Filipino Labor for Sale! Will DeliverRobyn Magalit Rodriguez
Jun 11, 2012 Criticism Courtesy of Hyphen.
Robyn Magalit Rodriguez
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The daughter of Filipino immigrants, Robyn Magalit Rodriguez grew up in the Bay Area and attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she majored in sociology and took classes in Asian American Studies. Two professors, Diane Fujino and John Foran, were instrumental in her intellectual formation. They took time to mentor her, and their influence was key in opening up the possibility of going on to a doctoral program. She earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Her first faculty position was at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Rodriguez is now Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Davis. Her book, Migrants for Export: How the Philippines Brokers Labor to the World (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), has recently won awards from the Association of American Geographers and the Association for Asian American Studies.
Her research focuses on the Philippines and labor migration. The Philippines is a particularly interesting site for understanding the issue because it is the number one labor exporting state in the world. There, the legacies of colonialism and neoliberal economic policy become fully articulated in a regime of “labor brokerage.” Fundamentally, her work is about the ways in which globalization and neoliberalism have reconfigured states and citizenship. Both in the Philippines and in New Jersey, her scholarship is driven by concerns about how the state and citizenship are shifting under these conditions, and Rodriguez asks what these policies mean for those who are defined as “foreign” or “other.” She also pays attention to migrant labor’s political transnationalisms, focusing on the ways in which migrant workers fight back or resist. She has been tracking the transnational Philippine migrant labor movement for a long time, and she continues to do so in San Francisco.
Rodriguez’s background in Asian American studies informs her actions as an activist. Asian American studies emerged out of student movements that were fundamentally rethinking access to education and raising questions about the politics of knowledge production: who is able to produce knowledge? for what purpose? Many of the demands for departments like Asian American studies were demands for education and scholarship that was relevant to communities that have been long left out of the university. She is very much inspired by that tradition. She uses the skills she has developed as a researcher to contribute to communities. For example, she is working on a participatory action research project for Filipino caregivers in the Bay Area. These caregivers face exploitation and abuse because they often work outside of institutions, in home settings. She was asked to be part of a process of helping to equip them with the tools to do some basic research about themselves. The research prompted the migrant workers to self-organize, and in December 2012, they formed Migrante Northern California. Scholars can and should engage with publics beyond the academy, and this is the kind of work that prompted her to go into the professorship to begin with. Indeed, alongside her scholarly work, Rodriguez has always worked an activist. She was the founding member of the League of Filipino Students, the Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines as well as the Collective for Critical Filipino/ Filipina Studies in the Bay Area. Being back in Northern California has allowed her to come full circle in many ways.
- Born: San Francisco, CA, USA
- Based: Oakland, CA, USA