Between 1898 and 1914 American occupiers tried to make sense of their new Filipino subjects, both in the Pacific archipelago and back home in the United States. Clearly racial “others,” the precise status of the polyglot Filipino population was confusing to colonial administrators and a wider public accustomed, at the height of the era of Jim Crow segregation, to seeing race in terms of a simpler black/white binary. This article shows how colonial officials used visual culture first to make judgments about the suitability of different sorts of Filipinos for various forms of labor and then, through the medium of photography, to claim scientific status for their findings.

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