The limits of nation-building in the Philippines

  • Kaufman S
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Efforts at building a homogeneous national identity in the Philippines over the centuries have resulted in an unusual pattern of successes and failures. Spanish missionaries successfully spread the Catholic religion in the northern and central portions of the Philippines in the sixteenth century, but failed among the Muslims in the south, introducing an enduring religious cleavage within the country. Enormous linguistic diversity remains despite efforts by three successive regimes to promote first Spanish, then English, then Tagalog as a vehicle for linguistic unity. Finally, despite aggressive elite promotion of a unifying historical narrative of resistance to imperialism (referring especially to the 1896-1902 revolutionary period), regional and ethnic identity have remained very strong relative to national identity, even while national pride has increased. One set of reasons for this relative weakness of Philippine nationalism includes the initial geographical and linguistic fragmentation of the country. Also important were patterns of state-building that enabled the governing elites to build support on the bases of personal, clan and patron-client ties instead of broader identities.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Ethnic identity
  • Historical narrative
  • Nation building
  • National identity
  • Philippines

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  • Stuart J. Kaufman

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