As evidenced through this month’s blog posts, the CHI cohort is putting together their initial plans for our main project. I had initially wanted to focus on how nostalgia imprints itself and is used on physical places as a means of sustaining culture; however, the initial approach had only considered the process of this dynamic between the Filipino-American community and their physical places, and not perhaps their degree of agency to do so within the public sphere. Compared to the Asian American and Pacific Islander places/spaces I’ve grown up witnessing as part of the public fabric of California, the difficulty of finding these presences in the Midwest points to the possibility of APIA culture moving from public to private spaces.

Fil-Am history prominently began in the Midwest in the early 1900s and has had opportunity to establish signs of their community. California and Hawaii were receiving the majority of Filipino laborers, but the Midwest, particularly states like Michigan and Illinois, received government-sponsored students (the pensionados) up until the 1930s. These student communities blossomed into immigrant communities, and to navigate racial and economic pressures, they created and took part in community organizations which emerged, scattered, and blended with other groups during the passing decades and changing waves of immigration (Posadas & Guyotte, 1990). By looking closer at past and present communal spaces in major cities like Detroit and Ann Arbor, my project intends to ask: (1) What forms of societal/behavioral regulation spur the removal or displacement of previously Filipino spaces? (2) What unique challenges make them particularly vulnerable and/or capable of asserting a more democratized space within the fabric of the public sphere?

Through the use of a digital map, the project will approach these questions by profiling some Filipino communal spaces (mostly commercialized, neighborhood, and community center spaces) in terms of causes for their emergence and influences to their growth in order to deduce what and how conflicting public narratives and pressures impact these spaces. The aim of this mapping project is not just to provide an exploration of the forms and nature of the Filipino public sphere, but to provide a spatial means of envisioning their displacement (or diminishment) from past and present locales. It also, alternatively, serves as a means of uncovering and rewriting Filipino spaces onto major maps; what was once invisible can then have a visible presence to establish a significant cultural lineage. Finally, the map can have the additional purpose of highlighting causal pressures for the removal or dispersal of Filipino spaces which can inform thought on urban governance, community organizing, and the growing fallacy of democratic publics.


Posadas, B.M. and Guyotte, R.L. (1990). “Unintentional Immigrants: Chicago’s Filipino Foreign Students Become Settlers, 1900-1941.” Journal of American Ethnic History 9(2): 26-48.