"Qualifications Most Necessary to Rule": The Amok in the Constriction of Filipino and American Identities; in American Studies Asia, Vol. 1, No. 1.


In this essay, I explore the role that the Filipino colonial amok stereotype played in the construction of differential Filipino and American’s acute realization of their ignorance of the Filipinos and their subsequent attempts to remedy it. Aware that their successful governance of the Philippines hinged upon their knowledge of the archipelago and its inhabitants, the Americans began producing information about their subjects that was subsequently used to establish axioms about the Filipino’s difference from their colonizers. In the second section, I examine the part that the discourse on amok played in the formation of those “ideas and principle.” Imputing an ensemble of negative attributes to the Filipinos, that discourse served to identify them as a primitive “race.” In so doing, it differentiated them from their colonial masters, who were assigned with the antithetical but positive traits. In this way, that discourse was instrumental in creating a politics of identify differences that American writes deployed to justify their occupation of the Philippines. In the section, I trace the process through which amok came to be closely associated with the Muslim Filipinos in American writing. That association was in part that result of the implication, latent in the authoritative racial classifications of the late nineteenth-century, that the Moros were the most purely Malay of the various Malay “subraces” in the Philippines. The Americans thereby concluded that the Moros were not onlu the most warlike and picturesque of all Filipinos but also the most prone to run amok.

"The Demoniacal Impulse" - The Construction of Amok in the Philippines (doctoral thesis); University of Western Sydney Nepean.


In the Philippines, amok is often viewed as a form of homicidal behaviour to which Muslim Filipino or Moro men are prone. Various assumptions about contemporary Filipino perceptions of amok are challenged in this thesis. It is assumed that this perception corresponds with the actual occurrence of amok in the Philippines, and this is challenged by the demonstration that the perception is merely a construct. The perception of amok is assumed to be the culmination of attempts by Spaniards, Americans and Filipinos to discern the true nature of amok, and this is challenged by the fact that discrepancies exist between recognition of amok by the Spanish on one hand and the Americans and Christian Filipinos on the other. It is argued that contemporary Filipino understanding of amok is the product of two factors: the American drive to acquire information about Filipinos that would enable them to control their newly acquired subjects, and the conflict between Americans and Filipinos generated by this attempt at control. The association of amok with Muslim Filipinos is the outcome of the mistaken conflation of amok with the juramentado convention of the Moros, and the idea that the Muslim Filipinos were the most Malay of the Malay ‘subraces’ in the Philippines and thus most likely to run amok.

Running amok: The "demoniacal impulse"; in Asian Studies Review, Vol. 16, No. 1. (pp. 182-189)
DOI 10.1080/03147539208712824

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