In our image but not quite: desire, capital and flawed simulation in twentieth century western writing on Manila

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This paper examines almost a century of writers, from Mary H. Fee in the early 1910s to Timothy Mo in the late 1990s, who imagine Manila as a simulation of an American city, albeit one with imperfections. The notion that Manila, in trying to replicate the best of Western urbanity, has instead been a crude, kitsch spoof of New York or Los Angeles, has always suited Orientalist agendas borne from the Philippines’ junior status in international power structures and its role as a heavy importer of US cultural commodities. Transfixed by the Americophile Marcos dictatorship, Western Orientlist writers of the 1970s and 1980s seek to legitimize their observations about Manila’s ‘Pepsicolonisation’ by emphasizing the ways in which Manileños have internalized – and are therefore supposedly welcoming towards – the codes of Western simulation. By the 1990s, an almost century-old model of feminine allure has been re-configured by Western memoirists and foreign correspondents who portray Manila as a salacious paradise catering to the Western male libido.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Wenshan Review of Literature and Culture
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 8 Apr 2023


  • Philippine studies
  • literature
  • journalism
  • postcolonialism
  • Asian studies
  • pub_permission_granted

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