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Chapter 13 Trade Competition and Political Transformations in Philippine Chiefdoms Traditionally, the Philippines has been viewed as largely peripheral within Southeast Asia not only geographically but in terms of technological, economic , and sociopolitical developments. Intensive systems of agricultural production , metalsmithing and other sophisticated craft production techniques, well-developed social stratification, and regional-scale polities coalesced around hereditary chiefs were viewed as very late developments that occurred primarily in the context of trade contacts with more advanced civilizations of Asia after a.d. 1000. Both a cause and an effect of this focus on external causes has been the relatively limited ethnohistorical work and archaeological investigation on the critical period of Philippine complex society emergence . Even more rare are integrative approaches that combine the rich historical documentation on Philippine complex societies at the time of Chinese and European contact with nineteenth-century and later ethnographic descriptions of extant chiefdoms, and archaeological research in specific regions to analyze long-term patterns of sociopolitical evolution and cultural change. One of the aims of this book has been to demonstrate the value of this approach in examining how and why complex societies emerged and evolved in the Philippine archipelago. The interweaving of historical, ethnographic, and archaeological analyses reveals a complex process of sociocultural change over the last three millennia that is obscured when more narrowly focused approaches and facile trade catalyst explanations are employed. A key element in examining why foreign prestige goods trade had an evolutionary impact on complex societies in the Philippines is an understanding of the way in which political relations of alliance and clientage were constructed in prehispanic Philippine chiefdoms. Ethnohistorical analysis has suggested that, in the Philippines as elsewhere in Southeast Asia, low population densities relative to productive land, a high level of ecological heterogeneity, and geographically fragmented landscapes contributed to the development of political structures in which power coalesced around the leaders of shifting alliance networks rather than more permanent, territorially defined political units. The personalized nature of political ties and the need for their constant material and ideological reinforcement meant that status good prestations and elaborate ceremonialism at the polity center were particularly significant in maintaining a political power base. Since lower-tier chiefs and local political leaders could easily transfer allegiance 374 Conclusion to paramounts offering greater material advantages, and since they generally maintained an independent political power base, the ideology of political cohesion embedded in court ceremonialism often masked the reality of a weakly integrated polity. This characteristic form of Southeast Asian political structure is evinced in Geertz’s (1980a) Balinese “theater state,” Tambiah ’s (1976) Siamese “galactic polity,” and Kiefer’s (1972b) “segmentary” Sulu polity. The volatility of these political bonds and the almost certain conflict surrounding kingly and chiefly succession engendered by cognatic descent and elite polygamy contributed to political instability, relatively rapid shifts in regional power centers, and observed long-term patterns of political cycling in many regions of Southeast Asia. Historical records (particularly Chinese tributary trade records) and archaeological evidence make it possible to trace these relatively rapidly changing political configurations in the Philippine archipelago from the late first millennium a.d. to European contact. Unfortunately , a lack of regional-scale settlement archaeology and even systematic excavations of polity centers in most regions of the Philippines presently precludes documentation of the long-term evolutionary trajectories of many historically known chiefdoms and Islamic sultanates. Only the small-scale polity of Tanjay and to a lesser extent Cebu are known well enough archaeologically to develop a chronological framework and regional context for their emergence and development. However, even the synchronic vignettes of political relations afforded through sporadic Chinese and European writings and scattered archaeological finds give a strong impression of almost continually shifting power centers as alliance networks were realigned through various chiefly competitive strategies aimed at attracting and holding followers. In the Philippines in particular and in Southeast Asia in general, the adoption of exotic religions, the elaboration of court ceremonialism, and the development of various other ideological means for increasing the sacred authority and political legitimacy of rulers were particularly important in strengthening tenuous political bonds. Other strategies of peer polity competition appear to have included intensified local luxury good production and increasing involvement in foreign prestige goods trade, allowing rulers to expand the prestige goods distributions that were key to consolidating political power. Expansion of the labor force under a ruler’s control through enticement (e.g., gifts of prestige goods, feasting, and ceremonialism), obligation (e.g., intermarriage, debt sponsorship...


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