2021 Prize Recipients
2021 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalist
Sylvia M. Lindtner, Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation (Princeton University Press, 2020).
The book is centered on the city of Shenzhen’s maker culture. This is a form of do-it-yourself (or DIY) culture involving the creation or retooling of electronic technology, often initially pursued as a hobby but also sometimes pursued into the realms of entrepreneurial activity, venture capitalism and mass production. Professor Lindtner explores the state’s moves to co-opt the creative and experimental ethos of maker culture in its efforts to reimagine China as a place not only of fakes and knockoff products, but also as a principal site in the global imagination of technological innovation, one that both inspires and seeks to rival America’s Silicon Valley. Professor Lindtner interrogates the rhetoric of openness and egalitarianism surrounding maker culture—in which the possibilities of technological production supposedly rest publicly in the hands of many, not the corporate few—for how it reinscribes a Western imagination of China as exemplary difference, and for its continued marginalizations of individuals on the basis of gender, socioeconomic status and ethnonationality. Built upon a decade of ethnographic research in maker- and related spaces, rich in the stories of makers and entrepreneurs, but also, for example, the female office workers whose affective labor helps make these spaces viable, the book represents an important resource for understanding the growing competition in scientific and technological innovation between China and the United States. An innovative and ethnographically committed work, Prototype Nation offers important insight into our social and technological present and possible futures, richly manifesting and celebrating the potential of anthropological research within and across disciplinary boundaries.
2021 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize honorable mention
Lyle Fearnley, Virulent Zones: Animal Disease and Global Heath at China’s Pandemic Epicenter (Duke University Press, 2020).
Professor Fearnley’s book explores global efforts to prevent the next influenza outbreak in China. The study centers theoretically on the notion of displacement, or shifts in understandings of the “nature” of research objects and of scientific knowledge. This includes, in the context of this research, movement outside the laboratory where the study of viruses has been more singularly centered in the past, into the more uncontrolled, ecologically complex realms of human and animal interaction. The study is ethnographically centered at Poyang Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake, where virologists, veterinarians, duck farmers and others engage each other in the effort to identify and contain emerging viruses. Professor Fearnley’s compelling book moves across the boundaries of anthropology, environmental studies, and science studies, bearing rich insight into the interpersonal dimensions of the effort to contend with the threat of pandemics. Virulent Zones is an extraordinarily prescient book, with a postscript that describes the early days of the Covid outbreak in Wuhan, China. It will be read and appreciated not only as rigorous scholarship, but also for its sociocultural insights into the management of global public health crises like the COVID pandemic.
Hsu Award Committee 2021: Chair Marvin Sterling (Indiana University), Suma Ikeuchi (2020 Winner of the Hsu Prize, University of California, Santa Barbara), Jin-Heon Jung (Institute for Unification Education, Seoul), Jie Yang (Simon Fraser University).
2021 Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist
Ruiyi Zhu, PhD Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Aspiring to standards: Mongolian vocational education, Chinese enterprise, and the neoliberal order
In “Aspiring to standards: Mongolian vocational education, Chinese enterprise, and the neoliberal order,” Ruiyi Zhu develops a compelling analysis of the transnationally circulating discourse of “standards” as a window into the rapid transformations currently unfolding in post-socialist/late-socialist countries. Drawing on extensive, immersive ethnographic research among vocational school students who interned at a Chinese-owned private mining factory in Mongolia, the paper engages with the literature on economic reforms to demonstrate how local actors creatively seek, establish, and even manipulate the concept of standards. These manipulations bring local order to a messy work situation in the context of foreign capital, a market economy, and fraught Sino-Mongolian labor relations. Carefully written, thoroughly argued, with precisely prepared footnotes, citations, and photos, the paper demonstrates the author’s commitment to professional scholarship.
2021 Outstanding Graduate Student Paper honorable mention
Timothy Y. Loh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Doctoral Program in History, Anthropology, Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS)
“Mother Tongue Orphan: Multiculturalism and the Challenge of Sign Language in Singapore”
In “Mother Tongue Orphan: Multiculturalism and the Challenge of Sign Language in Singapore,” Timothy Loh analyzes the multivalent status of sign language under Singapore’s multi-ethnic language policy, a policy that emphasizes the “mother tongue.” Drawing on extensive ethnographic and interview data, Loh highlights the institutionalized co-naturalization of language and ethnic identification in Singapore to demonstrate how sign language—a broad term that encompasses an array of signing codes—is regularly erased and “orphaned” as a mother tongue, precisely because it does not correspond to an ethnic group. The result is a compelling and elegant account of an ideologically suspect linguistic category, which is excluded from the official linguistic spaces of the state precisely for the way that it serves the members of the Singaporean deaf community.
2020 Prize Recipients
2020 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalist
Suma Ikeuchi, Jesus Loves Japan: Return Migration and Global Pentecostalism in Brazilian Diaspora (Stanford University Press, 2019).
In this remarkable book, Suma Ikeuchi presents a captivating ethnography of Japanese Brazilians (Nikkei) at the intersection of Asian return migration and Latin American Pentecostalism. Situated in the factories, neighborhoods, and churches of Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Ikeuchi’s study explains how the political, economic, and psychological dimensions of mobility and belonging shape this transnational community and its increasing number of Pentecostal converts. Although Christians account for only about 1% of Japan’s population, the emphasis on religion in this book is crucial for understanding the specific community it seeks to depict and also significantly expands the analytical approach to studying Asian return migration beyond the more common ethnoracial categories of identity and belonging. The book is accessibly and elegantly written, but it does not shy away from complexity. Ikeuchi worked with and among a group that is truly “betwixt and between” in terms of the contradictions of race, nation, religion, and even social class in Japan. The multiple intellectual frameworks required to make sense of the ethnographic situation, and the author’s ability to pursue and explain it with great detail, intimacy, analytical precision, and coherence, are a testament to its anthropological contribution beyond Asian Studies.
2020 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize honorable mention
Miriam Driessen, Tales of Hope, Tastes of Bitterness: Chinese Road Builders in Ethiopia (Hong Kong University Press, 2019).
In this pathbreaking book, Miriam Driessen details the lives of Chinese road builders, managers and workers in Ethiopia, and also explores Ethiopian responses to the Chinese. She probes into social class and generational differences amongst the Chinese, considers the circumstances that motivated them to go to Ethiopia, and analyzes their racial and national ideologies and attitudes, and the ways these buttress and sometimes contradict their social relations cross the racial divides. Finally, the book analyzes the strategies used by Ethiopian workers to alter working conditions. The study contextualizes the current situation within the larger context of changing Chinese/African relations over the decades from the Maoist era through the reform periods. In sum, the book builds on impressive fieldwork, and utilizes nuanced ethnographic detail in a particular case to explore the larger issue of Chinese/African encounters in the contemporary world.
Hsu Award Committee 2020: Chair Gordon Mathews (The Chinese University of Hong Kong), Nicholas Harkness (Harvard University), Ellen Oxfeld (Middlebury College), and Sasha Su-Ling Welland (2019 Winner of the Hsu Prize, University of Washington).
2020 Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist
Justin Haruyama, University of California, Davis
Reconfiguring Postcolonial Encounters: A Pidgin Language and Symbolic Power at a Chinese-Operated Mine in Zambia
In his sensitive portrayal of ethnic and racial relations at a Chinese operated mine in Southern Zambia, Justin Haruyama examines the place of the Chinese-inflected pidgin he calls “Shortcut English.” Haruyama conducted several years of fieldwork in churches, homes, workplaces and gambling parlors near the mines, and the richness of his fieldwork gives him a wealth of examples to draw upon when exploring the structures and praxis of this language. As a person of Asian (Japanese) and European descent, who speaks both English and Chinese, Haruyama was ascribed various social/national/racial identities in different settings. His presentation of these framings adds another layer of richness to his ethnography, allowing him to graphically show rather than just tell us about racialized social relations in Zambia. While the use of pidgins in many colonial encounters was taken as evidence of the intellectual deficiencies of colonial subjects, in contemporary Zambia locals usually speak English more fluently than Chinese mine owners and managers. The tables, in a sense, are turned, and mine workers frame the awkwardness and simplicity of Shortcut English as evidence of the cultural and moral deficiencies of their workplace superiors. Consequently, despite the economic and political power that China exercises in the region, Chinese mine owners cannot command the linguistic and cultural capital that accrues to Euro-American mine owners. By following the use and symbolic (de)valuation of Shortcut English, Haruyama simultaneously illuminates dynamics of social power in southern Zambia and debates in linguistic anthropology about the structure and colonial dynamics of pidgin languages. The richness of the ethnography and the multi-dimensional analysis of the paper make Justin Haruyama a deserving winner of the 2020 Society for East Asian Anthropology graduate student paper prize.
2020 Outstanding Graduate Student Paper honorable mention
Yifeng Troy Cai, Brown University
“Contested Moralities of Exchange: Shenjia (Self-Value), Neoliberal homoeroticism, and App-based Intimate-Monetary Exchange among Gay Men in Contemporary Urban China”
Mei-chun Lee, University of California, Davis
“The Hacker Minister: Translations of Openness between Resistance and Collaboration in Taiwan’s Digital Politics”
2020 David Plath Media Award – Untold (기억의 전쟁)
Bora Lee-Kil (2018, documentary, color, 79 minutes)
Synopsis (adapted from the film’s website):
Untold is a story about “warring memories” surrounding a civilian massacre during the Vietnam War. In the 1960s, South Korea fought in the Vietnam War as an ally of the United States. Korean soldiers conducted operations to root out communist insurgents, which led to the killing of large numbers of civilians. According to South Korea’s official history, the Vietnam War enable Korea to achieve rapid economic growth. The Vietnamese survivors’ experiences have gone largely unacknowledged and the massacre treated as if it never occurred. In central Vietnam, people continue to live with the memory of this brutal and horrifying event. Every February, villagers offer prayers and burn incense in various locations to console the victims in a ceremony called, “Dai Han (Korea) Commemoration.”
From the jury:
Untold is a powerful documentary that intimately explores a lesser-known part of the Vietnam War: the massacre of Vietnamese civilians at the hands of South Korean soldiers. With its compelling storyline, the film skillfully conveys the deep emotional trauma of the 1968 massacre without allowing the tragedy to become a gratuitous object of the cinematic gaze. The film is visually rich and ethnographically oriented, paying particular attention to the texture of individual lives, detailed personal narratives, and the important role of ritual in remembrance practices. Untold deepens our understanding of the global Cold War, its legacy, and the interlinkages between East Asian, Southeast Asian, and American neocolonialism/imperialism from a distinctly inter-Asian perspective. It will be an important resource for instructors teaching about Asia, civil society, and the politics of memory.
2020 Honorable Mention for David Plath Media Award – Sending Off (おみおくり)
Ian Thomas Ash (2019, documentary, color, 76 minutes)
Synopsis (adapted from the film’s website):
Sending Off follows the patients of Dr. Kaoru Konta and her team of nurses as they receive end-of-life medical care in their homes. Filmed over one year in rural Japan, the changing seasons provide a backdrop to the deepening relationships the patients form with their families as they reach the end of their lives.
From the jury:
Sending Off is a deeply moving documentary that brings an ethnographic lens to bear on the important, challenging, and often deeply private subject of end-of-life palliative care. The film follows a handful of households in a rural Tohoku community over the course of a year as they experience the end-of-life journeys of elder loved ones. In the process, Sending Off explores not just aging in Japan, but gender roles, the ethics of care, and the critical contributions medical professionals make in the lives of patients and their families. Sending Off offers a powerful visual companion piece to ethnographies of aging society, regional Japan, and the funeral industry. The film is unintentionally timely as well. In the context of the current COVID-19 global pandemic and the particular impact of the virus in institutionalized care settings, Sending Off provides an alternative modernity for how caregiving is understood and enacted in communities today.
2020 David Plath Media Award Committee: Chair Gavin H. Whitelaw (Harvard University), Zachary Howlett (Yale-NUS College, National University of Singapore), Young-a Park (University of Hawaii, Manoa).
2019 Prize Recipients
2019 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalist
Sasha Su-Ling Welland. 2018 Experimental Beijing: Gender and Globalization in Chinese Contemporary Art (Durham: Duke University Press).
Sasha Su-Ling Welland’s Experimental Beijing is a theoretically sophisticated account of gender and contemporary art with an ambitious scope. Based on nearly two decades of research and engagement, the book interrogates the rapid rise of Chinese contemporary art as a global phenomenon from the perspective of women artists. Welland presents contemporary art as a zone of cultural encounter, charting a radically different history based on the premise of feminist art as a relational epistemology. The book’s compelling analysis of the gendered art world in global/neoliberal China is beautifully presented through Welland’s fluid prose. The experimental practices of the women artists she studies are refracted through her own experimental ethnographic practices and engagement with diverse media (including her extensive use of halftone and full-color prints and accompanying website). Welland’s approach is creative and innovative, and her experience as a videographer and curator enriches her analysis. The Society for East Asian Anthropology commends Sasha Su-Ling Welland’s Experimental Beijing for its theoretical contributions, ethnographic complexity, and exciting experimentalism at the nexus of gender studies, art history, and the anthropology of East Asia.
Hsu Award Committee 2019: Chair Priscilla Song (University of Hong Kong), Satsuki Kawano (University of Guelph), Nicole Newendorp (Harvard University), and Young-a Park (University of Hawai’i).
2019 Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist
Graduate student Victoria Nguyen won Best Student Paper with her article titled “Designing Sustainability: Containment, Circulation, and Contingency in Beijing.” Honorable mention was given to Kaitlin Banfill’s “When the Han Came: Intergenerational Memory and History Making in Butuo County, Southeast China.”
2018 Prize Recipients
2018 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalist
Priscilla Song. 2017 Biomedical Odysseys: Fetal Cell Experiments from Cyberspace to China (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
In this meticulously researched study, Priscilla Song creatively synthesizes anthropological works on medical anthropology, science and technology, and China. This is accomplished through innovative methodology that captures an emerging medical regime by examining interactions between online and offline worlds as well as patients’ transnational journeys in search for cutting-edge treatments, Song makes visible this new terrain of medical practice, knowledge production and the community of care. In so doing, Song demonstrates how the nationalized policies and regulations have driven the emergence of such terrain that simultaneously defies and confirms these national boundaries of medical knowledge production and patient-care practice. The longitudinal data gained from the author’s extensive fieldwork are used effectively to support the argument developed in this study. Song’s ethnography provides a nuanced account of the interface between foreign patients’ journeys to China and ambitious Chinese clinicians’ culturally defined projects. By exploring the little-known worlds of neurosurgeons experimenting with fetal cell transplantation and patients living with neurodegenerative disorders in diverse societies, the book makes notable contributions to the anthropology of East Asia, the anthropology of science and technology, and medical anthropology.
Hsu Award Committee: Chair Yukiko Koga (City University of New York), Nicholas Harkness (Harvard University), Satsuki Kawano (University of Guelph), Jie Yang (Simon Fraser University).
2018 Theodore C. Bestor Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist & honorable mentions
“Affordances of Care,” Jieun Cho (Department of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University).
Honorable mentions, “Refusing to Leave: The Indigenous Pangcah/Amis Politics of Claiming Land in Urban Taiwan,” Tomonori Sugimoto (Anthropology Department, Stanford University) and
“Pluriprax Households in Modern China: Contested Family Rituals in a Shifting Religious Landscape,” Bram Colijn (Faculty of Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam).
Bestor award selection committee: Chair, Professor Joshua H. Roth (Mount Holyoke College), Assistant Professor Tami Blumenfield (Furman University), Associate Professor Elisabeth Schober (University of Oslo)
2018 David Plath Media Award – One Day We Arrived
Aaron Litvin and Ana Paula Kojima Hirano (2017, DVD, color, 80 minutes)
One Day We Arrived is a powerful example of ethnographic ‘long engagement.’ Compelling, nuanced, and well-edited, this classroom-ready documentary closely follows the lives of a group of “return” immigrants from Brazil to Japan over the span of decade. The directors develop a strong rapport with the film’s subjects, a relationship that enables the sharing of interior lives and intimate moments. Through a series of interviews, the film vividly captures the expectations and disappointments of Brazilian Japanese individuals and families as well as their integration into Japanese society. In sum, One Day We Arrived provides a sense of lives lived in relationship to transnational labor flows and nationalist ideologies of heritage and belonging.
2018 Honorable Mention for David Plath Media Award – Together Apart
Maren Wickwire (2017, documentary, color, 57 minutes)
Short, engaging and creatively filmed, Together Apart brings attention to transnational families and the effects of labor migration through the experiences of a Filipina mother and her daughter. The film carefully depicts the desires and pressures that push both women toward work in Cyprus and the forces that contribute to their separation. The director, Maren Wickwire, creates a multi-sited film that leaves space for appreciating the “imponderabilia of everyday life.” This film will be welcome as a teaching resource, rich in material for discussing family, gender, globalization, labor, consumption, and the role of technology in daily life.
2018 David Plath Media Award Committee: Chair Gavin Whitelaw (Harvard University), D.J. Hatfield (Berklee College of Music), Ayako Takamori (U.C.-Santa Barbara).
2017 Prize Recipients
2017 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalist
Yukiko Koga. 2016. Inheritance of Loss: China, Japan, and the Political Economy of Redemption after Empire (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute).
Inheritance of Loss is an exceptional ethnography, charting fresh territories in the study of trauma, memory, postcolonalism, and China studies. Based on long-term ethnographic research in three northeast Chinese cities, the book examines how these cities are turning colonial remnants of the Japanese empire into wealth-generating capital through the rhetoric of inheritance. Yukiko Koga explores the recent capitalization of colonial inheritance as a pivotal and underexplored site for current generations, both Chinese and Japanese, to encounter, confront, summon and reckon with complex pasts. Through the lens of colonial inheritance, China’s “transition” to a market-oriented economy is revealed as an integral part of a larger economy of inheriting—inheriting socialist modernity, inheriting colonial modernity, and the dynamics between the two in navigating what is to come. With innovative analytical and theoretical intervention, Koga elucidates the mechanisms and effects of the generational transfer of the remainders of colonial modernity. She brilliantly conceptualizes this process as the political economy of redemption, where the moral economy of seeking redemption for the unaccounted-for past is linked to the formal economy of exports, consumption and the citywide pursuit of middle-class dreams. Beautifully crafted out of rich empirical data, Inheritance of Loss offers nuanced analysis and critical frameworks that will inspire anthropologists and students to think creatively and deeply for decades to come. [citation by chair, Jie Yang, at award presentation]
Hsu Award Committee: Eleana Kim (U.C.-Irvine), Ayako Takamori (Marylhurst University), Jie Yang (Simon Fraser University).
2017 Theodore C. Bestor Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist & honorable mentions
“Marketized ‘Educational Desire’: Shifting and Reproduced Meanings of High-Education in Contemporary China” (Gil Hizi, University of Sydney).
Honorable mentions, “Human Embrace, Mechanical Hugs: Japanese Caregivers and Robotic Lifting Devices” (James Wright, University of Hong Kong) and
“Slow Construction” (Victoria Nguyen, University of Chicago).
Bestor award selection committee: Glenda Roberts (Waseda University), Jenny Chio (Emory University), and Andrew Kipnis (Australian National University).
David Plath Media Award – only awarded in even-numbered years
2016 Prize Recipients
2016 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalist
Jie Yang. 2015. Unknotting the Heart: Unemployment and Therapeutic Governance in China (Cornell University Press).
Unknotting the Heart is an extraordinary ethnography that charts new territory in our understanding of the ways in which neoliberal governance, psychotherapy, and affective labor come together to shape subjects and subjectivities during mass unemployment as former socialist-style industries in China transform into global manufacturers. Based on many years of in-depth fieldwork in urban China, Jie Yang explores the plight of laid-off workers as the state psychologizes their condition and promotes what Yang calls “fake happiness.” Jie Yang brilliantly shows the tension between the Chinese state’s “therapeutic governance,” which employs western-style psychology, and the workers’ own attempts to deal with the astonishing transformations taking place around them. Jie Yang shows how therapeutic governance disrupts existing values and habits by promoting self-enterprising and self-reflective subjects who are expected to fit current market needs. This process further genders the population, often in traumatic and disturbing ways. As external and connected selves are pushed to transform themselves into internal and self-reliant selves, the therapists, not surprisingly, solidify their position as Communist Party authorities. Their combination of political and therapeutic roles legitimates and naturalizes their psychological knowledge and authority. Unknotting the Heart is an innovative, ethnographically nuanced, and theoretically sophisticated book about the contemporary condition. It is anthropology at its best. This is a contribution to anthropology at large, and it will inspire anthropologists and students of all sub-disciplines and all regions to think creatively and deeply for decades to come.
Hsu Award Committee: Jong Bum, Manduhai Buyandelger (MIT), Glenda Roberts (Waseda Univ. Grad. School of Asia-Pacific Studies), Priscilla Song (Washington University)
2016 Theodore C. Bestor Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist & honorable mention
“Waste-Product Trading and Colloquial Urban Sociality in Kunming, China” (Adam Liebman, U.C.-Davis) and
honorable mention, “The Value of Emptiness: Zhengzhou’s Empty Houses and the PRC’s Housing Bubble” (Megan Steffen, Princeton University)
Bestor award selection committee: Carolyn Stevens (Monash University), SeaLing Chen (Chinese University of Hong Kong), Gordon Mathews (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
2016 David Plath Media Award – The Day the Sun Fell (Als die Sonne vom Himmel fiel)
Aya Domenig 2015, DVD, color, 78 minutes
This remarkable film begins as a personal quest to uncover the history of the director’s loving, yet enigmatic, grandfather, who was a physician for the Red Cross in Hiroshima the day of the bombing. Domenig powerfully melds that traumatic past with the contemporary nuclear devastation of the March 11, 2011 triple disaster, which took place during the course of the film’s production. Featuring compelling characters and a finely paced narrative, “The Day the Sun Fell” brings to light a repressed history of Japanese victims of the nuclear bomb and the medical personnel who served them, by following two elderly survivors, a doctor and nurse from Hiroshima. Delicately interwoven with these portraits are interviews with the filmmaker’s widowed grandmother. The film demonstrates the power of ethnographic cinema to capture a big story with intimacy and nuance, and would be effective for teaching courses on war, illness, trauma, nuclear culture, and contemporary Japan. (see IMDB.com)
2015 Prize Recipients
2015 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalist
Rian Thum. 2014. The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History. Harvard University Press
The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History is an extraordinary accomplishment that advances our understanding of sacred traditions of pilgrimage, local senses of history, and politics of nationalism. The book redefines the fields of Xinjiang history and Uyghur studies in a way that scholars in these fields will now have to take into account. It defines a manuscript genre, tazkirah, of which little notice has been taken, and it uses this genre to work out a unique geographical history of the region.
With solid grounding in the fields of both history and anthropology, the book utilizes ethnography in a way that exemplifies how one can write history with an anthropological edge. Sacred Routes makes an excellent read: the writing is superb and it is full of fascinating information and narrative about this important but understudied region. Indeed the relative paucity of historical sources on the region in Turkic languages that Thum works with (rather than Chinese) may well be a source for the book’s creative methodology and a reason the book is so good. This is a unique scholarly work that will last and will be read by multiple audiences that include not only those in Uyghur and Chinese studies but also anthropologists, historians and religious scholars working in Asia and beyond.
Hsu Award Committee (with these remarks) made by Junko Kitanaka (Keio University), Erik Mueggler (U. Michigan), and Robert Oppenheim (U. Texas-Austin)
2015 Theodore C. Bestor Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist – tied award
“Modeling History: How Chinese Local Officials and Designers Meet in Museums” (Leksa Chmielewski Lee, U.C.-Irvine) and
“Negotiating Masculinities through the Game of Distinction: A Case Study of MOBA Gamers at a Chinese University” (Siyu Chen, U. Oslo)
Bestor award selection committee: Sealing Cheng (Chinese University of Hong Kong), Joshua Hotaku Roth (Mt. Holyoke), and Gordon Matthews (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
– full text of selection committee remarks downloadable (MS-Word document) at http://tinyurl.com/seaa2015awards
David Plath Media Award – only awarded in even-numbered years
2014 Prize Recipients
2014 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalist
Manduhai Buyandelger – Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Memory, and Gender in Contemporary Mongolia
Tragic Spirits gives us a mesmerizing depiction of the revival of shamanism among the Buryats of Mongolia under tragic circumstances. Facing life-threatening economic misfortunes in an era of neoliberal reform, Buryats turn to shamans to explain the causes of their hardships. The shamans explain their clients’ bad fate in terms of neglected ancestral spirits and it is here that the subtlety and brilliance of Manduhai Buyandelger’s ethnography becomes apparent. Because of multiple forced migrations and historical displacements, at the hands of Tsarist and Soviet Russia, the Ch’ing dynasty Chinese empire and the socialist government of Mongolia, Buryats have often lost the history and the genealogies of their own families. The shamans’ search for neglected ancestral spirits enables the reconstruction of familial histories. Based on years of fieldwork in her home country, Buyandelger interweaves complex narratives of state violence and suppression with the voices of ancestral spirits, shamans, and their clients to produce a moving portrait of a long suffering people. By analysing how the gender dynamics of the present influence the activities of male and female shamans, she demonstrates the importance of gender to the reconstruction of history. While giving us multiple portrayals of Buryat life, Buyandelger theorises new ways of thinking about history, memory, and forgetting that are applicable to a wide range of societies. Buyandelger’s wide reading in anthropology enables her to make many nuanced comparisons to the work of shamans and the making of history in other places. Above all, she shows that history is a continual work in progress. Her work will inspire anthropologists concerned with problems of memory, forgetting, suppression, and the creation of historical knowledge for decades to come. It is for these reasons that Tragic Spirits richly deserves the 2014 Francis L.K. Hsu Book Prize.
Hsu Committee: Andrew Kipnis (The Australian National University), chair; Laura Miller (University of Missouri-St. Louis), William Silcott (Wichita State University)
2014 Theodore C. Bestor Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist
2014 David Plath Media Award – Playing with Nan
Dipesh Karel (University of Tokyo) and Asami Saito (Media Help Line, Kathmandu)
2013, HDV, color, 88 minutes
Using a predominantly observational mode, punctuated with interviews and conversations, Playing with Nan tells a powerful story about global migration. The directors’ careful filmmaking and editing unpack the paradoxes and complexities of migrant labor in and between Asian countries. With its attention balanced sensitively between the receiving country (Japan) and the sending country (Nepal), this intimate portrait of lives, ambitions, and relationships sheds light on an aspect of globalization that is less frequently addressed in scholarship and news media. We all strongly agreed that this film would contribute immensely to courses on migration, global flows, and contemporary Japan.
2014 Honorable Mentions for Plath Media Award
Rupert Cox and Angus Carlye – Kiatsu: The Sound of the Sky Being Torn
We are excited to recognize “Kiatsu” for an honorable mention in this year’s David Plath Media Award Competition. This work sets a new, challenging example of the possibilities for collaboration between anthropologists and artists, particularly in its use of sounds and screens for investigating how one family near Narita airport in Japan negotiates the infrastructures of modernization. We encourage everyone to also explore their blog, where Cox and Carlyle detail their production process. – http://airpressureblog.com/
David Novak – Sounds of Japan’s Antinuclear Movement
This is a very detailed and well-told story of musical responses to the 3-11 triple disaster. The podcast and website are accessible to general audiences, with an impressive amount of information packed into a 15 minute podcast. The website is a very useful feature and models the possibilities of future media scholarship that combines videos, podcasts, texts, and visual images. We all would have liked to see even more materials linked online, given the potential of this platform for collecting, curating, and sharing resources.
[podcast description 8/2013, excerpt] Ethnomusicologist David Novak brings you to the noisy scenes of Japan’s 2012 antinuclear protest movement in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukushima, mixing commentary with field recordings, musical examples, and interviews about the role of arts and culture in the ongoing political crisis. Source, http://post.at.moma.org/content_items/251-podcast-the-sounds-of-japan-s-antinuclear-movement
2014 Plath Media Award committee: Jenny Chio (Emory University), Chair; Timothy Gitzen (University of Minnesota), Eleana Kim (UC Irvine), Nathaniel Smith (University of Arizona)
2013 Prize Recipients
2013 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalists
The 2013 Francis LK Hsu Book Prize was jointly awarded to Junko Kitanaka (Keio U) for her book Depression in Japan: Psychiatric Cures for a Society in Distress, as well as to Judith Farquhar (U Chicago) and Qicheng Zhang (Beijing U of Chinese Medicine) for their book Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing Life in Contemporary Beijing.
Based on extensive research in psychiatric institutions in Tokyo and the surrounding region, Kitanaka’s fascinating book analyzes how depression has become a national disease and entered the Japanese lexicon through the “marriage” of biological and societal narratives in psychiatric language as well as how the emergence of psychiatry functions as a force for Japan’s social transformation. Farquhar and Zhang’s book is a marvelous product of their cross-national and cross-cultural collaboration in research and writing. Their book describes Beijing residents’ everyday practices of yangsheng, a self-cultivation through multifarious activities such as taijiquan, dancing, and medicinal cuisine, and explicates the cultural logic that channels these everyday activities of ordinary people in nurturing their lives.
2013 Theodore C. Bestor Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist
The 2013 Theodore C Bestor Prize for Outstanding Graduate Paper was awarded to Lesley R Turnbull (Cornell U) for her essay entitled “In Pursuit of Islamic ‘Authenticity’: Localizing Muslim Identity on China’s Peripheries.” In this essay, Turnbull examines the self-production of Hui-Muslim identities in Kunming and delineates the complex reality of identity politics in China.
2013 David Plath Media Award – Peasant Family Happiness
Jenny Chio (Emory U) received the 2013 David Plath Media Award for her documentary Peasant Family Happiness. Chio’s film documents ethnic tourism in China and observes the negotiation between the local minorities and visiting Han tourists (see film trailer at http://vimeo.com/33633767)
2012 Prize Recipients
2012 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalist
Andrew Kipnis (Australian National University), Governing Educational Desire: Culture, Politics, and Schooling in China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2011)
Governing Educational Desire is a book with a courageous agenda. Andrew Kipnis draws on many years of detailed ethnographic research on education in China to engage his readers in a complex discussion of how to understand the persistent and overwhelming social drive for educational achievement in China today. This is a far-reaching topic. Educational desire pervades our understanding of Chinese culture and social life as well as in East Asia at large and the diaspora, including, for example, the model minority discourse in US. It is with this apparently East Asian inescapable attachment to educational desire that Kipnis examines one of the most fundamental constructs of our discipline, “culture.” Thus, Governing Educational Desire goes well beyond an explanation of why educational desire is so all-encompassing in Zouping, China. By placing his in-depth analysis of the local and national social, political, and historical processes that fuel this desire in Zouping within the context of similar processes both regionally in East Asia and also globally, he succeeds in interrogating the cultural underpinnings of educational desire and detailing the complex ways in which this desire both shapes and is shaped by processes of governing, or what Kipnis calls “conducting conduct.” Through this rich discussion, Kipnis not only allows us a fascinating glimpse of the daily regimen of learning that takes place in one Chinese locality, but he also traces the effects of literary masculinity and the Confucian examination system throughout the East Asian region, muses with delicacy on the complex effects of universal social phenomena in particular local contexts, and, finally, contributes to contemporary educational debates on the role of memorization and rote learning both within and beyond China. In naming Governing Educational Desire the recipient of the 2012 Francis. L. K. Hsu Book Prize, we applaud Kipnis’ bold approach to the understanding of educational desire in contemporary China, East Asia, and the world, and his ambitious and insightful ethnography.
Hsu Committee: Nicole Newendorp, Chair (Harvard); Nancy Abelmann (Illinois); Ian Condry (MIT)
2012 Theodore C. Bestor Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist
Chigusa Yamaura (Rutgers University), From War Orphans to Brides: Localizing Cross-Border Marriages between Japan and Northeast China
This ethnographic study of Japanese-Chinese cross-border marriages in a Northeast China town examines how local narratives of Japanese colonial history are mobilized to legitimize marriage migration. At the heart of Yamaura’s analysis is the way Chinese and Japanese informants construe the relationship between Japan and China based on their distinctive histories. Japanese involved with the transnational marriage stressed Chinese people’s “familiarity” (shinkin kan) or “friendliness” (yukōuteki) to Japan, based on how local Chinese incorporatedJapanese war orphans into their families following World War II. Chinese informants, however, stressed the “blood ties” (xueyuan guanxi) between Japan and China, based on the fact that many residents of the town were descendants of the Japanese and therefore had living relatives in Japan. These differentiated frameworks legitimate transnational marriage brokering, in which local Chinese women marry Japanese men, often migrating to Japan afterwards. By focusing on the differentiated frameworks for interpreting Chinese-Japanese marriages, the paper addresses long-standing problems in the discipline regarding cultural conceptualizations of kinship and kinship behavior, in this case assessing appropriate types of affinity. As Yamaura’s paper shows, neither the sheer facts of economic inequality between cross-border marriage partners, nor the official histories of their respective nation-states, are adequate to understand this practice. Yamaura’s close attention to context, sensitive use of the theoretical literature, and fine-grained ethnography epitomize the goals of the Bestor prize and the fine work emerging in East Asian anthropology today.
Bestor Committee: Maris Gillette, Chair (Haverford); Nicholas Harkness (Harvard)
The 2011 SEAA Hsu, Plath and Bestor Prize finalists were presented with their awards (an SEAA certificate of achievement and an SEAA mug) at the SEAA Business Meeting/Cash Bar (7:30-9:30, 18 November).
2011 Francis L. Hsu Book Prize finalist:
Li Zhang (UC Davis), In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis, Ithaca: Cornell University Press (2010)
Hsu Committee: Joshua Roth, Chair (Mt. Holyoke), Cathryn Clayton (2010 Hsu finalist, U Hawaii-Manoa) and Nancy Abelmann (UI Champagne-Urbana)
Little more than twenty years ago, the vast majority of urban Chinese lived in state-owned housing organized around work units. Today, China boasts a rate of private homeownership comparable to that of many industrialized countries. Li Zhang’s exemplary study explores this remarkable transformation from the ground up in all its contradictions, including the destruction of entire neighborhoods and dispossession of lower-income inner city residents behind the curtain of “harmonious socialist society.” Rich in ethnographic detail, In Search of Paradise introduces us to the dilemmas facing residents of upscale gated communities in Kunming as they find that their inward-focused, middle-class aspirations for a “private paradise” require them to engage in outward-focused collective action to protect their newfound property rights from rapacious developers. Clearly written and theoretically sophisticated, it is a book that will appeal to all those with interests in cities, class, and rapid social transformation.
2011 David W. Plath Media Prize Co-finalists:
Karen Nakamura (Yale), “A Japanese Funeral”
Mark Patrick McGuire and Jean-Marc Abela (shugendōnow.com), “Shugendō Now”
Plath Committee: Jennifer Robertson, Chair (U Michigan), Zeynep Gursel (Society of Fellows, U Michigan and filmmaker), and Beth Notar (Trinity College)
“A Japanese Funeral”: This short documentary allows viewers to participate in a Japanese funeral following the unexpected death of a 39-year-old man in his sleep. While the film shares no information about how the director came to have such open access to the event and family in question, it is an example of an aspect of ethnographic film often left undiscussed – a richness and intimacy that comes from sustained fieldwork preceding the shooting. Not only is the anthropologist there and given access once the death occurs but there is a sense that she has ties to the community that extend far beyond the three-day event the film documents. In other words, the film allows one to see rather than to stare at a Japanese funeral. The film should also be commended on its brevity because the disciplined editing contributes to the film being an experiential ethnography rather than an expository documentary.
This documentary has much to commend it, particularly the beautiful cinematography and variety of characters who we meet. The visual juxtapositions between urban and rural settings are striking. While the stories of individual practitioners and their motivations behind turning to Shugendō are interesting particularly when rendered in their own words, the real strength of the film is what the viewer gleans about the religious leaders in the Kumano mountains. The directors’ long term relationship with Kosho results in our seeing multiple aspects of his life and his intermingling of sacred and profound rituals.
2011 Theodore C. Bestor Graduate Student Paper Prize finalist:
Emily E. Wilcox (UC Berkeley), “Arts of Truth: The Epistemological Paradox of Chinese Dance”
Bestor Committee: Sabine Frϋhstϋck, Chair (UC Santa Babara), Anru Lee (John Jay College, CUNY), C. Julia Huang (National Tsing Hua University,Taiwan), and Orna Naftali (The Hebrew University, Israel)
Committee’s statement: This is an intriguing, well-written paper on a relatively underexplored topic. Wilcox suggests that despite acknowledged evidence of the historical disruption and contemporary multiplicity of Chinese cultural tradition, Chinese dance practitioners and dance scholars uphold the idea of cultural continuity as a central principle of their work. A threefold question guides her analysis: (a) According to what logic of representation and cultural authenticity do these dances satisfy a claim to being Chinese? (b) Why is such a claim so important in the context of Chinese dance-making in the socialist era? And (c) How have Chinese socialist conceptions of realistic representation and artistic merit impacted understandings and practices of Chineseness in Chinese dance.
These questions are convincingly pursued throughout the paper, in which Wilcox combines evidence from ethnographic data, a thoughtful analysis of textual and visual materials, and a sophisticated and engaging theoretical discussion. The paper is a fine study of the inextricable connection between socialist sensibilities and indigenous Chinese elements in the making of socialist Chinese culture.
On behalf of the Selection Committee for the Theodore Bestor Prize for the Best Graduate Student Paper submitted to SEAA in 2010 I am pleased to announce the winner. The committee unanimously selected Chun-Yi Sum’s essay, “An Exercise for the People’s Republic: Order and Discipline in the Morning Ritual of a Chinese Primary School” for the prize. Congratulations!
Sum uses ethnographic data collected at a primary school in rural China in order to examine the exercise of state power (and failure thereof) through the institutionalized enforcement of radio gymnastics. She illuminates the subjectivation mechanisms at work through the daily repetitions of bodily movements, the collective effervescence promoted in the exercise, the structure with which it frames the school schedule, and the context within which the exercise takes place. Acknowledging that subjectivation remains ambivalent and imperfect, she argues that, during the process of “becoming,” it is not beliefs and ideology, but bodily practices and ritual forms that constitute the most durable and efficient instrument to subject making. Suggesting a shift in analytical emphasis from meanings to practices, the essay constitutes a fine contribution to the scholarly understanding of the politicization of the body and its relationship to state control in China.
Chun-Yi Sum has broad interests in China’s development of nationalism and civil society under the currents of globalization, modernity, and political changes and is researching how national identity if experienced among Chinese youth. She was born and raised in Hong Kong, a city, which prides itself on being an interactive platform for Chinese traditions and multiple global forces. She received her BA in sociology and anthropology at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and is currently a graduate student at Boston University.
A link to Sum’s full-text paper can be found here: http://www.bu.edu/anthrop/graduate/students/c-sum/
The 2010 Hsu Prize was awarded to Cathryn Clayton for her book Sovereignty at the Edge: Macau and the Question of Chineseness (Harvard East Asian Monograph Series, Harvard University Press, 2009). Here is the committee’s commendation: “Rare is a book that combines beautiful, flowing prose and elegant argument as is the case with Clayton’s monograph. She chose a propitious time to explore the issues of sovereignty and the question of Chineseness: the year prior to the transfer of sovereignty from Portugal to the People’s Republic of China in 1999. Notwithstanding guarantees of continuity, it was an anxious time when Portuguese administrators worried that their legacy would soon be forgotten. Clayton writes with a keen eye for the ironies of the Portuguese dilemma—the desire to promote a favorable perspective of their own long presence in Macau through public relations efforts, educational initiatives, and museum projects without appearing to whitewash a history of colonialism. The Portuguese answered this dilemma with an emphasis on a loose style of rule, what Clayton dubs a ‘sort of sovereignty,’ one evident in a laissez-faire multiculturalism over four centuries that stood in stark contrast starkly with the more overt British style of imperial rule. Chinese residents of Macau, however, could only scoff at what they considered the ineptitude of Portuguese rule, as crime rates soared unchecked. The eve of the sovereignty transfer also was a time of anxiety for Macanese (locally-born residents of Portuguese ancestry), who reacted with a burst of existential angst over having to choose either Chinese or Portuguese citizenship. Clayton provides incisive readings of the popular press, museum displays, informally circulating historical pamphlets, street signs, song lyrics and theater productions, which, along with her extensive interviews in both Cantonese and Portuguese, makes for a rich portrait of a frenetic transition-era Macau, in which the sedimented legacies of a long colonial rule were unsettled by the prospect of an unambiguously Chinese future. In so doing, Clayton has contributed to the anthropological understanding of sovereignty. Sovereignty at the Edge will serve as a model of scholarship for years to come.” Clayton is Assistant Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
An Honorable Mention was awarded to Jesook Song’s book South Koreans in the Debt Crisis: The Creation of a Neoliberal Welfare State (Duke University Press, 2009). The committee offered this commendation: “Song provides a beautiful ethnography of the social and subject forms that emerged with the IMF crisis, arguing that neoliberal technologies and ideologies led to new distinctions between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ needy, new definitions of productive and desirable labor, and heightened discourses of family values. The book brings together stories of people experiencing homelessness on the streets of Seoul, examples of how discourses of family values denied the presence of women ‘on the streets,’ and arguments about how youth were incited to engage in self-development and self-management. Based on fieldwork in a group aiming to help people hit by the crisis, Song carefully explains how a particular kind of state aid emerged with the IMF crisis, what she identifies as a ‘neoliberal welfare society’ that focused on rehabilitating people for productive capitalist work. Particularly compelling is the way Song draws on both Marxist analyses and Foucauldian analytics to make sense of the production of these social forms. While offering a critique of how this welfare regime facilitates the production of workers for the capitalist system, she also asserts that we must understand how individuals, civil society groups, and non-governmental actors are engaged in (neo)liberal forms of governing and self-making. Moreover, Song turns these very ‘research’ questions back on the researcher, asking how committed student activists – such as herself – became complicit in the neoliberal regime. The committee wishes to note this book’s important theoretical contribution to East Asian anthropology – a successful linking of Marxist and Foucauldian modes of analysis and forms political critique, which also turns this critique upon scholars themselves.” Song is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto.
The 2009 Francis L.K. Hsu Book Prize was awarded to Nicole Dejong Newendorp, Harvard University, forUneasy Reunions: Immigration, Citizenship, and Family Life in Post-1997 Hong Kong (Stanford U Press, 2008). Uneasy Reunions is an elegant ethnography of the 20- and 30-something Chinese mainland wives who join their Hong Kong husbands after typically 5-10 years of waiting to cross China’s internal border. These women and their passage, shaped by their interactions with Hong Kong social workers at a social service center, offer a window on the making of political and cultural difference across this internal border, and on the politics of belonging in Hong Kong more generally. Nicole DeJong Newendorp skillfully guides us through these women’s passage: from mainland villages, to their “ordinary lives of waiting” in Guangdong Province where they begin their married lives away from their husbands, and to their often downward mobility in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon area. Uneasy Reunions’ Hong Kong is “nervous” and “orderly” — cultural regimes that elide these migrant wives, many of whom long for the less frenzied, less neoliberalized post-Socialist mainland. We meet the government-funded social workers who are charged with tutoring these women to become “Hong Kong people” against the insult of the myriad of negative images of mainland people; and we meet their in-law families which often barter in the same stereotypes. This study of political difference – divergent “privileges and goals for relating to state and society” – is provocative for thinking about political borders of all varieties and the myriad lives that traverse them.
Uneasy Reunions achieves what all ethnography aspires to: rich and textured portraiture of a corner of the human experience that speaks to the largest issues and experiences of our times. Beautifully rendering the crowded apartments that these women settle into in Hong Kong , for example, allows Newendorp to document how these material spaces thwart the women’s migration dreams. A nuanced account of the social workers’ attempts to tutor the women about “healthy” and “harmonious” family life reveals the stereotypes and technologies of Hong Kong citizen-making. Uneasy Reunions strikes a perfect balance: careful ethnographic portraiture, well-chosen scaffolding of relevant area and theoretical literature, and pitch-perfect reference to other global instances of migration across political difference.
We applaud Newendorp for this parsimonious, evocative, inspired, and analytically impeccable contribution to the ethnography of East Asia.
We are delighted to recognize C. Sarah Soh’s achievement in The Comfort Women: Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan (University of Chicago Press, 2008) with Honorable Mention in the 2009 Hsu Prize competition. In this first book-length anthropological examination of Korean comfort women, Soh seeks to de-essentialize and historicize comfort women’s circumstances while at once providing readers with their personal narratives of lifelong suffering. This research and these narratives reveal aspects of the comfort women’s realities and experiences not captured by what Soh calls the “paradigmatic story of sex slavery.”
Comfort Women is a courageous example of engaged anthropology on a sharply contested issue. Drawing on historical documents and multi-sited ethnography, Soh demonstrates that Korean comfort women cannot be caricaturized as sex slaves of Japanese imperialism, but that rather they were actors and victims in a diversified economy of sexual services with a long history of institutionalization in various forms in both Japan and Korea. With this analysis, Soh reframes the issue from a nationalist anti-colonial grievance to a broader critique of the institutionalized domination of women.
We thank C. Sarah Soh for this excellent example of how anthropological research can contribute to an intensely debated public issue. We commend her for her intellectual rigor and courage.
Junjie Chen, Department of Anthropology University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is the winner of the 2009 SEAA Theodore Bestor Best Graduate Student Paper Prize. The award committee found Junjie Chen’s paper on “Performing the Family Planning Project in Post-Socialist China: An Interpretive Approach to (Re)producing Class” a richly layered and well-crafted account of the front- and back-stage machinations of a family-planning event in a northeastern Chinese village. Chen skillfully weaves a nexus of intersecting motives and forces, including the one-child policy, exceptions to the policy, moral scandals, political-economic corruption, class disparities, local-national government tensions, and personality politics. The paper, based on dissertation fieldwork conducted several years ago, is a refreshingly unblinking account of the “showbiz” propensities of ostensibly “humane, reformist” projects originating in Beijing and implemented in disingenuous ways at the local level.
David Palmer is the winner of the 2008 Hsu Book Prize for Qigong Fever: Body, Science and Utopia(Columbia University Press).
The 2008 Bestor Prize recipient is Kathryn Goldfarb, University of Chicago doctoral student for “Making the Oral Contraceptive ‘for Me’ in Japan: Signifying Subjects with Bodies“.
The Society for East Asian Anthropology’s 2007 Francis L.K. Hsu Book Prize was awarded to Tamara Jackafor Rural Women in Urban China: Gender, Migration, and Social Change, M.E. Sharpe Press, 2005.
Jay Sohn is the winner of the 2007 David Plath Media Award for “Shocking Family”.
John Cho is the winner of the Theodore Bestor Outstanding Graduate Paper Award for “The Wedding Banquet Revisited: ’Contract Marriages’ Between Korean Gays and Lesbians”.
Matthew Erie has been awarded an honorable mention for the Bestor Award for “Property Law, Public Interest, and the New Media in China: The Hard Case of “The Toughest Nail House in History”.
The Society for East Asian Anthropology’s 2006 Francis L.K. Hsu Book Prize was awarded to Susan Orpett Long for Final Days: Japanese Culture and Choice at the End of Life, University of Hawaii Press, 2005.
The Bestor Prize for the Outstanding Graduate Paper in East Asian Anthropology for 2006 was awarded to Shannon May for her paper, “The Work of Development: National Agendas, Local Income and Knotted Knowledge in Huangbaiyu.”