A Heritage of Freedom: Monuments and the American legacy in the Philippine memoryscape, 1898-1978

A Heritage of Freedom: Monuments and the American legacy in the Philippine memoryscape, 1898-1978
My European Research Council (ERC)-funded PhD project, ‘”A Heritage of Freedom”: Monuments and the American Legacy in the Philippine Memoryscape, 1898-1978’, completed at the University of Nottingham in 2022, marks a significant contribution to an emerging body of transnationally-orientated Philippine history, exploring the limits and applicability of concepts such as “memoryscape” in colonial and contemporary Southeast Asia. Using a combination of archival, material, spatial and art historical analysis, this thesis examines four monuments constructed or initiated during the colonial rule of the Philippines by the United States (1898 to 1946): the Rizal Monument (1913), the Bonifacio Monument (1933), the Quezon Memorial (1978) and the Pacific War Memorial (1968). My thesis argued that while remembrance ceremonies were used to project an image of the Philippine nation that was shaped by the elite’s experience of US rule, this was complicated by alternative visions of nationhood articulated by other commemorative groups, including the Philippine government, veterans’ groups, artists, architects, as well as community and business leaders. I mapped how this commemorative pluralism resulted in “polyphonic memoryscapes” around each of the four monuments in which competing images of the nation, in part shaped by class, race and religious divides, exist and continue to collide.

Harnessing a mixed methodological approach combining art historical analysis, ethnographic research, and archival interpretation, employing rarely used material from a number of collections in the Philippines and the United States, I revealed that Philippine monument-building did not simply take place within a colonial or postcolonial context but was situated within a much broader transnational network of memory-making that positioned Philippine nationhood within a nexus of heritages, with connections to Asia, Europe, the Hispanic diaspora, as well as the United States.

Illuminating the emergence of commemorative pluralism during and following the US colonial period, my thesis foregrounded the complexity of colonial-era monument building. This takes arguments over colonial monument construction and removal far beyond the established conception of monuments as simply a means to colonise and decolonise the landscape. I demonstrate that monument building is not bounded within a colonial or postcolonial context but can be situated within broader, networks of memory. This is a vital contribution to live efforts to decolonise the field of Memory Studies, in which conceptual frameworks have been largely developed by centring the experiences of ‘western’ nation states.


Kimberley Lustina Weir

Defended in

1 Jan 2022 – 30 Nov 2022

PhD defended at

University of Nottingham, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History




Global Asia (Asia and other parts of the World)


International Relations and Politics
Art and Culture