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US Colonial Governance of Superstition and Fanaticism in the Philippines

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

This article examines how US colonial officials understood and utilized the categories of superstition, fanaticism, and religion during the occupation of the Philippines in the early twentieth century. I adapt Jason Josephson-Storm’s model of the trinary to explore the colonial politics of these categories. I focus on ideas about Filipino supernatural charms, typically referred to as anting anting. Civil administrators like ethnologist Dean Worcester and officers of the Philippine Constabulary blamed these charms for superstitious credulity and fanatical resistance against US rule. As such, beliefs, practices, and communities categorized as superstitious or fanatical were targeted strategically for reformation or elimination. I argue that ideas about superstition, religion, and fanaticism were key parts of US war and policy, often serving racial projects of governance. Pursuing this line of inquiry allows scholars to see the material stakes of the category of religion and its proximate others.

Affiliations: 1: Northwestern University Chicago, il 60660


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