Latino Studies Filipinos
Sony Coranez Bolton, Josen Diaz
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 September 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0149


“Filipino” refers to those who claim ethnonational ties to the Philippines. At the same time that the term assumes such an affiliation, its invocation problematizes this connection. The term itself cannot be said to be autochthonous to the archipelago, as it is the namesake of Prince Felipe II of Asturias of the 16th century. While certainly not exceptional to many accounts of places and nations that share a colonial past, scholars in Latino studies might think, along with scholars in Filipino studies, what it might mean to articulate an Asian identity, culture, and history via a name inherited from colonial Spanish. Indeed, the Filipino alphabet does not even have an “F”—“Filipino” may hail as much into existence as it displaces from colonial memory. Contemporary and historical migration patterns of Filipinos similarly speak to such displacements. By some accounts, more than ten million Filipino citizens live outside of the national and geographic boundaries of the Philippines; hence its diaspora is not singular but multifarious and expansive. As some of these texts certainly attest, human labor is the country’s most profitable export. The study of Filipinos and the Philippines, moreover, finds its place in studies of Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, and Latin America. In other words, even as “Filipinos” presumes a certain geographical fixity, it also generates a host of queries that incisively call into question this assumption and the politics it holds. In particular, how does one articulate an ever-shifting diaspora? Under what conditions was the “Filipino” made possible, and what did its invocation foreclose and provoke? Who did it include then, and what might it exclude now? The literature included here focuses on the study of Filipinos not in any attempt to produce objective knowledge about a single group of people, but rather treats Filipinos as an entry point for interrogating the terms by which Filipinos are known and understood. For instance, literature on migration calls into question not only the telos of immigration to point to the necessary multidirectionality of Filipino movement, but also points to the state itself as developing into an entity that must manage a citizenry that lives elsewhere. Filipino literature in Spanish, moreover, necessitates a study of the transpacific that attends to competing and overlapping empires. This bibliography also aims to enumerate to works of cultural and literary production (beyond just secondary academic sources) that we feel would be most relevant to scholars in Latinx/a/o studies and Latin Americanists who are interested in looking at Spain’s lone colony in Asia. Nevertheless, the list of literary and cultural sources here is by no means meant to be exhaustive, but is rather a point of departure. For instance, listing works in Spanish by Filipino authors, while historically relevant, is certainly not completely (or at all) representative of “Filipino literature,” particularly because Spanish is not widely spoken in the Philippines today.


Filipino studies has long offered rigorous investigations of im/migration. It interrogates linear, unidirectional approaches to migration that disrupt the solidity of the homeland/diaspora framework. To this end, these studies also contextualize the migrant not as any predetermined entity attached to the nation, but rather as inevitably shaped by the intersecting modalities of citizenship and law that buttress ideas of national belonging. For instance, Basch, et al. 2003 refuses assimilationist frameworks of immigration to illustrate transnationalism as an effect of postcolonial state formations. Diaz 2018 also challenges the solidity of the immigrant subject to pinpoint the returnee as a product of US and Philippine Cold War politics. Others explore migration as the residues of colonialism. Baldoz 2011 importantly situates early Filipino migration to the United States within the context of earlier exclusionary laws to reveal the ways that Filipino migrants to the United States uncovered the paradoxes of US discourses of liberalism. While Espiritu 2005 similarly addresses the particularities of early Filipino American migration, this study attends to the ways that such movements shaped the formations of Filipino and Filipino American intellectualism. Parreñas 2001, Choy 2003, and Fajardo 2011 provide important studies of the gendered logics of Filipino migration, discussing the ways that the work of caretaking, nursing, and seafaring depend on particular constructions of femininity and masculinity. The rise of overseas Filipino labor in the 1970s into the present has generated studies of migration that attend to the mechanics of globalization. Rodriguez 2010 focuses on the construction of the Philippines as a “labor brokerage state” that has transformed these earlier histories of migration into a system of labor export that services not only the United States, but also, and especially, a global capitalist market that demands Filipino migrant work. Bulosan 1973, a novel, is instrumental for articulating the inextricability between labor migration and subjectivity.

  • Baldoz, Rick. The Third Asiatic Invasion: Migration and Empire in Filipino America, 1898–1946. New York: New York University Press, 2011.

    Explores early-20th-century Filipino migration as another “Asian invasion” to the United States. Analyzes archival documents to reveal the ways that Filipino migration presented a primary contradiction of racial capitalism, between the US need for labor and the attempt to restrict the bounds of national and racial belonging.

  • Basch, Linda, Nina Glick Schiller, and Cristina Szanton Blanc, eds. Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation-States. London: Routledge, 2003.

    An ethnographic study of transnationalism in several postcolonial contexts, including the Philippines. Importantly upends the simple bifurcation between the homeland and the diaspora to uncover a variety of circuits and relations that structure the continuous movement of the transnational migrant.

  • Bulosan, Carlos. America is in the Heart. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1973.

    Considered by some to be the first Filipino American novel, it follows the protagonist, Allos, as he migrates from the Philippines in the early part of the 20th century to work in the fields and canneries of the western United States. Written in the first-person narrative voice, Bulosan’s book illuminates the centrality of labor migration to the formation of Filipino American identity. First published in 1946.

  • Choy, Catherine Ceniza. Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

    A historical study of nursing in the Philippines. The location of the Filipina nurse during the US colonial reconstruction of the Philippines, as well as her migration at key moments of the shifting US-Philippine relationship, uncovers the significance of the gendered labor of medical care to the neocolonial structure of the Philippine political economy and the racism that was endemic to US medical institutions during the post–World War II period.

  • Diaz, Josen Masangkay. “Balikbayan Configurations and a U.S.-Philippine Politics of Modernization.” Journal of Asian American Studies 21.1 (2018): 1–29.

    The balikbayan (immigrant returnee; literally, one who returns to the home country) is an often-analyzed figure of Filipino and Filipino American studies. This text reconsiders the balikbayan not as immigrant subject, but at the nexus of post-1965 US immigration reform and the Philippine authoritarian policies of the 1970s and 1980s, a figure produced from the geopolitical investments of the US-Philippine Cold War.

  • Espiritu, Augusto. Five Faces of Exile: The Nation and Filipino American Intellectuals. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005.

    A comprehensive historical study of Filipino intellectual migrants to the United States. Focusing on the lives of Carlos Romolo, Carlos Bulosan, José García Villa, N.V.M. Gonzalez, and Bienvenido Santos, Espiritu considers the intersections of intellectualism, political modernity, and postcolonialism to investigate the role of displacement, exile, loss, and longing to Philippine nationalism and Filipino American social formations.

  • Fajardo, Kale. Filipino Crosscurrents: Oceanographies of Seafaring, Masculinities, and Globalization. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2011.

    Pinpoints the ocean and seafaring as the location of intersecting and overlapping processes of labor export and globalization. Through the framework of “Filipino crosscurrents,” this ethnography investigates the ways that Filipino seamen inhabit, navigate, and construct masculinities.

  • Parreñas, Rhacel. Servants of Globalization: Migration and Domestic Work. 2nd ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

    A foundational work in the study of Filipino migration, Parreñas’s text investigates the mass migration of Filipina domestic workers from the Philippines to the United States and Italy. Examining the positions that Filipina women hold within the global division of labor, Parreñas focuses her theorizations on partial citizenship (or the liminal political status that Filipina women inhabit in their host countries) as well as the contradictions of class mobility that find Filipina workers exchanging an increase in earnings over the maintenance of social and cultural status.

  • Rodriguez, Robyn. Migrants for Export: How the Philippine State Brokers Labor to the World. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2010.

    Beginning with a history of colonialism, neocolonialism, and neoliberalism in the Philippines, Rodriguez analyzes the ways that Philippine officials and agencies created and manage a “labor brokerage” state that mobilizes Filipinos into overseas workers to fulfill the demands of the global economy.

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