Anthony Ocampo - Writer, Professor
Writer and Professor Anthony Ocampo created his career path through what he found lacking in the educational and literary world. Encouraged by a professor to write what he knew, what he had experienced, what was missing, he wrote his first book The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race. Anthony is a sociologist and has researched and written about those on the intersections, sexual identity and kids of immigrants, and Filipino Americans. His is the work that fills what is needed.
Where are you based?
Los Angeles. Eagle Rock Native.
Were you always interested in a career in higher education? And how did you choose this career?
When I first got to college, I had a hard time fitting in. Going from a neighborhood where Filipinos were 20% of the population to a school where there were like 20 Filipinos in the entire freshman class was a culture shock. Taking ethnic studies classes--Asian American literature, African American psychology, Chicano/Latino religions--helped me find my footing. They were the first places I felt like my intellectual perspective--and personal experiences--carried value. Yet, I didn't feel like I encountered a book that really captured my experience, and so one of my professors said, "Why don't you write that book?" That's what started my path toward Professor life. And my path toward writing my first book The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race.
Who are some of your influences/role models/mentors while pursuing education?
The late Dawn Mabalon was the first person who showed me that Filipinos were a worthy topic of intellectual inquiry. Other Filipino American professors like Rudy Busto and Anthony Antonio gave me the space to work my ideas out when I was just a naive college kid. I'm a sociologist, but most of my role models today are writers in the literary world, specifically Roxane Gay and Kiese Laymon--folks who write about race, gender, and inequality, and are unapologetically themselves in their tone and language. I look up to Roxane and Kiese so damn much.
What are your areas of research/research interests?
I research and write about folks living on the intersections. I've written mostly about children of immigrants--Filipino, Latinx, Asian American. Nowadays, I research and write about children of immigrants who identify as queer or gay.
How important is Ethnic Relations, Gender and Sexuality, Minority/Urban Sociology to you?
Fuckin' important. These are the spaces where the intellectual perspectives and experiences that have been systematically decentered get to be systematically centered. New knowledge emerges when you center folks on the margins.
Do you have any articles/books that you recommend those interested in learning more about Filipino American history?
There's just so many! For Filipino American history specifically, I'd turn to Forgotten Asian Americans by Fred Cordova and Little Manila is in the Heart by Dawn Mabalon. And of course, America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan. Those are great places to start.
What do you love about the work that you do/work that you have done?
What I love most is receiving emails and letters from Filipino Americans of all ages, but especially youth, who've come across my book and told me that my book was the first time they'd ever read their experiences in the printed page. That's really powerful. And I'm so grateful that they not only took the time to read my work, but also that they took the time to write. I cherish those letters so much.
How does your community uplift you?
We are survivors of colonialism. We were not supposed to be here. Systems of colonialism and racism are designed to destroy folks who look like us. If we manage to survive, then these systems aim to silence our voices. That we have Filipino American writers, scholars, artists, musicians, chefs, and other creators thriving--it's something to revel.
What has been instrumental in your personal and professional growth?
I feel really lucky that my family let me do what I was gonna do professionally. Even if they didn't fully get what a PhD was all about, they never really stood in my way either, like I hear with a lot of other Filipino Americans I know. Now that I've written a book, and I've had the chance to give talks on my research all over the country, I think they are more on board than they used to be. But more than anything, I feel privileged that they always had my back when it comes to my academic career. Beyond my family, my partner has really helped keep me grounded, always making sure that I'm living life and not getting too focused on career stuff. I'm also lucky to work at a university where most of my colleagues and students are folks of color, which means that I don't have to deal with some of the everyday bullshit that comes with working on predominantly white campus. I'm allowed to just be me. Finally, I have to thank Schmidt, my chocolate colored rescue pup, who loves and supports me unconditionally.
Do you have any projects, books, events coming up that you are excited about?
I'm excited about the new book I'm working on, tentatively titled Brown and Gay in LA, a project that chronicles the lives of queer men of color who grew up in immigrant families and communities.
Photos courtesy of Anthony Ocampo