Civilization, Civilized, Uncivilized

Working Definition:

Throughout the American colonial rule of the Philippines, officials imposed hierarchies of civilization on the peoples of the archipelago. In published and shared materials by American colonial and religious figures in the Philippines, Filipino peoples were labeled according to this hierarchy, ranging from “civilized” to “wild beasts.” Across U-M collection materials, comparisons of skulls and phenotypes, now accepted as pseudo-scientific methods used to assert racial hierarchies, are nestled amongst narratives of American benevolence in bringing civilization, Christianity, and trade. According to historian Gail Bederman, “civilization” was a flexible term and “in the context of the late nineteenth century’s popularized Darwinism, civilization was seen as an explicitly racial concept…. Civilization denoted a precise stage in human racial evolution—the one following the primitive stages of ‘savagery’ and ‘barbarism.’…But only the white race had, as yet evolved to the civilized stage.” Though “civilization” encompassed ideologies of race, the concept also incorporated gender, class, and millennialism into its orbit.

Related Terms:

Suggestions for Further Reading:

Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Paul A. Kramer, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006); Vicente L. Rafael, White Love and Other Events in Filipino History (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000); Kristin L. Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).