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Laboring at home and abroad

In Migrants for Export (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), sociologist Robyn Magalit Rodriguez defines the Philippines as a “labor brokerage state”: a country “which actively prepares, mobilizes, and regulates its citizens for migrant work abroad.” This orientation by the Philippines state fundamentally shapes the lives of Filipinos everywhere. At home, the state’s focus on exporting labor manifests in a failure to cultivate the domestic economy, rendering the lives of Filipinos in the Philippines precarious and monetarily impoverished. Abroad, the state’s willingness to facilitate Filipinos’ migrant work and simultaneous inability to guarantee any protections renders Filipinos globally dispersed and vulnerable, exposing Filipinos abroad to enormous exploitation and abuse.

The Secret Language

Luisa A. Igloria

1992 Poem. Courtesy of Luisa A. Igloria. Cartographies. Manila: Anvil.

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Luisa A. Igloria

b. 1961
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Luisa A. Igloria grew up in Baguio City, in the northern Cordillera, Philippines. She earned her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Chicago, her M.A. in Literature from Ateneo de Manila University (where she wrote a thesis on Foucault and the discourse of power in colonial texts pertaining to the Igorot), and her B.A. Humanities (cum laude) from the University of the Philippines, Baguio. Since November 20, 2010, she has written (at least) a poem a day, and these are archived at Dave Bonta’s Via Negativa site. Luisa is the author of Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014), which was selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Prize; Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014); Juan Luna’s Revolver (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009), which won the Ernest Sandeen Prize; Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005); and eight other books. She currently directs the M.F.A. Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University.

 

Photograph by John-Henry Doucette.

The space of writing is the space of improvisation, curiosity, invention, experiment--- Here is where the mind’s veering and suggestive tilt can be brought to bear on meanings and connections other than those that are “given”; this to me seems the most fertile condition for poetry. As a woman, and as a writer of color in the diaspora, this perspective is additionally relevant when I consider the ways in which histories are typically written by those who have access to the most power. To improvise is to engage in little revolutions, is to overturn the sense of given expectations. This kind of virtuosity can be a source of great creative and political power.

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  • Born: Makati, Philippines
  • Based: Baguio City, Philippines
  • Also Based in: Norfolk, VA, USA

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The Meanings of Marrow

Nerissa Balce

2014 Essay. Courtesy of the author.

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Nerissa Balce

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Nerissa Balce was educated in the classrooms and museums of Manila and the libraries of Berkeley, California. She read feminist literature and poststructuralist theories in college and consequently ditched her plans to become a nun. She identifies as a mongrel academic – an Asian Americanist with a mixed (and questionable) pedigree: one who does a little bit of literature, theory, popular culture, diasporic and Philippine texts. If empires used various media to promote the romance of conquest, it makes sense to have an expansive approach to studying Filipino culture and the global Filipino diaspora. Her book, Body Parts of Empire: Visual Abjection, Filipino Images, and the American Archive (University of Michigan Press, 2016) "is a study of abjection in American visual culture and popular literature from the Philippine-American War (1899–1902)."

I’m a Filipino studies scholar interested in race, gender, empire and popular culture. Growing up in a Catholic culture and with the Marcos regime in power for decades, I am fascinated by the language of power, control and censorship. Individuals who grow up in post-authoritarian cultures react to power and politics in certain ways. We either accept control or violently reject it, or we negotiate with it in interesting (and sometimes silly) ways. And popular culture projects these negotiations. I think I never outgrew my interest in popular culture, whether it is from the turn of the 20th century or the early 21st century.

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Okinawan Diaspora Blues

Wesley Ueunten

Feb 06, 2014 Essay. Courtesy of the author. Blue Hawai'i

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Wesley Ueunten

b. 1960

Wesley Ueunten was born and raised on the island of Kaua’i in Hawai’i. Both his parents’ parents had immigrated from Okinawa in the early 1900s. He grew up speaking Hawaiian creole (also known as pidgin English) while getting a more or less standard American education at school and by watching television and movies. However, he always had a longing to learn about his Okinawan heritage. After graduating from the University of Hawai’i, Ueunten was able to study in Okinawa, where he first learned to speak Okinawan as well as play the sanshin and sing traditional songs. He returned to the University of Hawai’i and completed a M.A. in sociology and soon after went to Japan on a scholarship and did research on Okinawans living in the Tokyo area. While there, he learned sanshin and singing from a teacher who had left Okinawa to work in the blue collar area in Kawasaki. He left Japan to enter the Ethnic Studies Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley. Ueunten has been in the Bay Area for almost twenty years during which he has been involved in Okinawan and Japanese American community as a performer and teacher of Okinawan music and activist. He presently teaches Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. He is deeply committed to demilitarizing and decolonizing Okinawa and Okinawan culture and identity.

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  • Born: Kaua'i, HI, USA
  • Based: San Francisco, CA, USA

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Catherine Ceniza Choy

Catherine Ceniza Choy is Professor and Department Chair of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the award-winning book Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History (Duke University Press, 2003) and the forthcoming book Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America (New York University Press, 2013).  Catherine is a second-generation Filipino American born and raised in New York City. She received her Ph.D. in History from UCLA.

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  • Born: New York, NY, USA
  • Based: Berkeley, CA, USA

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little chance in the industry to put your feet up

Wawi Navarroza

2009 Durst Lambda photograph 12 in. x 18 in. Editions of 10 + 3 AP From the Perhaps It Was Possibly Because series

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Wawi Navarroza

b. 1979
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Wawi Navarroza is a photographer/multi-disciplinary artist from Manila, Philippines. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from De La Salle University, Manila and attended continuing education at the International Center of Photography, New York. Recently, Navarroza completed her scholarship at the Istituto Europeo di Design, Madrid under the program European Master of Fine Art Photography.

Her work with contemporary photography has taken shape in highly-stylized symbolic mise-en-scène and tableau vivants, shifting to her more recent interest in landscape, constructed still life, and installation. Her landscape photographs propose a familiar 'other place' that opens up to fabricated emotional space that seems to be carved out by both personal and collective memory and amnesia.

Navarroza has exhibited widely in the Philippines and internationally. She has participated at the 2012 Tokyo Month of Photography, presented by Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; the Asian Art Biennale, in Taichung, Taiwan (2011); the annual touring exhibition "CUT: New Photography from South East Asia," by Valentine Willie Fine Art (VWFA) Kuala Lumpur; ASEAN-Korea’s "Emerging Wave" Asian Contemporary Photography Exhibition in Seoul, Korea (2010); and "Verso Manila: contemporary art from the Philippines" in Turin, Italy (2009). She has also been shown at Angkor Photography Festival Cambodia, Noorderlicht Photography Festival Holland, and PhotoIreland.

Recent solo exhibits include "ULTRAMAR, Pt.1: Gathered Throng, Falling Into Place" (2012) and "Dominion" (2011), at Silverlens Gallery, Manila, and "On Landscapes and Some Dislocations" at Galería Patrick Domken, Cadaqués, Spain. She has received a number of awards, such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Thirteen Artists Awards Triennial (2012), Lumi Photographic Art Awards, Helsinki (2011), and she was a finalist for the prestigious Sovereign Asian Art Prize (2011) and Singapore Museum Signature Art Prize (2011). Other awards include International Photography Awards (2010), Portfolio Preis (2010, Germany), and Prix de la Photographie Paris (2009). She has staged two award-winning solo exhibitions: “POLYSACCHARIDE: The Dollhouse Drama” (2005) and “SATURNINE: A Collection of Portraits, Creatures, Glass, and Shadow” (2007), which was cited Winner at the Ateneo Art Awards 2007, Philippines. In 2009, Navarroza was awarded the first Asian Cultural Council-Silverlens Fellowship Grant to further her research and practice in New York City.

Her work has been shown in institutions such as the National Museum of the Philippines, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery, Hangaram Museum, Korea, National Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan, and Fries Museum of Contemporary Art, Netherlands.

Navarroza has also worked as a lecturer of photography at De La Salle University and as an independent curator. She also sings for a post-punk rock band called The Late Isabel. In the past few years she has based herself in Madrid, Barcelona and Cadaqués, Spain. Currently, Navarroza is working and living in Manila, Philippines.

Photograph by Gabby Cantero.

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  • Born: Manila, Philippines
  • Based: Manila, Philippines

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Clement C. Camposano, Ph.D.

b. 1966

Dr. Clem Camposano was born in 1966 in Iloilo City, the Philippines. He is presently based in Manila. He earned his Ph D. in Philippine Studies (Anthropology, 2009) from the University of the Philippines, and his current research interest is in the anthropology of migration, with emphasis on the transnationalization of the contemporary Filipino household. He holds an M.A. in Political Science from the University of the Philippines - Diliman (1992) and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History from the University of the Philippines - Visayas (1986). Dr. Camposano has published articles in peer-reviewed journals and has presented academic papers in international conferences. He sits in the board of the Philippine Anthropological Association and is an active member of the Philippine Studies Association. He is a senior faculty member at the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) where he teaches courses in social science research and Philippine history and culture. Dr. Camposano began his academic career right after the EDSA Revolution with faculty appointments at the West Visayas State University in 1986 and subsequently at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas in 1997. A person of diverse interests, he is presently the Chairman of the Philippine Center for Civic Education and Democracy (PCCED), a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of citizenship and civic engagement among various sectors in Philippine society.

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  • Born: Iloilo City, Philippines
  • Based: Manila, Philippines

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Uninvited

Zean Cabangis

2012 Acrylic and emulsion transfer on canvas 24 in. x 24 in. Courtesy of Art Informal

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Zean Cabangis

b. 1985

Zean Cabangis took his Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Painting from the College of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines, Diliman (2007). He won Most Outstanding Thesis of 2006. A consistent college scholar, Zean was an Artist-in-Residence with the Southeast Asia Art Group Exchange (SAGE) program in  Tenggara, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2011).

Zean has had five solo shows and several group exhibitions in various Manila-based galleries. Zean has also been an exhibiting artist at local and international art fairs such as Art Stage Singapore 2013 and Art Fair Philippines 2013.  He was short-listed for the Ateneo Art Awards in 2012.

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  • Born: Tayabas, Quezon Province, Philippines
  • Based: Manila, Philippines

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Insatiable

Zean Cabangis

2012 Acrylic and emulsion transfer on canvas 30 in. x 48 in. Courtesy of Art Informal

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Zean Cabangis

b. 1985

Zean Cabangis took his Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Painting from the College of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines, Diliman (2007). He won Most Outstanding Thesis of 2006. A consistent college scholar, Zean was an Artist-in-Residence with the Southeast Asia Art Group Exchange (SAGE) program in  Tenggara, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2011).

Zean has had five solo shows and several group exhibitions in various Manila-based galleries. Zean has also been an exhibiting artist at local and international art fairs such as Art Stage Singapore 2013 and Art Fair Philippines 2013.  He was short-listed for the Ateneo Art Awards in 2012.

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  • Born: Tayabas, Quezon Province, Philippines
  • Based: Manila, Philippines

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You thought you had enough

Zean Cabangis

2012 Acrylic and emulsion transfer on canvas 60 in. x 72 in. Courtesy of Art Informal

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Zean Cabangis

b. 1985

Zean Cabangis took his Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Painting from the College of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines, Diliman (2007). He won Most Outstanding Thesis of 2006. A consistent college scholar, Zean was an Artist-in-Residence with the Southeast Asia Art Group Exchange (SAGE) program in  Tenggara, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2011).

Zean has had five solo shows and several group exhibitions in various Manila-based galleries. Zean has also been an exhibiting artist at local and international art fairs such as Art Stage Singapore 2013 and Art Fair Philippines 2013.  He was short-listed for the Ateneo Art Awards in 2012.

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  • Born: Tayabas, Quezon Province, Philippines
  • Based: Manila, Philippines

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Robyn Magalit Rodriguez

b. 1973
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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.

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  • Born: San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

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