This panel focuses on knowledge production and power in the 18th-century Philippines, exploring its wider Asian connections, within and beyond colonial spaces. While these issues have been more widely explored in the Atlantic world, the panel aims at shedding light on the still somewhat understudied Asian context. Thus, the panellists seek to highlight the complexity of the Spanish colonial state and its agents in Asia during the 18th century with a combined approach of cultural, economic and diplomatic history. In so doing, the panel considers knowledge production beyond a strict scientific field, such as socio-economic, political, geographic and religious issues. It will also discuss to what degree colonial rule was built upon the circulation of knowledge.
As the boundaries of the colonial space were ill defined during the first half of the 18th century, contradictions, fluidity and untapped possibilities of the Spanish colonial state in Asia were prominent at that stage. Knowledge of the colony was then constructed discursively around the lack of security, leading to a peculiar self-awareness of a permanently besieged territory. At the same time, the Philippines were a space from where knowledge circulated not only towards Europe, but also within the Sinosphere.
The Spanish colonial state increasingly consolidated as other European powers’ interest in the Philippines intensified between the 1740s and the 1760s, culminating in the British occupation of Luzon in 1762-1764. Within this context, the Spanish control of the archipelago changed through systematic and rationalized socio-economic reforms implemented between 1770-1790. New institutions of dominion, such as the Royal Philippine Company, together with other reforms of the economic and administrative institutions, were created; these in turn produced new knowledge at the service of the colonial state.
In conclusion, by analysing the topic of knowledge production, this panel wants to stress new emerging Spanish approaches towards colonial rule in the Philippines throughout the 18th century. In so doing, it will explore to what degree dominion and power in the Philippines at the time were built on the distribution and creation of knowledge, while addressing how the connection between knowledge and power was forged. In addition, the papers will prove how the Philippines were, along with other European colonial territories in Asia, a space were the links between ideas on power relations were reflected upon and finally led to changes in local politics.