Juan Fernandez

Position title: Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian History

Email: jef323@cornell.edu

Will begin teaching in Fall 2024

Juan Fernandez headshot


My work focuses on the histories of sex, gender, and ethnography in the highlands of the Philippines in the early twentieth century. My first book project, “Manly Encounters,” examines how ethnographic fieldwork conducted by the earliest generation of professional American anthropologists was intertwined with their attempts to perform (to varying degrees of success) their approximation of Indigenous Philippine masculinity. And yet the ethnographic encounter cuts both ways: my project also examines how the Indigenous peoples of northern Luzon and Mindanao made sense of their observers in their response to these anthropologists’ performance of gender. Through an analysis of these anthropologists’ fieldnotes, diaries, and correspondence—in addition to their published ethnographic work—I argue that there is a simultaneous, reciprocal, but nevertheless hierarchical construction of masculinity and femininity of both the anthropologist and their Indigenous subjects.

This project is part of a larger set of research questions that seek to analyze emergence of the category of the Southeast Asian “headhunter”—in the Philippines, but also in Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo—in terms of its gendered dimensions and the almost invariable ascription of masculinity to the Indigenous peoples who once practiced it.

When I join the department in Fall 2024, I will be teaching lectures and seminars on modern Southeast Asia, the history of colonial photography in the region, ethnohistory, as well as histories of childhood, the family, and sexuality.


Ph.D., (anticipated – May 2023), Cornell University
M.A., University of Chicago
B.A., University of the Philippines at Baguio

Selected Publications

  • “‘From Savages to Soldiers’: The Igorot Body, Militarized Masculinity, and the Logic of Transformation in Dean C. Worcester’s Philippine Photographs.” Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints. (Forthcoming.)
  • “Masculinity and Misperformance: The Death of William Jones Among the Ilongots, 1909.” In Indigenous Studies in the Philippines. Leah Abayao, Jimmy Fong, and Carolyn Podruchny, eds. (Forthcoming.)
  • (With Sophia Cuevas Mable and Imelda de Guzman Olvida). “Where Peasants Are Kings: Food Sovereignty in the Tagbanua Traditional Subsistence System.” Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies 8, no. 1 (2015): 27–44.