Centering Philippine and Filipinx American Histories Selections from The Bancroft Library

This exhibit highlights The Bancroft Library’s collections of materials related to the Philippines and Filipinx Americans, from the period of Spanish and American colonization of Indigenous communities in the archipelago through the present. The collections that illuminate Spanish colonial rule (1565-1898) display the religious, legal, and commercial interest of the Spanish Empire in converting these communities to Catholicism and exploiting the islands’ natural, cultural, and human resources.

A more expansive collection of materials speaks to the history between the United States and the Philippines. During the period of American colonialism (1898-1946), a number of University of California, Berkeley, faculty were deeply involved in the colonization of the Philippines, especially in the field of education, which Americans viewed as a tool for pacifying a conquered population. Bernard Moses and David Prescott Barrows, among others, propagated the myth of the American “civilizing project.” This exhibition features selections that contrast their work with that of Filipinx and Asian American scholars who have critically engaged with, and upended, the white supremacist ideological underpinnings of their “project.”

Filipino students have attended UC Berkeley since at least the early twentieth century, whether as international students from the Philippines or as Filipinx Americans. As scholar Funie Hsu notes, “Filipinos did not always internalize the colonial ideology propagated by colonial educators. … Although colonial education has been used as a weapon of oppression, … it can also be employed critically.” The University Archives, a Bancroft division, holds publications created by these students, which reflect the ways they negotiated their relationship to the Philippines, the United States, and their identities in the aftermath of American imperialism.

Bancroft’s literary collections include the papers of acclaimed author and performance artist Jessica Hagedorn, who has written novels, plays, poetry, song lyrics, and a screenplay, examples of which are on display in this exhibit. Hagedorn employs a kaleidoscope of pop culture references, songs, images, quotes from historical figures, and a galaxy of characters representing different cultures, classes, genders, races, and nationalities in her depictions of the Philippines and Filipinx America.