Annotation: Espiritu, Yen Le. 2003. Homebound: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, Communities, and Countries.

Espiritu, Yen Le. 2003. Homebound: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, Communities, and Countries. Berkeley: University of California Press.

The book’s focus is on homemaking – the “processes by which diverse subjects imagine and make themselves at home in various geographic locations” (2). Using a “critical transnational perspective,” Espiritu first situates the migration of Filipinos to the U.S. within the imperialist project of the U.S. in the Philippines and in Asia. The book covers different cohorts of U.S.-bound Filipino immigrants: the pre-WWII agricultural labourers, the pre-1970 navy stewards, and the post-1975 medical professionals. She writes, “previously colonized nations are not exclusively formed as racialized minorities within the United States but also as colonized nationals while in their ‘homeland’ – one that is deeply affected by U.S. influences and modes of social organization” (1). Differential exclusion, the author writes, describes the process whereby Filipinos in the U.S. are “deemed integral to the nation’s economy, culture, identity, and power – but integral only or precisely because of their designated subordinate standing” (47). This kind of exclusion is different from outright exclusion in that the presence of the Filipinos is considered necessary, although within highly racialized labor, legal, and cultural practices that make difficult the home-making of Filipinos in the U.S. Espiritu discusses two kinds of transnationalism practised by Filipino Americans: literal – the actual activities such as visits to the home, sending of remittances, and maintenance of kinship ties; symbolic – the imagination of the “homeland,” and the invention and reproduction of “Filipino” practices. The agencies of Filipino Americans, she writes, “are implicated in both the making and unmaking of established power structure” (212). Transnationalism, thus, “is at best a compromise – a ‘choice’ made and lived in a context of scarce options” (214). Espiritu argues that within the context of immigration to the U.S., with Filipinos often being forced into a marginalized situation, which hampers the forming of families due to the lack of economic means, the Filipino-Americans’ act of transnational homemaking is in itself a form of resistance (128).

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