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  • Art and War in the Pacific World: Making, Breaking, and Taking from Anson’s Voyage to the Philippine-American War by J. M. Mancini
  • Nino Vallen
Art and War in the Pacific World: Making, Breaking, and Taking from Anson’s Voyage to the Philippine-American War. By J. M. Mancini. Oakland: University of California Press, 2018. Pp. xix, 318. $65.00 cloth.

Historians and art historians have been increasingly interested in the material cultures of the Pacific world. Their studies of the mobility of artifacts and arts and the development of architecture and landscapes in the region tend to understand these phenomena through the logic of either the emerging global market or the making of empire. Mancini asserts that another rationale determining these processes is that of violence and the exercise of force. By examining the armed conflicts related to the imperial forays of Britain and the United States into the Pacific, Mancini reveals war’s role in the shaping of what she describes as the “arts, artifacts, and architecture” of the Pacific world.

Mancini divides her book into two parts. The first part concentrates on the period between the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution. Chapter 1 studies the practices of looting and privateering as an additional method next to trade for shaping the circulation of goods and the transfer of surpluses. Through the example of George Anson, Mancini shows how loot from the Pacific was used in England for the creation, reproduction, and circulation of images, objects, and texts that reiterated the Commodore’s story and image.

Chapter 2 examines how other Britons followed this example of “take-and-loot” to benefit in similar ways from the surplus transfers of art and silver, as well as the circulation of valuable intelligence objects. Shifting the perspective toward the Spaniards, Mancini also reveals how security concerns prompted by these raids had lasting consequences for the ways in which the city of Manila was visualized and its built environment reconfigured. Chapter 3 argues that the effects of the regular sackings of Manila could reach as far as the missions in California. Focusing on Fray Pedro Benito Cambón and his journey to the Philippines, the chapter places his actions in the context of a transpacific Franciscan Order on one hand and the American Revolution on the other, asserting that the new security concerns the latter prompted in Manila shaped Cambón’s architectural design of Mission Dolores.

The second part focuses mostly on the Philippine-American War. Mancini questions historians’ tendency to cast architecture and art as a “façade of empire,” separating the [End Page 362] processes of their making and breaking from moments of war and violent conflict. Chapter 4 discusses the various ways in which war facilitated and accelerated artistic participation in wartime Manila. Not only does it describe how American civilians became involved in retrofitting and urban reform projects during the war, but it also shows how military personnel engaged art and became involved in the production of pictures and intelligence objects.

Chapter 5 takes this analysis one step further, examining how US troops in Manila, through acts of defacement, looting, and destruction, as well as the circulation of pictures of these acts, waged an often overlooked war against the Catholic Church over territorial sovereignty. Finally, Chapter 6 focuses on the more familiar postwar Manila to argue for continuities between this period and the time preceding the war in the interplay between creation and destruction. Examining the ways in which the “obsolete” and the new were juxtaposed in various political landscapes, Mancini argues that colonizers used these tensions to legitimize the violence used in the conquest and to impart their own truth to the colonized.

In this lavishly illustrated book, Mancini provides a rich multidimensional account of the role of war in the movements of objects and ideas in and beyond the Pacific Basin, as well as the impact of violent conflicts spilling over from other world regions to affect the arts and architecture in places like the Philippines and California. As such, the book offers a much wider perspective on the material culture of empire and war than the term “art” in the...


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pp. 362-363
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