Colonial Dissonance: Tagalog Sarsuwela and the Politics of Difference in Inter-imperial Philippines


ACLS Fellowship Program


Musicology and Ethnomusicology


This book project is a history of the musical theater genre of sarsuwela in the Philippines from the 1880s through the decades immediately following the country’s independence in 1946. It re-examines claims to Filipino nationhood during a tense period when debates about nationalism were made not only in the political arena but also on the theatrical stages of Manila. Bringing together musical, literary, and historical analyses of multilingual sources, "Colonial Dissonance" details the role of the lyrical stage in shaping and regulating Filipino musical identities within the broader context of colonialism and US empire in the Pacific. As a localized form of the Spanish zarzuela, the sarsuwela became a tool for colonial resistance as well as a vehicle for cultural and moral uplift. Critically, the book underscores how questions of race and ethnicity, class, and gender account for the ideological dissonances that accompanied different local responses to colonialism through the performing arts.