The Filipino Character: American Representations of Filipinos During the Filipino-American War

The proposed paper examines American representations of Filipino civilians and insurgents during the Filipino-American War [1899-1902] in order to demonstrate how Filipinos were subjected to what Edward Said has termed “orientalization” by the United States military, government, and press.  Filipinos were typically portrayed as being dishonest, lascivious, unenlightened, avaricious, and afflicted with a “perverted” sense of gender norms. These depictions originated from a variety of socio-cultural, pseudo-scientific, and religious beliefs and provided the American public with a sense of moral superiority over the residents of the Philippines that was used to justify the United States’ imperial and counter-insurgency efforts.  Most of these representations were transmitted to the public through published letters and narratives from American troops serving in the Philippines, military reports, news articles, and books written by political, academic, and religious figures who were deemed experts on the practices and character of the Filipino people.  My paper examines the methods and language employed within these published sources that fostered the totalizing discourses that shaped Americans’ estimation of the moral fiber and human-worth of the Filipino.  The essay concludes with an assessment of how American imperial policy was affected by the “orientalization” of the Filipino.