Learning to be Indigenous: Education and Social Change among the Manobo People of the Philippines

  • Ana Raissa Trinidad

Student thesis: Phd


This ethnographic study describes the intersection between politics and education, and between discourses and practice pertaining to indigeneity among the Manobo of Tagpalico in a highland area of the Philippines. The analysis reveals the interrogation of my own personal values as I came to understand what are held to be important values by the Manobo. For example, my idealistic perceptions of indigenous leaders were challenged by what I came to appreciate about their leadership skills relative to strategic and situated participation in the context of complex relations with various outsiders. This study further explains how adults and children actively engage in social processes through which they negotiate what counts among them as significant, appropriate knowledge and learning. It discusses how global discourses of education, literacy, and indigenous peoples are spoken about in ideal terms, but enacted differently in local practice. Salient in understanding this study is an appreciation of how the role of learning in practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991) plays an important part in situated participation of actors in the educational enterprise. Against a background of local understanding about what it is important to know about - principally farming and other economic activities - and international discourses of indigeneity, schooling, literacy and development, children, parents, leaders, teachers, and nuns have appropriated and negotiated their notions of being 'educated' and 'indigenous' within a social space that is the school setting. As the Manobo explore what it means to be 'educated' in a politically volatile environment, they also learn to use their understanding of what it means to be 'indigenous' in order to negotiate their positionalities relative to external groups like the nuns, teachers, anthropologists, the military, guerrillas, and other non-Manobo groups.This study argues that learning to become educated transforms understanding of what it is to be a more valued person in the community, which altogether translates into significant differences in the children's sense of self or personhood. Children are allowed to negotiate their social position within the family and the community through education but at the same time it also creates new forms of 'inequality' and 'social separation' (Froerer, 2011:695). For example, emerging forms of social differentiation in Tagpalico are evident in the processes through which more female members are becoming educated, bringing in a greater contribution to the family's economic resources and thereby, developing a sense of choice about their lives as 'individuals' in charge, to a certain extent, over their own destinies.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorGillian Evans (Supervisor) & Penelope Harvey (Supervisor)


  • social change
  • Philippines
  • Manobo
  • indigeneity
  • learning
  • education
  • indigenous education
  • indigenous peoples

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