The Newsletter 69 Autumn 2014

Filipino Ilustrado scholarship: boding the nation?

Erwin S. Fernandez

Reviewed publication:
Thomas, M.C. 2012. Orientalists, Propagandists, and Ilustrados: Filipino Scholarship and the End of Spanish Colonialism, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, ISBN: 9780816671977

The attention that Filipino scholarship at the end of the 19th century critically deserves has finally arrived in this work, although Resil B. Mojares’ Brains of the Nation (2008) has provided the necessary route for a more nuanced and sustained study on the subject. The rather long, to some extent vague title should have been replaced with an accurate expression that could have rendered the contents satisfactorily. In fact, can we really say that these Filipino scholars were Orientalists, practitioners of Orientalism as a discipline? Or is it better to situate their intellectual production not as Orientalism per se, but as modern knowledge in aid of Ilustrado propaganda? This latter, however, circumscribes the rather different politics not limited to propaganda that each of these authors offer in their respective works. It goes
to show that labelling their works is as difficult as giving title to the whole. Why “and the end of Spanish colonialism”? Did these scholarly works prefigure the closing of a dying empire?