Sharon has been involved in numerous research projects since 2001, and she is trained in both qualitative and quantitative methods. Her works to date reflect her intellectual and personal interests in understanding how marginalized social groups—especially foreign workers, immigrants, and refugees—engage in collective action to challenge hegemonic power and create new kinds of political spaces. Below is a description of her ongoing and completed studies.
MIGRANT TRANSNATIONALISM AND DIASPORA POLITICS
Project 1: Memories as Resistance: Collective Memory-Making as a Tactical Repertoire Among Diaspora Activists (2018-present)
The May 2016 Philippine Presidential election saw overwhelming diaspora support for and eventual victory of Rodrigo Duterte. The election had the highest turnout in overseas ballots since the passage of the Philippine Dual Citizenship Act. Since becoming president, Duterte has implement a war against illegal drugs. In this research, I investigate the strategic use of collective memory of the Marcos dictatorship and its overthrow in campaigns against the policies of Duterte. This tactical repertoire has also facilitated the continuous reimagining of the homeland among Filipino immigrants and subsequent generations. I look at how former anti-dictatorship activists in the U.S. and the Netherlands have become “memory entrepreneurs,” who mobilize memories of the past for the subsequent generations of Filipinos abroad, especially the descendants of migrants who have fully assimilated in their countries of settlement. Through content analysis of collective storytelling in published memoirs, blogs, and more recently, social media, I explain how diaspora activists in the U.S. and the Netherlands counter dominant discourses and persistent narratives about Marcos, revive past repertoires of resistance and recast their meaning based on the present, and institutionalize collective memory in material forms and representational practices in an attempt to mobilize a transnational constituency against Duterte. While conducting fieldwork in the Netherlands, Sharon was affiliated with Leiden University College in The Hague.
Project 2: A Tale of Two Activisms: The Relationship Between Migrants’ Rights and Diaspora Mobilizations (2016-2017)
The central research question of this project asks: How is the collective claims-making of migrants and refugees to achieve economic, political, social rights from their host state connected to their participation in movements for homeland democratization? Findings gathered from interview and archival data suggest that migrants’ rights activism and diaspora mobilization are inextricably linked through movement abeyance structures and integrative processes. First, in times of ebb in homeland conflict, activists turn to the local concerns of the migrant community to sustain oppositional consciousness. Second, through their involvement in diaspora politics, migrants and refugees develop associational life, acquire knowledge of the diverse problems of the communities where they are embedded, and learn the ropes of domestic public policymaking. This study contributes to the debate on transnationalism and assimilation in migration studies, which has recently moved from contradiction to synergy.
Project 3: Revolution From Afar: Mobilizations for Regime Change and the Making of the Filipino Diaspora in the United States and the Netherlands, 1965-1992 (2012-2016)
Sharon’s dissertation explains the conditions and mechanisms through which migrants and exiles become involved in political struggles in their homelands. While much is known about why migrants maintain homeland ties, information on how they become engaged in organizations involved in political struggles remains scant. Through a comparative case study of homeland-directed activism among Filipinos in the U.S. and the Netherlands from the period of authoritarian rule (1965-1986) to the early years of democratic transition (1986-1992) in the Philippines, the project analyzed how political structures in both the host and home societies, resources in the migrant communities, and formation of oppositional consciousness interact and influence mobilization. Sharon gathered data from 2012 to 2014 in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Den Haag, Leiden, Nijmegen, Tilburg, and Utrecht), the Philippines (Manila), and the U.S. (Los Angeles, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle), collecting over 1,000 pages of archival data in Dutch, English, and Filipino and 53 in-depth interviews. In the Netherlands, she was affiliated with the Department of Political Science and Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies of the University of Amsterdam as Visiting Researcher.
PUBLIC DISCOURSE ON IMMIGRATION
Sharon conducted a study on the news framing of immigration in two policy debates—on the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (H.R. 4437) in 2006 and on the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act or Arizona Senate Bill (S.B.) 1070 in 2010—for her MA thesis. She analyzed 490 news articles of The New York Times and USA Today. She received the University of Pittsburgh Norman P. Hummon Memorial Award for Outstanding Research for her study and published an article in Mass Communication and Society. Her findings show that through the use of multiple news frames (“Nation of Immigrants,” “Immigrant Takeover,” “Cheap Labor” etc.), the media create diametrically opposed representations of immigration and contemporary immigrants but at the same time normalize dominant ways of thinking and talking about immigration that sustain and consolidate power relationships.
MULTILATERAL PROCESSES AND TRANSNATIONAL PROTESTS
At Pitt, Sharon also conducted participant-observation of the protests against the 2009 G20 Summit in Pittsburgh. She collaborated with Jane Walsh of Clarion University of Pennsylvania in writing a paper on the dynamics of local-global movement framing. Sharon also worked as a graduate student researcher for Melanie Hughes on her project on women’s international nongovernmental organizations (WINGOs), funded by the National Science Foundation. In this project, they built a dataset of WINGOs from 1950-2013 based on the Yearbook of International Organizations. This dataset is available at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research.
As University Researcher at the Third World Studies Center of the University of the Philippines-Diliman from 2001-2008, Sharon studied the political economy of negotiations in the World Trade Organization, mobilizations in Southeast Asia against free trade, Philippine civil society discourse on globalization, and North-South divide in the campaign against land mines and illicit small arms trade. In these projects, Sharon has undertaken data-gathering fieldwork in Cambodia, Thailand, and Kenya. Sharon also possesses rich experience in cross-national collaborative research, as she was part of a five-country team of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development Research on “Global Civil Society Movements: Dynamics in International Campaigns and National Implementation.”