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Cover for The Managed Hand

The Managed Hand

Race, Gender, and the Body in Beauty Service Work

Miliann Kang


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (6/2/2010)


Two women, virtual strangers, sit hand-in-hand across a narrow table, both intent on the same thing-achieving the perfect manicure. Encounters like this occur thousands of times across the United States in nail salons increasingly owned and operated by Asian immigrants. This study looks closely for the first time at these intimate encounters, focusing on New York City, where such nail salons have become ubiquitous. Drawing from rich and compelling interviews, Miliann Kang takes us inside the nail industry, asking such questions as: Why have nail salons become so popular? Why do so many Asian women, and Korean women in particular, provide these services? Kang discovers multiple motivations for the manicure-from the pampering of white middle class women to the artistic self-expression of working class African American women to the mass consumption of body-related services. Contrary to notions of beauty service establishments as spaces for building community among women, The Managed Hand finds that while tentative and fragile solidarities can emerge across the manicure table, they generally give way to even more powerful divisions of race, class, and immigration.

Praise For The Managed Hand: Race, Gender, and the Body in Beauty Service Work

“Overall Kang has written an exceptionally well-argued, insightful book.”
— American Journal Of Sociology

“Rich and textured account.”
— Women's Review of Books

“A poignant account of the ways those seeking beauty services realize their own sense of self with the assistance of the low-wage immigrant women.”
— Contexts

"A beautifully designed and brilliantly executed study. . . . Skillful analysis . . . An important contribution to the growing literature on 'mundane' beauty practices, as well as to scholarship dealing more generally with the 'body/work nexus.'"
— Social Forces

University of California Press, 9780520262584, 328pp.

Publication Date: June 2, 2010

About the Author

Miliann Kang is Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and affiliated faculty in Sociology and Asian/Asian American Studies.