Theses Doctoral

Concrete Colonialism: Architecture, Urbanism, Infrastructure, and the American Colonial Project in the Philippines

Martinez, Diana Jean Sandoval

This dissertation focuses on two different though interconnected uses of the word concrete, both of which were central to a largely overlooked chapter of American history—the American colonization of the Philippines (1898-1945). Originally a logician’s term meaning “actual and solid,” the word concrete only came to refer to the building material in the mid-nineteenth century, a popular usage emerging co-incident with the industrial production of Portland cement—a material that American producers and promoters argued would enable the construction of an era of durable American greatness. The dawn of an American “concrete age”—an era otherwise referred to as the Progressive Era was also a time that saw the emergence of a language of “concrete” values; of actual, specific and measurable results. This period in history saw the apparent focus of American governance shift from the abstract and foundational principles of liberty towards more tangible values of investments and returns, i.e. on ‘development.’  This dissertation examines Daniel Burnham’s City Beautiful plan for Manila in addition to the construction of the colonial institutional and infrastructural projects (government buildings, ports, forts, bridges, roads, housing and prisons) through the analysis of five of concrete’s (and sometimes Portland cement’s) qualities; portability, stability, salubrity, strength, and plasticity. Through these examples I aim to demonstrate that concrete was not only a material used widely across America’s new possession in the Far East, but was also played a role in shaping new forms of global governance.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Martin, Reinhold I.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 18, 2017