This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History. Please check back later for the full article.
The origins of the Philippine nation-state can be traced to the overlapping histories of three empires that swept on its shores: the Spanish, the North American, and the Japanese. This makes the modern Philippines a kind of imperial artifact. Like all nation-states, it is an ineluctable part of a global order governed by a set of shifting power relationships. Such shifts have included not just regime change but also social revolution. The modernity of the Philippines is the effect of the contradictory dynamic of imperialism. The Spanish, the North American, and the Japanese colonial regimes, as well as their postcolonial heir, the Republic, have sought to establish power over the nation-state’s social life, yet found themselves undermined and overcome by the new kinds of lives they had spawned. It is precisely this dialectical movement of empires that we find starkly illuminated in the history of the Philippines.