AAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies

The AAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies represents the highest honor the AAS can bestow.

Originally named the "Award for Distinguished Service," in 1992 it was renamed the "AAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies." It is intended to honor outstanding scholarship and service to the field. The award follows the same rotational pattern by area that is used for other nominations. The sitting President (corresponding to the council submitting nominations for the award) traditionally has had the most input in determining the award, which ultimately is approved by the AAS Board.

2018 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


David Chandler has had an enormous impact on the study of Cambodian history and Southeast Asian studies more broadly. Educated at Harvard College (AB), Yale University (AM) and the University of Michigan (PhD, 1974), he has also held academic positions at Cornell University, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has served as a senior advisor at the Center for Khmer Studies and an expert witness for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, as well as a consultant for USAID, US Department of Defense, Asia Foundation, Amnesty International, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

His numerous books and articles, translated into several languages, span Cambodian history from pre-colonial times to the present. His book, A History of Cambodia, now in its fourth edition, has attained a global readership. He has served as co-editor of the Southeast Asia series at the University of Hawaii Press and has worked on curriculum for secondary and higher education in Cambodia. Generations of students of Cambodia remain grateful for his mentorship.

For all his contributions, David Chandler is a most worthy recipient of AAS’ highest honor, the Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies Award.

2017 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


James L. Huffman is a master interpreter, scholar, teacher, and professional good citizen. In addition to his three volumes on the history of journalism in Japan, he has provided an incredible service to the field through Modern Japan: A History in Documents, Japan in World History, Japan and Imperialism: 1853-1945 (an AAS publication), and Modern Japan: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism, which allow non-specialists to bring Japan into larger historical discourses on empire and global history. Huffman writes lucidly and accessibly, without jargon, and his analysis presents Japan as significant in ways that do not obscure the issues behind a “cultural uniqueness” framework. As his forthcoming social history of “the people without names” shows, Jim’s fundamental commitment is to understanding the experiences of ordinary people in times of great change. Now emeritus from Wittenberg University, he is the recipient of several teaching prizes, including the Ohio Academy of History’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

Within the field, Jim probably is best known for mentoring several generations of younger scholars, but he has also contributed his good judgment and professionally generous assessments through formal service, such as on the American Advisory Committee of the Japan Foundation, the Program Committee of AAS, the Midwest Japan Seminar, and various programs to train schoolteachers about East Asia. He is also the former Chair of the AAS Editorial Board and served as an AAS Distinguished Speaker.

For both his individual scholarship and dedicated service to the field, James L. Huffman is richly deserving of the Association for Asian Studies’ highest honor.

2016 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


As a scholar and teacher, Lyman Van Slyke has had an enormous impact on generations of China scholars. Van Slyke earned his Ph.D. in Chinese history at the University of California, Berkeley, before joining the Stanford History faculty in 1963. Throughout his career, he has served as a bridge between Asian and US academic worlds, directing Stanford’s Center for East Asian Studies and helping to establish the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies in Taipei, where he encouraged students to immerse themselves in Taiwanese society.

Van Slyke was a pioneer of the history of the early Chinese Communist party. His first book, Enemies and Friends: The United Front in Chinese Communist History (1967), shaped the field for decades to come. His editions of The China White Paper (1967), The Chinese Communist Movement: A Report of the United States War Department, July 1945 (1968), and the report on the Marshall mission to China (1976) stimulated much further research. His contribution on the Communist movement to the Cambridge History of China (1986) is a model of perception and clarity. He was also a scholar who sought to share his wide knowledge with a broad readership. Yangtze: Nature, History and the River (1988) was a late-career departure that today still stands as one of the few longue durée environmental studies of Chinese history.

For these reasons, the Association for Asian Studies is pleased to honor Lyman Van Slyke with the Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies Award.

2015 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


Frederick M. Asher, Professor of Art History at the University of Minnesota, is a specialist in South Asian Art. He began his distinguished career with The Art of Eastern India: 300-800 (1980). That book’s focus on an understudied area challenged long-held assumptions in the field by calling into question the traditional dynastic classifications of Indian art. His many publications have continued to challenge and expand the contours of the study of early Indian art. They have explored the world of the ancient Mauryas; the trade in works of art in India and beyond; the issue of copying and originality in Indian art; and the conflicts over contested religious sites. His work most recently has called for reframing the study of South Asian visual culture in the context of a wider Indian Ocean region. His forthcoming book, Nalanda: Situating the Great Monastery (2015), looks especially at the monastery’s link with East Asia and Southeast Asia. Beyond his research, Professor Asher has worked long and energetically to make South Asian Art accessible to a broader public.

Professor Asher’s scholarship and mentoring have inspired the next generation of scholars. His role in shaping professional networks and organizations has been unparalleled. He has served in leadership positions in numerous academic organizations, including the American Institute of Indian Studies, and as a member of several editorial boards. His unique warmth and personal generosity have been at the heart of all his contributions.

The 2015 AAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies recognizes Professor Asher’s signal contributions to South Asian Art history. 

2014 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


Dr. Charnvit Kasetsiri (PhD Cornell, 1972) has been a key figure in the development of the history profession in Thailand over the past forty years, and a force in building up networking and cooperation among scholars in Southeast Asia.

He taught at Thammasat University from 1973–2001 where he also served as the Chancellor in 1995–96. A historian of fourteenth century Siam and modern Thai political history, he wrote The Rise of Ayudhya (Oxford University Press, 1976), as well as a dozen monographs and over 100 articles in Thai. He also translated a few classics of English literature such as The Wizard of Oz into Thai. In addition to directing several research projects and organizing hundreds of conferences and public forums, he edited and supported the publications of more than 100 books to advance scholarship and make it relevant to the public.

Dr. Kasetsiri also actively promoted Southeast Asian studies and transnational networks of scholars in the region. He was one of the founders of the SEASREP (Southeast Asian Regional Exchange Program) which, since 1995, has supported collaborative programs in the region including travelling classrooms and the exchange of scholars to study each other's languages. Dr. Kasetsiri has received several international recognitions of his work including the Fukuoka Award for academic excellence in 2012.

Harry J. Benda observed that intelligentsia in the region actively engaged in Southeast Asian countries' political development and social justice. Dr. Kasetsiri is living proof of that assertion. He has been a voice of conscience for democratization, freedom of expression and social justice in Thailand throughout his career up to the present day.

2013 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


The 2013 AAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies is awarded to David W. Plath, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and leader of the Media Production Group for which he has designed, scripted, hosted, narrated, edited, directed, and often filmed their productions. Among his many video titles are: Preaching From Pictures: A Japanese Mandala (2006) an interactive DVD with materials displaying and explaining the Mandala of the Ten Worlds; Under Another Sun: Japanese in Singapore (2003) about Japanese residents of contemporary Singapore; Makiko's New World (1999), dramatizing family life in Kyoto in 1910; Fit Surroundings (1993) on abalone diving women on Japan's Shima Peninsula; and Candles for New Years (1992) a portrait of the Lahu of northern Thailand, produced with David's wife and frequent collaborator Jacquetta F. Hill.

In 2000 the Society for East Asian Anthropology established the David Plath Media Award, given biennially for the best new educational media project on Asian societies and cultures. David Plath taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for 35 years, published six books and more than 60 articles in anthropology and Japanese studies, and is perhaps best known for Long Engagements: Maturity in Modern Japan (Stanford University Press, 1980).

The 2013 Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies award celebrates David Plath's long engagement and many contributions to teaching about Japan at all levels and through many media. His work helps us to better understanding ourselves and our subjects throughout our intellectual life course.

2012 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


Charlotte Furth, Professor Emerita of History at the University of Southern California, began her distinguished research career with the book Ting Wen-Chiang: Science and China's New Culture. That study and her edited volume Limits of Change helped to establish that conservative Chinese thinkers, rather than being mired in a stagnant tradition, were fully engaged in fashioning a Chinese modernity. In the 1980s, Furth turned her attention to gender and sexuality in the late imperial era, eventually devoting herself to the history of medicine and its role in structuring gender norms. Her foundational work A Flourishing Yin: Gender in China's Medical History 960-1665 (UC Press, 1999) explored the thinking and practice behind fuke, women's reproductive medicine, through medical case histories, classical writings, handbooks, and elite essays. Furth's recent work on the cultural history of Chinese science examines what medical case histories can teach us about scientific styles of reasoning in the imperial period.

Professor Furth taught for 23 years at California State University at Long Beach and for 18 years at the University of Southern California, also holding visiting or research posts at Beijing University, Bard, Harvard, Princeton, the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing, and Academia Sinica in Taiwan. She served on many editorial boards and for eight years as the editor of Late Imperial China. A scholar who has opened up new domains of inquiry, a mentor who has inspired and engaged with younger scholars, and a gifted editor, Charlotte Furth richly deserves the AAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies.

2011 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


Sumit Sarkar, Professor Emeritus of Modern Indian History in Delhi University, India, began his distinguished research career with The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal that, several reprints later, continues to be reissued. His continuing work on nationalist politics made him a leading authority in the study of anti-colonial nationalism. Later, his exemplary immersion in vernacular sources led him to pioneer the field of social history in India in the collection published as Writing Social History (Oxford, Delhi, 1997). Having begun his career studying varieties of nationalism in India, he ended it with a call to look beyond the horizons of the nation-state. In yet another provocative collection of essays titled Beyond Nationalist Frames: Postmodernism, Hindu Fundamentalism, History (Permanent Black and Indiana University Press, 2002) Sumit Sarkar's treatment of the historical growth of the Right-wing in Indian politics led him to locate it as a vibrant and growing force in conditions of economic globalization.

Having been spurred to study the historical antecedents of South Asian ethnocentrism and militarism, Sarkar pushed his own limits by studying the ways in which gender entered into and inflected these various brands of parochialism in a volume he co-edited with Tanika Sarkar, Women and Social Reform in Modern India (2008).

Professor Sarkar began his teaching career at Burdwan and Kolkata Universities in Bengal. With the exception of short-term teaching assignments at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Sussex, he devoted the majority of his time to mentoring and teaching at the Department of History in Delhi University from 1976 till 2009.

2010 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


The 2010 award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies honors the New Zealand-born and Cambridge-educated historian of Southeast Asia, Anthony J. S. Reid.

To describe Reid as an historian cannot do justice to the interdisciplinary breadth demonstrated in his 9 books, 23 edited volumes, and 16 monographs or published lectures. Having begun his career with a path-breaking study of colonial contestation in northern Sumatra, Reid went on to write on the Indonesian revolution and the collapse of traditional rule. In his middle career, Reid's two-volume Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450–1680 (1988 & 1993) demonstrated his capacity to use the local and the regional to pluralize our understanding of the global. Reid inspired an entire generation of Southeast Asianists to examine comparative issues—colonialism, capitalism, nationalism, gender relations, and conversion to world religions—while never losing sight of the irreducible dignity of local worlds.

Reid is also a teacher and institution builder. He has advised a small legion of Southeast Asianists in Australia, Europe, the United States, and East, South, and Southeast Asia. He served as the Founding Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore. Over the course of this remarkable career, Professor Reid somehow managed never to lose the youthful sparkle and gentle humor that make participating in his seminars a quiet joy. The AAS honors and thanks Anthony Reid with the 2010 Distinguished Contributions Award.


2009 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


Martina Deuchler has recently retired from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, after more than thirty years of teaching at Zurich, Harvard, Cornell, the Academy of Korean Studies, and Sogang University.

Professor Deuchler has been a singular force in advancing the study of Confucian culture and society in premodern Korea. Her pioneering scholarship has done much to expand our understanding of the lives of women during the Choson dynasty. Her magnum opus, The Confucian Transformation of Korea: A Study of Society and Ideology, was translated into Korean and profoundly affected the study of Confucianism and its impact on traditional Korea within Korean academic circles as well.

Professor Deuchler worked indefatigably to establish the field of Korean Studies in Great Britain, Europe, and North America. She was a founding member and former president of the Association for Korean Studies in Europe (AKSE), and also served on the erstwhile SSRC/ACLS Joint Committee on Korean Studies, as well as the Committee on Korean Studies of the AAS. In 1995, Professor Deuchler was honored with the Republic of Korea's Order of Cultural Merit (Eungwan), in 2006 was elected Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and in 2008 was the first recipient of the Korea Foundation Award for outstanding contributions to the development of Korean Studies internationally.

For her reflective scholarship, her unstinting collegiality, and her tireless efforts in field-building, at a time when Korean Studies was in its infancy in the West, the AAS is honored to recognize Martina Deuchler with the 2009 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies.


2008 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


The distinguished contributions award is presented this year to Zhang Zhongli, in recognition of his outstanding scholarship and service to the field.

Situated at the crossroads of economics and history, Dr. Zhang's research on late imperial and Republican China is a model of inter-disciplinary scholarship. His landmark studies of the Chinese gentry, together with his later studies of foreign enterprises in Shanghai, have exerted a profound impact on our understanding of these key topics in modern Chinese economic history.

Professor Zhang demonstrated unusual dedication and courage in giving up a comfortable post at a major American university to return to the challenges of China in the late 1950s—just as the Great Leap Forward was getting underway.

After the Cultural Revolution, Dr. Zhang was appointed President of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS). Under his generous, energetic and forward-looking leadership, SASS opened wide its doors to foreign scholars, helping to promote an international fluorescence of Shanghai studies stretching from Berkeley to Cambridge to Paris and Tokyo.

This is the first time that our highest award has gone to a scholar based in China, as is only fitting for an Association striving to become more international in its activities and membership.

AAS President Elizabeth Perry looks forward to presenting the citation personally to Professor Zhang in Shanghai in September of this year on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.


2007 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


Professor John F. Richards recently retired from the Department of History at Duke University after a distinguished career of almost forty years. His record of achievements is second to none in the profession: as the writer, editor or co-editor of twelve books; as the author of countless articles; as the organizer and intellectual guru of many path-breaking conferences and workshops; as the teacher and mentor of undergraduates and especially graduate students; and as one of the driving forces behind the development and rise of South Asian Studies, environmental history, and world history in the United States and abroad.

Richards' remarkable scholarly breadth and depth are reflected in his many publications, ranging from his pioneering work on Mughal India, which culminated in 1993 in a magnificent volume entitled The Mughal Empire in The New Cambridge History of India series, to his magisterial 2003 study of The Unending Frontier: Environmental History of the Early Modern World. A committed area studies scholar, John has also always dedicated himself to opening up new intellectual frontiers, particularly through the pursuit of comparative and global frameworks of inquiry.

"Frontiers," in fact, is a recurring theme in Richards' work, as his students, colleagues, and friends recognized in honoring him with a retirement conference last fall, which was appropriately entitled "Expanding Frontiers in South Asian and World History" and offered sessions on all the themes and topics that he has helped us understand better: state-building and frontiers of power; frontiers of settlement and environmental change; cultural frontiers; frontiers, trade and drugs; and frontiers and world history.

The AAS is honored to recognize John F. Richards with the 2007 Distinguished Contributions Award.


2006 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


The 2006 AAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies honors the Indonesian historian Taufik Abdullah. At a time when the world seems beset by religious and cultural misunderstanding, Taufik Abdullah has consistently stood forward as an example of intellectual and personal integrity and as a respected representative of moderate Islam.

Born in West Sumatra, he was trained in Southeast Asian history at Gadjah Mada University and Cornell, and eventually became Director of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). During the Soeharto regime Taufik was prominent among those intellectuals who suffered reprisals for their protests against the regime's treatment of Indonesian citizens. He never faltered, however, in his insistence that Indonesian history required constant re-examination, nor in his support for local scholarship on Asia and Southeast Asia in particular. On innumerable occasions he has taken the lead in explaining to the Indonesian public the limits and potentialities of the historical discipline, and how historical inquiry can make sense of the country's complex and sometimes troubled past. The recipient of numerous international awards and honors, the academic imprint of Taufik Abdullah at home and abroad is huge, not only in terms of his writings and lectures but in the support he has given to colleagues and junior scholars and in his ability to serve as a cultural bridge between Indonesia and the West.

The AAS salutes Taufik Abdullah for these achievements and for his untiring commitment, even in difficult times, to our shared and enduring goals of promoting international scholarship and effective cross-cultural communication.


2005 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


As Al Pacino said recently in awarding an Oscar to Sydney Lumet, "It's not the years, it's the quality." Well, the years matter some, since otherwise we could have honored Edwin McClellan in 1957, when his glorious translation of Natsume Soseki's Kokoro changed the landscape. To paraphrase the redoubtable Howard Hibbett, McClellan took a great Japanese novel and made it a great English novel. And this before anything like a field in modern Japanese literature had been established here.

The tectonic shift in our lifetime was driven by a scholarship at once formidable in range and perfect in pitch. So alive to the power of words and so stern in choosing them, Edwin McClellan made art his work and his work art. The masterpiece is Woman in the Crested Kimono. There a fierce brain met a fierce soul to reconfigure a difficult, diffuse classic by Mori Ogai as a piercing homage to a woman.

Ed's work extended remorselessly to the classroom, where he trained dozens of graduate students now teaching across the country. Many of us know of the famously frightening seminars—a novel in Japanese a week—that refused patience with shallow conceptions of a literature too important for dabblers. Yet the rigor also derived from what his students report as a respect for them so genuine that it overshadowed everything else. "There was a great love in this," writes Alan Tansman, "of a rare kind."

Finally, Ed's administrative contributions to virtually every organization concerned with Asian Studies are beyond measure. Perhaps his success in the board room is unsurprising, since he has the virtues welcomed there—tact, civility, silence. Still, he also has better virtues, dangerous in board rooms but the bedrock of enchantment—naughty candor, astringent wit, above all an appetite for joy and a desire to give it.

So, dear Ed, we send with this award tonight all gratitude and esteem. It is a small thing for you but a great thing for us, since you set our sights.


2004 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


This award recognizes Prof. Hsu for his life-long dedication to the advancement of Asian Studies in the international arena. His 30 years of service as University Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh was characterized by the highest standards of teaching and professional mentoring, as evidenced by his many students who now teach at North American and Asian universities.

His visiting professorships in China and Hong Kong helped build academic bridges across the Pacific and promoted international understanding. On the scholarly front, Prof. Hsu's classic studies, Han Agriculture and Ancient China in Transition, revolutionized the field of Chinese agrarian history.

Since 1989 Prof. Hsu has served as Executive Director of the Chiang Ching Kuo Foundation's American Advisory Board. In that capacity he has been instrumental in promoting scholarship on China and Asia. His support of new teaching positions and research institutes, as well as pre-doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships, has been essential for the creation of a new generation of scholars on both sides of the Pacific.

The AAS Board of Directors is proud to acknowledge Prof. Cho-yun Hsu for this, the highest award the association can offer. Cho-yun Hsu is an exemplary scholar, a dedicated teacher, and a selfless role model of exceptional moral authority. He has made the world a better place for all who endeavor to pursue a life of scholarship.


2003 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


Romila Thapar studied for seven years in London, on the cusp of Indian Independence, and returned to India with her PhD, to teach for ten years at the University of Delhi, before joining the eminent team of historians that founded the Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. In twenty-one years at JNU, her scholarship and teaching on ancient India elaborated her contribution to Independent India and to historical studies around the world.

Her research on transformations of society, culture, and political environments in ancient North India provide an empirical and conceptual framework for studying the interaction of social and political change in the process of early state formation, not only in India, but across Eurasia.

Her critical reading of evidence from archaeology, mythology, literature, philosophy, ritual texts, inscriptions, folklore, and other sources — always in light of contemporary social science ideas, and always using comparative insights from other world regions — represents an enduring intellectual contribution to historical studies everywhere.

Her legacy as a teacher is immeasurable, for it is no exaggeration to say that any scholar with a serious interest in ancient India is her student in one way or another.

The Association for Asian Studies thus bestows its Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies on Professor Romila Thapar, to celebrate her career and to fortify her students — past, present, and future — for struggles ahead to write history that meets her standards of scholarship.


2002 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


As a student of the relatively new field of anthropology in the 1930s, Jane Richardson Hanks discovered the 'tremendous thrill' of doing fieldwork. She first developed her skills as a fieldworker with researches among Native American peoples. Since the early 1950s she has deployed these skills extraordinarily effectively in researches carried out primarily in Thailand.

In 1951 Jane, together with her husband, Lucien M. Hanks, Jr., joined a Cornell project to study the changes in the village of Bang Chan located near Bangkok. Jane and Lucien returned to the field first in rural central Thailand and then among upland peoples in northern Thailand numerous times for extended periods from 1951 until 1979.

Jane drew on the Bang Chan research for such works as "Reflections on the Ontology of Rice" and Maternity and Its Rituals in Bang Chan that are recognized by most Thai specialists as seminal in the study of gender in Thai society. Her subsequent fieldwork among the Akha, Yao and other upland groups in Thailand was significantly shaped by her earlier work among Kiowa Apache and Crow in North America. The emphasis in her earlier work on situating indigenous peoples in broader sociopolitical and ecological contexts is particularly evident in Tribes of the North Thai Frontier published this year. This work, like many of the publications under her name, was co-authored with her late husband. Jane and Lucien were (and in many ways still are) one of the most extraordinary scholarly teams in Asian studies.

Jane has been, as May Ebihara in a biography of Jane has written, "a model and mentor for others" through her "written work and personal generosity." In recognition of her seminal and continuing influence in the shaping of scholarship on mainland Southeast Asia, Jane Richardson Hanks is hereby designated as the 2002 recipient of the Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies award.


2001 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


James B. Palais is one of those rare scholars who can claim the title of "founding father." Energetically and indefatigably, for more than three decades he has devoted himself to building the field of Korean history in the United States. He has served as a founder and co-editor of the Journal of Korean Studies as well as general editor of the Cambridge History of Korea, and his two monographs on the history of state and society during the Choson period have already become classic works in the field. His reputation for open-mindedness, his insistence on high standards, and his willingness to consider all points of view have won the respect and admiration of colleagues in Korea and the United States. An honest and dedicated historical scholar, he has shown himself fearless in pursuit of evidence, following the sources wherever they led, even if that meant abandoning a cherished hypothesis or trashing a manuscript draft.

The dozens of graduate students he has taught know from his comments on their papers and draft chapters that he is as demanding of them as he is of himself. They also know him to be a supportive mentor, always generous with his time, always willing to listen and help, always ready for Socratic give-and-take. But his high seriousness of purpose never dampens his enthusiasm or his sense of humor. What another founding father, Confucius, once said of himself could be said as well of James Palais. He is "a person who forgets to eat when he is enthusiastic about something, forgets all his worries in his enjoyment of it, and is not aware that old age is coming on."


2000 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


It is most appropriate, in this year when the Association has pledged to do more "border-crossing," that the annual award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies be given to a person who at every phase in her professional life has been crossing borders.

Ono Kazuko began crossing borders as a research scholar at Kyoto University at a time when married women with children rarely aspired to a scholarly career. Her first major work, a biography of Huang Zongxi, was followed by a wide-ranging series of publications treating important aspects of late imperial and modern Chinese history. Her best-known work in this country is probably her history of Chinese women since the Taiping Rebellion, published in English translation in 1989 under the title Chinese Women in a Century of Revolution. Her most recent book, a massive study of the Donglin Movement and the Restoration Society in the late Ming, appeared in 1996. Her cumulative published contributions to knowledge on topics ranging from the late Qing penal code to marriage and the family in the May Fourth period, include eight books, two edited volumes, many translations, and fifty articles.

Professor Ono, meanwhile, was crossing other borders. Seemingly unconstrained by her manifold personal and professional obligations, she reached across national boundaries to help visiting foreigners of all stripes who turned up at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at Kyoto University asking for her help. U.S. scholars who were the beneficiaries of this largesse as graduate students grew up, took jobs, and went on to send their own graduate students into the embrace of Professor Ono's boundless academic hospitality. Following a pattern familiar to female scholars the world over, Professor Ono responded to the pleas of her own female students in the 1970s and developed the first course on the modern history of Chinese women ever offered in Japan's universities. Since that time, research societies devoted to the study of Chinese women and their history have enjoyed a vigorous life in Japan. Professor Ono is widely known in those circles as a senior mentor and generous patron of young scholars interested in gender issues.

In her most recent and boldest border-crossing, Professor Ono, as head of the Women's Faculty Discussion Group at Kyoto University, lent her personal and organizational support to female staff members accusing a senior male professor of sexual harassment. Her courageous stand, and her recent vindication in the Japanese courts, are widely credited with making the human rights of women in the workplace an integral concern of professional ethics in the Japanese academy.

For these many reasons, the Association for Asian Studies is proud to recognize the multiple achievements of Professor Ono Kazuko, by presenting to her this award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies.


1999 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


In 1997 Eleanor Zelliot retired after teaching for 28 years at Carleton College. As a professor of history there, and through her work with the highly successful ACM India Studies program in Pune, she taught and trained hundreds of undergraduate students to think and write about the history of South and Southeast Asia, and to make the most of the rich intellectual and cultural opportunities available to them in India.

Eleanor's work as a scholar has focused on the life and legacy of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the framer of the Constitution of modern India and the founder of the Republican Party of India. Ambedkar was a leader of the Dalits, people who in his day were called "Untouchables." Eleanor's historical work on Ambedkar, on the Buddhist conversion of the Dalits for which he was largely responsible, and on the subsequent cultural and literary movements has "changed the paradigm" in the study of South Asia. She has done this by focusing scholarly attention on the view of Indian culture and society from below and on the vibrant social and cultural life of contemporary Dalits.

Eleanor's interaction with her subject has been engaged and personal as well as industrious and cogent. She traveled to India during the period of the American Civil Rights movement; and her chosen topic and later involvements have grown out of her attempts to understand both South Asia and North America. Where many scholars would fear losing their academic objectivity by becoming too deeply involved with their subject, Eleanor has been a model example of moving in close without losing perspective. She has maintained her distance well enough to be invited by the Indian government as a visiting scholar and, at the same time, she is deeply respected by Dalits, who remain at the painful and contested bottom of India's social and economic life.

Eleanor Zelliot has made an important difference to the ways in which Americans and South Asians understand South Asia and America. With her dedication to teaching and scholarship about Asia, with her love of and long-term involvement in the life of the people she has studied and written about, and with her commitment to furthering the common work of articulating understandings of South Asia, she embodies the ideal of service to our profession.


1998 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies


One measure of a scholar's mark on learning is the number of "ships" his work has launched. More ships have left more ports in the past twenty years bearing intellectual ballast supplied by Benedict Anderson's work than any other Asianist or social scientist of his generation. Not a few of these ships have veered wildly off course and sailed to destinations Anderson would probably not recognize and might perhaps disavow. No matter, the originality and breadth of his work has altered, for good, the navigation charts which orient our intellectual work.

How many scholars have an oeuvre that richly repays reading ten, twenty, or thirty years after publication? Known best for Imagined Communities, the fact is that Anderson's work on charisma, on revolutionary Java, on Javanese ideas of power, on millennial movements, on cartoons and novels, on Thai literature, and on Philippine elite history still make powerful reading. Like all of Anderson's work, they glow with a rich wit and irony, with a breadth of scholarship, and, always, a completely novel eye for the heart of the matter. A body of work as varied and subtle as Anderson's defies easy summary, but one of his abiding concerns is to demonstrate the historical power of the ideas that human actors have created and which shape their conduct above and beyond a rudimentary materialism. He has managed the rare feat, perhaps because of his own place at the margins of standard narratives, to see cultures from inside and outside simultaneously. His legendary graduate seminars are a reflection of this unique blend of sympathy and critique.

Scholars of Asia are the beneficiaries not only of his writing and teaching, but of his political courage as well. Banned for many years from Indonesia for his work on the coup of 1965 and his criticism of the Suharto regime, a trenchant opponent of the Vietnam War, and a constant advocate for human rights in East Timor, his role as a public intellectual is a moral example we would all do well to heed in a hyper-professional world.


1997: Eleanor Hadley

1996: K. C. Chang

1995: Joseph W. Elder

1994: Lian Tie Kho

1993: Maruyama Masao

1992: Wing-tsit Chan

1991: Edward C. Dimock, Jr.

1990: Oliver William Wolters

1989: Francis B. Tenny

1988: Eugene Wu

1987: Clifford Geertz, John K. Galbraith, Catherine A. Galbraith

1986: Ronald Philip Dore, Maureen L.P. Patterson

1985: Derk Bodde, J. William Fulbright

1984: Milton B. Singer, Francis X. Sutton