Annotation: Choy, Catherine. 2003. Empire of Care

Choy, Catherine. 2003. Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History. Durham: Duke University Press.

Critiquing previous studies of Filipino nurses migrating to the US, Choy writes that they tend to: 1) foreground the uniqueness of the US as a receiving nation of a diverse group of highly skilled migrants; 2) emphasize the economic logic to explain professional migration; and 3) be highly impersonal and faceless, thus ignoring the personal stories behind each migration. This approach simplifies the complex and dynamic history between the Philippines and the US, and obscures the roles of recruitment agencies, professional nursing associations, as well as the Filipina nurses themselves. Choy presents four arguments to ameliorate the gaps in the existing literature: 1) the Filipino nurses’ migration is not new, and is grounded in the early 20th-century colonization of the Philippines by the US; 2) the migration of Filipino nurses (plural is necessary as otherwise it sounds like an exotic species; not all of them have migrated either, which is the impression the collective singular noun creates) cannot be reduced to economic logic, and must be seen as indicative of the individual and collective desire for a unique form of social, cultural, and economic success, obtainable only outside of the Philippines; 3) US imperialism persists, and it continues to inform and shape the reception and incorporation of Filipino nurses in the US health care system; and, 4) while the development of this labour force has been shaped by Philippine-US nation-building ideologies, the nurses’ migration needs to be fundamentally understood as a transnational process which involves the flow of people, goods, services, images, and ideas, between the US and the Philippines. To support these arguments, Choy employs a four-step framework: 1) historicization of the contemporary migration of Filipino nurses to the US; 2) use of gender as a category of analysis; 3) historicization of nursing as a racialized and gendered occupation, and; 4) explication of the international and transnational contexts of this movement of labour.

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