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Essay Assignment #3


Required length: 5-7 pages not including the Works Cited

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This assignment requires students to use the ideas from our readings to develop a research project on the contributions of certain ethnic restaurants and/or ethnic markets in America.

Your purpose in Assignment #3, like that in Assignment #2, is to devise your own argument about your chosen subject and to support your argument, using various sources. The main difference, however, is that Assignment #3 requires you to identify a specific topic on your own and to do more extensive research in developing your arguments than was required in Assignment #2: you must include direct citations from at least one course reading and at least five (5) sources from the library databases. In your essay, you should formulate a clear and focused thesis and provide a detailed account of your evidence.


As with Assignment #2, you are required to submit a one-page research proposal describing your research project.  Once again, your research proposal must include a working thesis, your major points, and a brief description of three sources you plan to use in your paper.  The due date for the research proposal is on the class schedule. 


As mentioned earlier, this assignment is to be driven largely by your own research and thinking. You should be doing research as you write, not after you’ve completed a first draft. As Assignment #2 demonstrated, research and writing are thoroughly connected. Your research process will involve you reading, thinking, taking notes, and perusing the databases and other sources until you have figured out what you want to write. Then, as you continue writing, you should go back into the research process again to get new ideas or to find additional sources. Sometimes your argument shifts or changes as you find new sources, and this is a good sign that you are doing research-based writing correctly. Don’t be afraid to change direction in writing the first draft—you can always improve or clarify your draft in your revision process.


We will spend a fair amount of time in class identifying interesting topics, developing research questions, and crafting solid arguments. Remember that, in a short paper like this, you cannot write something meaningful about the contributions of all ethnic restaurants and markets in the country, nor can you write about every contribution that certain ethnic restaurants or ethnic markets have made in America. However, you can make a significant argument about a few major contributions of certain ethnic restaurants or markets, and that should be your goal.




1.  As part of ethnic culture themselves, ethnic restaurants and food have made various cultural contributions in American society. In “‘I’ll Take Chop Suey’: Restaurants as Agents of Culinary and Cultural Change,” Samantha Barbas illustrates, particularly using Chinese restaurants and food, that historically ethnic restaurants have played a major role in cultural and culinary crossing. She notes that although Chinese restaurants did little to eradicate racism, they made it possible for Americans to cross cultural and culinary boundaries (682-683). In their article “Putting Mexican Cuisine on the Table: The Cultural Dimension of Cuisine as Connecting Point,” Patricia Jimenez Kwast and Ji Hae Kim argue that although to some people ethnic restaurants may be nothing more than a place to serve food, potentially they can play a role as “facilitators of cross-cultural understanding and interaction.”

Using certain ethnic restaurants and food, develop an argument about their roles as cultural ambassadors in American society. How do the particular ethnic restaurants and food enable cultural and culinary crossings? How do they bridge cultural gaps between the ethnic group and Americans? Do they promote a better understanding of the ethnic group and reduce American prejudice against them? Do they help Americans construct positive images about the ethnic group? Do they help the ethnic group and Americans negotiate and reshape their cultural identities? These are some of the questions you can consider while you are exploring your topic.


2.  Originally aiming to serve the ethnic population, ethnic restaurants and food markets have played important roles in the ethnic enclave. Among other functions, they have played the role of providing economic and cultural support to the ethnic community as well as a haven to new immigrants. In the article “Carving an official Cambodia Town out of South Philadelphia,” Joy Manning writes about this economic and cultural role of ethnic restaurants and food in a recent attempt of Cambodians living in Philadelphia to create an “official Cambodia town.” Once this project is over, the enclave will attract more Cambodian Americans from other cities for home food comforts and other visitors for the consumption and experience of the “vibrant Cambodian culture,” which will bring more revenues to the community (Manning).


Choose an ethnic community (e.g., Little Italy (Italian market), Chinatown, Mexicantown, Koreatown, Vietnamese town, or Cambodia town), and develop an argument about the contributions that ethnic restaurants and food markets have made to the ethnic community. In what ways have the ethnic restaurants and markets made the life of the ethnic population better? How have they contributed to the economy of the ethnic community? How do they help the community to recreate their distinct culture? These are some of the questions you can consider while you are exploring your topic.


Research your chosen ethnic community and learn as much as you can about your topic. In addition, if you want to, you can visit an ethnic neighborhood and interview some people there about their perceptions and views about the importance of the ethnic restaurants and markets in the community.


3.  Ethnic food markets can offer Americans in cities such as Philadelphia many benefits such as access to less expensive, healthier food with fewer additives, as well as intercultural interactions and authentic experiences. In the article “Why Should You Shop at Ethnic Grocery Stores,” Stefan Zajic makes the argument that more Americans should venture into ethnic neighborhoods to experience such markets despite fears they may have of visiting unknown neighborhoods. Similarly, in “Ethnic Market Scout: Mediterranean around D.C.,” Vered Guttman discovers the thrill of exploring a Persian market noting how ethnic markets often give one access to groceries difficult to get elsewhere, while also acknowledging that some of her friends would not want to do the same.


Choose a type of an ethnic market that serves a particular ethnic community (such as Korean, Chinese, Middle Eastern) and develop an argument about its role in the broader society beyond its local community. Should outsiders to communities where ethnic markets are located be encouraged to go to the markets and overcome fears of entering unknown neighborhoods and perceived linguistic or racial barriers? What would make their adventure worth stepping out of their comfort zone? You may use your own observations and interviews to support your claims. For example, you could interview market clerks and ask how many outsiders tend to visit this market and whether their needs/goals for coming to the market seem to differ from locals. You could also interview other Temple students and see if they claim to ever go to ethnic markets that are not in their own communities and their reasons for going or not going.