Monday, November 18, 2002
: . "Sodomy" and "Sinophobia" in Early Spanish Philippines:
This might be an old discussion in Philippine historiography but I've never come across any references to it until recently -- and from a canonical text no less. (I'm a more careless reader than I thought.) I never knew that "anti-Chinese" sentiment was ever articulated in "homophobic" terms.* Of course, many postcolonial states to this day consider homosexuality as an alien practice imported from the West (from out-side) during colonial times. But who would have thought that colonial states performed similar acts of displacement? Someone needs to go out there and "queer" the colonial archives. This might be more than a mere footnote in history.:
From The Hispanization of the Philippines: Spanish Aims and Filipino Responses 1565-1700 by John Leddy Phelan (64, 186-187):
- The introduction of Catholic matrimony implied certain changes in sexual mores. Some erotic practices, which provoked vehement opposition among the Spaniards, were gradually suppressed. In discussing changes in sexual mores following the conquest, another issue is pertinent. Did the Chinese, who did settle in the islands after the arrival of the Spaniards, introduce sodomy to the Filipinos? Although this allegation was made by observers whose testimony on other matters has proved reliable, the evidence they adduce on the question of sodomy is something less than convincing.24
24. Morga, Ribadeneyra, Archbishop Benavides, Archbishop Santibanez, and Alcina, some of our most informative sources, claimed that the Chinese introduced sodomy to the Filipinos. Their principal argument was a linguistic one. They claimed that there was no word in the native languages for sodomy. The absence of a word does not necessarily prove the nonexistence of this practice, as the Spanish sources seemed to imply. Furthermore it is unprovable whether there was or was not a word for sodomy in preconquest times. The early seventeenth-century dictionaries are not now extant; and even if they were, the first vocabularies were certainly incomplete. Circa 1750 there was a Tagalog word for sodomy, binabae, meaning like a woman. Whether this word was of preconquest origin cannot be demonstrated. The few men who entered the pagan priesthood were effeminates or transexuals, but the Spanish sources deny that they were overt homosexuals. The linguistic argument is inconclusive, but the claim of these Spanish observers is suspect on other grounds: (1) if there was sodomy in the Philippines before the conquest, that archipelago was one of the few regions in the world where it was unknown; (2) among the modern Filipino pagans sodomy is not unknown; (3) these Spanish observers were vituperative Sinophobes who hated the Chinese as intensely as they were dependent upon them for certain economic services. Spanish Sinophobia may be unconsciously responsible for inventing the charge that the Chinese introduced sodomy to the Filipinos. A more plausible conclusion might be that the incidence of homosexuality among the Filipinos as a result of the coming of the Chinese...Although placing primary responsibility on the Chinese, Alcina does admit that a few Spaniards who "ya no se contente con la Venus ordinaria" were as guilty as the Chinese in introducing sexual deviations to the Filipinos.
*Why the scare quotes? For the simple reason that concepts like Chineseness and homosexuality did not reach a certain level of discursive coherence until after the 18th century. As Eve Sedgwick writes in Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl:
- [T]he homo/hetero distinction is problematic for its anachronism: homosexual identities...are supposed not to have had a broad discursive circulation until later in the nineteenth century...And for that matter, if we are to trust Foucault, the conceptual amalgam represented in the very term sexual identity, the cementing of every issue of individuality, filiation, truth, and utterance to some representational metonymy of the genital, was a process not supposed to have been perfected for another half- or three-quarters-century after Austen ; so that the genital implication in either "homosexual" or "heterosexual," to the degree that it differs from a plot of the procreative or dynastic, may mark also the possibility of an anachronistic gap.
Since I've already dug up my Eve Sedgwick files, here is a fabulous passage from the same essay:
- Masturbation...like homosexuality and heterosexuality, is being demonstrated to have a complex history. Yet there are senses in which autoeroticism seems almost uniquely -- or, at least, distinctly -- to challenge the historicizing impulse. It is unlike heterosexuality, whose history is difficult to construct because it masquerades so readily as History itself; it is unlike homosexuality, for centuries the crimen nefandum or "love that dare not speak its name," the compilation of whose history requires acculturation in a rhetoric of the most pointed preterition. Because it escapes the narrative of reproduction and (when practiced solo) even the creation of any interpersonal trace, it seems to have an affinity with amnesia, repetition or the repetition-compulsion, and ahistorical or history-rupturing rhetorics of sublimity. Neil Hertz has pointed out how much of the disciplinary discourse around masturbation has been aimed at discovering or inventing proprietary traces to attach to a practice that, itself relatively traceless, may seem distinctively to threaten the orders of propriety and property. And in the context of hierarchically oppressive relations between genders and between sexualities, masturbation can seem to offer -- not least as an analogy to writing -- a reservoir of potentially utopian metaphors and energies for independence, or self-possession, and a rapture that may owe relatively little to political or interpersonal abjection.
How's that for giving the Masturbate for Peace project much greater theoretical depth?