Corrugated Cartographies: The Balikbayan Box and its Sociotechnical Networks

Publication Date

April 2019


Anthony Hatch


Science in Society


English (United States)


The Balikbayan box is a box filled with items packed and shipped by migrant Filipino workers to their families back in the Philippines. Since its materialization in the 1980s, the box and the exported Filipino worker have coalesced into a symbol of mobility and success. The Balikbayan box becomes an entry point into examining the technological practices of overseas laborers, and how they subvert and adapt to the transportation both of cargo and bodies. In this project, I examine the creation and sending of Balikbayan boxes, the meanings that emerge from their movement, and the performances that can only exist within their movement from one country to another. Drawing from science and technology studies, cultural studies, and performance studies, I ask: how do people, objects, and spaces work with and against one another to (dis)locate the Filipino in America?

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