcos

In 1993, the body of former Philippine dictator, Ferdinand E Marcos, was moved from Honolulu, Hawaii, where he died in exile, to a private mausoleum attached to his ancestral home in Batac, Ilocos Norte. Preserved and placed in a refrigerated coffin while his wife, Imelda, lobbied for his burial at the Heroes’ Cemetery, Marcos’s body remained on display until 2016, when permission for his interment was granted by the newly elected president, Rodrigo Duterte. Drawing on fieldwork conducted at the Marcos Mausoleum prior to the controversial burial and at the protests that came in its wake, this essay examines the sense of loss and longing that has animated the rise of authoritarian nostalgia. Banished yet unburied, the dictator’s embalmed corpse, I suggest, speaks to what remains unmourned under democracy and which thus always threatens to return—namely, a figure of unfettered freedom and authority, whose power might be said to extend over life, death, and time itself. I argue that it is this figure—the figure of a sovereign gone missing—that authoritarian nostalgia takes as its object and which grows more seductive in light of the hollowing out of popular sovereignty that has come to define the post-revolutionary experience.

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Volume 39 Issue 4

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