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Filipinos in Canada: Disturbing Invisibility ed. by Roland Sintos Coloma et al. (review)

From: Canadian Ethnic Studies
Volume 46, Number 1, 2014
pp. 223-225 | 10.1353/ces.2014.0006

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Filipinos in Canada: Disturbing Invisibility is a groundbreaking book that explores the racial construction of Filipinos in Canada. As an edited collection, it brings together for the first time scholarly works, research findings, literary compositions, and visual art photos of Filipino scholars, academics, community activists, and critical artists in Canada, as well as non-Filipino Canadians whose works are situated in Filipino-Canadian studies. It aims to interrogate what it means to be a Filipino in Canada by engaging in the concept of visibility and invisibility. Building on the works of critical race and feminist scholars, the authors argue that visibility or producing a positive image is not the solution to invisibility or the potential way to disrupt White supremacy. Rather, it is by interrogating and deconstructing both the positive and negative images that continuously benefit the mainstream culture. With a highly critical and scholarly tone, the five parts and twenty chapters of the book demonstrate such interrogations and deconstructions of Filipino stereotypes as well as discuss Filipinos’ experiences of racialization in Canada.

Part 1 contains the first three chapters with the title Difference and Recognition. It begins with the book editors’ chapter that outlines the socio-political issues, theoretical, and philosophical underpinnings of the terms visibility and hypervisibility. It discusses the genealogy of Filipino-Canadian scholarship and offers critique to the limits of Canadian liberal multiculturalism. Such is a helpful resource for scholars, academics, researchers, and community activists. The remaining two chapters under this part interrogate the description of Filipinos as innately nurturing: that such a description places Filipinos to affect-related jobs just to satisfy Canada’s need for cheap labour (Chapter 2). Filipinos are then de-professionalized and occupy the low-paying jobs in Canada (Chapter 3). This part then ends with a song-poem (My Folks) by Carlo Sayo and Jean Marc Daga.

Part 2, Gender, Migration, and Labour, opens with a photo essay entitled SCRAP by Reuben Saramugam and Bryan Taguba, showing “the story of the struggles and resistance of Filipino women in the Live-in caregiver program” (95). These stories continue in Chapters 4 through 9 with analysis from the lens of history, women and labour studies, anthropology, political science, and diaspora and ethnic studies. The authors of these chapters reveal how race operates through gender to sustain the dominant groups’ racial and class position in Canada.

A picture of Darna (a Filipina superhero) carrying a balikbayan (return to country) box by artist Celia Correa opens Part 3 entitled Representation and Discontents. Darna depicts Filipino “migrant realities of distance and absence that are lived and transformed in concrete and idealistic terms” (221). This part contains chapters 10 through 14 that examine the meaning of “Filipino” in cultural productions such as in a museum, textbooks, and public libraries, as well as in the works of Filipino artists and activists. These chapters reveal that the racialization of Filipinos in Canada is not only through structural policies and social encounters, but also in the everyday consumption of tangible and aesthetic materials that fuel the imagination and psyche of Canadians.

Part 4 entitled Youth Spaces and Subjectivities opens with a visual art called Colour Correction by Eric Tigley. He draws his inspiration from Beyond Colour Lines, a spoken word piece by Conely de Leon, author of chapter 18. Together with De Leon, the authors of chapter 15, 16, 17, and 19 focus on the experiences of violence, racism, and displacement of Filipino youth in Canada. By engaging with these issues, they reveal the long-term, multi-generational, and spatial effects of racialization. The authors also discuss how the youth politicize the meaning of their identities through artwork, music, performance, and community organizing in order to counter stereotypical narratives.

Since the book voices out the racialized, classed, and gendered experiences of Filipinos in Canada, in the afterword (Part 5, chapter 20), Minelle Mahtani and David Roberts consider the book an intervention to Canadian studies, a disciplined marked by whiteness.

By offering multiple perspectives of scholars and community activists, the book showcases the possibility of both academia and community to work together to foreground issues of social injustice. In the acknowledgement section that tags a Filipino adage “those who do...



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