The Politics of Face

Several contemporary thinkers exhibit interest in Jesus Christ. Slavoj Zizek for instance, claims that he is a Christian atheist. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari show a strange fascination for the paintings of Christ. These philosophers do not seem to be believers. They view the portraits of Christ as deploying faciality that marks the predominance of a regime of signs necessary to the politics of the time. To them, the portrait of Christ that crossed the boundary of non-figuration of Judaism initiated the politics of face in the West. This attention to the regimes of signs that flow from the sight of a face is important to understand the power of holy artefacts, images, icons and portraits and even charismatic leaders etc. These studies are relevant as we seem to be in conflict with statues and other images in Goa in recent days. Deleuze and Guattari declare that a face is politics. Political regimes make use of faces that reinforce their power. Face, therefore, unleashes a semiotic regime or regime of signs.

We can see how the politics of the ruling BJP is a politics of face. It sets in a regime of signs/ regimes of meaning where PM Modi is the face and the opposition is shown to have no face-to-face him. The very image of PM plunges us into a hierarchically ordered world of representation. This image/ face draws our past as dark and paints the future as golden while the present is said to be Amrit Kall. Thus, the face becomes a point of orchestration of sensations as well as expressions of the explosion of the coming of a good time in the future. The regime of signs flowing from the face of our PM are graphic ( pictures, images), optical ( mirrors, lights, fires) perceptual ( sense data, appearance), mental ( dreams, memories, ideas, fantasmata) and even verbal ( metaphors, description). We can clearly see how the face of PM Modi has become the face of Hindutva that speaks to different people differently. He is a single substantive face and several among us are facialised to keep that one face shining.

The semiotics of the face tells us that the face can be iconized and can become a point where several regimes of signs can glide. This means a face opens us to a world that remains beyond the face itself. The façade of the old Sancoale Church opens several regimes of signs to the Christians as well as Hindus. Desecrating the face of the old Sancoale Church by placing a Hindu idol of a Goddess in the dead of the night in front of it is certainly a political rather than a religious act. It has also unleashed several regimes of signs that hurt Christian sentiments, as well as set in fears of loss of peace and harmony in Goa. Social media then was flooded with a face that opened the other world of the perpetrator of the said dastardly act. Thus, we are facing the politics of faciality in our society.

We are into a regime of signs where face dominates over the oral or written word. This is why the politics of face is in full force. The face becomes the rallying point of politics through which social relations operate and our social and political sphere is organized. It is the face that emits politics. The face does not just signify but it also subjects us to it. We then submit it. Paradoxically, in this submission, one loses his/her face as one glides in the world of signs unleashed by the face. Enslaved by the face we lose our own face and become the face of the regime of signs. Face, then, becomes a site of coding and overcoding communities. The other is coded as someone who should be like us but isn’t. This other, then, is viewed as one who has no face and hence, is rendered disposable. All humans have bodies but not all humans have a face. The face is socially and politically produced. Thus, the production of face deterritorializes and reterritorializes people. Their bodies are facialised to the extent that they have to eat, dress, and marry in accordance with the regime of power. This is why everyone has to become the face of a faith that claims hegemony in our days.

Reading the face of our society, helps us to decode its politics. Goans have shown guts and grit by not getting provoked by the politics of face that was craftily orchestrated in our society. Goa’s face was sought to be defaced. But better sense prevailed among Goans. We have socially, politically, religiously and culturally produced the face of Goa over a long time. Goa has lived in peace and harmony and hence, all people feel welcome in our place. Our social field is organized on the basis of peace and harmony which is why views lose canons with loud mouths and hot heads do not enjoy acceptance in our society. The regime of faciality that produces the welcoming and peace-loving face of Goa was sought to be disturbed in recent days. It is the task of all Goans with self-respect to recognize the plot of division in the politics of face and work to protect the face of Goa, Goans and Goan-ness that has been built over centuries. All attempts to destroy the face of Goa have to be resisted. If we want we can see the face of Goa in the faces of Goans and people who visit us. Let the peace-loving face of Goa facialise us. Let us multiply regimes of signs that promote peace and harmony. Let these regimes keep goanizing us, Goa and our Goan-ness.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao