Racial Legacies of Colonialism: Decolonization and the Construction of a Filipino National Identity

Katrina Quisumbing King, Northwestern University

In this paper, I address the racial legacy of U.S. colonialism in the Philippines to gain leverage on the question of why the new Philippine Republic gave equal rights in natural resource investment and a fifty-year lease on military bases to U.S. foreign investors and the U.S. government. While U.S. elites certainly had an interest in maintaining a degree of control over the islands, why Filipino elites would allow this is less clear. Several historians have suggested Filipino abdication was due to corrupt politics or economic and geopolitical pressures. While there is truth to these accounts, I argue that throughout their colonial history, Filipinos translated between cultures and constructed hybrid understandings of self. The elite were taught to emulate the west. They navigated a liminal space between foreign and domestic, Asian and Western. As Filipino elites were trained in the image of the west, they reproduced western political structures in their emerging nation. In their negotiations for formal independence from the United States, those Filipino elites with tremendous political control drew on their multiple identifications as Asian and Western. Whilst making nationalist claims for independence, they advocated for and facilitated a post-colonial order in which the Philippines was both for (some) Filipinos and under U.S. control. Filipino elite did not see their Asian Filipino characteristics to be in conflict with their Western ones, nor did they see Philippine independence and U.S. territorial sovereignty in the archipelago as mutually exclusive. They understood themselves and their emerging nation as both independent from and intimate to the United States. In this light, the co-existing claims and cessions of sovereignty were not contradictory, but reflected “fuzzy” senses of self and nation.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 171. Empire, Citizenship and Racial Subjectivity