Department of Ethnic Studies - College of Letters and Science - University of California, Berkeley

People / Faculty

Core Faculty

Catherine Ceniza Choy

Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies

Asian American History; Philippine and Filipino American Studies; Adoption; Nursing; Migration; Gender

Ph.D., History, University of California, Los Angeles, June 1998

M.A., History, University of California, Los Angeles, 1993

B.A., History, cum laude, Pomona College, Claremont, 1991


  • 526 Barrows Hall
  • Office Hours in Spring 2018: Thursdays 2:30-4:30pm


Bio & Research Interests

Catherine Ceniza Choy is a professor and a former chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies. She is a core faculty member of the Center for Southeast Asia Studies and an affiliated faculty member of the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative and Center for Race and Gender. Her major research interests focus on the U.S. global presence in Asian countries, Asian migrations to the United States, and the impact of trans-Pacific migration on American and Asian societies.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History (2003), which explored how and why the Philippines became the leading exporter of professional nurses to the United States.  Her second book, Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America (2013), unearths the little-known historical origins of Asian international adoption in the United States beginning with the post-World War II presence of the U.S. military in Asia. Catherine is also the co-editor with Judy Tzu-Chun Wu of the anthology, Gendering the Trans-Pacific World (2017). She writes about her research, academia, and writing on The Berkeley Blog and LinkedIn. She is currently working on three book projects that feature biographies of Filipino American women; artistic expressions about international adoption; and the writing of ethnic studies scholar and historian Ronald Takaki.

Catherine is the featured writer in the Fall 2017 Berkeley Writers at Work Series and an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. In 2017-2018, she is the team leader of the Social Science Matrix research team, "Migration, Racialization, and Gender: Filipino Migration to France and the United States" and the faculty coordinator and co-organizer of the Institute of International Studies interdisciplinary faculty program on "Gender and the Trans-Pacific World."

She has held distinguished lectureships and visiting appointments at Yonsei University, Mahidol University, Hitotsubashi University, and Northwestern University. Prior to coming to Berkeley, she was an assistant professor of American Studies and a founding member of the Asian American Studies Initiative at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Catherine received her Ph.D. in History from UCLA and her B.A. in History from Pomona College. The daughter of Filipino immigrants, she was born and raised in New York City and is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School. She lives in Berkeley with her husband and their two children.


Courses Taught

ASAMST 20A: Introduction to the History of Asians in the United States

ASAMST 24: Asian American History in American Musicals

ASAMST 124: Filipino American History

ASAMST 175: Contemporary Narratives on the Philippines and the United States 

ETH STD 10AC: History of Race and Ethnicity in Western North America

ETH STD 135: Contemporary U.S. Immigration

ETH GRP 201: History and Narrativity: Contemporary Theories and Methods

ETH GRP 250: Research Seminar 


Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History
Gendering the Trans-Pacific World
Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption

Select publications


“A History of Asian International Adoption in the United States,” in The Oxford Handbook of Asian American History, ed. David Yoo and Eiichiro Azuma (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 205-221.

“A Different Mirror: Philippine International Adoption Through the Lens of Brillante Mendoza’s Foster Child,” VERGE: Studies of Global Asias 1.1 (Spring 2015), 212-229.

"The Awesome and Mundane Adventures of Flor de Manila y San Francisco," in Drawing New Color Lines: Transnational Asian American Graphic Narratives, ed. Monica Chiu (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2014), 209-224.


"Remembering the Filipino Veterans of World War II," The Berkeley Blog, November 9, 2017.

"What Filipino American History Makes Visible," The Berkeley Blog, October 27, 2016.

"Adoption History and Women's History Month," From The Square, March 25, 2016, and The Berkeley Blog, March 26, 2016.


AJ+, "Why Are There So Many Filipino Nurses In the U.S.?," October 29, 2017.

This Filipino American Life, Podcast Episode 10, "Filipinos in the Nursing Industry," March 14, 2017.

New York Times Race/Related Newsletter, "Around the Web: Here are some of the stories that we’re talking about" features Korea and the World podcast interview with Catherine Ceniza Choy on the history of adoption, October 30, 2016.

Awards & Honors

Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, 2017-2018

Fulbright East Asia & Pacific Regional Travel Program Grant, Mahidol University, Thailand, February 2016

Fulbright Distinguished Lectureship, Yonsei University, Korea, 2015-2016

UC Berkeley Mellon Project Grant, 2015-2016

Organization of American Historians Japanese Residencies Program Winner, Hitotsubashi University, June 2011

Edith Kreeger Wolf Distinguished Visiting Professor, Northwestern University, 2005

History Book Award, Association for Asian American Studies for Empire of Care, 2005

Honorable Mention, American Studies Association Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize for Empire of Care, 2004

American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award in History and Public Policy for Empire of Care, 2003