This article traces a labor history of colonial photography and the visual production of race in the Philippine Cordilleras, as well as its diasporic performances abroad. It argues that the ethnological visuality of Spanish and American imperialisms in the mountains of Northern Luzon, which produced discourses of race and indigeneity for the purposes of colonial occupation and imperial politics, amounted to various labor relations between Cordillerans in front of the camera, Americans behind and around the camera, and global audiences in European and North American fair midways. What became known variously as the “industrious savage” or the “dog-eating Igorrote” at the turn of the twentieth century crystallized in part out of workers’ assertions to fair wages, good working conditions, and collective dignity. This essay seeks to provide new labor history frameworks through critical readings of photographs, their subjects, and their larger economies of production and circulation.

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