HomeAmerican Studies Asiavol. 1 no. 1 (2002)

Qualifications Most Necessary to Rule”: The Amok in the Constriction of Filipino and American Identities

Eduardo F. Ugarte

Discipline: History



In this essay, I explore the role that the Filipino colonial amok stereotype played in the construction of differential Filipino and American’s acute realization of their ignorance of the Filipinos and their subsequent attempts to remedy it. Aware that their successful governance of the Philippines hinged upon their knowledge of the archipelago and its inhabitants, the Americans began producing information about their subjects that was subsequently used to establish axioms about the Filipino’s difference from their colonizers. In the second section, I examine the part that the discourse on amok played in the formation of those “ideas and principle.” Imputing an ensemble of negative attributes to the Filipinos, that discourse served to identify them as a primitive “race.” In so doing, it differentiated them from their colonial masters, who were assigned with the antithetical but positive traits. In this way, that discourse was instrumental in creating a politics of identify differences that American writes deployed to justify their occupation of the Philippines. In the section, I trace the process through which amok came to be closely associated with the Muslim Filipinos in American writing. That association was in part that result of the implication, latent in the authoritative racial classifications of the late nineteenth-century, that the Moros were the most purely Malay of the various Malay “subraces” in the Philippines. The Americans thereby concluded that the Moros were not onlu the most warlike and picturesque of all Filipinos but also the most prone to run amok.