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Journal of Asian American Studies 6.2 (2003) 207-208

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Cultural Studies Book Prize Awardee1

Cultural Compass: Ethnographic Explorations of Asian America, edited by Martin F. Manalansan IV (Temple University Press, 2000).

Award Committee: (chair) David L. Eng, Gayatri Gopinath, Nayan Shah

Martin F. Manalansan IV's Cultural Compass: Ethnographic Explorations of Asian America is a stunning collection of essays that maps out an expansive terrain of Asian American ethnography. In so doing, this groundbreaking anthology collapses the distinctions between "native" and "foreign," inside and outside, home and the field, subject and object, and ethnographer and informant. Manalansan's collection offers a kaleidoscope of ethnographic topics and approaches, while investigating the critical predicaments as well as possibilities that arise when Asian Americans choose to write about our own communities. "Co-ethnic" or "native" ethnographic research not only provides intellectual flexibility and openness but also underwrites new theoretical and critical approaches to empirical research. In this manner, Cultural Compass helps to "decolonize" and to rethink many of the anthropology's most prized methods of investigation, most naturalized processes of "observed reality." [End Page 207]

Each study in Cultural Compass—ranging from Korean nail salons in New York City to Filipino beauty pageants in southern California, from Cambodian immigrant medical practices to arranged marriages between Miao women in China and Hmong refugee men in the United States—opens up new areas of inquiry in Asian American studies, while deepening and invigorating the intellectual project of critical anthropology at a moment of renewed interest in ethnographic methodology in Asian American studies. Manalansan's deft editorial vision organizes this burgeoning field and highlights compelling theoretical questions for both Asian American studies and anthropology. As he states in the introduction to Cultural Compass, "A critical ethnography of Asian America enables multiple strategies and readings that are productive and expressive of political struggle, cultural critiques, and social change—that is, it includes processes of home-making and the creation of new worlds for peoples." This collection powerfully points the way for imagining these new homes and new futures for us.

— David L. Eng
Rutgers University


1. This award was not presented at the 2002 awards ceremony, so the book was recognized in 2003 instead.



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