01. Forgive me this last bit of self-promotion. My book, Civilizational Imperatives, is released today. It tells the story of the colonial encounter between Americans and the Moro peoples of the Southern Philippines, ranging from 1898 to the 1940s. This is the cover:
02. You can purchase the book from all the usual places, but I'd encourage you to support university presses and buy directly from Cornell. If you use the code 09FLYER you'll receive 30% off: cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/978150175…
03. For those unfamiliar with this iteration of U.S. imperialism, what follows is some (not-so-brief) backgrounding.
04. Following the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the United States claimed sovereignty over the Philippine Archipelago in its entirety. This included Muslim-majority regions on the major island of Mindanao and in the Sulu Archipelago, where Spanish authority was tenuous or absent.
05. Eager to avoid a multi-fronted conflict, U.S. military authorities initially negotiated with Moro datus (chiefs) and sultans. This policy of partial non-interference in Moro affairs lasted until hostilities in the north ebbed. It was replaced by direct rule in 1903.
06. Partitioned from the north, the Moro Province (1903-14) was an experiment in military-led colonial state-building. U.S. Army generals doubled as provincial governors and district administrators were drawn from the lower ranks of the officer class.
07. The province was, at heart, an attempt to transform native societies and reorient them towards an idealized colonial modernity. Officials instituted numerous reforms, from mandatory public schooling to unpopular tax codes to disarmament campaigns.
08. To justify these programs, Americans drew on a reservoir of derogatory racial tropes about Muslim Malay civilizational “capacity”. They inherited these ideas from Spain and other European empires and refined them with reference to their nation’s own settler colonial history.
09. U.S. newspaper reports on the Moro Province invariably emphasized the bravery of Americans serving amidst “violent” and “unpredictable” peoples. The colonially generated “Moro” became a durable source of fear and fascination in the American public imagination.
10. In reality, most violence in the Moro Province was committed by US colonial forces. Massacres of Moros occurred repeatedly, including one at Bud Dajo where 700-900 men, women, and children died.
11. Americans at Bud Dajo posed for pictures with the dead following the “battle." Afterwards, the site became a grim tourist attraction. The massacre caused a stir in the United States but did not alter colonial policy.
12. For Moro groups, the U.S. arrival accelerated a fraught transitional period. The two major sultanates in the south (Sulu / Maguindanao) had maintained autonomy into the nineteenth century, only buckling as western colonial powers began dominating the SE Asian seas.
13. Under American rule, Moros had to contend with challenges to their cultural, political, and economic structures in an atmosphere of coercion and outright violence. They responded in a variety of ways.
14. Some leaders, like Datu Mandi of Zamboanga or Datu Piang of Cotabato (pictured – third from right), engaged in strategic accommodation, serving as local proxies for American power in order to protect themselves and their peoples.
15. Other leaders, like the Maguindanaoan royal Datu Ali (pictured), took to Mindanao's interior or the remote islands of Sulu to flout the colonial status quo. U.S. military authorities used imprisonment, punitive expeditions, and population removals to quell such unrest.
16. Most Moros, however, followed patterns familiar to historians of colonial empire, engaging in selective accommodation, outright avoidance, or, occasionally, direct resistance. They developed, in other words, flexible coping strategies.
17. The Moro Province was formally terminated in 1914. Officials in Manila spatially reorganized the south, placed it under civilian leadership, and renamed the region the Department of Mindanao and Sulu – a special zone still set apart from the northern islands.
18. These were the years of "Filipinization" – the overhaul of the colonial bureaucracy and replacement of American officials with Christian Filipinos. A white governor, Frank Carpenter (pictured with Sultan Kiram of Sulu), remained in charge in the south.
19. Although the U.S. Army had departed, the use of extreme force against Moros remained commonplace.
20. The Philippine Constabulary (PC), the archipelago’s militarized police force, repeatedly committed massacres in the 1910s and 20s. Some of its members boasted of their Moro-killing prowess. Below is a postcard I found in the personal papers of an American PC officer.
21. The new department inherited the Moro Province’s faith in the civilizing mission, further refining legal and carceral systems, prosecuting the parents of truant children, and eroding the authority of Moro civic and religious leaders.
22. American and Filipino officials also built on developmental initiatives begun under military rule, placing new emphasis on settler schemes. Migration from the north, they argued, would unlock the south’s agricultural wealth and teach Mindanaoan natives to be modern labourers. A "rice colony" in CotabatoA "rice colony" in Cotabato
23. In the 1920s, Moro communities found themselves caught between the territorial fantasies of Filipino nationalists and the imperial revanchism of Americans like Leonard Wood (pictured), former military governor of the Moro Province turned governor general of the Philippines.
24. While the large uprisings of earlier decades did not re-occur, the 1920s and 1930s were hardly placid. In Lanao, for instance, schoolhouses burned and villages rallied around community leaders willing to combat PC depredations.
25. The idea of an endless “Moro Problem” (and its potential solutions) continued to guide policy in the south. The remaining American PC officers, district governors, business figures, teachers, and missionaries still played key roles in the region.
26. Patterns of conflict persisted into the pre-WW2 Commonwealth Era, with some peculiar shifts. Americans now positioned themselves as protectors of the Moros against Filipino aggression. This was the state of things on the eve of the Japanese invasion in 1941.
27. Through its seven thematic chapters, Civilizational Imperatives explores this period of U.S.-Moro relations. Here is the table of contents to give you a general sense of what’s inside:
28. The book addresses the relative absence of the Southern Philippines in the historiography of U.S foreign relations.
29. Philippine Studies scholars have produced amazing work on Mindanao and Sulu (more on that in a separate thread), but Americanists have been relatively quiet. With a couple notable exceptions, most monographs examining the U.S. Philippines focus on Luzon and the Visayas.
30. The colonial sequestering and minimization of the south tends to reproduce itself in the literature. One of the goals of this project is to thread Muslim Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago back into the history U.S. empire in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
31. The book has a nested structure that operates at multiple scales: a regional history within an imperial history within the currents of a globalizing world.
32. At the regional level, it is a textured account of a colonial state and its fraught civilizing mission(s). Each chapter provides a close reading of the operating rationales of colonial governance, its structures, and its consequences.
33. I am interested here in what we might call “everyday empire”: the innumerable interactions, collisions, and contingencies that constituted colonialism.
34. This is not a text that litigates the existence or importance of U.S. empire, but rather illustrates its design and operationalization.
35. Civilizational Imperatives is also about how colonialism is shaped and redefined by connection. Multidirectional transfers embedded Americans and Moros alike in networks of exchange that transcended region, nation, and empire.
36. My hope is that it will be legible not only to students of U.S. or Philippine history, but also people studying colonialisms across and between empires.
37. I could regale you with anecdotes from the book, but I’m lousy at Twitter and have already pushed my luck with this mammoth thread. For those of you still with me, I’ll conclude with a couple personal notes.
38. I wrote, revised, and reimagined large sections of Civilizational Imperatives in precarious conditions. In the three years following the completion of my doctorate I taught at four institutions.
39. In the months before submitting my final manuscript, I was teaching five courses across three schools. None of the positions, it probably goes without saying, were secure. My first year at Glasgow was mostly recovery.
40. The above (and far worse) is increasingly the norm for early career scholars, who, out of sheer passion, still produce incredible work - even as they are being shut out of their disciplines by the collapse of secure labor in the academy. Please support them.
41. If you are struggling to finish your project and I can help in any way please do reach out, either on here or through email. My book exists because other researchers, most of whom had zero personal stake in its success, freely gave their time, guidance, and perspective.
42. I'll leave it there. I hope some of you pick up the book and find value in it (but it's okay if you don't, too). Thanks for reading - here's me, happy this is over:

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More from @olaferr

15 Sep
01. Another thread - this one about gratitude. Histories are built on original research, but also move along paths cleared by others. Because the academy rewards overstating novelty our many intellectual debts often go unacknowledged.
02. There's a wonderful body of work on the Southern Philippines under Spanish and American colonialism. It's produced by researchers from a range of disciplines and sub-fields, whose creative approaches and granular understandings of the region and its peoples are inspiring.
03. My book's release is a good opportunity to foreground the writings of these scholars. Some of them I know personally and others I've never met, but each (knowingly or unknowingly) helped me along the way. Here it goes, in no particular order:
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