Churches in Manila: A Start to the Long Essay

As I am thinking about potential topics for the Long Essay due in December, I have stumbled upon some interesting thoughts, two to be precise: the empirical versus the theoretical.

Firstly, a potential topic for my essay would be the discussion of Catholic spaces and general Catholicism brought into the Philippines by Spanish conquistadors versus Protestantism (and possibly other non-Catholic Christian religions) and Protestant spaces brought into the Philippines by Americans.

During my brief research, I found that the first Protestant minister, Arthur Prautsch, served as a missionary in Manila in 1899. He became a local preacher for the Methodist church in Manila for a Bishop named James M. Thoburn. Shortly after this, more missionary groups followed, and by 1916, the Methodists had “50 missionaries and 45,000 converts”, the Presbyterians had 65 missionaries with 15,700 members by 1925, the Baptists had 2,858 converts in 1925, and finally, the Disciples of Christ and the Foreign Christian Mission Society became the “third-largest non-Catholic church in the Philippines with 7,326 members” by 1925.[1]

I found the empirical research, the growing number of followers for Protestant religions to “save” Filipino’s from the “unchristian” and “corrupt” Latin Catholicism highly fascinating. The missionaries’ goal to “save” Filipinos by “preaching the Gospel and erecting churches” became noteworthy for me due to the concept of the “Church” versus churches.[2] This brings me to my second thought, the theory.

The churches built by Protestant missionaries are actual physical spaces. The spaces are physical landmarks where people interact with the space. People go inside a church; they sit on pews and listen to a sermon, light some candles, and they talk and interact with others (to be honest, I am not a churchgoer, so the technicality of what someone does in a church is still a bit lost on me). Nevertheless, what provoked me, is not just the physical space of a church; it is the concept. The Catholic Church versus the Protestant Church. The capitalization of the letter ‘C’. The discourse surrounding it is a representation of the space rather than a representational (lived and interacted with its physicality) space. In my understanding, Lefebvre’s triad Churches are multi-dimensional spaces, and the way it is talked about can be considered just as powerful as a physical space or building.[3] The conceptualized idea of a Church holds just as much power as the actual building of a church; the conversations held around the Catholic Church versus the Protestant Church. For example, how the Protestant Church found Roman Catholics and its clergy “wealthy and corrupt [whom they] failed to promote morality, closed the Bible to the people, and based the faith also on tradition and not just on holy scripture.”[4]

To summarise my contemplations, I believe this could be an interesting topic of study for my Long Essay, with primary sources ranging from plans of churches to the discourse surrounding Churches. However, it seems quite convoluted, and the topic needs further deliberation.

[1] Jose S. Arcilla, ‘Review: Protestant Missionaries in the Philippines’, Review of “Protestant Missionaries in the Philippines, 1898-1916. An Inquiry into the American Colonial Mentality” by Kenton J. Clymer, Philippine Studies, 36: 1 (1988), p. 106.

[2] Ibid., pp. 106-107.

[3] Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (xx, 1974), pp. 38-39.

[4] Arcilla, ‘Review: Protestant Missionaries in the Philippines’, p. 109.

Malacca: Internal Diversity and the Homogenisation of the Malayan National Identity

The first chapter of Reading Bangkok explores the historical origins of Bangkok from the fall of the Ayutthaya kingdom towards the early 20th century. Ross King’s primary argument lays upon the idea that Bangkok (and by extension, Siam) holds a dualistic identity, a surface level (masked) identity and an internal identity.[1] Bangkok’s ethno-religious diversity of Buddhist Thai, Lao, Khmer, Muslim Patani, Christian-Portuguese and Chinese serve the foundation of Bangkok’s internal identity, not predicated on any singular ethno-religious background. While on the surface, rigid and homogeneous notions of a singular ‘Siamese’ identity upheld barriers to distinguish the local from the foreign in the name of European-inspired ‘modernity’.

I would argue that this phenomenon of masking diversity is evident in other cities of Southeast Asia, namely Malacca (and, by extension, Malaysia). The colonial administration encouraged the construction of separate and rigid ethno-religious identities, providing them the agency to define the parameters of a grand ‘Malayan’ identity.

Sin Yee Koh highlights that Malaysia’s ethno-religious diversity has been masked by a rigid Malay-centric vision of Malaysian identity.[2] Unlike Siam, this surface-level identity has not been applied through local, elite-driven movements towards ‘modernity’ but by British-driven efforts to homogenise Malaysia’s diverse population under an anglo-centric understanding of ‘Malayan identity’.

This is exemplified in Thomas Newbold’s 1839 Political and Statistical account of British Settlements in the Straits of Malacca, namely, Malacca. Newbold acknowledges Malacca’s ethno-religious diversity, however, it appears that his census has inconsistencies with broadly constructed identities that appear to segregate and simplify the city’s population. Newbold incorporates the diverse peninsular Malay, Acehnese, Moluccan and Bugi population under a broad Malay category.[3] But at the same time, he produces a specific ‘Javanese’ category despite its similar origins to the broadly defined ‘Malay’ ethnic group.[4] Additionally, Newbold includes both broad religious and ethnic groups within his census to categorise people of unidentifiable or fluid backgrounds. Those with South-Asian ancestry that do not fit under the ‘Chuliah’ or ‘Bengali’ categories were identified as ‘Hindoo’.[5] Those who were not identified as ‘European’ but followers of the Christian faith (no matter what ethnic group) fit under the broad Christian category.[6]

This census highlights two ideas. Firstly, the colonial administration failed to provide agency to Malacca’s internal diversity and created broad categories that compartmentalised the city’s population for easier administration. Secondly, the desire for simplification highlights a highly rigid notion of identity, one that disregards demographic fluidity for concretely define categories of identification.

The colonial administration was arguably not blind towards Malacca’s internal diversity as Newbold does acknowledge local Eurasian populations. However, this fluidity is disregarded as a form of ‘impurity’. The Portuguese-descent population, which have resided in Malacca for 400 years and are highly inter-mixed with the peninsular Malay and Chinese populations, are regarded as ‘degenerated’ and ‘impoverished’.[7] However, the Dutch population are deemed ‘respectable’ due to their ‘pure’ lineage to elite officers of the previous Dutch colonial government in Malacca.[8]

As the colonial administration engaged in the segregation of Malacca’s demographic diversity, this provided ample agency for the administration to construct an understanding of a broader ‘Malayan’ identity. Newbold creates a dichotomous relationship between the ‘native’ and the ‘foreigner’, with the peninsular Malay population labelled as ‘native’ and all other populations seen as ‘foreign’.[9] This constructed identity removes agency from the domestic population and provides power to the colonial administration to define Malayan identity for themselves.

Koh’s analysis supports this as the colonial administration’s assertion of what it meant to be ‘native’ constructed a national identity that emphasised the importance of the ‘native’ Malay over the ‘foreign’ Chinese and Indian population.[10] Much like in Siam, a homogenous identity masked Malaya’s internal demographic diversity under rigid definitions of race and religion, emphasising the indigenuity of a native ‘Malay’ population as the primary representation of Malayan identity. The ‘mask’ of the ‘native’ dominated nationalist politics and arguably dominates local Malaysian politics today.

 

Bibliography:

Primary Source:

Newbold, Thomas John, Political and Statistical account of the British Settlements in the Straits of Malacca, viz. Pinang, Malacca and Singapore; with a History of the Malayan States on the Peninsula of Malacca, vol. 1. (London, 1839).

Secondary Sources:

King, Ross, Reading Bangkok (Hawaii, 2011).

Koh, Sin Yee, Race, Education and Citizenship: Mobile Malaysians, British Colonial Legacies, and a Culture of Migration (New York, 2017).

[1] Ross King, Reading Bangkok (Hawaii, 2011), p. 1.
[2] Sin Yee Koh, Race, Education and Citizenship: Mobile Malaysians, British Colonial Legacies, and a Culture of Migration (New York, 2017), pp. 88-89.
[3] Thomas John Newbold, Political and Statistical account of the British Settlements in the Straits of Malacca, viz. Pinang, Malacca, and Singapore; with a History of the Malayan States on the Peninsula of Malacca, vol. 1. (London, 1839), p. 136.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., pp. 136-137.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., p. 138.
[8] Ibid., pp. 137-138.
[9] Ibid., p. 44.
[10] Koh, Mobile Malaysians, pp. 88-89.

Defining National Identity and Claiming Modernity: The United States Consulate, Yokohama.

 The United States Consulate, Yokohama United States Consulate Text

The Ansei Treaties of 1858 ended Japan’s national exclusion through the development of treaty ports such as Yokohama, involving the country in an international trade network dependent on foreign accommodations and concessions. It has been suggested that the treaty ports became a “place of intersection for modern imperialism”. [1]  This is evidenced in The Far East publication’s article on the United States Consulate, which demonstrates a conflict between America’s cultural assumptions of its Japanese hosts and the necessity for a productive coexistence.[2]

The article places significance on the location and arrangement of the American Consulate buildings, implying that the physical landscape of the Treaty Ports acted as an authoritative stamp of foreign power, despite the lack of formal territorial possession. It states: “The building is directly opposite the Saibansho” and lists the varying functions of the Consulate itself. The spatial proximity of the buildings creates an impression of American dominance, where the Consulate acted as the capital of success. Indeed, the presence of the Consul’s private residence alongside national corporations, such as the US post office, implies that the infiltration of the US into Yokohama occurred on both a public and private level. Seemingly, traditional boundaries between administrative, commercial and domestic space were largely discarded in favour of the pervasion of a ‘total’ American identity. Social measures such as the importation of American food and the introduction of baseball were important accompaniments to this policy of cultural distinction from the Japanese.[3]

Despite this, the ensuing discussion of commerce in Yokohama presents a conflict between the retention of an American national identity and the necessity for interaction with Japanese industry. The writer’s commending tone toward American commercial success is heightened by the deliberate contrast with Japanese efforts of industrialisation. The writer suggests that the local community comprised of “loafers”, who were better off shipped across to America where they could experience the true meaning of modernity. This implies that American inhabitants of Yokohama subscribed to stereotypes that the Japanese were “essentially feeble” and that foreigners had a “moral imperative” to improve the situation of this isolated outpost.[4] Emphasis of “increased business” as a result of the Pacific Mail Company steamers suggests that the treaty port of Yokohama fostered solely American ambitions which dragged Japan into an international modernity, both physically and psychologically.

This description devalues The Far East’s article as a measured assessment of industrial development in the 19th century. Instead, it suggests that the concept of ‘modernity’ which was fostered during this time was a Western mediated phenomenon, rather than a progression which occurred on Japanese soil. It is true that Japan’s trade increased after foreign intervention- by the end of the twentieth century, Japan and China together supplied one third of the world’s silk.[5]  However, in contradiction, there was never one obsolete power in Yokohama. The intersection of West and East created a territorially ambiguous space where both powers met through commercial necessity. Cultural assumptions of Japanese inadequacy still prevailed but were reshaped and overridden by the necessity for interaction. Japan retained autonomy over the division of space in the port, where institutions were “lined up” and jockeying for valuable access to the water.[6] The derogatory description of the local community suggests that American survival depended on interactions with local Japanese as physical isolation was both impossible and detrimental. Imports from the West have been described as “the first step toward prosperity” for new Meiji Imperialism. The state propagated an image of aspirational Japan who acted as a facilitator of international trade, inserting themselves into the narrative of modernity which the Far East implies was exclusively ‘Western’.[7] Consequently, whilst the American presence was notable in Yokohama, it did not exist without interdependence on the locals, which stimulated a search for national identity on both parts. This made the treaty ports a unique setting, where national identities were forged and redefined in an environment of divergence.

 

 

Bibliography

Primary Source

Anglin, James, “The United States Consulate”, The Far East, Vol.1, No.18, (Yokohama February 1871), pp.5-6.

Secondary Sources

Ambaras, David, Japan’s Imperial Underworlds: Intimate Encounters at the Borders of Empire, (Cambridge 2018).

Bytheway, J, “The Arrival of the Modern West in Yokohama: Images of the Japanese Experience 1859-1899”, in Donna Brunero and Stephanie Villalta Puig, Life in Treaty Port China and Japan, (Singapore 2018), pp.246-267.

Hoare, James, The Japanese Treaty Ports 1868-1899: A Study of the Foreign Settlements, (London 1970).

Roden, Donald, “Baseball and the Quest for National Dignity in Meiji Japan.” The American Historical Review, vol. 85, no. 3, (Oxford 1980), pp. 511–534.

Taylor, Jeremy, “The Bund: Littoral Space of Empire in the Treaty Ports of East Asia”, Social History, Vol. 27, No.2, (2002), pp. 125-142.

Xu, Yingnan, “Industrialization and the Chinese Hand-Reeled Silk Industry (1880-1930)”, Penn History Review, Vol. 19, No.1, (Pennsylvania 2012), pp.27-46.

 

 

[1] David Ambaras, Japan’s Imperial Underworlds: Intimate Encounters at the Borders of Empire, (Cambridge 2018), p.71.

[2] James Anglin, “The United States Consulate”, The Far East, Vol.1, No.18, (Yokohama February 1871), pp.5-6.

[3] James Hoare, The Japanese Treaty Ports 1868-1899: A Study of the Foreign Settlements, (London 1970), p.111. Donald Roden, “Baseball and the Quest for National Dignity in Meiji Japan”, The American Historical Review, vol. 85, no. 3, (Oxford 1980), p.512.

[4] Roden, “Baseball and the Quest for National Dignity”, p.152.

[5] Yingnan Xu, “Industrialization and the Chinese Hand-Reeled Silk Industry (1880-1930)”, Penn History Review, Vol. 19, No.1, (Pennsylvania 2012), p.31.

[6] Jeremy Taylor, “The Bund: Littoral Space of Empire in the Treaty Ports of East Asia”, Social History, Vol. 27, No.2, (2002), p.134.

[7] J. Bytheway, “The Arrival of the Modern West in Yokohama: Images of the Japanese Experience 1859-1899”, in Donna Brunero and Stephanie Villalta Puig, Life in Treaty Port China and Japan, (Singapore 2018), p.256.