Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History

By Manrique, Cecilia G. | Ethnic Studies Review, October 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History


Manrique, Cecilia G., Ethnic Studies Review


Catherine Ceniza Choy. Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), xiv, 257 pp., $19.95 paperback.

This book takes a look at the topic of the twentieth-century migration of Filipinos to the United States and focuses specifically on those migrants in the nursing profession. Whether one agrees with the author or not, the basic premise of the piece is that an international Filipino professional nurse labor force has been created due to the historical demands of U.S. imperialism. This re-examination of the history of the role of nursing in U.S. colonialism shows that not all immigrants readily assimilate into American society and that the racialization of Filipinos in the United States continually takes place.

The author makes use of ethnographic and archival research in both the United States and the Philippines. Interview participants were chosen using a snowball technique in which initial participants are asked for names of other potential participants. Archival research in the U.S. was conducted at Boston University's nursing archives, the Filipino American National History Society archives in Seattle, Washington, and university libraries throughout the country to locate issues of the Philippine Journal of Nursing, mainstream and ethnic newspapers, American nursing journals and fact books, government documents, and federal court records. The study also was helped tremendously by the personal collections of individual American and Filipino nurses since important historical documents continue to be held by individual Philippine Nurses Association members, some of whom are unwilling to share them with researchers.

Material from the Philippines was gathered during a five-month research trip to the country where the author talked with nursing deans, faculty members, and students at several Philippine colleges and schools of nursing in Manila; directors of nursing and staff nurses at private and government hospitals in Manila; the current president and several members of the Philippine Nurses Association; government employees working in overseas-related agencies; and workers in nongovernmental organizations focusing on the welfare of migrant and women workers. The author also undertook participant-observer studies in a beginning nursing class at Trinity College (formerly St. Luke's Hospital School of Nursing) in Quezon City, Metro Manila (one of the oldest nursing schools in the country), participating in their community health projects and medical missions, and attending nursing and migration conferences.

In Manila archival research was conducted in the libraries of Philippine government institutions, nongovernmental institutions, the Philippine Nurses Association, colleges of nursing, and migration and women's studies centers. One cannot doubt the primary nature of the research that was undertaken by the author in order to put this material together. It is documented with photos, copious notes for each chapter, and an extensive bibliography.

The book offers several interesting facts about Filipinos in the U.S. First, the phenomenon of Filipino nurse migration to the U.S. is a window from which to view the global dimensions of this predominantly female gendered migrant flow that emanates from this country. It is true that one of the major exports of the Philippines today is its highly skilled labor force. Secondly, these nurses' highly skilled training allows then to cross national and cultural borders, thus the world has seen a professional migration flow in which nurses from countries with comparatively higher nursing shortages (the developing world) are migrating to primarily highly developed countries such as the U.

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