Hide the Looking Glass: Duterte and the Legacy of American Imperialism

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This chapter tries to understand the resonance of a political figure like Duterte by taking a historical view of political narratives and political discourses in the Philippines over the long twentieth century. After first discussing Duterte’s populist discourse and opening the puzzle of why it seems to fall on fertile ground, the chapter explores the way America’s policies of “benevolent imperialism” and “democratic tutelage” beginning in 1898, in seeking to legitimize US authority over the Islands, discursively constructed the “Filipino” as behaviorally and innately subordinate and incapable of self-rule. Next, it argues that the American colonial discourse left a legacy in the pro-independence political consciousness, in the form of a collective anxiety around questions of freedom and sovereignty, before going on to show how this anxiety has created opportunities for its deployment by populist leaders and movements since 1946. Finally, the chapter suggests that while Duterte is not the first political leader to use the hypocrisy of American intervention in the Philippines to appeal for popular support, his successful mobilization of a state-led nationalist discourse demonstrates that the legacy of American imperialism, and the desire to overcome the humiliation and infantilization of its central premise, continue to haunt contemporary Philippine politics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Duterte Reader
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Essays on Rodrigo Duterte's Early Presidency
EditorsNicole Curato
Place of PublicationIthaca, NY
PublisherCornell University
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)1501724746
ISBN (Print)9781501724749
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2017


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