A Year of Philippine Studies at York University
By Philip Kelly
The end of the academic year at York University saw the conclusion of a series of events highlighting research on the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora. Organized by PhD candidates Kenneth Cardenas (Geography) and Conely de Leon (Women’s Studies), the series was presented by the Philippine Studies Group at the York Centre for Asian Research.
The events kicked off in September 2013 with a visit by Erlinda Palaganas, President of the Philippine Nursing Research Society and Professor at the University of the Philippines in Baguio City. Prof. Palaganas provided a comprehensive picture of both the root causes of healthcare worker migration and its impacts in the Philippines, including first hand reports from the front lines of under-staffed hospitals.
October saw scholars, activists and policy-makers from both Canada and the Philippines come together in a workshop titled “Making Ends Meet: Economic Transnationalism between Canada and the Philippines.” The workshop featured speakers from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, Miriam College and TIGRA Philippines, as well as York, UBC, Queens and OCAD University, covering issues such as migrant remittances, Canadian mining in the Philippines, global chains of care, and diaspora philanthropy.
In November 2013, the series featured Robert Diaz, Assistant Professor in the Women and Gender Studies Program at Wilfrid Laurier University. Dr Diaz’s research focuses on the Miss Gay Philippines Canada Beauty Pageant but asks larger questions about how queer Filipino are reshaping our understanding of Canadian multiculturalism. He also related the experiences of Filipinos in Canada to a longer history of colonialism in the Philippines.
The impact of Typhoon Haiyan became a priority for all concerned with the Philippines and January featured a panel discussion on “Relief and Reconstruction in the Philippines: The Processes and Politics of Aid.” The panel included account from Matt Capobianco, a first-responder with Global Medic, Kenneth Cardenas of York University, Christiopher Sorio of Migrante, and Mila Garcia of CASJ (and native of Leyte province).
March saw visits from prominent US-based scholars of the Philippines. Neferti Tadiar (Columbia University) examined the ways in which globalization in the Philippines finds precursors in the Spanish and American colonial periods. In particular the (de)valuation of human life in some contexts in the Philippines has to be traced back to colonial hierarchies. Also from Columbia University, Sheila Coronel presented a seminar on trends in corruption in the Philippines. She noted that there have been recent improvements at the national level in areas such as education, infrastructure and tax collection. However, patronage ties and dynastic political families continue to dominate local politics in the Philippines.
Our last American visitor was Robyn Rodriguez (University of California, Davis). Her talk focused on the ways in which the Philippine government plays a key role in encouraging overseas migration. In fact the state has effectively become a “labor broker”, which actively prepares and mobilizes its citizens for work abroad.
Finally, Filipino scholar Jewellord Nem Singh visited from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Nem Singh’s research focuses on the relationship between governments and mining companies in Latin America and Southeast Asia. By explaining and comparing the contentious politics surrounding mining in the Philippines and other places, he pointed to some of the different ways in which local people have resisted displacement and environmental damage.
Community members are always welcome at events organized by the York Centre for Asian Research and we hope to organize further discussions about the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora in the future. For more information: ycar.apps01.yorku.ca
(Philip Kelly is a Professor of Geography at York University, and Director of the York Centre for Asian Research.)