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Ambition and Identity
WILSON (Andrew R.)
What binds overseas Chinese communities together ? Traditionally scholars have stressed the interplay of external factors (discrimination, local hostility) and internal forces (shared language, native-place ties, family) to account for the cohesion and "Chineseness" of these overseas groups. Andrew Wilson challenges this Manichean explanation of identity by introducing a third factor : the ambitions of the Chinese merchant elite, which played an equal, if not greater, role in the formation of ethnic identity among the Chinese in colonial Manila. Drawing on Chinese, Spanish, and American sources and applying a broad range of historiographical approaches, this volume dissects the structures of authority and identity within Manila's Chinese community over a period of dramatic socioeconomic change and political upheaval. It reveals the way in which wealthy Chinese merchants dealt in not only goods and services, but also political influence and the movement of human talent from China to the Philippines. Their influence and status extended across the physical and political divide between China and the Philippines, from the villages of southern China to the streets of Manila, making them a truly transnational elite. Control of community institutions and especially migration networks accounts for the cohesiveness of Manila's Chinese enclave argues Wilson, and the most successful members of the elite self-consciously chose to identify themselves and their protégés as Chinese.
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Barons, Brokers, and Buyers
BILLIG (Michael S.)

For much of the late colonial history of the Philippines, sugar was its most lucrative export, the biggest employer, and the greatest source of political influence. The so-called "Sugar Barons" - wealthy hacendero planters located mainly in Central Luzon and on the Visayan island of Negros - gained the reputation as kingmakers and became noted for their lavish lifestyles and the quasi-feudal nature of their estates. But Philippine sugar gradually declined into obsolescence; today it is regarded as a "sunset industry" that can barely satisfy domestic demand. While planters continue to think of themselves as wielding considerable power and influence, they are more often seen as vestiges of a bygone era.

This innovative ethnography takes a new approach to the study of Philippine sugar. Michael Billig examines sugar's decline within both the dynamic context of contemporary Philippine society and the global context of the international sugar market. His multi-sited ethnographic analysis focuses mainly on conflicts among the various elite sectors (planters, millers, traders, commercial buyers, politicians) and concludes that the most salient political, economic, and cultural trend in the Philippines today is the decline of rural, agrarian elite power and the rise of urban industrial, commmercial, and financial power. His reflections on his relationships with informants in the midst of the politically charged atmosphere that surrounds the sugar industry provide a candid look at the role of the observer who, try as he might to remain impartial, finds himself swept into the vortex of policy debates and power plays.

Barons, Brokers and Buyers will be of great interest to scholars and students of political economy and economic anthropology and to anyone interested in contemporary Philippine society.

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