Religion and the “Blessing” of American Citizenship
Political and Civic Implications for Post-1965 Filipino Immigrants
Keywords:Filipino-Americans, indebtedness, immigration, civic and political engagement
AbstractThis study investigates how Filipino-Americans perceive, interpret, and construct civicness, or the ways they embody immigrant, postcolonial experiences. It demonstrates how specific histories and contexts of reception, like colonialism, strongly intertwine with religion in shaping notions of American citizenship, as the U.S. formally colonized the Philippines during the early 20th century. Filipino-Americans, largely Catholic, feel a sense of utang ng loob, or indebtedness, for the “blessing” of American citizenship. High civic engagement ensues as Filipino-Americans seek to fulfill their “debt” and prove their worth by contributing to the development of their new nation-state. Although highly civically engaged, Filipino-Americans limit overt, domestic political participation due to feelings of utang ng loob. Paradoxically, Filipino-Americans attempt to transnationally increase their political power and civic presence in the Philippines because they feel obligated to help Filipinos “who did not receive the blessing of American citizenship.” Overall, this study advances analysis towards a more complex model on immigration, integration, and the role that religion plays in this respective process.
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