HomeAsia-Pacific Social Science Reviewvol. 7 no. 1 (2007)

At Home in the Cordillera Wilds: Colonial Domesticity in the Letters of Maud Huntley Jenks, 1901-1903

Dinah Roma Sianturi

Discipline: Social Science



This paper examines colonial domesticity as embodied in the notion of "home." At the beginning of U.S. colonial rule in the Philippines, a number of American women came as officials' wives to establish home in the islands. Although valued as domestic figures, they were involved in more complex power relations that extended beyond the domicile and affirmed their complicity to colonialism. By problematizing the trope of separate spheres that had long assigned gender spatial identities into home and nation, this study reveals how colonial domesticity blurred this divide as it reinforced the dominant discourse of racial difference. Focusing on the letters of Maud Huntley Jenks written to her family in Wisconsin during her stay in the islands with anthropologist-husband Dr. Albert E. Jenks, I examine how colonial "otherness" is articulated by invoking "home" through Mrs. Jenks' descriptions of the Cordillera landscape, its inhabitants, and the 1904 St. Louis Fair.