As the first edited volume on Filipinos in Canada, this collection of essays, poems, and artworks on Filipino Canadian lives rightfully claims for itself a “landmark” status. First presented during a symposium held at the University of Toronto in October 2009, the contributions to this volume include those of Filipino Canadians as well as Canadian scholars working on the Philippines and/or Filipino Canadian studies. There is also a good mix of more senior academics and postgraduate students, as well as artists, activists, and community organizers. What unites the various contributors is their abiding attention to how the hypervisibility of Filipinos in Canada—as nannies, caregivers, and more recently as gangster youths—renders homogeneous a putative Filipino Canadian community, hence eliding differences that are structured by, among other things, gender and sexuality, class, and generation. The contributors also situate this paradoxical situation (and the attendant promises and problems of representing an immigrant community) within another paradox, namely, Canada’s official celebration of multicultural diversity while privileging whiteness and adopting a utilitarian approach to immigration and racial otherness.
Resonating with migration studies in the Philippines and elsewhere in the Filipino diaspora, several contributors draw attention to the plight of nannies and caregivers. Eleanor Ty rehearses the by now common argument that postindustrial economies, such as those of Canada, are marked by a demand for emotionally intensive service jobs that for historical reasons have been identified with women from the South. While Filipino immigrants experience and reproduce this identification in their everyday lives and interactions with Canadians and other immigrants, academic work too plays a role because, by focusing on Filipino nannies and caregivers, it feeds on and into this dominant representation. Ty thus underscores the need to examine other aspects of Filipino Canadian life, without losing sight of the difficulties faced by care workers. Drawing from the work of Nancy Fraser, she also makes the case for linking representational struggles with struggles for distributive justice, and for interventions that link the experiences [End Page 284] and concerns of Filipino Canadians with those of other ethnic groups in Canada.
In their chapter, Philip F. Kelly and his colleagues delve into the process of deprofessionalization among post-1980s Filipino immigrants. Adopting a transnational perspective, they argue that deprofessionalization results from the confluence of several factors, including the middle-class origins of many Filipino immigrants (which implies limited financial means upon arrival and thus an urgent need to find jobs), the immigration programs availed of by Filipino immigrants (i.e., the Live-in Caregiver Program or LCP and family reunification), the valuation of education and work experiences in the Philippines, and the “cultures of work” identified with Filipinos in Canada (83–86). These factors make the entry into service and care work of immigrant Filipinos—many of whom come from professional backgrounds in the Philippines—possible and in many cases necessary, if not unavoidable.
In order to arrive at a more nuanced understanding, some chapters examine the immigration trajectories of Filipino nannies and caregivers in Canada and their practices of agency. Valerie Damasco focuses on the recruitment of healthcare professionals in the 1960s, partly in order to highlight the role of Canadian institutions, organizations, and individuals in instantiating immigration flows from the Philippines to Canada, but also to retrieve the stories of a generation of immigrants who have been erased from dominant narratives that trace the arrival of Filipinos to Canada to the 1980s, not as healthcare professionals but as nannies and caregivers. Josephine Eric meanwhile compares the experiences of earlier cohorts of Filipino immigrants with those who arrived in Canada under the auspices of the LCP. The importance of temporality—in the form of cohorts or generations—is foregrounded here in understanding continuities and disjunctures in the experiences and representations of Filipino Canadians. Earlier cohorts that arrived in Canada as landed immigrants (often with no work experience outside the Philippines) were more economically secure upon arrival, usually immigrated with their families, and reported feelings of belonging to Canada. In...