Remaking Against Removal: Protest Artmaking in Sitio San Roque Against the Neoliberal State’s Aesthetic Regime

  • Jose Monfred C. Sy University of the Philippines Diliman


A public-private partnership (PPP) operationalized through the National Housing Authority (NHA), the construction of the Quezon City Central Business District has been forcefully evicting the urban poor community of Sitio San Roque in Quezon City. While the community has been struggling for on-site development for decades, it was only in 2019 under President Rodrigo Duterte’s neoliberal regime that creative cultural engagements became crucial in their campaign, with the participation of the broad alliance Save San Roque (SSR). I argue that this cultural engagement with the state exposes and counter-attacks the aesthetic governmentality that machinates PPPs. The state turns its citizens against informal settlements by painting slums as a hindrance to development, signified by publicly visible infrastructure. The private sector’s economic gain also takes shape through this compelling vision of urbanity. SSR’s communal artmaking and crafting of a community development plan protest this vision. Foregrounding the residents’ agency in deciding their future, creative engagements visualize the resident’s claim on their land, fostering what Jacques Rancière calls a “community of sense” and testifying to the urban poor’s right to space in the city.