Missionary position: The grammar of Philippine colonial sexualities as a locus of translation


  • Marlon James Sales Monash University




Translation, Postcolonial Studies, Missionary Linguistics, Tagalog, Philippine Studies


In this paper, I shall examine how Spanish missionaries during the colonial period described the sexual mores of early Filipinos in missionary grammars and vocabularies, and how such description should also be regarded as a locus of translation. Since these missionaries wrote the first systematic analyses of the languages of the archipelago to aid their work of evangelizing early Filipinos, it is in their writings that sexualities were first interrogated through the lens of a colonial religion and polity. By looking into the lexicographical approaches for defining sex-related terms in a Tagalog missionary dictionary, and the authorial choices in incorporating sexualities in two bilingual confession guides, I shall argue that proselytization served as an important translational constraint that created a space where Filipino sexualities were exoticized, and where a particular vision of colonial polity was articulated from a privileged position of colonial rule.


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Author Biography

Marlon James Sales, Monash University

Marlon James Sales is a teaching associate in Spanish and Translation at Monash University, Australia, where he also pursues a PhD in Translation Studies. He has published his translation to Filipino of Gonzalo Torrente Ballester’s novel Crónica del rey pasmado in 2013, and his translation to English of Nuestro Padre San Daniel and El Obispo Leproso by Gabriel Miró in 2012 through grants awarded by the Spanish Ministries of Culture and of Foreign Affairs, and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation.