Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Raiding, Trading. and Feasting

Raiding, Trading. and Feasting: The Political Economy of Philippine Chiefdoms

Laura Lee Junker
Copyright Date: 1999
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Raiding, Trading. and Feasting
    Book Description:

    As early as the first millennium A.D., the Philippine archipelago formed the easternmost edge of a vast network of Chinese, Southeast Asian, Indian, and Arab traders. Items procured through maritime trade became key symbols of social prestige and political power for the Philippine chiefly elite. Raiding, Trading, and Feasting presents the first comprehensive analysis of how participation in this trade related to broader changes in the political economy of these Philippine island societies. By combining archaeological evidence with historical sources, Laura Junker is able to offer a more nuanced examination of the nature and evolution of Philippine maritime trading chiefdoms. Most importantly, she demonstrates that it is the dynamic interplay between investment in the maritime luxury goods trade and other evolving aspects of local political economies, rather than foreign contacts, that led to the cyclical coalescence of larger and more complex chiefdoms at various times in Philippine history. A broad spectrum of historical and ethnographic sources, ranging from tenth-century Chinese tributary trade records to turn-of-the-century accounts of chiefly "feasts of merit," highlights both the diversity and commonality in evolving chiefly economic strategies within the larger political landscape of the archipelago. The political ascendance of individual polities, the emergence of more complex forms of social ranking, and long-term changes in chiefly economies are materially documented through a synthesis of archaeological research at sites dating from the Metal Age (late first millennium B.C.) to the colonial period. The author draws on her archaeological fieldwork in the Tanjay River basin to investigate the long-term dynamics of chiefly political economy in a single region. Reaching beyond the Philippine archipelago, this study contributes to the larger anthropological debate concerning ecological and cultural factors that shape political economy in chiefdoms and early states. It attempts to address the question of why Philippine polities, like early historic kingdoms elsewhere in Southeast Asia, have a segmentary political structure in which political leaders are dependent on prestige goods exchanges, personal charisma, and ritual pageantry to maintain highly personalized power bases. Raiding, Trading, and Feasting is a volume of impressive scholarship and substantial scope unmatched in the anthropological and historical literature. It will be welcomed by Pacific and Asian historians and anthropologists and those interested in the theoretical issues of chiefdoms.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6406-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Comparative Chronologies, 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1600
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Part I Introduction

    • Chapter 1 Foreign Trade and Sociopolitical Evolution
      (pp. 3-28)

      Ethnohistorical sources indicate that at the time of European contact, the coastlines and lowland river valleys of most of the major islands of the Philippines were inhabited by politically complex, socially stratified societies, organized on the level of what cultural evolutionists refer to as “chiefdoms.” Philippine chiefs were central figures in complex regional-scale political economies. Hereditary chiefs controlled the agricultural productivity of lower-ranked farmers through restrictive land tenure and debt-bondage, they mobilized surplus for elite use through formalized tribute systems, and they amassed wealth through sponsorship of luxury good craftsmen and through interisland trading and raiding activities. The accumulated material...

    • Chapter 2 Sources for the Study of Prehispanic Philippine Chiefdoms
      (pp. 29-54)

      Almost a millennium of historical accounts of Philippine polities by literate societies with which they traded makes ethnohistorical study of these societies particularly significant in general anthropological discourse on pre-state complex society development. Chinese trade records, the accounts of early Chinese voyagers to the Philippines, and official Chinese histories make general reference to the Philippine archipelago and specific reference to Philippine maritime-trading polities by the mid-tenth century a.d. While these documents focus primarily on pragmatic issues of trade, they often include descriptions of indigenous social organization, political leadership roles and alliance networks, competitive interactions between Philippine chiefs to control trade,...

  6. Part II Structure and Evolution of Complex Societies

    • Chapter 3 Chiefly Authority and Political Structure
      (pp. 57-84)

      The geography and cultural history of Southeast Asia had a significant influence on how complex societies were structured and how they evolved. A geographically fragmented and ecological diverse landscape, comparatively low population densities relative to productive agricultural land, the pervasiveness of polygamous marriages, and cognatic descent rules weakening claims of chiefly succession were some of the factors that promoted the development of small-scale, ethnically fragmented polities in which leadership was ephemeral and political coalescence a relatively temporary state within endless cycles of political consolidation and fragmentation (Andaya 1992; Winzeler 1976). As summarized by historian Barbara Andaya: “The typical Southeast Asian...

    • Chapter 4 Political Cycling in Philippine Chiefdoms
      (pp. 85-119)

      In this chapter, I examine long-term processes of sociopolitical evolution in Philippine polities and changes in the political landscape of the archipelago over the millennia prior to European contact. The ecological, demographic, and cultural elements that were seen in Chapter 3 as contributing to a decentralized political structure in many historically documented and ethnographically known Southeast Asian chiefdoms and kingdoms also created an exceptionally high degree of instability in political power bases when viewed over the long term. In particular, many of the island Southeast Asian chiefdoms and states have political histories characterized by relatively short-term oscillatory transformations between simple...

    • Chapter 5 Social Stratification in Contact Period Societies
      (pp. 120-143)

      One of the primary features of pre-state complex societies or chiefdoms is the presence of social ranking—that is, at least partially hereditary social status differences that are given structural rigidity through symbolic expression and, in most cases, confer distinct economic advantage (differential access to resources) on an “elite” stratum (Carneiro 1981; Earle 1987a, 1991; Service 1962). In chiefdom societies, there is a “pervasive inequality of persons and groups in the society” (Service 1971:145). However, Sahlins (1958), Goldman (1970), and Oliver (1989:883–956) note that status systems in the Polynesian chiefdoms vary considerably—in the degree to which ascriptive assignment...

    • Chapter 6 The Dynamics of Social Ranking: Changing Patterns of Household Wealth and Mortuary Differentiation
      (pp. 144-180)

      Spanish documents and early ethnographic accounts synthesized in the preceding chapter suggest that a highly developed system of social stratification existed in many lowland Philippine societies at the time of European contact. However, social ranks in Philippine chiefdoms, like political leadership roles, were traditionally fluid and dynamically created in constant interplay between genealogical manipulation and status competition through feasting, strategic marriages, raiding, and trading. Changes in the ways in which wealth was created and manipulated—greater reliance on foreign prestige goods trade, transformations in local prestige goods production systems, expanding circulation of goods in competitive feasting—undoubtedly contributed to evolving...

  7. Part III Foreign Trade and Internal Transformation

    • Chapter 7 The Long-Distance Porcelain Trade
      (pp. 183-220)

      Sometime at the end of the first millennium a.d., and intensifying just before Spanish contact, Philippine chiefdoms became involved in long-distance prestige goods trade with the Chinese and with other Southeast Asian polities. Chinese porcelain and other exotic luxury goods from outside the archipelago, while not replacing indigenously manufactured prestige goods, became key symbols of social status and political power for the Philippine chiefly elite. As discussed in earlier chapters, this trade is evidenced ethnohistorically and archaeologically in the increasing use of foreign imports in elite bodily ornamentation, as “wealth” objects in the households of hereditary elite, and as grave...

    • Chapter 8 Mobilizing Resources: Regional Production, Tribute, and Lowland-Upland Exchange Systems
      (pp. 221-260)

      Ethnohistorical sources suggest that within the lowland core of historic period Philippine maritime-trading polities, in the alluvial river basins close to each chief’s center of political power, formalized tribute systems and luxury good production by sponsored craft artisans provided revenues to support the chiefly political economy. The surplus production necessary for sustaining the chief’s household and elite retinue was obtained not through direct ownership of lands within a fixed geographic territory, but rather through the development of clientage relationships that granted a chief the right to collect agricultural tribute from political subordinates. Slave labor captured through intensive investment in maritime...

    • Chapter 9 The Evolution of Craft Specialization
      (pp. 261-291)

      Anthropological studies of the economy of chiefdoms have documented the presence of distinctive types of production modes and exchange relations not present in simpler societies. Greater sociopolitical complexity is typically accompanied by the appearance of socially restricted goods that function to reinforce social inequality and to symbolize asymmetrical political relationships. Because these goods circulate through ritualized exchanges as a form of “political currency,” chiefs and other hereditary elites generally control their specialized production and distribution (Brumfiel and Earle 1987; Clark and Parry 1990; Peregrine 1991). Economic efficiencies of scale may also come into play once societies become regionally integrated rather...

    • Chapter 10 Alliance and Prestige Goods Exchange
      (pp. 292-312)

      Exchanges of prestige goods between allied elites as a means of consolidating political power is characteristic of chiefdom-level societies (D’Altroy and Earle 1985; Earle 1987b, 1997; Friedman 1981; Frankenstein and Rowlands 1978; Johnson and Earle 1987: 208; Peebles and Kus 1977; Rowlands 1980). In Southeast Asian complex societies, where tenuously cohering personal alliance networks rather than more permanent unilineal descent groups are the core of political power, prestige goods exchanges with other elites are particularly critical to maintaining and expanding political coalitions.

      Once these goods have been obtained through foreign trade or through local sponsorship of luxury good artisans, exchange...

    • Chapter 11 Competitive Feasting
      (pp. 313-335)

      Many components of Philippine status rivalry and political competition for followers converge within a single category of social action: the ethnohistorically reported institution of competitive feasting associated with calendrical ritual and life-crisis events. Similar to “feasts of merit” in other regions of Southeast Asia, competitive feasts in Polynesia, and the potlatch among populations of the northwest coast of North America, these elite-sponsored feasts served to reproduce social relations. Both community cohesion and social rank differentiation were expressed through elite gift exchange, chiefs’ oral narratives, animal sacrifice, food prestations, and ancestor-invoking ritual. In Philippine chiefdoms of the early sixteenth to twentieth...

    • Chapter 12 Raiding and Militarism as a Competitive Strategy
      (pp. 336-370)

      Scholars often cite warfare as a significant factor in both the initial emergence of chiefdoms and their consolidation into more complex forms (Carneiro 1981, 1990; Redmond 1994:123–124; Sanders and Price 1968:132; Webster 1975:467). However, large-scale interpolity conflict is often at least implicitly viewed as arising out of factors external to the local political economy; that is, the equilibrium of the local system is upset when ecological variables and population growth create conditions in which groups are no longer buffered from conquest-oriented conflict along their territorial boundaries. I would like to suggest that the role of warfare in sociopolitical evolution...

  8. Part IV Conclusion

    • Chapter 13 Trade Competition and Political Transformations in Philippine Chiefdoms
      (pp. 373-386)

      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...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 387-416)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 417-460)
  11. Index
    (pp. 461-477)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 478-478)