Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Masculinity Reborn: Chivalry, Misogyny, Potency and Violence in the Philippines' Muslim South, 1899-1913

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Masculinity Reborn: Chivalry, Misogyny, Potency and Violence in the Philippines' Muslim South, 1899-1913

Article excerpt

Introduction

In many ways the American colonial project in the Philippines was an experiment in changing performative roles. The advent of new technologies, the closing of the western frontier, the secularising effects of scientific discovery, and other hallmarks of modernity both contorted and problematised bourgeois Americans' self-image at the dawn of the twentieth century. These anxieties and unsettling changes produced intense efforts to redefine the foundational building blocks of both individual and national identities among America's intellectual and ruling elite. (1) No facet of modern American culture received more scrutiny, concern, and renovation than gender.

Recent years have witnessed a substantial increase in scholarly attention to changing notions of American masculinity at the turn of the century and its bearing on subsequent imperial projects. Gail Bederman's work, Manliness and civilization: A cultural history of gender and race in the United States, 1880-1917, for example, traces the trajectory of male gender from 'manliness' to 'masculinity' and examines its profound influence on the 'discourse of civilization'. Bederman concludes that American masculinity ultimately served as the transcendent and defining feature confirming white, middle-class male evolutionary dominance and its status as the bearer of civilisation. (2) Kristin Hoganson, pursuing similar theories of modern gender anxiety, argues that in the late nineteenth century, the 'renegotiation of male and female roles ... helped push the nation into [the Spanish-American War] by fostering a desire for martial challenges,' and ultimately 'affected the rise and fall of the nation's imperial impulse.' (3) Jingoistic images of a feminised Cuba held hostage and abused by an old, aristocratic, and villainous Spain called forth a romantic and chivalrous response from Americans. Such images similarly engrossed Americans in their debate over the annexation of the Philippines. Anti-imperialists were routinely smeared as unmanly and lacking in the chivalrous virtues that defined true manhood. Advocates of imperialism also sought to instil similar masculine virtues among the feminised natives of the Philippines. As an extension of Bederman's and Hoganson's arguments, the imperial project in the Philippines turned into a philosophical battleground in which femininity, masculinity, and civilisation became inexorably linked and mutually contingent.

While such arguments risk a critique of perpetual Ameri-centrism or 'a meditation on [the American] self rather than a window into cultural exchange and the bound-together entanglements of colonial relations', examinations of gender, chivalry, and civilisation as topics of an interactive discourse do provide a window into the colonial experience beyond the exclusive production of metropolitan identities. (4) A great deal of what has been termed 'new imperial history' has made significant strides in challenging narratives of resolute imperial projection and negligible indigenous agency. Ann Laura Stoler and Frederick Cooper, for example, offer a profound critique of mutually exclusive and/or dominant and subordinate colonial spheres. 'Europe's [or America's] colonies were never empty spaces to be made over in Europe's image or fashioned in its interests,' they argue, 'nor, indeed, were European states self-contained entities that at one point projected themselves overseas. Europe was made by its imperial projects, as much as colonial encounters were shaped by conflicts within Europe itself.' (5) In an effort to eradicate these notions, the authors advocate including 'metropole and colony in a single analytic field, addressing the weight one gives to causal connections and the primacy of agency in its different parts', rather than casting coloniser and colonised as antagonistic binaries. (6) Other scholars, such as Paul Kramer, Nicholas Thomas, Craig Reynolds, Tony Day and many more, have advocated similar views in their work and created a radically different conceptualisation of colonial discourse. …

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