Orientalism and the Study of the Philippine Polity



Although a critique of orientalism in the study of the Philippine polity has emerged comparatively late in the day, it has stimulated a lively, and often acerbic, debate. The aim of this paper is to report on aspects of the original debate, and to comment on its implications for subsequent analyses. The argument that American scholarship has transformed Philippine politics into a negative ‘other’ and ‘essentialized’ political behavior, and the equally forthright responses to these criticisms, have brought home in a very direct, immediate, and emotional sense, the significance of the Philippine polity's dimensionality. The business of then accommodating that dimensionality – the multiple qualities of any given actor, and the multiple roots, ramifications, and meanings of any given practice or understanding – requires detailed conceptual and methodological development, and presents an important challenge to Philippine studies.