This week on “The Conjuncture of...” we’re talking about texts and popular culture that we’ve been consuming - from an article to a delicious dessert.

Fieni Aprilia
I remember posting an IG story saying that “I know that I’m not beautiful and I’m fine with that”, and boy I’ve never received more heartwarming replies and compliments about how beautiful I actually am. That experience left me with some questions: “Why do we keep forcing the narration that “everyone is beautiful”? Can’t I be ugly and still be attractive? What if I don’t strive to be beautiful?”. I finally found some explanations to my questions in an article by Da’shaun Harrison titled “Leaning Into Insecurity and Ugliness as an Essential Politic”. The article questions the narration of insecurities as something that we need to run from. Harrison points insecurities as a “critique towards a society that seeks to harm “Ugly” people who think that their flaws aren’t flaws at all”. Personally, the article is very powerful, it helps me realise that we can use our insecurities and ugliness as political tools to scrutinise desirability and beauty as social construct. It also helps me understand more about beauty as a social construct that is slowly destroying us.

The article ends with a strong paragraph that means a lot to me: “I don’t want to be Beautiful or Desirable. I want us to sit with why the idea of finding Ugly attractive makes us uncomfortable. I want us to interrogate why we ask Ugly people to apologize for our Ugliness, and to find ways to conform to Beauty, rather than divesting completely from Beauty as a political concept.”

Harry Isra
Some movies are meant to be remembered because of its story, and some others stimulate us to do something in our lives. Social Dilemma, a hybrid documentary movie, has both of these. It tells us “behind the curtains” narratives of how our personal data stored in the “clouds” are watched, tracked, and measured by social media tech giant to create a model to predict and shape what we are going to do in the future, which is coined the term “surveillance capitalism”. Imagine Orwell’s Big Brothers in his 1984, but in a more sophisticated manner where surveillance technology is used to manipulate, seduce and hack our consciousness unconsciously. Watching this, has triggered me to rethink our concept of “archive” as data. Archive is not only understood as document or manuscript in paper stored in dusty library or museum. On a daily basis, we produce archive from what we’ve post, what we like, what we surf, and so on, which then became the very basis for algorithm to shape our preferences. This could possibly be shifting our understanding of history. History is not only something that had happened in a distant past, but it is also what had just happened yesterday. It takes only 24 hours for story on Instagram to be an “archive”, to be history. The question is, if the narrative of history is dictated by those in the positions of power who also own the archive (data), how we might challenge it?

Pranavesh Subramanian
There’s a running joke that I only listen to the same four albums; it’s not far from the truth. Every week my fingers go on a pilgrimage to the Bandcamp app on my phone to play W.A.E by Begum. They describe themselves as a ‘lo-fi experimental band specializing in 11th century seduction sounds’; and the tracks in W.A.E sound as eclectic as their dadaist lyrics. I’m Still The Same features vocals over a recording of a talking child; Smells Like A Rip-Off has a sample of the word ‘sex’ opulently intersperesed throughout; and Nothing On My Mind begins with the vocalist Kartik Pillai clearing his throat. My favourite track from the album is the titular We Are So Excitedit reminds me of cooking for my partner, and the buzz I feel when I lick a bit of food off the ladle and know it’s going to taste good (also because I usually listen to the album when I cook).

Ego Heriyanto I know people are very obsessed with productivity despite the devastating pandemic situation. Yet now please stop whatever you're doing and look at this love of mine, I'm dead serious: Look. At. This. Beauty. It is called Halo Halo (re: mix-mix): a sweet, delicious and ridiculously visually pleasing dessert from the Philippines. As the Filipino aunties outside the stall often thought I'm a Filipino, I asked them what this dessert means to them and fair warning: it's a LOT! What these women said about the cooking process, the presentation, and the ways of eating Halo Halo along with all of that culture as a performance resonate with Gupa et al., (2009) who actualised it into a performance which recounts "the history and narrative of Filipino redemption from the colonial bondage and memory loss" (p. 111). If this isn’t the Philippines national treasure, I don’t know what is(?)
Sangkap (ingredients) from top-down: cookie crumbs, ube (purple yam) ice cream, wafer stick, leche flan, corn flakes, sweetened langka (jackfruit), nata de coco, sago (sugar palm fruit), flesh of buko (young coconut), red bean and syrup.

Texts mentioned:
  1. Leaning Into Insecurity and Ugliness as an Essential Politic by Da’Shaun Harrison
  2. Social Dilemma by Jeff Orlowski
  3. W.A.E by Begum
  4. Narrative, Memories, and Redemption in a Parfait Glass: The Ingredients of Pasyong Mahal Ng Halo-Halo in/as Performance by Gupa et al


SUBMISSION by Perla Kantarjian“With the ancestral, almost seraphic brass
incense censer he brings out on the days he feels sentimental, he draws a gentle cross atop my head. “Asdvadz hedet ella bab,” he says softly. May god be with you when you leave. Which leaving is he speaking of?” (Read More)


SUBMISSION by Perla Kantarjian “you see, in Armenian, when someone looks at you too much, your friend will say: ge tchapveyirgor—
you were being measured” (Read More)


SUBMISSION by Anna Nguyen“This idea is in direct contrast to the abstraction of an autonomous science as a mythical global force where it freely travels. After all, science precedes the scientist. The noun (science) becomes an actor, the actor (the scientist) becomes passive. Discovery and its magic are underscored, obscuring colonialism or what the anthropologist Shiv Visvanathan calls genocide or political vivisection” (Read More)


SUBMISSION by Amanda ReCupido“Capitalism demands an endless cycle of products and purchasing. Destruction in order to make and sell you something, whether you need it or not, whether it’s good for our Earth or not. Exponential growth is unsustainable.” (Read More)