Issue 23.4, November 2008

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Generic facial representations are detachable images that can circulate as symbols of place, icons of a group of people, and tools of power and resistance. Think of the confident face of a political leader on a campaign poster, the stenciled face of Che on an expatriate’s shirt, or the destitute face of a migrant worker on the cover of a news magazine. Deleuze and Guattari note that many sociopolitical structures or movements “need face” as a fundamental component of their constitution and reproduction, as when flags and other symbols seem to represent the face of a nation or when the faces of rulers are spatialized in monumental architecture and public spectacles. Particular social and spatial features resonate as a “face-landscape,” as when a neighborhood or gated community is said to have character or personality. Furthermore, human faces can be structured or staged by landscapes; spatial arrangements and the literal lay of the land dramatically shape how faces are configured and interact…In the gripes and grimaces of people like Diego we find parodic acts of resistance that take command of the stigmatizing quality of vision in rural farm regions and in national media to expose the mean face of depraved labor camps and the hostile face of a nationalist and nativist public that ironically thrives on their labor. 

Peter Benson, “El Campo: Faciality and Structural Violence in Farm Labor Camps”