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Filipino Migration and the Rethinking of the Family, 1906-2010

Lecture | November 20 | 12:30-2 p.m. | Institute of East Asian Studies (2223 Fulton, 6th Floor), Conference Room


Mina Roces, Associate Professor of History and Philosophy, University of New South Wales (Australia)

Center for Southeast Asia Studies


Migration has been justified in the public and private discourses with the view that it must be done for the preservation of “the family”. Official discourses in the Philippines produced by the government and by NGOs were reluctant to problematize the family except to identify this traditional institution as one of the social costs of migration. A view across many decades, from the perspective of migrant archives (primary sources produced by Filipino migrants themselves), unpacks the concept of “the Filipino family” and illustrates how migrants have suggested alternative ways of imagining it.

This talk argues that Filipino migrants have begun the process of rethinking the institution of the family from afar. In the first half of the 20th century these migrants invented a new type of family consisting of father, mother, children, hundreds of uncles and no elders, whereas post-1970s overseas contract workers coping with the new transnational families reproduced dual families (one in the Philippines, one overseas), and embraced the new matriarchal family of ‘single moms’; a practice unacknowledged in the home country (where divorce is illegal). The stellar track record of migrants sending remittances home legitimized a bold critique of the Filipino family as an exploitative institution. Yet, despite their ambivalent attitude towards it, the idea of “the family” becomes entangled with the migrants’ identity as overseas Filipinos.

Mina Roces (Ph.D., Michigan) is the author of Women, Power and Kinship Politics: Female Power in Post-War Philippines (Praeger, 1998) and Women’s Movements and the Filipina, 1986-2008 (University of Hawaii Press, 2012). She has also written many articles and book chapters and is co-editor of several anthologies about women in Asia.


cseas@berkeley.edu, 510-642-3609