Organized Panel Session
The island of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines has a deep history as a zone of potential transformation. Over successive centuries, Spanish colonial officials targeted the island for colonization, identifying regional Muslim and Lumad populations as impediments to imperial projects and slating them for conversion. Although attempts to conquer Mindanao's vast interior failed, Spanish cartography integrated the island into colonial spatial imaginaries. After 1898, newly-arrived American administrators inherited the notion of Mindanao as an essential component of a colonial Philippines. U.S. military authorities in the so-called Moro Province marked the island for reconfiguration. Surveying efforts turned the land into a series of knowable colonial terrains, and settler programmes attempted to populate it with white agriculturalists.
This paper explores state spatialization and mobility at the intersection of empire and nation. In particular, it analyzes how heritable concepts of regional integration flowed between Euro-American empires and the nascent Philippine nation-state. Building on the work of Patricio Abinales and Nobutaka Suzuki, I examine settlement and infrastructural endeavors in Mindanao from the onset of Filipinization in the WW1 era to the twilight of U.S. colonial rule in the 1930s. Projects like the "Rice Colonies" – which sought to people Muslim Mindanao with northern migrants – harnessed mobility in order to manufacture archipelagic unity. Viewed from this perspective, the mass migrations and settler naturalization of the post-WW2 era are genealogically linked to the experiments of the late-colonial period. Mindanao's early twentieth century history is an important window into the imperial dimensions of national state formation.