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UCLA’s Stephen Acabado unearths Philippine history through archeology

Stephen Acabado, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology, UCLA

Please join UCOP’s Native American, Indigenous and Pacific Islander Staff Association (NAIPISA) on March 5, 2021. Stephen Acabado, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology at UCLA, will unveil the fascinating history of Philippine Cordillerans.

Historical narratives describe Cordillerans as isolated and “untainted” by European, or even lowland, cultures. These highland peoples then become stereotypes of “original Filipinos” — an ethnocentric designation that assumes an unchanging culture through centuries of existence. Philippine history is replete with narratives about the need to civilize and Christianize supposedly isolated Philippine ethnolinguistic groups. Models, such as the Waves of Migration Theory and the Three Age System, developed by otherwise well-meaning scholars, were unwittingly racist and Eurocentric.

New archaeological studies reveal that highland communities, particularly the Ifugao, had active and intense contact with lowland and other highland groups, especially during the Spanish colonial period.  In fact, rapid social change coincided with the arrival of the Spanish in northern Luzon.

This talk outlines how local histories and community engagement can facilitate the decolonization of history and knowledge production. It will be followed by a question and answer session with Dr. Acabado.

Join us

  • What: Part 1: Colonialism and Meta-Narratives in the Philippines: Decolonizing History through Community Archaeology among the Ifugao
  • When: Wednesday, May 5, 2021, 12 to 1 p.m.
  • Zoom:
    – Dial: (669) 900-6833
    – Meeting ID: 533 680 8316

About the presenter

Stephen Acabado is an associate professor of anthropology at UCLA. His archaeological investigations in Ifugao, in the northern Philippines, have established the recent origins of the Cordillera Rice Terraces. This UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site is known to be at least 2,000 years old.

Dr. Acabado directs the Ifugao and Bicol Archaeological Projects and co-directs the Taiwan collaborative research program between the University of the Philippines-Archaeological Studies Program, the National Museum of the Philippines, UCLA, and the Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement.  His work revolves around agricultural systems, indigenous responses to colonialism, subsistence shifts, landscape archaeology and heritage conservation. He is a strong advocate of “engaged” archaeology — a process through which descendant communities and various stakeholders are involved in the research process.

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