Current Research Activities
My research interests have always explored the complex ways in which colonial legacies exist in our everyday lives. I do not take current events for granted because I believe that the world we live in today is connected to a larger chain of events that occurred decades ago. My current research focuses on colorism – a looks based system of discrimination, where lighter skinned individuals are seen as more favorable than dark skinned individuals – among the Filipinx community.
Research Connections to Current Events
As an interdisciplinary ethnic studies and cultural studies scholar focusing on Filipinx, Asian American and indigenous Pacific Islander communities, my research highlights the intricate ways in which U.S. colonial legacies are present in our everyday lives. Specifically, I examine how these legacies are inscribed on the body by focusing on colorism. In the current political moment, Indigenous, Black, and Brown bodies are still seen as savage and deviant; an individual’s physicality determines the structural inequalities including citizenship status, access to water and land rights, and fundamental right to live freely. Individuals with dark skin and certain physiological features continue to carry the burden of colonial violence that is often ignored, yet of critical importance. In this context, my research addresses colorism among the Filipinx community in the United States and the Philippines by using an innovative transnational research design. This line of research significantly contributes to the understanding of the intricate intersections of race, gender, colonialism, consumption, violence, and erasure.
Personal Connections to Research
With respect to my research on colorism, I was drawn to this research because I was raised in a family and community that perpetuated messages which valued light skin over dark skin. This, coupled with working in the cosmetics industry for over twelve years, gave me a strong lens to examine such complicated issues. As a Filipina who was born and raised on Guam, becoming a university professor did not come naturally. However, I was fortunate to have incredible mentoring when I was an undergraduate. Dr. Paul Spickard at UC Santa Barbara continues to be my primary mentor. He pushed me to publish academic work before I even considered graduate school. (In fact, he announced which grad school I was going to attend, even before I responded to the acceptance offer!) With that, it is important to have supportive people around you because you never know what you are capable of until someone gives you that much-needed encouragement.
I find inspiration in the Filipinx and Pacific Islander scholars and intellectuals that came before me. I recognize that they paved the way for someone like me to exist in a place like San Jose State. Their work and the things they fought for are not lost on me. I was fortunate that scholars such as Catherine Ceniza Choy, Patricia Penn Hilden, Margaret Hunter, and Abigail De Kosnik helped me shape the dissertation. Writers such as Carlos Bulosan, Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, Haunani-Kay Trask, and Epeli Hau`ofa remind me that intellectual work is needs to be soulful. Taking that first Asian American Studies course as an undergrad changed my life and I remain grateful.