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Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino -/ American Postcolonial Psychology


reviewed by Nina Asher - October 04, 2013

coverTitle: Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino -/ American Postcolonial Psychology
Author(s): E. J. R. David
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623962072, Pages: 362, Year: 2013
Search for book at Amazon.com


Twelve chapters grouped into three “Parts,” plus a foreword, a preface, acknowledgements, an epilogue, an afterword, five commentaries, and a glossary of terms comprise Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino-/American Postcolonial Psychology (with commentaries). Presented in both a personal voice and an academic voice, this labor of love is a critical representation of the histories, lives, psyche, struggles, and contributions of Filipino-/Americans. Author E. J. R. David draws on postcolonialism and psychology to articulate cross-cultural analyses of the processes and effects of colonialism as well as the efforts to recover from them. It will be a useful reference, especially for undergraduates in Asian American studies, psychology, and history.


In Part I—“In the beginning”—David begins in autobiographical vein and moves on to trace the history of the Philippines, beginning with the “Tao (The People; pronounced as ‘Ta-o’)” (p. 3) in pre-colonial times, noting that the indigenous Tao who lived on the islands now known as the Philippines had a “very vibrant culture” and “complex societies” (p. 4). In addition to discussing arts, culture, and religion of the Tao, David also notes that women and men were treated as equals, with women holding high positions in society, including in the government. “In fact, the indigenous Tao regarded men and women so equally that they did not even have words such as ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘him,’ ‘her,’ ‘his,’ or ‘her’ to differentiate between men and women” (p. 11). Discussing the colonization of the Philippines by Spain and then the U.S., David reveals how the imposition of Spanish rule and Catholicism, and, later on, the influence of Hollywood systematically eclipsed indigenous history, identity, and culture. This history, David argues, has led to an internalization of inferiority and has also shaped emigration from the Philippines to the U.S. These apt analyses reflect insights that Frantz Fanon developed in his groundbreaking Black Skin, White Masks (1952/1967). Given that the title of David’s book clearly draws on Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks – a highly influential postcolonial text that remains in print even today – as a scholar, David has been seriously remiss in not acknowledging and citing this work in his book.


In Part II—aptly titled “The aftermath”—David traces the development of the “colonial mentality” (p. 53) and its “automaticity,” (p. 79) discussing in depth the loss of indigenous values and related implications in terms of Filipino-/American identity and mental health. Citing several key postcolonial scholars (Fanon, Memmi, Freire, Rimonte), David states that the “sustained denigration and inhumane treatments that the colonized are subjected to under colonialism often lead to self-doubt, identity confusion, and feelings of inferiority among the colonized” (p. 56). One effort on the part of the author (along with his mentor, Sumie Okazaki) to address this legacy of colonialism has been to develop and administer a “Colonial Mentality Scale (CMS)” (p. 65) to identify and analyze the many facets (e.g., preference in terms of such variables as skin color, culture, speech/accent, and racial/ethnic composition) of the internalization of the colonizer. David also offers to the reader the concept of “Kapwa” – a core Filipino value that “refers to the unity or oneness of a person with other people” (p. 109), as essentially humanizing, in contrast to the terrible dehumanization of colonization (and, for that matter, the reliance on specious us-them binaries as a form of oppression).


In Part III—“Decolonization in a modern world”—David focuses on healing, recovery, reclamation. Drawing on cognitive behavioral therapy, David analyzes psychopathology related to colonial mentality, including such issues as depression and social anxiety. Drawing on Freire’s (1970) now classic concept of conscientization, David synthesizes psychology and postcolonialism to articulate the “Filipino-/American Decolonization Experience (FADE)” as one way of, as he phrases it, “fade-ing away our colonial mentality” (p. 179) through the process of cultivating a critical, political consciousness. Citing “Sikolohiyang Pilipino or Filipino Indigenous Psychology” (p. 212), David develops a thoughtful discussion of how Sikolohiyang Pilipino acknowledges Western psychological theories and methods and also goes beyond them to engage Filipino values and frames (e.g., Kapwa) to “contribute to more culturally-appropriate, effective, and longer-lasting social changes that may promote the well-being of Filipinos” (p. 217). This, he envisions, as a step towards  “establishing a truly balanced and decolonized global psychology – one that is not affected by colonial mentality” (p. 222). While this ideal of a psychology “not affected by colonial mentality” holds great appeal, it is more realistic perhaps, at the present juncture in the trajectory of colonialism and its “aftermath” (Hickling-Hudson, Matthews, & Wood, 2004, p. 3), to keep in mind our implicatedness in the legacies of colonialism and continue to work systematically through the same in terms of the psychic, material, cultural, and social aspects of our lives. Especially as the global spread of Western corporatism has reinforced the domination of the “West” in various parts of our world.


References


Fanon, F. (1952/1967). Black skin, white masks. New York: Grove Press.


Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder & Herder.


Hickling-Hudson, A., Matthews, J., & Woods, A. (2004). Education, postcolonialism, and disruptions. In A. Hickling-Hudson, J. Matthews, & A. Woods (Eds.), Disrupting preconceptions: Postcolonialism and education (pp. 1-16). Flaxton, Australia: Post Pressed.






Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 04, 2013
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17266, Date Accessed: 10/22/2021 9:07:58 PM

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About the Author
  • Nina Asher
    University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
    E-mail Author
    NINA ASHER (Ed.D., 1999, Teachers College, Columbia University) is Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies (GWSS). Nina writes in the areas of postcolonialism and feminism, globalization, critical perspectives on multiculturalism, and Asian American studies in education. She has published over 30 articles and book chapters and her work has appeared in such leading national and international journals as the Educational Researcher, Teachers College Record, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Curriculum Inquiry, and Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, among others. Nina is Book Review Editor for the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education since 2007 and, from 2007-2009, was also Book Review Editor for the National Women's Studies Association Journal (now Feminist Formations). Nina has served as a member of several national committees, including the Fellowship Review Panel for the International Fellowships Program of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the Canon Project Task Force of the American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies (AAACS), and, as Chair of the Nominating Committee of AERA’s Curriculum Studies Division (Division B) from 2011-2013 and of AERA's Teaching and Teacher Education Division (Division K) during 2013-14. From 1999-2011, Nina was on the faculty at Louisiana State University, where she served as Co-Director of the Curriculum Theory Project (CTP) from 2007-10.
 
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