Over the course of the last four chapters, Mass Capture has outlined the ways in which processes of surveillance as capture produce the figure of the non-citizen. Throughout this book, I have been arguing that the non-citizen is not simply there. The non-citizen must be constructed and produced by processes designed to systematize and flatten their subjectivity into traceable and trackable units. However, thus far, this book has only considered these migrants as non-citizens. In this chapter, I want to adjust the focus and think about how the people captured in the CI 9s were also potential citizens.
This shift moves the discussion of the mass captured away from negation, what they were not, and into the realm of potentiality, what they could be. They were not citizens. Until the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act in May 1947, there was little likelihood of their ever achieving citizenship. But the fact that they could not be citizens does not mean that they might not have wanted to be, that they might not have dreamt of such privileges, that such dreams might not have informed their comportment and self-portrayal in these documents. Even though such thinking is speculative, I want to insist on the importance of understanding the potentiality of citizenship locked within the experience of mass capture. To think of these Chinese migrants only as non-citizens, and not as future citizens, risks missing what they can tell us about citizenship itself.
As I have argued, because of the elaborate bureaucracy and documentation attendant upon their production, the Chinese head tax certificates are an incredibly rich resource for considerations of citizenship and migration. The consistent expressionlessness of these photographs reveals the conjoined demands for emotional neutrality and a stable visual identity for diasporic subjects who are between states – between China and Canada, between migrant and citizen. These certificates foretell the eventual demand for identification photographs from anyone who wished to cross a border. In drawing a relationship between identity, emotion, and citizenship, this chapter theorizes anticipation as a key mode of agency.
Non-citizens anticipate citizenship. Rather than understanding this anticipation as one that is solely defined by privation where the non-citizen is constantly wanting that which the citizen already has, I want to consider how this anticipation can itself be agential. Anticipation is an affect, but also a mode of agency. Anticipation responds to the conditions of possibility, however narrow and even impossible those possibilities might be, and capitalizes on them. Anticipation channels desire. Just because Chinese migrants were denied citizenship does not mean that they did not want it. The expression of desire is necessarily complex for those who want seemingly impossible things. Think about a moment when you wanted something that was wildly out of reach. Think about wanting something as fundamental as freedom from discrimination on the basis of race and country of origin. Such desires are not easily stamped out. They burn quietly. Anticipation looks ahead to what could be and responds to those possibilities.
What does anticipation look like? How does one read for anticipation in a photograph? In thousands of photographs? How to see anticipation when there was no place for the expression of the desire for something as unlikely as citizenship? As anyone who has ever wanted something seemingly impossible will know, the more powerful the desire, the quieter its expression. However, as Tina Campt’s discussion of “quiet photography” reveals, learning to listen to an image yields a different kind of encounter with the identification photograph. There is, as Campt recognizes, a hum in these silences. In her description of seeing the vernacular images of the Gulu Art Studio installation at the Walther Collection (identification photographs where the face of each subject had been stamped out), Campt positions a complex form of quietude as a modality of the photographic encounter: “As soon as I entered the gallery, it was clear that quiet was the most appropriate modality for encountering the installation. But its quietude was anything but simple. It was the kind of quiet that is in no way an absence. It is fulsome and expressive. Restless, awkward, and unsettling, it is a form of quiet where gnawing questions simmer and send one searching for more complicated answers” (2017, 18). Campt’s exhortation for us to listen to the photograph, and particularly to quiet photographs such as identification photographs, opens up a way to understand the affective resonance of the CI 9 photographs. Even though these photographs are overwhelmingly emotionally flat or neutral, Campt’s work allows me see, and hear, more than just the lack of emotional expression on the surface of these images.
It is absolutely the case that the vast majority of the CI 9 photographs capture subjects who seem to express no emotion. As a document that reinforces the subject’s connection to the state, and as a photograph that draws upon honorific traditions of portraiture, the head tax certificate indexes a fascinating historical juncture that illuminates the complexity of diasporic subjectivity. These photographs reveal diasporic subjects for whom the CI 9 certificates are the only way to prove their right to return to the Canada in the event of a temporary absence.
Chinese migrants’ access to citizenship in Canada was non-existent prior to 1947 and uncertain post-1947. Canadian citizenship is, itself, a relatively new entity. The Citizenship Act of Canada was passed in January 1947. Before then, there were no Canadian citizens. After, Chinese migrants living in Canada could apply for naturalization, but the decision to allow for naturalization would have been made by a provincial court judge (acting on behalf of the federal government) who would determine whether or not the petitioner would make a good citizen. Thus, successful and well-established merchants had better chances for successful applications, but even these were not assured. After the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1947, Chinese migrants in Canada still “registered out” with CI 9s in order to ensure their re-entry into Canada. We have CI 9s dating well into 1953. Throughout the later CI 9 years, Chinese migrants in Canada existed precariously. Often not yet citizens, they relied on the CI 9 system to document their rights as almost-citizens. As the CI 9s of the Lawson children discussed in chapter 3 show, even Chinese people born in Canada were not exempt from the necessity of registering out, and thus from subjection to the process of mass capture.
Mass capture was a persistent process of excluding Chinese migrants from the sphere of citizenship, but these certificates nonetheless reveal the future of citizenship itself. The diasporic subjects of these photographs anticipate not only what a citizen should look like, but also what they should feel like. Although the injunction against expressing emotion in identification photographs for passports has become naturalized, this chapter examines the ways in which this naturalization of emotional neutrality is intimately bound with the visual documentation of Chinese immigrants in the early part of the twentieth century. The archive of identification photographs captured in these certificates indicates and foreshadows the exigencies of citizenship itself.
For the mass captured, there is an inescapable link between mobility and citizenship. As the next section will elaborate, the history of passports is one of suspicion levelled against anyone who did not want to stay in place. The connection between mobility and suspicion, and the rise of the demand for documents as a response to this suspicion, precedes the CI 9 and continues to inform state responses to migrant mobilities. Even as I write this, the discourse of hysteria levelled at “migrant caravans” continues apace. The migrant is, by definition, a person who is on the move and who cannot stay in the place where they once were. And it is mobility itself that triggers the mechanisms of state suspicion.
While mobility and suspicion are not so closely connected in the current historical moment, where a sign of cosmopolitanism is partially defined by a surfeit of mobility, it was and still sometimes is the case that being on the move is a cause for state suspicion. It is a suspicion emerging from anxieties over the difficult task of identification – from the difficulty of knowing with certitude that a person is who they claim to be. As Simon Cole notes in his discussion of the sixteenth-century case of Martin Guerre, where attempts were made to determine the identity of a potential impostor through the sworn but contradictory testimony of over 150 villagers (even comparing his feet with the lasts of another man’s shoes), identification only became a problem when people started moving around. “From a modern perspective, it is tempting to assume that premodern courts lacked a method of identification because they lacked know-how … But, in fact, early modern societies were not desperately seeking some means of identifying people because, for the most part, it was unnecessary. Most people were known in their small local communities. Many lived their whole lives without ever leaving the vicinity of the village … Martin Guerre posed a problem of identification precisely because he had been ‘snatched from the known context of fields and family’ for eight years” (2001, 7). Cole’s point regarding the problem of identification as a phenomenon specifically tied to migration and movement has strong resonances for thinking about the use of identification photography for diasporic subjects.
Identification documents are, by their very nature, demanded where there is cause, imagined or otherwise, for suspicion. They must be produced when there is some doubt, some need for evidence, of the person and the identity they claim. As the history of the passport reveals, it is a document of skepticism rather than recognition. John Torpey observes that in 1791, with the victories of the revolution still fresh, the French National Assembly voted to abolish passport controls in favour of cosmopolitanism and freedom of movement (1999, 27). But only a year later, passport controls were reinstated and increasingly refined, thus laying the foundation for the contemporary passport. Torpey argues that the invention of the passport emerged as a response by an increasingly suspicious state to enemies that it saw everywhere but could not easily mark. The document served as a means of regulating mobility, a notice of the bearer’s right to return to the country of issuance: “Just as the passport constitutes prima facie evidence that the issuing country will take in the bearer if he or she is denied entry into or expelled from the destination country, the document constitutes prima facie evidence of a claim to the issuing country. In the end, therefore, passports are necessary and sufficient not for gaining entry to another country but only for returning to one’s country of origin” (164). The passport does not guarantee its bearer the right to enter a particular country – that is what visas are for – but rather the right to return to the country that issued the document. Well into the twentieth century, the passport was understood to be a punitive document, such that “the 1921 conference of the International Parliamentary Union in Stockholm expressed its condemnation of the passport system and called for greater freedom of movement” (27). While the passport may seem relatively benign, indeed desirable, in the contemporary period, the consolidation of its usage attests to a long history of state suspicion levelled with particular acuity against anyone who does not want to stay put.
Indeed, documentary mass capture depends upon subjects in motion. Wendy Chun works through Agre’s thinking and arrives at a particularly stunning observation connecting capture with mobility: “in order for something to be captured, it must be in motion. There must be a change of state; things must be updated in order to be registered” (2016, 60). A person or thing can only be captured when in motion. Stay still, and you will be invisible to the technology of capture. As Chun points out, “in a capture system, the base unit is an action, or change of state, rather than an entire person” (ibid.). The logic of capture is premised on change or motion. It does not need the whole person; it only needs to apprehend the fact of that person’s movement or change of state. Your social media applications, for example, capture you when you make a move, when you report a change in your “status,” post an update, or even passively scroll a newsfeed. These changes do not have to be big. They can be tiny, and so incremental as to appear like no change at all (just opening the application, or only “creeping” and never posting). Nevertheless, capture, as Chun so brilliantly reveals, only works when there is movement on some scale. Insofar as it is premised on motion, the logic of capture is, fundamentally, the logic of the CI 9 system. Torpey’s discussion of the rise of regulations against nomads in France in 1912 reveals the ways in which being on the move is itself criminalized. As he observes of the intent of the carnet des nomades, the state wanted to “insure that these wanderers would have a precise and ‘immutable’ identity, even if this necessitated imposing a new one upon them” (2000, 108). As I show in chapter 2, many Chinese migrants did find themselves with new identities as a result of the CI 9 system.
Whatever the identities imposed and adopted would be, mass capture is only levelled against those who do not want to remain in place. In this sense, the logic of capture, as Chun identifies, is fundamentally hostile to diaspora. Diaspora is itself premised on movement. What is more, the CI 9 system was only necessary because these migrants wished to be in motion. It is a system that punishes those who will not relinquish their desire to be mobile. They sought to cross a border and cross back. If the migrant chose to never leave Canada, no CI 9 would have been generated for them. They would have been invisible in this system.
In the head tax certificates, the use of photography for the identification of explicitly racialized subjects marks a departure from the consolidation of other identification technologies in the British Empire. Before the inclusion of photographs in passport documents, fingerprinting, for example, was relied on to verify identity. Cole observes that fingerprinting, initiated by Sir William James Herschel, came to be used in mid-nineteenth-century India to resolve the problem of differentiating between racial subjects: written descriptions of brown hair and brown eyes were all but useless to colonial administrators (2001, 65). As Cole recounts, Herschel initiated fingerprinting in India in 1858 because he was frustrated by what he saw as rampant pension fraud, where one person would claim another person’s identity to collect their pension. For Herschel, fingerprinting was a means of differentiating one colonized subject from another. “Fingerprinting in India, then, began as a technique for civil, not criminal, identification” (ibid.). This account also reveals fingerprinting as a technique for identification circumscribed by a particular local space, and not for identifying subjects moving across localities.
In the transition from fingerprinting in British colonial India to photographic identification for Chinese migrants elsewhere in the empire, Canada, we can track the difference in the anxieties of colonial bureaucracies attending to a local, fixed population, versus a mobile, diasporic one. In the space of diaspora or migrancy, where power has to pin down a subject between states, it is photography and not fingerprinting that becomes the standard for identification.
The introduction of the passport photo was one attempt at maintaining the fidelity between the traveller and her passport. According to Torpey, a man named Richebourg claimed to have introduced the idea of the passport photograph in an 1854 article in La Lumière (1999, 172n62). Mark Salter’s investigations into the archives of the British Passport Office reveal that photographs became a standard requirement for British passports as of 1916, when Form A was revised and “we see the first issuance of a passport in a recognizable form: a folded sheet of cardboard, not paper, that included the coat of arms of the country, a photograph of the bearer, and an official standardized message from the secretary of state for foreign affairs” (2003, 28). Azoulay posits that “the camera modified the way in which individuals are governed and the extent of their participation in the forms of governance” (2008, 89). With the introduction of the photographic requirement on passports, the camera modified the governance of individual movement along the lines of identification invented not for tracking travellers, but rather for tracking criminals.
As I note in chapter 2, the protocols of the passport photograph share something with those of another set of identification photos, the mugshot. Recalling her assertion of a civil contract of photography where the photograph constitutes a “statement,” Azoulay’s suggestion of photography’s construction as an “énoncé” evokes the notorious portrait parlé (spoken portrait) developed by Alphonse Bertillon in the nineteenth century. With his development of anthropometry, where the human body could be measured and broken down into a series of written codes, Bertillon standardized the identification photographs of criminals and denoted them as portraits parlés, portraits that spoke so that they could “be read in many cities, provinces, across jurisdictions” (Cole 2001, 43). The passport photograph does not communicate “an electric body of speed, transmitted telegraphically” the way that Bertillon’s mugshots did (Matsuda quoted in Cole 2001, 43). It was never broken down with such precision. Nevertheless, it calls to mind the burden of identification photos to speak; to announce and respond to the question insinuated but not asked about the truth of one’s identity, the fidelity of one’s appearance with that of the image on the document; to declare prima facie that one is who one claims to be.
And yet, photography can fail. Chapter 2 showed that even a system as elaborate as the CI 9s can fall significantly short in terms of identification. Nearly a century later, the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud illustrates the tenuousness of the relationship between one’s identity and one’s identity documents. In the summer of 2009, Mohamud was stranded in Kenya because various governmental bodies insisted on the lack of correspondence between her and her identifying documents. Despite several pieces of Canadian identification in her wallet, including her driver’s licence, border officials in Kenya declared that her lips did not resemble those in her passport photograph. When her passport was sent to the Canadian consulate in Nairobi, they immediately declared her an “impostor” and voided her passport. She asked to be fingerprinted but there were no prior prints with which to make a comparison. Eventually, she was permitted to undergo DNA testing, which finally proved that she was indeed the person that she declared herself to be. Mohamud’s case highlights the precarious nature of photographic identification. The fidelity of the photograph to the person is constantly under erosion, not only with the passage of time – news reports of Mohamud’s case repeatedly noted that her passport photograph was four years old – but also due to the instabilities of photographic representation as such. As theorists of photography know, there is more reason to suspect photography’s representation of reality than to trust it. Mohamud’s appeal for fingerprinting and other biometric information poses questions about the use of photographic identification as opposed to other technologies of identification. Of course, the insistence upon the passport itself suggests a certain faith in the notion that people are who their documents declare them to be. “With the widespread use of a similar passport,” Salter notes, “the examination at the border came to be centered on whether documents – rather than the traveler herself – were in order” (2003, 28).
The process that we have now normalized – where we present ourselves at national borders and hand over our passports for inspection, allowing the document to speak for who we are, never once uttering our own names to the agent at the gate of entry – hearkens to this moment when the Canadian state privileged the Chinese migrants’ CI 9 numbers above any other item of identification information. The question of who this person might be is resolved by a careful examination of the document, and how well that document corresponds with the one already on file, rather than any scrutiny of the person themselves. As Craig Robertson observes, the passport photograph offered the “promise to deliver accurate identification … based in a faith in the mechanical reproduction of the camera over the lingering subjectivity of the written physical description” (2010, 81). The passport signals a “collapsing of identity into identification” that emerges with particular clarity in the case of the state’s attempt to control and regulate racialized bodies at the border, which brought about, for example, the Chinese exclusion laws in the United States and Canada (245).
As the next section will show, identity is collapsed into identification with special acuteness for racialized bodies, but also for the feelings of racialized bodies. Identification photography demands the evacuation of emotion. Identifying a citizen and distinguishing the citizen from the non-citizen turns on the expression of emotion.
The Impossibility of the Feeling Citizen
If you have recently had your passport photo taken in Canada, the United Kingdom, or the United States, you may recall a curious injunction against emotional expression. For a photograph to be acceptable for use on a passport, it must, in addition to following many specifications for lighting, composition, and background, portray its subject as an emotionally empty one. The federal department Passport Canada specifies: “Applicant must show a neutral facial expression (no smiling, mouth closed) and look straight at the camera.” The UK’s Identity and Passport Service requires the subject of a passport photograph to have a “neutral facial expression” with the “mouth closed (no grinning, frowning or raised eyebrows).” Similarly, the US Department of State’s guidelines for acceptable passport photos insist: “The subject’s expression should be natural, with both eyes open. Please refer to the photographs found on this website for acceptable facial expressions.” The “acceptable” facial expressions reveal no emotion. A natural countenance is depicted as being completely without feeling. That is, it is not natural at all. It exposes a citizen-subject caught and composed for identification purposes. This subject is neither angry, happy, sad, disgusted, nor even particularly present.
One might argue that the instructions for the passport photo are about security and biometrics and the urgency of the task of recognition. That might be the case, although it bears mentioning that almost everyone I know has, at one time or another, disparaged the lack of resemblance between their passport photo and the way they normally look. And it is doubtful that, in the uneasy moment of the encounter with a border patrol officer, any one of us looks as indifferent as our passport photos make us out to be. Whether or not these acceptably neutral and “natural” facial expressions allow for easier identification, they do indicate more than just what a citizen is supposed to look like, but what being a citizen should feel like. The injunction against emotion in the passport photograph projects the way in which the ideal citizen, in the eyes of the state, is an emotionally neutral one. Indeed, the photographs that identify us as citizens must be without emotion because they are themselves a vestigial reminder of the fraught relationship between emotion and citizenship.
The foreclosure of emotion in a passport photograph, the identity document that ties a person to a nation, illuminates a contradiction between feeling and citizenship. On the one hand, as these instructions for the passport photographs suggest, emotion obscures the identity of the citizen. On the other, as I will discuss later, emotion, or the capacity for it, is very much a part of the conception of the modern citizen. The migrants captured in the CI 9 photographs lay bare the problem of emotion at the heart of contemporary citizenship.
Critics such as Susan Maslan and Giorgio Agamben, through their analyses of the 1789 Déclaration de droits de l’homme et du citoyen, or Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, have shown how citizenship is antithetical to feeling. Examining the pre-history of what she calls modern citizenship (citizenship in the wake of eighteenth-century European political movements), Maslan argues that modern citizenship attempts to resolve a foundational divide between the “human” and the “citizen” upon which the early modern models of citizenship depend: “If we think that ‘human’ and ‘citizen’ are or should be corresponding and harmoniously continuous categories it is because we think in the wake of the 1789 Declaration. In the early modern political imagination, to be a citizen meant to cease to be human. This is the legacy that the Declaration tries to overcome and that it conceals … and so the new Republic turned to – or better yet, invented – the language of universalism to repress and resolve the tensions it can neither dissipate nor acknowledge” (2004, 372). As Agamben notes, the discontinuity of the human and the citizen “is implicit, after all, in the ambiguity of the very title of the 1789 Déclaration de droits de l’homme et du citoyen, in which it is unclear whether the two terms are to name two distinct realities or whether they are to form, instead, a hendiadys in which the first term is actually always already contained in the second” (2000, 190). This division of human from citizen was delineated along the lines of feeling in opposition to reason: “despite commonplace assumptions about the Enlightenment, the primary qualification for inclusion within the category of the human was the capacity to feel, not the capacity to reason” (Maslan 2004, 358). Thus a duality is established where humans feel but citizens must think.
While critics such as Mona Ozouf note the prevalence of the sentiment of patriotism during this period, I would suggest that there is nonetheless an important difference between an unthinking sentiment such as patriotism, and the complexities of feeling that Maslan associates with the category of the human. Rei Terada identifies this difference as “self-differentiality” (2003, 156). Regarding the zombies in George Romero’s films, she notes that “Romero’s living dead are notoriously undivided, they are needs and compulsions … They don’t think twice about anything; they are pure intentionality, directional in one direction at a time. A living system is self-differential; only self-differential entities – ‘texts’ – feel” (ibid.). Terada uses this argument for self-differentiality to articulate the ways in which the purportedly postmodern death of the subject is actually the inauguration of feeling, because emotion requires expression which in turn requires an understanding of difference and interpretation. Her argument clarifies the difference between the undivided intentionality of a sentiment such as patriotism and the divided differentiality of feeling.
In “Citizenship, Diaspora and the Bonds of Affect,” I argue that the demand for emotional neutrality on contemporary passport photographs, despite the ostensible rationale regarding ease of identification, indicates how the ideal citizen should look and feel. The relationship between emotion and citizenship is predicated on the question of the humanity of the citizen subject. Maslan’s argument breaks the familiar Greek to Roman to French to American narrative of citizenship’s progression as a concept. Her examination of pre-modern citizenship in relation to the legacy of the French Revolution, an event closely connected to modern conceptions of citizenship, reveals a deeply uneasy relationship between the universal claims of citizenship and the exclusions of its practice.
In a historical moment when more people move around more than ever before, these claims have become more frequent and more fraught. As Cole notes of the crisis engendered by the urbanization movements in nineteenth-century Europe, “People in modern cities might not be who they claimed to be. They could be anyone; they could come from anywhere. Nineteenth century society shifted from a closely hierarchical society of ranks and orders, in which everyone knew his or her place and the place of others, into what … Michael Ignatieff has called a ‘society of strangers’” (2001, 9). The status of the stranger, the foreigner, stands in tension with that of a community whose integrity is, as Benedict Anderson famously suggests, imaginary. The diasporic subject’s difference challenges the homogenizing stipulations of national citizenship and illuminates the contradictions of citizenship. These are contradictions that turn on feeling. Citizenship is both bonded by affect and, in the instance of its visual manifestation through the passport photograph, hindered by it. The injunction against emotion in passport photos projects a fantasy of a passive, transparent, and readable national subject.
The figure of the foreigner poses a distinct challenge to this fantasy, in that the foreigner’s subjectivity cannot be easily assimilated into this discourse of citizenship. Torpey’s recognition, through the work of Gérard Noiriel, of the problem of the “foreigner” suggests a strong connection between the idea of Man and the notion of the foreigner located within the founding of the 1789 Declaration itself: “Noiriel has written that the modern conception of the ‘foreigner’ came into being with the French Revolution as a result of the elimination of feudal privileges on 4 August 1789, which formally created a national community of French citizens. This Act was, however, in inherent and insoluble tension with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which proclaimed equality of all individuals and thus tended to promote the rights of foreigners as such” (Torpey 2000, 28). This tension between the rights of Man and the rights of the community of citizens does not simply lie in that classic liberal problem of individual desire set against communal need. Rather, the tension can be located in the problem of the rights of the foreigner, coded as individual Man, which pose a threat to the rights of the citizen.
Arguing for a sharper understanding of the chasm between the figure of Man and the figure of the citizen in contemporary understandings of citizenship, Maslan also draws attention to the foreignness of the figure of Man and suggests how this figure is indeed racialized. As she observes, the very title of the 1789 Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen indicates that the continuity between the figure of the human and that of the citizen cannot be taken for granted.
The authors of the Declaration understood that they were in the process of elaborating two distinct kinds of rights: rights proper to an individual outside of any constituted political body – that is, in the language of the eighteenth century, natural rights – and rights proper to a member of an organized political body or state. It would appear, then, that natural rights are those that belong to man and political and civil rights are those at the disposal of the citizen. Asian and Africans, both favorite French examples of oppressed peoples, would be recognized by the Declaration not as citizens of France, of course, but rather in their capacity as men – a title which confers upon them a body of rights that must be acknowledged and recognized by all other human beings. (2004, 360)
This split in the Declaration allowed for the recognition of the humanity of oppressed racial others such as Asians and Africans, but it also explicitly denied them any kind of obvious access to the rights and privileges of citizenship, creating a divide between human and citizen.
As the need to mediate that divide became more pressing, it was feeling and emotion that were pressed into service. As Maslan observes, the Marquis de Lafayette argued that the declaration should “dire ce que tout le monde sait, ce que tout le monde sent” (2004, 358). The world should not only know but also feel these foundations of contemporary citizenship. The capacity to feel thus became just as indicative of humanity as the capacity to reason (and perhaps even more so). The physical fact of being human came to matter less in the ancien régime than emotional aspects of human existence: “Sentimentalizing the ‘human’ of human rights implied a shift from bodies and their sufferings, to persons and their unhappinesses, from biology to the mental and emotional cognates of physical suffering” (Maslan 2006, 80). Emotion and affect could negotiate the chasm between the human and the citizen. However, the reliance upon emotion and feeling to humanize the figure of the citizen depends upon the idea that emotions are an indication of human subjectivity.
With reference to subjectivity, Rei Terada notes the fallacy of what she calls the “expressive hypothesis” where “the claim that emotion requires a subject – thus we can see we’re subjects, since we have emotions – creates the illusion of subjectivity rather than showing evidence of it” (2003, 11). It has become conventional, as Terada notes, to think of emotion as something “lifted from a depth to a surface” through the mechanism of expression. Expression “serves as the distracting white handkerchief ” which naturalizes the logic of the expressive hypothesis (ibid.). This white handkerchief also distracts from the role of representation in feeling: “We are not ourselves without representations that mediate us, and it is through these representations emotions get felt” (21). For Terada, the death of the subject ascribed to contemporary postmodern theory does not mean the death of feeling. On the contrary, the death of the subject initiates feeling.
The dream of a feeling citizen cannot hide the monstrous anti-human heart of the original citizen subject. Terada shows us that feeling is not a guarantee of subjectivity. On the contrary, emotions can indicate the death of the subject and real subjectivity can be an indication of monstrosity. As she wryly observes of Romero’s zombies, they seem to “emblematize postmodern subjectivity” because “everyone knows that if there’s one thing dead subjects don’t have, it’s emotion” (2003, 156). However, she points out that the opposite is actually the case: “Romero’s living dead are notably undivided about their desires, or rather … their desires are undivided” (ibid.). As a “well-known counterillustration,” she offers the case of the replicants in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner: “In the film … the explicitly sentimental moment for the replicant played by Sean Young – the one time she cries – is the moment when she discovers that she’s a replicant, whose memories are not her own. We assume she had feelings before, but reserving the sight of her tears for this occasion dramatizes the fact that destroying the illusion of subjectivity does not destroy emotion, that on the contrary, emotion is the sign of the absence of that illusion” (157). “Unlike replicants,” Terada argues, “zombies don’t experience themselves as though they were someone else” (ibid.). Terada’s deeply provocative description of the feeling dead subject, the replicant who experiences herself as though she were someone else, reveals the alienation of the unfeeling photographed citizen and, specifically, the problem of the diasporic citizen. Insofar as diaspora is a state of dislocation where one becomes located through a process of experiencing one’s home – the site of one’s identity – as though it were someone else’s, there is some resonance between the replicant of Terada’s example and the person in diaspora. In diaspora, the notion of identity as something that might be grounded in an idea of home is highly mediated through representation and narrative. As Vijay Mishra understands, “it is becoming increasingly obvious that the narrative of the damaged home … takes its exemplary form in what may be called diasporas, and especially in diasporas of colour, those migrant communities that do not quite fit into the nation-state’s barely concealed preference for the narrative of assimilation” (1996, 112). It has become something of a convention in diaspora studies to talk about the ways in which “home” does not exist except in memory, as a representation, and a problematically misremembered one at that. And part of that convention involves the tragic moment of recognizing that the diasporic person’s home is not what they thought it was, that it exists as a fantasy or unreality which can be shattered, and which renders the diasporic home something that can only be experienced as though it belonged to someone else.
Indeed, not only does the diasporic subject share something with the replicant, but the figure of man-citizen promoted by the ancien régime recalls the living dead in their unwavering and undivided desires. Through the work of Elisabeth G. Sledziewski, Maslan points out that “the desire to create the unified man-citizen, a subject who would feel his ties and obligations of citizenship as a part of his interiority just as he would understand his familial and amical bonds as part of his civic participation, was a central motive force in the creation of revolutionary legislation” (Maslan 2006, 75). The citizen is expected to feel unwaveringly bound to home and country in such a way that the idea of home does not contradict the idea of national belonging. In contrast, the diasporic subject becomes a citizen knowing that they become unified with the nation at the expense of distancing themselves from themselves. They must experience their home as though it was someone else’s, and themselves as though they were someone else, as though there were no contradictions between being diasporic and being a citizen.
Feeling does not mediate the divide between human and citizen. It exposes it. Diasporas take up the dream of the feeling citizen not as a way of burying or resolving the divide between humanity and citizenship, but rather as a way of engaging it. What will save citizenship from the monstrosity of real subjectivity will be a recognition of the distance between the diasporic subject and the citizen – a recognition of the mediation necessary for those in diaspora to become a citizen. The moment of breaking the illusion of some kind of naturalized continuity between the diaspora and citizenship is not so unlike the moment in which the replicant recognizes the death of her subjectivity. It is what makes her less, and not more, monstrous.
Given the explicit references to racialized others such as Asians and Africans that Maslan points to in “The Anti-Human,” racism constitutes at least one source of the divide between human and citizen in the French declaration. It made clear that one could be human in the eyes of the declaration, but not a citizen. The case of the Haitian revolution and Toussaint L’Ouverture’s mistaken belief in his own access to citizenship makes this exclusion clear. Recognizing the divide between the person in diaspora and the citizen is an acknowledgment of the racism embedded within the concept of citizenship. To become a citizen, one must let go of one’s particularity, suspend it, so as to become part of something more general, more universal. The moment when a diasporic subject must choose to side with the generalizing principles of citizenship and to let go of the specificity of diaspora is an uneasy one. It is also a moment in which one can see the racism attendant upon citizenship.
In the CI 9 photographs, Chinese migrants must try to look like someone who should be granted one of the signature rights of citizenship – the right of return – while also being targeted because of their particularity. In order to read for emotion in these photographs, it is useful to look at the history of the photographic capture of emotional expression. Charles Darwin’s The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals ( 1998) was the first book to publish photographs of emotional expression as evidence for a scientific theory of affect. As Philip Prodger notes in his essay “Photography and The Expression of Emotions,” Darwin’s book “was one of the first scientific books ever published with photographic illustrations” and it thus “played a major role in bringing photographic evidence to the scientific world” (2009, 400–1). For Darwin, photography would allow people to see emotions that were otherwise too fleeting. What is more, in this book, Darwin established a convention that is still in place whereby photographers and cinematographers (think of the close-up) regard the face as the locus of human emotional expression. If Darwin had focused on some other part of the body (hands, for instance) or insisted on reading for emotion in the body as a whole, we would now have a very different set of visual conventions for visualizing emotional expression. But that was not the case. In terms of animals such as dogs and cats, Darwin’s work did examine images of emotion as more wholly corporeal, and his analysis likewise engaged more fully with the whole body of the animal. However, setting aside the long-standing debate about whether or not the facial expression of emotion is innate and universal across cultures, Darwin anchors his study on the face and the connection between facial expression and emotion.
Let me bring the work of Darwin into dialogue with that of Terada by considering this implication: if emotion lies in its representation, then the face must be one of the most powerful mediums of emotional expression. The passport photograph and the CI 9 portraits suggest that there is indeed a strong possibility for the expressive potentiality of the face to expose the contradictions of citizenship. Not only is Darwin’s study of the face resonant for thinking about emotion and expression, the very process by which he arrived at the visual evidence for his thesis also recalls the fine line between humanity and monstrosity. It is a process that in and of itself is richly suggestive of the contradictions of citizenship.
Darwin’s study relied upon a number of photographs of various facial expressions taken by Oscar Rejlander, James Crichton Browne, George Charles Wallich, Adolph Diedrich Kindermann, and Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne de Boulogne. It is in Duchenne’s photographs that the line between humanity and monstrosity becomes most thin. By this, I do not mean that the subject of Duchenne’s photographs was a monster, but rather that Duchenne’s subject breaks down the divide between human and non-human if the former is, as Maslan suggests, distinguished by the capacity for emotion.
The Duchenne photographs in Darwin’s book are of a man who has lost the capacity to move the muscles in this face. Because, as Prodger points out, Darwin was particularly interested in capturing “the ephemeral movements of facial muscles for analysis” (2009, 403), the photographs of Duchenne’s patient were ideal for Darwin’s analysis. The man who could not express emotion was a patient at La Salpêtrière hospital upon whom a number of electrical experiments were being carried out. The patient “suffered from an anaesthetic condition of the face, which made it possible to stimulate individual groups of his facial muscles without causing involuntary response among others. It was as if, Duchenne chillingly remarked, he were “‘working with a still irritable cadaver’” (quoted in Prodger 2009, 405). Because photographic processes had not accelerated enough to capture the emotions Darwin wanted to reveal, Duchenne’s plates froze “the activity of his subjects long enough to accommodate the lengthy exposure times necessitated by photographic technology” (2009, 405). That is, in order to illustrate emotion, Darwin had to turn to images of a man who had lost the capacity to express emotion, who was a cadaver-like zombie requiring electrical stimulation to show emotion.
That some of the most exemplary images of emotional expression in Darwin’s work relied upon a figure whose face had lost feeling recalls that other ideally emotional void figure, the contemporary citizen. Now that photographic technology has accelerated to the point where a whole range of nuances of expression can be captured, there is no small irony in the demand for an image of citizenship that must hold any of those emotions at bay long enough for the citizen to adopt the expression of Duchenne’s patient prior to being prodded and manipulated by electrical stimulation.
The demand for emotional neutrality in the passport photograph encapsulates the contradiction of citizenship even as the CI 9 photographs illuminate them. As I have been arguing, the contradiction of citizenship lies in being both diasporic and a citizen where the diasporic subject’s divided feelings for “home” challenge citizenship’s demand for a subject whose feelings are undivided. This contradiction emerges from the demand for the capacity to feel, despite the injunction against emotion in the very document that identifies one as a citizen. The representation of the racialized subject in an identification photograph calls attention to the dangers of misrecognition and the instability of the connection between the photograph and its subject.
For the viewer, any identification photograph poses the silent question: Is that you? The request for an identification photograph is also always a question of one’s identity. It is a demand for proof even before the question is asked. As Terada’s work emphasizes, feeling alone will not make human subjects more human, and so feeling alone cannot mediate the contradictions between citizenship and humanity embedded within the origins of contemporary citizenship. Perhaps only when the distance between the human and the citizen can be recognized in that alienating moment of experiencing oneself as though one were somebody else, and experiencing one’s home as though it were somebody else’s, will citizenship come close to fully embracing the bonds of affect.