From "Little Brown Brothers" to "Forgotten Asian Americans": Race, Space, and Empire in Filipino Los Angeles
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Through archival research, close readings of literary works, and oral histories, this dissertation traces the various formations of Filipino American urban space in Los Angeles from the 1920s to the 1980s under the backdrop of the rise of U.S. empire. This dissertation argues that the emergence, disappearance, and later reclamation of "Little Manila"/"Historic Filipinotown" throughout the twentieth century marked critical shifts in articulations of American imperialism. As the United States had a formal colonial presence in the Philippines and Filipinos subsequently migrated to the United States as colonial subjects, whites in Los Angeles segregated, contained, and marginalized their "Little Brown Brothers" in a Little Manila district downtown, deeming Filipinos as "unassimilable" and a "racial problem." However, as the U.S. state expanded domestically and globally in unprecedented ways during the World War II and postwar periods, Los Angeles city officials destroyed the Little Manila neighborhood while Filipinos increasingly moved to suburban neighborhoods as whites shifted their view of Filipinos in the United States as "loyal" Americans worthy of citizenship. By the 1960s and 1970s, as U.S. imperialism placed greater political emphasis on globalization and multiculturalism, the lack of a distinct Filipino enclave in Los Angeles, in turn, racialized Filipinos as "invisible." Efforts to become "visible" and address pressing needs of Filipinos in the United States through campaigns to gain state recognition proved elusive, deeming Filipinos as socially and politically inept by nature to address their own marginality in the United States. Such calls of "invisibility," therefore, were more products of liberal multiculturalism and its contradictions than on supposed cultural traits. Key to the shifting racialization and spatiality of Filipinos is the discourse of racial liberalism and its power to maintain U.S. empire and white hegemony. "From `Little Brown Brothers' to `Forgotten Asian Americans'" contends that the deployment and proliferation of an emerging U.S. anti-racial, anti-imperial discourse, which contributed to the historical amnesia, or "invisibility," of U.S. imperialism in the Philippines, shaped and produced the varying manifestations and racializations of Filipino American urban space throughout the twentieth century and beyond.
- History