The fantasy of American imperialism took pastoral form in Baguio, the “summer capital” of the Philippines, at the turn of the twentieth century. Manifested through the desires of the ruling elite of the American occupation, the expanding role of the market in the governance of the islands, and the labor and dispossession of Filipinos, the building of the mountain city was meant to symbolize and consolidate American colonial power. Taking readers through the first two decades of Baguio's inception, Rebecca Tinio McKenna tracks how the colonial government “enlist[ed] nature to obscure exercises of power,” skillfully connecting the legal maneuvers and financial interests that dispossessed Ibaloi people to the ideological values that underpinned the urban design and architecture of the American hill station (p. 14). Framing her study through a decidedly American studies lens and refining Leo Marx's Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (1964), a seminal literary study of nature amid social and political change, McKenna pushes readers to think about the kind of cultural labor done by the pastoral as part of the American imperial endeavor. The book is organized into four chapters that chart the transformation of Baguio. McKenna begins with the notion of the pasture and the mountain retreat that beckoned American colonialists suffering from “Philippinitis,” and she follows this fantasy with a detailed account of the building of the mountain road. Both projects required a great deal of colonial energy, funding, and creativity, particularly given the varied modes of resistance generated by the Ibaloi, who had occupied Baguio for generations, and the reaction to the exploitative labor regimes used in building the road. The third chapter pitches the city designer Daniel Burnham's dreams of a City Beautiful in the mountains against the claims of Mateo Cariño, an Ibaloi man who had ancestral claim to the land upon which Burnham's dream would materialize and whose legal protest went all the way to the Supreme Court. In her close readings of the case, and of Burnham's design, McKenna shows how the pastoral worked to “conceal acts of imperial dispossession” (p. 110). This first part of the book is particularly deft in contrasting American assumptions of superiority that underpinned colonial tutelage with the reality of the shortfalls and contradictions that beleaguered American colonial rule. The fourth chapter, which examines the role of Baguio's marketplace and the role of the market (e.g., the tutelage of trade), departs from the book's focus on the pastoral but nonetheless illuminates the underpinnings of capital in the imperial project. Finally, in the last chapter's focus on the country club and Philippines governor-general William Cameron Forbes's private Baguio retreat, McKenna carefully and closely examines Filipino racialization—as tied to the material and cultural labor of producing the rarefied air of this American colonial hill station. From Filipino economic and political elites who participated in the social life of the summer capital to the indigenous people who provided the service work for Baguio to operate smoothly, what becomes clear is that the colonial pastoral, at its core, relied on this crucial labor. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com.
The Journal of American History – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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