Jilene Adelina Chan Chua

  • Fellowship year:2022-2023
  • University: Johns Hopkins
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: United States/Asia
  • Dissertation Title: U.S. Colonial Law and Chinese Life in the Philippines
  • My dissertation examines how U.S. colonial law governed Chinese migrants, immigrants, and their immediate descendants in the Philippines, and what this legal system meant to them in their daily lives. Chinese residents have been in the Philippines long before the arrival of Spanish (1565-1898) and U.S. empires (1898-1945), yet they are overlooked in histories of colonialism in the archipelago. With theoretical frameworks of race, gender, and sexuality, I place published English and Spanish-language trial transcripts and colonial records in conversation with Tagalog and Philippine Hokkien-language oral histories that I collected in the Philippines.

    I explore testimonies, writings, and actions of a broad range of legal actors: kidnapped girls, heirs and heiresses, opium smugglers, merchants' wives, orphans, and powerful millionaires. Using their stories, I demonstrate how the history of U.S. law is incomplete without examining its presence in the Philippines and that the history of the Philippines should be reevaluated from the perspective of its Chinese residents. My approach intervenes in long-standing studies of U.S. empire in the Philippines, which have primarily focused on Filipino and U.S. actors. Reorienting a study of U.S. empire to the perspective of the Chinese resident population brings new insights into the raced, gendered, and classed development of the Filipino nation-state. By bringing this understudied group into the analysis of U.S. empire, my project opens new directions for studies of U.S. colonial state-building in the Philippines and in other parts of the world.