Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies Award

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.

2021 Honoree: Nancy Abelmann (Posthumous)

Nancy Abelmann
Nancy Abelmann

The Association for Asian Studies honors the legacy of Nancy Abelmann (1959-2016) with this posthumous award in recognition of her pathbreaking research on Asia, as well as her work on the Asias within the United States. Abelmann served as Harry E. Preble Professor of anthropology, Asian American studies, and East Asian languages and cultures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she also served as Associate Vice Chancellor for Research from 2009-2016.

A very brief mention of her published works demonstrates the breadth of her topics and concerns: Echoes of the Past, Epics of Dissent: A South Korean Social Movement (University of California Press, 1996), The Melodrama of Mobility: Women, Talk, and Class in Contemporary South Korea (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2003), with John Lie, Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots (Harvard University Press, 1995), and The Intimate University: Korean American Students and the Problems of Segregation (Duke University Press, 2009). These works represent not only her zest for ethnographic scholarship, but also her commitment to social justice.

Nancy Abelmann’s professional achievements are many, not the least of which was her intense mentoring and shepherding generations of scholars in the United States, Korea, and elsewhere. In bestowing this award upon her, AAS honors the ways in which she touched people with a spirit of generosity that can best be reflected by the ripple effects of her inspiration. It is this combination of scholarship, personal responsibility, and social justice with a heart that comprise Nancy Abelmann’s distinguished contribution to Asian Studies.

2021 Honoree: Norma M. Field

Norma Field
Norma M. Field

The Association for Asian Studies honors the contributions of Norma M. Field, the Robert S. Ingersoll Distinguished Professor in Japanese Studies Emerita in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

Her contributions to the field of Japanese and Asian Studies are extraordinarily wide-ranging and encompass the traditional academic endeavors of research, teaching, and service, as well as a deep commitment to social justice and activism. While her early scholarship centered on classical Japanese literature, she is also an astute critic and translator of modern and contemporary works. In the 1990s Field authored two innovative semi-autobiographical works that provided incisive commentary on key social and political issues of the day.

Field continues to publish articles on literature, culture, and politics in Japanese and in English, in the popular press and in scholarly journals, on a range of topics including the atomic bombings of Japan, nuclear power and weaponry, and the 3/11 disaster and its aftermath. She has shaped the field not only through her published scholarship, but through her deep and lasting impact as a teacher and mentor; outside the classroom, she has brought together academics, activists, teachers, and students to examine critical issues of global concern. In sum, Norma Field offers a model for engaged scholarship which crosses disciplines, methodologies, and geographical boundaries to bring together scholars and citizens in order to recognize the value of lived experience through a humanitarian approach to research.

Previous Honorees

Full citations for honorees from 1998 to 2018 can be read here.

2020: Patricia Buckley Ebrey

2019: Sylvia Jane Vatuk

2018: David Chandler

2017: James L. Huffman

2016: Lyman Van Slyke

2015: Frederick M. Asher

2014: Charnvit Kasetsiri

2013: David Plath

2012: Charlotte Furth

2011: Sumit Sarkar

2010: Anthony J.S. Reid

2009: Martina Deuchler

2008: Zhang Zhongli

2007: John F. Richards

2006: Taufik Abdullah

2005: Edwin McClellan

2004: Cho-Yun Hsu

2003: Romila Thapar

2002: Jane Richardson Hanks

2001: James B. Palais

2000: Ono Kazuko

1999: Eleanor Zelliot

1998: Benedict Anderson

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