American Chinese Restaurants Hidden Stories

Jenny Banh's picture
Call for Publications
January 31, 2017 to July 1, 2017
United States
Subject Fields: 
Asian American History / Studies, Asian History / Studies, Chinese History / Studies, Social Sciences, Women's & Gender History / Studies

Hidden Stories of American Chinese Restaurants: Family Narratives, Interracial Interactions, Space-Labor, and Consumption



Call for Papers


There are more Chinese restaurants in America than Wendy, McDonalds, and Burger Kings combined. Various conceptualizations of Chinese food around the globe, and in the United States in particular, point to a decentralized cuisine that questions feelings of authenticity, hyperreality, and the segregated yet creatively multicultural localization. Chinese restaurant food is a powerful node in global networks, a fantasy that participates in China and American Dreams, but there is a huge academic gap in looking behind the façades. This book seeks not to outline or define American Chinese restaurants, but seeks to interrogate and/or question, through anthropological, labor, and ethnic studies lenses, the production and representation of a multiplicitous American Chinese restaurant  phenomena. This book is an backstage tour of what really is behind your orange chicken, broccoli beef and cream cheese wontons.  The focus will be on labor, gender, multiple-migrations, food Americanization, family struggles, worker, travels, Chinese and non-Chinese diasporas labor, poverty, discrimination and grit.

Considering critical and ethnographic approaches to food, labor production, space, consumption, and representation, some broadly framed questions for this volume include: How have analyses of Chinese American restaurants utilized critical race theories, feminist perspectives, globalization or studies of food production, and what particular vectors of intersectionality have been neglected or invisibilized? Is intersectionality a useful concept in thinking about Chinese American restaurants? How do notions of space, labor, and consumption play into the conception of Chinese American restaurants as simulation or simulacra? How have relationships between various spaces and places produced particular notions of American Chinese restaurants as fragmented or unified, bounded or fluid? How have global tensions and global-local relations been understood through exploration of Chinese restaurant labor? What is the value or role of the anthropological and ethnic studies perspective in relation to those of other disciplines (sociology, history, ethnic studies, or cultural studies, or others) which have theorized and represented American Chinese food, and what are points of comparison or conflict? How can American Chinese restaurants be conceptualized in a way that highlights resilience and agency in the face of particular forms of exploitation or suffering, and what are the unique, political struggles that are often, or not, recognized in shaping American Chinese food?

There are various conceptualizations of Chinese food around the globe, and in the United States in particular, point to a decentralized cuisine that questions feelings of authenticity, hyperreality, and the segregated yet creatively multicultural localization. Chinese restaurant food is a powerful node in global networks, a fantasy that participates in China and American Dreams, but there is a huge academic gap in looking behind the façades at the Chinese American restaurant family. This book seeks not to outline or define or give a history of American Chinese restaurants, but seeks to show the familial stories of Chinese American families, their personal labor struggles, and perseverance. Personal narratives or oral histories of Chinese Restaurant workers are especially desired and appreciated.

Additionally, we would like to look at the ways the Chinese American restaurant shapes identity of children and the US perception of what it means to be a Chinese American. Does it add value or reduce their experience ability to be perceived as “American”? What about non-Chinese who open Chinese restaurants? We are also interested in other ethnicities that open Chinese restaurants in the United States such as Italians, Jewish, Vietnamese, Koreans, Mexicans, Oaxacans, etc We are also interested in the widest American Chinese Restaurant net such as: recipes, photos, sketches, paintings, and family pictures of American Chinese restaurant life.




All Authors must get full permission to cite, record and publish any narratives that they record.

We invite submissions on a wide range of topics that may include but are not limited to the following:


·       First person narratives from Chinese restaurant families are Chinese and other ethnic groups

·       First person narratives from children of Chinese Restaurant families

·       Inter-Chinese or Indo Asian Chinese restaurant narratives

·       Interracial Narratives of other ethnic groups consuming Chinese American food such as African American, Jewish, and Italian populations

·       College students consuming Chinese food in the food courts

·       Mexican and Central American restaurant workers in Chinese Restaurants

·       African American and Jewish Consumers

·       Chinese and Latino menu fusions

·       New wave immigrant post 1965 who open Chinese restaurants

·       Images of Chinese American Menus

·       Images of Chinese American restaurant families

·       Recipes of American Chinese dishes

·       photos, sketches, paintings, poems, and family pictures

·       Images of Chinese American Restaurants

·       migrant communities and migrations

·       interethnic and gendered labor

·       Chinese Bus

·       transportation to Chinese restaurants (i.e., Chinese Bus)

·       China to the United States

·       Fresh off the Boat depictions of American Chinese restaurant families

·       race and social formation

·       education of second generation of Chinese worker

·       children of Chinese restaurant workers

·       gentrification of New Chinese restaurants driving out older restaurants

·       violence and conflict

·       human trafficking

·       Chinese gangs extortion

·       fried rice, crab ragoon, orange chicken

·       American Chinese menu and fonts

·       ways of consumption

·       localization, and globalization

·       aesthetics, media, art

·       Chinese and Mexican food fusions

·       Present Mexican labor of restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley

·       Undocumented Chinese Labor

·       Chinese and Mexican hybrids food (ie Kung Pao Burritos)

·       Chinese and Korean or other ethnic food hybrids

·       Chinese American restaurants in Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean

·       Healthiness of American Chinese food Vs Chinese Food from China

·       American Chinese food and African American/Jewish Consumers

·       greater American Chinese Restaurant labor and cuisine into Mexico and Latin American

·       Sexual Minorities and gender studies

·       marriage patterns and domestic partnerships

·       ethnic enclaves/ethnoburbs

·       Chinese Restaurants for Chinese Vs non-Chinese populations

·       Asian bodies and food

·       social and environmental justice

·       citizenship of labor

·       Famous Chinese American Chefs such as Martin Yan, Ken Hom and Cecilia Chiang; and new restauranteurs like Peter and Lisa Chang, Jason Wang, Vivian Ku, and Danny Bowien.

·       police and military interactions with American Chinese restaurants

·       activism and protest connection to food

·       tourism and chineese food

·       East, West. Midwest American Chinese restaurant differences

·       Monterey Park, 626,

·       affect

·       human rights and humanitarianism

·       memory, time,

·       lottery ticket numbers associated with fortune cookies

·       localization and globalization

·       Language

·       Chinese grocery stores revitalization of Southern towns

·       youth and childhoods in Chinese resturants

·       digital worlds and cyberspace

·       film industry depictions of American Chinese Restaurants (i.e., Rush Hour, Big Trouble in Little China,)

·       economy of local small towns

·       American Chinese restaurants in connect to American Chinese Grocery stores

     Women Stories in the Resturants

·       Intolerant and tolerant Racial climates

·       Environment-Space of lone Chinese restaurants in the Midwest or small towns


Abstract Submission Deadline:

Abstracts should be 500 words and sent with author contact, affiliation, CV, and a 1-paragraph biographical statement.

Email one submissions to BOTH emails:,  and 

Submissions Deadline: April 30, 2017

Acceptances May 30, 2017

First Draft Deadline:  September 30, 2017

Second Draft Deadline: November 30. 2017

Final Draft Deadline: Dec 30, 2017

Total Word Limit: 6,000-7,000 words total (including footnotes, bibliography)

(And must be in Chicago Style, (approximately 15 pages and 2 pages of notes and references)

Please read McDonalds In East Asia edited by James Watson (Stanford University Press, 2006) as a guide. (No footnotes and bibliography in the back only). We are presently in conversation with Routledge Press to be our publisher and we would be interested in publishing in Chinese as well.



About the Editors


Jenny Banh is an assistant Professor at California State University, Fresno in Anthropology and Asian American studies. She earned her BA from University of CA, Los Angeles, MA from Claremont Graduate University and PhD from University of CA, Riverside. Her research examines sweatshops, race, labor, Hong Kong, globalization, popular culture, and postcolonial studies. She is the author of the chapter, Barack Obama or B Hussien: Post Racial Debate in Boston Legal (McFarland, 2012). Her current US research examines marginalized students in higher education investigating non-traditional college students’ successful traits and barriers. Her edited volume Anthropology of Los Angeles: Place and Agency in an Urban Setting (Lexington/Rowman and Littlefield) was published January 2017.



Haiming Liu is a professor of Ethnic and Women Studies at California Polytechnic University, Pomona. He received his doctorate from University of California, Irvine.  He is an expert in China and Chinese American herbalists, food, restaurants, globalization and migration. He has authored From Canton Restaurants to Panda Express: A History of Chinese Food in the United States (Rutgers University Press, 2015) and The Transnational History of a Chinese Family: Immigrant letters, Family Business (Rutgers University Press, 2005).



Contact Info: 

Jenny Banh, PhD

Assistant Professor in Asian American and Anthropology

California State University, Fresno

  • 5241 N. Maple Ave.
  • Fresno,CA 93740
  • P 559.278.4240
Contact Email: