- Cultural Studies
Committee Members: Kandice Chuh, Gayatri Gopinath
American Tropics: Articulating Filipino-America by Allan Isaac
The Ruptures of American Capital: Women of Color Feminism and the Culture of Immigrant Labor by Grace Hong
American Tropics: Articulating Filipino-America exemplifies the best of recent works in the broad field of American hemispheric studies. This book holds tremendous significance for multiple fields—American studies, Asian American studies, and postcolonial theory among them—and models the kind of thoroughly grounded and well-conceived comparative work that will become progressively more important to studies of U.S. literatures and other cultural forms. Perhaps especially in this era when narrow academic specialization is increasingly the norm, it is distinctive how well Allan Punzalan Isaac demonstrates the huge advantages that a broad base of learning and an interdisciplinary methodology make to furthering knowledge. More than simply a study of a group of texts, Isaac's book in this way specifically inaugurates new critical paradigms for the study of U.S. cultures.
Isaac makes a strong case in American Tropics for recognizing how the United States has relied on a set of tropes and narratological practices—what he calls an "imperial grammar"—as a crucial part of its strategy of national identity formation [End Page 229] vis-à-vis the disavowal of its colonizing practices. The book makes clear that its multidisciplinary range and interdisciplinary methodologies are necessitated by the "breadth of U.S. imperial discourse and depth of the American postcolonial imagination" (vi), as he puts it. The work meets its stated objectives with great success, first, by offering persuasive accounts of the aestheticization and regulation of Philippine-U.S. relations and Filipino American identity constructions and, second, by executing comparative work that makes clear lines of affiliation and intersection among seemingly discrete histories and social identities.American Tropics stands to be a work that will influence the emergence of new bodies of research and help set the terms of the debate on American cultural politics. Because of his incisiveness, deep intellectual engagement and expansive theoretical and conceptual reach, the AAAS Cultural Studies Book Prize Committee is proud to award this year's prize to Allan Punzalan Isaac for his book, American Tropics: Articulating Filipino-America.
The Ruptures of American Capital: Women of Color Feminism and the Culture of Immigrant Labori, the committee's selection for an honorable mention, is exemplary of an innovative approach to the interconnections of gender, race, class, sexuality, and ethnicity. Grace Hong's use of feminist, literary, and historical genres and texts is nuanced and sophisticated especially in the way she charts the shifts in capitalist formations from the national to the global. She deftly deploys the works of feminists of color combined with a cultural materialist account of how property becomes the pivot for the mobilization of contradictory and unequal processes of subject-making under capitalism.
Grace Hong weaves a very persuasive argument about race, gender and the economy through cultural productions. Utilizing texts from Twain and Dos Passos to Virramontes and Hagedorn, she maps the contours of capital and culture that shifts radically with the transformation of these formations from Fordist to post-Fordist, and from national to global. She brilliantly argues that the propertied subject is constituted through state protectionist interventions, and is eventually subsumed under new conditions in global neoliberal capitalist expansion in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Moving from the travails of the propertied individual in late 19th century to the predicament of the dispossessed, primarily racialized immigrant women, Grace Hong articulates not only a narrative of the past but, more importantly, sets the foundation for a more complex analysis of present-day U.S. neocolonial and imperial exploits. Finally, Grace Hong astutely offers the idea that the movement of capital, cushioned by the universalizing ethos of liberalism and constructed upon inequality, enables global expansionist practices and makes U.S. imperial chauvinism not only possible but inevitable. [End Page 230]