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American Imperial Pastoral

The Architecture of US Colonialism in the Philippines

In 1904, renowned architect Daniel Burnham, the Progressive Era urban planner who famously “Made No Little Plans,” set off for the Philippines, the new US colonial acquisition. Charged with designing environments for the occupation government, Burnham set out to convey the ambitions and the dominance of the regime, drawing on neo-classical formalism for the Pacific colony. The spaces he created, most notably in the summer capital of Baguio, gave physical form to American rule and its contradictions.

In American Imperial Pastoral, Rebecca Tinio McKenna examines the design, construction, and use of Baguio, making visible the physical shape, labor, and sustaining practices of the US’s new empire—especially the dispossessions that underwrote market expansion. In the process, she demonstrates how colonialists conducted market-making through state-building and vice-versa. Where much has been made of the racial dynamics of US colonialism in the region, McKenna emphasizes capitalist practices and design ideals—giving us a fresh and nuanced understanding of the American occupation of the Philippines.

272 pages | 22 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Architecture: American Architecture

Geography: Social and Political Geography

History: American History, Asian History

Political Science: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and International Relations


American Imperial Pastoral is the rare book written for an academic audience that can still appeal to a more general readership. . . . Through revealing the paradox at the heart of the colonial project, McKenna is able to say something new about US empire in general, particularly as practiced in the Philippines. More importantly, she elucidates a fundamental feature of the broader US-American ideal: the enthusiastic universalism many of us see as the core of our national identity is also predicated upon subtle techniques of violence and harmful, restrictive and un-recognized assumptions about the way societies should be organized.”

Spectrum Culture

“2017 Winner”

awarded by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations | Myrna F. Bernath Book Award

“The entwined pathways of neoimperialism and neoliberalism that evolved in the Philippines are well worth pondering at greater length and scholars interested in exploring these developments will be grateful
that McKenna has paved the way for exactly this kind of study.”

Diplomatic History

American Imperial Pastoral, is a well-written and thoroughly researched book. Rather than focus her attention on the usual urban context of Manila, McKenna shifts our attention to Baguio—a part of the American imperial story that has not yet been told with this depth. McKenna cleverly takes the reader on a journey through the landscape of Baguio, moving in a series of elegant chapters from the road to architecture to marketplace to country club, much in the same way colonial officials moved through the landscape in the early twentieth century. Empire is a complicated business and the field of history needs more books like this one to shed light on how American imperialism changed the Philippines in the wake of the Spanish-American War and beyond.”

David Brody, author of Visualizing American Empire: Orientalism and Imperialism in the Philippines

American Imperial Pastoral is a sharp and deeply-researched study of a place little known to most Americans but central to the American imperial project of the early twentieth century. McKenna powerfully evokes the Philippine landscape, and the dangerous work of constructing an American-style town in hills outside Manila. It was an enormous task that required political justification, enormous expenditures in cash and material goods, and the exploitation and often violent control of Philippine laborers. McKenna has read broadly and deeply in multiple fields; this is a wonderful example of cross-disciplinary scholarship. There is very little written on Burnham’s work in the Philippines, and no one has yet provided such a sharp and sophisticated analysis.”

Margaret Garb, Washington University, St. Louis

American Imperial Pastoral is a revelation. Through McKenna’s meticulous research and erudite prose, readers obtain privileged insights into the layered relations of colonial power and resistance, dispossession and capitalism that accompanied the formation of this overlooked outpost of American empire. This is a must read for anyone interested in American colonialism, the Philippines, and the politics of built environments.”

Julian Go, author of Patterns of Empire

“As a ‘complex pastoral’ built on the shifting grounds of native settlements, imperial conquest, and elite collaboration, the city of Baguio in the Northern Philippines emerged through a process of primitive accumulation. McKenna brilliantly plots the Spanish antecedents of the American colonial hill station and carefully details the planners’ vision of a racial haven for white rulers based on the economic theft and symbolic appropriation of native land and culture. She examines a range of sites—the zig-zag road, the native dog market, the American country club—alongside debates between colonial officials and Filipino nationalists—to illuminate the contradictions and ambiguities of this colonial pastoral. Lucidly written and theoretically astute, American Imperial Pastoral is an indispensable intervention into the history of the colonial Philippines and in the comparative history of empires.”

Vicente L. Rafael, author of Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language Amid Wars of Translation

"With a keen and trained scholarly eye attuned to the standpoints of post-colonial theories on orientalism, imperialism, and empire formation, American Imperial Pastoral is not so much a history of early Baguio City but more a critical analysis of a colonialist project that recruited emergent ideologies of capitalist entrepreneurship, race, landscape, and health in creating an American pastoral retreat in the tropics...American Imperial Pastoral is an erudite, elegant, and outstanding piece of scholarship"

Table of Contents

1 A Cure for Philippinitis
2 Liberating Labor: The Road to Baguio
3 “A Hope of Something Unusual among Cities”
4 “Independencia in a Box”
5 Savage Hospitality

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