“Among a people such like their own”: Thai Nursing Students in the Philippines, 1920-1931

Jan 05, 2024 | by
  • Description

In the early twentieth century, the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) worked to expand the nursing profession in the Philippines and in Thailand. Using the close geographic proximity and the well-established circulation of health professionals between the two countries, the RF helped sponsor six Thai nursing students to study abroad in Manila. Due to the status of the Philippines as a colony of the US, while Thailand was not within the US's official purview, the encounter between the colonized nursing instructors and the Thai nursing students learning within a colonial system created contradictory positions of power. Depending on who perceived this crossing, it could reflect the expanding influence for different parties invested in nursing education, either the Foundation, Filipino medical workers, Thai elites, or both Thai and Filipino women. This report examines these crossings and the approximate relationships of domination that supported and confounded the US empire. For example, rather than American colonizers' relationships with Filipinos, I examine the roles of Filipino women, Filipino men, and Thai women who participated in uneasy and shifting tensions of domination. These relationships of power were contested and circulated in complicated forms, not just unilaterally, but within expansive spheres attached to US ambitions within Asia, as well as the Philippines and Thailand's own ambitions for sovereignty and modernity. Lastly, this report examines Filipino women's fraught relationship to power vis-a-vis science and medicine, which also represented (even if incompletely, temporarily, and immemorably) both the domination and the collaboration of Thai women.