This chapter investigates the cementing of an alliance between the U.S. Colonial Bureau of Education and private institutions in the making of a Filipina workforce for the emerging transpacific industry of Philippine embroidery. From the 1910s to the 1930s, industrial schools and prisons, both of which fell under the jurisdiction of the director of education, instituted strict regimens touted as educational and reformatory modes of uplifting Filipino women and girls. However, these institutions employed various modes of discipline, from strict schedules and dress regulations to lessons in physical comportment and posture, as training systems to manufacture cheap producers of embroidered white goods. Industrial schools and colonial prisons aimed to create a workforce of Filipina “pupil workers” and prison laborers who had the skills to efficiently produce ornamental goods to beautify American consumers. An examination of the alliance between private industry and reformatory public institutions sheds light on the contradictions of their promises of uplift while relying on exploitative labor, as well as on the racial and gendered logics of beauty production and consumption in the making of liberal empire.
Harvard University Assistant Professor of History and History & Literature Genevieve Clutario specializes in interdisciplinary and transnational feminist approaches to Filipino/Filipino American and Asian American histories. She is particularly interested in examining racial and gendered formations under modern empire building in the global south. Clutario is currently working on her first book project, tentatively titled, “Beauty Regimes: Modern Empires, the Philippines, and the Gendered Labor of Appearance.” The project explores who and what do the work of empire, and analyzes how the colonial state and Filipino nationalists both used fashion, beauty regimens, and public spectacles that centered on Filipino women’s labor and physical appearance to establish power. At the same time, Filipino women used these same arenas to negotiate their own definitions of modernity, citizenship, and nation. She uses multi-sited and multi-lingual research that includes written, visual, and material evidence from the 19th century up until the early 1940s.
She is the author of an essay titled “Pageant Politics: Tensions of Power, Empire, and Nationalism in Manila Carnival Queen Contests,” published in Gendering the Transpacific World: Diaspora, Empire and Race.
Clutario’s broader research and teaching interests include Asian/American histories in global perspectives; comparative histories of modern empire; transnational feminisms; and gender, race, and the politics of fashion and beauty. She sits on the editorial board of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.