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The Blood of Government by Paul A. Kramer

The Blood of Government (2006)

by Paul A. Kramer

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Kramer looks at racial formulations and imperialism as the United States established the Philippines as a colony. He tries to demonstrate the relationship was transformative for both sides. The United States struggled to come to terms with being an imperial power and adapted racial formations from the United States to fit Filipino ethnic identities. After waging a race war to gain control of the island, the United States sought to co-opt Christian Filipino elites by categorizing them as superior to non-Christians. This racial formulation allowed American administrators to maintain their rhetoric of self-government. Christians were more “civilized” and were therefore fit to govern over the non-Christians.
Although this formulation worked for governing the Philippines, it could not be extended back to the United States. Nativist trends in American culture made no distinction between “civilized” and “non-civilized” Filipinos. At the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair American presentations of the Philippines were offensive to visiting Filipinos. In a similar vein, nativist politicians wanted to limit the amount of Filipino access to travel to America. Ultimately, it was this racism that led the United States to relinquish its control of the Philippines.
Blood of Government is an amazing piece of work. Kramer provides a staggeringly in depth look at both Filipino and American sources. Despite this, his book seems to promise more than it delivers. Kramer’s introduction suggests a paradigm-shifting argument, but most of his work provides a very detailed documentation of ideas that are generally accepted. The U.S. struggle between its stated ideals of self-determination and its role as an imperial power is one of the most examined issues of U.S. foreign relations. Kramer provides some specific insight into the interplay between racism and U.S. empire, but it is significantly less than he claims.
Besides Kramer’s insights into US imperialism, his book is important because of its methodology. Some historians have suggested that historians of U.S. foreign relations should become experts not only in the United States, but also in the region(s) that they are studying. Kramer’s knowledge of the Philippines sets a very high ( )
1 vote Scapegoats | Jan 19, 2009 |
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Full title (2006): The blood of government : race, empire, the United States, & the Philippines.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807856533, Paperback)

In 1899 the United States, having announced its arrival as a world power during the Spanish-Cuban-American War, inaugurated a brutal war of imperial conquest against the Philippine Republic. Over the next five decades, U.S. imperialists justified their colonial empire by crafting novel racial ideologies adapted to new realities of collaboration and anticolonial resistance. In this pathbreaking, transnational study, Paul Kramer reveals how racial politics served U.S. empire, and how empire-building in turn transformed ideas of race and nation in both the United States and the Philippines.

Kramer argues that Philippine-American colonial history was characterized by struggles over sovereignty and recognition. In the wake of a racial-exterminist war, U.S. colonialists, in dialogue with Filipino elites, divided the Philippine population into "civilized" Christians and "savage" animists and Muslims. The former were subjected to a calibrated colonialism that gradually extended them self-government as they demonstrated their "capacities." The latter were governed first by Americans, then by Christian Filipinos who had proven themselves worthy of shouldering the "white man's burden." Ultimately, however, this racial vision of imperial nation-building collided with U.S. nativist efforts to insulate the United States from its colonies, even at the cost of Philippine independence. Kramer provides an innovative account of the global transformations of race and the centrality of empire to twentieth-century U.S. and Philippine histories.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:53 -0400)

In 1899 the United States launched a brutal war of imperial conquest against the Philippine Republic. US imperialists justified their colonial empire by crafting novel racial ideologies. This book reveals how racial politics served US empire, and how empire-building in turn transformed ideas of race and nation in both the US and the Philippines.… (more)

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