Megan C. Thomas
Orientalists, Propagandists, and Ilustrados
Filipino Scholarship and the End of Spanish Colonialism
University of Minnesota Press 2012
New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Southeast Asian StudiesNew Books Network September 30, 2016 Nick Cheesman
In Orientalists, Propagandists and Ilustrados: Filipino Scholarship and the End of Spanish Colonialism (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), Megan Thomas offers a thoroughly researched and closely attentive account of how anthropological sciences contributed to the making of the Philippines. While attending to the political concerns that drive Edward Said’s critique of orientalism, Thomas corrects his thesis by pointing to how orientalist forms of knowledge and modes of inquiry could be put to the service of nascent nationalist projects. Filipino polymaths used expertise obtained in ethnology, philology, orthography, folklore and history to advance claims that situated them as the equals of, and sometimes superiors to, their archipelago’s Hispanic rulers. Drawing on Spanish, German, French, English and Tagalog language sources, Orientalists, Propagandists and Ilustrados is a study of the colonial encounter in the best traditions of Southeast Asian scholarship. Not only does it offer a nuanced telling of the colonial intellectual encounter with the islands, and an intelligent and engaged critique of postcolonial scholarship; it is also a compelling history of the Filipino present.
Megan Thomas joins New Books in Southeast Asian Studies to discuss colonial forms of knowledge and the difference between India and the Philippines, racial theory in 19th century Filipino nationalism, the letter K controversy, and the legacy of the late, great Ben Anderson. (Visitors to the website in the Philippines can go to the Anvil Publishing website to order the 2016 reprint of the book, with a new introduction by Caroline Hau.)
Nick Cheesman is a fellow at the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University and in 2016-17 a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. He can be reached at [email protected]