Giving Back

Filipino America and the Politics of Diaspora Giving

L. Joyce Zapanta Mariano
Book Cover

PB: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1840-1
Publication: Feb 21

HC: $99.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1839-5
Publication: Feb 21

Ebook: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1841-8
Publication: Feb 21

200 pages
5.5 x 8.25

Explores transnational giving practices as political projects that shape the Filipino diaspora

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Many Filipino Americans feel obligated to give charitably to their families, their communities, or social development projects and organizations back home. Their contributions provide relief to poor or vulnerable Filipinos, and address the forces that maintain poverty, vulnerability, and exploitative relationships in the Philippines. This philanthropy is a result of both economic globalization and the migration of Filipino professionals to the United States. But it is also central to the moral economies of Filipino migration, immigration, and diasporic return. Giving-related practices and concerns—and the bonds maintained through giving—infuse what it means to be Filipino in America.

Giving Back shows how integral this system is for understanding Filipino diaspora formation. Joyce Mariano “follows the money” to investigate the cultural, social, economic, and political conditions of diaspora giving. She takes an interdisciplinary approach to reveal how power operates through this charity and the ways the global economic and cultural dimensions of this practice reinforce racial subordination and neocolonialism. Giving Back explores how this charity can stabilize overlapping systems of inequality as well as the contradictions of corporate social responsibility programs in diaspora.


Giving Back is a trenchant ethnographic exploration of the most human of all social interactions, reciprocity and the gift. It examines the ‘roots and routes’ of Filipino American diasporic giving through an examination of class, ethnicity, and race. Mariano suggests that the acts of philanthropy and charity by Filipino Americans to the homeland are never free from or unencumbered by the complexities and contradictions of nostalgia, guilt, familial ties, patriotic feelings, religious precepts, or professional aspirations. In fact, Giving Back details how these diasporic performances are burdened by the weight of postcolonial bonds between the United States and the Philippines, divergent perceptions of the American dream, and the messiness of individual and institutional attachments.
Martin F. Manalansan IV, Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies and the Beverly and Richard Fink Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora

“From community fundraisers to corporate campaigns for ‘social responsibility,’ Giving Back importantly grounds a Filipino diaspora politics of debt and generosity in histories of U.S. empire in the Philippines and contemporary circuits of labor migration. Warning against an ahistorical ‘love’ of homeland that necessarily traffics in neoliberalism and state policies of labor exportation for the global service industry, Joyce Mariano incisively theorizes a critical ecology of return that renders solidarity—instead of philanthropy—the ethical foundation of diaspora giving.”
Mimi Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and author of The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages

"Giving Back is a compelling ethnography about the politics of diaspora giving, tying the personal, the family, the community, the state, and the global in a critical stroke of brilliance, empathy, and alternative visions of philanthropy and volunteerism in the lives of Filipinos in America....Mariano’s critical examination of the politics of diaspora giving is a must-read for Filipinos and anyone participating in transnational philanthropy."
Pacific Historical Review

Table of Contents


Introduction: “Charity Begins at Home”
1. Good Diasporic Returns: Immigrant Philanthropy, Overseas Labor Remittances, and the American Dream
2. Homeland Disorientations: Toward Antidevelopmentalist Diaspora-Giving Politics
3. Incorporating Dreams: Discourses of Poverty and Responsibility in Diaspora
4. Philippine Environments and Critical Ecologies of Diaspora Giving
Epilogue: Diasporic Love


About the Author(s)

L. Joyce Zapanta Mariano is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.


In the Series

  • Asian American History and Culture edited by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee

    Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.