Cleanliness, Hygiene

Working Definition:

As historian Warwick Anderson illustrates, wartime conditions during the Philippine-American War and for over a decade after influenced social hygiene in the Philippines. Moving away from theories of disease positing that the tropics led to devolution of Anglo-Saxon bodies and mental tenacity, colonial agents became convinced that even ostensibly healthy Filipinos could carry and transmit communicable diseases to Americans. Consequently, Americans sought to transform the hygienic behaviors of their colonial subjects in order to produce “clean” subjects. Anderson explains, “…the colonial state came to be delineated on racialized bodies (Filipino or white) and behaviors (promiscuous or retentive); it was intimately reduced to orifices (open or closed) and dejecta (visible or invisible).” Hygiene became a marker for citizenship, and as the Philippines came to be seen as a tropical laboratory through which behavior could be controlled by way of sanitation policies, Americans required that Filipinos change their hygienic behaviors in order to be considered as subjects worthy of self-governance.

Related Terms:

  • Leper(s)
  • Race
  • Self-determination, Self-Governance, Self-Rule

Suggestions for Further Reading:

Warwick Anderson, Colonial Pathologies: American Tropical Medicine, Race, and Hygiene in the Philippines (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006).