katrina quisumbing king

April 11, 2017

"The Racial Legacy of U.S. Colonialism on Philippine Independence"

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
4:30 PM in E51-275

This chapter is part of a larger project in which I address the way an institutionalized ambiguity shaped the United States’ relations with the Philippines between 1901 and 1947. In 1901, the United States Supreme Court decision in Downes v. Bidwell classified the Philippines and other colonies as “foreign in a domestic sense,” codifying a legal ambiguity. I focus on three key, but understudied, moments in U.S. colonial policy toward the Philippines: (1) the simultaneous classification of Filipinos as citizens, nationals, and aliens under U.S. law; (2) the revocation of military benefits and a path to naturalization from Filipinos who served on behalf of the U.S. in WWII; and (3) the almost immediate cession of Philippine sovereignty to the United States after formal Philippine independence. In each of these moments, because of the polysemy of United States' relationship to the Philippines and Filipinos, U.S. elites were able to secure a neocolonial relationship that continued to exploit Filipino labor and resources all whilst erasing colonization and responsibilities to colonial subjects from US national memory. In each case, the United States made and then revoked promises—of juridical citizenship, social welfare benefits, or sovereignty.

In this chapter, I address the racial legacy of colonialism to gain leverage on the question of why the new Philippine Republic gave parity in natural resource investment and military bases to U.S. foreign investors and the U.S. government. While U.S. elites certainly had an interest in maintaining a degree of control over the islands, why Filipino elites would allow this is less clear. I argue that throughout their colonial history, Filipinos navigated a liminal space between foreign and domestic, Filipino and western. Those elites with tremendous political control (namely Quezon, Osmeña, and Roxas) ultimately understood themselves as both foreign and domestic. In this light, the claim and cession of sovereignty was not contradictory, but reflected “fuzzy” senses of self and nation that included both the West and the emerging Philippine Republic.


katrina quisumbing king is a pre-doctoral fellow in the History Section. katrina is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests include: the construction of race and nation, empire, welfare states, citizenship, and how scholars of race and immigration theorize domestic and foreign Others. In her dissertation, katrina explores how U.S. and Filipino state actors made decisions about the responsibilities of the United States to its colony, the Philippines. In particular, she focuses on the period leading up to and after World War II—a puzzling period of mobilization, war, and decolonization. She asks how state elites envisioned the belonging and deservingness of Filipino colonial subjects in relation to their U.S. military service, racial eligibility, and U.S. definitions of territoriality. She argues that through a state strategy of ambiguity, U.S. elites were able to first incorporate, make promises to, and eventually expel Filipinos from the promises of social citizenship. Thus, katrina offers an account of unfulfilled expectations and broken promises. Her dissertation research has been supported by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship in Tagalog, the Harry S. Truman Library Institute, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Institute, among others.