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Colonialism and Ethnogenesis: Rethinking Dominant Narratives about the Ifugao of the Northern Philippines

Date and Time: 
Thursday, May 18, 2017. 04:00 PM - 06:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Archaeology Center; Building 500, Room 106
Workshop: 
Archaeological Histories and Futures
Meeting Description: 

The Ifugao of the northern Philippines is known for their majestic rice terraces and for remaining free from Spanish colonization. Indeed, Ifugao identity is largely based on the idea of being unconquered.  Whereas the lowland Philippines became Hispanized within a few years of contact, most of the northern highland Philippines highlands remained on the fringes of Spanish colonialism.  Spanish cultural footprints in the province are scant, owing to the failure of the colonial power to establish a permanent presence in the region. Nevertheless, there are major economic and political shifts in the highlands that coincided with the arrival of the Spanish in the northern Philippines. The recent findings of the Ifugao Archaeological Project (IAP) indicate that landscape modification (terraced wet-rice cultivation) intensified between ca. 1600 and 1800, suggesting increased demand for food, which also indicate population growth. I argue that the ability of the Ifugao to shift their subsistence base from wet-taro to wet-rice ushered the needed political consolidation allowing them to successfully fend off multiple attempts by the Spanish to place them under colonial control.  The highland location and the supposed difficult terrain were not a hindrance for conquest as there were other Philippine groups whose settlements were comparable to those of Ifugao who were subjugated. Contrary to dominant historical narratives, our work in the Old Kiyyangan Village, Kiangan, Ifugao, Philippines, suggest that highland populations were actively interacting with lowland groups in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period. Our work highlights the capacity of indigenous populations to adjust to the colonial pressures.  Far from the lowlander stereotype of Ifugaos as warriors who will fight to the death, what is observed in the Philippines highlands is a conscious effort to deal with colonialism in a more complex and sophisticated strategy.

Stephen Acabado received his PhD and MA in Anthropology from the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa and his BA in Anthropology from the University of the Philippines-Diliman.  His archaeological investigations in Ifugao, northern Philippines, have established the recent origins of the Cordillera Rice Terraces, which were once known to be at least 2,000 years old.  Dr. Acabado directs the Ifugao Archaeological Project, a collaborative research program between the University of the Philippines-Archaeological Studies Program, the National Museum of the Philippines, the University of California-Los Angeles, and the Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement, Inc (SITMo). Dr. Acabado’s work revolves around agricultural systems, indigenous responses to colonialism, subsistence shifts, landscape archaeology, and heritage conservation. He is a strong advocate of an engaged archaeology where descendant communities are involved in the research process.

 

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