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Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Frank Schumacher


This dissertation examines the colonial experience in the Islamic Philippines between 1899 and 1942. Occupying Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago in 1899, U.S. Army officials assumed sovereignty over a series of Muslim populations collectively referred to as ‘Moros.’ Beholden to pre-existing notions of Moro ungovernability, for two decades military and civilian administrators ruled the Southern Philippines separately from the Christian regions of the North. In the 1920s, Islamic areas of Mindanao and Sulu were ‘normalized’ and haphazardly assimilated into the emergent Philippine nation-state. Never fully integrated, the Muslim South persisted as an exotic frontier zone in the American and Filipino colonial imaginaries.

The following chapters argue that Americans acting in both official and non-official capacities undertook a project of cultural reconfiguration among the Moros. Essentializing Moro ‘characteristics,’ American colonial actors implemented a variety of programs aimed at transforming Muslim social, legal, commercial, medical, and educational practices. These complex and imperfect processes often met with resistance from Moro populations, and American authorities used violence as a means of ‘correcting’ recalcitrant behaviours. A second seam of argumentation asserts the centrality of inter-imperial dialogue and transfer to the colonial experience in the Southern Philippines. Americans borrowed and modified European imperial antecedents in myriad ways, from carceral technologies to the creation of racially demarcated leisure spaces. As a region, the Muslim South was shaped during the period under study by transcolonial flows of personnel, ideas, and commercial products. This involved transfers not only between Americans and Europeans, but also between Moros and the Islamic world.

Emphasizing understudied and unstoried histories, this project contributes to a growing body of work that situates American colonial encounters in a global context. Overlooked in much of the literature on American colonialism in the Philippines, the Muslim South was an important site for the development of American civilizational imperatives. These imperatives, and the colonial project writ large, were shaped and reshaped by pervasive supraregional connectivities and inter-imperial exchanges. Far from being mere colonial backwaters, Mindanao and Sulu are critical to understanding the character of American empire in the early twentieth century.