Annotation: McKay, Deidre. 2008. Ghosts of Futures Present

McKay, Deidre. 2008. Ghosts of Futures Present: Photographs in the Filipino Migrant Archive. Visual Anthropology, 21(4):381-392.

By analyzing the Filipino migrant photographic archives that are exchanged between the translocal spaces of Haliap (Philippines) and Hong Kong, McKay aims “to explore the reflexive potential of photographs for shaping the insecure space of the future” (381). The sending of photographs ensures the migrants’ continued integration into the kin and community spheres back home, and constitute an investment in their “futures,” made insecure because of their short-term work contracts. Meanwhile, photographs sent from Haliap to Hong Kong serve to provide evidence of the migrants’ gifts/remittances (new farm lots, house repairs, ceremonies), and thus materialize sociality. According to McKay, this exchange of photographs is underpinned by the economics of contract migration, and expresses a sociality framed by money-borrowing and indebtedness (385). The self-representation of migrants in the photographs that they send back home makes them big persons in their home community. The photos received in Haliap are perceived to document the real, rather than the staged, and thus inspire a “kind of faith in migration as a ‘remedy’ to local struggles for livelihood and development” (389). Being material, photographs are also “consumed”, which means that the migrant who performs affluence has to then continue to maintain his/her newly established social position. McKay concludes, “the subject of the migrant’s photographic portrait is a ghost of his future, and beneath the trappings of apparent success may lie the hidden emotional cost of deferring the return home” (390).

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