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Abstract

This paper draws on postcolonial theory, critical mental health literature, and Filipino American psychology to examine the ways in which colonial legacies figure in the contemporary mental health and healthcare experiences of first- and second-generation Filipino Americans. I argue that American colonial rule laid the blueprint for the development of a Filipino American identity rooted in and always striving towards white American ideals. Generations later, these effects continue to be articulated through Filipinos’ complex experiences of shame, indebtedness, and invisibility in the United States. By utilizing interview narratives that go beyond the individual and encompass familial and colonial history, this paper also seeks to challenge Eurocentric assumptions behind what constitutes “lived experience” in critical mental health scholarship– that is, its tendency to reproduce patterns of exclusion and hegemonic knowledge production in its preclusion of the imperial and colonial technologies used to cement difference. In the case of Filipino Americans, whose historical narrative has been systematically diluted, essentialized, and abridged by way of racial and colonial projects, a phenomenological and psychosocially rooted examination uncovers the implicit and understudied ways in which Filipino Americans continue to be disadvantaged by colonial legacies.

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