From ‘sangley’ to ‘Chinaman’, ‘Chinese Mestizo’ to ‘Tsinoy’: unpacking ‘Chinese’ identities in the Philippines at the turn of the Twentieth-Century

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Richard T. Chu

Asian Ethnicity

Journal Article

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2021

Chinese in the Philippines; Tsinoy; mestizo; ethnicity; race; intsik; colonialism

This paper examines the historical antecedents of the terminologies ascribed to the Chinese in the Philippines, focusing on the late Spanish to the early American colonial periods. Many government records, newspapers, or books categorized the “Chinese” as either sangley, intsik, Chinese mestizo, or “Chinese/Chino,” in contradistinc tion to Christianized natives who were labeled as “Indios” and later “Filipinos.” Following dominant and nationalized classifications of race, past scholarship on the Chinese in the Philippines also tended to paint the “Chinese” in the Philippines in a binarist opposition against “Filipinos.” The essentialization of ethnicities has resulted in the perpetuation of a homogenized and monolithic “Chinese” iden tity that we see in the country today. Using government and non-government publications from the period under study, this paper seeks to demonstrate the power dynamic at particular moments in Philippine society that has led to the reification, reinvention, and reconfiguration of what it means to be “Chinese.”

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