Kuwentuhan as a Method

I often think of collecting qualitative research as opportunities to build relationships with participants in my research projects. There are definitely times when participants don’t want to build with me, and I’m cool with that. But more times than not, with the particular research I am able to do with the workers and worker organizations that I do work with, building relationships is par for the course.

And I’ve learned that a big part of building relationships is listening and cultivating space for people to tell their stories, in all the linear and divergent and rambling and rational ways possible. The best training for this, I’d say, was being at the kitchen table with my family’s relatives and elders, rolling lumpia and shredding boiled chicken for pancit. These rich discussions in Tagalog would follow the range of melodrama, comedy, suspense and action. All of the conversations were packed with important information, even essential to my relatives’ jobs, living situations, financial standing. Kuwentuhan was where these important exchanges happened.

And so, when I’ve thought about collecting research with migrant workers and often, when we were able to be share a kitchen table or counter or living room space, I thought back to my elders’ and our kuwentuhan.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with migrant worker organizations in the past decade to collaborate on developing ‘kuwentuhan’ as a method to collect stories and experiences in the Filipino community. I published an article on it a long time ago.

But I rewrote it just recently and its available for download here and here’s the citation if you might need it, friend:

Francisco-Menchavez, Valerie. 2020. “Kuwentuhan as a Method.” In Handbook of Social Inclusion: Research and Practices in Health and Social Sciences, edited by Pranee Liamputtong, 1–23. Cham: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-48277-0_83-1.


Labor of Care for FREE for FAHM

For Filipino American History Month, an eBook copy of The Labor of Care is free through the University of Illinois Press’ celebration of Fil-Am history! This feels a little self-promote-y but it’s kind of a dream come true for me. I wrote this book for Filipina migrant workers and the movements that are invested building migrant worker power, in the US and all over the world. I wrote it for 1st, 1.5, 2nd, 3rd generation Filipina/x/o Americans so we could understand the generations of immigrants in our families before us. I wrote it for my children, Aya and Cy, and generations after them, so one day they might understand the hardship and resilience of motherhood. 

To you reader, I wrote it for you. It didn’t feel like it back then. It felt like I was writing it for me, because it was such a solitary experience but I had hoped that I would meet you one day. That we could talk about the stories in the book, my ideas about the lives of migrant workers and their families. I hoped that I would one day work and collaborate with you, think and research with you, teach and learn from you, organize and mobilize with you, to build on and extend the potential of the ideas in The Labor of Care

And now, it’s here for you, for free. A democratization of my academic work, even for a fleeting moment. I hope you can get this eBook copy for free, click on the link below!

Free eBook copy of The Labor of Care! for FAHM in 2021!

CARE Project at the Bulosan Center Conference

I’ve been working with some amazing student research collaborators this academic year! I never think of them as research “assistants” because that’s feudal and hella inaccurate. Rather, I think of students who I am working with as collaborators. They are trained in sociological research methods. They collect research with care and intention from Filipino/a caregivers. They commit to data analysis. They think through the issues with me, provoke me to think of things in different ways, and teach me so much.

At the annual Bulosan Center for Filipinx American Studies conference, the CARE Project team will be front and center and my collaborators will be presenting our preliminary findings on the data we’ve collected with Filipino/a caregivers under the pandemic.

Come and see their amazing work! Register to attend at tinyurl.com/CAREprojectBULO.

Ethics of Care

I’ve been interested in the term “ethics of care” for quite some time. In an activist sense, I’ve been interested in how movements center radical care (versus individualized, capitalist notions of care) in their organizing work and across communities, especially in the dire times we live in. I have wondered if and when activists think of care, how do they shape their definitions of it and how does it fit into an ethos of making the world anew?

Academically, the term “ethics of care” show up across fields and disciplines. In psychology, Carol Gilligan’s canonical conceptualization of the aforementioned phrase insisted that girls and women’s morality could be characterized with their connectedness. In political science, Joan Tronto expanded this notion by introducing the idea of a “responsibilty-based” ethics, not just about caring but including justice. And yet, I’ve wondered, what about cultural differences on how we interpret and take on care? What’s the role of race and ethnicity in an ethics of care? How about for those who immigrate from one cultural context to another?

Inspired by these questions, I’ll be in conversation with heavy weights in this field for the University of Wisconsin, Madison Ethics of Care Conference, Joan Tronto and Nancy Fraser. I’ll try my best to put a theoretical hat on but more importantly, bring my decade-long experience in organizing with Filipina/o migrant care workers, in the US and learning from their transnational solidarities.

The good news is the conference is FREE! Register here!


A Dialogue on Anti-Asian Racism

IFlyer with workshop title: Anti-Asian Racism: A Critical Filipino (American) Studies Perspective

I’ve been organizing with a group of scholar-activists for the good part of the pandemic and we’re getting to roll out some exciting programming. We have a workshop funded by St. Mary’s and co-sponsored by Bulosan Center coming up in a few weeks.

Join us by registering at tinyurl.com/CFSCStMarys (cap sensitive) and join us in a dialogue!


Ethnography For All

I’ve always thought about the potential of research methods to serve communities, beyond academic purposes. I’ve always tried my best to co-conspire, act and attempt at delinking “research” processes to a purely intellectual endeavor. From another vantage point, I love bringing the methods that I’ve seen naturally recurring in community organizing into research processes: ideas of talk-story or kuwentuhan, community and trust building, democratizing information, actualizing communities’ “right to research” (Appadurai 2006).

It’s hard but I like the challenge.

This week an email came through my inbox from EPIC, an organization trying to bring principles of ethnography into industry. Sharon Bautista, UX researcher and community organizer based in Chicago, wrote a book review of The Labor of Care (2018) and Kimberly Kay Hoang’s Dealing in Desire (2015) to make sense of the recent shootings in Atlanta that claimed the lives of 6 Asian American and Asian immigrant women.

Bautista’s thoughtful engagement with the two ethnographic books in “Ethnography for Sensemaking in Times of Trauma” helped me see that ethnography and qualitative methods can go far beyond the academy. And her reflection gave me some hope that writing The Labor of Care and possibly, my next book will not just be left in the halls of classrooms or conferences. Perhaps it has a wider audience that can help them make sense of the world.


Lifting Up Filipino Caregivers Stories

Elaika Celemen and Kristal Osorio have been my research collaborators for the past two years. Both of them were my students, organizers in organizations that I deeply respect, and they are both Pinay immigrants who have roots in the Bay Area. Conducting research on Filipino caregivers with them really sharpened my ideas about how to do this work and then how to make sense of it. In the process of wading through interviews and surveys, we found that so much of our Filipino community members who work as caregivers have normalized conditions of exploitation.

We wanted to tell that story and make it available for people, scholars, community organizations to build on. Here’s our article:

Filipino Formal Caregivers to the Elderly and Normalized Exploitation in the Workplace

Another exciting part of this publication is that we are part of the inaugural issue of Alon: Journal of Filipinx American and Diasporic Studies! Alongside amazing scholars and scholar-activists, we welcome this new academic home for scholarship like ours.

Download and cite, good friends!

Racism in the Time of Corona

Lent some of my analysis on race and anti-Asian racism that Filipino health care workers face as they serve on the frontlines.

This story skims the surface. The past administration has contributed to a more general anti-Asian xenophobia and racism but the reverberations can be felt in so many spaces. As we observe in the uptick of hate crimes against Asian Americans in neighborhoods and the different publics, the dangers of these racist and prejudicial ideas hurts the very people trying to keep COVID-19 patients alive.

International Women’s Day 2021

This International Working Women’s Day I’m so happy to be joining a conversation about women and human rights at San Jose City College! Thanks to President Rowena Tomaneng for organizing this event and bringing this conversation to light!


PTO for Domestic Workers in SF

Did you know that San Francisco domestic workers are the workforce with the highest estimated number of minimum wage violations in the city? 70% of domestic workers do not earn enough to meet their basic living expenses. Domestic workers are entitled to paid time off like any other employees — but 87% of them never receive this benefit.

This exploitation reflects the historic devaluation of domestic work, rooted in this country’s history of slavery and the subsequent exclusion of Black workers from labor laws formed during the 1930s. During this pandemic, the need for paid time off has never been more clear, as the safety of domestic workers is threatened simply by going to work. Because many of these employees work for multiple private individuals at one time, existing structures that distribute benefits through one central employer do not serve.

San Francisco has the chance to correct these systemic inequities and provide domestic workers with access to paid time off through the creation of a San Francisco Domestic Work PTO Program.
Please sign this petition to the SF Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance to strengthen protections for domestic workers.


Teaching Racial Justice in the face of white supremacy

Watching white supremacists and extremists breach Capitol Hill on Wednesday, January 6,2021,  I wavered between disbelief and feeling like all of this was so predictable. After all, 4 years of a regime that leaned into racism, xenophobia, sexism, transphobia, violence and fascism, emboldened white extremists. Even the Department of Homeland Security under Donald Trump flagged the rise in far-right white extremism as the biggest threat to American safety.

But on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, there was also a swell of democracy in Georgia. It was Black women and organizers, like Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate, LaTosha Brown, co founder of Black Voter Matters, current Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Errin Haines, editor-at-large of The 19th, and many more, who mobilized countless hours and built coalitions across racial and ethnic lines to flip the state.

Not once, twice. First, to secure the presidential win for Joe Biden in November 2020. And to deliver, two democratic seats for Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff.

In the weeks leading up to the runoff election in Georgia, SFSU alumni, hood nominee for the Sociology Hood Award in 2019, Samir Shrestha joined volunteers from Seed the Vote in the Bay Area and Asian American Fund in Georgia to knock on doors and talk potential voters. Samir, a Nepali immigrant who has been involved in Bay Area organizations, contributed to mobilizing the Asian American vote in Georgia since they are the largest growing racial and ethnic group in the state. With a record turnout in Asian American and Black votes, led by organizers in coalition, many people of color found solidarity among one another, and most importantly, political power in one another.

My point is that as educators, we must use the glaring contradictions to expose the systemic problems in our country:

1. How Donald Trump deploys preferential narrative to his supporters

2. The use of police and armed force

3. The language circulated in the media

So that we can spark our students’ critical thinking and, perhaps, action towards social and racial justice. We can pose the problems to our students regarding these contradictions:

1. Why are the violent rioters who support Trump called “protestors” instead of “terrorists”?

2. Why did the police presence in preparation for  Black Lives Matters protests so different from the footage of police taking selfies with rioters inside Capitol Hill?

3. Why is “looting” such a big part of the narrative when it comes to largely peaceful protests and not to this violent mob?

This is not only an opportunity to point out what’s wrong with the US right now.

It’s a time to teach about what people are doing right, with hopes that our students, like Samir, will throw their weight into creating a country we all deserve.

Some resources I have found helpful as I set up spaces and exercises for my Winter 2021 session are below. There are explicit ways that white educators of students of color can engage the ongoing political and racial strife in this country.

·  Resources for Teachers on the Days After the Attack on the US Capitol

·  History Repeats Itself in DC, The Legacy of Racial Violence Continues by SJSU Professor Faustina DuCros


FAHM 2020

I was asked recently, “what are you doing to celebrate Filipino American History Month (FAHM) this year?” I replied with what I’d be doing in my personal and family life and forgot about the many ways that community have cultivated spaces for me to be able to celebrate in community.

So I want to take the time to applaud the amazing Filipina/o American folks who have organized and prepared these events that I’ll be so honored to be a part of. THANK YOU for helping all of us celebrate Filipino American history month!

Here are a few ways I’ll be celebrating FAHM this year: