People / Faculty

Core Faculty

Catherine Ceniza Choy


Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, Comparative Ethnic Studies

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

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

Ucb 011rff_r1


526 Barrows Hall

Office Hours in Fall 2020: By Appointment


t: 510-643-0796

Bio & Research Interests

Catherine Ceniza Choy is Professor of Ethnic Studies and an Associate Dean of the College of Letters & Science’s Division of Undergraduate Studies. Her scholarly specialties include Asian American history, Filipino American studies, race, gender, and migration, nursing history, and adoption studies. She is the author of the 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. Empire of Care received the 2003 American Journal of Nursing History and Public Policy Book Award and the 2005 Association for Asian American Studies History Book Award. It is part of the Social Science Research Council’s #coronavirussyllabus under the articles and books heading “Public Health and Inequality.” In recent months, Catherine has been interviewed, quoted, and/or had her research on the history of Filipino nurse migration cited in over two dozen media outlets, including stories in The Atlantic, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and ProPublica, on the role of Filipino health workers in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catherine’s 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. In the last fifty years, transnational adoption—specifically, the adoption of Asian children—has exploded in popularity as an alternative path to family making. In a Choice book review, historian Karen Dubinsky writes, “Her book’s strength is in the stories themselves, which Choy narrates with skill and sympathy. . . . A useful corrective to one-dimensional, romantic portraits of adoption that saturate popular culture today. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.”

Catherine is the co-editor (with Judy Tzu-Chun Wu) of the Brill book series Gendering the Trans-Pacific World. This book series explores the gendered nature of the Pacific World by focusing on three phenomena: diaspora, empire, and race. The inaugural volume of their book series is their co-edited anthology, Gendering the Trans-Pacific World (2017). The latest volume is a reprinting of Doreen G. Fernandez’s Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture (2019) with a new editor’s preface by Catherine and a new foreword by chef Aileen Suzara. Additional collaborative research projects include co-organizing UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies interdisciplinary faculty program on Gender and the Trans-Pacific World and leading UC Berkeley’s Social Science Matrix research team on Comparing Filipino Migration in France and the United States.

Catherine is currently working on a book featuring biographies of Filipino American women, tentatively titled “In No Man’s Shadow: The Filipino Woman in America and the World,” and the book “An Asian American History of the United States” (Beacon Press, under contract).

Courses Taught

ASAMST 20A: Introduction to Asian American History

ASAMST 24: Asian American History in American Musicals

ASAMST 124: Filipino American History

ETH STD C135A: Migration in the Contemporary World

ETH GRP 250: Research Seminar on Asian American History

ETH GRP 250: Research Seminar on Gender and the Trans-Pacific World


Empire of care
Global families
Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture

Recent Writing

Epicenter of the Epicenter,” in Independent Curators International Journal, July 21, 2020, with curator PJ Gubatina Policarpio, part of Reports from the Field’s perspectives from curators from around the world and reflections on the impact of the global pandemic on their lives.

In This Country,” in The Society Pages, June 17, 2020, part of the special essay series, “Wonderful/Wretched Memories of Racial Dynamics in the Twin Cities, Minnesota.” Reprinted in LA Progressive, June 24, 2020, and in The Berkeley Blog as “Brushes with racism in Minnesota and why Black lives matter,” June 24, 2020.

Inoculate Against Racism,” in California Magazine, Summer 2020, part of the roundtable, “What Comes After the Pandemic? Berkeley experts explain what will change—and what should.”

Why Are There So Many Filipino Nurses in California?” in Zócalo Public Square, September 30, 2019, part of a Zócalo Inquiry, California’s Immigrants Are Making Health Care More Wholistic and Human.

Editor’s Preface,” in Doreen G. Fernandez, Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture (Leiden: Brill, 2019), xv-xvii.

International Adoption and Cultural Insecurity,” in Handbook of Cultural Security, ed. Yasushi Watanabe (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018), 146-166.

New Asian American Communities: Building and Dismantling,” in Asian American Pacific Islander Theme Study (U.S. National Park Service, 2018), 307-324.

Chapter Two from Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America,” Journal of Transnational American Studies, 8:no. 1 (2017): 47-73, 190-195.

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.

Administrative Experience

Associate Dean, College of Letters & Science Division of Undergraduate Studies, 2019-2020

Faculty Leadership Academy Program Participant, Spring 2019

Department Chair, Ethnic Studies, 2012-2015, 2018-2019

Recent Media Coverage

Catherine has been interviewed and/or had her research cited in the following news stories:

The Daily Beast, “Filipino Nurses ‘Are Literally Dying to Save Americans’,” November 13, 2020.

Berkeley News, “Kamala Harris’s rise, multicultural roots and challenges,” November 10, 2020.

Berkeley News, “America on edge: Berkeley scholars’ early election thoughts,” November 4, 2020.

Berkeley News, “Election 2020: A referendum on racial justice in America,” November 2, 2020., “How ‘Tikim’ Shaped Filipino Food Writing—and How It Was Resurrected,” October 30, 2020.

The Sun, “Inland Filipino nurses risk all on coronavirus front lines,” October 29, 2020.

Newsy, “Heavy Casualties For Filipino Nurses In COVID Fight,” October 28, 2020.

Mercury News, “California’s Filipino American nurses are dying from COVID-19 at alarming rates,” October 4, 2020.

NBC News, “With largest share of migrant nurses, entire U.S. Filipino community hit hard by COVID-19,” August 27, 2020.

Lady Science, “Maria Ylagan Orosa and the Chemistry of Resistance,” July 23, 2020.

Angelus News, “For Filipino American nurses on COVID-19 front lines, faith is stronger than fear,” July 16, 2020.

Vox, “Why the US has so many Filipino nurses,” June 29, 2020.

NBC News, “Americanizing Asians: The mental toll of being asked to change your name,” June 26, 2020.

Rappler, “Fil-Ams on the frontlines: New York healthcare workers look after each other,” June 23, 2020.

Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Kanlungan online memorial set up to honor fallen frontliners abroad,” June 22, 2020.

Tyee, “For Overseas Filipinos Like Loida Ubay, Essential Work Feels Increasingly Sacrificial,” June 8, 2020.

Oxford Student, “Why Are So Many Filipino Healthcare Workers Dying?,” June 5, 2020.

Los Angeles Times, “Column: Filipino nurses battled discrimination to work in American hospitals. Now they fight for PPE,” May 18, 2020.

New York Times, “Why So Many Filipino Californians Are on the Front Lines,” May 15, 2020.

LAist, “A Fifth Of California’s Nurses Are Filipino. Their Burden Of The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Fast Emerging,” May 8, 2020.

Asian Journal, “This National Nurses Week, remember the Filipino and Fil-Am nurses providing care and risking their lives daily,” May 6, 2020.

Plan A Magazine, “Filipinos on the Frontlines: Our Bodies Are Not Disposable,” May 4, 2020.

ProPublica, “The Staggering Toll of COVID-19 on Filipino Health Care Workers,” May 3, 2020.

Los Angeles Times, “Philippine nurses, long treated like exports, told to stay home to fight coronavirus,” May 1, 2020.

The Atlantic, “The Fragility of the Global Nurse Supply Chain,” April 30, 2020.

Smithsonian Magazine, “New Virtual Exhibition Showcases the Healing Power of Art,” April 30, 2020.

Scienceline, “Coronavirus: a name game,” April 17, 2020.

Berkeley News, “Racist harassment of Asian health care workers won’t cure coronavirus,” April 9, 2020.

NBC News, “Progress is why viruses aren’t named after locations anymore, experts say,” March 22, 2020.

UConn Today, “From Diaspora to Health Care Delivery: Exhibit Highlights Work of Filipino Nurses,” February 25, 2020.

Washington Post, “The Oscars nominated ‘Parasite’ but looked right past its all-Asian cast,” February 7, 2020.

South China Morning Post, “US health care needs its Filipino nurses, so why is the system stacked against them?,” February 2, 2020.

Restless, “We Need To Pay Attention to Filipino Migrants,” November 22, 2019.

NBC News, “Rowena Chiu’s Weinstein allegation highlights the issue of race in sexual assault,” November 8, 2019.

Philadelphia Inquirer, “10 Filipino American books that made me feel more Filipino,” November 7, 2019.

New York Times, “She Was Filipino Food’s Greatest Champion. Now Her Work Is Finding New Fans.,” July 30, 2019.

NBC News, “After 50 years, Asian American studies programs can still be hard to find,” June 27, 2019.

Podcast and Other Interviews

Who Belongs?, “Racism and COVID-19: The historical, political, and social foundations,” April 29, 2020.

Arch & Anth Podcast, “What is the history of Filipino nurses working in the United States?,” March 11, 2020.

Fiat Vox, “Why are there so many Filipino nurses in the U.S.?,”May 28, 2019.

Berkeley Writers at Work, “Catherine Ceniza Choy,” October 18, 2017.

This Filipino American Life, “Filipinos in the Nursing Industry,” March 14, 2017.

Korea and the World, “Catherine Ceniza Choy on International Adoption,” October 14, 2016.

Selected Honors & Awards

Peder Sather Center Grant Program Award, 2020-2021

UC Berkeley Townsend Center for the Humanities Senior Faculty Fellow, 2018-2019

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

Organization of American Historians Japanese Residencies Program, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, 2011

Edith Kreeger Wolf Distinguished Visiting Professor, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 2005

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

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

Association of American University Women Postdoctoral Research Leave Fellowship, 2002

Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2000