Annotation: Holt, Elizabeth Mary. 2002. Colonizing Filipinas

Holt, Elizabeth Mary. 2002. Colonizing Filipinas: Nineteenth Century Representations in Western Historiography. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila Press.

Borrowing Foucault’s problematization of the past as a “succession of buried presents” (153), Holt looks at the first twelve years of American rule in the Philippines. Early historians, she writes, were caught up in patriarchically structured discourses, and they refused to consider “the effect of power relations based on racial/sexual, racial/gender, or even racial/class differences as a subject of historical study” (128). Early histories were written mostly by white men whose realities were different from those of the colonized Filipinos (Chapter 1). The American producers of history asserted their domination by feminizing Filipino men. By looking at how Filipino women were constructed in the visuals (paintings and photographs), Holt suggests that women were manipulated as a “sign” of the political purposes of American imperialism (154). The white American male’s fantasies/desires and anxieties were projected in the way Filipino women were portrayed in photographs (Chapter 6). Filipinas were silenced as their images were “captured” by the camera (99), although the author also contends (in Chapter 5) that Filipinos have appropriated American-implemented festivities as “sites of resistance” (e.g. the celebration of the Malolos independence) (97). Reviewing letters and speeches by white American suffragists who expressed their positions on the Philippines as America’s new territory, Holt argues that not only have white American women failed to push for their interpretation of American history beyond its traditional margins, but they have also failed to problematize the suffragist franchise, which they were attempting to link with the colonized Filipina experience, with the 300-year history of white westward settlement (58). Holt also points out that American colonial media and other avenues for visual representation were “fields invested with power” (157), which were used “to recirculate and renegotiate sexual and social mores of a new American colony” (153). The media also served as a vehicle for the propagation of the myth of the ‘“crime” of miscegenation’ (146), which supposedly threatens the white race with “destruction” (145).

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