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Dean Worcester's Fantasy Islands

Photography, Film, and the Colonial Philippines
Mark Rice
A biography of the man whose photographic activities had a profound influence on the way that Americans perceived the Philippines throughout the twentieth century


Dean Worcester’s Fantasy Islands brings to life one of the most significant (but under examined) figures in the history of U.S. colonialism in the Philippines. Upon the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Worcester, a scientist who had traveled twice to the Philippines on zoological expeditions, established himself as one of America’s leading experts on the Philippines. Over a fourteen-year career as a member of the U.S. colonial regime, Worcester devoted much of his time and energy to traveling among and photographing non-Christian minority groups in the Philippines. He amassed an archive of several thousand photographs taken by him or by government photographers. Worcester deployed those photographs in books, magazine articles, and lectures to promote his belief that the United States should maintain control of the Philippines for decades to come. While many historians have examined American colonial photography in the Philippines, this book is the first lengthy treatment of Worcester’s role in shaping American perceptions of the Philippines in the early twentieth century.

“Mark Rice has done a remarkable job in tracing the history of Worcester’s photographic project, and the final disposition of his output. He draws on a wide range of scholarly literature and has done extensive work to locate primary sources—both Worcester’s papers and archives and collections of photographs and film. Several misinterpretations of some of Worcester’s works have been perpetuated in the literature for decades—by going to the primary sources, Rice has corrected these and presented persuasive new interpretations that make the contrived nature of Worcester’s efforts even more visible.”
—Carla M. Sinopoli, University of Michigan

“Mark Rice does a fabulous job of demonstrating the considerable influence of Dean Worcester’s extraordinary images of the Philippines on U.S. imperial policy in the early twentieth century. But he does much more than that, elegantly and carefully analyzing Worcester’s photographs and films from a dazzling variety of perspectives, and in the process offering an innovative reading of this zoologist turned colonial administrator whose presentations of the Philippines to American audiences and policy-makers alike would prove so powerful.”
—Philippa Levine, University of Texas at Austin

Cover photograph: Dean C. Worcester, “Bontoc Igorot Man, type 1. Full length front view,” Manila (1901). Courtesy of the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology. UMMA 08-A-004.

Mark Rice is Professor and Chair of American Studies at St. John Fisher College.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 232pp.
  • 25 B&W Photographs, 1 Table.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07218-7

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  • $70.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05218-9

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  • $29.95 U.S.

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