Forthcoming Book Reviews

The following book reviews have been received at Pacific Affairs and will be published in the print edition within the next 12 months. Please note that minor textual changes may occur before final publication in our print and official online edition (hosted at IngentaConnect).
We do not accept unsolicited book reviews.

Pacific Affairs accepts books for review from publishers and authors that have been published in the previous two years only. Our focus in on current political, economic and social issues affecting Asia and the Pacific Region. We do not review books on art, theatre or music. Please send review copies to the following address marked “For Review Only – No Commercial Value”. While we will make every reasonable effort to review all books within our scope that are sent to us, we reserve the right not to review a book.

Jump to: China and Inner Asia Northeast Asia South Asia Southeast Asia Australasia and the Pacific Islands

To do a search on this page only (Mac) Command + F and (PC) Control + F

Asia General


TRANSITIONS AND NON-TRANSITIONS FROM COMMUNISM: Regime Survival in China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam. By Steven Saxonberg. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xi, 350 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$100.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-02388-8.

WHY COMMUNISM DID NOT COLLAPSE: Understanding Authoritarian Regime Resilience in Asia and Europe. Edited by Martin K. Dimitrov. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xiv, 375 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$34.99, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-65113-5.

The fragments that seemingly confirm the decline of communism are visible everywhere in the twenty-first century: the Wall reduced to a memorial in the centre of Berlin in Germany; a Lenin statue decapitated in the southern district of Orenburg, Russia; empty spots in Albania where Enver Hoxa’s statues used to stand over the hills of his hometown of Gjirokastër and Skanderbeg Square in the capital Tirana; and the sense of anachronistic quaintness draping the street signs in central Maputo, Mozambique adorned with familiar names from the pantheon of socialist state leaders in the 1970s such as Kim Il-Sung. These, however, deflect attention from a rather obvious fact: there remain communist or socialist states in the post-Cold War age, even if in different forms than Marx or Lenin might have envisaged.

The two books reviewed here, as indicated by their titles, ask a common and cogent question: what explains the collapse or transition from communism in some nation-states, while others retained communism in some form? Steven Saxonberg’s single-authored book focuses on, as the subtitle indicates, “regime survival” in China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam, while Martin Dimitrov’s edited volume deals with “regime resilience” in Asia and Europe via comparative analyses of several collapsed Eastern European communist states and the extant communist states of China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam. Both start with the position that cases of survival and collapse can be fruitfully compared to provide more robust insights into the reasons behind these divergent outcomes, and both argue persuasively that additional variables to just the use of systematic repression must be taken into account when analyzing the causes of these divergent outcomes.

The books are structured along thematic lines rather than by country cases. Saxonberg’s nine chapters include an introduction followed by a chapter that outlines regime typology based on hegemony and ideological legitimacy, then a chapter that analyzes the role of nationalism in fuelling personalistic regimes in China, Vietnam and North Korea, among others. Chapter 4 examines how opposition within states is affected by changes in the type of regime, while the following chapter, focusing on East European cases, outlines the notion of “revolutionary potential”: the extent of frustrated rising expectations and the ease with which oppositional groups can disseminate their messages to the larger society. Chapter 6 overviews negotiated transitions from authoritarianism that were not racked by violence, and chapter 7 explains two cases of communist, one-party rule survival—China and Vietnam—via a focus on their respective variations on state capitalism and ends with a prediction of negotiated transition for these countries in the future. The following chapter explores non-transitions in maturing and patrimonial communisms through a comparative analysis of North Korea and Cuba. The ninth and final chapter is a conclusion that sums up the findings and takes a brief tour of future prospects for the remaining communist states (other than Laos).

Dimitrov’s volume has eleven chapters—an introduction and nine body chapters—organized around four types of adaptation: economic; ideological; those caused from international sources; and institutional adaptations that increase inclusivity or accountability. A conclusion sums up the findings and looks ahead. Most of the chapters are explicitly comparative, while some focus on one case with some added comparative references. Thomas Bernstein compares resilience and collapse in China and the Soviet Union in the first body chapter by looking at liberalization, scale of reform, sequencing and leadership. After comparing China, North Korea and the Soviet Union in his chapter, Vladimir Tismaneanu argues that some “communist regimes disappeared because they lost their hierocratic credentials (98).” In chapter 4, Charles Armstrong explains the importance of ideology in North Korea’s regime survival, while in the next, Valerie Bunce and Charon Wolchik outline three diffusion models for transition—demonstration effects, similar conditions and spread of transnational networks. Mark Kramer then examines the dynamics of diffusion of transitions and the impact on regime survival in the Soviet Bloc in chapter 6, while in chapter 7 Mary Gallagher and Jonathan Hanson apply selectorate theory to authoritarian survival and resilience to conclude that the composition of the winning coalition matters as much as its size. Incremental reforms as significant contributors to regime durability in China are the focus of Kellee Tsai’s analysis in the next chapter. Chapter 9 is a comparison of the substantive differences between vertical and horizontal institutions of accountability in China and Vietnam by Regina Abrami, Edmund Malesky and Yu Zheng. The final body chapter, “Vertical Accountability in Communist Regimes” by Dimitrov, draws on an impressive range of Bulgarian and Chinese sources to compare the role of citizen complaints in eroding vertical accountability in the two countries up to 1989, and why one regime collapsed while the other survived.

A closer look at case selection criteria and geographic coverage reveals a few differences. Both start with the position that despite the unity within diversity or diversity within the unity that the assemblage of communist states present, it is emphatically useful to compare countries that transitioned (whether through peaceful or violent processes) away from communism with those that did not. But Saxonberg aspires to cover a sampling of communist countries from around the world, while the Dimitrov volume limits itself to Asia and Europe.

Saxonberg explains the logic for including only Ethiopia from African states, why Grenada was included along with Nicaragua from Latin America, and why Laos, Cambodia, Bulgaria and Albania were excluded. According to the author’s assertion, he claims the four countries excluded were not “key” cases, but does not clarify by what criteria this conclusion was reached. If one were to select the diffusion of personalist dictatorship (“patrimonial communism” in his terminology) as a potential indicator for transition or non-transition, surely Albania could have been an important case. If genocide or systematic use of violence were isolated as key variables affecting regime resilience or likelihood for transitions, presumably Cambodia would have been a key example. Aside from relative importance, Saxonberg states that there are not many secondary sources on these specific countries. This is perhaps correct in relative terms. However, there are several major books and notable articles published in English on Cambodia, Laos, Bulgaria and Albania that could have been used. Saxonberg also notes that he does not have the language capacities to access the “original sources” in these cases (11), indirectly suggesting that he used primary source materials for the cases he did include. However, there is zero indication that he used materials in the original languages for his empirical information on countries such as China and North Korea. His final reason for excluding some cases, the lack of time, is the most persuasive: after all, he has covered a laudable number of countries by himself, especially when the original plan was for the book to be jointly authored with two others.

Dimitrov and company mark their catchment area more succinctly, ostensibly focusing on the 15 “core” communist states that were recognized by the Soviet Union, all of which had considerable communist party size and reach, economic nationalization and agricultural collectivization, and used communist ideology as a tool for indoctrination and mobilization. In contrast to Saxonberg’s grouping, the core 15 includes Laos, Bulgaria and Albania, but not Cambodia. Cambodia, instead, is categorized as part of a set of 11 countries placed under the rubric of “Communist penumbra” states that are excluded from the comparison set due to insufficient scale and scope in the analytical areas outlined above (17-19). The case for comparability of communist states pre-1989, the five surviving states, and of these five with those that collapsed 1989-1991, is also explicitly explained; but the countries that are actually analyzed do not map perfectly to the boundaries drawn in the introduction. For example, Laos makes several appearances in Dimitrov’s introduction but returns in only the most cursory of fashions in a handful of spots in the rest of the chapters. Mongolia, one of the core 15, is a central part of Mark Kramer’s chapter, but merits no significant mentions in the others. Two former Soviet republics in Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, are not flagged at all in the introduction, but are briefly analyzed in chapter 5 by Bunce and Wolchik.

In terms of the analysis, both list similar factors in explaining regime survival. In addition to violent repression, institutional reforms in political and economic fields, the adjustment of ideologies to maintain legitimacy, and reactions to social unrest via changes in accountability and inclusivity are raised in both texts. There are some differences in the list of variables: Saxonberg distinguishes more clearly between stages or types of socialist states (i.e., maturing – reforming, or freezing) and places more emphasis on the issue of timing of reforms (333). Dimitrov and company, on the other hand, note the role of spatial contiguity in explaining diffusion of revolts and transitions, and assert that continuous adaptive change has resulted in a higher likelihood of regime resilience (8).

Both works draw from existing analyses of authoritarian or autocratic regimes, but the distinctions between authoritarian regimes of the socialist ilk and those that might be categorized as non-socialist and personalist, single-party or bureaucratic authoritarian seem to move in and out of focus. There is the slippage in terms: the Dimitrov volume title explicitly refers to “communism” but several of the chapters continuously refer to “authoritarianism” and make comparisons to non-socialist or communist governments in Tunisia and Syria (211) or Africa and the Middle East (148). But more importantly, the question of whether or not the explanations for regime stability or collapse applies to all types of authoritarian states or not, or if in limited forms, based on what factors, is not examined at much depth. Dimitrov acknowledges the potential problems of generalizability (4-5, 19), but differences in types of political rule and natural resource endowments are treated briefly and in a rather cursory manner (311-312), while Saxonberg, discussing other socialist-personalist cases in his explanation of case selection criteria, does not appear to address the issue of generalizability across different sub-types. For specialists of Asian politics, for example, the potential utility, or lack thereof, of looking at single-party (or single-party dominated) governments of Singapore and Malaysia, or an absolute monarchy such as Brunei, with those of Vietnam and Laos might have been an interesting avenue of exploration, especially if the role of contiguity and demonstration effects are significant factors in generating visions of alternative forms of governance.

Even as things stand, some of the comparative insights appear to generate observations that seem to teeter close to being too general to be useful. Even if external threats have helped fuel the use of nationalism in conjunction with communist ideology in China, Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea (Dimitrov, 26), most specialists of these countries would point to differences in ethnic and language diversity, scale of territory, natural resource endowments, efficiency of the propaganda apparatus, and a range of other factors that would create significant differences in the relative weight that perceived external threats would have in fuelling the production of nationalist ideologies in each.

But these issues ultimately do not alter the fact that these books are paragons for the case that socialist or communist states can and should be productively analyzed as a group, regardless of regime collapse or resilience. Studies of socialist states have often been based on captivating yet isolated case studies that have created portraits without a canvas of systematic comparisons and precise causal explanations, making these two titles particularly welcome and timely. Specialists of individual socialist countries in Asia and other regions, and comparativists who focus on socialism, authoritarianism and political transitions, will all be certain to find these two formulations very useful, in fact necessary, to engage with in the future.

Hyung-Gu Lynn, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Back to top



INFRASTRUCTURE FOR ASIAN CONNECTIVITY. Edited by Biswa Nath Bhattacharyay, Masahiro Kawai, Rajat M. Nag. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar in association with the Asian Development Bank Institute and Asian Development Bank, 2012. xviii, 498 pp. (Figures, tables.) £120.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-78100-312-1.

The need to boost regional trade to integrate communities, provide employment and lessen poverty is paramount and well recognized. Also acknowledged is that greater regional trade is a function of quality infrastructure. But the state of infrastructure in Asia is still below par, and so is the ensuing degree of economic integration. It is in this context that this well-researched book must be read, as it provides meticulously collected data that will help economists and policy makers interested in Asia and regional infrastructure.

The first part of the book takes up the commendable task of quantifying the infrastructural demands of the region from 2010 to 2020 and the likely benefits of having the desired infrastructure. This also includes sub-regional findings (impact on the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and South Asia in chapters 3 and 4) and country-specific estimates within chapters. The demand for infrastructure in Asia is calculated in the first chapter using an econometric model (termed as the “top-down” approach) as well as by actually assessing the 1202 infrastructural projects that are underway (“bottom-up” estimation) by way of calculating the cumulative cost of implementing these projects. The top-down approach led to an estimated demand of Rs 2.17 trillion for India in 10 years. This chapter also breaks down infrastructural needs (ICT, water, electricity, transport, etc.) by sector and raises the question of financing, which is addressed in chapter 10.

Updated, modified versions of the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) model were used to measure the impact of improvements in transport infrastructure on trade in the Asian sub-regions.The results firmly indicate that trade facilitation, helped by improved physical connectivity between countries, will have positive impacts on poverty alleviation and income in GMS. While the positive welfare impacts of a reduction in regional transportation costs in South Asia are identified in the following chapter—and more recent studies seem to confirm these impacts (Tsunehiro Otsuki, Keiichiro Honda, John S. Wilson, “Trade facilitation in South Asia,” South Asian Journal of Global Business Research 2 no. 2 (2013): 172-190)—the centrality of political logjams in issues surrounding trade facilitation in the sub-continent cannot be understated.

The second part of the book will particularly interest policy formulators and implementers, as it highlights the policy imperatives of evaluating infrastructural projects. It offers a qualitative exercise that brings to the fore the do’s and don’ts of project implementation, which might, for one, help avoid cost and time overruns. Chapter 7, which deals with inter-country infrastructure in Asia, speaks of a need to address issues of governance, as local capital is not too scarce to fund infrastructure. Governance and the institutional aspects of infrastructure building are an important thrust area of the book. Chapter 8 deals with the environmental impacts of the energy sector. Chapter 9 has lessons for the Asia-Pacific region from the EU, whose cross-border institutions (regulatory, legal, etc.) and infrastructure are of high quality—as a result of which 71 percent of its total exports are intra-regional. The EU, however, doesn’t come across as a perfectly politically integrated region, and there is not much that Asia can learn from the EU in that respect.

The last part of the book contends with addressing infrastructure financing needs—a difficult and relatively less traveled terrain in the literature. The first chapter in this section suggests financing tools for infrastructure building in Asia, including a common central bank for Asia, regional infrastructure companies, and other already-in-use tools like PPP and MDBs. Importantly, it talks about how Asian savings and surpluses are tucked away in US bond markets or used up in non-productive activities like stock market speculation and real estate investments. An important policy implication of this narrative, one that the author draws, is that Asian economies should develop deeper financial markets back home. But their attractiveness as an investment choice needs to be looked into.

Chapter 11 deals with the role of FDI in regional infrastructure, a crucial area of study in the given area, but stops short of either analyzing the determinants of FDI or mapping the FDI trends in the region per se. Instead, the chapter comprehensively looks at the FDI-financed regional infrastructural projects across the world as a possible blueprint for Asia. Chapter 12 demonstrates how the PPP model was used to fund EU regional infrastructure and accommodates a project-wise tabulation of PPP projects in all individual EU countries, which is commendable. The challenges of the PPP model, including risk allocation, in very large and long-gestation projects are pointed out. While India has warmed up to the PPP model in the past few years, these chapters will have an important bearing on India’s infrastructure policy making.

This book raises a question future research might address through the lens of public policy: why do some regions not manage to integrate well despite the known benefits to regional trade? One hopes this book will prompt policy makers to give Asian integration serious thought. This prescriptive, highly fact-intensive, forward-looking and econometrically strong yet policy-oriented book is an important addition to the literature on trade infrastructure, economic integration and trade policy in Asia. Thus, it will benefit a wide range of specialist audiences, including economists and policy makers.

Pravakar Sahoo, University of Delhi, Delhi, India

Back to top



THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF THE ECONOMICS OF THE PACIFIC RIM. Edited by Inderjit Kaur and Nirvikar Singh. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. xiii, 738 pp. (Figures, tables, graphs.) US$150.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-975199-0.

This book consists of 26 chapters written by scholars specializing in the economics of countries on the Pacific Rim. The book also includes an introduction by the editors. The 26 contributing chapters are divided into six parts corresponding to broadly defined substantive areas: part 1: the natural world: history, climate, and risks, consisting of chapter 1 (E. Jones), chapter 2 (D. Roland-Holst) and chapter 3 (I. Noy); part 2: people: migration, demographics and human capital, consisting of chapter 4 (P. Martin), chapter 5 (N. Ogawa) and chapter 6 (A. Goujon); part 3: perspectives on economic growth and development, consisting of chapter 7 (B. Bosworth and S.M. Collins), chapter 8 (H.T. Dinh and J.F. Lin) and chapter 9 (M.S. Kumar, N. Singh and J. Woo); part 4: regional governance and trade linkages, consisting of chapter 10 (W. Dobson and P.A. Petri), chapter 11 (D. Kaour and M. Suri), chapter 12 (J. Ravenhill), chapter 13 (P-C Athukorala) and chapter 14 (K-Y Wong); part 5: industry, policy and innovation, consisting of chapter 15 (I. Kaur), chapter 16 (T-H Yang and D-S Huang), chapter 17 (H. Pack), chapter 18 (F.T. Tschang) and chapter 19 (S. Yusuf); and part 6: macroeconomics and finance, consisting of chapter 20 (A.O. Krueger), chapter 21 (J. Aizenman and H. Ito), chapter 22 (M.S. Gochoco-Bautista and N.R. Sotocinal), chapter 23 (E. Ogawa and C. Nakamura), chapter 24 (M.D. Chinn and H. Ito), chapter 25 (R. Glick and M. Hutchison) and chapter 26 (Y-W Cheung and H. Miao).

This book addresses the economic issues that are relevant for more than four dozen Pacific Rim countries. Many of these issues are also important for the world’s other regions (e.g., implications of intra-regional differences in: political systems, the endowment of natural resources, and the levels of economic development). The editors also single out as important for the region many dimensions of interactions between the United States and China. Specifically, various attempts in the past at regional cooperation or coordination in trade, finance, regulatory standards and macroeconomic policies are all influenced to some extent by the regional presence of China and the United States. Many of the chapters as well pay attention to the implications of China for the regional (as well as global) economies.

Papers in part 1 discuss topics including the exploitation of the region’s natural resources by Western and other countries, climate change and natural disasters. Papers in part 2 discuss, for example, demographic changes and migration, and their impacts on intergenerational transfers (chapter 5). These are problems in Japan now but some other countries will also face them soon. Human capital accumulation continues to be important for economic development of this region, but considerable differences exist in the effectiveness of upgrading workers’ human capital (chapter 6). Papers in part 3 focus on economic growth and development. Many studies on Japan on this topic exist in the literature, and we see much research on this topic being conducted on China. Comparing Pacific Rim countries in Asia and Latin America, Bosworth and Collins (chapter 2) show that: Latin American countries lag their Asian counterparts in growth; Asia’s developing nations tend to rely on capital accumulation for growth; and they still lag high-income countries significantly in terms of per-capita income. Lin and Hinh (chapter 8) make a unique contribution to the study of the economic development of the fourteen island nations of the Pacific. Chapter 9 concludes that improved efficiency and effectiveness of government spending will be required for the region’s further effective development.

Papers in part 4 discuss the role of regional institutions (e.g., the Asian Development Bank, regional free trade agreements), multinational firms and international trade. Multinational firms play significant roles in the regional economy, for example, in developing their global production supply chains (chapter 13). China, however, exercises its strong bargaining position vis-à-vis large Western multinationals, thus causing a divergence between the Western geopolitical objective to contain China and the geoeconomic realities with a strengthened China’s position (chapter 11). Intra-regional as well as global trade issues are also discussed (chapter 14). Papers in part 5 discuss industrial policies, innovation and their implications. Kaur (chapter 15) discusses the traditional flying geese theory of development, foreign direct investment (FDI) and related concepts such as catch-up industrialization. The role of multinational firms in trade, particularly their inter-firm and inter-country trade patterns are examined (chapter 16). Industrial policy is a primary policy tool for some Asian governments for promoting economic growth. Pack (chapter 17), applying his own methodology to Taiwan, estimates that while industrial policy did have some positive impacts on Taiwan’s growth, most of the growth is attributable to physical and human capital accumulation, good macroeconomic policies, and overall innovation. Topics on culture and creative industries in some of the Asian countries are also discussed (chapters 18, 19). Papers in part 5 discuss macroeconomic issues with a focus on China and its currency, RMB, in the global market. The role of flexible exchange rates in the post-Asia currency crisis and the Mundell-Fleming trilemma are discussed (chapters 21, 22). Current account imbalances and related global finance issues are discussed in chapters 23, 24 and 25. Ogawa and Nakamura (chapter 23) recommend against the possibility of implementing some form of Asian currency unit, given the recent experience of the euro zone. Chinn and Ito (chapter 24) argue that remedying the current account imbalances might require China’s undertaking significant changes in the way its financial markets and institutions are organized. In fact China’s domestic financial development (as of early 2012) has been modest, while internationalization of its currency and liberalization of capital controls has been limited (chapter 25). Also political factors must be considered for explaining the evolving role of the RMB in international markets (chapter 26).

These 26 chapters cover many topics well. One topic of interest that is not covered fully is the role business groups play in economic development. Business groups are prevalent in India, Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand and other countries. Japan’s prewar zaibatsu groups’ role in economic development is documented by Morck and Nakamura (“Business Groups and the Big Push: Meiji Japan’s Mass Privatization and Subsequent Growth,” Enterprise and Society 8, 2007: 543-601). South Korea’s chaebols are thought to have played a similar role. Business groups also play major roles in organizing supply chains and production networks.

The introduction states that papers in this handbook collectively provide useful insights about the economics of the Pacific Rim region. The editors have succeeded in their task.

Masao Nakamura, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Back to top

REGIONAL INTEGRATION IN EAST ASIA: Theoretical and Historical Perspectives. Edited by Satoshi Amako, Shunji Matsuoka and Kenji Horiuchi. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2013. xxx, 356 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$40.00, paper. ISBN 978-92-808-1222-0.

East Asian integration has progressed steadily during the last decades, largely driven by the region’s economic success. A rapid intensification of trade and investment flows between East Asian countries related to the establishment of regional production networks has promoted real sector integration. The trend of closer economic interdependence was initially set by market forces and later supported by intergovernmental policy initiatives through the signing of various regional free trade agreements (FTAs) and broader economic partnership agreements. Today, 50 to 55 percent of East Asia’s total trade occurs at the intraregional level—a clear indicator of the region’s high degree of interdependence in the real sector.

Progress has also occurred in the area of money and finance, albeit with lower intensity, as East Asian financial markets remain somewhat underdeveloped. Besides, regional financial integration has followed a reverse pattern from that of the real sector: it was prompted by initiatives for intergovernmental cooperation introduced in response to the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98, more than by market forces. Typically, such initiatives were adopted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) plus China, Japan and the Republic of Korea—ASEAN+3.

East Asian regionalism is also showing continuous progress in a multiplicity of other areas from people-to-people exchanges, security, infrastructure development, environment, energy, health, sport, education, and the provision of other regional public goods through the shared management of common resources. Although in recent years political problems have been troubling the horizon for international relations among key East Asian countries (mainly due to disputes over a few islands in the Japan Sea and South-China Sea) all in all the last few decades have been marked by a rapid intensification of East Asian regionalization, at a time when East Asian countries have also been undertaking an unprecedented move towards globalization: economically, socially and culturally.

The book Regional Integration in East Asia: Theoretical and Historical Perspectives, edited by three well-known scholars from Waseda University (Satoshi Amako, Shunji Matsuoka and Kenji Horiuchi) provides an excellent analysis of how East Asian countries are following at the same time both processes of regionalization and globalization, with few contradictions but large synergies and complementarities. The study provides an insightful review of the theoretical approaches that contribute to the understanding of East Asian integration logic and trends, including long-term historical perspectives of key countries such as China, Japan and the ASEAN member states.

The book is structured in three parts. The first part covers a detailed discussion of theoretical contributions on East Asian integration, including issues related to mandates, norms and governance of regional institutions, social aspects concerning the creation of a region-wide community in comparison with the European experience, and the influence of domestic politics on the pace of regionalization through FTAs. The second part analyzes specific issues, from economic integration, to cooperation in areas such as energy, the environment, education and regional security. Finally, the third part provides an interesting historical perspective to Asian integration, covering the views of several key thinkers who promoted the idea of regionalism and pan-Asian approaches. It also includes a review of key historical events which contributed to the formation of today’s East Asian regionalization.

In addition to the need for promoting regionalism in parallel and in a complementary fashion with globalism, a major finding of the study is that China’s emergence as a key player in the process of East Asian integration creates both centripetal and centrifugal forces that operate at the same time. While China is helping in many ways to make East Asia a more cohesive region, it also pushes for a reconsolidation of old alliances between East Asian countries (for example Japan, Korea and the Philippines) with the United States, and non-regional powers as well. In turn, this contributes to making the current status of East Asian integration particularly complex and defined by a multiplicity of layers and non-univocal perspectives. The ability to treat such complexity in a rigorous analytical framework, such as the one adopted by Waseda’s Global Institute for Asia’s Regional Integration (GIARI), is a major contribution of the study.

The focus on international relations is, however, one of the book’s intrinsic limitations. The chapter by Shujiro Urata is the only one in the whole book that focuses on economic issues. And while this chapter provides an excellent analysis of integration and cooperation in the real sector, it is also important to discuss the financial and monetary pillar of East Asian integration, as well as other key components of regional economic interdependence such as infrastructure and connectivity.

Many important institutions and initiatives for East Asian integration were created in response to the 1997/98 financial crisis, and given the need to further develop Asian financial sectors, and increase their efficiency, money and finance will likely play a major role as drivers of regional integration in the future. At the same time, the development of regional infrastructure has greatly facilitated the creation of economic corridors linking subregions, such as the one involving Mekong River countries, and deserve a detailed analysis in order to provide a complete snapshot of today’s East Asia.

Other important aspects of integration which are missing in the study relate to the various dimensions of people-to-people exchanges, including tourism flows, cultural activities, sports, and community-building initiatives organized through the civil society. These exchanges are fundamental contributions to the formation of regional identity and, as explained in the GIARI model, to create a new culture emerging from the civil society that appreciates the benefits of social, political, and economic integration with regional neighbors.

The GIARI model could also be strengthened by a wider and deeper analysis of the issues of leadership and legitimacy. Now that economic development is providing the internal financial resources needed to build an East Asian community, legitimacy remains a crucial factor for aspiring regional leaders. The mechanisms to ensure the region’s equitable and sustainable development deserve more space too, as they are of utmost importance to guarantee regional harmony—a key feature stressed in the East Asian model compared with that of Europe and other regional groupings.

Despite these shortcomings the study remains a major contribution and a key reference for future works.

Giovanni Capannelli, Asian Development Bank Institute, Tokyo, Japan

Back to top

CLEAVAGE, CONNECTION AND CONFLICT IN RURAL, URBAN AND CONTEMPORARY ASIA. ARI – Springer Asia Series, v. 3. Tim Bunnell, D. Parthasarthy, Eric C. Thompson, editors. Dordrecht: Springer, 2013. viii, 247 pp. (Tables, figures, maps, plates.) US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-94-007-5481-2.

This is a welcome addition to the literature on rural-urban relations in contemporary Asia. The edited volume brings together 13 chapters written by 16 authors dealing with four countries. In the introduction, the editors contend that most social research is conceived either from an urban or agrarian perspective. To address this issue, the book shows a great deal of coherence in the objective of transcending the analytical limitations that arise from conceptions of urban and rural as “spatially distinct and discrete domains” (5). The originality of this work as a whole certainly lies in its broadly defined aims surrounding the articulation of social, cultural and political relations across the urban and the rural, which reflects how these geographical units are increasingly blurred in a time of heightened mobility.

The book is organized in four parts, one for each country—India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand—and the chapters address case studies in many sub-national regions. In this regard, the book appears as an overview of issues relevant to the fields of urban planning, cultural geography, sociology, political science and social anthropology, in Southeast and South Asia. However, as a result of this breadth, it lacks the depth of a more circumscribed account.

The first part addresses how urbanization has provided new opportunities and constraints for both dominant and subaltern groups in India. Chapter 2 explores how rural elites in states such as Maharashtra seek to secure access to capital cities where they can wield power over financial flows. State capitals such as Hyderabad are coveted by dominant castes to gain privileged access to state agencies “with the power to make decisions on contracts, permits, and licenses” (27). Chapter 3 considers the political and institutional situation in India which has led to erratic governance of land. In this context, actors with in-depth local knowledge of land histories and ground-level experience at dealing with complex land governance systems play a central role in land transactions. Chapter 4 addresses the pressure exerted by the expansion of the city of Mumbai on resources in the hinterland, which historically formed the livelihood of forest dwellers. The authors sketch out the impact of successive legislations, both for extraction and conservation purposes, on resource access for indigenous tribes.

Part 2 focuses mainly on new legal frameworks affecting urban-rural interactions in Indonesia. Chapter 5 provides an account on the challenges of urban planning in Greater Yogyakarta, which stretches over three administrative units, two of which are predominantly rural. Although decentralization legislation has fragmented regional governance, a joint secretariat has provided an effective horizontal structure to coordinate infrastructure services at the regional scale. In chapter 6, the authors argue that the war which unfolded in the countryside of Aceh in the postcolonial era exacerbated imbalances between urban and rural areas. However, the post-New Order legislation on regional autonomy and the 2005 Helsinki peace agreement have opened up more possibilities for political and economic cooperation across urban and rural spaces. Chapter 7 addresses the issue of economic development in the medium-sized cities of Java and questions the association of urbanization and improvement of economic welfare. The author highlights that Cirebon is a case of urbanization without development as the city is especially affected by economic reconversion and the end of redistribution mechanisms linked to fiscal decentralization.

Part 3 deals with representations of rural Malaysia, a country which is predominantly urban, with institutionalized ethnic categories. Chapter 8 analyzes the perceptions of Malay inhabitants of a village which has been integrated into a suburban area of Penang Island. Some villagers perceive themselves as “insiders” with a privileged relation to place, while people can be identified as “outsiders” when they are perceived to threaten the cohesion of the imagined village society. In chapter 9, the author explores the gendered dimension of modernization in a village of Negeri Sembilan and warns against essentialist visions of Malay rural societies. Increased mobility linked to work in the service and industrial economy has individualized socioeconomic relations. The agricultural sector, long a sphere dominated by women, is increasingly neglected, although women remain important landowners. And chapter 10 presents an argument about how chauvinistic discourses are mobilized by urban political elites to delegitimize the choice of rural voters in Malaysia as elsewhere. The chapter historicizes this question in regards with class relations within the Malay population and contrasts it with America, China and Thailand, where the same trend is observed.

Part 4 explores meanings taken on by the rural and the urban in Thailand according to different socio-political stances. Chapter 11 explores the perceptions in Thai society on the phua farang phenomenon: intermarriage between Western men and Isan women. In a moralistic fashion, phua farang is condemned by the urban elite, which denies agency to rural women and seeks to ascribe to rural women the role of safeguarding national tradition. Chapter 12 revisits the history of the formation of the Red Shirt movement to highlight the emergence of a distinct political subjectivity emerging from rural areas, but with a broader subaltern base. The Red Shirt movement would have been a response of disadvantaged urban and rural populations to elitist aristocratic urban-based chauvinism and their attempt to take over the state in a coup d’état in 2006. Chapter 13 provides an ethnographic narrative about the city of Chiang Mai envisioned by rural migrants as a place of encounter, of possibilities and danger. The account shows lives unfolding in anxious times of political and economic crisis, times particularly unsettling for newcomers.

The book is an original contribution which succeeds in showing the problematic aspects of rural and urban categories for governance and political imagination. However, the broad disciplinary, geographical and methodological scope undermines the sense of cohesion that derives from the common epistemological aim. Moreover, it seems that organizing the chapters according to dominant themes would have rendered more obvious the convergence of processes and meaning formation across nations. Nevertheless, these flaws do not undermine the overall quality of this contribution, which furthers our understanding of social transformations in Asia.

Jean-François Bissonnette, Université Laval, Québec, Canada

Back to top

THE EAST ASIAN PEACE: Conflict Prevention and Informal Peacebuilding. Critical Studies of the Asia-Pacific Series. By Mikael Weissmann. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. xiv, 219 pp. (Tables, figures.), US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-230-31396-5.

Given that the East Asian headlines most prominent in the global press recently focus on maritime military tensions and dark warnings about the conflicts these could spark, many will be surprised to pick up a book entitled The East Asian Peace and discover that this region has been uniquely peaceful. Quantitative research confirms that East Asia has been relatively more peaceful than other regions. As author Mikael Weissmann observes, the “last major armed interstate conflict” in East Asia was the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese war (7-8).

Lest one is tempted to conclude that harmony is breaking out in East Asia, alas the recent headlines are not entirely wrong. Weissmann finds many potential conflicts, not only in Northeast Asia, but also in Southeast Asia, where numerous unresolved territorial disputes remain, some of which became militarized. Nonetheless, this militarization failed to lead to armed conflict, a fact reflecting the East Asian peace (8). His explanation for this is “an underlying peace-building process has concurrently transformed interstate relations” (10). Weissmann goes beyond identifying a “no-war peace” and asserts “East Asia indeed enjoys a ‘relative peace’ both in terms of quality and stability”(10). Supporting this, he notes that “all of China’s land border disputes with its Southeast Asian neighbors have been resolved”(10). One might add that the same is true for China’s land border disputes with Russia and the Central Asian Republics.

Weissmann makes an even more distinctive claim when he challenges the dominant Western view that East Asian multilateralism has been ineffective. Unlike this view, he takes informal processes seriously, and finds that East Asia has developed significant preventive diplomacy and conflict management mechanisms. I have heard Japanese diplomats make a similar claim, namely that Western accounts overlook the ASEAN Way of conflict management. This consists of several processes in Weissmann’s view: elite interactions, back-channel negotiations, economic interdependence and integration, functional integration, multilateralism, and institutionalization of peaceful relations (149). East Asians thereby develop “positive relations despite the existence of conflicting issues,” and this “has been institutionalized in the ASEAN Way, with its sensitivity for avoiding confrontation, focusing on conflict avoidance, and saving face while building consensus”(164). Western approaches to conflict resolution emerge from this book as intellectually well developed, but benighted in terms of emotional intelligence. By contrast, the ASEAN Way emerges as less intellectually developed, but as more emotionally intelligent, and thereby ultimately as more successful.

For a Scandinavia-based observer, Weissmann expresses surprising belief in the efficacy of personal networks. Rather than seeing these as synonymous with corruption, he argues that “personal networks facilitate the optimal selection of participants for track-two diplomacy” (163).

Weissmann suggests that these regional processes are leading to the Asianization or “ASEANization” of China: “the ASEAN Way has been important for the Chinese learning and self-redefinition process” (160). He claims that ASEAN has “entangled the dragon”: “China has become locked into a web of institutionalized multilateral practices, agreements and norm systems”(159). Nevertheless, it remains unclear to what extent China has become “locked in,” and how much mutual interdependence there is versus one-sided dependence by China’s neighbours? China has rather appeared to socialize to the US practice of using economic sanctions as a weapon in political disputes.

This book reflects the peak of East Asia’s security multilateralism that was reached in 2003-2004, and largely overlooks more recent troubles. Yet, one can use this book’s framework to understand some of the recent tensions. For example, the DPJ emphasized transparency, official diplomatic channels, and rule of law in its dealings with China, especially regarding the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute, which contrasts strongly with the non-confrontational, back-channel approach favoured by the LDP (and which avoided applying Japanese law to these islands). In light of Weissmann’s analysis we can identify the DPJ’s transparent and formal approach as a major reason for the aggravation of this bilateral dispute from 2010.

Weissmann appears over-optimistic in light of recent events when claiming “key maritime flashpoints in the South China Sea have been mitigated and a consensus has been reached among the parties to resolve the dispute peacefully” (10). In contrast to Weissmann’s constructivist approach, which sees these informal peace-building processes socializing states and leading to a redefinition of national interests and identities, realists would view the progress this book identifies as an artifact of a transient distribution of power, with a rising China interested in closer economic integration and a peaceful environment, and not yet strong enough to unilaterally have its way. One problem with such a critique, however, is that it is not clear ten years later that the distribution of capabilities has moved enough to explain China’s shift in behaviour, assuming there has been a shift.

Weissmann identifies the US military presence in the region as one important cause for the East Asian peace. As a non-US-based observer, he can arguably look at this more dispassionately than many US-based observers who dominate the discourse on East Asian security, and who can have institutional and even identity and emotional investments in the US military presence. Although Weissmann identifies the US role as positive for regional peace (with the partial exception of the Korean Peninsula), he nonetheless argues that the US role has been modest, as it has not contributed much to improving the quality of the East Asian peace, and only contributes to the no-war peace. A realist might argue that it was precisely in 2003-2004, when the US was distracted from the region, that regional processes reached their height and that it was when the US reengaged and attempted to contain China that regional tensions rose. Recent tensions notwithstanding, the East Asian peace, at least as a minimal no-war peace, remains largely intact. No armed conflicts have erupted. The regional preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution mechanisms that Weissmann identified persist and are at work attempting to resolve current tensions.

In sum, this book is a must-read for anyone focusing on East Asian regional security. It presents the most comprehensive argument to date about how and why East Asia’s informal conflict prevention and peacebuilding mechanisms are more effective than Western observers realize.

Paul Midford, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

Back to top

THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD TRADING SYSTEM: Asian Perspectives. A Book. Edited by Richard E. Baldwin, Masahiro Kawa, and Ganeshan Wignaraja. Tokyo: Asian Development Bank Institute; London: Centre for Economic Policy Research, 2013. viii, 169 leaves. (Figures, tables.) eBbook:

This book brings together abridged versions of papers presented at a conference held at the World Trade Organization (WTO), Geneva in March 2013. Following the editorial introduction and opening remarks by the then director-general of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, the book is thematically organized into four sections: supply chains and production networks, commercial and industrial policies, regional trade governance, and global trade governance.

The first section begins with a chapter by Baldwin (chapter 3) which argues for reforming world trade governance to accommodate the expansion of global production networks (GPNs). The case made here for a new “WTO 2.0” has, however, completely overlooked the pivotal role played by unilateral trade and investment liberalization and other supply-side reforms in East Asia’s success in reaping gains from joining GPNs. The proposed global initiatives could perhaps play a facilitating role at the margin, but solid unilateral action by individual countries is the key to achieving the expected outcome. Inomoto (chapter 4) illustrates how, in a context where trade within GPNs is expanding rapidly, the use of official (gross) trade statistics leads to inaccurate measurement of bilateral trade imbalances and presents alternative “value-added” estimates derived by combining official trade statistics and input-output (I-O) tables. These estimates need to be treated with caution because of the well-known limitations of the available I-O data and the underlying restrictive assumptions of the estimation method (Robert E. Yuskavage, “Perspectives from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis,” in Trade in Value Added: Developing New Measures of Cross-Border Trade, eds. Adithya Mattoo et al., Washington DC: World Bank, 2013, 331-335). The methodological issues aside, it is important to emphasize that the measurement of bilateral trade imbalances is rather inconsequential for assessing the developmental implications of GPNs. Trade theory postulates, and the East Asian experience vividly illustrates, that a single-minded focus on domestic value addition can hamper, rather than help, employment expansion (and hence poverty alleviation) through global economic integration. Based on resource allocation considerations derived from the principle of comparative advantage, one can make a strong case for the expansion of low-value-added export industries in a labour abundant economy. When a country imports capital-intensive inputs such as machinery, synthetic fibre and industrial chemicals with foreign exchange earned by exporting labour-intensive products such as garments, footwear and toys, it is implicitly substituting labour for capital in the production process. Xing (chapter 5) discusses challenge posed by the expansion of GPNs for delineating the impact of exchange rate changes on trade flows and proposes using value-added trade weights (rather than the conventional gross trade weight) for estimating the real exchange rate index. His prognosis is very clear, but the proposed remedy seems to have ignored the well-known empirical regularity that, for a given country, source country composition of parts and components imports differ considerably from the destination-country composition of its final (assembled) goods export. Wignaraja (chapter 6) examines the role of SME in GPNs based on a firm-level survey of selected East Asian countries. The chapter is informative, but unfortunately it has completely overlooked the role of multinational enterprises (MNEs), the key players of GPNs, in fostering the participation of SMEs. There is ample evidence that SMEs emerge de novo benefiting from the vendor development (sub-contracting) strategies of MNEs. The real policy challenge is not simply to design policies to promote SMEs, but to explore alternative pathways to facilitate forging links between MNEs and potential local entrepreneurs.

In section 2, Low and Tijala (chapter 7) provides a synthesis of trade and industry policy choices, with a clear warning of the risk of possible government failure. Evenett (chapter 8) provides a fascinating analysis of the proliferation of non-traditional (non-tariff) forms of trade protection in clear violation of WTO obligations during the years following the onset of the global financial crisis. The chapter makes a strong case for revising WTO rules with a view to averting “murky” protectionism. Pomfret and Pontines (chapter 9) find that countries have begun to rely increasingly on exchange rate policy as a trade policy instrument because of their trade liberalization commitments under free-trade agreements (FTAs). This finding points to the need for an exchange-rates coordination mechanism within FTA blocks.

Section 3 is by far the best part of the book. Kawai and Wignaraja (chapter 10 ) provide a stage-setting overview of the untoward consequences of the proliferation of overlapping FTAs and the related reform proposals. Chia (chapter 11) provides an interesting analytical narrative of the progress made, and challenges faced by, the Association of the South East Asian nations (ASEAN) in its move towards an economic community. Urata (chapter 12) critically examines the proposal for consolidating ASEAN’s FTAs with Australia, China, India Japan and South Korea to form a mega FTA, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Dupont (chapter 13) provides a penetrating analysis of the viability of both RCEP and the proposed Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) in light of the European experience. The evidence harnessed in these two chapters casts serious doubts on the viability of the proposed mega FTAs.

Among the contributions in the final section, Uyama (chapter 15) argues for placing emphasis on negotiating pluralistic agreements that specifically focus on a single trade issue (following the example of the Information Technology Agreement) as a solution to the present stalemate of the Doha Round trade negotiations. The remaining chapters break no new grounds and read like straight transcripts of impromptu conference presentations.

Notwithstanding the limitations noted, overall this is an important book that helps fertilization of new ideas on a subject of contemporary policy relevance. The book is compact and generally well edited and organized, but its reader-friendliness could have been further improved by adding a list of abbreviations and acronyms, and a subject index.

Prema-chandra Athukorala, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Back to top

INTEGRATING REGIONS: Asia in Comparative Context. Edited by Miles Kahler and Andrew MacIntyre. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013. x, 320 pp. (Tables.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8364-4.

Continuing globalization has not resulted in a declining interest in regional integration. Quite the opposite: regional integration is analyzed and discussed in a number of regions. Europe and Asia are two large regions that attract the attention of both scholars and policy makers. Miles Kahler’s edited volume examines regional integration processes in Asia, but the book’s chapters also provide a comparative perspective and consider developments in Europe and Latin America.

The book is organized in five parts and ten chapters. After Kahler’s introductory chapter, in part 2, the authors look at the design of regional institutions. The third part is devoted to a comparison of Latin American and European integration, whilst part 4 deals with Asian regional institutions and their potential future convergence. Andrew MacIntyre and John Ravenhill have contributed the concluding chapter, which evaluates the future of Asian regional institutions.

In the introduction, Miles Kahler argues that some frequently made assumptions about regional integration fail to convince. He suggests that there is no fixed sequencing starting with a free trade area and being completed with a political union as suggested by Bela Balassa more than 50 years ago (13). Sovereign states are exploring the utility of regional integration, but neither is regional integration a process without side-effects, nor is deeper integration in Asia a given development. This caution reflects the difficulties that integration projects all over the world have been experiencing in recent years. Consequently, none of the authors in the edited volume is overly optimistic on the prospects for regionalism in Asia. Advocates of regional integration have discarded grand designs and potent declarations, which have been replaced by incrementalism and a search for a (small) common denominator.

Simon Hix is analyzing the institutional design of integration processes, but his analysis is somewhat dated. His suggestion that European “citizens and state officials share a post-national concept of sovereignty” (31) certainly is not an accurate description of the EU in 2014. Furthermore, the assumption that Europe has been able to “progress so far with such a high level of national and political consensus” (37) shows that the text has been written before European societies—from Finland to Italy—have been re-discovering their nation states.

Judith G. Kelly’s piece is looking at regional integration from a different angle. She argues that the challenge for regional integration is to accommodate “heterogeneous preferences, capacities, and beliefs” (79). Indeed, this is a matter that all projects of regional integration are struggling with. Amitav Acharya, by contrast, provides a more optimistic assessment of regional integration processes and argues that institutions in Asia can contribute to the development of common preferences in Asia. He uses a constructivist approach and argues that socialization can lead to a region-wide “taken-for-grantedness” (226). Without the use of force or coercion, new actors are supposed to adopt “the rules and norms of a community on a long-term basis” (225). However, Kelly has pointed out the failure of that approach in Europe, where the Greek crisis from 2010 has not shown a successful enforcement of the existing rules, but has resulted in the socialization of risk and financial losses. (90).

Kevin H. O’Rourke, whose institutional affiliation is not mentioned in the list of contributors, regards the European Union with sympathy and evaluates the integration process positively. However, some of his judgments are not sufficiently clear. He identifies Asia as a single player and suggests that “Asia is not a declining, but a rising power” (146). The decision of the member countries of the European Economic Community to establish a broad integration scheme covering both agriculture and industry reflected the specific regulations of Art. 24 of the GATT (149). In Asia, the interest of Asian states in monetary integration is not caused by their ability to export worldwide without facing restrictions (150), but rather because the countries in the region experienced a devastating financial crisis in 1997/98.

C. Randall Henning discusses economic crises and regional institutions, which is a very interesting debate. However, some of his assessments are not convincing. He suggests that Germany had greater influence than France over the construction of the monetary union in Europe (189). In reality, France had successfully pushed for monetary union, and subsequently Germany contributed to the shaping of the rules in the eurozone. To suggest that the German government or German citizens were eager to give up their currency is a misreading of history. Of course, the principle of the decision for monetary union matters more than the details.

More generally, the edited volume has two weaknesses. The first is that the contributions are not critically evaluating the consequences of the crisis in Europe for the concept of regional integration. Prior to that crisis, regional integration was often understood as a mechanism “to safeguard against future shocks from the global economy” (Kahler, 4). But in Europe, the very process of regional monetary integration has been the source of the crisis. The negative shock came from within, not from abroad. Thus, many observers in Europe have been suggesting that regional integration is not part of the solution, but instead part of the problem.

The second weak point is that the effects of the new mega project in Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), are not discussed in an individual chapter. TPP, in conjunction with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership TTIP, has the potential to reshape international economic relations. Simultaneously, TPP and TTIP weaken the multilateral trade regime and exclude China. These two projects constitute a systemic threat to the WTO and cast a long shadow over all existing preferential trade agreements in Asia and elsewhere. Despite these limitations, the edited volume of Miles Kahler and Andrew MacIntyre makes an important contribution to the already significant literature on regional integration in Asia. The diversity of approaches makes the book beneficial for both students and scholars.

Heribert Dieter, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin, Germany

Back to top

THE MAKING OF THE ASIA PACIFIC: Knowledge Brokers and the Politics of Representation. By See Seng Tan. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2013. 236 pp. US$62.50, paper. ISBN 978-90-8964-477-0.

This book is in the main a self-reflection of the author’s thinking on the making of the Asia Pacific. He treats such making as a discourse put forward by analysts involved in the so-called Track 2 diplomacy in the region. Track 2 diplomacy is a kind of “semi-official process of multilateral security dialogue and cooperation” (18). It is different from Track 1 diplomacy between governments. Participating in the Track 2 channel are mostly academics, journalists, businesspeople and government officials in their private capacity. Their deliberations are not binding on governments. This situation allows a greater degree of freedom of expression and exchange of ideas valuable to policy makers. The author of this book, Professor Tan of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, calls these participants knowledge brokers. He is interested in how they make representations of themselves and of others towards understanding and promoting their ideas of security in the region, often to the exclusion of interpretations from different quarters.

Professor Tan is a long-time observer of this Track 2 process, so he is telling his story here from experience. He tells his story, however, not from the usual angle of policy making, but from a rather unique perspective of critically rethinking how the discourse of Asia-Pacific security is made and passed on to peers and students. He is not interested in reproducing “a history of Track 2 diplomacy and the policy think tanks and academic institutions that participate in it” (17). Instead, he is interested in the “effects that arise from the discourses on security produced and circulated by the region’s premier knowledge communities” (17; emphasis mine). Tan focuses, with good reason, on knowledge growth and discourse making rather than policy making. He is interested in narratives and ideas rather than political strategies per se. The result is a very well-researched book.

According to Tan, most observers “propose that the Asia Pacific idea had its beginnings in policy discourses in the late 1980s” (13), but the critical period under his study is the 1990s, when “epistemic networks contributed to the post-Cold War Asia Pacific” (17). Many of these networks proliferated during the late 1980s and 1990s, and Tan chooses to concentrate on a few prominent ones such as the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, and the ASEAN-ISIS.

Tan is not satisfied with the traditional constructivist school of thinking about Asia-Pacific security, which has become a popular discourse developed, paradoxically, out of Singapore, in particular by a group of scholars associated with the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at the Rajaratnam School, of which Tan is at present the deputy director of the Institute. To Tan, the traditional constructivist view has essentialized ideas and norms over material forces; it has assumed the interaction between agency and structure without going deep into the dynamic process involved. Also, traditional constructivism has taken the state as a given, although what makes the state is very much up to the perception of its stakeholders As a result of these shortcomings, Tan proposed to adopt a radical constructivist view. However, he does not seem to have spelt out in very clear and precise terms what radical constructivism is, referring to it as a “text-based methodology” (22). He seems to stress the need to be more dynamic and critical in analysis, more multi-dimensional in understanding, and more pluralistic and democratic in the making of Asia-Pacific security. His proposal is to be appreciated, but the devil is in the details, and what details that Tan has given us do not seem to lend themselves to vigorous empirical testing. The focus on effects is useful, but the processes and practices involved (referred to in 40-4) deserve a much closer tracing. In the end, he seems to have heaped ideas onto ideas, resulting in more polarizations than clarifications. But the contributions that Tan has made are helpful in opening up more different, critical interpretations of the same subject matter.

Another interesting contribution made by Tan is the concept of the “politics of representation.” In chapters 4 to 7, Tan gives us a detailed and elucidated account of how the Track 2 participants or knowledge brokers have represented the “Asia Pacific,” sovereign states, the “in/human” faces of Asia-Pacific security, and the “authority” of knowledge networks. These substantive chapters are preceded by an introduction (chapter 1), the desire for essence (chapter 2, in which Tan sets up nicely the case of essentialism by the knowledge brokers before he proceeds to knock it down, with some success), and knowledge networks (chapter 3). The last chapter (chapter 8) serves as a conclusion, which Tan uses as a platform to encourage us to devote more energy to strengthen the study of Asia-Pacific security

All in all, Tan has made a valuable contribution by offering a different path towards understanding Asia-Pacific security, a path that can potentially open up new avenues for further thinking. This novelty is to be treasured. The book is not for the faint-hearted, because it is written in a style that is couched in more philosophical terms and concepts than many other books in the field of Asia-Pacific security. Occasionally Tan uses long sentences which have to be read and re-read in order to grasp the message he tries to convey. Those who are persistent enough to plough on are likely to find many words of wisdom, although some of them are partially hidden from the surface.

Gerald Chan, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Back to top

DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES, IDENTITIES, AND CONFLICT IN ASIA. Politics, Economics, and Inclusive Development. Edited by William Ascher and Natalia Mirovitskaya. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, xiv, 347 pp. (Figures, tables). US$90.00, cloth. ISNB 978-1-137-33175-5.

This book tackles an ambitious topic. While economic growth in Asia has received much attention, the relationship between the development strategies pursued in the region and conflict has not. This book attempts to fill the void. Its central question is presented as: “Can Asian policymakers find development strategies that minimize violence while still overseeing healthy economic improvement?” (2). Following an introduction which contains a useful overview of the types of, and trends in, violence in the region, the answers to the central question are to be found in the subsequent nine chapters. One provides an overview of development strategies (state-led, liberalizing and unorthodox) and the links with the forms of violence identified in the introduction (sectarian, ideological, clan and tribal, and nativist-outsider).

This is then followed by seven case studies. The case studies cover a wide geographical area and range of conflicts. There are chapters on: the Maoist insurgency in India; the Baloch insurgency in Pakistan; communal violence in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia; Malaysia; Japanese ODA and conflict in Vietnam; ethnic tensions in Turkey and Uzbekistan; and foreign aid violence in Dagestan and Karadino-Balkaria. All of the chapters are well written, closely argued and informative.

Based on the case studies, the editors provide a conclusion which sums up the research and provides an answer to the question which motivated the volume. The conclusions reached highlight several points. These are: that “governments must be concerned about large gaps between the wealthy and the poor, about restricted social mobility, and about circumstances of economic desperation triggering aggressive confrontations over jobs, natural resources, or other assets and opportunities” (316); that conflict can ensue if “development strategies promote population movement (whether voluntary or forced)” (317); and “the crucial importance of the practical implementation of development strategies, and the role of auxiliary policies and institutions that flesh out how a strategy is enacted and how it is perceived” (318). So inequalities, population movements and implementation matter in limiting the potential conflicts which accompany development. This conclusion is hardly likely to be controversial. Despite the richness of the individual case studies the collective conclusions are rather tame.

One reason for this is the complexity of the cases under consideration, drawn from disparate regions within Asia and exhibiting significant variations in types of conflict and types of development strategies. The scope of the project has perhaps led to only rather high-level and general conclusions. Wide-ranging studies can yield valuable comparative lessons but, in this case, the wideness of the range has limited the conclusions that were available. Perhaps another reason lies in some imprecision in the project itself. While the book is entitled development strategies, these are often lost in the details, which focus as much on specific policies as on strategies. There is an imprecision in the usage of the terms “development strategies,” “development policies” and just plain “development” (which is often reduced to structural change in the economy) and which does not aid the analytical clarity of the book taken as a whole. This is partly reflected in the introduction, which promises a section on “The Challenges for Conflict-Sensitive Economic Development Strategies” (16) but which then proceeds to elaborate on various income inequalities, i.e., development outcomes.

While specific chapters will be of interest to specialists in those areas, the fact that they are not tied closely together by a clearly defined conceptualization and focus on development strategies, means that the collection as a whole is somewhat less than the sum of its parts.

Paul Bowles, University of Northern British Columbia, Canada

Back to top

WRONGED BY EMPIRE: Post-Imperial Ideology and Foreign Policy in India and China. Studies in Asian Security. By Manjari Chatterjee Miller. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013. xiv, 168 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8652-2.

Dr. Miller has written an important book with significant implications for the study of modern India, China and broader Asian and international relations. The clearly presented and sophisticated arguments focus on colonialism and its legacy in India and China. Colonialism is seen to have been a transformative historical event resulting in collective historical trauma that strongly influences the behaviour of these countries up to the present. The collective historical trauma of colonialism is said to cause India and China to emphasize victimhood and entitlement, which dominate their decision calculus. The result is what the author calls “post-imperial ideology” (PII). PII comprises a sense of victimization and a dominant goal to be recognized and empathized with as a victim by others. PII also has subordinate goals: maximizing territorial sovereignty and maximizing status.

Three case studies illustrate the arguments. The first is the failed talks over the Sino-Indian border dispute between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai in 1960. Analysis using previously unknown official Indian documents shows that these talks failed because of the respective PII of the Indian and Chinese leaders, leading to an impasse on territorial sovereignty and status and eventual war. Dr. Miller dutifully examines alternative explanations of the leaders’ behaviour leading to failure and impasse before concluding in support of her analysis.

The second case study is India’s decision in May 1998 to detonate five nuclear devices, which prompted Pakistan’s nuclear tests and a major international crisis. Careful review of Indian media is used to support the argument that PII and victimhood drove Indian decision making. Alternative explanations involving state security, domestic politics and prestige are seen as incomplete or otherwise flawed. The third case study is China’s reaction to Japan’s efforts in 2005 to seek a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The Chinese actions included popular demonstrations, high-level leadership opposition and strong attacks in official and unofficial media outlets. A careful review of commentary from Chinese official and unofficial media outlets shows that Chinese PII and a sense of having been victimized by Japan better explain Chinese behaviour than alternative explanations involving state security and domestic politics.

Whether or not specialists are persuaded by Dr. Miller’s thorough arguments, it seems clear that they will be debating her interesting and insightful analysis for some time to come. The book’s assessment also has major policy implications for contemporary Asian affairs. For one, if the world’s largest states remain driven by a sense of victimhood so long after the demise of colonialism and this sense of victimhood requires provision of maximum territorial sovereignty and maximum status, these two states presumably will have a very hard time resolving their differences. Moreover, their respective differences with neighbouring countries that also suffered the collective trauma of colonialism and to varying degrees have a similar sense of victimization and goals of territorial sovereignty and status strongly indicate that China and India also will have a very hard time resolving the differences they have with many of their neighbours. An overall finding from this kind of study is that Asia will remain unstable with governments dissatisfied over issues of territorial sovereignty and status and thus suspicious and wary of one another.

A major question not fully addressed in the book is why the collective trauma of colonialism has endured and remained so vivid for so long. The study suggests that colonialism was so strong and bad that its negative legacy will last a very long time. This reviewer has investigated the China experience and finds that line of reasoning too simple.

For example, Ja Ian Chong’s award-winning book External Intervention and the Politics of State Formation: China, Indonesia and Thailand, 1893-1952 (Cambridge, 2012), shows that Chinese and other twentieth-century state builders in Asia used and collaborated with external powers in successful efforts to counter and defeat domestic opponents. While they may or may not have had a sense of victimization, these revolutionary leaders reached their goals by collaborating and working pragmatically with outside powers.

Scholarship in recent decades on Mao Zedong’s rise to power belies the publicized nationalistic themes of self-reliance and underlines strongly his Communist-led movement’s close dependence on financial and other support from the Soviet Union. And the Chinese Communists from the outset endeavoured in good Leninist fashion to control and manipulate the nationalist discourse prevalent in China for their tactical and strategic advantage in the struggle to gain power.

Subsequently, once gaining power, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) married its deepened control of and efforts to manipulate the nationalist discourse with pervasive image building regarding the PRC. This state-directed effort duly has emphasized the sense of victimization stressed by Dr. Miller as it also has stressed that Chinese actual behaviour abroad has always been consistent, correct and based on moral principles. The latter has led to the unique status of the PRC as the only large contemporary government never to have acknowledged making a mistake in foreign affairs. While the Chinese image building is viewed as grossly inaccurate by Chinese neighbouring countries and others experienced in the actual behaviour of the PRC, the result of this state-directed propaganda is a society that not only feels grossly victimized but judges that its foreign policies and practices are without flaw. Dr. Miller’s fine analysis highlights a need for further study, notably assessing the creation and sustaining of this uniquely self-righteous Chinese approach and its impact on China’s relations with India, other Chinese neighbours and the United States.

Robert Sutter, George Washington University, Washington DC, USA

Back to top

AUSTRALIA-CHINA RELATIONS POST 1949: Sixty Years of Trade and Politics. By Yi Wang. Farnham, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012. xii, 252 pp. (Tables.) US$114.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4094-3728-4.

Middle age is often seen as a time for reflection on our lives, and the 40-year mark of the relationship between the People’s Republic of China and Australia is an apt time for reflection. Yi Wang has written a timely study that joins a number of recent publications on the fascinating relationship between the newest great power of Asia, and an aging middle power.

This book examines the relationship from the Australian perspective, divided into discrete historical chapters roughly linked with Australian prime ministers. Chapters include the 1949-1972 period, the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser years (1972-1983), the Bob Hawke government up until the “June 4” incident in 1989, 1989-1996 under Hawke and Paul Keating, John Howard’s long reign from 1996-2007 and finally Kevin Rudd’s aborted 2007-2010 term.

As the subtitle indicates, the author weaves a careful study of both the political and trade aspects of the relationship, and works hard to bring both parts to light and show the links between the two. Wang demonstrates that while there have been regular diplomatic disputes and political challenges, the overall relationship has significantly strengthened and matured. As Wang notes, this is in large part because Australian leaders and their Chinese counterparts have placed the maintenance of good trade relationships ahead of political considerations. This has not only served the economies of both countries well, it has enabled a deepening relationship where issues such as human rights and regional security politics now have the opportunity to be openly discussed.

Reading through the years, it’s encouraging to see how similar many of the debates and worries about China have been for Australian audiences. Wang’s historical survey shows that contemporary fears about how close Australia should get to China and the relative balance between the security and economic aspects of the relationship are neither new nor particularly fraught today. The book also shines in periods where the author, a former Chinese official now working in Australia, was either involved or at least present for key moments in the relationship. The section on Australia’s human rights delegation visits to China after Tiananmen, and the analysis of Kevin Rudd’s now infamous “zhengyou” or “true friend” speech shine with personal detail and sharp analysis. Indeed, the analysis of the “Rudd paradox,” where a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat oversaw growing mistrust and suspicion between China and Australia, is excellent.

Unfortunately, the wide scope and different levels of access means a varying quality and quantity of analysis. The author has managed to talk to many senior policy makers on the Australian side, but aside from an interview with John Howard in 2011, the bulk of the interviews were conducted back in 1991-1994. This is a shame, as it would have been great to see the author revisit those involved during this crucial period and see how their views have changed or evolved over time. The interviews and the author’s engagement with the early 1990s period also lead to an overly heavy focus on this era. Most chapters, such as the one on the 23 years between 1949-1972 or on the 11 years between 1996-2007 run to about 30 pages in length. The 16 years of the Hawke-Keating government, however, is given 88 pages. In turn, the impact of Whitlam, Fraser and Howard in particular feels under-done. The “findings and conclusion” chapter is also too brief, while raising many tantalizing but unaddressed questions.

It’s also clear that the author’s interest lies more towards the trade side of the relationship, and so several of the political questions which are raised in the introduction are largely sidelined during the book. Most notably, the author sets out to “answer the question of whether Australia has been pursuing its relations with China independently or otherwise” (ix) given its alliance with the US, yet aside from a few half-hearted references the issue is largely ignored. The author doesn’t even really address the topic in the findings chapter, aside from dismissing similarities between Canberra and Washington’s approach to Beijing as a “coincidence of interests [rather] than from blind subservience to great power policy” (211).

This is a shame, as the impact of the great powers on Australian foreign policy is one of the key questions in the field, and Wang’s focus on a non-allied power such as China could have proven an excellent addition to the literature. Certainly careful readers can see a justification for the author’s assessment in the historical chapters and draw their own conclusions, but it would have been useful to see a more explicit engagement throughout. Indeed, while the author sets out to present the book as a work of political science and international relations, this feels at times like a coat pulled over the top of a more traditional piece of diplomatic history—one put on in order to attract a wider readership without necessarily deepening the analysis. Big questions such as whether Australia now faces a “China choice,” for instance, are hinted at by the author, yet left untouched.

Ultimately, this book represents a very useful reference work that will inform and guide any student or scholar of Australian foreign policy. But it also feels like something of a missed opportunity. Given the author’s background, it would have been great to learn more about what the Chinese think of this middle-sized Western outpost with its great mineral wealth and a healthy self-regard on the international stage. Maybe that’s for the next book. Until then Yi Wang is to be congratulated for holding up a mirror to Australia’s approach to China, showing both the growing strength, as well as patches of flab that need further work.

Andrew Carr, Australian National University, Acton, Australia

Back to top

HEALTH TRANSITIONS AND THE DOUBLE DISEASE BURDEN IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC: Histories of Responses to Non-Communicable and Communicable Diseases. Routledge Advances in Asia-Pacific Studies, 14. Edited by Milton J. Lewis, Kerrie L. MacPherson. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xiii, 317 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$155.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-57543-0.

This informative edited volume addresses the complexities of “the epidemiological transition” in countries in Asia and the Pacific. The epidemiological transition—a theory first proposed by demographer Abdel Omran in 1971—states that as populations “modernize” (i.e., adopt medical technologies, such as childhood immunizations and essential medicines, and improve sanitation and housing), their members go from having relatively brief lives, typically cut short by communicable diseases (CDs), such as measles, tuberculosis, malaria and cholera, to living relatively long lives, burdened by chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. A recent addendum to the epidemiological transition is the “nutritional transition,” the shift towards the increasing consumption of meat, salt, sugar, saturated fat, and refined or highly processed foods, with an accompanying decrease in the consumption of vegetables and whole foods.

In wealthy Western countries the epidemiological transition is thought to have largely taken place. Most other countries around the world, however, are experiencing what has come to be called the “double-disease burden.” They are mid-transition, as it were, and thus some segments of their populations continue to suffer from deadly infectious diseases; other segments suffer from the hazards associated with sedentary lifestyles and over-nutrition; and yet other segments find themselves plagued by the ailments of both pre- and post-transition. To use the term “mid-transition” implies that it is inevitable: that the transition will eventually occur for all and that it will look roughly the same everywhere. However, epidemiological transition theory is based on the broad contours of the histories of Western nations. These histories may not be replicable and, moreover, the broad contours tend to hide the internal variability and inequalities that were and continue to be experienced in high-income nations. For example, the very compelling chapter in this volume about Australia clearly shows that the health transition for the Aboriginal population has been markedly different and worse than for the non-Aboriginal population, with Aboriginal populations experiencing a double-disease burden and suffering disproportionately from both CDs and NCDs.

For the most part, each chapter in this volume is devoted to one nation, and each follows approximately the same template of describing the history of the nation’s shift thus far from CDs to NCDs, the nature of its double-disease burden, the health policies and services intended to address the burden, and the challenges encountered. Considering that a whole book could be written about these topics for each of the nations in question, most of the chapters do a very good job of laying out the crucial information in a necessarily succinct yet interesting way. Thus, the volume as a whole is a very valuable compendium of useful and important information about the epidemiological history of each country.

My initial impression of the volume was that each chapter told pretty much the same story: as India (or South Korea or Thailand, etc.) came to provide its citizens with childhood immunizations, better access to clean water, and improved living conditions, the burden of communicable diseases decreased. And, as the citizens of Sri Lanka (or the Philippines or Indonesia, etc.) came to eat more fat, sugar, and salt, and as they became more urbanized and sedentary, they came to suffer more from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancer. This overarching narrative is perhaps inevitable when the disease history of each country must be collapsed into 20 pages, thus smoothing out most of the unique vagaries of each case.

However, each case does, in fact, convey some of its singular trajectory. For example, while 21 percent of Papua New Guinea’s mortality is now caused by cardiovascular disease (CVD), in fact coronary heart disease (which ranks as the first or second cause of CVD deaths in other Pacific Island countries) is not the leading cause of its CVD deaths. Rather, CVD deaths in Papua New Guinea are from rheumatic heart disease (caused by staphlyccocal infection) and from cor pulmonale (likely caused by lifelong exposure to domestic wood-smoke, not surprising given that much traditional housing is not ventilated). In other words, fat, sugar, salt and increasing sedentism may have similar effects everywhere, but the details of how a citizenry live (e.g., how they cook, how they build their houses) also matter a great deal.

The edited volume is a lesson in how national economic policies can have profound health outcomes, again contributing to the unique nature of each case. For example, the authors of the chapter about Thailand discuss that nation’s rapid economic growth due to industrialization, the state’s reluctance to discourage foreign investment in factories that produce hazardous wastes, and the consequent increase in ailments associated with industrial pollution in communities living near industrial estates—not only cancers and chromosomal abnormalities in children, but also a very high rate of suicide. The volume is also interesting for the information each chapter provides about how these nations are trying to address their rapid increases in costly NCDs. For example, the authors of the chapter about Singapore note that it became the world’s first country to require adult children to care for their aging parents.

The best chapters for me were the ones that focused a bit more on the social and political histories of health and a bit less on the health statistics. For example, the chapter about Japan nicely explains how Chinese medicine, two centuries of isolation policy under the Edo Shogunate, and Buddhist philosophies all influenced health regimens there. That said, the volume is quite even in the sense that most of the chapters provide a good balance of socio-political history and epidemiological data. In sum, I think this volume will be an extremely useful resource for medical historians, public health practitioners in the Asia/Pacific region, and scholars and practitioners anywhere who are interested in the double-disease burden.

Holly Wardlow, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Back to top

STATE VIOLENCE IN EAST ASIA. Asia in the New Millennium. Edited by N. Ganesan and Sung Chull Kim. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. xi, 294 pp. US$50.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8131-3679-0.

The “Note on Romanization” page in State Violence in East Asia offers clues as to the breadth that this volume covers: Korean, Japanese Chinese, Indonesian, Thai and Burmese. Not listed here are two additional geographic areas also included: the Philippines and Cambodia. Most readers will be familiar with the skeletal details of the events addressed here. However, the authors expand their meticulous coverage of these events to analyze the efforts by civilians and government officials to negotiate reconciliation and closure to the crimes committed during these troubling times. This latter effort I felt to be the most interesting angle of this well-conceived and tightly organized volume.

The framework for State Violence in East Asia is paved by two excellent introductory chapters, one by the editors and a second by Vince Boudreau that analyzes the “social and political role” of state violence. The chapters that follow, building their arguments on ideas and questions presented in these two discussions, focus on four fundamental aspects of state violence: the reasons behind the state’s decision to use violence; social treatment of this violence in its aftermath; the path(s) taken to push for reconciliation; and the relationship between political transition and resolution of violence (4). Boudreau’s distinction between instrumental and exemplary violence (24-29) serves as an important thread that weaves its way through many of the volume’s case studies. His discussion on “Asian Cases” (34-38) correctly warns that much variety exists within this geographically defined area due to the different historical experiences of the residents. The question then arises as to the value of limiting the discussions here to just East Asian cases.

The question of why the state chooses to commit acts of violence on its citizens is most relevant to distinctions that Boudreau draws between instrumental and exemplary violence: does the state simply act to eradicate a potential or visible threat or does it employ violence as a preemptive warning directed at potential threats to its existence? The two motivations often overlap, as suggested in Jeffrey N. Wasserstron and Kate Merkel-Hess’s consideration of the 1989 Tiananmen Incident in China as “instrumental in the moment” but harbouring “exemplary ends” (chapter 4). The question of why the state targets its own people is closely related to a second question concerning which people it targets: ethnic minorities (Okinawans and non-Khmer Cambodians), and political minorities (politically ostracized Koreans of Chŏlla province and leftists in general). Both groups have traditionally been seen as harbouring less intrinsic interest in central state operations, and thus peoples that pose the greatest potential threat to the state. Many chapters reveal attempts by the state to link radical political movements to citizen protests by describing their acts as communist-directed attempts to overthrow democratically elected governments, a claim that has enjoyed less support since the end of the Cold War.

The diverse experiences found in the case studies regarding popular attempts to reach resolution and gain restitution underlines the difficulty of negotiating closure after the violence has subsided. Boudreau offers two necessary factors that encourage this process: a “balance of power between the regime and its critics,” and the extent to which either side “controls the narrative” (40). Rewriting state narratives is facilitated by, as seen in South Korea, significant political change that allows the victims political space to assume a degree of control over the reconciliation process. Even here, as Namhee Lee demonstrates, the results are never completely satisfactory to all (64-68). Yet, this example is exceptional in that it resulted in powerful heads of state and industry being brought to trial. An insurmountable roadblock found in many cases was the retention of either direct or indirect power and influence by officials responsible for the violence.

This leads to the rather important question raised in a number of the chapters: to what extent is regime change necessary for resolution and narrative correction? Douglas Kammen’s chapter on Indonesia’s 2004 examination of the mid-1960s revolution (chapter 6), and Rommel A. Curaming’s chapter on the mid-1980s overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines (chapter 8) are of particular value in addressing this question. The two authors independently attribute the lack of success of reconciliation to non-ideological factors, namely the social class and economic interests held by those who remained in positions of influence over the periods of state violence and reconciliation. Other pertinent factors include the “relative empowerment of civil society,” “the form of military engagement that accompanied the political transition, and the “proximity of justice” (15-16). An unfortunate, but perhaps inevitable, barrier is the “natural fear” element: the fear that the perpetrators of state violence will be pardoned for their crimes as a compromise toward the “utilitarian premise of achieving the greatest good for the greatest number” (16).

State Violence in East Asia offers eight generally sound case studies that follow rather closely the road map laid out by the volume’s editors. The study on World War II-era Okinawan suicides, however, appears slightly out of place for two reasons: first, the acts under discussion occurred during a wartime situation, and the victims were targeted not as state enemies but for their assumed position as imperial subjects. In other words, it was their Japanese identity that “entitled” them to die for the imperial cause. This diverse collection of case studies might have benefited from a short consideration of similar developments in Latin America or Africa. That said, the structure, cohesion and diversity among the chapters qualifies State Violence in East Asia as a steady anchor for a survey course or seminar on modern Asian issues, a welcome counter to the many publications dealing with East Asia’s miracle economies. Its overall structure demonstrates an excellence in organization that future edited volumes might consider emulating.

Mark Caprio, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan

Back to top

HIGHER EDUCATION REGIONALIZATION IN ASIA PACIFIC: Implications for Governance, Citizenship and University Transformation. International and Development Education. Edited by John N. Hawkins, Ka Ho Mok and Deane E. Neubauer. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. xvi, 215 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-00287-7.

One danger for studies of regionalization is that they can become a triumphant (and tedious) parade of acronyms denoting organizations, committees and agreements. The implication, then, is that regionalization is proceeding apace, that there is a shared vision and that goals are well defined and being achieved, or will be with due passage of time. This volume avoids such traps by its use of critical approaches both at the country level and in discussing the broader trends in the region. It is arranged into three sections (each containing four chapters) under the headings: Conceptual Issues; Country Studies; and Regulatory and Governance Dimensions.

The opening chapters provide an accessible introduction to thinking about the dauntingly complex terrain of regionalization. Deane E. Neubauer sketches the key dynamics in the region. Jane Knight sets out a series of definitions of terms that are used (not always consistently) in the field and proposes a scale of types of interaction ascending from weakest to strongest: cooperation, coordination, convergence, integration. She suggests there are three basic approaches—functional, organizational and political—and lists some thirty examples arranged under these headings. Rounding out the section on conceptual issues, in their respective chapters, Molly Lee and Miki Sugimura provide useful snapshots of the array of bodies involved in regionalization and the types of activities they carry out. It is a complex web they delineate well, though a separate glossary of acronyms would have been a welcome addition to the volume.

In section 2, the country studies of Japan, China, Indonesia and the Philippines each provide useful insights. Wen Wen discusses a Chinese approach to regionalization—“province leading with the state approving”—noting that some Chinese provinces are as powerful as some smaller state economies in the region. Anthony Welch studies the challenges facing Indonesia in meeting domestic demand and the limits this places on its regional activities. Akiyoshi Yonezawa and Arthur Meerman look at the demographic challenges facing Japan, and its role in multilateral initiatives in East Asia. Regina Ordonez examines the responses of the Philippine Commission on Higher Education to the global labour market and the lure of overseas employment.

The third section considers regulatory issues at multi-country and regional levels. Commentators observe that countries in the region have more differences than commonalities but that, on the other hand, they have more in common with each other than with Western countries. The editors of this volume distinguish two phases of regionalism. The first, spanning roughly 1950 to 1980, featured cooperative interactions between exclusive peer-country groupings in the fields of trade, security and education. The second phase, dating from the 1980s to the present, features broader-based inclusive groupings and is more characterized by the philosophies of neoliberalism, deregulation and marketization.

In this context, Ka Ho Mok refers to the “tango” between cooperation and competition, as several countries strive to position themselves as education hubs, in the quest both for income generation and for exerting “soft power” through enhanced prestige. He explores the prospects for regulatory regionalism noting that, while such developments are in an early phase, there is the potential to facilitate new models of governance, including “network governance” to address the increasingly transnationalized nature of education offerings. Molly Lee looks at recent events in the restructuring of university governance and how these affect institutional autonomy in eleven countries. In cases where there is greater pressure to justify university budgets in relation to national and local priorities—and the benefits for taxpayers of the country—international projects may be seen as a second or third-order option.

A routine evaluative approach is to compare Asian regionalization projects with those taking place in the European Union. Quite apart from the question of whether this is a useful comparator, the editors point out that recent reports suggest the European project is having its own difficulties and that domestic education is largely unchanged despite numerous agreements, high-level conferences, intergovernmental meetings and inspiring rhetoric. Similar observations are made for Asia. One author notes, for example that the University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific Credit Transfer Scheme, the Asian regional version of the European credit transfer system, is seldom used by institutions. This is despite the fact that 34 countries and some 350 Higher Education Institutions have joined UMAP and the scheme has operated for more than twenty years.

John Hawkins analyzes the centripetal forces and centrifugal forces acting to promote or frustrate the regionalization of education. Centripetal forces include: economic and prestige/“soft-power” incentives to strengthening the profile and role of the region in the education sphere; and the mutual benefits of facilitating the mobility of students and academics within the region. Centrifugal forces include in particular: the wide variety of linguistic and ethnic diversity; major variations in systems for admissions, grading and credit; differences in curriculum; lack of common QA standards; lack of commitment at the level of government and HEI; and a lack of financial resources for the organization, promotion and follow-through on regional cooperation projects. There are also historical disputes and potential military tensions between the most powerful countries in the region: China, Japan and Korea. The concluding chapter by Hawkins, Mok and Neubauer draws together the themes and observations of the book, and points to directions for future research.

This volume is valuable for those who want: an introduction to (and disentangling of) concepts in the regionalization of education; an outline of key organizations and developments; illuminating country studies of Japan, China, Indonesia and the Philippines; and an assessment of the current state of play and factors influencing the likely outcomes of higher education regionalization in the Asia Pacific. As such it is recommended for researchers, students and those concerned with the development and analysis of policy development in the field of international higher education in Asia and beyond.

Grant McBurnie, Independent Scholar, Carnegie, Australia

Back to top

China and Inner Asia


THE SPECTER OF “THE PEOPLE”: Urban Poverty in Northeast China. By Mun Young Cho. Itacha, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013. xxi, 207 pp. (Figures, table.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8014-7864-2.

New forms of urban poverty in China have received much research attention in recent years. This is not surprising because Chinese cities, after three decades of market reform, have become key sites to observe extreme forms of socio-spatial inequality. Most of the scholarship, however, invokes the generic vocabulary, such as “urban poverty” or “the poor,” to capture rising inequalities. The existing literature, mostly based on surveys of the “poor population,” has produced a particular kind of knowledge that portrays the poor in China as victims of neoliberal reforms, just like their counterparts in other countries. Relying on quantitative surveys, sociologists examine patterns of social stratification, while geographers map patterns of spatial segregation. Two groups of people and the space they inhabit loom large in the social science scholarship on poverty in China: laid-off workers living in decaying danwei housing compounds and migrant workers settling in urban villages (chengzhongcun). We learn from the literature quite a bit about social stratification and spatial segregation, but somehow, the narrative is often flat and what we do not learn is the specificity of the Chinese urban poor.

The Spector of the People is a critical intervention in the literature on urban poverty in China. Based on more than two years of extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Harbin, one of the major cities in the rustbelt of northeastern China, this book offers a much richer account of the historically specific conditions that have produced the category of the new urban poor, such as laid-off workers and migrants. The author deliberately avoided using generic vocabulary such as “the poor” or the “poor population.”

Instead, the author chose to use “the people” (renmin). This shift from “the poor” to “the people” opens up a whole array of analytical possibilities for investigating the complexity of urban poverty in China today.

The main question of the book is deceptively simple, that is, who are “the people” (renmin) in today’s China? As the chapters demonstrate, “the people” is a contested category and it has always been exclusive, along gender, urban vs. rural, and state vs. non-state divides. The “people,” since the beginning years of socialism, have included mostly full-time male workers employed in state-owned enterprises. Women, part-time, contract-based workers, and workers employed in collectively owned enterprises have been often excluded. Moreover, the entire rural population is excluded from the category of “the people.” While many of “the people” today are laid off, they can still make powerful claims to the state demanding various social security programs to improve their condition. Other poor groups cannot make the same claim as former industrial workers. In other words, not all poverty has the same urgency for the state.

Many former workers have become destitute in China’s thriving market economy, but because of their past—as “masters” of the country, the laid-off urban workers do not easily accept their position at the bottom of the new socio-economic hierarchy. The book describes, in vivid details, how laid-off urban workers believe that they just had “bad luck” and their colleagues who got rich simply had “better luck.” They do not see themselves as a separate class from the new rich. Moreover, the laid-off workers and their families are eager to “participate” in the new market economy, by investing their meager savings in the stock market and in properties. Although most of them cannot afford a new home, residents in the poor neighbourhood of Hadong, the primary fieldwork site of the book, talk all the time about moving to a better apartment. A few of them succeeded, and most have failed. Thus, as the book reveals, this poverty group of urban laid-off workers is full of contradictions, as they are caught between hope and despair, ambitions and structural disadvantages.

Most works on urban poverty in China have adopted the theoretical framework of neoliberalism and the language of policy intervention. In many of the accounts, China’s new urban poor live in shantytowns, and they are just like residents in the ghettos in the US, favelas in Brazil, and slums in India. The Spector of the People stands out in the literature, because it argues, clearly and powerfully, that China’s urban poor are different because of their past as “the people” and “masters” of a socialist country. This book theorizes these historical and context-specific conditions of the poor, and by doing so, it goes beyond the standard narrative of neoliberalism and dispossession.

Xuefei Ren, Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA

Back to top



CHINA’S ROAD TO GREATER FINANCIAL STABILITY: Some Policy Perspectives. Editors, Udaibir S. Das, Jonathan Fiechter and Tao Sun. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2013. xiii, 229 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$38.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-61635-406-0.

China’s Road to Greater Financial Stability examines China’s financial institutions and policies in order to establish what risks or returns they present to financial stability. The book is well organized, addressing the different facets of China’s financial system in depth and without much overlap, and easy to read, written in clear language with a strong structure. The content is drawn out expertly, but there are two aspects missing that limit the usefulness of this manuscript. First, there is very little written about shadow banking, which is mentioned, but dismissed as a small component of the financial system. In fact, shadow banking, or non-bank loan finance, is equivalent to 30 percent of China’s bank assets (and over 50 percent of GDP) and has posed increasing risks to financial stability. Second, there is no economic or financial theory used in the text. In particular, there is no discussion of theories of financial stability and development, which vary in their assumptions and conclusions about what comprises a stable, deepening financial system.

Shadow banking has posed a large threat to China’s financial stability in recent years and therefore is one of the most relevant topics to the subject of this book. The excessive risks taken in the trust sector have been carried through to banks’ wealth management products. Risks taken by credit guarantee companies and Internet lending companies have resulted in the failure of these companies. Regulatory responses to problems in the shadow banking sector have been multiple.

Financial stability and financial development theory have changed dramatically over the past several decades. They have moved away from assumptions that financial liberalization is always beneficial for an economy and toward assumptions that countries should take a cautious approach to liberalization. Current theoretical assumptions are embodied in the policy advice presented in the volume but an explicit statement of those assumptions is omitted, which may lead to confusion. For example, various chapters in the volume state that a) finance can destabilize growth; b) that finance can become predatory in open economies; or c) that financial liberalization, including exchange rate and interest rate liberalization, is necessary to enhance growth in China. These assumptions are seemingly contradictory, but can be resolved by drawing out the theoretical underpinnings associated with them. It is probable that financial stability and financial development theory will once again change, and the assumptions implied in this volume will no longer be so evident.

Despite these gaps, the volume provides a great deal of valuable information on China’s financial system and can be used as a reference on the most relevant financial institutions and policies present in the country today. Some highlights of the book include chapter 4 by Yang Li and Xiaojing Zhang, on China’s sovereign balance sheet risks, which provides an interesting analysis of sovereign assets and liabilities and the potential financial risks associated with these; chapter 5 by Nuno Cassola and Nathan Porter, on systemic liquidity and monetary policy, which analyzes how the policies of the People’s Bank of China impact liquidity and financial prices; chapter 7 by Silvia Iorgova and Yinqiu Lu, on the structure of the banking system, which besides examining the banking system, contains a brief discussion of the relationship between banks and local governments; and chapter 11 by Shuqing Guo, on China’s capital markets, which describes China’s stock and bond markets and discusses the reform measures that have been implemented. Li and Zhang’s look at the sovereign balance sheet is an important and often overlooked component of assessing financial stability. The authors find that the possibility of a sovereign debt crisis is low, since the state has built up sufficient equity. Cassola and Porter incorporate useful figures on interest rates, bond spreads and measures of structural liquidity to discuss potential liquidity shocks due to uneven distribution of liquidity, even when overall liquidity in the system is sufficient. Iorgova and Lu deconstruct the components of the banking sector and include a brief section on the shadow banking system as well as a look at the debt burden that local government financial platforms have placed on banks. Guo’s chapter on capital markets contains useful figures on capital market structures and financial assets, and a helpful table that lists a number of reforms that are implemented or being considered and how they are being put into practice.

The book is written in a clear style by reputable contributors, and is accessible to scholars, policy makers and financial analysts who seek a clear snapshot of China’s financial system. The book is also well priced: at USD $38.00, the book can provide a useful resource for any library. The work is timely, as financial stability in China is a topic that has grown increasingly complex and of concern. An updated version of this volume that takes into account the shadow banking sector, financial stability and deepening theory, and the new financial reforms due to be implemented this year would be most welcome. As it stands, we recommend this book to those interested in China’s financial system.

Sara Hsu, State University of New York at New Paltz, New Paltz, USA

Back to top



MAO: The Real Story. By Alexander V. Pantsov with Steven I. Levine. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013, c2012. xix, 755 pp., [16] pp. of plates. (Maps, illus.) US$20.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-4516-5448-6.

Mao: The Real Story is a well-written comprehensive history of the life and times of Mao Zedong. The book presents an alternative to the one-sided polemic of Mao: The Unknown Story by JungZhang and Jan Halliday.

The authors claim a new thesis, namely that “Mao was a faithful follower of Stalin who took pains to reassure the Boss of his loyalty and who dared to deviate from the Soviet model only after Stalin’s death”(4). In fact, a number of scholars have discussed the influence of Stalin on Mao. That having been said, Pantsov and Levine’s exhaustive study of Russian archives fleshes out details of the Mao saga not reported in earlier English-language biographies. The authors present everything from new information about the future Chairman’s father to observations of Mao made by various Soviet officials in the 1930s, 1940s and beyond. They also show how little Mao relied on the actual peasantry, recruiting an army mostly from Hakka fringe elements and what Marx would have called a rural lumpenproletariat.

Stalin had no problem with this and “[s]tarting in the late 1920s, Stalin’s Comintern began to support Mao and even periodically to rise to his defense when other CCP leaders criticized the obstinate Hunanese”(236-237). By 1930, Soviet publications were writing up Mao and Zhu De as important international revolutionary figures “well-known outside of China” (255). Stalin even made it clear that Mao was under his protection and should not be touched. By 1934, the Soviets were publishing Russian editions of Mao’s works and short biographies of him.

As a result of his close connection to Stalin, it was only after the Soviet leader died in 1953 that Mao felt free to become a Maoist. Or, as Mao himself put it, an “adventurist” who would no longer play second fiddle to Soviet leaders. According to the authors’ speculations, Mao’s critical and sometimes rude behaviour towards Khrushchev was a result of Mao’s attempts to show his own greatness and take revenge for what he had endured under Stalin (445-446).

Whether this conjecture about Mao’s inner psyche is true or not, the authors make it clear that when Mao began to abandon Soviet policies and take China further to the left in the late 1950s, he was not the only one pulling China in this direction. In January 1958, Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai, supposedly at least in part to please the boss, came up with the word commune and got the development of the ultimately disastrous giant co-ops of the Great Leap Forward going.

But the authors explain that the problems of the Great Leap were not simply a result of the government’s actions. The disastrous consequences of the Leap were also brought on by one of the worst droughts ever to sweep China. This needs elaboration. In recent years, a number of scholars have questioned the severity of this drought and laid more of the blame for the Great Leap at Mao’s feet, a point the authors don’t mention.

The book also contains interesting new information garnered from Russian sources on the Cultural Revolution. It is, however, a shame the authors didn’t take more of an opportunity to look at how the Cultural Revolution broke up the Stalinist system in China and freed the country for the economic reforms that followed Mao’s death.

The book concludes that although “Mao’s crimes against humanity are no less terrible than the evil deeds of other twentieth century dictators … he did not have plans to exterminate millions of people on purpose.” Moreover, “he followed the principle of ‘cure the illness to save the patient … He neither killed Bo Gu, nor Zhou Enlai, nor Ren Bishi, nor Zhang Guotao, nor even Wang Ming …[H]e forced them to ‘lose face’ but kept them in power” (575).

The authors argue that Mao kept many officials with whom he disagreed in a position where they were able enact the reforms made after Mao died. Pantsov and Levine show that for all his “adventurist” proclivities, Mao was generally careful to balance radicals in his government with reformers.

The authors seem to have taken a similarly balanced approach in regard to the sources they used. People as diverse as Mao’s grandson and Li Lisan’s daughter were among the many they interviewed. The contributions of this wide-ranging group help make the book a valuable resource.

Lee Feigon, Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow

Back to top



THE LOST GENERATION: The Rustication of China’s Educated Youth (1968-1980). By Michel Bonnin; translated by Krystyna Horko. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2013. xxxix, 515 pp. (Photos., figures.) US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 978-962-996-481-8.

Between 1968 and 1980 one of the largest-scale, government-sponsored and short-term population transfers in history occurred in China. Seventeen million young people were sent from their urban homes to the countryside. This English translation from the French brings to a wide readership the most comprehensive Western study of this xiaxiang (down to the villages) movement during the Cultural Revolution era and after. Michel Bonnin has worked on sent-down youth since the mid-1970s. The 2004 original of this book, drawn from a 1988 doctoral dissertation, is based to a large degree on countless interviews with former sent-down youth in Hong Kong and, since the late 1970s, on the mainland. Bonnin supplements these personal stories with official documents, and reference to fictional accounts of the sent-down youth experience. The author readily acknowledges his distinguished predecessors in this field, notably Liu Xiaomeng of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Thomas P. Bernstein, whose Up to the Mountains and Down to the Villages: The Transfer of Urban Youth from Urban to Rural China (Yale UP, 1977) appeared while the movement was still in full swing and became an instant classic. Bonnin takes this story further with the benefit of perspective and a great deal more access to informants and records. His book should be in the library of every student of contemporary China, as this is now the standard reference work on the xiaxiang movement.

Bonnin offers insight into the motivations for the launch of the movement, noting that the thousands sent from the cities in 1968 had predecessors earlier in that decade and before. He suggests that worries over urban youth unemployment as much as Maoist revolutionary idealism about learning from the peasants were reasons for the effort. Returning to the question of motives in his concluding chapter, the author notes how the waves of youth heading for the hills were matched by floods of peasants moving in the opposite direction to jobs in the cities. In covering the movement into 1980, Bonnin dispels any assumptions about it coming to an end with the death of Mao. Young people were still being sent down in 1978, as Deng Xiaoping prepared to repudiate some of Mao’s legacy.

The book extensively sets out the sent-down experience and various large and small-scale efforts to refine, adjust or demolish the movement from almost immediately after it got underway in 1968. Bonnin illustrates well the tensions between educated youth and the cadres designated to look after them and between the city youth and local populations. Interviewees are particularly informative on these aspects of the movement and on the yearnings and plotting of just about every sent-down youth to return home. His sources combine interview material, statistics from labour gazetteers from across China, and fictional examples of suffering, abuse and rebellion.

Although he acknowledges the difference between short stories and actual events, and has interviewed several noted authors of educated-youth literature, Bonnin is perhaps too eager to cite fictional episodes as illustration of many of his points. The use of fictional material is fraught with problems. A writer’s license to embellish and heighten episodes based on real events should engender more caution in using fictional accounts of suffering and abuse from these years. A second flaw in the book may be a reflection of its relatively long gestation. Inconsistencies appear in these pages, when, for example, the suggestion is made about the near absolute level of control over sent-down youth only to be followed by pages of accounts of youth resistance and initiatives in finding space for their own activities. On one page we are told that zhiqing had no time for anything but work, but a few pages on, “frequent” visits from village to village are cited, without any reference to a specific location, as contributing to zhiqing solidarity (303). Culture and leisure were “virtually non-existent” (262-263), but then much is made of the youth’s own efforts to create their own entertainment. Bonnin seems to both underrate the appeal and overstate the influence of the Cultural Revolution yangbanxi (model performances). Only one half of the generation that might have been subject to rustication actually participated (xvii), raising the question of what happened to the other half, which is touched on but not developed. Sometimes major points seem to appear only in passing: only 8 percent of sent-down youth were sent outside their home province or municipality, for example (178). In summing up the movement, Bonnin concludes that it failed in its aims to transform a generation (453). I would argue that the sent-down youth experience did indeed transform the zhiqing, but in ways not intended by the movement. The flourishing and inventiveness of Chinese youth culture after 1978 owed much to the preceding decade, as Bonnin himself argues earlier in the book. As new sources have appeared in China, the author seems to have inserted further examples or discussion a little haphazardly in the text. The number of footnotes referring to preceding pages is striking. But the xiaxiang movement continues to resonate in China and is constantly throwing up new knowledge. We should applaud Bonnin’s mastery of his subject and dedication to continuing his fine work on the topic.

Also admirable is the Chinese University Press’s decision to place notes at the bottom of pages and to provide an extensive glossary. Why traditional characters are used instead of simplified for a book on this topic is a mystery. The same press published a Chinese translation of this work in 2009. The English translator is to be congratulated, with only a few places where the best expression escapes her. To bring this important study to the widest community of English-speaking students of contemporary China, a paperback edition must surely appear soon.

Paul Clark, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Back to top



CHINA’S SENT-DOWN GENERATION: Public Administration and the Legacies of Mao’s Rustication Program. By Helena K. Rene. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2013. xiii, 229 pp. (Figures, boxes, B&W photos.) US$32.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-58901-987-4.

China’s Sent-Down Generation is a rare and detailed piece of scholarship into the management of a core part of the 1968-1978 Chinese Cultural Revolution, namely, the “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” rustification program which sent 17 million urban Chinese youth to rural communes, state and military farms for their “socialist reeducation.” These youths, referred to as “sent-downs,” typically laboured for long hours under harsh conditions. While at these farms, many also suffered hunger, injury and abuse, though some ended up at better locations, perhaps using their family’s connections. They are collectively referred to as China’s “lost generation” as their adolescent and young adult lives were thoroughly disrupted and deprived of educational, social and economic opportunities. Some youth were sent for undefined periods, sometimes until the program ended.

Rene’s book is largely based on extensive interviews of 54 sent-downs and others affected by the rustification program. It is an excellent piece of historical research, focusing on program administration. The program is placed in the context of Mao’s political struggles against the inevitably rising bureaucracy, Mao’s last stand to rid China of elitist tendencies of bureaucracy and technocracy and return to the revolutionary ideal of building a communist society based on peasantry. Here, rustification was to address the bourgeois tendencies of urban youth and help them reconnect with revolutionary ideals through physical labour with the peasantry, thereby also providing opportunities for self-actualization and contribution to the country’s development, as well as addressing problems of rising urban unemployment and social strife. Large programs often have precursors, which are described.

Rene describes a highly efficient design for recruiting people, documenting the working of the totalitarian state. At the national level, top leaders in China’s Communist Party (CCP) committees focused on rustification, and the State Council had special task forces. In the middle, trade unions, women’s federations, the Young Communists Leagues and schools were instrumental in assigning sent-downs to locations. At the bottom, neighbourhood or street offices of the government actively persuaded youth to sign up, “often by haranguing them at their homes all day and night” (81). Because of China’s strict hukou (locality registration) system, it was quite easy for the local Knowledgeable Youth Resettlement Office to gather information at the public security offices regarding families with eligible children. As one sent-down put it, “simply put, there is no way they will miss you and you can’t find any loopholes” (104). After youth reported to their neighbourhood school, they were told how to prepare for departure (cancel their hukou, receive tickets and clothes), and soon sent off to their new location. People had to go, because failure would have one’s hukou cancelled, leaving one without food rations and other necessities. An entire logistics chain was set up to ensure their transit. In some cases, volunteers readily signed up for the adventure. Surely, such state strategy and efficiency sound eerily familiar to some other dark parts of modern human history.

Interviewees reported that receiving sites were not well prepared for integrating arrivals with local communities, reporting that farmers often thought they were mere volunteers. Youth slept in sheds and emptied, substandard homes. Food was insufficient and horrible. Sanitary conditions were poor. Accidents were common on farms, and advanced medical care was typically lacking. As one person stated, “you cannot imagine how backward everything was.” Language barriers existed. Some sent-downs suffered from sadistic treatment, especially on military farms. Rape and sexual favours were not much reported among interviewees who went to villages, but young women did find strong incentive to marry local men in order to reduce their physical labour in the fields. It was difficult to return back to the cities, requiring bureaucratic discretion and connections. To be fair, the qualitative inquiry finds many different situations, including some in which the sent-downs were well treated and even discouraged from doing heavy work.

Some sent-downs report studying Mao’s thought in the morning, and at night reporting their own thoughts and consciousness in “struggle sessions.” Some interviewees found that it was not landownership that was at the root of all evil, but rather a system that failed to distinguish among individual performance: good or bad, efficient or inefficient. Some peasants were poor not because of landowners, but because they could not get ahead in the system; some were lazy or had no incentives. Every now and then an incentive was offered to which they would respond, including going home early when they finished some task. In short, many sent-downs awoke to a reality that was opposite the propaganda. Mao wanted youth reeducated but in the end they became the lost generation also because their ideas were now incompatible with official doctrine.

Some sent-downs found strength in surviving adversity, while others did not. The author also notes a paradox that while Mao’s rustification policy was partly a response to his disdain for rational, Weberian bureaucratic public administration, socialist reeducation would have been served better had it been better organized on the receiving end. All in all, the book relies a bit too heavily on the qualitative interviews, and better integration with existing studies and writings would have been nice, as well as insight into the coercive mechanisms of the state at different levels, and of the logic of people working in them. But the book operates in an area where access to officials and official documents is difficult or impossible. The relevance of this book to current-day affairs is also evident. Those familiar with public administration in East Asia may readily point to other instances of central governments embarking on power-driven and insufficiently conceived plans that are motivated more by political calculations. While the political context in the book has since passed, aspects of the portrayed decision-making style of the leadership still persist today. This book is a very valuable piece of scholarship that is to be celebrated as a significant addition to knowledge.

Evan Berman, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand                                       

Back to top


CHINESE MONEY IN GLOBAL CONTEXT: Historic Junctures Between 600 BCE and 2012. By Niv Horesh. Stanford: Stanford Economics and Finance (an imprint of Stanford University Press), 2013, c2014. xii, 364 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8719-2.

In this wide-ranging study, Niv Horesh seeks to identify the lines of convergence and divergence between Chinese and Western monetary systems from antiquity to the twenty-first century. This is not a history of Chinese money, but rather an examination of certain episodes or “historic junctures” that illuminate both “surprising commonalities” as well as the “Great Divergence” (13) between these distinctive monetary systems. On balance, though, it is the divergences rather than the convergences that stand out. Horesh rightly emphasizes the often-neglected place of copper currencies in the West from Roman to early modern times, but the basic distinction between gold/silver coinage in Europe and the Islamic world on one hand and bronze coins in East Asia on the other persisted down to modern times. More central to Horesh’s argument, the technological divide in mining and minting, the contrast between the Chinese state’s monopoly on coining and printing money versus the more entrepreneurial world of the West, and the financial revolution in early modern Europe that created joint-stock companies, central banks and national debt financing explain why the monetary institutions of the West rather than in China nurtured modern economic development.

The book has an inauspicious beginning. The first chapter proposes the novel argument that the invention of round (bronze) coins in China derived from the influence of Hellenic currencies mediated by the round coins the Maurya Empire in South Asia introduced sometime after 304 BCE. Horesh makes the fundamental error of attributing the first issue of round coins in China to the First Emperor of Qin (r. 249-10 BCE). In fact, archaeological finds have confirmed that the Qin state issued its round Banliang coins beginning in 336 BCE, antedating the appearance of the Mauryan circular coins. Most of the chapter is devoted to much later (and hence irrelevant to the issue at hand) examples of coins reflecting cross-cultural influences, such as the bilingual Sino-Kharosthi coins of Khotan from the first-second centuries CE. Horesh deems the “circumstantial and archaeological evidence” for his thesis “quite compelling” (38). However, his argument proceeds from the absence rather than the presence of either archaeological or documentary evidence.

In any event, the rest of the book focuses not on mutual influences but rather the separate and what Horesh describes as the “path-dependent” trajectories of Chinese and Western monetary practices, with particular attention to the evolution of paper money and banking. Horesh recognizes conceptual differences in thinking about money, but he devotes little space to monetary theories. Instead, he attributes what he calls the “Great Monetary Divergence” primarily to differences in technology in a broad sense, encompassing minting technology, state support or lack thereof for mining, and concepts such as hard currency reserves for paper money issues. In Horesh’s view, this Great Monetary Divergence can be traced back at least to the sixteenth century: in contrast to the Ming Empire’s disastrous experiment with fiat paper money, which bequeathed a lasting aversion to fiduciary currencies, Tudor England’s equally misguided Great Debasement of 1542-51 led to a series of crucial breakthroughs in the conceptualization of money—the inviolability of currency reserves, national legal tender currencies, and the creation of national debt through banknote issuance—that propelled the rise of England as a fiscal-military nation-state as well as the creation of modern monetary and banking institutions. Horesh contends that this Great Money Divergence and related developments such as Europeans’ global pursuit of trade and mining resources figured centrally in the Great Divergence in economic development that resulted in the Industrial Revolution happening in England rather than elsewhere.

Part 2 examines fiduciary currencies and banking in nineteenth- and twentieth-century China, the main focus of Horesh’s previously published research. Horesh observes that to the very end of the imperial era, the first decade of the twentieth century, the Chinese economy relied almost entirely on hard currency; private banknotes, whether issued by domestic or foreign banks, occupied only a marginal place in the money supply. He undoubtedly is correct in arguing that the absence of sound paper instruments was a key factor in China’s high interest rates, which certainly discouraged capital investment. In a chapter devoted to Japan’s colonial banks in China, Korea and Taiwan—one of the novel contributions of the book—Horesh shows that the Japanese flexibly applied different banking policies depending on varying political and economic circumstances. In his view, the Japanese colonial banks cannot be seen simply as appendages of the Japanese state; instead, they acted as semi-official commercial banks, not unlike the British banks in Hong Kong. However, Horesh downplays the ways in which these banking institutions, both British and Japanese, served colonial agendas.

In his final chapter Horesh takes up the current debate on the prospect that the People’s Republic of China’s renminbi currency will supplant the US dollar as the global reserve currency within the forseeable future. He points out that there is a historical precedent for the PRC’s accumulation of enormous foreign currency reserves in the massive inflow of silver to China during the period from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century to offset the European states’ negative trade balances with China. (Earlier in the book [14, 116-17], however, he regards this influx of bullion as a sign of China’s weakness, not strength.) Horesh explores the pros and cons for China that loosening controls over the renminbi and capital flows in order to internationalize its currency would entail, underscoring the strong reservations harboured by Chinese economists and policy makers. Still, the renminbi’s role as an international currency surely will expand in the coming decades. Thus it is only in the future that we can expect that the separate trajectories of Chinese and Western monetary histories will at long last converge.

Richard von Glahn, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Back to top

1956: Mao’s China and the Hungarian Crisis. Cornell East Asia Series, 170. By Zhu Dandan. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University East Asia Program, 2013. vi, 310 pp. US$39.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-933947-70-9.

The Hungarian uprising of 1956 and its bloody suppression by the Soviet Red Army was a key event in the history of the Cold War. Less well known are the Chinese contributions to the debates in Moscow in response to the crisis, and the repercussions of the events in Eastern Europe in the young People’s Republic of China (PRC). Yet, as this new, meticulously researched study shows, the dual crises in Poland and Hungary had direct bearing on the tumultuous events sweeping China in 1956 and 1957, and beyond.

Zhu’s study builds on an impressive body of recent research, mostly by Chinese scholars, on the PRC’s interactions with its partners in the socialist world, and on substantial archival research in the Chinese Foreign Ministry archives and Hungarian archives. Soviet archival sources are quoted in Chinese and English translations, illustrating how much source material has become accessible to researchers over the past two decades.

The introduction and the first two chapters provide the setting for the events of October 1956. Zhu traces the dynamics of East bloc politics in the early and mid-1950s, when, after Stalin’s death in 1953 and the successful completion of the early stages of China’s socialist transformation, Mao saw an opportunity for a more proactive Chinese participation in intra-bloc diplomacy. Khrushchev’s denouncement of Stalin at XXth CPSU congress in February 1956 put Mao in a quandary; while it freed the PRC to pursue a more active policy in Eastern Europe, the Chinese political and economic systems were essentially Stalinist, and thus vulnerable to criticism. The socialist regimes in Eastern Europe faced the same dilemma; more fragile than the PRC, Poland and Hungary were the first to buckle under stress. With Poland, under the new, nationalistic leadership of Gomulka, near collapse, Khrushchev ordered the Red Army to intervene. Last-ditch diplomacy helped to avert a military confrontation, but Khrushchev’s intervention presented Mao with an opportunity to denounce what he called Soviet “great-power chauvinism” and offer to mediate.

Chinese diplomats were soon enough called on to show their skills. Just after the arrival of a high-level delegation led by Liu Shaoqi, called to Moscow for an emergency meeting over Poland, the situation in Hungary suddenly exploded. As Zhu shows in great detail in chapter 3, the Chinese delegation unexpectedly found itself at the frontlines of diplomatic containment efforts. Struggling to formulate a position, the Chinese side conferred with Mao and initially decided to stick to the “anti-chauvinist” line—or, as Zhu proposes, to use the Polish and Hungarian crises as bargaining chips, “a rare good chance to manipulate the weakening Soviets to abdicate the leading position [in the socialist world] and give room to what he saw as better men,” that is, the Chinese (164). However, Chinese efforts to keep abreast of the rapidly evolving situation in Budapest were hampered by poor communication and coordination—delayed telegrams and a virtual shutdown of the Chinese embassy there—that eventually necessitated an embarrassing about-face in early November. The Chinese side had initially called for a withdrawal of Soviet troops and counseled Khrushchev to seek a compromise with Imre Nagy, the new Hungarian leader. When Nagy announced the restoration of a multi-party system on October 31, and, a day later, Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, however, the Chinese had to put aside their reservations and back the full-scale military suppression of the Hungarian revolution that began on November 4. In summing up her findings, Zhu dismisses the suggestion, put forward by scholars such as Shen Zhihua, that the PRC had decisive influence on Soviet policy making at this critical juncture. Rather, she shows that Mao had to abandon his effort to promote more equal relations among the nations of the socialist bloc in order to preserve bloc unity, a goal that was clearly more important, even if that meant a perpetuation of the hierarchical structure of the East bloc.

Zhu’s detailed account and her nuanced assessment of the events of October and early November 1956 shed crucial new light on the international relations of the early PRC. Yet the author does not end her account here; fortunately, she dives deeply into the field of domestic Chinese politics to probe the impact of the Hungarian crisis and its fallout for China’s own tumultuous 1957. In chapter 4, Zhu reassesses the Hundred Flowers campaign and the CCP’s subsequent sharp reversal in early June. How did the CCP evaluate the crisis in Eastern Europe, and what lessons were to be learned? Zhu convincingly demonstrates that Mao, on the one hand, and Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and Chen Yun, on the other, drew sharply different conclusions from the events in Eastern Europe. While the latter pointed to the socio-economic problems caused by the Stalinist economic approach, Mao interpreted the crises primarily in political and ideological terms, finding no fault with the Stalinist system per se, which he had introduced in the PRC. Rather than adjustments in the economic realm, the chairman advocated political liberalization and a determined fight against bureaucratism as the means to prevent a similar crisis in China. Zhu debunks the discredited “luring the snakes from their hole” theory that presents Mao as a cynic. Instead, she shows how Mao tried to apply the lessons from Eastern Europe; yet as a seasoned leader, he was conscious of the risks he took when allowing criticism of the Party. Once this criticism got out of hand in mid-May, Mao was quick to reverse course and launch the anti-Rightist campaign. As this summary makes clear, the events of 1956 and 1957, both international and domestic, are highly complex, but their understanding is crucial for the long-term historical trajectory of the PRC. Zhu’s meticulous study sheds light on one of the crucial junctures in modern Chinese history and world history.

1956: Mao’s China and the Hungarian Crisis will be essential reading for a specialist audience and graduate students in Chinese history, Cold War studies and international relations. It is unfortunate, though, that the books suffers from a lack of proper editing. Convoluted passages abound; the Hungarian party is variously referred to as HWP, HWUP, HCP and MSP—the acronym-rich book has no list of abbreviations. The Soviet ambassador to China appears as (Pavel) Iudin and Yudin within the same footnote. Such carelessness on behalf of the publisher distracts attention from an excellent study.

Nicolai Volland, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, USA

Back to top

TAMING TIBET: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Emily T. Yeh. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013. xvi, 324 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$26.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8014-7832-1.

During the early 1980s, when I first traveled in the Tibetan regions of China, I would often ask the Han Chinese drivers in whose vehicles I journeyed the names of the landmarks and sites that we passed. The reply was almost inevitably the same: zheige difang mei you mingzi, “this place has no name.” Tibetans, of course, did have names for these places, but as they were largely unknown to the small numbers of Han then in Tibet, who viewed their residence there as tantamount to exile, those names, the Tibetan names, were as good as nonexistent. Between Tibet as a meaningful landscape for its indigenous population, and as a nameless, senseless wasteland for the Han who had the misfortune to be there, there was apparently no meeting point whatsoever. One of the challenges for China during the past decades, therefore, has been to generate a new world of meaning on Tibetan soil, one which, if all goes as planned, Tibetans and Han will one day share.

This dilemma is at the core of geographer Emily Yeh’s perceptive and well-researched study, Taming Tibet, which documents successive waves of change in the Chinese state’s development of the Tibetan environment, focusing on the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s capital, Lhasa, and its immediate surroundings. The process described by Yeh, which she terms “territorialization,” is materially manifest in the political, economic and technological innovations and policies broadly serving to integrate the land into the frameworks embraced by the Chinese nation-state, but her argument centrally concerns the subjectivities thereby engendered, for which landscape is inevitably a field for the production of value and meaning.

Yeh identifies three main phases in China’s territorialization of Tibet: the first, beginning during the 1950s and continuing down to the period of post-Cultural Revolution Dengist reform, centred on communalization and the creation of state farms, and sought to redefine the relations between labour and land along socialist lines. The next phase, spanning the 1980s and 1990s, emphasized economic development and the shift to a market economy. Large numbers of Han migrants were, for the first time, permitted to enter Tibet to contribute to the development process, which involved considerable investment from eastern China. Tibetans were frequently marginalized by the new economy that evolved, with which they were sometimes related as renters. Finally, after 2000, new attention was devoted to urbanization, and the transformation of Lhasa and other Tibetan cities and towns into modern Chinese urban centres.

These three phases of development are emphasized respectively in the three major sections into which Taming Tibet is organized, tellingly entitled “Soil,” “Plastic” and “Concrete.” An important leitmotif throughout Yeh’s work is the sharp tension between Chinese expectations—more often in fact a demand—for “gratitude” on the part of Tibetans for the benefits of socialization, economic growth and urban development, and the resentment, recalcitrance or reaction with which Tibetans have sometimes responded. The massive Lhasa riot of March 2008, in which many Han shops and businesses were torched, is among the key points in Yeh’s narration of the mutual incomprehension that festers around the trope of gratitude.

Like many American scholars of the humanities and social sciences in recent decades, Yeh peppers her work with references to the perspectives of (mostly continental) literary and social theorists, including Agamben, Benjamin, Debord and de Certeau. She is restrained, critical and judicious in this, however, and her gestures to these and other theoreticians do serve to clarify her arguments. Particularly strong in this respect is chapter 7, “Engineering Indebtedness and Image,” which makes good use of the category of the “gift” as elaborated in the writings of Mauss, Douglas, Sahlins and others. A welcome, though perhaps not quite intended, implication of Yeh’s effort to reach beyond contemporary China-Tibet scholarship is that Chinese development in Tibet is seen to be not so much a sui generis case as it is a further iteration (albeit a particularly poignant one) of widespread paradoxes and contradictions in the structures of contemporary developing states.

In a concluding “Afterword,” Yeh turns her attention to the wave of self-immolations that has occurred over the past several years, above all in the eastern Tibetan regions of Sichuan and Qinghai. To do this was not without considerable risk, for the causes of and reasons for this most tragic manifestation of Tibetan discontent are much debated, as is the authoritarian Chinese reaction to it. It is to Yeh’s credit that, though devoting only three pages to this difficult issue, she trivializes it not at all. Indeed, her analytic of territorialization proves to be unusually illuminating in this context.

Taming Tibet is notably well written, its accessibility enhanced by the narration of revealing episodes and anecdotes from Yeh’s fieldwork experiences or earlier history. It should certainly be read by all who wish to understand current circumstances in Tibet, as well as Chinese development at large.

Matthew T. Kapstein, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, France
The University of Chicago, Chicago, USA

 Back to top

CHINESE INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE: Technology Acquisition and Military Modernization. Asian Security Studies. By William C. Hannas, James Mulvenon and Anna B. Puglisi. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xvi, 296 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$39.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-415-82142-1.

During the Cold War a debate developed within the Allied counter-intelligence community which could be summarized by “ten-foot-tall Russians” and “the monster plot.” Briefly, there was a view taken by some professionals that interpreted Soviet operations directed against NATO in Machiavellian terms, and saw the Kremlin’s strategy as akin to a diabolical game of chess in which an adversary had adopted every kind of devious scheme to mislead its opponent about its true intentions. This was the era of Jim Angleton’s “wilderness of mirrors,” when the defection of the KGB officer Yuri Nosenko fueled divisive arguments over his authenticity, and led to a kind of doctrinal schism within the Western security and intelligence apparatus that remains relevant today, even in a Chinese context.

The new variant of the old arguments centres on the nature of the PRC’s espionage methodology. Just as there was general agreement at the height of superpower confrontation, when all agreed broadly on the inherently malevolent nature of the regime, the issue was the extent to which a rather dysfunctional and artificial society could pose a serious threat to its perceived enemies. Today, few would dispute the scale of Chinese ambitions, nor the factual evidence of escalating statistics relating to stolen technology, copyright infringements and wholesale theft of proprietary intellectual property. Put simply, there is a major espionage offensive underway, and the crux of the matter is not so much the need to recognize it for what it really is, as few attempt to conceal the obvious, but rather to define the precise methodology that has been adopted by Beijing to achieve the government’s goals.

On one side you have the perspective taken by the former FBI analyst Dr. Paul Moore, who identified several distinctive characteristics of the Chinese cases he studied, which sees a threat encapsulated by the “thousand grains of sand” theory: that the Ministry of State Security (MSS) conducts its overseas operations in a very different way to its foreign counterparts, and therefore enjoys a considerable advantage. It takes a wide “blunderbuss” approach, in preference to the narrow sniper’s rifle, and makes a pitch to thousands of potential sources, instead of focusing on just a few targets. The MSS is fragmented, without conventional rezidenturas or stations operating under diplomatic cover, so it is harder to monitor by routine physical or technical surveillance. The MSS prefers to exploit “clean skins,” not flawed personalities, and rarely pays its agents, but allows them to enrich themselves by acting as intermediaries for highly profitable but illegal business transactions, often dealing with embargoed material. The MSS opts for ethnic Chinese, invariably resorts to supposed latent patriotism for the “middle kingdom” and relies on the cultural appeal of guanxi, or family obligation, to leverage cooperation.

The authors call such views “Old School” but even when attempting to demolish some alleged “urban legends,” such as the Cox Report’s oft-quoted 3,000 front companies established in North America by the PRC and the various component parts of an illicit procurement program, conveys the impression that previous surveys have generally under-estimated the scale of the espionage tsunami. They also rehearse the arguments deployed in the charges of racism directed at the FBI, which has often faced allegations of racial profiling when in pursuit of ethnic Chinese. In the most notorious example, that of Wen Ho Lee, the authors tend to muddy the already murky waters by referring to his “actual innocence or guilt” as though the issue is in some doubt, when the record clearly shows that the physicist pleaded guilty to a felony and was sentenced to time already served in prison, having spent 227 days in solitary confinement.

The historical record also shows that in the case of Qian Xuesen, there was no “genuine injustice” and that far from being a victim of “McCarthyist excesses,” the missile scientist lost his security clearance at the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, when he had attempted to return to China, and then in 1955 was deported in return for 11 American airmen captured in Korea. McCarthy, whatever his faults, played no part in Qian’s lengthy house arrest in California.

The alternative view to Moore’s is that the tradecraft employed by the Chinese is a distraction from the problem of nearly 200,000 Chinese students at liberty in the United States, subsidized by Uncle Sam, who are, or have the potential, to loot the country’s industrial secrets. This is not a series of case histories, as exemplified by the Chi Mak exposure or the Katrina Leung scandal, but rather a thoughtful analysis of a veritable haemorrhage of sensitive, commercially valuable information, ranging from atomic weapon blueprints, systems algorithms, and even entire jet engines. This short-circuit of international trade restrictions and tariff barriers has, so we are told, kick-started an economy that Mao all but razed to the ground. Worse, American politicians have failed to grasp either the hideous reality, or what is required to restore that much-contested arena, the level playing-field.

However, the authors conclude that the comparatively chaotic, uncoordinated Chinese intelligence and scientific monolith makes it impossible to reassemble the myriad pieces of information “for maximum exploitation and gain” (192). In other words, the Chinese are stealing secrets, so they assert, but do not benefit from them because of an intrinsic failure to prevent them from being “likely stove-piped and fragmented” (192). Thus we are now in the realm of speculation, rather than analysis of verifiable facts.

The authors have sidestepped a potential minefield by paying lip-service to the prevailing views on profiling by asking the rhetorical question: “How does the strategy explain Chinese recruitment of non-ethnics?,” of which there are certainly a few (198). The obvious response is that the MSS, like anyone else in the intelligence collection business, will be opportunistic when gift-horses materialize. It seems unlikely that the MSS invokes a house rule not to recruit Indians, Malays or Caucasians, and the statistical evidence supports this, but this does not obscure the common denominator in the overwhelming majority of espionage cases.

Nigel West, Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, Washington, DC

Back to top

BEYOND TERRITORIAL DISPUTES IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA: Legal Frameworks for the Joint Development of Hydrocarbon Resources. NUS Centre for International Law Series. Edited by Robert Beckman, Ian Townsend-Gault, Clive Schofield, Tara Davenport, Leonardo Bernard. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar; Singapore: NUS Centre for International Law, 2013. xx, 351 pp. (Figures.) US$105.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-78195-593-2.

The book, Beyond Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea: Legal Frameworks for the Joint Development of Hydrocarbon Resources (hereinafter “the book”), is an excellent work of collective wisdom on solving the disputes in the South China Sea region. Fourteen scholars contributed their intellectual analysis on the possible flashpoints in the East Asian region, and more importantly, they offered an extensive study on joint development, which is a feasible resolution to the disputes. The book mainly covers two aspects of joint development, i.e., a discussion of the legal contents of joint development and an introduction to certain precedents of joint development implemented in Northeast and Southeast Asia, basically around co-operation regarding hydrocarbon resources.

Furthermore, in the book’s final chapter, the editors establish a formula or procedure for constructing a joint development mechanism and for offering a flow of thinking in case the relevant agreement is concluded. These include: 1. Clarifying claims in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (this is necessary if the claimants want to understand what the legal basis is for each other’s claim); 2. Identifying areas for joint development; 3. Increasing knowledge of features in the Spratly Islands, especially the interpretation of an “island” under Article 121(3); 4. Increasing knowledge of nature and of the location of hydrocarbon resources; and 5. Starting such development in small areas with limited parties that would be easier and less complicated to reach an agreement on the development.

In a nutshell, just like the book notes, “One of the benefits of joint development arrangements is that the claimants concerned can agree on joint co-operation arrangements in a specific defined area without any of them having to give up or clarify their claims to geographic features or maritime space” (327). This is the spirit behind the process of joint development.

Having said that, a couple of supplements could be made to replenish the aforementioned formula/procedure:

  1. Emphasizing co-operation among Parties concerned is an obligation. One of the issues to be considered is that of the duty of states to co-operate whether they be friends or foes. This concept can be traced back to certain documents made more than four decades ago. For example, a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1970 states, “States have the duty to co-operate with one another, irrespective of the differences in their political, economic and social systems, in the various spheres of international relations…” Furthermore, this duty could be characterized into two aspects: a duty to enter into negotiations or a duty to negotiate and to reach an agreement. Obviously both duties of co-operation will require negotiations entered into in good faith (or bona fide). Moreover, the Parties concerned should be obliged to work together in good faith to attempt to reach an agreement. This is also provided in Article 74(3) and Article 83(3) of the UNCLOS. The wording, “in a spirit of understanding and co-operation,” indicates that the Parties concerned should negotiate in a spirit of good faith. The obligation to seek agreement in good faith is also well-defined in some international juridical cases. In the 1969 North Sea Continental Shelf Cases, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stated, “[T]he parties are under an obligation to enter into negotiations with a view to arriving at an agreement and not merely to go through a formal process of negotiation as a sort of prior condition for the automatic application of a certain method of delimitation in the absence of agreement; they are under an obligation so to conduct themselves that the negotiations are meaningful” (101). Also, in its 1984 report on the Gulf of Maine Case, the ICJ stated that the Parties were under duty to negotiate in good faith and with genuine intentions of achieving positive results.
  2. Joint co-operation mechanism in the utilizing fishery resources could be regarded as another feasible and practical alternative for starting a regional co-operation regime and could be used as a feasible measure to solve the South China Sea disputes, apart from the joint development on hydrocarbon resources mentioned in the book. It sidesteps the issue of sovereignty and focuses upon a common interest co-operatively, namely the utilization of living resources. This is encouraged under Article 123(a) of the UNCLOS. It also defers long-term negotiations with respect to delimitation of the continental shelf relating to the hydrocarbon resource issue. Thus, as co-operative relationships are forged with regard to fishery resources, mutual confidence might be promoted among the Parties concerned that may eventually contribute to successful co-operation with respect to hydrocarbon resources. Under the pressure of heavy demands on food security in the region, fishery resources management is crucial in preventing over-exploitation or overfishing and may become a touchstone of the Parties’ sincerity. Without affecting jurisdictional boundaries as laid down in the UNCLOS, it is certainly possible to have joint co-operation on fishery resources management in the South China Sea as the starting point for further co-operation. If all Parties concerned treat co-operation as a key step toward achieving mutual benefit, then the future for such a regional joint development or joint co-operation mechanism could be assured.

To conclude, this book is informative and pragmatic in its academic nature. In addition, it is also important for providing a great amount of legal discussion on solving the South China Sea disputes through the construction of joint development mechanisms, while also presenting successful past experiences in such matters.

Kuan-Hsiung Wang, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan

Back to top

CHINA’S GROWTH: The Making of an Economic Superpower. By Linda Yueh. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. xviii, 349 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-920578-3.

March 2014. World stock exchanges from New York to London to Tokyo are sent into tailspins with major declines in equities and in futures prices for key commodities such as oil, metals, and food stocks. The reason? Fears that economic growth in the People’s Republic of China is fading to just over 7 percent from its previous annual highs at 10 percent or more.

Thirty-five years ago in 1978, when the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, led by Deng Xiaoping, announced dramatic economic reforms, including plans to open the previously insulated and autarkic Chinese economy to the outside world, no one could have foreseen such a turn of events. Yet with plans to maintain 30 to 50 international conglomerates with many listed in the Fortune 500 and a growing middle class in what is now the second-largest economy in the world, China is by all accounts a major player in the international economy, a situation that will only expand. The reason for this growing economic prowess is, of course, the dramatic annual growth rates that the Chinese economy has sustained for the last thirty years or so between 9 and 10 percent. It is to this basic question that the author, a prominent economist in Europe and China, has turned her accomplished analytical skills and data collection abilities in what is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive, if sometimes a bit overloaded, books on this crucial question on the origins of China’s rapid and sustained economic growth.

Utilizing standard models of economic growth and relying on the extensive research of existing prominent research on China’s roaring economy, the author emphasizes that she sees “specific aspects” of Chinese economic growth that go beyond the standard theories. Like most works on this heavily studied topic, the exhaustive sources and research employed in the book, which the author stresses draws on more reliable micro-level over macro-level data, demonstrates that fully one-half of this growth stems from the continuing and substantial capital accumulation in China, financed primarily by a very high savings rate among the general population, corporations, and even the government. Also contributing to this rapid growth have been labour accumulation and development of human capital (10-20 percent), transfer of knowledge and technology that have accompanied joint ventures with more technologically advanced foreign corporations, and increasing investment in research and development by domestic corporations aimed at engendering “indigenous innovation.”

For this reader, one of the most interesting aspects of the book is its focus on institutional developments, especially the slow but evident creation of legal protection of property rights (2007 Property Rights Law), patent law and courts, and adherence to standards mandated by the World Trade Organization, to which China ascended in 2001. “Improved protection of property rights,” the author argues, “appears to have contributed to the strong industrial output that boosted the GDP growth of the 2000s” (315). To the extent that an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime is strengthened, especially protection of patents that are increasingly applied for by Chinese firms for protection from other Chinese firms, benefits will continue to accrue to the macro economy and hopefully the Chinese consumer.

Despite these evident gains over more than three decades, China’s economy is not without major structural and institutional problems which could affect its future prospects for continued economic growth. The most serious is the “financial repression” that rewards persistently inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) with cheap and almost unlimited credit at the expense of the more efficient private-sector corporations that too often are starved of domestic capital. And while the role of the state has retreated considerably from the pre-1978 era to the point that government spending at 19 percent of GDP is among the lowest in the developing world, the author calls for recasting the Chinese state’s role from economic management through the ubiquitous Party cadres in SOEs and a government-owned and run banking system to a more conventional role of protecting property rights, especially land, and ensuring social protection for its population through comprehensive social insurance. Whether and how the Chinese state, which for more than six decades has directed China’s economy, can make this transition is left unanswered.

Even more important is a significant growth in consumption that since the 1990s has fallen dramatically largely because of stagnant wages, along with an expansion of the service sector that remains at a rather paltry 40 percent of GDP. The 12th Five-Year Economic Plan (2011-2015) calls for a rebalancing of the Chinese economy with increased domestic demand and less reliance on exports, but until capital markets, specifically interest rates, are reformed and labour mobility is less restricted, Chinese workers will continue to see their dramatic improvements in productivity go elsewhere.

A prodigious work with reams of data, numerous charts, and mathematical models and equations, this is without question an enormously well-researched book. Yet, for a non-technical economist such as this reviewer, the narrative at times gets a bit overwhelming and even leaden, with excessive references and asides in the text that should have been relegated to endnotes. Still, this is an invaluable book for anyone interested in understanding the various factors—economic, political and technological—behind China’s experience at promoting economic growth for over three decades and the necessary measures for increasing privatization, marketization and rule of law that will ensure its continuing economic prowess.

Lawrence R. Sullivan, Adelphi University, Garden City, USA

Back to top

CONTESTATION AND ADAPTATION: The Politics of National Identity in China. By Enze Han. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Xiii, 207 pp. (Maps.) US$74.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-993629-8.

The Uyghur and Tibetan people have had a notoriously difficult relationship with the state. Even today, most of them continue to reject, sometimes violently, the form of national identity it proposes. By comparison, most of China’s other 53 ethnic minority groups have been much more accommodating. Why? This is a complicated question which Professor Enze Han, a lecturer on the international security of East Asia at SOAS in London, is attempting to answer. By and large, his explanations are convincing.

The essence of his argument is that focusing on domestic factors, e.g., a lack of economic opportunity or limited religious and cultural freedoms, is, of course, crucial to determine whether a group will contest the legitimacy of the state. But this approach only yields an incomplete picture. External factors are equally important, particularly for groups that entertain close links with an organized diaspora. For instance, most Uyghurs will naturally find that the lives of their ethnic kin in Central Asia have much greater meaning than those of any “domestic other.” As Han rightfully points out, “the dynamic of ethnic political mobilization is different for ethnic groups that have extensive external kin relations” (11).

This is a highly sensible premise. But how does it measure up to reality? After briefly describing the historical context in which China’s recent nation-building policies have developed, Han explores this question in five short chapters, each one focussing on a different ethnic group: the Uyghur, Joseonjok—or Chinese Korean—Mongol, Dai and Tibetan. Using data he gathered through his own fieldwork between 2006 and 2008, Han shows how domestic and international factors have modulated in different ways the response of each of these groups to state policies.

Han begins with the Uyghurs. For years, this Turkic minority has been living under well-documented cultural, religious and economic restrictions. This largely explains its tense relationship with the state. But that is not all. As Han points out, when the Uyghurs turn their gaze to the near abroad, they see various examples of prosperous Turkic peoples. For example, Han uses the most recent statistics available to show how GDP per head has consistently been lower in Xinjiang than in Kazakhstan, where the largest population of Uyghur expatriates live, or Turkey, which still exerts a significant cultural influence. In recent years, this contrast has been further accentuated by the fact that Xinjiang’s robust economic growth has brought few tangible benefits to the Uyghurs.

By comparison, being part of China has brought much clearer economic gains to the Mongol community: two decades of rapid growth ensured that by 2007, GDP per head in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (IMAR), where most ethnic Mongols live, was twice as high as in Mongolia. But not all is rosy in the IMAR and Han’s surveys show that many Mongols believe their struggling culture is actually much better protected across the border. They also recognize that Mongolia is a democracy, albeit an imperfect one, and that it offers greater political freedoms than China. In theory, such sentiments could be exploited to foster a more acute sense of identity within the Mongol populations of China, but there is no widely recognized international organization or charismatic leader in a position to do so. This is in marked contrast with the Uyghurs and Tibetans, both of whom benefit from the support of outside advocates, the World Uyghur Congress and the Dalai Lama, respectively. This lack of outside assistance and encouragement partly explains why the Mongols have not articulated grand strategies of self-determination.

What of the Dai? This minority group, which is found mostly in southern Yunnan and numbers just over a million people, maintains close kinship relations with communities in Burma, Thailand and Laos, none of which have been bastions of political or economic stability in recent years. This has made the Dai realize the relative prosperity they have enjoyed in China and so their gripes have largely focused on local concerns.

The Joseonjok, a population of approximately two million people from China’s northeast, constitute a somewhat special case: a large segment of their external kin, i.e., those how live in South Korea, are vastly more prosperous and enjoy incomparable political freedoms. So why have the Joseonjok not mobilized to contest the state’s legitimacy, like the Uyghurs or the Tibetans? Han points to several factors, most significantly that neither of the two Koreas, nor any outside organization for that matter, has shown interest “in supporting the Joseonjok politically on issues related to group autonomy within the Chinese state” (66). Equally important, the Chinese Korean minority has had a relatively stable relationship with the state: it was an early supporter of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and its members still occupy a disproportionately high number of positions in the Party’s structure. Thus, for those dissatisfied with the status quo, the dominant strategy has been to immigrate en masse to South Korea; according to some estimates 10 percent of all Joseonjok may now be living south of the 38th parallel.

Han ends his study with a chapter on Tibet. Since he was unable to conduct fieldwork in the Tibetan Autonomous Region or in neighbouring provinces with large Tibetan communities, his narrative is largely based on secondary sources. Here, Han has chosen to give less importance to economic factors due to his assumption that “the omnipresent status of Buddhism in Tibetan society also means that “earthly” obsessions with material wealth and comforts are perhaps not as important as in the other societies discussed in the book.” This feels a little bit gratuitous and somewhat self-serving, but Han nonetheless convincingly shows how the ebb and flow of external support has closely conditioned the relationship of the Tibetan community with the Chinese state.

If one must point to a weakness in Han’s study, it is probably that his samples are often small. His work on the Dai, for example, focused on a single community, that of Xishuangbanna in southern Yunnan, while his surveys in the IMAR and the Joseonjok areas targeted relatively small numbers of individuals whose opinions may not be representative of the communities as a whole. To be fair, conducting fieldwork in China, particularly on a highly sensitive issue such as the contentious relationship between ethnic minorities and the state, is often challenging. Despite this shortcoming, this book constitutes a useful addition to our understanding of the relationship between the Chinese state and its ethnic minorities.

Embassy of Canada, Beijing, China                                                                  Martin Laflamme
(Views presented are solely those of the reviewer)

Back to top

RETURN OF THE DRAGON: Rising China and Regional Security. Contemporary Asia in the World. By Denny Roy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. vi, 279 pp. US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-15900-5.

Few topics in today’s increasingly interconnected world are as pertinent as “the rise” of China. China’s ascent has both an economic dimension as the country expands its global commercial footprint, and a security dimension resulting from its ability to project power to safeguard self-interest. While the economic aspect of China’s rise—and the resulting trade imbalances—are widely acknowledged, Denny Roy (East-West Centre, Honolulu) contends that “identifying and specifying the security consequences of a stronger China is relatively challenging” (1). In Return of the Dragon: Rising China and Regional Security, Roy provides an ambitious sweep of China’s regional engagement from northeast Asia to Iran. Roy sees China’s ascent as disruptive to the status quo, arguing that “ultimately China’s expectation of a sphere of influence will create or worsen dangers for China’s neighbors” and that an “extraordinarily strong China will decrease security for the region” (2). One reason, in the author’s opinion, lies in the rising state’s aspirations to make itself stronger relative to others, resulting in new tensions with neighbours. This may lead to a “security dilemma” whereby the true intentions of a state are opaque to others, and appear as hostile, generate mistrust and are locked in a “spiral of rising tension” (3). Another reason is that China is a “returning” power that has a strong historical sense about its proper place in the world (4-5).

Although Roy’s framing of China’s rise is decidedly cautious—the conclusion is a zero-sum view that China’s gain shall be someone else’s loss—the eleven chapters that make up Return of the Dragon provide a comparatively more balanced assessment of the variables that shape China’s regional engagement. Addressing China’s relations with its neighbours (Japan, North Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam as well as South and West Asia) alongside broader foreign policy variables (military modernization, maritime border disputes, the US strategic role in Asia), Return of the Dragon presents a broad and up-to-date overview of China’s regional foreign policy and how it shapes regional security. The book is well written, carefully structured and shall be particularly welcomed amongst policy makers and a non-academic readership looking for a survey of contemporary China’s extensive regional impact.

In recent years, China has adopted an assertive posture in its maritime disputes: Roy’s overview of the dispute with Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands, as well as its maritime claims in the South China Seas presents these complex historical issues in a comprehensible manner and reaffirms his argument that an ascendant China shall be more assertive regionally. These tensions notwithstanding—much of which are framed by modern history as is the case with Chinese relations with Japan—Return of the Dragon approaches Chinese foreign policy considerations as deliberated and measured. Referring to Deng Xiaoping’s “twenty-four character strategy,” that had cautioned China to bide its time, Roy notes that this policy of “remaining calm, cooperative, conciliatory … has served China well” (31). He astutely notes that the domestic agenda, which includes addressing corruption, income inequality and uneven development looms large in China’s list of priorities and acts as a break for a more assertive foreign policy (30, 144-145). Roy also correctly highlights variables that mitigate an overly assertive foreign policy on China’s part: a lack of consensus in Beijing that China ought to replace the United States (or even form a so-called “G-2” with the United States), as well as increasing economic interdependence on the United States and an acknowledgement that a conflict with Washington would be extremely costly for Beijing.

While Return of the Dragon shall be well received as a useful overview of China’s multifaceted engagement with its neighbours, critical academic readership may take issue with some aspects of the book. First, the book does not directly engage with the vast amounts of material on foreign and security policy from China (communiqués, policy statements, white papers), which alongside Chinese are increasingly available in the English language on the Internet. The reader also does not get a sense of the individuals and institutions making Chinese foreign and security policy, or of the role played by specific members from within China’s elite. Engagement with non-Chinese scholarship is likewise minimal; while Roy refers to about half-a-dozen recent English-language volumes on Chinese foreign policy (8-10), his engagement with this scholarship is largely limited to the introduction. The book has a total of thirteen pages of notes (263-276), which includes bibliographical references. The two-and-a-half-page index is not adequate, lacking entries for Central Asia (125), “G-2”/G-7/G-8/G-20 (145) (the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is not indexed and is instead listed under Russia-Chinese relations). Maps would also have been illustrative, especially in the discussions on border disputes.

Roy also frequently finds himself making claims on behalf of others, such as “most Chinese think,” (39), “Many Chinese elites believe” (40), “Many observers believe”(89), “analysts of contemporary China argue” (162, 164), “some Chinese statements … suggest” (255) whilst neither identifying the alleged claimants nor his sources. References to the possible relevance of historical periods and structures—the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) or the tribute trade system, for example—are cursory and do not reference the extensive scholarship on these topics. Instead, the author alludes to their continued relevance based on the views of (unidentified) “analysts of contemporary China” (for the Warring States) and an unspecified “theory” (for the relevance of the tribute trade system) (162).

These criticisms notwithstanding, Roy has made a useful contribution through arguing that an ascendant China shall be a more assertive regional power. Return of the Dragon is an ambitious book in its attempt to tackle China’s recent engagement in a diverse and complex region, and it is successful in illustrating the different ways in which an increasingly powerful China could affect the Asia Pacific. Given Beijing’s economic and strategic engagement with a growing number of states and non-state actors today, Return of the Dragon shall be welcomed by readers looking for an accessible survey of Chinese foreign policy and its regional security implications.

Hasan H. Karrar, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan

Back to top

LOST IN TRANSITION: Hong Kong Culture in the Age of China. SUNY Series in Global Modernity. By Yiu-Wai Chu. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2013. viii, 219 pp. (Tables.) US$80.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4384-4645-5.

A content analysis of world press coverage of Hong Kong in recent years would certainly show the predominant themes to have been business and politics. Both are fast-moving topics that are in many respects quantifiable. But of equal interest to these two spheres is the less tangible one of cultural change. This is not of course a separate sphere since it relates closely to both politics and economics. Culture requires some form of economic base to exist and, in a society where democratic activity is as narrowly circumscribed as it is in Hong Kong, it becomes a proxy arena for political conflict.

Interest in Hong Kong is rising again. This partly reflects the installation of a new chief executive in Hong Kong completely different in character to the first two, and this has been accompanied by the rise to power of a new regime in Beijing: a regime, it seems, with a new and distinctive ideological mission. Added to these political shifts are current predictions that in the business field the “One Country Two Systems” framework will be dead by about the year 2020.

In these circumstances a serious study of the cultural dimensions of contemporary Hong Kong is much needed, and this is what Yiu-Wai Chu provides in his new book. Much of this work has appeared in other formats as events unfolded, but here he sums up and extends his research in an impressive way.

The basic thesis of the book is that in the process of transition from colony to SAR the vitality that local culture exhibited so vigorously in the 1970s and 1980s has been lost. The paradox implicitly addressed here is that this decline in grassroots local culture has taken place at a time when Hong Kong has, increasingly, been attempting to assert an identity in the face of potentially crushing commercial, political and cultural pressures from the mainland.

In the 1960s and 1970s most Hong Kongers were too pre-occupied with everyday life and careers to be introspective. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government reinforced the contemporary tendency to ignore the realities of the mainland until, finally, the shock waves of the Cultural Revolution irrupted onto the political scene in 1967. Reflections on Hong Kong’s special characteristics were thus largely left to Western journalists such as Richard Hughes (Hong Kong: Borrowed Place-Borrowed Time, 1968) while the images known best to the outside world were provided by films such as Love is a Many Splendoured Thing (1955) and The Countess from Hong Kong (1967).

The situation changed radically in the 1980s and 1990s. The economy was strong at the time and this supported a surge of film making and musical activity. At the same time local academics and others began to reflect much more seriously on what aspects of Hong Kong might be sustainable under the One Country Two Systems regime.

The core of the author’s book is the story of how the Hong Kong government (and in particular former chief executive Donald Tsang) has attempted to foster a “top-down” culture of values, images and activities that differentiates Hong Kong, while combining these policies with a strong, pro-mainland Chinese nationalism.

In its early stages this cultural “branding” policy was more or less independent of other policies, but after the world financial crash of 2008 cultural policy suddenly assumed much more importance as the basis for potential new pillars of the economy. New pillars were needed because the old four pillars had not delivered the high growth of the colonial period, and financial services in particular were seen as being unlikely to increase their share of local GDP for the foreseeable future.

The book includes detailed case studies of both the film and music sectors to illustrate the author’s argument that truly local cultural initiatives have been weakened rather than strengthened by the top-down government activities.

Yiu Wai Chu is particularly critical of the “neo-con” Central District values which he sees as underlying recent cultural policies. There are, however, other obstacle to cultural policy success not really explored here. Leadership is one problem. It is always relatively easy to fill high profile, highly paid, top jobs in Hong Kong. What is missing is the next level down, where what is needed is well trained and experienced staff who know the Hong Kong situation and can implement plans effectively. Linked to this is the problem of higher education and its contribution. To respond to government initiatives requires a rapid and serious re-orientation of the HE sector, but inertia and vested interests at every level of the system seem likely to ensure that this will not happen in the near future.

Finally, there is the wider issue of the state of freedom of culture and expression. Googling Hong Kong/academic freedom produces some depressing reading these days. Holding, let alone attracting, cultural talent and activity will be hard if current trends persist. Ironically, pressures on Hong Kong may well encourage migration northward, since in the large, more localized world of the mainland, there may in practice be more degrees of freedom than can be found in the city state model of Hong Kong.

Christopher Howe, University of London, London, United Kingdom

Back to top

COMMUNICATION, PUBLIC OPINION, AND GLOBALIZATION IN URBAN CHINA. Routledge Studies in Rhetoric and Communication, 18. By Francis L.F. Lee, Chin-Chuan Lee, Mike Z. Yao, Tsan-Kuo Chang, Fen Jennifer Lin, and Chris Fei Shen. New York; London: Routledge, 2014. xvi, 199 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$125.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-71320-7.

Since the Mao era drew to a close, scholars have been interested in how Chinese citizens perceive the world around them. Despite gradual openings in the 1970s and 1980s, the average Chinese saw the world in a decidedly narrow way. In the last two decades, economic development and technological innovations have given more Chinese the opportunity to experience the world more broadly. Amidst globalization, how do urban Chinese perceive the world? Francis L.F. Lee and his coauthors tackle this very question. Well written, full of pithy and purposeful prose, their book provides a systematic analysis of urban Chinese views of globalization and the role of media in shaping them. They seek to fill a gap between the concept of “cosmopolitan communications” and its measure by disaggregating media into local, national and transnational parts. The authors argue that while all forms of media are important in understanding Chinese attitudes on globalization, domestic media has the strongest effect on citizens’ views, whereas foreign media reinforces preexisting worldviews.

In reaching these conclusions, the authors draw heavily upon a groundbreaking large-scale, comprehensive study of urban Chinese media consumers. Their survey instrument was distributed to four cities—Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xi’an—using a multistage probability sample, analyzed through multivariate regressions and descriptive statistics. The authors offer a well-reasoned case selection rationale and detailed explanation of survey distribution methods. This careful attention extends to their use of key concepts throughout the book; they define and operationalize “globalization,” a term often used but rarely defined in academia and popular media.

Before addressing Chinese views of globalization, the authors wisely establish the context within which Chinese experience the world. In chapter 2, survey data shows that most urban Chinese have limited personal interaction with the world around them (i.e., a small percentage traveled abroad, few reported having friends or relatives living abroad, most expressed little interest in the world), thus setting the stage for media to have a particularly strong effect on perceptions. Mindful that globalization can impact China through both structural and individual-level effects, the authors examine foreign media consumption in chapter 3. Their survey, conducted in 2006 and 2007, showed that Chinese people consume media primarily through television. Like many other behavioural patterns in China, foreign media consumption varied across regions: in political centres with tighter political control, like Beijing, foreign media exposure was low; in economically strong cosmopolitan centres that can support local media, like Shanghai, foreign media consumption was also quite low.

The following chapters focus on the effect of this exposure. Chapter 4 explores the general relationship between media and nationalist sentiment, concluding that foreign media does not make people more nationalistic, but it shapes the kind of nationalism they display. Chapter 5 more narrowly focuses on Chinese attitudes towards the United States, which is often seen to best represent contemporary globalization. The authors point to a general ambivalence toward America: respondents viewed US political institutions positively, but its leaders more negatively. This ambivalence might be differently characterized as nuanced, one further revealed in chapters 6 and 7, in analyses of Chinese awareness and attitudes towards globalization. Survey respondents conceived of globalization more abstractly (which might not make them unique in the world); they thought of it as a very “global” phenomenon, but one that affected individuals differently based upon where they lived. The authors wisely differentiated respondents’ attitudes toward globalization’s effects on the country and the individual: the survey revealed the Chinese were less likely to see it as having a positive effect on them as individuals, rather than on the country as a whole. Analysis by age cohort, perhaps not surprisingly, revealed interesting variations: younger urban Chinese saw the positive effects more than older individuals, in large part because they were more likely to encounter outsiders through media or personal relations.

A major challenge inherent in media studies is how fast-changing technology can make findings seem quickly out of date, a problem compounded by the slow-moving book publishing process. The survey that forms the empirical core of this book was conducted before Chinese use of the Internet and microblogging tools like weibo exploded. While technological innovations may not fundamentally challenge the authors’ findings, the way in which these platforms increase accessibility to foreign media speaks to the need for follow-up studies. This is not to suggest that their analytical framework cannot withstand inquiry into new media. In fact, such study would be in line with the authors’ interest in the individual-level effects of globalization; there is nothing more individually experienced, it would seem, than microblogging.

Changes in technology aside, Lee and the other authors paint a finely detailed portrait of urban Chinese consumers of media. But while the book is quite consciously a study limited to consumption of media, readers might be left wanting to learn more about the production side, as well. Especially in recent years, with the growth of Internet use and China’s soft power push (a point the authors only allude to, 70), the country is as much a producer of media as a consumer of it. This book will whet the appetite of those searching for a better understanding of China as an active, rather than passive, participant in this process of globalization. Attention to the microblogging phenomenon, too, would go far in understanding the production of media.

To their credit, the authors are well aware of the changes in the media landscape since the survey was conducted. As they suggest, this book—and the impressive survey upon which it is based—provides a baseline stay from which future studies might build upon. Scholars interested in how Chinese views of the world are changing, particularly amidst rapid shifts in technology and communication, will find this book of real benefit as they move forward in their research. This solid foundation of understanding might also allow others to place China into a more comparative context and generalize the findings beyond a single case study.

Timothy Hildebrandt, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK

Back to top

INTOXICATING MANCHURIA: Alcohol, Opium, and Culture in China’s Northeast. Contemporary Chinese Studies series. By Norman Smith. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012. x, 298 pp. (Figures.) US $99.00, paper. ISBN 978-07748-2429-3.

In Intoxicating Manchuria: Alcohol, Opium, and Culture in China’s Northeast, Norman Smith treats the reader to a rich analysis of the roles played both by alcohol and opium in northeast China between the late nineteenth century and 1945. His study aims to examine how “recreational intoxicant consumption was understood and characterized in the first half of the twentieth century,” especially amidst the half-hearted efforts at prohibition by the state of Manchukuo during the 1940s (2). In eight chapters, Smith illustrates very vividly that both alcohol and opium have indeed had deep and substantial impacts on northeastern Chinese life and culture, and that throughout the period under investigation, the dependency of successive regimes on the opium trade ensured its continuity. Through a wide variety of media and literature, including alcohol advertisements, government propaganda, and contemporary Chinese fiction, Intoxicating Manchuria explores a wide array of alcohol and opium narratives, few of which ended happily.

In chapter 1, Smith grounds his later examination of alcohol’s impact in northeast China with a swift and convincing illustration of the historical evidence for alcohol consumption by Chinese since the Xia Dynasty (2070-1600 BCE). From the exploits of the earliest kings to the writings of dozens of later poets and chroniclers to the discoveries of modern archaeologists, Smith demonstrates convincingly that “the intoxicant industries of China today have important precedents in Chinese history” (21). The steady stream of eye-opening references to alcohol consumption throughout China’s imperial history shreds the oft-held belief that alcohol consumption has not played a meaningful cultural role. Likewise, Smith asserts that for most of its history, opium was also accepted and used as a medicine, rather than recreationally, and that while it was not used as widely as was alcohol, it too was culturally important. Smith’s approach here parallels Brett Hinsch’s masterful challenge to the ridiculous assertion that there is no such thing as a Chinese homosexual, which Hinsch destroyed so completely in The Passions of the Cut-Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China (University of California Press, 1990).

Chapter 2 sets the stage for alcohol and opium sale and use in Manchuria during the first few decades of the twentieth century, detailing the region’s transition from a Qing-era Manchu homeland, to a local warlord redoubt in the 1920s, to a Japanese-controlled narco state by the 1930s and 1940s. Smith’s third chapter discusses alcohol use in Manchukuo, which was often viewed positively during the early 1930s, but was increasingly criticized by the middle of the decade as newspapers, essays and popular writers warned of the dangers of intoxicants, especially for women (64). Smith closes the chapter by noting that “in the short span of a decade, alcohol had shifted from a marker of modernity to a symbol of disease, disorder, and a society on the edge of collapse” (69). He then turns in chapter 4 to an analysis of alcohol advertisements that appeared in contemporary Chinese-language newspapers and journals. Ads for Asahi and Sapporo beer come as no surprise, but the most revealing ads were for a sweet port wine called Red Ball, created in 1907 by Shinjirō Torii, the founder of Suntory. Red Ball ads promoted the positive, healthy effects of red wine, which was touted as “number one in the medicine world for everyone,” especially for those engaged in physical labour (79). Ads even encouraged “good wives” to ensure that their husbands drank a few glasses every morning before work (81)! Rival products likewise stressed the positive aspects of alcohol consumption, though by 1940 government propaganda began to equate alcohol with smoking, tuberculosis, and constipation as one of “The Four Big Poisons that Destroy Health” (88).

In chapter 5, Smith turns to contemporary Chinese novels and plays dealing with alcohol and especially opium addiction. Despite official guidelines aimed at muffling criticism of the state, these works offered implicit criticism of Manchukuo and its anemic efforts at opium prohibition. Similarly, Smith’s sixth chapter illustrates the alluring dangers of women working as hostesses in modern bars and opium retail outlets during the 1930s. Though they were seen by some as symbols of modern living, they were frequently denounced by social reformers as manipulative temptresses who corrupted public morals. Finally, chapters 7 and 8 illustrate the steps taken by Manchukuo to help opium addicts recover, often at private clinics and hospitals, but also at state-run institutions known as Healthy Life Institutes. Here, Smith makes a terrific contribution to the literature on Manchukuo by detailing the efforts to help Chinese patients recover from years of chronic addiction. While he concedes that much of the available evidence is state propaganda, and that it is also difficult to reconcile the efforts of health professionals with the state’s tacit allowance of the opium trade, there were nevertheless Japanese who attempted to help Chinese in Manchukuo. As Smith asserts, the movement of Japanese into Manchuria was one of the largest migratory waves in modern history, but “the experiences of these pioneers remain hardly known, partly because of the Manchukuo legacy” (197).

As a historian familiar with Japanese business ventures on the continent during this era, this reader wanted more financial details on how the state opium monopoly functioned during the Manchukuo era, especially given the importance of tax revenues during Japan’s “Holy War” against Anglo-American imperialism (90). Smith seldom discusses production costs, distribution channels, pricing, or state revenues directly, as his principal focus is on cultural perceptions of opium and alcohol, rather than the economics of the trade itself. Nevertheless, readers looking for these kinds of details will find many valuable references in his extensive and varied bibliography.

The depth of Smith’s research is impressive, and he writes with the admirable flair and ease of a scholar well-versed in Manchuria’s history. Intoxicating Manchuria features over 40 well-placed photos, ads, cartoons and illustrations that bring the narrative to life, and at just 198 pages of text with richly detailed endnotes, it will appeal to scholars and students alike.

Jeffrey Alexander, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, USA

Back to top

CHINESE COMFORT WOMEN: Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves. Contemporary Chinese Studies. By Peipei Qiu, with Su Zhiliang and Chen Lifei. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2013. xx, 254 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$32.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7748-2545-0.

This is an important book that signals fundamental shifts in understandings of the Japan military’s use of “comfort women” in Asia during the Second World War. To date, most discussion of “comfort women,” the English translation of the Japanese euphemism ianfu, has focused on roughly 200,000 Korean and Japanese nationals. This volume sheds light on the suffering of an approximately equal number of Chinese women who were forcibly drafted by the Japanese military and whose experiences were silenced for decades. It is the first English-language monograph to record the memories of Chinese women at the “comfort stations” and it does a fine job of introducing these important findings to international audiences. The volume centres on oral interviews with twelve survivors conducted by Su Zhiliang and Chen Lifei from 1998-2008, more than five decades after the “comfort women” system was dismantled and the women were “liberated.” One of the great strengths of this work is the demonstration that these women’s suffering continued long after the Japanese military was defeated and the war ended.

The volume consists of three sections. The first recounts the establishment of the “comfort women” stations, stressing the deliberate and calculated mass abduction of local women. Many of the women’s families struggled to raise the ransoms that the military demanded to free them, challenging often repeated assertions that Chinese do not value daughters. The middle section is a harrowing recounting of the experiences of the twelve women, who came from regions as diverse as the north of China and the southern island of Hainan. Their personal narratives are, as to be expected, moving and reflective of an enormous level of unjust suffering. The final section recounts the women’s postwar lives and the grassroots movement that has arisen to seek redress for the injustices that they endured. It clearly spells out the long-term costs that these women paid for the Japanese military’s violation of the most basic human rights and dignity.

The authors make clear that the purpose of this monograph is to facilitate understanding between Japanese people and their neighbours and not to encourage antagonistic, nationalistic stances. They argue that it is necessary to transcend the posturing of nation-states and recognize that the suffering caused by war is a violation of individual human lives. Whether this goal can be achieved may be debateable but the Japanese government’s ongoing failure to fully acknowledge the nature and extent of these war crimes is not. At the heart of this book lies the ruthless, militaristic nature of the “comfort women” system and the Japanese Imperial Army’s direct involvement in an unimaginable level of violence towards Chinese people that the Japanese government still refuses to be held morally, legally or otherwise responsible for. Chinese Comfort Women makes a very strong and compelling case that the Japanese military was systematically and deliberately involved in the kidnapping, sexual exploitation and enslavement of enormous numbers of Chinese women. While the purpose of the “comfort stations” was, according to Japanese military leaders, to ostensibly prevent mass rape and the spread of venereal diseases, the effect was to shatter and shame Chinese—and ultimately discredit the much-vaunted propaganda of Imperial Japan liberating China from Caucasian imperialism.

A chief contribution of this volume is the demonstration that massive numbers of Chinese “comfort women” were obtained locally and viewed as no more than military supplies, treated as “public latrines.” The scale of this inhumane treatment was enormous, with Su Zhiliang estimating that around 200,000 Chinese women were forced into sexual slavery by and for the Japanese military. The political symbolism of the system, with the raping and killing of Chinese women symbolic of China’s subjugation to Imperial Japan, compounded the women’s suffering by fuelling prejudices toward them and their suffering. Some of the women whose lives fill these pages were welcomed back into their families while others survived to find their families utterly decimated; to add further insult to injury, they were denounced as collaborators in the subsequent Maoist era. These women’s fates appear to have differed little from those of the countless thousands of other, mainly Korean, “comfort women” who also suffered enormously at the hands of the Japanese military—and patriarchy—and have been the major focus of “comfort women” research to date. While the authors do point out varied significances of the patriarchal norms within which the Japanese military operated, perhaps an even deeper, more prolonged analysis of patriarchy would strengthen further the authors’ stated ambition to move beyond nation-state renderings of the topic.

“Comfort women” have attracted increasing attention in recent years but this is the first English-language monograph to focus on the suffering of those Chinese women whose lives were forever altered by the abhorrent behaviour of the Japanese military. The twelve women whose experiences are recounted here deserve a great deal of credit for having survived the wartime crimes committed against them, subsequent persecution in the Maoist era, the refusal of the Japanese government to take full responsibility for the actions of its military, and the interviewing process, all of which must have been traumatizing. Chinese Comfort Women does an excellent job of linking these women’s lives to forces that darkened much of China’s tortuous twentieth century yet remain far too little understood.

Norman Smith, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada

Back to top

LU XUN’S REVOLUTION: Writing in a Time of Violence. By Gloria Davies, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. xxvi, 408 pp., [14] pp. of plates. US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-07264-0.

In this eloquent book, an important subject has met a masterful interpreter. Lu Xun, the foremost writer of twentieth-century China, can be heard addressing himself to critical dilemmas not only in his own culture but in global literature more broadly. Davies’ skilled reconstruction of both the historical and literary contexts that shaped Lu Xun’s voice enables readers to hear afresh the political and creative struggles that shadow subtle minds in times of political violence. In fact, this book offers such a nuanced view of cultural productivity that one almost forgets how rancorous, vindictive and prejudiced Lu Xun could be in his own “revolutionary” circles during the 1930s.

Gloria Davies paints the canvass of Lu Xun’s last decade with dense details that honour the bewildering Nanjing decade of 1927-1937—which also corresponded to the brutal years of the White Terror. The book’s opening section, modestly titled “Guide and Chronology,” aligns key events during the 1920s and 1930s with the timing of Lu Xun’s writings. Not only are these concise pages a great help to historians and literary scholars (be they beginning students or seasoned researchers), they also shed light upon the parametres of thought in the midst of social chaos. In 1926, for example, Davies reminds us, several of Lu Xun’s students were killed on March 18th. Less than a month earlier, he published a sharply critical essay entitled “A bit of Metaphor.” In this confluence we glimpse a larger truth about modern China’s predicament in which literary allusions about carnage do not stay metaphorical for long. The cannibalism of social revolution keeps catching up with and surpassing the worst nightmares of writers, again and again. Similarly in 1935, just a few months after Lu Xun began the serious effort of translating Russian and Soviet fiction, Qu Qiubai was killed by Nationalist troops. Again, the project of cultural transmission was overwhelmed by grief and the demands of commemoration. Mourning and writing collide and reshape the inner landscape of a tired, ill and politically ambivalent leader of the leftist writers in Shanghai.

By evoking with narrative skill the complex terrain of revolutionary debates in the 1930s, Davies’ book stands as a powerful alternative to the “wooden officialese” (316) that characterizes Lu Xun’s rehabilitators on the Chinese mainland. Here, we have a vividly evoked thinker who tried to gain ethical and literary clarity against all odds. Gloria Davies is especially insightful in helping us re-read some of Lu Xun’s canonical essays with a deeper appreciation of the conflicts that coloured his “perspicacity.” Although this concept is a mouthful, it does justice to Lu Xun’s effort as reflected, for example, in his work “On Seeing with Eyes Wide Open.” Written barely six weeks after the killings of the “May 30th Movement” of 1925, this essay is part of the corpus of zagan (mixed impressions), which cannot be reduced to any one political point of view or any literary fad.

It is not only Lu Xun who comes to be seen more clearly in this book, but the larger project of vernacular literature as well. Davies’ focus is mostly on the intra-leftist debates about the role of writing when guns hold sway. Nonetheless, readers interested in the relationship between intellectuals and social consciousness will find important insights here. The baihua—plain talk—movement in China was never about language alone. It was, as Davies shows us, part of an ambivalent effort by classically educated men and women to turn the knife of cultural change against themselves. Davies’ sophisticated metaphor for this project centres on Ouboros, the self-devouring snake of ancient Greek mythology. Thirty-five years ago, when I first began to write about Lu Xun and revolutionary literature, I recall being infatuated with Gramsci, Sartre and Brecht and marveling at what they had termed the importance of being “willing in the face of necessity.” Now, after reading much of the new Chinese and Western scholarship about Lu Xun’s legacy, I find that Gloria Davies’s understanding of a “self-consuming encounter with literature” (271) has the ring of a historically seasoned truth that is absent in previous works.

Davies herself nods with familiarity toward various European literary theorists in order to place Lu Xun’s experimentations in a world critical context. Not surprisingly Derrida, Foucault, Bakhtin and Heidegger appear as paradigms for the politically engaged yet self-reflective writer. More enriching than these theorists, in my view, are Davies’ reflections on the luminosity of literature, its unique ability to de-familiarize as well as to cherish the familiar. While Lu Xun was fully (and fiercely) engaged in the internecine squabbles of the Creation Society, Crescent Moon Society and the League of Left Wing Writers, Gloria Davies shows him to be also a kindred spirit to Jorge Luis Borges, who had observed that “we grow blind to the familiar objects in our midst because they ‘serve us like silent slaves’” (313). Even while shouting about the need to free the oppressed and to answer guns with words of fire, Davies’ Lu Xun is revealed as a man who warred against the silence of an unreflective mind. The price he paid for his inner struggles was that he became haunted by metaphorical and political demons—each of which is placed in a historical and literary framework that draws deeply upon classical Chinese culture.

In the end, however, this is a book not only for historians or literary scholars. It is not even limited to cultural critics looking for a dash of comparative elegance. It is about the boundaries of moral empathy in times of social upheaval. Expanding this empathy was not only one Chinese writer’s dilemma but remains a challenge for Western intellectuals today. Lu Xun had embraced this mission with the fullness of his heart and a towering mind. Gloria Davies matches her subject every step of the way.

Vera Schwarcz, Wesleyan University, Middletown, USA

Back to top

CHINA’S SECURITY STATE: Philosophy, Evolution, and Politics. By Xuezhi Guo.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. xiv, 486 pp. (Figures, tables.) C$100.95, cloth.  ISBN 978-1-107-02323-9.

This book is a contribution to the field of Chinese politics. It is particularly helpful to the understanding of the CCP’s mechanisms for controlling both party members and the general population. Although the author emphasized that it is not a book of “political history of Chinese security and intelligence apparatuses,” (1), the author describes the creation, evolution and development of China’s security and intelligence agencies as well as their role in influencing Chinese Communist Party politics throughout the Party’s history. Of course, the author was trained as a political scientist and he wrote this book in the perspective of a political scientist. His main focus was to examine how the security and intelligence apparatuses and elite politics interplayed in Chinese Communist Party (CCP) politics. In other words, the author wanted to look at CCP politics through its way of organizing security apparatuses.

The author stated that he wanted to achieve several related goals, namely, to analyze the evolution and development of the CCP security and intelligence organizations during the CCP revolution before and after 1949, to examine the organizations’ pursuit of social control of the Chinese populace and their influence over elite politics, to explore the function of the security and intelligence apparatuses as paramount shields for protecting the regime and as potent forces guaranteeing compliance to party leadership, and to reveal the manner in which the CCP organizes and motivates the security and intelligence organizations to ensure effective social control and compliance of party and state officials with party discipline.

Given the role played by security apparatuses in Chinese politics, it is easy to understand that over the decades the CCP has developed a very complicated and sophisticated security regime. Understanding this regime is not an easy task. Based on a review of the historical evolution of public security organizations, the author focused on several key components within this regime, including Central Guard Bureau, Central Guard Regiment, armed police, people’s armed police, garrison commands, intelligence agencies and services, and PLA (People’s Liberation Army) security services. While each of these organizations can be a book-length study, the author, based skillfully on chosen historical materials, has investigated patterns of leadership politics from the vantage point of security and intelligence organization and operation. The author also pointed to main trends of changing relations between the CCP and its security regime. For instance, he highlights how professionalism and institutionalization in the security regime have impacted the security regime’s relations with the CCP.

While the book answered many questions on China’s security regime, it could also have brought up many new questions. The author examined how different organizations in the security regime played their roles in defending the CCP, but he did not pay enough attention to how the CCP managed this vast regime. The lack of coordination between and among different organizations within the security regime implies that the security regime is not integrated but fragmented. While fragmentation provides the CCP leadership with the tool for manipulation, thus preventing a major threat from the security regime, it could lead to conflicts between and among them. Changing external and internal environments have called for better integration within the security regime. For example, the Central Military Commission managed the PLA, and thus its security and intelligence services, while the Political and Legal Commission handled security and intelligence services in the civilian sector. But with globalization and the rise of terrorism, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish external and internal threats. This is the main rationale behind the recently established State Security Committee, with Xi Jinping as its president.

The author also tried to make a comparison between the CCP and the Soviet Union. The comparison is justified due to the fact that both were Communist regimes. However, it would be interesting to compare the Chinese Communist regime and its traditional dynasties in terms of the organizational configuration of the security regime. For example, the Central Guard Regiment today is very similar to the Jinwei jun or the Yulin jun in traditional dynasties. It provides protection to the CCP leadership while the Jinwei jun or the Yulin jun protected the emperor and imperial families.

Some key arguments can be refined to reduce misunderstanding of the relations between China’s security regime and CCP politics. For example, the author correctly argued that internal security and intelligence are key components for the CCP’s survival since having a monopoly on power is the only way the party-state can maintain its authority. However, the author also claimed that contrary to Western democracies, China is governed by a monopolistic party whose leaders are not democratically elected, which means that political legitimacy is not based on popular support. As a result, the CCP shielded itself from internal and external threats by instituting a strong security system (418). This statement somehow exaggerates the role of the security regime. Many studies have indicated that in the past decades, China’s economic miracle has served as a major source of legitimacy for the CCP.

In the last chapter, the author tried to predict the future of China by comparing it with other countries such as Singapore, Russia and Japan. This comparison is not necessary and misleading. For example, to review the Singaporean democracy as a combination of “benevolent government and autocracy,” Russia’s as “illiberal democracy” and Japan’s as “democracy with a strong state bureaucracy” is far too ideology-loaded. The comparison does not add value to this important study of China.

Zheng Yongnian, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Back to top

COMMUNITY CAPITALISM IN CHINA: The State, the Market, and Collectivism. By Xiaoshuo Hou. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xii, 154 pp. (Maps, tables, figures.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-03046-6.

Based on extensive fieldwork in three Chinese villages, Xiaoshuo Hou shows how local party leaders and villagers successfully promoted economic development and raised living standards during the era of reform. In all three villages—Nanjie, Huaxi and Shangyuan—the author learned that cadre and villagers found different ways to mobilize the resources they needed to finance industrialization and secure investment from state officials and foreign investors, decided who should own industrial enterprises, houses and residual farmlands (collectives, joint ventures or individuals), determined how the benefits should be distributed to participants (as individual wages or as collective/welfare benefits and subsidies), and decided who should get them. It is clear from her account that villagers and local cadre took a lot of initiative and used their relative autonomy from central government authorities to adopt rather different strategies to promote economic growth and advance local variants of what the author calls “community capitalism.”

Although local villagers adopted different approaches to investment, ownership and benefit distribution, they all decided to distinguish between “local” residents and “migrants” and subsequently developed a two-tier system for the distribution of benefits. Because migrants outnumbered locals in Nanjin and Huaxi (she does not provide information about the ratio of locals to migrants in Shangyuan), a majority of residents were denied equal participation in political decision-making or in the distribution of economic benefits. Although migrants outnumbered locals 3 to 1 in Nanjin, the author does not seem to regard their treatment as “second-class citizens” as problematic, though their exploitation by locals was, in effect, part of the villagers’ development strategy. Although she discusses some internal debates about who might be incorporated into the group by marriage and who might be, in effect, exiled from the community, she might have done more to explore the dynamics and tensions between local and migrant villagers.

During the last 25 years or so, villagers managed to promote industrialization and transform themselves from rural farmers to urban workers while remaining in the village. By staying in place, rather than moving to other cities in search of work, villagers were able to keep their social networks, parochial values (collectivist in Nanjin; individualistic in Shangyuan), and families intact. The author and the villagers regard this as one of their most important social achievements. In a sense, they were able to realize Mao’s goals during the Great Leap Forward. During the 1950s, Mao promoted industrialization in rural areas, in part to prevent peasants from moving to the cities, which could not accommodate them. Although Mao kept villagers in place during the Great Leap Forward, he was unable to promote successful rural industrialization. By contrast, in recent years, cadre-villagers have found ways to industrialize and urbanize while remaining in the village, without unleashing the kind of out-migration characteristic of rural villages in other countries. Still, their success has encouraged the in-migration of workers from less-industrialized rural villages.

The author provides a careful account of “Community Capitalism” in all three villages. She discusses problems with corruption in Nanjin and the consolidation and transfer of political power by one cadre to his family members in Huaxi, “what most outsiders would look at as nepotism” (83). She identifies how villagers were able to build “close-knit communities” and provide social-welfare benefits to members that were not being provided by central government authorities.

This upbeat and positive assessment, reminiscent of Jan Myrdal’s Report from a Chinese Village, highlights the agency and relative autonomy of cadre and villagers during the reform era. But how representative was this sample? She chose them because they were successful. But how much can their experience tell us about villages that “failed” to industrialize, about villages that provided migrant workers for other, more successful villages and cities? It is difficult to tell. The author admits that “it is hard to generalize the research findings to the whole nation” (134). Moreover, the author’s reliance on a “grounded theory” approach makes it difficult for her to explore the structures, opportunities and constraints imposed by “the State” and “the Market” on small villages in contemporary China. This fine micro-study would have benefitted from an appreciation of the wider political and economic institutions that have shaped “community capitalism” in Chinese villages during this period.

Robert K. Schaeffer, Kansas State University, Manhattan, USA

Back to top

MEDIA COMMERCIALIZATION AND AUTHORITARIAN RULE IN CHINA. Communication, Society and Politics. By Daniela Stockmann. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xxii, 334 pp. (Figures, tables.) C$95.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-01844-0.

Since the early 2000s, many scholars and observers on China have argued that media marketization does not necessarily undermine the legitimacy of the communist regime. The rise of investigative journalism since the mid-1990s, for instance, has seemingly signaled the expansion of the space of critical reporting and discourses in the media. But investigative reporting in China has faced severe constraints and remained “on party leashes” (Yuezhi Zhao, “Watchdogs on Party Leashes? Contexts and Implications of Investigative Journalism in Post-Deng China,” Journalism Studies 1 no. 2, 2000: 577). From the state’s perspective, investigative journalism, as long as it is under control, can be an effective means to present the image of a caring and responsive government. More generally speaking, if the marketized media no longer serve as a propaganda machine, they may nonetheless act like a “publicity agent” promoting the image of the government and its leaders by more nuanced and/or “softer” means (Chin-chuan Lee, Zhou He and Yu Huang, “Chinese Party Publicity Inc. Conglomerated: The Case of the Shenzhen Press Group,” Media, Culture and Society 28 no. 5, 2006: 581-602).

The implication of this line of thinking is that marketized media can actually help the authoritarian regime in China to maintain stability and legitimacy. The literature, however, lacks studies with solid empirical evidence—especially evidence about public opinion—illustrating why, how, and under what conditions marketized media can benefit authoritarian rule. The latter is what Daniela Stockmann’s Media Commercialization and Authoritarian Rule in China achieved.

To summarize, Stockmann argues that marketized media can help solve the dictator’s dilemma by serving as a means for the dictator to monitor public opinion. Media marketization entails the need on the part of the media to respond to audience demand. But as long as the Chinese state has the capacity to retain effective control of the media, journalists will also take up the norms and rules about whether, when and how to cover politically sensitive matters. Given the persistence of media censorship and control, the contents offered by official and marketized media outlets in China are actually quite similar to one another. Marketized media do offer content that deviates from the most preferred official stance, but the deviation is often minor and invariably stays within the state’s latitude of acceptance.

Nevertheless, the apparent difference between marketized and official media outlets is enough to help the former build up an image of being relatively independent and even occasionally daring. The non-official media, as a result, enjoy higher levels of credibility among the general public. This higher level of credibility allows the non-official media to exert influence on public opinion. Since the non-official media actually provide information and messages largely in line with the state’s perspective, non-official media effectively lead public opinion to get closer to the preferred government stances on various issues.

In substantiating the above account, Stockmann draws upon data collected through solid empirical research. The range of methods employed is impressive, encompassing in-depth interviews with journalists and officials, content analysis of newspaper coverage of two selected topics (labor laws and foreign countries), and experimental and survey studies about media effects on public opinion. Remarkably, Stockmann also puts China into a comparative framework. She tries to substantiate the point that media marketization can help the Chinese state to maintain stability and legitimacy because China is a strong one-party state. This move broadens the appeal of the book substantially and makes it valuable reading to all political communication scholars interested in issues of media-state relations under different political systems.

Of course, the study is not without limitations. Two questions are particularly worth noting because of their implications on how one should judge the validity of the book’s account. First, the empirical studies focus on the topics of labour laws and foreign countries (the US and Japan), which are, as the author acknowledges, not particularly politically sensitive. It also means that these are not issues or topics that are most likely to present challenges to the state’s legitimacy. In association with this, in the empirical studies on public opinion, the dependent variables are people’s attitudes toward labour laws and the US/Japan, instead of their trust in the Chinese government or perceived legitimacy of the Communist regime. Does the ability of marketized media to generate acceptance for the government’s preferred stance on relatively non-sensitive topics entail the ability of the media system to maintain social stability and government legitimacy in face of serious crises and/or when the truly politically sensitive matters are dealt with?

Second, the content and public opinion data reported in the book are somewhat dated (mostly in the early to mid-2000s), and yet the empirical situation in China is continually evolving. As the author noted, even the marketized media could not reflect the audience’s perspective when the audience’s perspective falls beyond the state’s latitude of acceptance. With the rise of the Internet and social media platforms, the limitations of the mainstream media—both official and non-official—may become clearer to at least the politically aware citizens. Then, over time, what can prevent the media themselves from losing their own credibility if they repeatedly fail to cover important matters in line with what the people want to see? In other words, is the strategy of using marketized media to promote state legitimacy sustainable in the long run?

These two questions are not meant to undermine the value of the book. It is practically extremely difficult to directly tackle public opinion on regime support and highly sensitive political matters in China, and the author herself has acknowledged the uncertainty in how the situation of China may evolve. The book also offers some useful discussions about the Internet and public opinion in China. The above questions simply suggest certain issues on which more and continual research is needed. The book, on the whole, is a significant contribution to the literature on changing media-state relations in China. Readers of the book should find their reading time well spent.

Francis L.F. Lee, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR , China

Back to top

THE UNITED STATES AND CHINA: A History from the Eighteenth Century to the Present. Asia/Pacific/Perspectives. By Dong Wang. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013, xi, 377 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7425-5782-6.

Few observers will contend with the assertion that the relationship between the United States and China has, in general terms, become the most significant bilateral relationship on the world stage. Just what does this mean? First, the United States and China, respectively, currently hold positions as the world’s two largest economies. If these giants somehow fail to manage their economic conflicts, there most certainly will be dire implications for the global political economy. Second, while the United States continues to occupy the position as the world’s top military power even more than two decades since the end of the Cold War, China has emerged as the most important potential challenger, especially throughout the Asian region. Arguably, these two giants have become too big to fight, as occurred during the Korean War (1950-1953). Third, with the possible exception of the European Union (EU) and some emerging powers like India, no other country is on par with the United States and China in terms of global political influence and the projection of soft power.

The United States and China: A History from the Eighteenth Century to the Present examines this all-important bilateral relationship. Dong Wang provides a comprehensive treatment of US-Chinese relations, from the late-eighteenth century when the American colonies won their independence from England, to the present period. She examines the economic, political, military, and social and cultural dimensions of this relationship, illustrating how these dimensions have affected and are affected by various domestic and external forces at play for both parties. The author reveals how the past and present are connected for Sino-American relations, a dynamic which charts their future course. This is a story about two global actors whose bilateral relationship must be viewed in the context of their respective worldviews (and views about each other) and their rise as world powers. Perhaps more than any other factor, the starkly diverse historical experiences and social and cultural peculiarities of these two giants tell the story of their bilateral relationship. Dong Wang illustrates this quite well throughout her book.

Wang’s study is organized into three parts, the early period (1784-1911), the period of the World Wars and turmoil in the Asian region (1912-1970) and, the period of the opening to China (1970) to the present. Each epoch reveals an important aspect of the story, from America’s missionary activity in China and the World War I era, to the triumph of the Communists on mainland China and the Korean War period. At each juncture, Wang carefully examines the particular historical context of the bilateral relationship and the various factors at play. Many lessons are revealed along the way, and these will be familiar to the informed reader. I will list four such points here. First, the respective political and economic development experiences of the two countries, and their rise to regional and global prominence, are and have been a major dynamic in the bilateral relationship. Second, China’s relations with the United States, indeed, with the West, reflect China’s longtime quest for stability at home and regionally, and, to be respected as a sovereign actor in world affairs. Third, various actors have, at times, found themselves to be significant players in the US-Chinese bilateral relationship. Dong Wang highlights the complex role of England in the earlier period as the United States was attempting to establish a commercial presence in China. She also examines the role of Japan, which becomes particularly important beginning in the early-twentieth century. Finally, it is arguable that the social and cultural dimension of Sino-American relations has, over time, proven to be the most significant dynamic even in their official bilateral relationship. I believe that Dong Wang demonstrates this quite well in chapter 3 on Chinese immigration to the United States, and, in chapter 4, which deals with the spread of American Christianity in China. These two chapters, which are especially well researched and written, reveal much about each side’s perceptions of and interest in the other.

It is a challenge to organize and present a narrative that deals with so vast an amount of material that covers such an expanse of time, but the author does it admirably. While I believe Wang’s treatment of the modern (nineteenth- to mid-twentieth-century) period to be the overall strength of her study, she devotes ample attention to the issues, events and trends of the contemporary (post-1950s) period: the path toward normal relations in the 1960s and 1970s, and, various contentious issues such as Taiwan, Tibet, trade, human rights, and China’s growing defense spending. There is a good balance of historical and contemporary sources, as well as Chinese and American perspectives, and the Further Reading section at the end of each chapter will be especially useful for classroom settings. I would offer one critical observation. While the author covers a lot of terrain and does it in exemplary fashion, I would have liked to see more treatment of some third parties. Obviously, regional actors such as Japan, the Koreas and Taiwan, and even Russia, at times, occupy American and Chinese attention in ways that affect their bilateral relationship. This is more and more evident for actors such as India, Iran and Pakistan, who are increasingly important to China and the United States in different ways. This is worth exploring further in the study.

In conclusion, The United States and China is well researched and written. This ambitious study is a useful contribution to the literature on the history of Chinese-American relations. This book stands out for its comprehensiveness and balance, and students of history and international relations will find it to be accessible and insightful.

Gregory O. Hall, Morehouse College, Atlanta, USA

Back to top

THE GREAT MANCHURIAN PLAGUE OF 1910-1911: The Geopolitics of an Epidemic Disease. By William C. Summers. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2012. xiii, 202 pp. (Maps, B&W photos., illus.) US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-300-18318-1.

Summers’ monograph on the 1910 outbreak of pneumonic plague in Manchuria that killed 60,000 is a welcome addition to studies of the Chinese northeast. The monograph’s goal is to record the regional and colonial geopolitics of a Manchurian epidemic in a region whose political identity and natural resources were claimed by China, Russia and Japan. Summers’ work demonstrates how epidemiology, as both a study of plague and a means to contain it, was used by all three powers to strengthen their claims to Manchuria. The monograph is a contribution to the growing historiography on the interaction between modern medicine and colonialism. The short monograph (153 pages of text) introduces Manchuria’s complex political, economic and colonial identity in chapters 1 and 2. Chapters 3 and 4 examine the progress of the plague across Manchuria and the 1911 International Plague Conference that met in Shenyang (Mukden) under Chinese sponsorship. The final two chapters outline the plague’s origins and its intersection with Manchuria’s complex early twentieth-century political landscape. Summers argues that the plague’s outbreak and the subsequent jockeying among Russian, Chinese, Japanese, American and British diplomats, administrators and doctors was due to Manchuria’s new-found place in the global transportation and fur trade. China’s political weakness, according to Summers, coupled with Russian and Japanese colonial aspirations, shaped the plague’s management. Summers illustrates this strategy in three cities—Harbin, Shenyang (Mukden) and Dalian—using them as stand-ins for Manchuria’s aforementioned three competing powers. Ultimately the plague’s outbreak, containment and transformation into formal administrative bodies of management (international conference, medical schools, and government supervision) served the three powers’ competing colonialisms.

The monograph’s strongest sections are those on the plague’s origins and ecology, as well as its intersection with the global fur trade, since it was said the plague originated in the fur trade of the Mongolian marmot. Summers also does a fine job examining how Russian and Japanese colonial strategies, such as the use of medicine and modern medical administration justified their political claims, as well as obstructing the claims of others to Manchuria. Summers argues correctly that the plague, its outbreak, management and institutionalization cannot be understood separately from claims each power was making in Manchuria.

The monograph’s shortcomings are perhaps because this very complex situation is examined in few pages. The source base is all English; Japanese, Russian and Chinese sources are in translation or credited to other sources. For example, the work of Russo-German Dr. Roger Budberg-Boenninghausen, Harbin’s only doctor who spoke Russian and Chinese, is only briefly noted. I would direct readers towards Marc Gamsa’s article “The Epidemic of Pneumonic Plague in Manchuria 1910-1911” (Past and Present no. 190, Feb. 2006: 147-183) for Budberg-Boenninghausen’s contribution to plague’s management, as well as a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics of plague management between Russian and Chinese territory, through the adjoining cities of Harbin and Fujiadian.

Readers of Summers’ work may also come away with two erroneous conclusions. The first is the plague’s origin with the Mongolian marmot, for which there is no proof. The monograph’s extensive coverage of the marmot trade, and the global fur trade as a “plague reservoir,” is fascinating and does contribute to the debate on Manchuria’s incorporation into a global economy. Summers could also draw on the growing literature of Russian and Japanese scientific observation of Manchuria’s wildlife as part of a bigger project to justify their tenuous claims to Manchurian territory. This Russian and Japanese work produced the incorrect conclusion of marmot-to-human transmission, a conclusion that was one lap in a race, between competing colonial powers, to claim the plague’s origin. Summers’ discussion of the plague reservoir needs to be placed into the context of these competing claims.

The second fuzzy conclusion concerns the nature of claims, political and otherwise, to Manchurian territory. Perhaps because Summers uses Russian and Japanese sources in translation, he takes their claims at face value. These sources sought to justify and extend the privileges of what were essentially economic concessions, the Chinese Eastern Railway and the South Manchurian Railway, through claims of modern administration, city governments, education and health care. For example, Summer’s discussion of plague management in Manchuria’s three biggest cities of Harbin, Shenyang and Dalian—Russian, Chinese and Japanese controlled, respectively—praises Harbin and Dalian’s management but has little good to say for Shenyang as the older and presumably less well-administered city. He gives no proof beyond straight roads and more coercive Russian and Japanese plague management, and does not explore the impact of management on the population. A photo on page 60 of a Russian doctor examining a man identified as Chinese who has been tagged ignores that the man was tagged like an animal, measures that did not apply to the Russian population. The power relationship between the Japanese, Russians and Chinese, so clear in Summers’ account of the competition over who would mount the 1911 international conference, is absent from the description of plague containment. These measures, such as quarantining, at gunpoint, Harbin’s Chinese population on Chinese territory, and the destruction of Chinese property, were measures not uncontested by Russians and Chinese, and perhaps partly an explanation of why Chinese authorities were unwilling to harshly enforce quarantine. See Ruth Rogaski’s “Vampires in Plagueland: The multiple meanings of weisheng in Manchuria” (Health and Hygiene in Chinese East Asia, Duke University Press. 2010) for more insights into Chinese perceptions of Russian and Japanese colonial medicine.

Qing China, since the late nineteenth century, modernized Manchuria’s administration, incorporated it as three provinces, and sponsored Chinese settlement and economic development. China was not a helpless bystander to either Russian or Japanese colonial projects (Summers uses both colonial and post-colonial without defining them). Summers’ work unwittingly reproduces the troupe of Chinese tradition and Japanese and Russian modernity. China, like Japan and Russia, was colonizing a frontier but politically it was their frontier and the Chinese state was very much in the game. Summers’ work is certainly the best introduction to this event but should not be taken as the final word.

Blaine Chiasson, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada

Back to top

THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY AND CHINA’S CAPITALIST REVOLUTION: The Political Impact of the Market. Routledge Contemporary China Series, 61. By Lance L.P. Gore. New York; London: Routledge, 2013, c2011. xx,180 pp.(Figures, Tables.) US $44.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-415-85526-6.

Gore’s book represents a renewal of scholarly interest in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a topic which has been neglected for two decades. This persuasive study analyses the transformation of the largest ruling communist party in the world, which, despite its contradictions with marketization, and unlike its Eastern European counterparts, gained 72 percent of its current membership in the past thirty years (4). However, the CCP is experiencing an atrophy of its grassroots organizations in urban and rural areas, undermining its vertical integration. The CCP’s role in enterprise is declining, although, unlike the East Asian developmental state, it plants itself inside the businesses (128). The CCP is adapting by reformulating its goals and roles along pragmatic lines, and picking up the characteristics of market institutions. However, the different living conditions of party members make ideological unity impossible, as party membership holds no common meaning beyond its role as a label. The party is independent of any class, as, despite its rhetorical claims to represent and focus on the recruitment of the proletariat and peasants, these groups have been the biggest losers in the reform era and have not been a source of party expansion since the 1950s (20, 57). The CCP is no longer an avant-garde party. It is evolving into a corporatist-elitist party of the middle class, striving to serve the community in exchange for loyalty.

In one theoretical and four empirical chapters, Gore approaches the transformation of the CCP through the sociological lens of institutional isomorphism on the basis of a wide range of materials, both central and local, from across the country. These include newspapers, statistical reports, and party-building publications, as well as materials from government and quasi-governmental non-profit organizations, state-owned business corporations, and local party organizations, such as party-building websites, investigative reports, recruiting plans, meeting minutes, self-evaluation forms, online courses for potential party recruits, and works by scholars from party schools and research institutes.

Gore examines the adaptation of the CCP in China’s new mass society, new market-era institutions and job and residential patterns. Except for on college campuses, which are a focus of CCP recruitment efforts and which provide over one-third of new members each year, the party is struggling to stay relevant in corporate governance, in the private sector, and among the middle class, that is, the “managerial personnel” and “technical and professional specialists,” i.e., professional intellectuals who have always been crucial for party building (66). The CCP has adapted by professionalizing party cadres and creating interlocking positions in party- and state-owned enterprises. As the motivation for party membership among students is often not ideological but nationalist, pragmatic (for recruiters, party membership indicates quality and connections), and social (due to family pressure), Gore raises the question whether the CCP still recruits communists (79). The CCP’s efforts to recruit capitalists who can provide jobs and stability—and one-third of whom are party members (65)—present the danger of creating a hybrid ruling class, not unlike the “bureaucratic capitalist class” that the CCP overthrew in 1949, that can undermine the party’s autonomy in policy making (127).

Gore’s conclusion that the CCP is now pressed to revive the tactics of the United Front, which it used against the GMD before coming to power in 1949 (65), brings to mind other commonalities with that time of struggle for survival of the underground CCP in China proper and overseas. These similarities are the synergy of lineage and religious associations with grassroots party organizations in the countryside (50-56); the dilution of ideology; the struggles to overcome the party’s irrelevance to the private sector; and the attempts to relate the party to this private sector through social organizations and public events, finding new “carriers” among market and administration organizations (such as trade associations) (62-65). Much like the Malayan Communist Party—which was, organizationally, a branch of the CCP—did in the 1930s, the CCP now facilitates employment, as well as business ties among mobile party members whose mobility today challenges party recruitment strategies (113). Moreover, this synergy of the party with migrant associations was not only manifested in the organizational and functional similarities between the Malayan Communist Party and Chinese associations which I found in my own research, but in some of the early party organizations in mainland China, which emerged as adaptation organizations among youth migrating from rural areas to the city for their studies (Yeh Wen-hsin, Provincial Passages: Culture, Space, and the Origins of Chinese Communism, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

Gore concludes that the future direction of the CCP’s current transformation is uncertain. The CCP is once again becoming, as in its pre-1949 underground times, a nationalist party with large student participation and flexible ideology, facilitating migrant adaptation, and recruiting capitalists. This important study of the CCP adaptation shows the need for new questions about the organizational nature of the CCP, as well as about Chinese organizations broadly, since the CCP’s structure is already being appropriated as an organizational model for other institutions, such as protestant home churches (Karrie J. Koesel, “The Rise of a Chinese House Church: The Organizational Weapon,” The China Quarterly 215, Sept. 2013, 572-589).

Anna Belogurova, University of Oregon, Eugene, USA

Back to top

HONG KONG UNDER CHINESE RULE: Economic Integration and Political Gridlock. Zheng Yongnian, Yew Chiew Ping. Singapore; Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific, 2013. xii, 274 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$92.00, cloth. ISBN 978-981-4447-66-9.

There are few edited volumes in scholarly circles more fulfilling than those that sew the chapters together to present a single theme and dynamic evaluations. The present edited volume could be counted as one of those. There are altogether 13 contributors to this volume, including the two editors. Out of the sixteen chapters, nine are co-authored. One contributor alone wrote four chapters while also co-authoring two other chapters. Eight contributors are affiliated with institutions in Singapore, two are with Hong Kong, two are with Macau and one of them works in Melbourne. This edited volume represents both insiders and outsiders’ views of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) since its return to China in 1997. Interestingly, it is a product of mostly Asian scholars’ collaboration with one another. It offers original and critical insights into Hong Kong’s developments throughout the years and analyzes the future prospects of the implementation of the “one country, two systems” concept.

This volume recounts the 15 years of Hong Kong’s return to China. It is divided into three parts: the first part, “Integration and Interdependence,” studies Hong Kong’s economic development and the substantial integration of the SAR’s economy into mainland China. The second part, “Governance Crisis and Social Discontent,” explains the social anxieties that have mounted resulting from the popular dissatisfaction with the chief executive and the SAR government. After finishing the first and second parts, readers come to a partial conclusion that the success of the economic integration between the SAR and the mainland was of no use in building a stable society. Instead, the Hong Kong society has witnessed increasing tensions. The third part, “Electoral Reforms and Democratisation,” further points out that various parties have asked for faster and genuine political reforms. Not only has the SAR government failed to meet public demands, the legitimacy of the political authority reached an all-time low. In sum, this edited volume delivers the warning that Hong Kong’s economic integration into the mainland has not produced confidence among the local population, who are highly skeptical of the government’s policies and willingness to deliver political reforms.

The contributors of this volume ask the question of why Hong Kong people have lost their trust in the implementation of the “one country, two systems” concept. This edited volume is an important source of information and critique for Hong Kong people and Hong Kong watchers, who are concerned about the future of the SAR. One question leads to another: how would the decline in hope of the operation of the concept of “one country, two systems” influence the SAR? Of particular significance are the relations between the society and the government as well as the communication between Hong Kong and Beijing.

Two contributors of the volume, Wang Gungwu and John Wong, alert that Hong Kong has not developed any feasible institutional change that can facilitate closer social and political bonding with mainland China. John Wong further raises the question of whether the advantages of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) can bring about the real incorporation of Hong Kong society and government within the “one country” of China. Other contributors question if the economic integration of Hong Kong into the mainland further reduces the SAR government’s ability to reform and to address the grievances of the society. The inertia of the governance of the SAR has amounted to increasing social discontent and even crisis. Moreover, the chapters of the second part, “Governance Crisis and Social Discontent,” argue that social disturbances have adverse effects on the identification of the Hong Kong people with mainland China.

The third part, “Electoral Reforms and Democratisation,” puts forth the same argument as the previous chapters. Contributors question whether the ascendance of the present SAR chief executive has provoked further political discontent and problems of legitimacy. The political inertia concerning the SAR’s government structure and civil service, and the lack of capacity for genuine reform lead to worries regarding the future of Hong Kong. The selection of the chief executive remains the crux of the political problems of the SAR government.

Studying the economic, social and political developments, this edited volume is valuable to scholars, graduate students, researchers and Hong Kong watchers who truly care for the future of the SAR. It would be of most use if readers could get some suggestions as to how the Hong Kong government should break away from the inertia, so as to tackle possible political crises in the future. One wonders how the Beijing leaders will react to future crises. There are three parties involved in the implementation of the “one country, two systems” concept: Hong Kong society, the SAR government and the Beijing government. This edited volume warns the readers of the future of Hong Kong. It is important to know how this warning will affect the Hong Kong government and the Beijing leaders. The actions of the SAR government and the Beijing leaders will be critical to the stability of Hong Kong society and the legitimacy of the chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR.

Cindy Yik-yi Chu, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Back to top

CHINA AND THE ENVIRONMENT: The Green Revolution. Asian Arguments. Edited by Sam Geall; with an introduction by Isabel Hilton. London; New York: Zed Books, 2013. vii, 256 pp. (Map.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-780-32340-4.

This well-written and insightful book explores the brave new world of environmental activism in China. It is essential reading for anyone interested in how journalists, lawyers and ordinary citizens are using a variety of strategies and tactics in their struggle to prevent health-harming pollution, fight grievous environmental injustice, and preserve vital ecosystems. The brief introduction sets out the context within which environmental activism takes place, and then the five extremely rich chapters examine, in turn, the role of environmental journalists, the key campaigns that have formed the contemporary environmental movement, the use of the legal system in struggles for environmental justice, urban middle-class environmental protest, and the struggle against dams in China’s Southwest region. What makes these chapters especially powerful is how they use detailed descriptions of cases to illuminate the bigger picture. The engaging nature and empirical richness of this book is not surprising given that four of the six contributors are editors at the outstanding online environmental newsmagazine chinadialogue, while the other two are a China-based journalist and a legal scholar with extensive experience in China.

In the introduction, Isabel Hinton argues that new government policies such as freedom of information regulations have dovetailed with the emergence of a new generation of younger and more confrontational activists to create an energetic environmental movement. Yet she wisely eschews the temptation to herald the coming of age of a robust civil society, instead noting that there still remains a deep contradiction in the state’s handling of environmental NGOs and activism—these activities can be useful to the regime, but they can also be dangerous. Hinton concludes that “the potential for a robust and vibrant civil society is clear, [but] whether it is allowed to come into being is less certain” (13). The five following chapters provide vivid pictures of the efforts of activists at the centre of this struggle.

Chapter 1 by Sam Geall explores the changing media landscape in China and the ability of journalists and citizens to use the media to fight pollution and protect the natural environment. He hones in on those journalists who advocate for environmental causes, arguing that they actually benefit from the often chaotic or confused media environment as they work the murky ground between what is obviously acceptable and what is clearly off limits. Geall introduces the reader to a variety of activist journalists, concluding that they have “helped to create more environmentally aware citizens, bring light to murky back-room politics and foster a feistier, more responsive public sphere” (38).

In the next chapter, Olivia Boyd reviews some of the key campaigns of the past two decades of environmental activism in China, giving a fast-paced tour through campaigns to save endangered species, to stop the building of dams, to get pollution data made public, to force multinational corporations to pay attention to the environmental record of their suppliers, and to improve animal welfare. While this review yields no neat conclusions, it does illustrate that the field of action has expanded and that “Chinese citizens are becoming players in an effort to build a greener, cleaner and more open society” (93).

The legal arena has become an important site for environmental activism, and in chapter 3 Adam Moser uses an examination of one legal case—the Yangzonghai case—to open a window on the state of environmental law and governance in China. Following a useful review of the overall situation, Moser explores the clashing interests involved in the Yangzonghai case, ultimately concluding that the judiciary is still too weak to play a constructive role in environmental enforcement.

The last two chapters each focus exclusively on one case study. Jonathan Ansfield’s “Alchemy of a Protest: the Case of Xiamen PX” is a tour de force of reportage. While many have heard about the middle-class protests against a chemical plant that erupted in Xiamen in 2007-08, Ansfield takes the reader on a journey behind the scenes, illuminating the complex machinations that went on before, during and after the main protests. The protests were unprecedented and were followed in subsequent years by similar upheavals in other cities. While this has seemed to be a momentous development, Ansfield’s account suggests that whether or not such protests can achieve citizens’ aims is still unclear. In contrast to this, in the next chapter Liu Jianqiang tells the story of the successful campaign to stop the damming of Tiger Leaping Gorge. Liu’s position as a reporter who followed the case from its beginning to its end enables him to tell the story with rich detail. Liu argues that “its success showed that a group of stakeholders joining forces to defend their rights—with the support of the media, civil society and the public—can defeat a formidable alliance between government and business” (203). It must be said, however, that it is still unclear whether the outcome of this case (at this point in time) is a one-off result or a harbinger of things to come.

China and the Environment deserves a wide readership. While it does not make a theoretical contribution to the literature, it offers an accessible, interesting and insightful look into the world of environmental activism in contemporary China.

Kenneth W. Foster, Concordia College, Moorhead, USA

Back to top

RENEWAL: The Chinese State and the New Global History. By Wang Gungwu. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2013. xi,159 pp. US$30.00, cloth. ISBN 978-962-996-536-5 .

This thoughtful and accessible book by one of the most prominent senior scholars in the history of China and its relations with the rest of the world will be of interest both to academics specializing in the history of Chinese nationalism and to many ordinary readers who want to understand more of China’s history and culture. It will also be a welcome addition to reading material for undergraduates since it combines a pleasant prose style with a deeply scholarly approach to the subject. However, readers should be aware that, despite the title, this is primarily a book about the history of Chinese nationalism and identity, rather than about the new global history.

The book is made up of lectures given on various occasions and a previously published essay. In each chapter Wang Gungwu reflects on a different theme in the history of modern China’s changing ideas of the nation by analyzing a particular term or idea. The first chapter considers the vexed issue of how to write global history. Wang focuses on the question of how Chinese writers can understand their own history in its global context given that global history as a genre remains centred on the rise of the West, while Chinese history has long placed China at the centre of the story.

The ideas of empire, sovereignty, and revolution form the subject of the three subsequent chapters. In each case Wang meditates on the changing relations between the English term and its Chinese equivalents. One of the nicest features of the book is the depth that this gives as we learn the classical origins of the terms and how their meanings in the twentieth century and today have continued to hold elements of those roots despite becoming the apparent equivalent of English terms. Using this methodology Wang argues that “empire” and “imperialism” are not very helpful terms to apply to China. The Qing were not the rulers of an empire that was equivalent to the Dutch in the East Indies, and both the Qing and the Dutch were very different from the earlier Malay networks of the southeast Asian archipelago. This comparison with the history of southeast Asia is no doubt a natural one to a Singapore-based scholar, but it is one of the book’s most attractive features, making a refreshing change to the general tendency of Chinese, American and European authors to deal with the Qing strictly in comparison to the nation states of Western Europe. It also draws our attention to the wide range of potential meaning in a term such as “empire” and the political implications of different uses through time. The next essay argues that sovereignty, as a Western European legally based understanding of political legitimacy, has been alien to the Chinese tradition, even though the twentieth-century Chinese state adopted the idea of sovereignty and has used it effectively in international negotiations. Nevertheless Wang argues that the Chinese state has long been more comfortable with more flexible ideas of legitimacy in their relations with foreign states, whether that took the form of the tributary states in the Ming and Qing or the Soviet idea of a family of socialist states in the 1950s and 1960s. The final essay looks at the idea of revolution and its relation to the traditional concept of geming by asking the provocative question: Why are the changes that have taken place in China since 1979 never described as a revolution? This leads into a discussion of how geming was connected with ideas of violent dynastic overthrow, which makes it very different to the Western conception of an industrial or social revolution.

The book ends with a pair of alternative concluding chapters. The first looks at efforts to create a modern Chinese civilization, mainly since the 1980s, and gives some of Wang’s own ideas for necessary changes, such as the eradication of Han chauvinism in government policies and efforts to avoid discrimination against the religious practices of minority peoples. The second and more interesting concluding chapter is curiously labelled an appendix. In it Wang returns to his longstanding interests in the overseas Chinese to look at how ethnic Chinese outside China have related to the idea of China as a universal Confucian value system (tianxia) or as a modern nation state. By telling the stories of Ku Hung-ming and Lim Boon Keng, Wang argues that ideas of tianxia were hopelessly outdated and irrelevant by the middle of the twentieth century. He then contrasts Ku and Lim’s political failure with the success of Liao Zhongkai and Eugene Chen, who were loyal to China as a nation state, and Tan Cheng Lok, a prominent Chinese community leader loyal to Malaya as a nation state. He suggests that the concept of tianxia gave a space for forms of identity (pre-nationalism or trans-nationalism) that was eradicated in the world of the nation states. Thus the book ends with the somewhat wistful concession that the modern nation-state can be as problematic a unit for its inhabitants as an empire.

The book’s weakness lies exactly in its greatest strengths: this is a work at a high degree of generalization. It is intellectual history dedicated to great men, great thinkers and widely shared ideas. Wang also consciously and explicitly adopts the “point of view of an ethnic Chinese” (x) in his writing. As a result, to a Western reader the book may seem at times disconcertingly supportive of Chinese state nationalism, for example in its treatment of the Tibet and Taiwan issues. Nevertheless Wang Gungwu is one of the world’s leading scholars in the field; the book is clearly the product of a lifetime of thinking. It is well worth reading.

Henrietta Harrison, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Back to top

EURASIAN: Mixed Identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, 1842-1943. A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies. By Emma Jinhua Teng. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. xvii, 331 pp. (Illus.) US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-27627-7.

Border crossings of many kinds flow through this highly readable, interdisciplinary exploration of miscegenation and mixed-race individuals on their journeys between the United States, Canada, Great Britain, China and Hong Kong during a century of particularly fraught Sino-American relations. Emma Teng dissects variations in theories and practices regarding racial mixing, which were influenced by local contexts and power structures, social practices, socioeconomic class, paternal and maternal descent, size of Eurasian population, physiognomy, and individual choices and adaptations. She probes the porosity of racial lines ideologically, institutionally, socially and economically to demonstrate that past interpretations of miscegenation—perhaps the ultimate transgression of racial boundaries—and the resulting biracial descendants were understood not only as violations of nature and thus portents of civilizational decline, but also as vehicles for managing unavoidably hybrid societies and economic activities and even as vessels for merging and thereby enhancing the superior traits of different races with the additional possibility of eventually eliminating inferior attributes. Although such views tended to be held more by Chinese theorists of race, they nonetheless demonstrate that contemporary celebrations of hybridity bear roots in early twentieth-century social science.

This approach enables Teng to dexterously track the many impossibilities of imposing absolute racial segregation through legal and institutional practices, projects undone by the messiness of competing theoretical conceptions of racial difference, the unevenness of lived experiences, and the contingent nature of individual self-representations and identity claims. As illustrated by the author Sui Sin Far, born Edith Maude Eaton of a Chinese mother and British father in England, census counts that acknowledged only one race failed to account for biracial subjects, as did citizenship and immigration restrictions adhering to competing principles of jus solis, jus sanguinis, or dependent citizenship, in which women assumed the status of their husbands. Although she chose to identify as Chinese both socially and professionally, while her sister Winnifred gained fame as the Japanese Eurasian author Onota Watanna, Sui nonetheless occasionally encountered and took advantage of opportunities to pass for white even as she gained visibility in representing the experiences of Chinese and Eurasians. In Sui’s case, as with many other mixed race individuals, physical appearance and social presentation proved an unreliable guide to ancestral origins.

Teng systematically engages with anthropologist Melissa Brown’s observations that ethnic identities emerge more from social experiences than from ancestry or shared culture (78, 224) in processes that allow individuals to negotiate between generally accepted orders of racial and ethnic signification which then constrain individual identity claims more so than any inherited, essentialized, bundle of racial or cultural traits. When racial and ethnic contexts shift, individuals can make new identity claims. By mining the details of family histories, Teng reveals the different ways in which vectors such as class could shape Eurasian claims regarding being Chinese or European. Thus Mae, the Euro-American wife of Tiam Hock Franking, a Chinese student and then official, represented herself as aspiring to the role of dutiful Chinese wife during their residence in China with his family. Location and varying social practices also shaped options for Eurasians. Despite the tremendous respect enjoyed by Yung Wing of the Chinese Educational Mission (1872-1881) and his wife Mary Kellogg, a descendant of Plymouth Puritans, their sons’ generation confronted the hardening of racial lines and anti-Chinese sentiments, with the passage of Chinese exclusion leading them to choose to pursue careers in China. In Hong Kong, however, Sir Robert Ho Tung chose to identify as Chinese, probably to enhance his standing and economic opportunities despite his evidently Europeanized appearance. Within Chinese circles, Sir Ho Tung could advance further than among the more discriminatory British, while in Shanghai, the Eurasian community was sizable enough to establish its own school and comprise its own community. In predominantly Chinese places such as Hong Kong and Shanghai, where racial boundaries were less absolute, Eurasians gained some advantage by acquiring bicultural abilities that could be used to bridge and negotiate between Chinese and Western worlds.

Theoretical considerations of hybridity also varied across time and place and ranged from Louis Beck’s warnings based on the criminal career of New York’s George Appo during the 1890s, the contrasting views of Robert Park’s students Herbert Lamley and Wu Jingchao, to reformist leader Kang Youwei’s assertions of the evolutionary potential for racial mixing in the grand text One World Treatise. Social Darwinism was the most influential conceptual framework, although Chinese intellectuals also drew upon long-standing Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian principles that held out practices of “barbarian management,” providing for cultural adaptation as a means of incorporating disparate populations. Racially, Chinese views of difference hardened with the twentieth-century emergence of nationalism based on claims of Han racial origins.

The specificity of Teng’s emphasis on discourse and individual trajectories does not provide broader historical contexts such as demographic and other kinds of quantitative contexts. Readers must rely on Teng’s reassurance that the case studies presented do in fact reflect a full range of possible experiences and encounters of Eurasianness. However, the scrupulousness and depth of Teng’s readings of the lives of her representative Eurasians produces nuanced insights that illuminate many contexts and options for operating at the interstices of monoracial conceptions of society. In its transnational scope and multilingual archives, this volume is a highly persuasive and insightful accounting of Eurasian lives and possibilities.

Madeline Y. Hsu, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, USA

Back to top

WILL THIS BE CHINA’S CENTURY?: A Skeptic’s View. By Mel Gurtov. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2013. xi, 205 pp. (Tables, B&W illus.) US$19.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-58826-874-7.

In this overview of America’s difficult relationship with China, Mel Gurtov sets out to challenge the notion that the new century belongs to China in the same way that the preceding century was said to belong to the United States. Professor Gurtov looks at the different schools of thought prevalent in both China and America and argues that it is too easy to overstate China’s strength, ambitions and capacity to lead. He also says it is wrong to exaggerate the likelihood of a decline in the United States’ global role. He regards it as important to keep engaging China as a respected partner and to avoid treating China as a threat and creating a new Cold War. He wants to strengthen US engagement with China and makes a series of suggestions as to how this should best be done. At the end of the book, he adds various documents such as excerpts of China’s National Defense policy document.

The book certainly serves as useful background to stimulate debate and he covers many bilateral issues which make the news. Occasionally, he slips up, such as when he says that the Asian Financial Crisis took place in the 1980s instead of 1998. The serious drawback to the book is what is left out rather than what is included. Professor Gurtov presents himself as a skeptic against the establishment hawkish view of China and as a dedicated advocate of engagement. As such he recommends reducing US military spending, abandoning Taiwan, giving China a greater power to veto humanitarian intervention wars and recommends a regional security forum which would put China in a strong position to influence US traditional allies in the region. This is very much what Beijing would like too. It would like Americans to underestimate China as a threat to its interests and its representatives are always warning Americans not to start a new cold war.

Throughout the book Professor Gurtov takes the liberal or left-wing position on China, or rather the Chinese Communist Party, and this has invariably been the default policy of the American establishment since the 1940s. The reason why this encounters a great deal of mistrust is that the promises and predictions of the engagement faction have failed to come true. Ever since Nixon went to China, we have been assured that the Chinese Communist Party would lose power, or at least get weaker, as it would be obliged to undertake political reforms, but China has not become a democracy nor has it even made a meaningful start in that direction.

We were also told that economic engagement would bring mutual benefits but it is China which has grown hugely prosperous, and America which has become dangerously indebted to China, with no appreciable rise in living standards. And many concerns about the wisdom of continuing the huge transfer of technology and know-how to China are justifiable because the country is not an ally but a rival.

We were also led to believe that as China became a pillar of the global economy it would become a peaceful and positive player. In fact, we know China continues to back all the worst dictatorships around the world: Cuba, North Korea, Burma, Syria, Sudan, Ghaddafi’s Libya, Milosevic’s Serbia, and so on. Its belligerent posture on regional issues, including claims to all of the South China Sea and dramatic military build-up, is frightening all the other small countries in the region and has started a regional arms race.

At every critical point in history, the United States has made mistaken and misinformed choices on China. Washington first gave support to the Communists in Yenan during the Second World War, it forced the Nationalists to negotiate with the Communists in 1946/1947 and then withdrew support from Chang Kai-shek. It did not expect the Communists to win the civil war, nor invade North Korea, nor back the Vietnamese Communists. During the 1950s and 1960s, the CIA reports denied that tens of millions perished from famine in China so it rejected Taiwan’s calls for an invasion. Rather, it asserted that the Chinese economy was growing by 10 percent a year, faster even than Japan, so when Kissinger went to China, he failed to realized that he was dealing with a bankrupt failed state in the midst of a civil war. In 1979, the United States gave its support to Deng Xiaoping when he posed as a democratic reformer and again renewed that support after the 1989 Tiananmen student protests.

As such his underlying assumption—that engagement has worked so well in the past that the answer to current problems is simply to have more of it—needs to be addressed and defended more directly.

It is open to question whether we are any the wiser about the ambitions and policies of China’s new leaders than we ever were. The CCP remains a secretive Leninist organization which produces a great many opaque statistics about its activities. For all these reasons, the public has every right to be extremely cautious about accepting the views that Professor Gurtov articulates in this book. It’s surely not because anyone wants a new cold war, as he suggests, but because American experts and politicians have been wrong so often in the past. Some may also recall just how wrong the CIA and the Sovietologists were about Mikhail Gorbachov, the state of the Soviet economy and the proportion of its economy devoted to military spending.

Professor Gurtov also argues that our key concern should be about the challenges to China, not the challenges from China. You can see what he means but many of these challenges which he talks about are not so much challenges to China but to the absolute rule of the Chinese Communist Party. It is surely important to distinguish between the two. If a different party were in power with different priorities, perhaps environmental issues, minority ethnic unrest or worker protests and so on would not pose a threat to stability but enhance it.

Jasper Becker, Independent Researcher, Bath, United Kingdom

Back to top

THE RISE OF THINK TANKS IN CHINA. China Policy Series, 28. By Xufeng Zhu. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xiii, 210 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-66900-9.


Xuefeng Zhu, a professor at the Zhou Enlai School of Government in Nankai University, maintains that think tanks are a window for the outside world to observe the Chinese political system and its processes. In The Rise of Think Tanks in China, a detailed study of China’s think tanks, Zhu provides the reader with empirical evidence of the rise of think tanks, as well as a comparative analysis of seven prominent think tanks. The book also makes use of a nationwide survey of think-tank leaders.

Zhu attempts to answer the questions: how do different types of think tanks operate in China and to what extent do they actually influence policy making? While the second question remains clouded in conjecture because policy makers will often draw on multiple sources, the book does provide a pioneering account of think tanks’ administrative structure and influence, the strategies adopted by leaders, and the resources on which they draw. The overall argument confirms the view that the closer one is to government the more likely one’s voice is to be heard. While this is unsurprising, the book does provide an insider’s view on the machinations of influence in China’s policy circles.

The book is divided into four sections. The first section provides a comparative theoretical analysis in respect to how think tanks are positioned within China’s policy circles. In contrast to Western counterparts that seek to maintain a high degree of autonomy from government, political parties and interest groups, China’s think tanks benefit from close relationships with their ideological sponsors, whether these are the party-state apparatus, elites or universities. Zhu argues that it is necessary to redefine the concept of think tank in order to understand their role in China.

Zhu classifies China’s think tanks into two broad categories: semi-official think tanks and non-governmental think tanks. He investigates three influential semi-official think tanks: the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the Development Research Center of the State Council (DRC), and the China Centre for Information Industry Development (CCID). The China Development Institute (CDI) and the China Center for International Economic Exchange (CCIEE) represent “nongovernmental think tanks with governmental sponsorship.” A third category is the so-called “independent” non-governmental think tank. The examples are the Unirule Institute of Economics (Tianze), and the Beijing Dajun Center for Economic Watch and Studies (Dajun Center).

Zhu proposes three levels of influence on decision making: the first is the decision maker nucleus, whereby think-tank participants are effectively advisors to government; the second level of influence takes in social elites. This “centre” constitutes academic and other policy actors, including special interest groups. The third level of influence is the public and is called the “periphery.” The periphery includes inputs from the media and from the Internet as well as a range of academic and non-academic publications. Zhu makes the point that whereas the periphery is powerful in democracies, that is, where the media acts as the fourth estate, its function in China is also to circulate decisions made in the inner levels.

The second section set out the seven cases in the book. The analysis of semi-official think tanks tends to get bogged down in lists of responsibilities, channels of dissemination and functional linkages. Chapters 5 and 6 provide detail on the expansion of think tanks outside the protected umbrella of state institutions. In these cases such semi-autonomous bodies have drawn attention, resources and linkages from outside China.

Chapter 6 focuses on the most independent category: smaller think tanks. These smaller operations are plagued by financial difficulties and a higher turnover of staff. Zhu concludes that these smaller institutional formations are marginalized in terms of their influence on decision making, their main sources of income being consultancy, keynote speeches and reports. The influence of think tanks is proportional to their public identity. Semi-official think tanks function as the most important components in the policy research and consultation system. Non-governmental thinks tanks are variously registered as CNPIs, social groups, enterprises and university-run research institutes.

Section 3, “networks, influences and social consequences,” draws on empirical research and considers how influence is calculated. The research draws upon surveys sent to the leaders of 1,124 institutes. While this was obviously the most appropriate means of soliciting a response, the questions in the survey were not likely to elicit deep responses about the political landscape. In fact they were more likely to flatter the egos of think-tank leaders. The results confirm that the personalities of think-tank leaders are a decisive factor in building the reputation of the team and bringing in research contracts. The leader might be a person who has returned from overseas or who has strong connections with overseas returnees. Unsurprising, the higher the administrative level a think tank inhabits the more advantages accrue in access to China’s decision makers. However, Zhu points out that many think-tank leaders lack a high level of educational achievement.

Zhu maintains that the influence of all think tanks ultimately depends on their networks. Because of China’s special administrative system, relationship networks are configured differently to what one generally finds in the West. Having a high administrative ranking translates into direct influence; think tanks’ administrative level generally falls one level below their direct supervisory institution. Semi-official networks have the inside running thanks to their well-developed administrative networks. Hence the Chinese Academy of Social Science sits directly under the State Council. In contrast non-governmental think tanks rely more on personal social networks to realize influence. In addition such non-governmental think tanks are popular with social elites.

The Rise of Think Tanks in China is a welcome addition to scholarship. It will be a much cited reference for observers of China’s political reforms, particularly scholars of political transition, and it will be essential reading in courses on Chinese and international politics.

Michael Keane, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

Back to top

BAREFOOT DOCTORS AND WESTERN MEDICINE IN CHINA. Rochester Studies in Medical History. By Xiaoping Fang. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press; Woodbridge, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2012. xii, 294 pp. (Figures, tables, maps.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-58046-433-8.

Since the late nineteenth century, states have increasingly taken it upon themselves to provide basic health care for their populations, but this goal has often been thwarted by limited finances and personnel. With up to 90 percent of China’s 1949 population living in rural areas, the question for the state was how to spread resources in an effective, yet efficient manner. A tiny group of elite Western-trained physicians tried to implement rural medicine before and after 1949, yet even sixteen years after Liberation, Mao Zedong famously accused the Ministry of Health of serving only privileged, urban party elites. As Xiaoping Fang tells us in his important monograph, free services for civil servants made up 33 to 73 percent of total health-care expenditures between 1955 and 1965 in a single county, despite covering only 2 percent of the population (29). The barefoot doctor movement of the Cultural Revolution saw the first sustained penetration of the countryside by state medicine, and Fang’s book analyzes the movement through extensive interviews and documentary research. If official propaganda proclaimed that the barefoot doctors primarily brought herbal medicines to the doors of Chinese villagers, Fang demonstrates the opposite—it was Western medicine and mass-produced pharmaceuticals that these paramedical professionals promoted. The barefoot doctor program of 1968 to 1983 was “a pivotal stage in the displacement of Chinese medicine by Western medicine in rural China” (181).

From 1949, Chen Hongting and his Jiang village clinic become the reader’s interlocutors to explore these revolutionary changes to the medical field in rural China. In chapter 1, Fang demonstrates the plural medical ecology in rural China that included family businesses of Chinese medicine like Chen’s, but also folk healers, bonesetters and religious healers. In 1952, Chen and other medical practitioners formed a union clinic that was responsible for doing public health work, but with no funding. These union clinics “represented a significant downward extension of the state medical system” (27). But a comprehensive system based in Western medicine was not introduced to the countryside until the Cultural Revolution.

In the late 1960s, Chen Hongting and his colleagues began to introduce Western medicine and spread the barefoot movement (chapter 2). To one prospective disciple he said: “I find you clever and good at studying. I choose you to be a barefoot doctor. I will come to stay at your home. You will study under me” (48). These doctors were mostly young, between 17 and 26 years old, often semi-literate. The movement notably expanded medical work to include women in a significant way. For the first time in rural China, a standardized system of medicine was spread through a corpus of textbooks and journals, many of them well illustrated. These included the Manual for Barefoot Doctors. Contrary to common belief, the book is not primarily about herbal medicine, but is one-third about public health, epidemic prevention, first aid, family planning, basic surgical skills and human anatomy. The remaining two-thirds is therapies using a combination of herbs and Western drugs. Basic Western medical technology in the form of blood pressure metres, thermometres and stethoscopes, along with IUDs were spread widely, along with basic operational skills that included injections, disinfections and intravenous drips. Why did they focus on Western medicine? Chinese medicine was too difficult. Barefoot doctors studied on average only two to four months, although some studied up to one year, and this was not long enough to learn the classical Chinese necessary to read Chinese medical classics.

Chapter 3 describes how the early PRC saw medicine shops folded into the union clinics, the end of the division of doctors and pharmacies that had existed for thousands of years (75). Yet Western medicines were completely out of reach: a single bottle of basic antibiotics cost three years’ salary for a villager in 1957. A proclamation by Chairman Mao in 1969 saw pharmaceutical prices reduced and standardized nationwide on over 1200 basic drugs so that prices in 1971 were one-fifth that of 1949 (78). This massive state intervention saw a complete turning point in reducing mortality from infectious diseases by 1970. Mortality for measles dropped from 22 to 4 per hundred thousand and fatalities from 2 percent to 0.46 percent. Chapter 4 demonstrates how Western medicine continued to triumph over Chinese medicine in propaganda films of the barefoot doctor movement, although there was a resurgence of emphasizing use of local herbs when state expenses grew too fast in the 1970s. Nonetheless, the success of Western drugs was so significant that it led as early as 1978 to the over-prescription of Western medicine among barefoot doctors (121).

As the movement spread, it began to create increasingly institutional spaces that governed the medical encounter (chapter 5). Fang describes how the three-tier system of brigade, commune clinics and county-level institutions of the early PRC were transformed by the barefoot doctor movement to a dumbbell-shaped structure as the middle commune level (now township) became increasingly redundant (145). By developing brigade-level (now village) medical service at villagers’ bedsides, barefoot doctors undercut the role of commune clinics as patients would go straight to county hospitals for specialist care. Once established, barefoot doctors became increasingly professionalized (chapter 6) and survived as a class into the reform era, but lost their official title in 1985 to become either more highly qualified “village doctors,” or merely “health workers” (175).

Fang Xiaoping’s book demonstrates that the very success of the barefoot doctor movement at bringing state medicine and its public health benefits to the countryside had two interrelated effects, the marginalization of Chinese medicine and the overuse of Western drugs and technology. This book will be of wide interest to anyone wishing to understand the state of health care in China today and the roots of its successes and dilemmas.

David Luesink, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA

Back to top

TROUBLE IN THE MIDDLE: American-Chinese Business Relations, Culture, Conflict, and Ethics. By Steven P. Feldman. New York; London: Routledge, 2013. xii, 493 pp. US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-415-88448-8.

The relentless march of US-China economic interdependence has been led by a drumbeat of commercial self-interest, punctuated from time to time by dissonant chords of mutual suspicion. In recent years, distrust and disaffection has increased, in part due to the growing sophistication and ambition of Chinese firms looking to be more than low-value sub-contractors for multinational firms, and who are in many cases competing head-to-head with US and other Western companies. The optimism that greeted China’s WTO accession in 2001—thought to be the turning point to a more level playing field for foreign firms in China—has all but faded. Under the leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, Chinese state control over the economy has increased, especially after the 2008 global financial crisis. The new president Xi Jinping has spoken forcefully of the need to fight corruption, and Premier Li Keqiang has embraced “rebalancing” as a key priority, but slower growth in the economy (hence less new “pie” to be shared) will in all likelihood exacerbate tensions with foreign firms, at least in the near term.

In this context, Steven Feldman’s book on American-Chinese business relations is well-timed. Trouble in the Middle is a sweeping volume that touches on cross-cultural management, business law and ethics, Chinese political and economic history, and international relations. It is extensively researched and—consistent with the broad coverage of issues—eclectic in its scholarship. There is original material by way of 84 interviews (37 with American executives and 51 with Chinese executives) conducted by the author between 2006 and 2010. In addition, the author interviewed 21 Chinese “middlemen,” who come to occupy a central role in the book. The Trouble in the “Middle” does not refer to the middle kingdom that is China but to middlemen who facilitate transactions between American and Chinese partners.

The book boils down to a critique of the middleman who, according to Feldman, performs a bridging role between Chinese and American companies that often results in corrupt activities. It is, on the one hand, a way to address the pervasive culture of “gift-giving” in China while allowing the American firm to maintain a stance of plausible deniability (and hence avoid prosecution under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act). Feldman deplores this activity as doing “damage to both cultures, despite the fact that the two parties do nothing wrong, because their moral faculties are suspended as the middleman transforms the lack of trust, cultural conflict, and possible moral violations into instrumental success” (40).

Feldman introduces the concept of a “cultural middle” which he defines as a place where there can be moral resolution of cultural conflict, and that he believes should be occupied by the parties directly involved in the relationship rather than by a middleman. The role of the middleman in China is explained in historical-cultural terms with an extensive discussion of the “low-trust,” “high context,” “hierarchical” nature of Chinese society, which according to Feldman is compounded by the authoritarian politics and economic domination of the Chinese Communist Party. The book devotes an entire section to “culture and history”, which consists of “brief histories” of Chinese culture and innovation, and American-Chinese cultural relations. Another section, on “Government and Corruption,” consists mostly of a discussion on political and economic reform in China.

While the extent of Feldman’s scholarship is not in doubt, much of the discussion on history, culture and politics seems tangential to his thesis, and is in any case highly repetitive. The treatment of “religion,” “ethics,” “political system,” “economic system,” “perceptions of the Government,” and “modernization” in China is cursory at best, with each topic covered in barely a few pages.

The original research that Feldman has conducted shows up mostly in the second half of the volume, by which time the reader can be in no doubt as to the conclusions that Feldman has already drawn. Quotes from his various interviews in China and the United States are used not so much to support or underline his argument, but as illustrations of the types of issues encountered in US-China business. Using an alternate framework of analysis, the reader might well have drawn different conclusions from the quotes used.

At nearly 500 pages, the volume reads like it was intended to be a number of different books. The central message—on the ethics of using middlemen to carry out corrupt activities—could have been conveyed in a far more compact and effective manner. Indeed, that thesis could have been communicated even without the use of field interviews conducted by the author. On the other hand, the insightful and nuanced chapters on intellectual property did not resonate with the thesis and would have benefited from stand-alone treatment. Feldman acknowledges as much in his summation: “American-Chinese disagreements over IPR . . . go far beyond cultural incompatibility to include political, economic, and historical conflicts. The problems are so broad, numerous, and contradictory that it is difficult to ethically evaluate the legitimacy of IPR in the China context” (345)

As a practical guide to the ethical challenges of doing business in China, this book is too long and discursive to be helpful to most executives. Nevertheless, Feldman issues an important reminder to US and other Western businesses operating abroad (and in home markets) that the use of intermediaries to carry out corrupt activities is morally unacceptable, even under situations of deniability. And he is right to advocate a kind of cultural “fusion” based on mutual respect, trust and openness as the long-term solution to US-China conflicts. How to bring about that fusion will be a challenge for both sides for many years to come.

Yuen Pau Woo, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, Vancouver, Canada

Back to top

SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS AND THE AUTHORITARIAN STATE IN CHINA. By Timothy Hildebrandt. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xv, 217 pp. (Tables, figures.) C$91.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-02131-0.

This is an outstanding study, highly recommended for a wide variety of audiences. For China scholars, the book provides valuable and original primary data on various kinds of social organizations within the PRC; for specialists in comparative politics, it sheds new light on the persistence of authoritarian rule and the role of civil society; for students of social movements, it lays out a clear, useful and novel framework for understanding “opportunity structures;” for new researchers, it includes a detailed discussion of data collection and research methodology; and for practitioners, it reveals important and often counter-intuitive information regarding the specific and nuanced ways in which foreign funding can have both good and ill effects. The book is a pleasure to read, from start to finish. It is carefully researched, exceptionally well-organized, convincingly argued, and written in clear and engaging prose.

Hildebrandt investigates the ways in which Chinese NGOs adapt to changing political, economic and personal opportunities, focusing on NGOs involved in environmental protection, HIV/AIDs prevention, and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender rights. He blends qualitative and quantitative data and methods, drawing on eighty in-depth interviews with NGO leaders in Beijing, Yunnan and Sichuan (conducted in 2007-2008); a thorough and well-thought through web-based survey; and official news stories. Rather than focusing on one type of NGO per chapter, the book is divided into three thematic sections: one on political opportunities, one on economic opportunities, and one on personal opportunities. The three types of NGOs are compared within each section.

Hildebrandt consciously chooses NGOs focused on these issue areas because they are “profiles in success”; by and large, they have avoided repression and effectively adapted to the opportunity structures within which they operate. Through these case studies, Hildebrandt uncovers how social groups can succeed even within China’s authoritarian political system. However, he also emphasizes that the adaptations that these groups must make in order to persist undermine their ability to thrive in the long-term. Moreover, he finds that the limited success of these groups actually serves to strengthen the authoritarian political system, not to weaken or change it. In this sense, Hildebrandt challenges predominant understandings of the role of civil society in fomenting democratic political change.

The book’s first section, on political opportunities, looks at how ever-changing policy decisions and government institutions at the central and local levels shape the behaviour of Chinese NGOs. The main adaptive response to China’s political opportunity structure is to be “self-limiting;” these groups do not question or challenge the boundaries imposed on them by the state, but rather accept these as givens, and do what they can to succeed within these restrictions. Perhaps the most important and surprising finding in this section is that these NGO leaders express a remarkably positive attitude toward both central and local governments. Moreover, when a group does come into conflict with the state, NGO leaders almost universally blame the organization (and more specifically, the organization’s leader), and not the state. A further implication of this mentality is that when a group is repressed, instead of rallying around it in sympathy, other groups distance themselves from it, and fault the group’s leader for engaging in unwise behaviour that is seen as having elicited the negative state action.

Another interesting finding in this section concerns the Chinese government’s official registration system for social organizations, which on paper all such groups are expected to follow. Somewhat surprisingly, NGO leaders report no perceived relationship between registering and having good relations with the government. To the contrary, both local government leaders and NGO leaders sometimes believe that it is more advantageous to not become registered. Because a lack of official recognition allows these groups to exist “under the radar,” it can give both group leaders and local officials more flexibility in their actions.

The second section of the book, on economic opportunity structures, is perhaps the most intriguing and novel; although most studies of social movements emphasize political opportunities, Hildebrandt stresses that for the groups in this study, economic concerns far outweigh political concerns. Simply put, social groups need money in order to succeed, and money is in exceedingly short supply. Because domestic charity giving is almost non-existent in China (in part, Hildebrandt suggests, due to unsupportive tax codes), the NGOs in Hildebrandt’s study rely largely on international organizations for funding. These organizations have their own goals and requirements, and Chinese NGOs wanting their money have no choice but to abide by them. This, then, constricts the ability of NGOs to pursue their own self-defined aims, and to do so in the way that they deem most effective.

The third section of the book, on personal opportunities, is also innovative and illuminating. Across issue areas, personalistic patron-client relations (wherein a particular government official acts as the former and a particular group leader acts as the latter) characterize virtually all successful groups. The more “deeply embedded” a group leader’s relationship with a particular leader, the more potential success and protection the group may enjoy in the short-term. But in the long run, such relationships are very vulnerable and idiosyncratic, and are not sustainable. This feature of NGOs also explains why, when a group comes into conflict with the government, it is not seen as a failure of the political system, but rather as an interpersonal dispute.

Although the groups studied in this volume were chosen due to their demonstrated success, Hildebrandt concludes that their long-term future is “bleak.” They show little prospect of becoming institutionalized, or of working with one another. Moreover, they appear to be quite content with—and indeed may prefer—the authoritarian political status quo. Further, to the extent that these NGOs actually do solve China’s pressing social problems, they may strengthen the regime’s legitimacy.

Teresa Wright, California State University, Long Beach, USA

Back to top

DEFENDING RIGHTS IN CONTEMPORARY CHINA. Routledge/Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) East Asian Series, 12. By Jonathan Benney. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xi, 197 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-69430-8.

Jonathan Benney has written an important book that shows how talk about weiquan, rights defense, became embedded in official discourse and policies, and then was taken up, challenged and modified by different groups in society, such as ordinary citizens, consumer activists, lawyers and dissidents. The book adds to our understanding of how norms and terms develop and travel both among different groups within a given society as well as across national borders. Within the field of human rights studies, several scholars have drawn attention to processes of vernacularization of ideas, and this book, albeit not drawing on this strand of literature, nevertheless can be seen as contributing to the debate. Benney should also be commended for going beyond earlier more static cultural/intellectual studies of rights and human rights towards a more ethnographic-based study that shows how rights are understood, debated and embedded among different stakeholders and in diverse struggles in a rapidly changing Chinese society. The book builds on earlier works on the fragmented nature of the Chinese state, addressing how state-society relations have changed during the reform period, and how new stakeholders such as NGOs, social campaigners and lawyers have emerged and use new strategies and methods such as information and communication technologies (ICTs) to identify and defend their rights. Whereas many earlier works have addressed the history and debates on human rights in China, legal developments, rights struggles as part of protests and social movements, and the views and struggles of special groups of individuals, such as lawyers and dissidents, Benney’s book shows how these debates and struggles are connected. The author accomplishes this by taking an interdisciplinary approach that draws on insights from sociology, media studies and legal studies.

Benney’s book thus aims to provide an overview of the complex development of both the notion and practice of weiquan. The book consists of an introductory chapter addressing the development of the term, and subsequent chapters discuss how the major actors, identified as the government, ordinary citizens and lawyers, separately and in negotiation with each other have understood, used and shaped weiquan. Weiquan, thus, is not a static or uncontested notion, but ambiguous and evolving, and it is used strategically by different actors in specific and ever new contexts. The emphasis on different stakeholders’ “strategic” use turns our attention to the practice rather than the theory behind the notion. By focusing on rights defense as a strategy and framing device, the author avoids getting too bogged down in more abstract discussions on the sources of rights and whether or in what way Chinese citizens’ understanding of rights differ from citizens in the so-called West—a debate that has been raging for some time.

Benney provides a convincing argument for how the government’s own initial use and advocacy of weiquan opened up a Pandora’s box that encouraged Chinese citizens to use and couch their own activities and demands in those terms. Given the prominence and widespread use of the term today, and bearing in mind that according to Benney it was not used at all before 1992, it is interesting how little we actually know about its origin and early developments and the rapid dissemination and appropriation by different groups in society. Despite Benney’s own discussion of the rise and use of the term in the Chinese media and in different policy statements, there is still much left to explore about how and why different official institutions and individuals pushed the notion of weiquan, and how their understanding and use of the term has developed with time. It seems that weiquan developed more as a domestic discourse initiated and pushed by the Ministry of Justice, and thus in some isolation from the official Chinese human rights discourse where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs played a more prominent role. Be that as it may, certain groups such as dissidents and lawyers soon came to relate weiquan to the international human rights discourse, showing how a certain term can get new connotations and be adopted for other uses than originally intended.

The rapid diffusion and adoption of weiquan is in no small part due to the diffusion and growth of the Internet in China. The Internet has, despite tight control and censorship, opened up a space for Chinese citizens to conceptualize, demand and fight for rights, as well as get support from others, thus challenging the official discourse. The diversification and commercialization of the Chinese media has also meant that journalists in the more critical media outlets today are able to report and spread the language of weiquan by publishing successful cases of rights defenders such as the consumer activist Wang Hai, discussed by Benney.

The book’s empirical part draws on a selection of case studies that show how different individuals have appropriated the state-sanctioned notion of rights defense and then used it to legitimize their own struggles, although very often in the process challenging the state. One could argue that Benney’s selection of cases focuses too much on well-placed and informed middle-class citizens whose struggles have been given good coverage in the media, and that their topics, consumer issues and property rights, thus reflect this group’s particular concerns. Although Benney briefly discusses areas such as labour rights and women’s rights, more studies of how other groups of citizens with grievances use weiquan, or if they prefer other concepts, and how successful such appropriation really is, and in what circumstances, are much needed. Benney’s also address the special role of lawyers in rights defense and their more vocal role in society today. The book’s conclusion and recent developments in China reveal an official retreat and backlash for weiquan both as notion and practice, which serves to further alert us to its ambiguous status and the precarious situation for those who try to practice it.

Marina Svensson, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

Back to top

TOMBSTONE: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962. By Yang Jisheng; translated from the Chinese by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian; edited by Edward Friedman, Guo Jian and Stacy Mosher; introduction by Edward Friedman and Roderick MacFarquhar. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. xxvi, 629 pp. (Map, tables, figures.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-374-27793-2.

The English translation of Tombstone, which retains fifteen of the twenty-eight chapters of the book’s Chinese version, mostly those chapters examining various aspects of the Great Leap Forward Famine at the national level, explains the famine’s effect from the perspective of the political centre. Leaving out the other thirteen chapters that largely recount provincial famine stories, the translation more cohesively represents Yang Jisheng’s central argument: that Maoist totalitarianism was the basic reason for the thirty-six million deaths during the famine. In Yang’s view, this totalitarianism, in combination with the Soviet-style autocracy and ancient Chinese despotism, and dominated by Mao Zedong’s emperor type of dictatorial power, caused the greatest famine in human history as a result of its ruthless suppression of political dissenters in China and of different policy opinions within the Communist Party. Eventually, as Yang sees it, the political system, after criticizing, dismissing or imprisoning the officials at every level who had doubts about the Leap, was able to drive its entire body of cadres to frenziedly pursue Mao’s industrialization targets, during which the cadres competitively exaggerated grain production to an absurdly high level, relentlessly pressed the peasants for the last bit of the so-called “surplus grain” for funding industrialization, strictly restrained food quotas distributed to the rural residents through commanding communal kitchens where hundreds of millions of these residents were force to dine, shamelessly or fearfully concealed local hunger reality, and heartlessly prevented the starving refugees from running away or practicing any other survival strategies. Yang obviously regards the catastrophe as “Mao’s famine.” In early 1959, as Yang’s chapter “Turnaround in Lushan” recounts, Mao was aware of the grave consequences of his leap programs and ready to take “corrective measures.” Yet, when he felt that defense minister Peng Deihuai’s criticism of his erroneous polices, made at the Party’s leadership meeting in Lushan in summer 1959, challenged his authority, Mao punished Peng and abandoned the corrective measures. The result of the continuation of the Leap was the death of tens of millions of people in 1959-61, for which Mao was ultimately responsible.

Tombstone’s greatest contribution to the existing literature of the Great Leap famine is its detailed account of events, people, statistics and policies that took place during the famine. Before Yang’s book, political scientists Roderick MacFarquhar, Frederick Teiwes and Warren Sun wrote about how Mao and the central leadership took the road to the Great Leap disaster; economists Justin Lin, Gene Chang, James Wen, James Kung and political scientist Dali Yang debated over whether the communal dining or agricultural collectivization was the major cause of the famine; American and Chinese demographers estimated the Great Leap mortality; and journalist Jasper Becker reported on “Mao’s secret famine” based on the stories he gained from a few Communist documents and from interviewing a number of Chinese villagers and famine survivors. Yet, due to the difficulty in accessing China’s archives, none of the aforementioned people were able to write on the Great Leap events in a manner as genuine and persuasive as that offered by Yang.

Using his privilege as a senior reporter of China’s state-run news agency, which permits him to read secret internal reports stored in archives and to interview Communist cadres at almost all levels and all walks of life, Yang spent two decades searching for source materials and talking to the officials who were in charge of some of the worst events during the leap or involved in the process of national economic planning or responsible for collection of the nation’s population data. Supported by hundreds of original documents and a large number of memories of those officials, Tombstone records in the most authoritative manner the reality of the Great Leap famine, including not only several notorious major events such as the “Xingyang Incident” in Henan that resulted in the death of one million out of the Xingyang Prefecture’s 8.5 million people but also many less-known events such as the “Bo County Tragedy” in Anhui that ended in the death of 200,000 of the county’s 737,000 rural population. For decades scholars have tried to uncover, with only partial success, the terrible truths of the Great Leap famine, which the Chinese authorities have made every endeavor to cover up, and with Tombstone these truths are now made known to the world in the most reliable manner. Tombstone is unparalleled in the existing literature of the Great Leap famine. Although a few recent works on the famine have also been able to dig out some archives, none of them has been able to compare with Tombstone in terms of the scope of subject coverage and the depth of source materials.

One astounding reality Tombstone has revealed in unprecedented detail was how Mao and cadres at high levels evaded the responsibility of the famine. When terrible deaths occurred, Mao often laid the blame on landlords, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries or bad elements because their alleged takeover of local political power had enabled evil events to take place, or on some local cadres who, in Mao’s eyes, due to the decay of their revolutionary spirit, had become spokesmen for the landlord classes. As happened in the disastrous Xingyang Incident, grassroots cadres at the village, county and prefectural levels were the ones who took the blame, while Henan’s provincial party secretary and Mao’s policies remained intact.

Since Yang has written his monumental Tombstone more in the style of a journalistic report than an academic work, his book has not answered a certain number of questions with regard to the famine. One would wonder why there was a great discrepancy in mortality across provinces or across counties within a province, and this issue apparently cannot be interpreted solely by the fact of the oppression of totalitarianism because other factors such as natural conditions might have played a significant role. Similarly, one may also ask why mortality was drastically different across villages or even why in one village some peasants died of starvation while others survived. These questions call for further studies beyond Tombstone.

Yixin Chen, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, USA 

Back to top

TECHNOMOBILITY IN CHINA: Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones. By Cara Wallis. New York: New York University Press, 2013. xiii, 264 pp. (Figures, B&W photos.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8147-9526-2.

How have China’s national efforts for development affected the daily behaviour of its people? How are the conditions behind migrant labour different for women than for men in China? Are there avenues of social mobility available to these migrant workers? Cara Wallis answers these questions in her book, Technomobility in China, using one common item, mobile phones, to provide insight into the lives, struggles and accomplishments of young female migrant workers. Her study was conducted between 2007 and 2011 and included a number of ethnographic techniques such as interviews, online communication, comparing informants’ phone address books to their social media contact lists, as well as having a select few subjects keep journal accounts of their mobile phone use. The most poignant contribution of Wallis’ arguments is the agency she shows of individuals whose social status is otherwise reified as passive in Chinese society. The actions of these young migrant workers are conditioned by the ideological and economic constraints surrounding them, but as Wallis hints, the self-actualization these women engage in may be part of wider “transformations in the attitudes and values of China’s young people … contributing to … changes in how migrants might fare” in the future (115).

With a thorough explanation of particular social and historical contexts in contemporary China, Wallis isolates the “dagongmei” (working little sisters) as the subject of her study. Dagongmei are born in rural areas and break the confines of family security and government hukou (household registration) regulations to make a life in the city. Unlike their male counterparts and the first wave of migrants in the 1990s, these women often leave home for personal reasons, such as delaying marriage, rather than to provide financial support for their families, and often start their rural to urban migration as young as sixteen years old. Due to perceptions surrounding their education and abilities, these female migrants are limited to “three Ds” jobs; those which are dirty, demeaning and dangerous. Their birthplace, gender, age and economic status all serve to make these women a salient group which is often considered passive and compliant. Wallis drives this point home with examples of paternalism such as: a customer scolding an employee, a manager calling an employee to make an hour return trip to find misplaced inventory and other similar accounts.

Despite the sociopolitical barriers and unappealing “three D” labour, the numbers of migrants have continued to climb alongside an increase in the diffusion of mobile phones in China. With the stories of her informants, Wallis shows how mobile phones have been used to maintain and build relationships as well as to fulfill self-aspirational goals. Mobile phones make communication with family and other relations more convenient by providing a stable means to access these individuals who frequently relocate for employment. The camera function of the phones, while also noted as a means of keeping home close, was mainly highlighted in chapter 4, as a way for these women to demonstrate their aspirations. This was depicted by accounts of women associating with luxury goods by photographing magazine pictures, of purses and travel destinations, with such perfection that their photos could not be detected as copied images.

While Wallis challenges the idea that migrants’ desire for mobile phones, which was recorded in chapter 2 as many migrants’ first big urban purchase, represents false consciousness, she analyzes the desire as part of migrants’ self-regulation, a practice premised on the principle of “su zhi” (quality). “Su zhi” describes one’s mannerisms and is practically used to rate how “civilized,” “modern” or “cosmopolitan” one appears to be. Improving su zhi, one of the primary “mobilities” phones help migrant women act upon, is shown to operate in much the same manner as Foucault’s theories of governmentality and bio-power. Wallis argues this by demonstrating how the narratives which the Chinese Communist Party uses to describe their efforts to develop and modernize the nation operate at the level of individual self-regulation and personal fulfillment. This ranged from the very motivation to migrate to only taking fashionable pictures of one’s self, thereby digitally hiding one’s rural and marginalized status.

The mobility offered by phones, in terms of easing the migratory experience and providing an avenue for self-articulation, is shown at every turn to be limiting and socially confined. Wallis describes this concept as “immobile mobility.” She shows that although these migrant workers might use their phones to expand their social network, there was no serious indication that these networks were breaking social boundaries. Migrant workers primarily know other migrant workers. Wallis explains that while women use phones to find additional jobs there is little to capitalize on: with no examples of a job offer being leveraged, or any hint of better conditions elsewhere. Mobile phones are shown to be exploited by employers to exert a new means of surveillance and power over vulnerable workers.

In Technomobility in China, Wallis brings the story of young female migrant labourers to public attention. Their aspirations and the different strategies they use to “get by” in the city cuts through the stereotype that they are passive vessels waiting for instruction. The thick descriptions accompanying Wallis’ arguments of the ideological, social and economic barriers which tend to limit the success of the migrant workers’ efforts drive this point home: these barriers are neither necessary nor deterministic. Perhaps, just as Wallis gave back to the community while conducting her ethnography, her book will contribute to the improvement of the social and political conditions migrant labourers face.

Byron Rigel Hauck, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada 

Back to top

SPEAKING OF EPIDEMICS IN CHINESE MEDICINE: Disease and the Geographic Imagination in Late Imperial China. Needham Research Institute Series. By Marta Hanson. First paperback ed. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xx, 265 pp. (Tables, maps, figures.) US$44.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-415-83535-0.

If you will read only one book in your lifetime about medicine in China, this should be it. For policy analysts, historians of (bio)medicine, or sinologists, this “biography of wenbing” (warm diseases) ties together past and present, and social, cultural and clinical histories to a sophisticated understanding of China’s regions and epidemiology. After reading this book you will have learned something new, connected disparate concepts, and clarified misconceptions. Hanson’s book is at once an introduction to the basics of Chinese medicine, an advanced course on its developments in late imperial China, and an explanation of its ongoing relevance seen through the application of wenbing theory and remedies to the SARS epidemic in 2003. Hanson demonstrates as clearly as anyone how Chinese medicine did not become “stagnant” in the Ming and Qing dynasties, as its modernizing opponents have declared. Instead, Chinese medicine continued (and continues) to create new nosologies that were (and are) clinically effective and flexible enough to take into account regional variation and even biomedical explanations of disease.

Although most Chinese today will tell you that shanghan is equivalent to typhoid, mafeng to leprosy, jiaoqi to beriberi, nüe to malaria, and huoluan to cholera, Hanson will have none of it: “[b]efore the nineteenth century, not one inhabitant of China suffered from plague, cholera, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, or malaria” (7). So what did they, in fact, die from? Hanson argues persuasively the historical anthropologist’s position that we need to understand pre-modern diseases with pre-modern categories. This “biography of disease” approach has become an important subfield in the history of medicine. Like Angela Leung’s work on li/lai/dafeng/mafeng/leprosy, this book traces a Chinese disease category through its history. But wenbing is particularly remarkable because it has not been displaced by biomedical nosology.

The book does not stop with merely a biography of wenbing, but uses this as “a heuristic device” to explore the Chinese geographical imagination of disease, and through these, epidemiology in late imperial and modern China. Although wenbing appears in the Basic Questions (half of the medical classic, the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor) and in Zhang Ji’s Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders, it did not emerge as a distinct disease category until a millennia and a half later during the epidemics associated with the fall of the Ming in 1642. At this time, Wu Youxing (c. 1582-1652) claimed that a regionally specific contagion was responsible for the epidemic, rather than a vague “unseasonable qi (16-17). Wu began a school of thought that continues to this day that elevated wenbing from a mere variation of an underlying Cold Damage disorder (102). This process of doubting received interpretations of diseases and cures becomes for Hanson “Ming medical skepticism,” a massive and ongoing innovation in the late imperial period that has usually been characterized as “stagnant.”

The second theme is the connection between disease and geography. Hanson demonstrates how the early directional imagination of Chinese medicine stated in the Basic Questions was governed by the five directions (wufang)—the center and four cardinal directions. Each direction was associated with a particular form of climate, foods, diseases and therapies (26). Hanson’s discussion here of Chinese medical cosmology—of yin-yang, the five phases, the five climates—is one of the best I’ve seen (I do not know how Chinese medical concepts, usually presented as fully formed and unchanging, can be understood without such historicization). More specifically, the two major geographic divisions became the northwest (cradle of Chinese civilization) where “heaven is insufficient,” and the southeast (Jiangnan area), where “earth is incomplete.” Later, in the northern areas conquered by the Jurchens and Mongols, private physicians critiqued Song medical orthodoxy and innovated on the old formulas and nosologies. These medical innovations eventually became incorporated into southern medicine, but the north-south split in the Chinese medical imagination remained. Northern bodies, diseases and cures would be distinct from southern ones.

The geographical imagination of medicine became especially important in the Qing when the Qianlong emperor’s massive encyclopedia project, the Emperor’s Four Treasuries, elevated Wu Youxing’s book to the status of a medical classic. In the late nineteenth century, even some foreign physicians praised Wu’s work on disease nosology and epidemics, although this shifted to denunciation by the early twentieth century (150-151).

All of this becomes particularly interesting for students of contemporary China when Hanson demonstrates that wenbing has come to include what biomedicine now calls acute infectious diseases. The key example is SARS, which was not only prevented but also treated with wenbing nosology and drug formulas, depending on whether the patients were in the northern epidemic region in Beijing, or the southern in Guangzhou.

I am completely sympathetic with Hanson’s project, but the historical anthropology approach leads to a problem of consistency. The temptation to shorthand Chinese disease categories is too great, even for Hanson. So guangchuang, “literally Cantonese sores,” becomes unproblematically associated with “venereal diseases and syphilis” (70). Later Hanson again makes simplistic equivalencies between older Western disease conceptions and contemporary nosology “agues (shaking fits of malaria and other diseases) … [and] phthisis (various types of tuberculosis)” (149). To this inconsistency I have no solution to offer because even the historical anthropologist has to communicate using language and disease conceptions her reader can understand.

Despite this conundrum, this book sets a new bar for research on the history of medicine in China. This short review is hardly able to touch on all of Hanson’s main points connecting wenbing, the geographical imagination, and epidemiology. In 169 concise pages of text, Hanson demonstrates conclusively that “China’s wenbing remains a meaningful disease concept,” that Chinese medicine never became stagnant, and that it continues to be an effective and evolving therapeutic system today.

David Luesink, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA 

Back to top

PAX SINICA: Geopolitics and Economics of China’s Ascendance. By Y.Y. Kueh. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press; New York: Columbia University Press [distributor], 2013. xxi, 437 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-988-8083-82-4.

The eleven essays in this volume were first published in different journals and collections. Gathered together with a new introduction and a concluding chapter, they are carefully researched articles that highlight three main stages in China’s development story over the past two decades.

The first two published in 1993 mark the great surge that followed Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour. One of them reminds us of the remarkable turnaround after the Western world’s reaction to the tragedy of Tiananmen Square in 1989. The other records the impact of China’s reforms on Hong Kong and reminds us how the colony, as it was then, adjusted to the thrust of China’s challenges.

On the eve of Hong Kong’s return to China, Professor Kueh examines key aspects of change that have wider repercussions both for China and the region and for Hong Kong. His 1996 study of Guangdong’s transformation supports the case to view the province as the “fifth dragon” in eastern Asia. Clearly, it has been the greatest beneficiary of China’s new reform policies. Another essay provides a close examination of the overall effect on Hong Kong’s links with its most important external market, the United States, and shows that Hong Kong has acted as a stabilizer in that relationship. And in the third essay, chapter 10 of this volume and also of 1997, there is a preliminary look at the outreach of the PRC into the APEC framework, one that would accommodate both Hong Kong and Taiwan as thriving economies in the larger region.

Professor Kueh has made important contributions to our understanding of the consequences of the 1997 financial crisis in Asia. Three years after it began, he published his studies on how that sudden downturn that happened only days after the Hong Kong handover led to a near meltdown of several key economies in the region. The four essays republished here describe the various ways Hong Kong dealt with the series of financial shocks that followed. The first shows that the optimism at the handover was justified by the way the SAR coped with the unexpected banking collapses and withdrawals in several partner countries. A helpful chronology of the events from July 1997 to January 1998 has been included here.

Another essay outlines what the PRC authorities did to assist Hong Kong’s financial restructuring despite moments when Beijing wondered whether Hong Kong might become a burden on the PRC. Together with some technical scrutiny of the data pertaining to the “US Dollar Peg,” the third of the essays also explains how “the China factor” served to help Hong Kong overcome some immediate challenges. The fourth of the essays, focusing on what has been called “the Greater China Triangle,” demonstrates the value of the connections that Hong Kong has established over time with both Taiwan and the PRC.

Chapter 11 deals with a decade of two special developments. It is a substantial report on China’s advances since the 1990s into new industries: the electronics and IT industry and the automobile industry. Much of the report details what began well before the 2008 financial crisis and before the report’s first publication in 2009. But, in many ways, this meticulous study of the rapid progress of the industries prepares us to understand both the precariousness of their links with the American market as well as the strong resilience of the Chinese economy when the global crisis struck. The stress in the report on how the industries enabled China to realign its policies towards the Asia-Pacific provides clues to what China may plan to do in order to deal with the recent US-Japan rebalancing. The report was published in Manila and is not easily accessible. Its inclusion here should be welcome to scholars concerned with post-2008 economic readjustments in the region.

The final essay follows the evolution of Chinese policies towards the “open regionalism” favoured by its regional partners. It updates an earlier study of how China’s WTO accession impacted on a number of larger regional arrangements and suggests why that may not hurt the close economic relations that China still wants with ASEAN.

The book’s title Pax Sinica is a little misleading. It implies that the geopolitics in the subtitle might have played a greater part in Chinese policies than we think. By comparing it first with Pax Britannica and then Pax Americana, one could be led to believe that geopolitical factors dominate the changes of the past three decades. Professor Kueh’s essays, however, follow Deng Xiaoping’s emphasis on economic development and how he focused on that almost to the exclusion of everything else. And the book as a whole shows how decisive that emphasis has been. The essays collected here, therefore, provide a great deal of data that point to the fact that it was not until after Deng’s death that geopolitical concerns surfaced as a matter of wider interest. This has more to do with the response of other countries to China’s economic success than any deliberate shift on China’s part. It is not surprising, whether rightly or not, that Professor Kueh is inclined to believe that economics is more likely to prevail over geopolitics.

Wang Gungwu, National University of Singapore, Singapore 

Back to top

FIGHTING FOR BREATH: Living Morally and Dying of Cancer in a Chinese Village. By Anna Lora-Wainwright. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2013. xv, 323 pp. (Figures, B&W photos.) US$52.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3682-5.

Anna Lora-Wainwright’s Fighting for Breath: Living Morally and Dying of Cancer in a Chinese Village provides an ethnographic account of how Chinese cancer sufferers and their family members alike make sense of cancer causality, struggle with medical treatment, and practice care and mourning. Based upon her fieldwork between 2004 and 2005, Lora-Wainwright focuses on the experiences of villagers, with special attention to Gandie and Uncle Wang—both cancer patients from Baoma village of Langzhong in Sichuan province. She not only recounts detailed narratives about cancer as individuals’ lived experience but also offers analyses that treat illness as collective life in the sense that the battle with cancer involves family negotiations and thus recapitulates moral-social life. Her bottom-up case studies outline “an emergent moral economy [of cancer] that combines past and present,” namely, the historical memory of socialism and contemporary experience with state capitalism are intertwined, especially as they clash inter-generationally (42).

The book is divided into three sections, each comprising two or three chapters. Part 1, “Foundations,” lays out a theoretical framework and situates the ethnographic site of Langzhong historically and geographically within China’s political economy. Taking a cue from Arthur Kleinman’s emphasis on the social nature of suffering, Lora-Wainwright in chapter 1 calls for a cross-examination of individual subjectivities and social interactions in the study of cancer in rural China. To understand forms of social relations, she emphasizes the concept of morality (especially family relations), placing it at the heart of her analysis. In the second chapter, Lora-Wainwright explains Langzhong’s situation as a cancer village, delineating its historical trajectory from Mao’s era to Deng’s reform and then to Hu and Wen’s post-socialist China.

Part 2, “Making Sense of Cancer,” seeks to trace the contending ways in which villagers perceive cancer etiology “within the intersecting contexts of the state, the family and local community, and the moral economy of the market” (92). In the first chapter, Lora-Wainwright analyzes three perceptions of cancer etiology: water pollution, strenuous labour work (xinku), and farm chemicals. First, the view about the causal relationship between polluted water and cancer, though well-reasoned, does not register with the villagers because the water problem has structural obstacles that the local officials are incapable of addressing due to financial conditions—hence a problem too common to mobilize local agency. The failure to politicize water, moreover, can be explained by the fact that two other perceptions of cancer cause—hard work and food chemicals—make better sense to the villagers. People had to sacrifice their health in harsh times to work hard for their families’ well-being. The villagers thus recuperate their historical memories of hard work and hardship to explain cancer. Lora-Wainwright suggests that this perceptual link enables the villagers to make the cancer victims into moral subjects. Food chemical as cancer cause also resonates with the villagers because it allows for their agency to avoid cancer by avoiding chemicals to grow foods for their own consumption. The remaining two chapters examine the discursive formations of blame (often gendered) and morality in the context of the village’s changing social reality. The emphasis is placed on how inter-generational differences—a result of China’s economic transition—restructure gender dynamics and perceptions of cancer cause.

Part 3, “Strategies of Care and Mourning,” investigates the various practices and strategies of care and mourning in order to “unpack family relations as always in process, renewed or challenged through social practices” (199). Chapter 1 takes on Gandie as its case study, examining how the extended family practices care and affection. Due to the financial situation and inter-generational divergence, family members differ in their care practices. In chapter 2, Lora-Wainwright first explains healthcare provision in both national and local contexts before arguing that the skepticism and rejection of marketized medicine reflects the family’s moral reasoning. Gandie’s rejection of expensive surgery, for instance, represents his care towards the family, “reproduc[ing] a moral universe in the face of market challenges” (228). In the last chapter, she examines how contested religious and ritual moralities change family relations in the course of mourning.

Lora-Wainwright’s monograph represents ethnography at its best in the sense that her bottom-up studies demonstrate local and inner workings of power relations otherwise not readily available to casual observers. As an ethnographer, she values human experience, not reducing individuals to mere data, because “an anthropology of cancer is not simply another form of cultural critique. This would deny the reality and poignancy of suffering” (262). Lora-Wainwright is persistent throughout the book in her humanistic sensitivity. Moreover, deploying Kleinman’s intersubjective framework in her treatment of suffering as socially negotiated, Lora-Wainwright views cancer as a crisis moment for reconstituting family relations. To help the reader make sense of social suffering, her heuristic use of morality and moral reasoning is highly effective. The book also enjoys a sufficient level of analysis. Lora-Wainwright’s cultural critique is sharp and nuanced. She engages rigorously with cultural critics like Susan Sontag and Pierrre Bourdieu.

The book, however, not only draws from cultural and social theory, but also uses China as a case to modify existing theories. In her effort to investigate consumption and health, for example, Lora-Wainwright, while benefitting from Bourdieu’s habitus, insists on using the Chinese concept of xiguan instead of habitus in order to better understand bodily habits in the Chinese context. This level of conceptual nuance and respect for local context should be applauded. One small reservation that I have concerns Lora-Wainwright’s conceptualization of morality in mostly confining it to family life. Although family relations are central, one may wonder about the extent to which the social and moral life among villagers figures into the political economy of morality. Social pressure and the concept of Chinese face (mianzi), for instance, might materially change the dynamics of family negotiations in cancer treatment. Regardless, Lora-Wainwright’s monograph makes a theoretically sophisticated and empirically nuanced contribution to medical anthropology and the ethnography of rural China. Although it focuses on one Chinese village, the cultural work the book performs will shed light on the moral complexity of contemporary Chinese society.

Hangping Xu, Stanford University, Stanford, USA 

Back to top

THE MIDDLE CLASS IN NEOLIBERAL CHINA: Governing Risk, Life-Building, and Themed Spaces. Routledge Contemporary China Series, 91. By Hai Ren. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xv, 192 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$135.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-50135-4.

With China becoming one of the largest economies in the world, the rising Chinese middle-class citizens and their astonishing consumption power have become popular topics in Western media. Yet, in academic circles, the urban middle class as an emerging social group has fallen under the radar, unlike migrant workers, whose work and lives in big cities and industrial towns have received consistent careful examination. Dr. Ren’s timely empirical study allows readers to glimpse the framing processes of the middle-class subjectivities in contemporary China, with an unconventional perspective that elaborates on the performances and effects of an ethnic museum and theme park-based ethnic tourism.

Inspired by Foucault’s “dispositif” in his study of biopolitics, Dr. Ren defines the Chinese middle class as “a dispositive class”: an ensemble of forces, practices and discourses that is “both strategic and technical” (12). To unravel this dispositive class, Dr. Ren follows a three-prong framework: the normative formation of the middle class as a governing strategy; the institutional framing of middle-class subjectivities by cultural industries including museums, theme parks and media; and the self-making process of middle-class individuals as rational, responsible consumer citizens.

Specifically, Dr. Ren starts his discussion by tracing the rhetorical transformation of class composition in official documents in China (chapter 1). When a socialist state was transformed into a neoliberal state since the late 1970s, the “from-cradle-to-grave” planned economic system was replaced by a market-oriented system that redistributed risks and responsibilities to individuals. The proletariat was no longer the leading class as stated in the old constitution. Thank to surveys and statistics as tools that articulated the newly established truth of the existence of the middle class and other classes, a new class structure recognizing the effects of the new self-making processes was inscribed in official speech and documents. Thus the formation of middle class is more than a result of economic growth, but is itself a political strategy of the neoliberal state in legitimizing its rule ideologically and institutionally.

In the next three chapters (chapters 2, 3, 4), Dr. Ren extrapolates the framing of middle-class subjectivities from his ethnographic examples of a Yi ethnic minority museum in Sichuan Province and the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park in Beijing. Museums and ethnic parks illustrate the transformation of cultural institutions that served propaganda purposes to cultural enterprises in China’s neoliberal transformation. As themed spaces, museums and ethnic parks provide controlled built environments to present different temporal and spatial narratives about lives that deviate from those in the socialist period. The adaptation of TV media further promotes the new narratives by bringing the spectacular, including ethnic festivals performed in the ethnic parks, to a broader audience than those who can afford to go to the pricey ethnic park. The new narratives communicate the idea of life as a strategic response to external changes and of nonlinearity and heterogeneity as constitutive of human quality and community life. These narratives resonate with the new configuration of social stratification that is drastically different from the poor but relatively even past. In this sense, with the help of media, ethnic museum and theme parks form part of the governing apparatus that manages risks in the neoliberal order, on the one hand, and teaches the middle class “what living a Chinese everyday life means, should mean, and will mean” on the other (72).

Dr. Ren then continues to explain self-making processes by examining the tourists’ as well as the ethnic workers’ experiences in the ethnic theme parks (chapters 5, 6). He depicts how the tourists took costumed photographs and how they sought to maximize the value of the tour by participating in as many ethnic performances as possible. Seeing these occasions as illustration of the do-it-yourself way of individualizing living, Dr. Ren argues that they are also stages that demonstrate middle-class civility and cosmopolitism, and training grounds that orient individuals to be rational consumers. Yet, the middle-class tourists’ self-refashioning would not be possible without the ethnic workers’ affective labour. Despite their precarious lives in and outside the ethnic park, Dr. Ren argues that these workers’ performance of being “authentically” ethnic enables the framing narratives of the middle-class subjectivities.

The Middle Class in Neoliberal China is theoretically engaging and ethnographically interesting. It is thought provoking for Dr. Ren to argue that the middle class in China can be understood as a statistical fact and a political strategy in articulating a new political order. Inspired by the Frankfurt School and later cultural studies scholars, Dr. Ren’s investigation of ethnic tourism goes beyond the conventional framework of ethnic studies, and probes into the realm of subjectivity in tandem with new forms of governmentality. The propositions of China as “a neoliberal state,” and of identifying the hand-over of Hong Kong in 1997 as the transitional moment from socialism to neoliberalism, which Dr. Ren developed in his previous book “Neoliberalism and Culture in China and Hong Kong: The Countdown of Time” (Routledge, 2010), will continue to be a touchstone for scholars grappling with neoliberalism and China’s transformation. Nevertheless, while the book poignantly analyzes the changes in the framing processes of the new class structure, the readers might still wonder whether the potential framing effects of the new political representations through work and leisure are unique to the middle class or in fact equally applicable to all social strata. As other scholars have demonstrated, the values of individualization as required by neoliberal strategies are well articulated among migrant workers as well as the new rich. Yet, after all, a class structure is inherently built on distinction, if not confrontation. That said, Dr. Ren’s book contributes greatly to the ongoing discussion of China’s structural transformation.

Jun Zhang, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China 

Back to top

Northeast Asia


WAR, GUILT, AND WORLD POLITICS AFTER WORLD WAR II. By Thomas U. Berger. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. vii, 259 pp. (Tables.) US$30.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-67495-0.

This book is an exceptionally timely investigation into the role of history as a determinant of foreign relations in “an age of apology and recrimination” (8). This applies particularly in the case of Japan, but a recent television drama Unsere Muetter, Unsere Vaeter (“Generation War”) in Germany also reignited historical debates in that country and sparked renewed acrimony with its Polish neighbour. In this volume Berger seeks to deconstruct the way that three states—Germany, Austria and Japan—have formed their official historical narratives and trace the domestic and international consequences that resulted. To achieve this he employs a concept he dubs “Historical Realism,” (2) which exhibits a dual nature. In the first sense it identifies the power of the state to shape official narratives, often for practical political purposes. Second, he adds that there are caveats and limits to the ability of the state to exercise complete control of historical discourse, due, for example, to “insurgent narratives” from other (unrepresented) quarters of society (3).

In the first chapter Berger provides an analytical framework to superintend the discussion of the three cases studies. The framework, guided by the principle of historical realism, outlines three core approaches to conceptualizing historical memory. These are, respectively, “historical determinism,” “instrumentalism” and “cultural explanations.” Briefly stated, these are distinguished in the following ways: historical determinism is the basic, supposedly “objective” account of “what actually happened,” the neutral recording of the “facts” (14-19). Instrumentalism considers what happens to collective memory when political actors (inevitably) manipulate it for their own national or sectarian purposes; in this approach “history has become the extension of politics by other means” (22). The third approach of culturalism looks at how historical memory becomes embedded in certain ideas, beliefs, values and social practices, and is thus shaped by, or subordinated to them (23). The analytical spectrum thus ranges from the deterministic claim to positivistic objectivity, through a cyphering of the facts due to instrumental political processes, to a strongly constructivist or sociological perspective, in the last of the three. Berger rightly sees these three approaches as complementary “ideal-types,” but also as synergistic, explanatory tools.

Thus equipped with this analytical framework he then proceeds to examine Germany as the “model penitent,” arguing that although it took longer than is usually imagined, Germany, partly as a result of the enormity of its crimes, serves as the standard for national repentance and redemption. He then introduces the less well-known case of Austria, “the prodigal impenitent,” and shows how the country only belatedly faced up to its complicity in Nazi crimes after decades of denial. Lastly, he turns to Japan, “the model impenitent,” that has yet to face squarely the crimes it committed in the name of its empire in Asia. In the process he explains how an official narrative stressing the victimization of Japan itself,through the fire bombings and atomic bombings, and the callous rapacity of their own militarist system, prevented the nation from internalizing the suffering that Japan had caused as an aggressor in Asia.

Before concluding, the last chapter is dedicated to a more detailed account of “The geopolitics of remembering and forgetting 1991-2010.” It tracks the revival of history issues as an impediment to Japan’s contemporary relations with Korea and China, looking again at how external pressures (gaiatsu) created difficulties for Japanese foreign policy, in particular a slew of popular support for restitution for Japan’s wartime victims, such as the “comfort women,” a collective fury at nationalist textbooks, and the prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine (which also houses war criminals). The instrumental and cultural explanations are in evidence here as national governments sought to coopt the anti-Japanese zeitgeist; one fuelled by relentless media portrayals of the devastating greater East Asia war, caricaturing Japanese barbarities.

One important point to register here is that, despite widespread misperceptions to the contrary, Japan has made substantial and repeated efforts to apologize for its wartime conduct to its aggrieved neighbours. But, as Berger points out, “Japan’s apologies have been limited in scope, challenged domestically, and singularly unsuccessful in improving Japan’s relations with its foreign neighbours” (124). The continued historical spats between Tokyo and Seoul/Beijing are testament to this sad predicament. In addition, the author indicates how contested historical understandings have become fused with contemporary territorial disputes between Japan on the one hand, and Korea (Dok-do/Takeshima) and China (Senkaku/Diaoyu) on the other, leading to potential physical as well as political conflict. In the conclusion the author reviews the efficacy of the analytical framework in teasing out such questions, as well as looking at policy implications.

In sum, this an incredibly important book dealing with a fascinating and pertinent topic, and one which provides a great deal of thought-provoking and introspection on the part of the reader. Comparisons will inevitably be made to Ian Buruma’s landmark volume The Wages of Guilt, yet Berger’s is the more analytical work, and scarcely less readable for it. It is an indispensable guide for those seeking to gain greater insights and understanding of the thorny historical issues that continue to plague relations between Japan and its Asian neighbours, and the comparisons to be drawn with that country’s former German/Austrian allies.

Thomas Wilkins, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Back to top


MONEY, TRAINS, AND GUILLOTINES: Art and Revolution in 1960s Japan. Asia-Pacific. By William Marotti. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2013. xxi, 417 pp., [16] pp. of plates. (Illus.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-4980-8.

Postwar Japanese art has recently attracted much attention amongst academics and curators in North America and Japan. An anthology of critical essays, manifestos and other writings in this field was published by the Museum of Modern Art in 2012, while prominent artists’ groups like the Gutai Art Association (1954-72) and Mono-ha (active in the late 1960s and the early 1970s) had retrospectives at major American museums and galleries, accompanied by scholarly monographs. William A. Marotti’s Money, Trains, and Guillotines is a long-awaited book that deals with artist Akasegawa Genpei and the group Hi-Red Center in the social and political context of 1960s Japan, providing for the first time to an English-language audience access to one of the most important figures in postwar Japanese art.

Marotti’s book is divided into three parts. Part 1 discusses the historical background of the “Model 1,000 Yen Note Trial.” In 1965, Akasegawa was prosecuted for the crime of “currency imitation” after making partial prints of the 1,000-yen banknote as an art project. Marotti argues that the freedom of speech, guaranteed by the postwar Constitution, is limited under the idea of public welfare, arguing how paternalistic state authority, enshrined under the Meiji Constitution of 1889, is retained in the revised postwar Constitution. The author also makes a careful reading of “Spy Rules” (later renamed “The Ambiguous Ocean”), a short story that Akasegawa likely wrote during the preparation of his banknote prints. Marotti argues that the story reflects Akasegawa’s views on contemporary politics, especially the demonstrations against Anpo (the Security Treaty with the US), and the hopes he held for a revolutionary transformation of everyday life and society, as articulated in his subsequent artworks.

The subject of part 2 is the Yomiuri Indépendant, the yearly non-jury, non-prize exhibition sponsored by the newspaper company Yomiuri Shimbun between 1949 and 1963. Marotti shows how the company’s sponsorship and support of a range of exhibitions including the Yomiuri Indépendant led to erase memories of its wartime propaganda activities and postwar labour conflicts and replace them with positive images of high culture and a democratized system of participation and viewing. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the annual exhibition became a major venue for young avant-garde artists, engendering playful competition in a variety of media, including objets, installation and performance. The author discusses how, through their diverse artworks, these young artists focused on the everyday world and developed critical philosophies of political action through art.

“How do you restart political activism in a time of apparent uneventfulness?” Starting with this question, part 3 discusses how young artists reorganized their artistic practices during the temporary abeyance of mass activism in the early 1960s. The author first details a 1962 event in Tokyo in which young artists, two of whom would later form Hi-Red Center with Akasegawa, resorted to “direct action” with their performances on Tokyo’s trains after a friend, Imaizumi Yoshihiko, failed in realizing his plan for erecting a giant guillotine in the Imperial Plaza. “Theses on ‘Capitalist Realism,’” an article written by Akasegawa after his first police interrogations, is analyzed to show how the artist articulated a critique of the pseudo-reality of money, identifying it as “an agent of hidden forms of domination” (206) supported by state authority. The author also studies another essay by Akasegawa, “The Intent of the Act Based on the Intent of the Act—Before Passing through the Courtroom,” reading it as a response to his indictment, to discuss how it critically anticipates the trial’s reduction of his work to either conventional art or crime, affirming the potential of a radical artistic practice to generate moments that allow “glimpses of emancipatory possibilities in everyday life” (206).

Within Japanese scholarship, the art activism of Akasegawa and his colleagues has been largely discussed in relationship to the anti-art movement. Money, Trains, and Guillotines, the product of many years of painstaking research, successfully locates Akasegawa’s practices in a broader historical (not only art-historical), political, and social context by explicating his art in relation to key historical moments such as the making of the new Constitution (especially in relation to the emperor), the formation of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the transformation of mass protests and demonstrations. The author’s use of Jacques Rancière’s term “police,” the distribution of the perceptible, functions effectively in the discussion of the political dimensions of Akasegawa’s art, making an important contribution to the theorization of the 1960s art in Japan and elsewhere.

This book’s other major contribution is Marotti’s detailed analyses of the enigmatic essays and stories Akasegawa wrote in his early period. These writings contrast sharply with the straightforward prose of his later writings, known for their light and witty style. The author read these writings as direct responses to specific events in the artist’s career: “Spy Rules” (June 1963) to his printing of the banknotes in January 1963 and its use as an invitation to his one-man exhibition in February;Theses on ‘Capitalist Realism’” (February 1964) to the police interrogation and the newspaper article in January; and “The Intent of the Act Based on the Intent of the Act” (January 1966) to his indictment in November 1965. Some might question how far one can appraise Akasegawa’s texts, given their ambiguous and allegorical quality, as effective responses to contemporary urgencies. But Marotti’s subtle readings of these texts, underappreciated in Japanese scholarship, make a strong case for their importance within art history. Money, Trains, and Guillotines not only fills in a major gap within English-language understanding of postwar Japanese art. Once translated into Japanese—which it should be, promptly—it should sharpen the discourse within Akasegawa’s home country.

Kenji Kajiya, Kyoto City University of Arts, Kyoto, Japan

Back to top

PINK GLOBALIZATION: Hello Kitty’s Trek across the Pacific. By Christine R. Yano. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013. xiv, 322 pp. (B&W photos.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5363-8.

What do you think of when you hear the word pink? A satirical pop star? Barbie? Breast cancer? Gays? When I saw the title of this book, I thought it referred to the last, as in the “Pink Dollar,” having something to do with tourism.

I was wrong: the subtitle gives the subject clearly.

The book is a series of essays, I suspect, topics compiled over a decade or more by a cultural studies-leaning anthropologist, but rounded into a coherent text about what the author calls “Japanese cute-cool,” with the linking theoretical theme of Joseph Nye’s (1990/2004) concept of “Soft Power” that bookends the volume. “Soft Power” may be a relatively new concept in the social sciences, but it has been a feature of international relations for some decades, whereby a country seeks to enhance its power position in the world through promoting elements of its culture. Typically, this is done through councils (i.e., the British), institutes (i.e., the Confucius) and a variety of other means such as sponsoring particular events.

“Hello Kitty” is a different matter as it began as a commercial challenge (by to Disney’s mouse by a Japanese cat-like creature with a blank expression and, sometimes, a waving arm/paw. The core of the book’s argument is on page 32:

No longer only a part of children’s consumer culture, Hello Kitty serves less as a generational divide than as a shared bridge. How it manages to do so—that is, convincing consumers within a broad span of ages of the desirability of the global icon, of the irresistibility of Japanese Cute-Cool—is in large part the subject of this book.

Perhaps I am just unobservant in my travels, but I always associate Hello Kitty with Asia, Asian shops in Sydney where I live and Asian countries where I travel from time to time. When I think of Japan modern, I don’t think of it as being cute. I think of consumer brands like Sony, Toyota and Nikon: technically advanced and well-manufactured products, even if many of them are made far from archipelagic Japan. But Yano sees more than that through her over 300 (sometimes B&W illustrated) pages of text divided into 7 chapters, plus an introduction and two appendices.

Chapter 1, “Kitty at home,” uses “cute” (kawaii) and kyarakutā (character) to analyze Kitty in Japan, noting at the beginning that Kitty is the “perfectly affordable souvenir” (45), termed a “trinket seduction” (72) later in the same pages. “Marketing Kitty” (chapter 2) features insightful interviews with Sanrio employees and others from a few years ago, recording their thoughts on the development of the product, while chapter 3 (“Global Kitty Nearly Everywhere”) explores interviews with Kitty consumers and why some people like to have “the cat” around as a “best friend.” The emphasis shifts in chapter 4, “Kitty Backlash,” looking at those who repudiate Kitty’s “core message … [of] … friendship, happiness and intimacy” (163). Views about Kitty, expressed in more interviews, are perhaps not unlike, and for similar reasons, emotions encompassing other consumer cute kitsch, such as Barbie. Chapter 5, “Kitty Subversions,” has two long interviews and several quotations from informants to show how Kitty may be used to critique consumerism and branding. Chapter 6, “Playing with Kitty,” “mixing Hello Kitty into edgy art worlds” (231) continues the topic, though in contrast to chapter 4, the artists involved are often commissioned by Sanrio, with the intention of furthering their brand. The concluding chapter seeks to contextualize “Japan’s cute-cool as global wink.” Kitty launched in the 1970s according to the Sanrio narrative and Yano began her fascination in 1998, so the printed sources and interviews flow over those decades.

Yano minimizes the Gift element of Kitty, quoting “happiness tinged with pink” (118) and “small gift, big smile” (70, the Sanrio Company’s slogan). Marcel Mauss is in the bibliography, but little used when discussing the extensive Japanese gift culture: the index shows one citation on page 68, but no discussion. “Cool Japan” and “soft power” reappear, as you would expect, in the summary that mentions tourism’s “nation branding” (259). I think, like many international symbols and brands, Kitty is multivalent, negative and positive depending on context, Coca-Cola and McDonalds being other such examples. Even simpler in design is the dollar sign ($) that may be used to show success and desirability or greed and rapacity. The book finishes with a short postscript about the March 2011 tsunami, the effects of which continue to play out. In a cute kitsch and tacky kitsch combo, Sanrio joined with the crystal brand Swarovski to produce Kitty crystal figures, to be auctioned in support of the Japanese Red Cross. Appendix 1 is a Kitty timeline, with appendix 2 listing artists who participated in Sanrio’s Thirtieth Anniversary [of Kitty] Exhibit and Catalogue (2004), and 22 pages of notes, 14 pages of bibliography and a 10-page index complete the volume.

The core audience for Pink is that group interested in the culture of postwar Japan, with the larger constituency being those ruminating on prominent cultural symbols, the long-time terrain of us anthropologists and the core of more recent “cultural studies” writers. In spite of the documented arguments, I cannot see Kitty as “global.” I accept the argument of Kitty’s ubiquity in Japan, where the character originated. Hello Kitty can be found in North America, hardly South, rarely in Europe, and not at all in Africa; Kitty predominately is a pan-Pacific kyarakutā (character), but without much impact beyond. Of course, often for people in the US, if something is in their part of the world it is unquestionably “global.”

Grant McCall, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Back to top

TOKYO VERNACULAR: Common Spaces, Local Histories, Found Objects. A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies. By Jordan Sand. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. xiii, 208 pp. (Figures.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28037-3.

This book explores how since the 1950s Japanese citizens have actively drawn on traces from the vernacular past to express local identities, while rejecting grand-scale, state-led expressions of nationhood and the commodification of urban experiences linked with capitalist agendas. It thereby fills an important gap in the English-language literature about Japanese heritage and preservation. Based on a detailed examination of an impressive range of Japanese-language materials, Sand produces an original and insightful account of the historical emergence of four distinct groups of engaged inhabitants of postwar Tokyo. The capital city forms the spatial frame for an ambitious analysis (in four chapters) of ideals of urban belonging as expressed by protesters in public spaces during the 1960s, amateur preservation activists producing a local magazine as well as professionals engaging in street observation studies during the 1980s, and those involved in the creation of museums of everyday life during the 1990s.

In chapter 1 Sand argues that during the 1960s a shift occurred from mass protests held in sanctioned urban spaces such as the “citizen’s plaza,” created to express a unified national voice, to a political activism that championed vernacular urbanism and favoured a more spontaneous, organic use of public space. He gives a fascinating account of how in 1969 the Shinjuku West Exist Plaza, in front of one of Tokyo’s busiest underground stations, envisioned as a capitalist space of transit and flow, was transformed on Saturday evenings into an urban commons where spontaneous civic actions ranging from playful demonstrations to sing-alongs took place amongst citizens who did not know each other. Although these gatherings were forcefully brought to an end, they resulted in theoretical discussions about and practical demands for urban democratic spaces where people could debate freely. Still, as Sand rightly demonstrates throughout his book, civic activities based on worthy ideals can always be appropriated by groups driven by other agendas, and the consumption-orientated leisure zones created during the 1970s and 1980s negate the anti-capitalist stance at the base of the protests. Moreover, the spread of television produced a new kind of democratic public space that could be enjoyed by everyone, albeit passively, from the comfort of the home.

In chapter 2 Sand narrates the motivations of three housewives who in 1984 started editing the Yanesen magazine, employing oral histories and everyday local news to foster a sense of community in their neighbourhood. He rightly contextualizes this initiative within the larger machizukuri (town-making) movement, that emphasized the preservation of the “traditional” urban streetscape, and that swept Japan during the 1980s as a reaction against the alienation associated with living in large urban housing estates (danchi). However, unlike most town-building projects strongly associated with local government, Yanesen “asserted a collective claim that the district belonged to its residents” (84). Paradoxically, the magazine’s popularity also caused an influx of tourists and the “boutiquification” of the area during the 1990s.

Chapter 3, also set in the 1980s, follows an eclectic group of professionals (architectural historians, cultural critics and artists) who questioned established theories about urban generation and preservation by documenting and categorizing idiosyncratic, incidentally found objects such as manhole covers, building ornaments or street gardens. By calling these purposeless objects, primarily valued for their material presence, “deviant property,” (92) the group made a political statement against the state-endorsed speculation of urban property by developers. Importantly, this movement rejected any kind of abstract theorization or authorship, focusing instead on offering ordinary citizens new tools to reclaim their city. Sand argues that ultimately this movement, like the activists he previously discussed, failed to achieve its goals because, as it gained in popularity and became the focus of media attention, the trivial objects at its centre were transformed into useful commodities. Moreover, critical observational activities were turned into a fun pastime of nostalgic discovery, and the government saw it as a useful device for redesigning the city.

Finally, in the fourth chapter Sand turns his attention to historical museums that aimed to produce a more inclusive notion of heritage by concentrating on everyday life exhibits. In his view, the Edo-Tokyo museum, built in 1993, exemplified a shift in focus in Japanese heritage thinking from production and timeless peasant life to consumption and domesticity, epitomized by the reconstruction of ordinary 1950s home interiors centred around the low dining table (chabudai) embodying family togetherness. Although the focus on everydayness was thought to encourage visitors to question official historical narratives, in practice the widespread use of similar nostalgic domestic displays resulted in the creation of a national, homogenous everyday life. In this chapter Sand also praises the Showa Everyday Museum in Nagoya for breaking with museum conventions, abandoning authorized public history in favour of visitors’ personal memory. It is an inspiring example that indicates how, by broadening the scope of his research to include engaged communities outside the capital, Sand could have added another level of complexity to his argument, while also transcending the usual Tokyo-focused, English-language scholarship about Japan. Nagoya is particularly interesting in this respect because the city also has a long tradition of amateur street observation groups and could therefore offer an insightful comparison in chapter 3.

The book concludes with situating these Japanese case studies within global trends towards preserving the past. For me, this section is less successful because Sand is rather quick to dismiss cultural specific understandings of authenticity, thereby disregarding the growing body of literature about this topic. Moreover, the book would also have benefitted from a more in-depth discussion of new forms of civic actions emerging after the 2011 earthquake, especially considering the important role of the Internet. None of this, however, detracts from the fact that this is a rich and ambitious work that achieves what it set out to do in showing that authenticity is an ongoing process produced by the State and the Market, but also by various mobilized communities who imagine the past in different ways, but who are never fully detached from the abstracting forces they are contesting.

Inge Daniels, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Back to top

NON-TRADITIONAL SECURITY ISSUES IN NORTH KOREA. Hawai’i Studies on Korea. By Kyung-Ae Park. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press; Center for Korean Studies, University of Hawai’i, 2013. ix, 265 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$54.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3739-6.

A recurring, though mostly unspoken current in many analyses of North Korea builds on a perception of North Korean immutability. This notion of North Korean stasis in turn leads to a high predictability of responses to developments in North Korea. This predictability is fed by a very narrow interest span. Simply put, North Korea gains international attention when it stirs political waters and reminds the world that the Korean conflict is ongoing, the war unfinished. Policy towards North Korea is then unsurprisingly reduced to and driven by security concerns. Non-Traditional Security Issues in North Korea seeks to address this question from two different angles. For one, it questions the prevailing realist approach to North Korea as sterile and largely out of touch with the development of both IR theory (Copenhagen School) and practice (UN initiatives regarding Responsibility to Protect and human security). Second, this volume engages this new theory and agenda and asks what non-traditional security issues North Korea faces and how these inform the traditional security agenda. Brendan Howes’s concluding chapter neatly summarizes these theoretical developments and how they confront the international community with a North Korean “insecurity dilemma” (239): how to deal with an internally weakened state that adopts an outwardly strong posture, in a changed international normative environment driven by “comprehensive security” concerns. A very concrete example of this dilemma is raised in Tsuneo Akaha’s chapter on Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in the face of North Korea’s failure to protect its citizens. In a meticulously crafted chapter introducing the development of the UN debate on R2P, Tsuneo Akaha not only shows the normative shifts taking place within the international community, but also highlights the tension between a formally rather narrowly defined R2P and the broader concept of human security (as favoured by the UNDP). Despite the fact that the UN General Assembly in September 2005 agreed that the principle of R2P meant the international community had “a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means … to help States build capacity to protect their populations” (159), Akaha narrowly interprets international intervention as military intervention only. Intervention as meant by the above cited paragraph 139 reads rather (and primarily) as a call for engagement.

How engagement leading to the easing of some of North Korea’s non-traditional security issues affects traditional security concerns is broached in the contribution by David von Hippel and Peter Hayes, from the Nautilus Institute, on North Korea’s energy security and in W. Randall Ireson’s chapter on food security. Written by experts with plentiful experience on the ground, these chapters stand out for their detailed, nuanced and informed assessment of the complexity and interrelatedness of these security challenges, and of the role the international community can/has to play in alleviating them. (In turn, Mark Manyin’s statistically rich chapter on North Korea’s external sources of food security is an antidote for daydreamers who ignore Pyongyang’s strategic playing off of foreign partners.) Both chapters on energy and food security are also refreshingly nonpolitical in their reading of the problems and their solutions, something that returns in Scott Snyder’s nuanced discussion of the specific contribution NGOs can make to North Korea’s non-traditional security. Snyder reminds us for example that both North Korean authorities and NGOs went through a learning curve after North Korea opened up to international aid. He makes a particularly strong case for a specific NGO role in alleviating non-traditional security needs, whether in terms of energy, food or health-related development projects. He stresses in this respect the importance of NGOs’ political independence from both the home and local government. The same is true when it comes to securing the rights of North Korean refugees, a subject raised by Shin-Wha Lee in a chapter on the international legal ramifications of the North Korean refugee situation, particularly in China. The legal complexity of the refugee crisis is readily apparent in the confusion regarding the naming of this group: refugees, asylum seekers, defectors or illegal migrants. Clearly, politically independent NGOs have an important role to play in raising public awareness and keeping pressure on the UNHCR and relevant governments.

Looking at security beyond the state, Kyung-Ae Park reminds us that there is a gender-specific aspect to North Korea’s economic crisis. The economic meltdown of the late 1990s and the rise of a market economy led to a certain economic empowerment of women. However, this empowerment is qualified by the largely unregulated nature of the markets and the actual legal void within which women traders operate. Another gender-specific aspect is the overrepresentation of women among refugees, many of whom end up in various kinds of exploitative relations.

In a bold contribution, David Kang returns to the 2005 Banco Delta Asia episode, demystifies North Korea as the “Soprano State,” and questions the politics of the criminalization of North Korea. Not only does he do what any serious scholar and/or journalist ought to do: the sobering exercise of checking the facts; he also brings in a much needed comparative perspective when discussing North Korea’s alleged counterfeit super dollars (78), or its drug trafficking (81-2). While not discounting North Korea’s illegal activities, Kang does ask a pertinent political question: “Is the United States willing to co-exist in a long-term relationship with North Korea?” (86).

Although the individual contributions are somewhat uneven, and the various case studies are too narrowly North America focused (ignoring EU programs), this is a stimulating collection of papers that may help scholars, analysts and policy makers think differently about North Korean security issues. A greater effort could have been made to integrate the different contributions into a well-structured edited volume.

Koen De Ceuster, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands

Back to top

IN DEFENSE OF JUSTICE: Joseph Kurihara and the Japanese American Struggle for Equality. The Asian American Experience. By Eileen H. Tamura. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013. xv, 228 pp., [8]pp. of plates. US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-252-03778-8.

This book provides a notable addition to the revisionist literature on the wartime removal and confinement of West Coast Japanese Americans (often, if imprecisely, called the Japanese American internment). In contrast to popular accounts that underline the patriotism of the American citizens of Japanese ancestry herded into government camps, revisionist accounts have emphasized the active role of the inmates in resisting their condition and protesting racist treatment. Among the best-known (or most notorious) dissidents was Joseph Yoshisuke Kurihara, a World War I veteran embittered by mass removal. His actions in camp, especially his role in the chain of events leading to the so-called Manzanar Riot, have attracted significant attention since the war years. Yet the man himself has remained rather in the shadows. Eileen Tamura, a professor in the College of Education at University of Hawai’i Manoa, has produced a first biography of Kurihara.

Tamura’s early chapters deal with Kurihara’s boyhood in turn-of-the-century Hawaii. In Tamura’s portrait, Kurihara emerges as an idealistic and ambitious youth. Alone among his siblings, he decided to attend Catholic school in place of the Territory’s free public schools, and ultimately converted to Catholicism. In 1915, he moved to the mainland in hopes of attending medical school. However, after the US entered World War I, Kurihara enlisted in the US Army, though he served in combat duty for just two weeks before the Armistice. After 1919, he settled in California, despite the racial prejudice there, working as an accountant and on fishing boats.

The bulk of Tamura’s work covers Kurihara’s wartime confinement experience. Kurihara believed that the unconstitutional actions of the government in confining him on racial grounds without due process (the more insulting given his record as a veteran) voided his allegiance. At public meetings at Manzanar he proclaimed his attachment to Japan and denounced pro-American Nisei, notably members of the Japanese American Citizens League, as traitors. Because of his advanced age and experience, and because he was willing to speak out openly, he became an influential advocate for anti-administration forces. In December 1942, after JACL leader Fred Tayama was beaten by dissident inmates, the kitchen workers’ leader Harry Ueno was arrested for the crime. Outraged, a mob of inmates formed. Kurihara addressed the mob in English mixed with Japanese, calling for Ueno’s liberation and for the “exterminationˮ of a list of accused informers, whom he named. In the ensuing revolt, gangs invaded the suspected informers’ barracks, while protesters marched on the police station where Ueno was held. Military guards sent to restore order opened fire on the crowd, killing two inmates and wounding others.

In the wake of the incidents, Kurihara, Ueno and other “troublemakersˮ were arrested. Over the following months, they were held at a pair of isolation camps, Moab in Utah and then Leupp in Arizona, before being sent to the Tule Lake segregation camp. As Tamura recounts, Kurihara acted as a model inmate in these facilities. Chastened by his Manzanar experience, he refrained from political activism and was even threatened with violence at Moab for cooperating with administrators. Nevertheless, Kurihara determined to renounce the United States. Stripped of his citizenship, he accepted deportation to Japan, where he had never visited. Despite the hardships of life in postwar Japan, he remained there (working initially for US Occupation authorities, ironically enough) for the remaining twenty years of his life.

Tamura’s study is the last of a line of works in the University of Illinois Press’s Asian American Experience series supervised by the renowned historian Roger Daniels, who added a foreword (full disclosure: I edited a volume in this same series). Her work is noteworthy in that, while it underlines Kurihara’s exceptional activism, it uses his biography as a lever for examining larger questions about Japanese American wartime experience, notably the meaning of citizenship and the fluid nature of loyalty and resistance: for all of Kurihara’s asserted Japanese identity, his activism revealed his essentially American character. To her credit, while Tamura admires Kurihara’s principled stand—such can certainly be inferred from her book’s subtitle —she does not shy away from considering its paradoxes, and devotes an extended section to exploring whether he should be considered a hero or villain. The book is also a product of impressively thorough research, incuding Kurihara’s unpublished autobiography, while the author displays a mastery of the main secondary literature.

There are a few substantive matters the reader wishes Tamura had further addressed. First, while she explores Kurihara’s early embrace of Catholicism as an idiosyncratic and assimilationist move, she fails to note its connections to education, especially given Kurihara’s dream of attending medical school. Mainland Catholic colleges such as Loyola University in New Orleans admitted various Nisei, including some from Hawaii. Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska distinguished itself by graduating over a dozen Japanese-American medical students from Hawaii in the prewar decades. Another element deserving further study is the ambivalent connection between Kurihara and Togo Tanaka, the onetime Rafu Shimpo editor whose death Kurihara called for at Manzanar. Tamura notes their durable mutual esteem despite their disagreements, and cites Tanaka’s postwar articles praising Kurihara, but does not explain the context of their appearance. Worse, the author seems unaware of an important moment of missed collaboration between the two men. In February 1942 Tanaka and Larry Tajiri (the future editor of the JACL newspaper Pacific Citizen) proposed creating a United Citizens Federation in hopes of averting mass removal, and held a public meeting to organize it. Kurihara, unable to be present, wrote Tanaka to offer support and propose himself as leader of the fledgling organization, stating “I will gladly sacrifice my personal liberty, and resources for the sake of the the niseis,ˮ While Tanaka reprinted the letter text in his diary, he apparently never acted on Kurihara’s offer. It is tantalizing to consider whether Kurihara’s wartime stance might have been altered had he undertaken partnership with his future adversaries following Executive Order 9066.

Greg Robinson, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada

Back to top

CINEMA OF ACTUALITY: Japanese Avant-Garde Filmmaking in the Season of Image Politics. Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society. By Yuriko Furuhata. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013. Ix, 266 pp. (Illus.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5504-6

Yuriko Furuhata’s new book on political filmmaking in 1960s Japan adds significant depth, nuance and context to a topic that has, for good reason, long captivated an audience of cinephiles, activists and researchers. She describes this project as a media history of cinema’s response to journalism’s shift to television, one that draws on film studies, media studies, cultural studies and art history to craft an understanding of the discourses on “actuality” (akuchuaritii) and the “image” (eizō). I would argue it to be more as well—this book is ultimately a genealogy of the cultural politics of radical Japanese filmmaking historicized within the global, mediatized “Long Sixties.”

Cinema of Actuality is organized into five provocative chapters on the following issues: intermedia experimentation, the event-nature of cinema, remediation of journalism, the “landscape” discourse (fūkeiron), and militant cinema against television. The filmmakers who figure prominently here include Ōshima Nagisa, Matsumoto Toshio, Adachi Masao and Wakamatsu Kōji, but equal treatment is given to major players in the creation of a rigorous and politicalized film discourse at the time—Matsuda Masao, Nakahira Takuma and Hariu Ichirō—as well as to an earlier generation of intellectuals with whom these figures engaged, such as art critic Hanada Kiyoteru or the materialist philosopher Tosaka Jun. These foundational thinkers were actively responding to international discourses on “actuality” (Aktualität, actualité) and positioning themselves against idealist tendencies in phenomenology, so the narrative’s movement to Adorno and Heidegger feels grounded here, not forced. Furuhata further enlivens her analysis through useful engagement withRancière (on spectacle and policing), Derrida (on “artifactuality,” the construction of an actuality-effect), and Foucault (on governmentality and discipline).

The combined effect of Furuhata’s careful balance of close analysis of films, rich archival work, and theoretical framing is a series of bold insights into the political tactics at work in both filmmaking and art discourse. One example is in demonstrating Matsumoto’s praxis of Hanada’s theory of a strategic merger between documentary and the surreal in order to use “actuality” to shatter the illusions of socialist realism (replacing them with a more radical revelation of actuality-as-contingency). Another is a corrective to our understanding of Ōshima’s Death By Hanging from a reflexive restaging of a historical event (the 1958 Komatsugawa incident) to Furuhata’s reading of the film as a conspicuously artificial documentary of a historical event itself already deeply theatrical from its inception (since Ri reported his own murder, mediatizing it as it emerged into public consciousness). What is at stake in this shift is recognition of the complicity between the criminal and the journalist, the way they collaboratively generate the media spectacle.

By placing the so-called “landscape films” in the context of politicized directors’ turn away from media spectacle toward the everyday, Furuhata makes sense of work by Adachi and Ōshima that has often vexed analysis. The idea that a shift away from the thrill of conflict to contemplate the politicization of the most mundane of spaces is compelling and necessary to shift the consciousness of activists from myopic tactical blows to the riot police, say, toward a broader, strategic transformation of society. That said, Matsuda Masao’s close reading here of a portrait of a city street devoid of both police and protester as more political than a direct image of conflict still strikes me as odd. Had he left it alone, this argument might have some traction in its suggestion that the images of conflict between student and cop had already been coopted by the media machine. But by drawing our attention to the words on the manhole cover—“Imperial University Sewer”—the suggestion becomes one in which Japan’s imperialist legacy still pervades the very streets on which everyday citizens go about their day. The risk here, in overstating the pervasiveness of centralized government power, is that Matsuda himself becomes complicit with the hegemonic logic of the regime, which will always exaggerate its capacity to police. What gets downplayed is the extraordinary amount of underregulated social space available to citizens, space in which to begin the transformation immediately. It is this side of landscape cinema—the tension between these seemingly passive images of networks and the ready availability of them—that makes these films so disconcerting, and indeed (still) vexing.

Furuhata’s analysis of Adachi and Wakamatsu’s The Red Army / PFLP was carefully handled and sharp. The logic of the project was to juxtapose the violent spectacular imagery of the Palestine conflict captured from television sources together with footage of everyday life from militant refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria. Most remarkable here was the pushback Adachi received even from guerillas when he articulated his interest in documenting this radically different form of everyday life (in which one cooks meals with an AK-47 leaning against the kitchen counter). It is the everydayness of war in these camps, the way armed conflict and the threat of violent attack is woven into the fabric and necessarily desensationalized that Adachi seems to have identified as the important note on actuality that needed to be conveyed to activists back in Japan. While I understand the rationale for staying focused on the film, I did find myself curious to know how Furuhata would analyze the way the Japanese (and international) media has handled the Lod Airport massacre by the Japanese Red Army in relation to this film and these filmmakers. It seems that recent coverage has recast Okamoto Kōzō and Wakamatsu Kōji as a nostalgic human-interest story, almost spectacularizing the everydayness of their reunions.

Furuhata’s Cinema of Actuality is an important book that makes a strong contribution to research on Japanese cinema, 1960s political culture, and theoretical work on image politics. I expect that it will, as intended, provoke response and debate.

Steven Ridgely, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Back to top

CONTEMPORARY JAPANESE POLITICS: Institutional Changes and Power Shifts. Contemporary Asia in the World. By Tomohito Shinoda. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. xvii, 328 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$28.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-231-15853-4.

Contemporary Japanese Politics, by Tomohito Shinoda, is the most up-to-date English-language account of contemporary Japanese politics. It covers both the 38-year period of the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) stint in power (the so-called 1955 regime) as well as the changes that have occurred since the 1990s, culminating in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) becoming government party in 2009. Since thus far there have been only analyses of specific aspects of this change in government (e.g., elections) available in English, a detailed treatise discussing this three-year “DPJ interregnum” is welcome. The facts have been well known, so a reader well versed in the history of party politics and administrative reform will probably not have to readjust his understanding of the developments. That being said, so far nobody has spent the time and effort to put the facts and the substantial existing literature together and present it all in a coherent and concise way. In that sense, the book is a good overview for readers seeking a summary of postwar politics with an emphasis on institutional changes and their effects on political leadership. What is more, the author’s categorization and diligent citation of the existing literature should help those looking for further readings.

Shinoda’s specific aim is the analysis of the power balance between Cabinet, bureaucracy and the Diet against the backdrop of institutional change and what effects these changes had on the government’s operation, more specifically the prime minister’s leadership. He starts out by describing the institutional framework and workings of the government and the LDP under single-party rule. While LDP Cabinets traditionally maintained an effective working relationship with the bureaucracy, they were lacking in leadership. This traditional setup did not last, however, as a series of changes such as the electoral reforms of the 1990s as well as administrative reforms strengthening the prime minister’s authority, thereby paving the way for more prime ministerial leadership. According to Shinoda, these institutional changes were merely a “necessary” but “not a sufficient condition” (7), as “institutions do not produce leadership; they only enable it” (7). To prove this point, he discusses the effects of the reforms on the decision-making process, paying particularly close attention to the Koizumi administration and the DPJ Cabinets. The former is seen as the best example of effectively using the bureaucracy, while exercising the prime ministerial leadership afforded by the new institutional framework. Meanwhile, the three DPJ PMs were unable to effectively use the bureaucracy and/or exercise strong leadership. The same, to a lesser degree, was true for the three LDP PMs that followed Koizumi. Meanwhile, current PM Abe in his second stint is tentatively praised for exercising leadership and making effective use of the bureaucrats, being favourably compared to Koizumi.

While the underlying argument is certainly deeper and more differentiated, the book occasionally comes across as suggesting that the institutional changes of the last two decades created a framework in which all that was needed to succeed in realizing one’s political agenda as prime minister were leadership skills and experience, while ensuring that the bureaucracy cooperates. There, we are told Koizumi and maybe Abe during his second term have excelled, whereas the post-Koizumi PMs, in particular from the DPJ, had  failed by either being unable to secure the cooperation of the bureaucracy and/or exercising leadership. There is a pattern here, though, namely that with the exception of Hatoyama, all five PMs between Koizumi and the second Abe Cabinet faced a twisted Diet (nejire kokkai) which was abused by the respective opposition at the time to derail the government regardless of cost. Shinoda discusses various issues pertaining to bicameralism, e.g., the balance of power between the two houses and the different election systems in various chapters, but I believe the book could have benefited from singling out this issue more clearly as one key institutional variable that determines the ability of the PM to exercise leadership.

The second issue that has to be pointed out is a certain selective view towards leadership. Koizumi is described as the golden standard, while in particular the failures of Cabinets headed by non-LDP PMs are described and criticized in much detail. I would have welcomed a slightly more balanced analysis of the latter. For instance, given that the author discusses foreign and national security policy in quite some detail elsewhere in the book, the lack of any reference to the re-approachment initiatives in the 1990s could be viewed as an important omission. Arguably, Hosokawa and Murayama (successfully) showed considerable leadership in pushing the government to attempt to settle Japan’s long-standing disputes over the interpretation of and reflection on modern history with neighbouring countries, in spite of considerable domestic criticism. Similarly, the critique of the DPJ’s post 3.11 disaster management “excessively” focusing on the nuclear incident in Fukushima, which is contrasted to “each ministry tried hard to respond to the needs of the damaged areas in Tohoku” (220) could have benefited from a more balanced assessment. In this context, more background information on the inefficient nuclear oversight regime which the DPJ had inherited from previous LDP administrations would have been helpful. This system had not only placed the regulatory body (NISA) under the umbrella of the ministry most strongly in favour of nuclear energy (METI), but also provided the veto players like the utility companies with the means to avoid more costly, tougher security measures which may have prevented the meltdowns in the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. Without this information, the book conveys the message that slow post-disaster management was primarily the result of the Kan administration’s ineptness, which against the aforementioned backdrop is questionable.

Irrespective of the aforementioned issues, Contemporary Japanese Politics is a worthwhile read. While various aspects, such as the effects of electoral reform and the rise of the two-party system, have been explored by many authors in detailed studies, Shinoda has to be applauded for presenting the overarching storyline of changing postwar politics and prime ministerial leadership against the backdrop of institutional change in an accessible and concise manner.

Chris Winkler, German Institute for Japanese Studies, Tokyo, Japan

Back to top

ISAMU NOGUCHI’S MODERNISM: Negotiating Race, Labor, and Nation, 1930-1950. By Amy Lyford. Berkeley: University of California Press with the assistance of the Getty Foundation, 2013. viii, 273 pp., [8] pp. of plates (Figures.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-25314-8.

Isamu Noguchi’s Modernism: Negotiating Race, Labor and Nation, 1930-1950 provides compelling evidence to reconsider the work of the artist within larger social, economic and political contexts of pre- and post-World War Two. Amy Lyford brings fresh insight towards a much-needed corrective of the binary of identity that has manifested itself throughout discussions of Noguchi’s work, obscuring larger issues of race and identity. With hindsight as its backdrop, Lyford recontextualizes the early work of Isamu Noguchi within a compelling and nuanced interpretation foregrounding racial and identity politics. This approach is central in decoding both the choices in artistic form and the places through which the artist laboured.

Noguchi was anomalous in many ways. His identity as a Japanese-American, artist, furniture maker and landscape designer, who worked in Paris with Brancusi and voluntarily interned himself at Poston Relocation centre during the Japanese-American internment, has provided rich fodder for analysis. No identity is singular, and yet the racial discourse of the first half of the twentieth century was part of a very different ideological understanding of race, identity and community, which may account for its apparent lack of sophistication now.

The book is driven by the social and political discourses of the 1930s to the1950s, to which Noguchi’s work is responding.  Divided into two main areas, the first half of the book is dedicated towards his integration of notions of labour, work and the artist and the second focusing on his identity as Japanese-American during World War Two. Part 1, titled “Labor,” provides detailed discussions and documentations of Noguchi’s works and unrealized plans that all foreground the notion of artist as social agent. These works, including Monument to the Plow, the Carl Mackley Memorial, and the design for the Associated Press mural, are developed as the forms through which Noguchi can express the collusion of identity of artist as labourer. Particularly for the Associated Press mural, located at Rockefeller Center where Diego Rivera’s iconic Man at the Crossroads mural was censored, Noguchi’s left-leanings would have to manifest themselves in other ways.  Lyford uses these plans and sculptures to illustrate how Noguchi invested himself in the production of his work, the subject of which conflated the individual and the labour through the physical representation of the sculpture, and where the production of the work itself provided labour and collaboration among artist and worker.  This beautifully crafted argument draws attention to lesser-known and unrealized Noguchi works and plans, as well as the reinterpretation of well-known ones.

While previous literature both by and about the artist has rooted much of the analysis of his work in his Japanese and European ancestry, implicating identity as a biological constant arbitrating his work, this analysis resituates the complexity of identity and community. Part 2, “Race,” focuses on Noguchi’s nisei identity and his voluntary internment at Poston, as well as an analysis of his group, the Nisei Writers and Artists Mobilization for Democracy (NWAMD). Noguchi’s own ambivalence towards his identity as nisei is examined through his work with the NWAMD and his essay I Become Nisei (appendix 2), as well as through recently uncovered FBI documents and letters.   While race is the overarching theme, it is subtly divided into two sections, internalized and externalized racial identification. Section 4 draws out potential psychologies of Noguchi in his response to the sudden foregrounding of the Japanese part of his identity during World War Two. While always present, as indicated through reviews of his work, Lyford offers more critical analysis of how those reviews continue to mark the artist in gendered and racialized ways.

Particularly apt is her own analysis of both Thomas Hess’ and Clement Greenberg’s critiques of Noguchi’s work in the last sections of the book. Here she utilizes the contemporaneous reviews of his sculpture and exhibitions to delicately, almost surgically, dismantle the Eurocentric and misogynistic construction and conception of the modernist artist as white male, and how that may have impacted Noguchi’s own self-presentation, discussed at the end. This book also illuminates the social and political importance of the shifting relationship between Japan and the US, and its impact on labels of race and nationalism. Lyford’s work is an important reminder that identity, community, race and nation shift over time and important new information often comes from neglected sources.

Lyford makes it easy to see why Noguchi has been interpreted in the ways that he has, but also, why that may not be sufficient. This book surveys the cultural environment to portend precisely why such difficulties and distinctions about both his work and identity will never be fully answered, but can continually be mined to garner a deeper understanding of social and political influences that both compel and restrict both actions and interpretations.

All writing is culture-bound. It reflects the sensibilities and ideologies of its time and place. Noguchi’s work can easily be reconsidered through an analysis today that has articulated hyphenated and hybrid identities, through more sophisticated and nuanced understandings of community, race, ethnicity and identity. His time provided little of that ability, which makes it no surprise that certain aspects of that were either knowingly or unknowingly concealed by the artist, or misunderstood, willfully or not, by his critics.  Lyford’s research has provided a more cultivated analysis that may bridge many of his earlier unresolved acts that culminated in the artist so well-known today. It provides new opportunities for examining Noguchi’s political alliances, his work itself and overarching social agendas of the time.

Stephanie Takaragawa, Chapman University, Orange, USA

Back to top

TYRANNY OF THE WEAK: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Charles K. Armstrong. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013. viii, 307 pp. (Figures, B&W photos.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5082-2.

Despite the recent emergence of interests in North Korea, historical monographs about its foreign relations have been lacking. Armstrong’s book admirably helps to fill this gap. Drawing on archival materials from former communist countries in Eastern Europe, China and the Soviet Union, he reconstructs North Korea’s foreign relations in the global context.

In chapter 1, Armstrong first shows the context of the North Korean attack on South Korea in June 1950, drawing on Soviet and Chinese documents. Then, he offers an original account of the occupation policies of South and North Korea, along with brutalities committed by both sides, as zones of occupations changed during the war. Kim Il Sung developed suspicions about the Soviet Union and China by the end of the war, and wished to pursue a policy of self-reliance (50). However, for the post-war reconstruction, North Korea had to rely heavily on Soviet assistance. Chapter 2 offers vivid accounts about the reconstruction of Pyongyang and Hamhŭng city, which was rebuilt with assistance from East Germany.

In chapter 3, Armstrong shows the process through which Kim Il-sung consolidated his leadership in the 1950s by purging the Soviet-Korean and Yanan groups (99). While blocking the destabilizing effects of de-Stalinization, Kim’s regime began promoting its nationalistic Juche ideology, and began distancing itself from China as well. With the emergence of the Sino-Soviet split in the late 1950s, Kim skilfully maintained a diplomatic balance between them.   Armstrong confirms that the signing of two similar alliance treaties with Beijing and Moscow in July 1961 were the outcome of Kim’s masterful manipulation through phased secret negotiations, rather than an outcome of trilateral cooperation in the communist bloc (125). The author shows that this method of carefully steering “a course between the Soviet Union and China, refusing to take sides” continued until the end of the Cold War. Through such skilful diplomacy, Pyongyang gained economic assistance and pledges of military aid from both sides.

During the 1960s North Korea made progress in securing support from newly independent countries in Asia and Africa as a seemingly successful example of postcolonial nation-building, as shown in chapter 4 (143). During the Vietnam War, North Korea covertly provided a small number of pilots and medicine to North Vietnam while South Korea openly sent combat troops to support the US war efforts. From the late 1960s, Pyongyang embarked on a series of provocative actions in its policy toward South Korea and the United States. In particular, detaining a US intelligence vessel and its crew during the Pueblo Incident was regarded as too provocative by Moscow. But with the start of détente diplomacy between China and the United States, North Korea reached a short-lived agreement with South Korea in July 1972, which pledged to refrain from mutual criticism and to pursue unification through dialogue and without foreign interference.

During the 1970s, North Korea exerted its efforts to reach out to the United States, Japan and western European countries. But chapter 5 shows that such efforts could not achieve much success, with the decline of detente mood within the Korean peninsula and in Asia more widely since the mid-1970s. Pyongyang’s provocations, exemplified by its brutal murder of two American officers in August 1976, further tainted the North Korean image. Its efforts to expand economic interactions with Japanese and European banks also ended with it defaulting on its foreign debt by the mid-1970s. Meanwhile, North Korea continued its efforts to gain support in the Third World.  While expanding its diplomatic reach in Africa, Pyongyang also supported rightwing dictators Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Idi Amin of Uganda. North Korea also gave support to Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Republic after the Iranian revolution in 1979 (185).  Despite such a diplomatic drive in the Third World,  Juche was never an attractive model for the Third World, though it remained more useful for domestic propaganda and diplomatic rivalry with South Korea (205).

In chapter 6, Armstrong shows how Kim Jung Il came to consolidate his position as the successor of his father through an elaborate personality cult beginning in the early 1980s. Based on the synthesis of scholarly literature, the author also explains how the transformation of North Korean official ideology, emphasizing Confucian virtues of filial piety and “revolutionary lineage,” justified such a feudal power transfer. But, in the international arena, the non-alignment movement lost momentum while the military balance with South Korea turned against Pyongyang in the second half of the 1980s. The author explains that the marked rise of North Korean terrorist attacks on South Korea was driven by its weakness and fear of a declining correlation of forces (236). Chapter 7 shows how North Korea, faced with the disintegration of the Soviet bloc at the end of the Cold War, chose to pursue fervently nationalistic Korean-style socialism.

In the epilogue, the author succinctly shows how North Korea has struggled to secure its regime survival though “military-first politics,” while failing to emulate the Chinese model of economic opening. He also offers a sharp critique of the approach towards North Korea of George W. Bush’s administration. In his assessment, the Bush administration’s unnecessarily hawkish policy and “Rhetorical Conflation,” defining North Korea as a part of the Axis of Evil, further emboldened North Korea’s resolve to pursue nuclear weapons capability.

Tyranny of the Weak is a welcome addition to the literature on North Korea and the broader history of international relations. It is well couched on small state theory, which underscores the ability of weak states to secure autonomy and influence through a skilful use of diplomacy. While often assuming a sympathetic view of North Korea’s unique situation, the author does not turn a blind eye to the brutality of the North Korean regime.

Armstrong successfully shows North Korea’s interaction with the world based on a masterly use of new historical sources as well as secondary sources in many languages.  Nevertheless, when discussing the twists and turns of North Korean diplomacy, the author could have consulted the South Korean foreign ministry archives and American archives further. Still, Armstrong admirably achieves success in showing the evolution of North Korea’s foreign relations in a truly global context, much in line with the mainstream approach in historical scholarship today.

Seung-young Kim, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Back to top

POPULIST COLLABORATORS: The Ilchinhoe and the Japanese Colonization of Korea, 1896-1910. By Yumi Moon. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2013. xiii, 296 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5041-9.

The most notorious Korean organization, denounced by many (then and today) for its  “treasonous” role in the 1910 Japanese annexation  of Korea, was the Ilchinhoe, translated by the author of this full-fledged study as “Advance in Unity Society.” Yumi Moon’s is a bold and meticulously argued study, with incontrovertible evidence filling up all its substantive chapters. Yet ultra-nationalists on either side of divided Korea today are not likely to take kindly to her findings, for while never questioning the Ilchinhoe’s  odious role in Japan’s takeover of Korea, the author also shows it to have been a reformist organization that was able to rapidly build a truly mass following, ranging anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 members.

It combined a sharp critique of the corruption, incompetence, and “tyranny” of the Chosŏn dynasty’s moribund years with concrete actions for reform, designed not only to ameliorate grass-roots economic distress but also to empower the dispossessed and disenfranchised sections of society, especially in the rural areas. Its early reform platform, stressing people’s “natural” rights, popular participation in government, a limited monarchy, and a national assembly,  recalled the writings of Western-inspired reformist elites in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, especially the failed movement of the Independence Club (1896-1898). The Ilchinhoe also incorporated, however, the more widely based elements of another failed movement called the Tonghak Uprising (1894-1895).

During the late nineteenth century, the Chosŏn Dynasty feebly limped along due to internal factional squabbles, foreign meddling and plots, palace upheavals, assassinations, revolving-door politics of rather bewildering sequences, and reforms announced and reforms quashed. Amidst all this, many Koreans came to admire the Japanese achievements in political, social, educational, cultural, economic, technological and military advancement. The weakness and defeat of Qing China in the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War had made China an unreliable ally for the Korean reformists. Russia, looming large, was aggressive, untrustworthy and beyond the average Korean’s cultural pale. Japan, with its Confucian-Buddhist-Daoist threads of affinity with Korea, which in ancient times had served as an intellectual and cultural bridge from continental Asia to the island nation, assiduously cultivated Korean supporters for its own ambition in the country and on the continent by presenting itself as a model that Koreans could profit from. Beyond that, many Japanese leaders, some inside the government and others outside, and some more subtly than others, also championed the concept of Pan-Asianism, under which Japanese tutelage would offer Korea shared prosperity and progress over time while keeping the predatory Western imperialisms at bay.

Thus when the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) broke out, the Ilchinhoe emerged as a vocal and  active supporter of Japan while steadily gaining adherents for its tax-resistance, tax reform and other significant economic plans for the masses. And plans quickly translated to action. Though inevitably there was some disarray in its rank and file, some uncoordinated action at the bottom with its central leaders, some heavy-handedness by its followers bordering at times on wanton behaviour and lawlessness, the Ilchinhoe  in some areas acted like a mini state within a state, flexing its political muscle through both legal and extra-legal means, collecting taxes according to its own pragmatic definitions of right and wrong, and channeling funds for its own aims, including modern educational schools. In all this, its activists from below commanded as much power as its national leaders. In this respect, it seemed to be Korea’s first modern mass organization. Moon does not go to the extent of calling the Ilchinhoe a democratic organization, for its ideology was not articulated beyond some rhetorical flourishes in that direction, but she justifiably calls its campaign a “populist” movement.

Awakening to the overwhelming power of Japan in the wake of its victory over Russia and then seeing its relentless political juggernaut in Korea, the Ilchinhoe leaders ultimately took the path of least resistance to Tokyo. Persuaded by Japanese professions of friendly goals for Korea, they naively opted for calls seeking Japan’s annexation of Korea. They had made so many enemies among the traditional conservatives as well as among modern nationalists that they almost seemed to have left no other choice for themselves. The new Japanese rulers of Korea decided, on the other hand, that having softened up the Korean monarchy for their own machinations, the Ilchinhoe had exhausted its usefulness to them. After all, any organization aimed at reforming Korea from below could easily challenge the highly centralized structures and methods of Japan’s own designs for Korea. The Japanese rulers could not countenance such a fraught possibility. Thus soon after their goal of annexing Korea was accomplished, they ordered the disbandment of the Ilchinhoe. With various blandishments added, its leaders were neutralized by the Japanese, though many of its followers were not. Neither were masses of other Koreans who now had to decide how to face the prospect of their national identity becoming nothing but a hand-maiden of Japan. Pan-Asianism seemed only a cover for Japanese empire-building.

Upon reading this book’s section about the Ilchinhoe’s dealings with Japan, one is left with an impression not so much of any nefariousness on the part of its leaders as of their folly. And though in its domestic reformist activity, this body clearly had its villains and rogues, one could just as easily put together a rich portrait gallery of crooks and thugs on the other side as well. Overall, this book revalidates my own research years ago, when I wrote a short, preliminary article on this body (in Occasional Papers on Korea, The University of Washington, Seattle, 1974). Author Moon makes a gracious reference to it in her extensive, richly documented book.

Finally, other than some repetitive parts causing a bit of tedium that better editing could have easily reduced, Moon has written a very nuanced work that is sure to be the subject of many animated discussions in Korean history circles.

Vipan Chandra, Wheaton College, Norton, USA

Back to top

JAPANOISE: Music at the Edge of Circulation. Sign, Storage, Transmission. By David Novak. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013. x, 292 pp. (B&W illus.)US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5392-8.

Engaging and lucidly written, ethnomusicologist David Novak’s Japanoise offers a dynamic analysis of Noise: an underground experimental music formed through transnational circulation of recordings, discourses, cultural imaginaries and creative agents, ranging from listeners to cassette tape collectors, record shop owners, and performers. The book’s title refers to the common view that Noise hails from Japan—an origin myth the book complicates through a series of incisive cultural analyses. Based on extensive fieldwork in Japan and North America spanning the past two decades, Novak weaves lively ethnographic narratives with archival, discursive and sonic analyses to provide innovative theoretical insights into global media circulation.

At first glance, the focus of Novak’s study seems dauntingly elusive. As an aesthetic practice, Noise is characterized by its ambiguity as neither genre nor music; it is defined by its “antisocial, antihistorical, antimusical obscurity” (15). Furthermore, the Noisicians and Noise fans who comprise the “scene” often lack self-identification, social cohesion or geographical foundation. This poses the methodological challenge of tracing the global movement of the loose assemblages of Noise fans and Noisicians, musical media and meanings. Rather than proposing an explanatory model for capturing this moving target in transnational circulation, Novak calls for an open-ended analysis that takes into account unanticipated consequences, productive misunderstandings, and new possibilities.

Despite these challenges, Japanoise maintains coherence through the notion of “feedback”: the conceptual anchor and the most innovative and productive contribution of the book. At once an ethnopoetic lens into the aesthetic principles of Noise and an analytic for describing social processes of cultural exchange and reciprocity, feedback foregrounds how circulation is not simply a movement or process but rather an inherent constituent of creative cultural formation. In Noise performance, feedback is generated by overloading a circuit, often made with guitar effect pedals, microphones and other electronics, by feeding output back into input. The result is an increasing intensification and distortion of sound that reaches the threshold of disintegration. This acoustic principle works as an effective metaphor as a “critique of cultural globalization, a process of social interpretation, a practice of musical performance and listening, and a condition of subjectivity” (17). Rather than conceiving circulation as a passive background against which cultural exchange happens, this powerful concept puts relational analysis of global circulation into constant movement, enabling us to see the productive forces of the messiness of circulation.

The impact of this innovative conceptualization of “feedback” spans various fields, including cybernetics, anthropology, economics, media studies, and popular music studies. Two areas of debate where Novak’s notion of feedback makes a significant contribution are highlighted here. First, while the notion of feedback has already been in use in various social scientific fields to analyze cultural circulation as a mechanism for social equilibrium, Japanoise animates this self-contained notion of feedback by highlighting inherent dynamisms and their potential for producing new possibilities, as well as failures. Secondly, Novak’s notion of feedback challenges Jacques Attali’s canonic work on noise by complicating his mutually exclusive formulation of music and noise, and showing the limitations of his monolithic conception of noise as a totalizing category of difference. Feedback, dynamically conceived, generates differences as it spins out of control; Novak’s insistence on ethnographic attention to the micropractices and individualized embodiments of Noise is a valuable reminder of the importance of recognizing differences within Attali’s “noise.”

Japanoise also challenges the presumed binary between recorded music and live performance, between musicians and audience—analytical variables that are, despite some critical misgivings, still pervasive in scholarship on popular music. Rather than simply assigning agency to consumers, as many cultural studies scholars have done, Novak shows how participatory listening is constitutive of Noise performance, and how the circulation of musical media is a productive culture-making practice. Whereas creative repurposing of technology has been examined in popular music studies, Novak’s take on the agentful role that technologically mediated listening plays in the formation of Noise is a fresh perspective, one sure to impact how creative agency is conceptualized in popular music studies and ethnomusicology.

Echoing the acoustic principle of feedback, the well-crafted book’s key themes loop back to reveal layers of meaning—a case in point being the way the aesthetic description of Noise in the earlier chapters leads to a nuanced analysis of the political potential of the practice in the later chapters. Chapter 1 establishes the idiosyncratic aesthetic principle of Noise, which is based on producing feedback until reaching a breaking point; Noisicians seek to be subsumed by technology, rather than to exercise control over technology. The next three chapters familiarize the reader with the esoteric Noise scene by locating the subterranean distribution networks of Noise recordings (chapter 2), examining the recursivity of listening and playing among Noise fans (chapter 3), and providing a nuanced account of the paradoxically constitutive politics of genre-labeling (chapter 4). In turn, the aesthetic logic of Noise lends itself as a metaphor for the political possibilities of revealing the human confrontation against an overwhelmingly technologized society (chapter 5), a critique of the self-destructive trajectory of technocultural capitalism in Japan (chapter 6), and a form of resistance against the anonymity of online culture and excessive consumerism (chapter 7).

One question remained unanswered for me: precisely what kind of concretely situated social “differences” are embodied and experienced by Japanese Noisicians in contemporary Japan? With a few exceptions, Noisicians portrayed in the book are primarily middle class and male. The lived differences of Noise fans and Noisicians within Japanese society are somewhat obscured by the radically individualized and gender-ambiguous notion of “technocultural subjectivity.” In what ways might social unevenness and difference be implicated in the Noisician’s radical cultural politics? By tenaciously staying underground, what kinds of exclusionary politics might the Noise scene produce, and how does this exclusivity—in terms of access to technology or cultural capital—play into one’s ability to critically engage with/against Japan’s capitalist technoculture? In light of the author’s commitment to the embodied differences among creative subjects of Noise, readers might benefit even more if Japanoise pushed its analytical insistence on differences further to show how the individual embodiment of Noise articulates with social differences in everyday lived experience.

A remarkable display of scholarly integrity, Japanoise is grounded in deep commitment to the aesthetic drive of an expressive culture, locally grounded intellectual insights, and theoretical interventions with broad interdisciplinary implications. As Novak recuperates the productive culture of Noise from—or rather, through—obscurity, he offers significant cross-disciplinary analytical contributions. It won’t be long before we start to hear the amplified echoes of Novak’s analytical insights, resonating in the feedback loops of future scholarship on global media circulation, underground cultural movements, critiques of technocultural subjectivities, and other aesthetic forms of creative destruction.

Marié Abe, Boston University, Boston, USA

Back to top

AN IMPERIAL PATH TO MODERNITY: Yoshino Sakuzō and a New Liberal Order in East Asia, 1905-1937. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 346. By Jung-Sun N. Han. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributed] 2012. viii, 231 pp. (B&W illus.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-06571-0.

International historians of twentieth-century Japan have understood for a long time that liberals found ways to accommodate the colonialism and expansionism of Imperial Japan. This is usually portrayed as a reluctant compromise with ascendant authoritarian ideologies and behaviours. The contribution of Jung-Sun N. Han’s new work is the assertion that leading liberal political theorists, notably Yoshino Sakuzō, embraced the goal of Japanese expansion on the continent and advocated achieving this goal through liberal internationalism. Japanese imperialist stature abroad would enable at home a political life that met the needs of people regardless of pedigree.

An Imperial Path to Modernity fulfills two purposes. First, it is an intellectual biography of Yoshino. It treats Yoshino as a thinker while a student at Tokyo University and in Europe, as a Christian of Hongō Church and disciple of Ebina Danjō, as an on-site observer of the human and political realities in China and Korea, and as a scholar at Tōdai and a publicist for Chūō kōron and the Asahi newspaper. Han does not take the reader on excursions into Yoshino’s childhood, his family, his personal religious faith, or his final years. Second, it is an account of the journey of a set of notions, labeled variously by Han as “liberal imperialist expansion.” These concepts solidified in Yoshino’s mind during the Russo-Japanese War and the Great War, persisted through the Manchurian Incident in the hands of the Japanese Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations, and culminated in the Shōwa Kenkyūkai ideology of the late 1930s. Despite the prewar timeframe of the narrative, these ideas are not posited as causes of war, but rather as considered responses to the continental violence, political chaos, economic change and big-power hegemony that confronted Japan.

Jung-Sun N. Han is on the faculty of International Studies at Korea University in Seoul. The present study is an outgrowth of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Washington. She utilizes a wide range of primary and secondary Japanese and English-language sources and conducted research at the Yoshino Sakuzō Memorial Museum in Miyagi.

Han reminds us that in the early twentieth century the notion of “ethical imperialism” was embraced by liberals throughout the world, including Yoshino and his associates Tokutomi Sohō and Ukita Kazutami. Yoshino’s education at Tokyo University grounded him in a Hegelian, nation-state-centred view of human progress in which government was the primary agent for betterment. Under the preaching of Pastor Ebina Danjō, Yoshino came to understand this as a secularized Christian cultural order. It was at Hongō Church where he listened to Shimada Saburō’s liberal rationale for colonization, wherein Korea could be lifted from its backward torpor and transformed by a rigorous and progressive Japan. Throughout his scholarly career ran a consistent commitment to the Meiji ethos of constitutional monarchy to which Yoshino applied the term minponshugi, or government in the interest of the people. He was a liberal in the sense that he wished to cleanse the Meiji spirit of the absolutist influences of bureaucracy and transcendental cabinets. After the First World War, Yoshino was drawn to the labour activism of Suzuki Bunji—also a Hongō congregant—as a means to spread economic benefits among the working classes and to the democratic socialist movement which called on the government to be the mover for economic reform and efficiency.

Drawing from the reports Yoshino sent back to Hongō Church, Han vividly depicts the field experience of Yoshino in China. The recent university graduate spent three years after the Russo-Japanese War in Tianjin as the private tutor of the son of Yuan Shikai. What he saw in China convinced him of the educational role Japan could play to bring China into modernity. When the Qing Dynasty abdicated in 1912, Yoshino was disappointed that China embraced the republicanism of America rather than the constitutional monarchy of Japan. In 1914 Yoshino supported Japan’s Twenty-one Demands, even the notorious Fifth Group of requests. Throughout his career Yoshino accepted the common wisdom that China was incapable of the polity and borders of a modern state. Nonetheless, he welcomed rising nationalism in both China and Korea as signs that, with patient guidance by Japan, these societies could be cleansed of repressive social institutions and throw off the shackles imposed by Western, and even Japanese, commercial exploitation.

Yoshino’s sensitivity to the interest of colonials increased noticeably after World War I. In his writings he enjoined a debate on the application of the Meiji Constitution in Korea and Taiwan, and was critical of condescending attitudes toward colonials among his compatriots. The Reimeikai – a liberal student organization he inspired – promoted yūwa (amalgamation) as a colonial policy alternative to dōka (assimilation). Yoshino believed that, in the postwar settlement and the founding of the League of Nations, the might-is-right ethic had been uprooted, and Japan should follow suit by eschewing naked militarism and selfish interest. By applying the new tenets of international morality, Japan could mount liberal internationalism to an elevated stature among nations. At the same time, he warned that the new world order was conservative in that the powers retained their dominant role.

In the final two chapters of the book, Han moves away from Yoshino to address how Yoshino’s brand of liberalism played out in the hands of others during and after the Manchurian Incident. Here the focus is upon the Japan Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations, which wrestled in the IPR’s biennial conferences with Japan’s military action in Manchuria, the form of Japanese leadership in post-Mukden Manchuria, and an East Asian order to succeed the demise of League of Nations influence in the region. In her many references to the IPR, it is surprising that Han says nothing about Nitobe Inazō, chairman of the Japanese Council from 1928 until his death in 1933 and head of the delegations to the IPR conferences Han treats. Han does rightly focus on an intellectual, Rōyama Masamichi, who was Yoshino’s student and successor at Tōdai and a leading theorist and spokesman for Japan at IPR meetings. As a member of Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro’s brain trust, Rōyama after the opening of the China War laid the intellectual foundations for kyōdōtai, or “East Asian cooperative community,” which rationalized aggression. Here we see in full bloom what Eri Hotta terms meishuron Pan-Asianism, or East Asian integration under deliberate Japanese instigation.

Han’s work on Yoshino Sakuzō’s thought adds immeasurably to our understanding of early twentieth-century Japanese liberals and how their benevolent impulses were folded into the self-serving imperial project.

Thomas W. Burkman, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Buffalo, USA

Back to top

CHANGING LIVES: The “Postwar” in Japanese Women’s Autobiographies and Memoirs. Asia Past & Present: New Research from AAS, no. 10. By Ronald P. Loftus. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Asian Studies, 2013. 206 pp. (Figures.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-924304-69-9.

In Changing Lives: The “Postwar” in Japanese Women’s Autobiographies and Memoirs, Ronald Loftus applies feminist critic’s Kana Masanao’s argument that men and women experienced Japan’s emergence into the postwar era differently. Indeed, the personal essays and memoirs that Loftus elegantly interweaves reveal Kano’s contention that for women, the heavy weight that had been lifted after the war was indeed the “albatross” of “the very concept of the Japanese ‘male’ (otoko)” (2). But it is much more. As memoirist Yoshitake Teruko explains, the era represents “a revolution in consciousness” for women through their active participation in the antiwar movement of the 1950s and 1960s and women’s lib movement of the 1970s. Casting in relief Yoshitake’s notion that “defeat in war had been, for women, the most wonderful treasure imaginable” (2), Loftus traces moments of historical and personal reflexivity that allowed women to redefine themselves in resistance to a culture that continued to make inhabiting their newfound rights as equal citizens under the law an ongoing challenge.

Introducing some of the “Endings and Beginnings” that these women faced immediately after hearing the “imperial broadcast” (gyokuon hōsō), the garbled words of the emperor who explained that Japan must accept defeat, Loftus opens his analytic translation by juxtaposing this important historical moment with an array of personal moments that function as sites of self-discovery within the lives of women: for example, Okabe Itsuko’s retrospective embrace of the meaning of her fiancé’s final words to her, “this war is a mistake” (11); and Yoshitake’s ability, years after being gang-raped by American GIs during the Occupation, to confront her feelings of hatred and fear through the women’s movement.

Loftus convinces us of the value of these women’s writings as not only personal, but historical writings as well, providing us with telling details of women’s experiences and perspectives that histories so often lack. Knowing that Japanese women were granted the right to vote in April of 1946, for instance, is not the same thing as knowing that girls like Yoshitake “dragged” their mothers to the polls because they knew that “if you do not exercise this important right, then the status of women is likely to revert to what it was in the prewar period” (45). Loftus reminds us that the early postwar women’s movement represented a commitment to peace that spanned the Korean and Vietnam Wars, a torch passed “from woman to woman” through consciousness-raising (62), especially as women struggled to recast their roles as wives and mothers against their new roles as (often token) career women. Yoshitake’s narratives provide the transition between the antiwar and women’s movements so often missing from the histories of postwar Japan, the notion that women’s participation in these important protests paved the way for the Women’s Lib Movement in 1970, in which women unfurled their flag of resentment (怨) in the streets of Tokyo.

The idea of the transformative moment is extended to the writing process in Loftus’ focus on journalist Kishino Junko, who came to see her battle with breast cancer as “the inevitable rebellion of my own body against … me placing work above all else” (115) in a journalistic career that eventually caused Kishino to feel “haunted by recurring feelings of regret that I had virtually erased a part of me that is woman … and had made myself just like me, for whom competition and one’s success in the workplace are everything” (137). And yet it is the transformation of experience into language that becomes the sense of “consciousness” that Kishino craved as a feminist in the 1970s. As Loftus observes, Kishino “occupies that moment of reflexivity” through her writing and, “in effect, not only encounters her own agency but transforms it as well” (117).

Following up on a previous collection of women’s memoirs from the interwar years, Telling Lives, Loftus wisely foregrounds the voices of the women whose lives he chronicles in this new volume, rather than let his analysis get in the way of the women’s writing. My one minor criticism is that I think that Loftus could have retained this primacy of the women’s voices even while weaving his analyses a bit more subtly into the fabric of his chapter, rather than saving the bulk of the analysis for the end of the chapter under the subheading “analysis,” which too radically marginalizes his strong interpretive abilities.

What intrigues me as a scholar of the postwar and contemporary women’s literature is the way in which the authors’ postwar experience is examined through the lens of the contemporary, with Yoshitake and Okabe’s memoirs both being written as recently as 2006, for instance. Looking at history through both ends of the telescope, we find ourselves in the present day in the final chapter, “Framing Gender Questions,” in which Kanamori Toshie, whose professional career allowed her an active life and way of supporting herself after her husband’s death, discusses very current women’s questions revolving around male participation in the domestic sphere. Claiming that women must let go of the “curse” that they must be the sole caregiver of elders, for instance, Kanamori asserts that increased social services should play a role, but so too should men themselves. Males who participate in caring for elders not only allow women to play more significant roles outside the household, but in doing so, men can also glean “the very human experience of understanding how fragile and precious life can be, which comes with the act of caring for another” (164). This “horizontal” personal experience, as opposed to the vertical “chain of command” experience that many men are accustomed to in their working lives, allows men to expand their own frame of reference as human beings. While it would appear in some ways that women are still struggling to free themselves from the heavy weight of the otoko, Changing Lives offers compelling evidence for just how the transformation of women’s lives has been taking place in Japan for nearly three quarters of a century, moment by moment, story by story.

Lee Friederich, University of Wisconsin-Barron County, Rice Lake, USA

Back to top

EDUCATION REFORM AND SOCIAL CLASS IN JAPAN: The Emerging Incentive Divide. Routledge/University of Tokyo Series, 3. By Takehiko Kariya; translation edited by Michael Burtscher. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. x, 221 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$135.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-55687-3.

This book by sociologist Takehiko Kariya on education and social inequality is a translation from its 2001 Japanese original. It is the third publication within Routledge’s new University of Tokyo Series, which features translations of Japanese works of University of Tokyo past or present faculty, and it is a particularly readable translation. It is laudable that this book features a new afterword and has added some important information to bridge the gap of 12 years between the original publication and its English translation, but it could have benefitted from updated data, as most of it is by now 15 years old.

Today not a day goes by that Japan’s unequal society (kakusa shakai) is not discussed in the press. More than 2400 Japanese books have been published on the topic, with almost 500 specifically on the topic of education and class or social stratification. Yet Kariya’s original Japanese book was published three years before the term kakusa shakai was coined (in 2004 by fellow sociologist Yamada Masahiro), making him one of the early scholars to argue for the importance of class formation and class reproduction in postwar Japanese society.

Kariya’s book, clearly written for a Japanese audience, argues repeatedly how the educational system, educational reforms and policies, as well as discursive “myths” about Japan’s education and society have contributed to social inequalities and their further increase. He blames the government for deciding quickly on new educational reforms that were poorly if at all researched and for having created a “lost decade” within the educational system.

The book was quite influential when it hit the market in 2001. Reviews at the time in Japan were mostly very positive, yet some questioned the limited scope of some of the data used. Some datasets were not nationwide and only sampled high school students, thus raising questions about generalizability.

The book is a critical account of the historical development of Japan’s postwar education system and educational policy. It is divided into eight chapters and provides in all but one chapter quantitative analyses of data on education and social class. It is a sociological study, employing methods such as cross tabulations, multiple regression, factor analysis as well as path analysis. Data comes, among other sources, from the Social Stratification and Social Mobility (SSM) surveys. The data analysis is thorough and convincing.

In the introduction and chapter 1, the author gives a historical macro-level overview of the changes in Japan’s postwar education and the employment structure. He points to the country’s unique synchronicity in the 1950s and 1960s of fundamental changes in the occupational structure, namely the severe decline in the agricultural sector and the rise in manual labour, coupled with the expansion of secondary education. Chapter 2, entitled “The age of meritocracy,” describes the growing importance over time of educational credentials and the type of high school attended, once high school entrance examinations had turned into a “mass phenomenon.”

A discourse analysis is at the heart of chapter 3 and in my view is the most fascinating part in this study. Kariya looks at longitudinal shifts in teachers’ discourse using the records of the National Education Research Conference of the Japan Teachers’ Union from the 1950s onwards. He analyzes the social construction of “educational problems” in this rich, qualitative data. He describes the discussion of students’ differential treatment based on individual ability in terms of “meritocratic discrimination.” Whereas correlating scholastic achievement and social class background was rejected as causing a “sense of discrimination” in students, only in regards to Buraku education was it acceptable to problematize social inequalities. Kariya calls this the “double standard of inequality,” showing through his data analysis that the influence of social class on scholastic ability is far more pronounced than the influence of a Buraku background.

Chapter 4 once again looks at historical changes, here in regards to Japan’s prewar educational aristocracy, finding status consciousness to have disappeared by the 1970s, despite the fact that students from prestigious universities come from well-off backgrounds and that there is a clear reproduction of social class. In chapter 5 Kariya analyzes data on study effort outside of school, what he calls “learning time,” and chapter 6 looks at data on study motivation, convincingly showing how class disparities in study effort and motivation have expanded during the 1980s and 1990s, with learning time and motivation having declined most significantly among the lower class. On the eve of the implementation of the yutori kyōiku (relaxed education) educational reform of 2002 to reduce learning time even further, Kariya criticized the reforms and predicted a further widening of disparities in scholastic ability.

The analysis of high-school student survey data from 1979 and 1997 is at the centre of chapters 7 and 8, in which the author develops his argument of the “incentive divide.” Kariya finds that in 1979 the greater the level of self-esteem, the higher the level of schooling sought and the longer the study time. In 1997, these correlations had disappeared, with students from low-class backgrounds having developed high self-esteem with decreased study effort on the one hand, and highly motivated students from high social background showing long study hours on the other hand. At this point Kariya’s analysis partially drifts into speculation about class differences in study motivation of students and thus the study would have benefitted from additional qualitative data.

Altogether, this book can be understood as a strong statement against the 2002 education reforms, drawing a bleak picture of the development of the education system in Japan. The book wraps up with a newly added afterword, in which the author describes the impact his study had, with the Ministry of Education revising its curricula for the better in 2010.

As the book was originally a collection of previously published essays and articles, it is slightly repetitive in driving home its argument. Surprisingly, supplementary cram school education is only mentioned very briefly and did not enter any analysis. As the author mentions, the growing trend towards private schools and the growing role of cram schools as shadow education have contributed to the widening of the educational gap. These issues deserved some more attention. Finally, some of the data only sampled male students; we do not learn about the effect gender had on the findings, which could have added some more diversity to this class-based view.

If one keeps in mind that the book was published in Japan a decade ago and included articles published even earlier, this English translation can nonetheless be highly recommended for a general audience as well as scholars on comparative education and Japan scholars. It provides access to a centrally important, classic study on education and social class in Japan.

Barbara G. Holthus, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Back to top

THE AESTHETICS OF SHADOW: Lighting and Japanese Cinema. By Daisuke Miyao. Durham, NC; London: Duke University Press, 2013. xi, 381 pp. (Figures.) US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5422-2.

Jean-Louis Comolli, building on the work of Jean-Louis Baudry, has argued that cinema functions as a mechanism for the imposition of Western or Eurocentric ideology precisely through the mechanical, chemical and aesthetic components necessary for its production (see for example essays by both in Philip Rosen’s Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology (Columbia University Press, 1986.)) The very equipment of cinema, from lenses to projection apparatus, by necessity, the argument propounds, accepts the underlying ideologies of aesthetics which grow forth from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment to the present, in terms of what constitutes the look and the sound of reality—perspective, camera placement, the specific contrast ratios of film stocks, depth of field, even developments in stereophonic recording and playback—these exist not as universal givens in art but have come to project a dominant way of seeing through the medium of cinema. The cinemas of diverse countries, while presenting narratives in perhaps distinguishable ways, or articulating specific responses to specific social, historical or “national” situations, nonetheless and unbeknownst even to the works of art themselves, accept and adopt a form of hegemonic control: the domination of European-derived visuality.

It is against this backdrop of a technological/ideological analysis of film history that we must situate Miyao’s volume, for in it Miyao explicitly argues “that lighting technology in cinema has been structured by the conflicts of modernity in Japan, including the struggles over how to define cinema, subjectivity, and nationhood” (5). As Miyao himself suggests, his book is a valuable approach to film history, looking not at thematic issues—a valid and vital approach in itself—but at the technical history of cinema’s development as represented by one central studio, Shochiku, here in particular focussing on light, and even further: on the complex, powerful relationship between light and shadow.

Miyao writes well, placing his technical film history within a solid theoretical discourse on the nature of Japan’s tense negotiation between “kindaishugi (the ideology of modernisation, industrialisation, rationalisation, and scientific progress, modeled upon the West) and modanizumu (discourses of newness in everyday life and materials of consumer culture)” (7): that is, the process by which Japan throughout the early part of the twentieth century attempted to determine for itself the nature of its “modern” existence. Along the way, Japanese arts too underwent a self-reflective transformation, balancing their traditions against their current social contexts. Cinema, although a “new” art form—in Japan as well as Hollywood—participated in this transformation, and interestingly, did so in a way which quoted heavily from a “traditionalist” approach to beauty. The substance of Miyao’s film history is to describe the “process of how the aesthetics of shadow has been invented, developed, naturalised, and publicised in the discourse of modernity in Japan” (8), but in so doing, his work also describes the process by which a new, indeed even foreign, art form became “Japanese” through flirtations with Nihonjinron, the “theories of Japaneseness” which were emerging themselves throughout the same period of cinema’s explorations of light and darkness.

The volume is comprised of four chapters with an introduction and a conclusion, each chapter situating Shochiku Studios within a specific context: Hollywood; jidaigeki (period films); Germany; and Shochiku’s main rival, Toho Studios. Miyao highlights the contributions of specific cinematographers, utilizing frames not only from their work but also photographs of them at work, to illustrate his argument. Along the way, we have rich discourse on the Japanese film industry as a capitalist enterprise; the star system; textual analyses of films and their aesthetic and ideological implications; and a discussion of “how and why the aesthetics of shadow, arguably the most significant manifestation on lighting in Japanese cinema, emerged in the late 1930s to 1940s” (12)—the most intense period of Japanese fascistic nationalism. As we can see, Miyao focusses most effectively on an extremely important, formative period in Japan’s still-evolving film history, a period which has received considerable critical attention from both Japanese and non-Japanese scholars, but which still requires much further investigation. Abé Mark Nornes’ Japanese Documentary Film: The Meiji Era through Hiroshima (University of Minnesota Press, 2003) and Iwamoto Kenji’s Nihon eiga to nashonarizumu (Japanese Film and Nationalism, Shinwasha, 2004), for example, cover the same period, from very different vantage points, but both provide a good context into which we may favourably situate Miyao’s contribution. This is a solid work, creating an insightful and persuasive argument for the relationship between a particular aesthetic and a particular ideological environment. That Miyao has directed his energies and our attention to the role of the cinematographer in the creation of film meaning is an overdue aspect of Japanese cinema studies. So, too, is his focus on the ways in which aesthetics can both cooperate with and challenge ideological assumptions. Even while working within the confines of an imported, mechanical process, and so partaking of the ideologies which underpin it, filmmakers have the power within their art to articulate specific responses, specific resistances, to those ideologies and others which inform their contexts. Miyao’s volume is an excellent analysis of how they may do so, along the boundary between light and shadow.

Timothy Iles, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada

NORTH KOREA: Beyond Charismatic Politics. Asia/Pacific/Perspectives. By Heonik Kwon and Byung-Ho Chung. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2012. xii, 219 pp. (B&W illus.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-7425-5679-9.

More than fifty years after its foundation, North Korea continues to command the attention of scholars and elude current paradigms and theories of social development. Heonik Kwon and Byung-Ho Chung’s North Korea: Beyond Charismatic Politics endeavours to call some of these paradigms into question through an engaging analysis of the country’s changing socio-political system. Drawing on Max Weber’s notion of charismatic authority, the two anthropologists set out to resolve why the North Korean case of charismatic revolutionary rule seems to defy the Weberian model, which assigns it a role of historical ephemerality.

The study is largely concerned with the issue of what Weber calls routinization of political charisma and hereditary transfer of personal charismatic authority from one political leader to another. In trying to understand how this process played out in the North Korean scenario, the authors employ Clifford Geertz’s concept of the theatre state, originally applied to the analysis of a traditional polity, in their effort to extend it to modern revolutionary states such as North Korea. In fact, Kwon and Chung are following in the steps of Wada Haruki, who was the first to apply Geertz’s notion of the theatre state to North Korea. Our authors, however, emphasize that the idea must be situated “more squarely in the context of what Weber calls conflicts between personal and hereditary charisma” in order to grasp its full implications for the field of North Korean studies (45). Pursuant to this objective, Kwon and Chung undertake a series of forays into a kaleidoscopic array of material related to the concept of the theatre state, spanning visual art, architecture, drama, music and cinema to convey the scope of this concept at work. Much of this information, however, comprising the book’s second chapter, is hardly new, derived mostly from well-known secondary scholarship on the subject, although Kwon and Chung do an admirable job presenting it with a fresh new spin.

The work’s more interesting and original insights, however, come from the authors’ elaboration on the culture of gift exchange and its constitutive nature in North Korea’s political economy in chapter 5. Kwon and Chung suggest that the gifts presented to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il by foreign heads of state and individuals, which are housed in two museums in the vicinity of the scenic Myohyang mountains, play a crucial role in the state’s “theatrical politics” (128). They argue that the very organizing principle of North Korea’s modern political sovereignty is based on an idea of the gift in relation to the international community. Thus, the tokens of international protocol courtesy become routinely reinvented as objects of foreign admiration and diplomatic tribute, adding to the domestic prestige and political charisma of the country’s leaders. Above all, the gifts signify North Korea’s aspiring role as the leader of the postcolonial world, providing material evidence of the country’s respected place in the family of nations.

Perhaps, the book’s greatest strength is a consistently careful and thoughtful analysis of a number of key indigenous concepts, essential for our understanding of contemporary processes in North Korea, such as sŏn’gun (“military-first”) and ch’ongdae (“barrel of a gun”). Kwon and Chung identify the sŏn’gun politics, inaugurated by Kim Jong Il in the wake of his father’s death in 1994, as another key element in the drama of charismatic succession. Chapter 3 carefully documents this retroactive “production of historicity” (88) by showing us how the renewed efforts since the mid-1990s to reanimate the myth of the partisan state (which, perhaps, could be more accurately rendered as a guerrilla state) have both enabled and validated the institutional transfer of charismatic authority between the three generations of the Kim dynasty, ensuring its unprecedented longevity. According to Kwon and Chung, the hereditary transfer of charismatic authority was made possible through being vested in a material relic—a gun—which had been handed down from father to son over several generations. In this manner, the legendary revolutionary gun becomes both a transcendental symbol and an actual vehicle for charisma, so that its legitimate owner can wield his charm while in possession of it.

In the book’s closing chapter on North Korea’s moral economy, the scholars discuss the inherent contradictions between the theatre state and the partisan state models operative in the North Korean political system, which were eventually made manifest by the dire economic crises of the mid-1990s, euphemistically referred to as the “Arduous March” in official parlance. The symptomatic failure of the government distribution system during the crisis to provide for the population’s economic needs, which led to a widespread famine, they argue, betrayed the nation’s foundational telos based on the paternalistic idea of a family state, effectively compromising the state’s political legitimacy. As the work’s title suggests, the authors harbour skepticism as regards the future of North Korea’s charismatic politics, which they so masterfully dissect in this study, calling upon Pyongyang to move beyond its narrow confines.

While North Korea: Beyond Charismatic Politics sets out by taking up an apparent challenge to the Weberian model, in the end, it concludes that an exception only proves the rule, arguing that even North Korea cannot much longer resist “the natural mortality of charismatic power” and escape its inevitable end (192). The authors seem to assume that charismatic authority has been the sole motor of North Korean political life and the real glue that has kept the nation together for the past half-century without giving much consideration to the thought that it may have actually existed alongside and been buttressed all this time by other forms of political authority, such as traditional and legal-bureaucratic. Unfortunately, the majority of primary sources on which the authors rely are mostly limited to the last decade, which makes it difficult to see through the self-devised smokescreen of charismatic politics installed by the North Korean state. If, however, postsocialist studies are any indication, there must be, at least, some legal-bureaucratic mechanism in place behind the dazzling façade of charismatic politics to be accounted for, on which the authors remain silent.

Dima Mironenko, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA

Back to top

SUPERHUMAN JAPAN: Knowledge, Nation, and Culture in US-Japan Relations. Routledge Contemporary Japan Series, 40. By Marie Thorsten. London; New York: Routledge, 2012. x, 172 pp. (Figures.) US$150.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-41426-5.

This is a new book that covers old ground for the Routledge Contemporary Japan Series, albeit with a slightly different focus. The “superhuman” reference in this case derives from John Dower’s description of Western imagery from the World War II era as presenting the Japanese as both superhuman and subhuman (John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War, Pantheon Books, 1986). Thorsten revisits the 1980s and early 1990s when Japan was at the height of its postwar economic power and, as a consequence, had become the subject of much torrid debate about the alleged threat that Japan posed to the United States. While the perceived continuity of the “threat” of Japan to the earlier “threat” of the Soviet Union (or to the present “threat” of China) is well known in this field, Thorsten’s focus on the unexpected Soviet launching of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, and how its technological achievement on the one hand and threat on the other were presented as a catalyst for an educational renaissance in the United States, is unusual. Thorsten argues that in the 1980s and 1990s, many American policy makers, commentators, scholars and authors of cultural works tried to put forward Japan’s apparent economic superiority as another “Sputnik”-like moment in American history in order to similarly motivate change and development, particularly in the fields of education, science and technology, so as to solve the equally apparent problem of American decline. For example, author Michael Crichton, in his 1992 novel Rising Sun, offered, in Thorsten’s view, an “unambiguous polemic on why Americans need to ‘wake up’ to the reality of Japan,” with the solution to Japan’s economic threat being to “to learn about, then kick ‘em [the Japanese] out” (30-31). As Thorsten concludes, much American discourse on Japan in this period “called attention to Americans’ need to study and work harder by comparing their inferior performance with the benchmark of Superhuman Japan” (35). She is careful to acknowledge, however, that, at the same time Japan was being presented as “superhuman,” many others in the United States were perceiving and engaging positively with Japan, including those who flocked to learn Japanese, ate sushi, read manga, watched anime and those who drove Toyotas instead of “bashed” them. Thorsten is a strong critic of the myriad presentations of Japan as “superhuman” in the period in question, as she submits that such “reductive pedagogies of fear … constrict imagination and limit our understanding of the world we share” (20). While they also, at least in the Japanese case for the United States, generally failed to produce the outcomes sought, they also allowed “almost dormant obsessions about ‘superior’ others” to be “reincarnated into today’s insecurities,” (2) of which we are all too familiar. In what must have been delightful timing as she undertook the research for this book, she draws attention in the introduction to President Barack Obama’s description of “our generation’s Sputnik moment” in his State of the Union address in January 2011, his connection of “educational performance with international power and prestige” and his comparison of the United States against other, especially Asian, nations (1-2).

The book contains five chapters entitled “America’s Superhuman Japan: from Rising Sun to globalization rising”; “You are Number Two: the awe doctrine from Sputnik to the Japanese economic miracle”; “Supermoms: Kyōiku Mamas’; ‘Super-inhuman: youth and international relations in Battle Royale”; and “Super cool from Sputnik to Japan.” While the chapters on kyōiku mamas [education mothers] and Battle Royale (the 1999 novel by Takami Koushun and two films by Fukasaku Kinji and Fukasaku Kenta in 2000 and 2003) work as separate thematic studies (the first of which arises out of her MA thesis), the other three chapters are, more or less, parts of the same ongoing narrative and argument, so it is unclear why Thorsten has chosen to structure the book and title the chapters as she has. The subtitles, which are not listed in the contents page, are sometimes just as unclear; for instance, there is both a “Superhumanizing” and a “Superhuman” in the introduction, which offer little enlightenment as to their contents.

Perhaps the only failing of the book, however, is that it lacks a conclusion that brings together the strands of argument that permeate a very dense, strongly researched work that, notwithstanding its overt focus on the 1980s and early 1990s, ranges back in time to World War II and well past September 11, 2001 and also deals with similar Japanese discourse about superior “others,” which could have merited more analysis. Instead, one must revert to the introduction, which is admittedly comprehensive. While there is only a selected bibliography, the reference notes, too, are comprehensive. This is a book which offers a good overview of the period in question, without devolving into the nitty gritty of the trade disputes between the United States and Japan, and one that will interest a wide array of readers.

Narrelle Morris, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

Back to top

ORIGINS OF NORTH KOREA’S JUCHE: Colonialism, War, and Development. Edited by Jae-Jung Suh. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013. viii, 184 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-07391-7658-0.

Jae-Jung Suh’s edited volume Origins of North Korea’s Juche: Colonialism, War, and Development, is a much welcome addition to the field of Korean studies. The essays in the volume, most of which appeared in a 2006 edition of the Journal of Korean Studies edited by Suh, analyze the origins and evolution of the “Juche Institution,” a system that, according to Suh, “has resulted from interactions between North Koreans and outsiders, that has evolved in response to shifting conditions and as a result of anticipated and unanticipated outcomes of choices, that structures not just the North’s political, economic organizations but also constitutes social order, and facilitates certain choices and impedes others as North Koreans continuously respond to indigenous developments and exogenous shocks” (7). The volume thus correctly attaches much more significance to Juche than recent treatments of the idea, and makes important corrections to the narrative of Juche’s origins and application. The essays trace the development of Juche from the colonial period through the 1970s, suggesting that the Juche Institution emerged not purely as a tool of suppression in a brutal leadership competition—as the standard narrative in the English-language historiography has long suggested—but also as a device to limit the impact of North Korea’s putative allies (China and the Soviet Union) on the trajectory of political and economic developments. This developed out of the experiences of North Korea’s leaders with China and the Soviet Union, both proving to be unreliable, and worse, at times exploitive and overly intrusive. Two additional essays in the volume are less explicitly tied to the theme of the Juche Institution and examine the history and collapse of North Korea’s agricultural sector and leadership dynamics in what many incorrectly consider a one-man dictatorship.

This volume makes a very valuable contribution to the existing literature on North Korean history by introducing the work of Korean scholars who have made significant contributions to the Korean-language historiography on the postwar development of the North Korean political and ideological systems. For this fact alone, the volume should be on the reading lists of students of North Korea. For decades, the research of Korean scholars working on North Korea had been hindered by South Korea’s infamous National Security Law, which restricted the access of scholars to North Korean materials. Restraints were lifted, to a degree, in the early 2000s at a time of improved relations between the two Koreas under the progressive governments of Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun. Given the opportunity to work more freely with the available North Korean materials, Korean scholars, primarily political scientists, made significant contributions to the field of North Korean studies. The work of some of these scholars, including Gwang-Oon Kim and Young Chul Chung, are nicely summarized in the essays presented in this volume.

The first three essays (tied together in the editor’s introductory essay) in the volume deal directly with Juche’s origins and evolution. Hongkoo Han’s essay nicely summarizes the findings of his pathbreaking University of Washington Ph.D. dissertation on the so-called Minsaengdan incident that led to the massacre of hundreds (and possibly thousands) of Korean communists at the hands of their Chinese comrades in the early 1930s because of suspected ties to a pro-Japanese organization. Han’s dissertation was already well-known by most students of North Korean history. Han argues that the seeds of mistrust between Korean and Chinese communists were sewn as a result of this incident, over two decades before the founding of the DPRK, during which the future leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, himself narrowly escaped persecution.

Gwang-Oon Kim’s essay, which summarizes the argument in his monumental work Bukhan Jeongchisa yeongu 1 (The Political History of North Korea 1), identifies crude and transparent attempts by Soviet officials to assert their hegemony over and exploit Korea in the years immediately following the country’s liberation. Kim argues that the Soviet influence on the North Korean system should not be overstated. The North Korean state that emerged was not a Soviet puppet regime, but successfully indigenized a variety of influences; Soviet, Chinese, and homegrown.

The argument presented in Young Chul Chung’s essay is largely absent from the English-language historiography, despite representing a developed historiographical line on North Korea’s post-Korean War development in Korean. The essay goes beyond the “power-centred” narrative of the introduction of Juche in 1955 as an instrument of suppression that has long dominated the English-language historiography to reveal significant differences among leading North Korean government and party officials over postwar economic development. Chung’s essay in this volume is representative of the work of a number of Korean scholars working on this critical period in North Korea’s history, including Taeseop Lee, Younchul Kim, and the late Dongman Suh.

The last two essays in the volume are less explicitly connected to the origins and evolution of the Juche Institution. Chong-Ae Yu’s article provides an historical overview of North Korean agricultural development, from the redistribution of land and subsequent collectivization (or as the North Koreans called it, cooperativization or hyeopdonghwa) through its spectacular collapse in the 1990s. Yu describes some of the many triumphs of North Korea’s agriculture prior to its collapse, noting that it was once considered a “poster child for socialist modernization.” One important component of this was the successful mechanization of agriculture, which was carried out both for practical (labour shortages in a country that put so much emphasis on industry) and symbolic (mechanization symbolized modernity) reasons. Unmentioned in the early history, however, was the country-wide famine of 1954-1955 that was a result of the chaotic (and often violent) process of cooperativization. Yu’s comprehensive explanation of the tremendous failure of the agricultural system in North Korea in the 1990s, however, convincingly argues that the eventual collapse of agriculture was in part a result of its earlier successes with mechanization and the interconnectedness of agriculture with energy production and industry.

Finally, Patrick McEachern’s essay challenges the notion that under the leadership of the late Kim Jong Il, North Korea was a one-man dictatorship. He suggests instead that there were divergent and even competing interest groups in the military, Korean Worker’s Party, and cabinet. McEachern’s essay summarizes the argument of his 2011 book Inside the Red Box.

While not enough to diminish from the value of the volume, there are a number of minor errors and inconsistencies between the essays that could have been addressed before going to press. Suh’s essay inaccurately places the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo in 1969 instead of 1968. Inconsistencies in the volume include the use of different styles of citation in essays and references to Kim Jong Il in the present tense. The latter is less forgivable considering the fact that the volume was published approximately eighteen months after Kim’s death.

While Suh’s very theoretical introduction might discourage those other than political scientists from reading further, the volume as a whole presents much that should be basic knowledge for anyone with even a passing interest in North Korea. The editor should be commended in particular for assembling works by scholars who primarily write in Korean. The volume will be of interest to both political scientists and historians.

James Person, Woodrow Wilson International Center For Scholars, Washington DC, USA

Back to top

DEATH AND DYING IN CONTEMPORARY JAPAN. Japan Anthology Workshop Series. Edited by Hikaru Suzuki. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xviii, 240 pp. (Figures, tables, B&W photos.) US$155.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-63190-7.

Death has a bad rep. No one likes it, yet it comes to us all. Books on death are, therefore, generally gloomy and depressing, making us further abhor dying. Although Death and Dying in Contemporary Japan is not a particularly cheerful book, it is not only about death but also about the authentic cultural traditions and cosmology of Japan that are intricately related to this subject. Based mostly on ethnographic case studies, the research presented in each chapter stimulates enough of our intellectual curiosity that the grim subject seems to lose its sting. In the end, one feels not depressed but enlightened.

In past centuries, Japan experienced dramatic shifts in demography (e.g., lower birth rate, higher life expectancy, decrease and delay of marriage), economy (e.g., unprecedented prosperity after WWII and the economic bubble/ bust), politics (e.g., feudal system to imperialism to the current democracy/capitalism), and social/environmental (e.g., near environmental-collapse and dissolving of traditional family/community cohesiveness). As a result, according to editor Hikaru Suzuki, death-related ideologies and practices also went through a series of transformations, and this book attempts to answer why and how these changes occurred.

The book consists of three sections: meaning of life and dying in contemporary Japan, professionalization of funerals, and new burial practices in Japan. The first section focuses on the concept of ikigai (“that which makes one’s life worth living”). Mathews claims that ikigai is achieved through either individual self-realization or contribution to a collective whole. This is a refreshing perspective on Erik Erikson’s classic theory: we become who we are through a contribution to a collective whole by leaving a legacy (generativity vs. stagnation in middle adulthood) or individual self-realization by accepting one’s life as is (ego-integrity vs. despair in late adulthood). Interestingly, after her husband’s death Joan E. Erikson decided to add another dimension: gerotranscendence, characterized as moving away from the rational and interpersonal to a more cosmic and spiritual focus during the final stage of life. How might ikigai be manifested in relation to gerotranscendence? Long suggests that a person may find ikigai (or maybe we should say shinigai) by choosing a meaningful place to die. A place of death is not, after all, “merely empty space,” but filled with symbolic meanings of and for the dying person that transcend the rational and interpersonal.

Kurotani’s chapter adds another layer to the discussion of ikigai by introducing a broadly defined Durkheimean interpretation of sarariiman (middle-class white-collar men) suicide in 1990s. She argues that its prevalence was intertwined with a loss of self-identity in contemporary Japan where the once tight-knit community/company and collective moral framework had been replaced by fragmented formal networks and urban, individualized values. Without the traditional social network and strong spiritual beliefs, many boomers chose the ultimate path of taking control of their own death via suicide.

The second part of the book explores the transformation of funeral ceremonies and surrounding professions. Tanaka’s ethnographic study of a funeral home in Tokyo illustrates professionals’ day-to-day activities ranging from savvy marketing to handling a decomposing body. The success of this industry eventually replaced conventional community-centred funerals with “McFunerals,” a mass-produced, efficient, industry-centred funeral system. However, a new trend is emerging which focuses less on efficiency and more on the dying individuals. The new types of funeral ceremonies and burial styles are regarded as an expression of the self (“jibun rashiku”) without strict constraints of religious, ideological or societal obligations. H. Suzuki illustrates “funeral-while-alive” in which a deceased-to-be creates a mock death and celebrates his/her life with people who will remember him/her, thus creating a sense of immortality. Although these ceremonies are not widespread, Inoue (chapter 6) claims many people prefer these non-traditional ceremonies and burials which give the deceased-to-be more control and a sense of belonging.

The last part of the book expands on the previous section, elaborating on changes in mortuary and burial practice. I. Suzuki explores a new form of relationship between the deceased and the bereaved through an in-depth investigation of changing attitudes toward the Buddhist altar and display of the photographs of the deceased at home. Kawano describes a group from the “War Generation” (senchūha) who chose to have their ashes scattered in lieu of a conventional Buddhist burial. These individuals feel that their lives have already been blessed and that having a proper Buddhist burial for themselves would be inappropriate and unfair to their cohort who perished in the war. Boret also reports on the phenomenon of Tree-Burial, which has been gaining popularity since the 1990s. In addition to the sense of survivor guilt, he maintains that the Japanese affinity to nature, partially rooted in traditional Shintoism, plays a significant role in the desire to place cremated remains in a secluded mountain spot and plant a tree above it.

Finally, Hood’s historical investigation of the 1985 crash of JAL 123 into a remote mountain cliff describes a unique memorialization process. A huge facility with stairs and a parking lot had been built for the bereaved (izoku), not at the crash site, but at a more “convenient” nearby location. Hood claims this shows that Japanese ways of memorialization are not so much about religion, but cultural practices which are often amenable to pragmatic needs.

Some may argue that the publication of a book focusing on death and dying in Japan is not appropriate now, because it has been only two years since the 3/11 Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster, an unprecedented tragedy with more than 15,000 deaths and many more still missing. Yet, it is also the 3/11 tragedy that has ignited a discussion on a topic that has been marginalized in both secular and spiritual dialogue. Along with H. Suzuki, I believe that it is extremely poignant and sensitively important to bring up this subject, now. With rapid changes in many aspects of our lives, it is enlightening to see that the society as a whole is eager at last to undertake a definition of what constitutes a “good death” in contemporary Japan.

Masami Takahashi, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, USA

Back to top

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY IN JAPAN IN AN AGE OF GLOBALISATION AND RISK. By Robert W. Aspinall. Leiden: Global Oriental (imprint of Brill) 2012. xiv, 207 pp. (Tables.) US$120.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-23528-1.

This book has come out of Robert Aspinall’s long-standing research on policy for, and the practices of, English-language education in Japan. His critical views on this theme remain in this book: Japan’s dealing with language education as part of its educational internationalization project is a failure. As stated in the foreword by Roger Goodman, the book tries to offer a “full examination” of the mysteries of Japan, i.e., “how, in a country which is so embedded in the global economy and networks of communication, the level of spoken English is so low” (ix-x). By exploring the theme of education in Japan from a variety of perspectives, Aspinall maintains that “Japan’s international education policy at all levels has failed” (5).

Empirical examination starts with Japan’s coping with foreigners and their languages from the middle of the nineteenth century until the 1960s. In chapter 2, the author suggests that the origin of the malfunction of English education in Japan is traceable in, along with its cultural isolationism, old-fashioned educational methodologies, which he indicates as one of the core problems of English education in Japan in the latter chapters as well. Chapter 3 analyzes internationalization policy at the national level—including English teaching methodology, textbooks, the entrance examination systems, school curricular and the day-to-day use of foreigners in the classroom—as a basis of the failure. Although chapter 4 focuses on problems in the teaching side, many of those problems stem from the Japanese education system as such, which is, as Aspinall rightly argues, a reflection of the national policy. The point of his analysis moves on to classroom behaviour and attitudes towards foreign culture and languages shown by the Japanese youth. Their lack of enthusiasm and motivation for learning English is, as argued in the previous chapter, related to the internationalization policy pursued by the state. The focal point of the book shifts to the private sector in chapter 6, while chapter 7 goes back to criticisms about national policy regarding study abroad programs. Those analyses shown in above-mentioned narrative chapters go along with the notions of “risk,” drawn from the ones of Ulrich Beck, which are explored in the theoretical part, chapter 1. Indeed, this book explains many questions about the failure in English education and, to some extent, internationalization policy in Japan. As shown in his previous writings, Aspinall’s analysis of national policy for English education in Japan is very insightful and justifies his severe criticisms about the policy. His investigation on it is also precise. For instance, questions about English pronunciation asked in the Centre Exam are not only meaningless for actual conversation, but crucially hinder the development of communication skills of young Japanese students, as he argues (79). In addition to analytical parts, the author refers to a number of interviews he conducted with those who have been involved in language teaching in Japan. His arguments are also supported by his own experience as an English teacher in various schools and universities. In fact, examples brought up by Aspinall are convincing evidence of the formidable difficulties for most Japanese in their English communication.One must note, however, that the scope of this book, the whole-scale examination of why Japan has long kept failing in its policy for international and English education, is a challenging one. This question deserves a number of complex explanations. Aspinall provides analysis not just of ministerial policy, but also history, culture, social structure, and sometimes people’s behaviour or attitudes. To make those analyses sustainable, a wide range of academic disciplines and perspectives must be adopted. It is, at the same time, a huge undertaking to complete a thesis out of multi-disciplinary investigations. For a more comprehensive analysis, each of the cases brought up in the book requires investigation at full length. If the author looks at a slow genesis of failure in foreign-language education, for example, the past experience of oppression on a native (national) language, which Japan has had little of, unlike its neighbouring countries, should not be underplayed. Moreover, readers can occasionally find a heavy reliance on a limited sample of literature on topics addressing a broad range of Japanese education and society. Most analysis about the JET program comes from David McConnell’s book. Critical views about Japanese higher education are often cited from the work of Brian McVeigh and Gregory Poole. Issues about Japanese returnees from abroad (kikokushijo) are based on Roger Goodman’s work. In addition, the issues described by Aspinall are largely, though not completely, outdated as Goodman and Aspinall himself admit.

In sum, nonetheless, the book is a product of extensive research and the author’s professional experiences in Japan and the UK. English has now undeniably become the world’s language, including in education by displacing German from science (The Economist, May 29, 2010, 87). In this age of English as “Globish,” this book is not merely an entertaining read for those who are puzzled by Japanese troubles with English proficiency, but a gift of a set of useful reform proposals for English education in Japan which should be taken seriously by policy makers in the country.

Masako Shibata, The University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan

Back to top

THE GREAT ENTERPRISE: Sovereignty and Historiography in Modern Korea. Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics and Society. By Henry H. Em. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2013. xi, 265 pp. US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5372-0.

A quest for sovereignty, or Korea’s validity and equal standing among the nations of the world, is an important feature of modern Korean history, and many political movements unfolded in the process. The “Great Enterprise” that Henry H. Em discusses in his book, however, is not about politics; it is about the writings of modern Korean historians who imagined Korea as a historically valid sovereign nation.

In part 1, Em discusses how Korean elites’ quest for national sovereignty began in tandem with Western and Japanese imperialism in the late nineteenth century. For example, Em analyzes the influence of Western ideas, language and perspectives casting a shadow on Yun Ch’i-ho’s diary entries in English during his years of education in the United States. Likewise, Em finds links between Western Christian missionaries’ search for Korean national language and the Korean vernacular script han’gŭl’s ultimate promotion as a national icon, beginning with its use in the first modern Korean newspaper published by Sŏ Chae-p’il. Japanese influence was evident in the political arena. King Kojong’s acts of declaration of independence and oath before his ancestors were in fact prompted by the Japanese statesman Inoue Kaoru, who sought to ensure Korea’s departure from its historical ties with China and entrance into the global nation-state system. Em emphasizes that Japan served not only as a conduit for modern Western civilization but as a translator of international law and the meaning of sovereignty to Korea.

Em further demonstrates how profoundly Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945) contributed to the formation of Korea’s sovereignty. The colonial authorities not only supplied infrastructure and education to Korea but fused the entire Korean population into homogenized subjects beyond the barriers of class, education, gender and geography. Interested in Korea’s past, the Japanese even presented the Sŏkkuram Grotto in the ancient city of Kyŏngju in full restoration, an example of Korea’s achievement in Buddhist art, long forgotten by Koreans. Japanese colonial historians, inspired in part by Western academia, advanced their theories concerning Korea’s alleged dependency on the Asian continent, economic stagnation, factional divisions, and common ancestry with the Japanese. These studies, in retrospect, laid the ground work for Korean studies and provided emerging Korean scholars with opportunities to articulate their antitheses.

In part 2, in his reference to many colonial and postcolonial Korean historians, Em pays special attention to Sin Ch’ae-ho and Paek Nam-un, who advanced revolutionary historical views. Sin’s groundbreaking historical work, published in 1909, argued that the Korean nation began as an ethnic entity minjok from the time of the legendary progenitor Tan’gun and continued to develop in perpetual fight against the forces of the surrounding peoples, such as the Chinese, the Japanese and the Mongols. Sin’s placing the Korean minjok at the centre of Korean history left a lasting impact, particularly on Korean nationalist historiography. Em sheds light on the less known details of Sin’s later shift to minjung, the opposed and exploited majority of the Korean people, and his work as an anarchist in the 1930s. Em then moves on to Paek Nam-un, a Marxist socioeconomic historian who considered class struggle a key to understanding Korean history. Paek was the first scholar to apply historical materialism and its stages of development to Korea’s past, identifying primitive communal society in the early tribes of the peninsula, slave society in the Three Kingdoms, feudal society in Koryŏ and early Chosŏn, and emerging capitalism in the late Chosŏn period. Paek thus rejected the particularism in both Korean nationalist and Japanese historians and instead depicted Korea as a nation in the path of universal historical development and part of the mainstream of the world.

What is the reason behind Em’s focus on Sin and Paek out of many Korean historians who challenged Japanese views and fostered national identity? One may find an answer in his last chapter on “Divided Sovereignty” discussing Korean history writing following the liberation of 1945. He sees two important groups of historians in postcolonial South Korea: Paek’s Marxist group that soon chose to move to North Korea and the group led by Yi Pyŏng-do who had inherited the Japanese methodology of textual criticism. While Yi’s tradition was passed on to Yi Ki-baek, who became linked to US academia through his incorporation of modernization theory, Paek’s scholarship was passed on to Kang Man-gil and Kim Yong-sŏp, the progressive historians who maintained a strong sense of class, anti-colonialism, anti-collaborationism and anti-dictatorship. Their theme of minjung as the primary subject of Korean history dominated South Korean scholarship, especially after the Kwangju uprising of 1980. According to Em, however, the predominance of minjung-centred historical writing is now giving way to the rise of the New Right historians, defensive of South Korea’s political past and critical of the biases of the progressives.

The readers should note that the book does not offer a comprehensive survey of historical writings related to Korean sovereignty. Em’s primary focus, particularly in part 2, is on the genealogy of class-conscious historians from Sin to Paek to Kang and Kim, who imagined Korea’s past centred on the oppressed and underprivileged minjung. Although the book begins with those who sought Korea’s sovereignty in the world, it ends with those interested in popular sovereignty within Korea. Em’s account of Paek’s scholarship and impact on South Korea makes one wonder what contributions he made in North Korea, the home of historical materialism and Marxism. Em is silent on history writing at the other side of the “Divided Sovereignty.”

The book is studded with references to studies by Western scholars, including Bruce Cumings, John Duncan, Andre Schmid, Stefan Tanaka and many more, showing Em’s mastery of the subject. His detailed analysis of the interaction between Korean sovereignty and imperialism/colonialism is convincing, and his overall genealogy of modern Korean historians is plausible. In sum, Em’s book is an important addition to the study of modern Korea and Korean historiography.

Chizuko T. Allen, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Honolulu, USA

IMPERATIVES OF CULTURE: Selected Essays on Korean History, Literature, and Society from the Japanese Colonial Era. Korean Classics Library: Historical Materials. Edited by Christopher P. Hanscom, Walter K. Lew, and Youngju Ryu. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 2013. xxi, 230 pp. (Tables.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3281-8.

Imperatives of Culture: Selected Essays on Korean History, Literature, and Society from the Japanese Colonial Era is composed of an introduction and twelve chapters, each of which contains a translation of a text written by a major Korean writer or intellectual and a translator’s introduction both to the author and the work in question. The essays included in this volume cover a temporal range from 1922 to 1948, with a focus on the 1930s. These essays cover an impressive range of disciplines, topics and concerns, including, among others, nationalism, race, imperialism, capitalism, historiography, gender, socialism, proletarian culture, literary form and history, modernism and realism. Imperatives of Culture will for the first time provide an English-speaking readership access to the most important intellectual currents making up the Japanese colonial period in Korea (1910-1945).

The essays by key colonial-period intellectual and literary figures such as Yi Kwangsu, Ch’oe Namsŏn, Paek Namun, Kang Kyŏngae, Chŏng Inbo, Mun Ilp’yŏng, and Ch’oe Chaesŏ are central not only to an understanding of pre-1945 Korea, but postcolonial Korea as well. As Seung-Ah Lee points out in her introduction to Chŏng Inbo’s mid-1930s essay, Chŏng’s tracing of 5000 years of Chosŏn’s ŏl (spirit), influenced President Park Chung Hee’s formulation of nationalism in the 1960s. The inclusion of two post-1945 essays by Kim Tongni and Son Chint’ae further serves to highlight the important connection between the colonial-period intellectual and literary history presented in the first ten essays of the volume and the beginnings of post-1945 South Korean cultural production. At the same time, essays by leftist thinkers and writers such as Sin Paegu, Paek Namun, Kang Kyŏngae and Kim Namch’ŏn will allow readers interested in North Korea to situate post-1945 developments in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula in relation to a history of leftist thought going back to the early 1920s. The works included in Imperatives of Culture, moreover, possess significance well beyond Korea’s borders. Essays by Ch’oe Namsŏn and Kang Kyŏngae concern themselves centrally with the metropole (Japan) and the periphery (Manchuria), while Kim Kirim’s and Kim Namch’ŏn’s works negotiate Western literary forms in complex ways. All of the essays in Imperatives of Culture, in fact, address, in different ways, a global modernity.

Imperatives of Culture provides the opportunity for non-Korean-speaking scholars engaged in transnational, interdisciplinary research on East Asia and the West to incorporate key Korean primary materials into their work. The volume also serves as an invaluable source of materials for a range of undergraduate syllabi, not only Korean history, civilization and literature courses, but also the increasingly important border-crossing courses on East Asian and Western modernity. In terms of the undergraduate curriculum, then, Imperatives of Culture is a most welcome complement to the seminal two-volume Sources of Korean Tradition (Peter Lee et al., ed., Columbia University Press, 1996, 2000).

The essays comprising Imperatives of Culture are extremely well chosen, presenting the richness and diversity of the colonial and early postcolonial Korean intellectual milieu. The translations are excellent, capturing the originals in every respect. Finally, the introductions to the volume itself and to each of the essays, all by Korean studies scholars engaged in cutting-edge work on the modern period, do an impeccable job of situating both the authors of the essays and the essays themselves in relation to a global intellectual and literary history. Imperatives of Culture: Selected Essays on Korean History, Literature, and Society from the Japanese Colonial Era makes a major contribution not only to Korean studies but, more broadly, to Asian studies and to our understanding of colonialism and modernity in the first half of the twentieth century.

Theodore Hughes, Columbia University, New York, USA

KOREA AND EAST ASIA: The Stony Road to Collective Security. Studies in East Asian Security and International Relations, v. 1. Edited by Rüdiger Frank, John Swenson-Wright. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2013. xii, 296 pp. (Figures.) US$125.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-22910-5.

East Asia, particularly the Korean Peninsula, has not found a durable solution for reducing mutual threat perceptions and preventing conflict. Korea and East Asia: The Stony Road to Collective Security takes a fresh look at the potential for collective security to play a role in solving regional security dilemmas. All of the authors agree that the conditions in Northeast Asia are not ripe for a collective security mechanism, but, in embarking on this quixotic quest, they shed light on East Asian multilateral institutions, international relations theories, foreign policy strategies, and more.

The volume is the product of a conference hosted in Vienna in June 2010. The chapters were revised until mid-2011, and therefore have missed some key changes—the American rebalancing strategy and new leaders in Korea—but otherwise feel current. The editors added a twist to the traditional edited volume format by including short contributions from the conference discussants, who comment on the main chapters. This internal dialogue adds perspective and depth. The authors are an eclectic mix of academics and former policy makers from Europe, Asia and the United States, and the book includes welcome discussion of the Asia-Europe relationship. Aside from the chapter by Nele Noesselt on Chinese international relations scholarship, there is relatively little investigation of theory. Julie Gilson, writing one of the commentary pieces, finds the lack of reflection on the definitions of regionalism and collective security to be a weakness, but the pragmatic orientation of the volume has more utility for a broader audience.

Much of the book is focused on the complex security challenge that North Korea presents to its neighbours and the world. In the search for collective security solutions, the authors grapple with several paradoxes. They observe that a nuclear-armed North Korea is a terrible problem, but yet not so intolerable that states would cede their sovereignty to a collective security organization. Another contradiction is the importance of making a collective security arrangement inclusive, weighed against the difficulty of dealing with North Korea as a member. Third, there is a paradox in the editors’ laudable goal of treating North Korea as a normal country despite its many idiosyncrasies. Haksoon Paik takes this approach in his chapter “North Korea’s Place in East Asian International Relations,” which illustrates the domestic and foreign policy challenges facing Pyongyang from a sympathetic perspective.

In this examination of East Asian security, the editors also seek to answer the question, “What is the place of Korea in the regional security environment?” Rüdiger Frank notes that the geography of Korea has put it at the centre of regional and even global conflicts and power transitions in the past. For both North and South Korea, the bilateral relationship with China is a critical factor and may shape the future of the peninsula. That point begs the question: to what degree can the two Koreas chart their own course, surrounded by larger powers? North Korea has been more successful at driving its own agenda at the Six-Party Talks, discussed in Chung-in Moon’s chapter, but Pyongyang never seemed fully satisfied with the outcomes. Chaesung Chun observes that South Korea’s foreign policies in the democratic era have been characterized by “incomplete conceptualisation and short-term perspectives and incoherence” (163). David Kang and Leaf-Eric Easley see South Korea as a bellwether in the US-China competition for influence in the region, implying that Seoul will retain a certain amount of leverage as a swing state. Kang and Easley make a strong argument to expect continued US predominance, even before the roll-out of the Obama Administration’s rebalancing strategy.

The discussion of possible collective security mechanisms yields many thought-provoking points. Colin Munro demonstrates how the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) could be a template for East Asia in certain respects, such as its confidence-building measures, but he remains skeptical of the prospects for collective security. Munro cites, among other reasons, the lack of consensus on conventional arms reductions and incomplete historical reconciliation. China’s position is also problematic, as Nele Noesselt illustrates in her chapter: China will not cede sovereignty to a multilateral organization and will not renounce the use of force to reunify with Taiwan. Heterogeneity, low levels of mutual trust, and absence of common threat perceptions, are other reasons that authors give for the ineffectiveness of multilateral security mechanisms. Chun observes that the international order in East Asia simultaneously displays features of pre-modern, modern, and post-modern systems.

Despite these serious obstacles, the contributors are generally supportive of sober attempts to improve the East Asian security environment through multilateral institutions. In this regard, the book is a valuable resource for scholars and policy makers assessing President Park Geun-hye’s Trustpolitik and her proposal for a Northeast Asian Peace and Cooperation Initiative. The issue of inter-state trust is present throughout the book. In a chapter centred on Russia’s role, George Toloraya provides a thoughtful outline for constructing a multilateral security structure in Northeast Asia, drawing on lessons learned from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Scott Snyder challenges the conventional wisdom about collective security in East Asia and argues that “national anxieties regarding future developments in security,” not historical constraints, are inhibiting multilateral cooperation (268). Considering factors like nationalism and realist power competition, Snyder suggests that broadening the Sino-Japanese relationship and fostering strategic reassurance between the United States and China ought to be precursors to a successful multilateral solution.

The book covers much ground, but leaves a few stones unturned. There is little examination of historical precedents for collective security mechanisms in East Asia, namely the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO). Two chapters focus on contemporary Europe-Asia connections, but only the chapter by Munro provides lessons from Europe’s experience with collective security, lessons which would benefit North American readers. Lastly, deeper consideration of functional/instrumental alternatives to a grand scheme for multilateral security would enrich the discussion.

Ian E. Rinehart, Congressional Research Service, Washington DC, USA

Back to top

JAPANESE RELIGIONS AND GLOBALIZATION. Routledge Studies in Asian Religion and Philosophy. By Ugo Dessi. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. viii, 191 pp. US$135.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-81170-5.

How and to what extent does Japanese religion (referred to as JR below) respond to, carry and deal with the influence of globalization? Is the gurōbaru (global) of the 2000s parallel to the kokusai (international) of the 1980s in being primarily discourse rather than actually being manifested as practice? Does globalization have important alternatives to the often implied “Westernization,” and what does JR globalization look like? These are some of the questions raised and responded to by Ugo Dessi in the present work.

The book is divided into nine chapters plus an introduction and conclusion.

The introduction serves as the theoretical framework for the whole book, outlining a general list of six roles played by religion within globalization which are further developed in a Japanese context with a typology of 14 different ways in which JR accommodates globalization. These naturally overlap, but are separated as types with which to analyze responses to globalization, primarily observed at the systemic and institutional level within both traditional religions and new religious movements.A discussion of key concepts (“religion,” “globalization,” “glocalization”) is necessary particularly in a Japanese context. The author shows an acquaintance with important theories and debates within the research literature, and although aware of challenges, such as the biases of relativization and eurocentrism, he is not afraid of using models from the sociology of religion in particular, as well as giving working definitions (16) and an outline of periods of Japanese globalization (19-23).

The rest of the chapters are based on the typology of the 14 topics. Chapter 2 illustrates religious pluralism (interreligious dialogue at Mt. Hiei), inclusivism (religious cooperation through ideas of a common, religious source), and exclusivism (Meiji persecutions of Christianity/Buddhism and Soka Gakkai’s aggressive mission). Such strategies of negotiating (types 1-3) with other religious traditions and their truth claims are part of the theologian’s toolbox, but also function as an analytical tool to capture varieties of institutional religion, including hierarchies, hegemonies and culturalism as disguised universalism (nihonjinron).

Modern Shinto weddings and human rights issues are examples of “Western” influences incorporated into JR (type 4), and it might be interesting to have this topic followed by contemporary “Westernized” versions of Asian “spirituality” (yoga, meditation, feng shui, etc.,) having returned to Japan. The opposite direction of selecting “native” elements to produce “new,” glocal religion (type 5; such as Shinto ecology, animism and syncretism) shows the diverse process of chapter 3’s “shaping new glocal identities.” The latter is related to the cultural chauvinism (chapter 4) also voiced in discourses of the superiority of JR (type 6) compared with foreign influences, or even involving the rejection (type 7) of such influences. Dessi illustrates this with Mahikari and Kofuku no Kagaku, as well as general, reverse orientalist images of “Western individualism” as “Western values” (65).

Glocalization overseas (chapter 5) parallels but also puts into different perspective the challenges of JR. These can be revealed in the marking of identity, either by emphasizing the superiority of Japanese culture (type 10), or by rejecting foreign elements (type 11). Such reactions are particularly typical of first-generation immigrants, and are often implied as an institutional strategy of mission or accommodation. Another response involves the adaptation of foreign elements (type 8; e.g. Zen being “Americanized”) or hybridization based on native elements (type 9, as when Pure Land Buddhism incorporates Zen meditation).

Chapter 6 deals with JR as a carrier of globalization, by influencing other cultures (type 12). Such “soft power” is seen in today’s popular culture, but earlier proselytizing of traditional or new religions, the “Zen boom” and trans-institutional initiatives such as macrobiotics are also examples of this. Particularly the latter and the paragraph on JR organizations funding academic work on JR are new and illustrative.

The author understands secularization as the processes of functional differentiation in which religion is one such system. Negotiation and competition with other such systems are the subject of chapters 7 and 8, corresponding to type 13 (negotiations with politics, science and education), and further discussed in chapter 9, corresponding to type 14 (addressing social problems that are unresolved by other subsystems). The postwar constitution, Soka Gakkai’s and Kofuku no Kagaku’s involvement in politics, the issue of Yasukuni shrine, religion in school education, ethics, environment, poverty, inequality, health and values are topics that are discussed with concrete illustrations from organized religions, networks and NGOs.

In the concluding chapter, the varieties of responses to and negotiations of globalization are wrapped up, asserting that globalization “provides the framework through which religious communication is conceived and religious change takes place, be it intentionally or unintentionally” (149). So what might be against globalization from an emic view is actually, from an etic view, within globalization (149). Globalization is thus seen as a condition, the consequence of an irreversible process, which is also how modernity is often positioned. This might be so, but the assertion of the final line, that religious change is likely to be more and more the outcome of globally minded choices “irrespective of the extent to which they are perceived as such by the religious actors involved in the process” would perhaps benefit from the support of additional arguments.

Another critical remark could be made regarding the overall typological setup framing the content of the book. The framework with the 14 types of responses to and negotiations of globalization is not only relevant and insightful, but also highly applicable as a tool to comprehend the varieties of representation. So it is a pity that they do not stand out more clearly. Why are the two typologies (5-6 and 6-7) not made to correspond more clearly, for instance by compressing the 14 items, several of which are closely related, into a smaller number? Or perhaps an illustration could do the trick, thereby relieving the reader of the somewhat onerous task of remembering all the types thoughout the book.

Notwithstanding all this, Japanese Religions and Globalization deserves praise as a very important scholarly work. Globalization has not been addressed in such a focused and comprehensive manner before in relation to the context of Japanese religion; and the book is thus highly relevant, also more generally for Japanese studies and the comparative study of religion.

Jørn Borup, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

Back to top

NORTHEAST ASIA’S NUCLEAR CHALLENGES. Explorations in Korean Studies. Edited by Su Hoon Lee. Seoul: Kyungnam University Press; Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers [distributor], 2013. 229 pp. (IIIus., maps.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-89-8421-347-0.

As its title indicates, this book covers critically important nuclear issues pertaining to Northeast Asia. An edited volume with contributions from seven authors, some of whom are well-known, the book includes papers that address commercial and military nuclear issues, that is, nuclear weapons and materials and the security threats posed by them to the region. Some of the papers also include limited coverage of the nuclear policies of the United States, Russia, China, North and South Korea and Japan. The book is well organized and all seven papers are very readable and filled with useful general information.

Thus, the book’s single biggest contribution is that it provides general discussions of an array of important nuclear issues and concerns currently germane to Northeast Asia, whether it is the Fukushima nuclear disaster, nuclear terrorism, commercial reactors in South Korea, China and Japan, the North Korean nuclear problem or Russia’s position on the restraint of nuclear weapons and materials. Students, policy makers wanting to get an understanding of liberal perspectives on nuclear matters important to Northeast Asia, policy wonks and others interested in these issues will find this collection of papers valuable.

It is important to note, however, that the papers in this book are products of a recent international conference on nuclear issues affecting Northeast Asia. And they do, indeed, read like conference papers: good points are often raised but the time needed to think through analytically the pertinent details is too often missing. Moreover, the papers generally lack rich historical foundations, which could provide scholarly segues to deep contemporary analyses of the various topics covered in this book. Citations are too frequently not academic but far too often appear to be what is easily accessible to corroborate different points. Thus, academics and scholars looking for fresh analytical details that are essential to strong and convincing empirical or policy positions may not find these papers too rewarding.

Although the papers all raise important policy questions, they do not give sufficiently detailed explanations of how to implement effectively the proposals that they make. For example, two of the papers that address the North Korean nuclear-weapons issue each propose a different but very plausible solution to this problem: a peace treaty to end the Korean War and the normalization of US-North Korea diplomatic relations. However, neither paper provides a detailed historical and contemporary framework that is needed to demonstrate how exactly these proposals would lead to the North’s denuclearization.

In a third paper that deals with the North Korean nuclear issue the author appears to take the position, at least when it was written, that since Pyongyang had then stopped plutonium-reprocessing activities at Yongbyon, it could turn out, though he admits perplexity on this, that North Korea will rely on uranium enrichment for both commercial power and nuclear weapons. But since Pyongyang has recently restarted its plutonium reprocessing, which he indicated in his paper was a possibility, there is little point to his discussion of how the North will build bombs. Moreover, the generally good description of the North Korean nuclear issue aside, this paper has far too many statements based on assumptions as well as statements that tell readers what the author believes and what he thinks is most likely to happen.

The volume also contains different sets of expectations stemming from President Obama’s commitment to rid the world of nuclear weapons, which he made in a speech given in Prague in 2009. With respect to Obama’s commitment, readers of two of the book’s papers have the option to come away either with a not-quite-satisfied perspective, that is, President Obama hasn’t done quite enough, or cautious optimism. But the fact is that President Obama has completely ignored the promise he made in April 2009 to ratify expeditiously the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In the same speech given in Prague, Obama also stated, “my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” Perhaps more unsettling, and for sure very disturbing to the mayors of the nuclear-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is that the Obama administration continues to perform US subcritical nuclear testing (which stops just short of producing a nuclear chain reaction), most recently conducting the 27th such test in December 2012. Both the failed promise and the continuation of subcritical nuclear testing should be taken as important empirical signals that the ideals of politicians offered for public, and in this case global, consumption often do not comport with their political decisions.

Another paper that addresses the continued use of nuclear energy, despite its many manifest and latent dangers, to power the Japanese, South Korean and Chinese economies, concludes with a very brief discussion of the need for countries to transition to clean and renewable energies. Such a transition is especially attractive to environmentalists and others concerned about the serious and enduring problems that nuclear power can bring to societies, something that they are particularly aware of after the Fukushima disaster. However, what is missing is how this transition is to take place. Or put differently, absent from the paper is the important discussion that identifies the strategies needed to be employed that will compel policy makers, who are typically focused on economic growth, to make the change over to these alternative and renewable forms of energy.

All in all, the book is a worthwhile read for those who have a general interest in the important nuclear problems and issues now facing Northeast Asia. The expert, however, should have limited expectations.

Anthony DiFilippo, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, USA 

Back to top

IMPERIAL ECLIPSE: Japan’s Strategic Thinking About Continental Asia Before August 1945. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Yukiko Koshiro. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013. xvi, 311 pp. (Tables, maps.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5180-5.

Professor Yukiko Koshiro of Nihon University’s College of International Relations sets herself an ambitious historiographical task with Imperial Eclipse: Japan’s Strategic Thinking About Continental Asia Before August 1945. In the ongoing project to recover the imperial identity Japan lost in 1945, Koshiro seeks to demonstrate how continental concerns underlay Japanese strategic thinking, especially in the last months of the war. The book contends that over the empire’s birth, life and, especially, death, Russia/the Soviet Union, much like a black hole, exerted a powerful yet generally hidden influence over Japanese strategic decision makers. The book is designed to illuminate this underappreciated effect.

Koshiro asks us to re-conceptualize the conflict in which the empire was lost. She rejects the Pacific War narrative as a US imposition which posits the United States as the primary influence on Japan both pre- and post-war. However, a Second Sino-Japanese War narrative emphasizing the struggle between Japan and the Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-Shek is equally problematic. The notion of a Greater East Asian War is also too limited for her scope. Instead she makes the Soviet Union a key strategic factor in the struggle and, as the USSR was both an Asian and a European power, posits the name Eurasian-Pacific War to describe the conflict.

However conceived, Koshiro’s key contribution is the interrogation of numerous collections of records thought lost in the bonfires which consumed, and served to obscure, Japan’s imperial project. However, the manner in which she employs this new source material is problematic, and ends up demonstrating a rather different point from the one she intended. While she seeks to challenge the prevailing view of Japan’s orientation between the Soviet Union and the United States, the quality of Japanese strategic thought during the war years, and the termination of the war itself, her source material often proves considerably less authoritative than she claims.

Koshiro’s central contention is that Japanese government and military leaders, anticipating defeat at the hands of the United States, sought to gauge likely postwar continental developments and their effect upon Japan. “The Japanese Government and Imperial General Headquarters monitored the plans of the allies for the disposition of Japan’s colonies, began to anticipate insightfully how postcolonial East Asia would emerge, and built exit strategies around them.” Yet it is in the concept of an “exit strategy” for the war where her argument most seriously breaks down.

Until the very end, Japanese at virtually all levels continued to believe that they had some degree of initiative in determining how the war would end. Strategic thinking about the evolution of postwar continental affairs remained premised on the assumption that these developments would influence Japan, and Japan would retain some degree of influence over them, no matter how modest. But this was a delusion. With the Cairo Declaration of November 1943 the allies (without input or consultation from Stalin) determined that Japan would be stripped of its empire. This was reiterated in the Potsdam Declaration of July 1945. Despite this, Japanese leaders still clung to the belief that Soviet mediation, or even Soviet entry into the war, could be used as leverage against the United States. “Even without playing the mediator,” Koshiro notes on page 285, “Stalin still could have taken diplomatic advantage of Japan’s strategic stalemate on the Soviet-Japanese front by arranging Japan’s surrender and determining the postwar disposition of the Japanese empire to the Soviet advantage.”

The fact that Stalin chose not to do this, renouncing the neutrality pact which still had six months to run, constitutes the “betrayal” of Japan by the Soviet Union. She further notes on page 244 that “bilateral communication between Tokyo and Washington defined the nature of Japan’s surrender. The two nations focused so much on the future of the emperor system that they neglected the fate of Japan’s continental empire, much less Japan’s commitment and responsibility to it. Stalin … let the United States single-handedly define the nature of Japan’s surrender.” But there was no neglect. Japan’s “commitment and responsibility” to the empire had long since been extinguished by the allies and Stalin had already secured all the advantage he desired through the Yalta agreement of February 1945. Ultimately Koshiro does not simply describe the Japanese inability to grasp that they had lost the initiative regarding the end of the war, but manages to recreate it.

While this is the largest problem with the book it is hardly the only one. Koshiro’s contention that the Pacific War narrative is a US imposition simply ignores the extent to which Japanese collaborated in this construction for their own purposes as Yoshikuni Igarashi has well demonstrated (Bodies of Memory: Narratives of War in Postwar Japanese Culture, 1945-1970, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000). Most of the secondary literature she uses to bolster her contentions is old and has been superseded by more recent work. Notably, she cites Tsuyoshi Hasegawa (Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman and the Surrender of Japan, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005) but does not engage him and she entirely ignores the work of Richard Frank (Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, New York: Random House, 1999). Finally, given the new primary source material and ambition to rewrite the scholarly consensus on such a contentious topic the absence of a bibliography is a most curious omission.

Yukiko Koshiro’s Imperial Eclipse adds weight to the case that Soviet entry was the primary motivator for Japan’s surrender in 1945 but its failure to engage the considerable recent historiography, questionable premises and conclusions, and problematic use of evidence severely undercuts the book’s central thesis.

Paul E. Dunscomb, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, USA

Back to top

HOUSEWIVES OF JAPAN: An Ethnography of Real Lives and Consumerized Domesticity. By Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. xxv, 273 pp. (B&W illus.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-230-34031-2.

Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni’s new book is a welcome addition to the growing English-language literature on Japanese housewives. Grounded in feminist ethnography, this study examines the social and cultural constructions of the “professional housewife” (sengyō shufu) in postwar Japan. Employing her “anthropological interpretation” of the concept of the “State,” Goldstein-Gidoni contends that it is the Japanese state that has through its various agents and agencies—such as the government, the corporate sector, the media and the market—actively promoted and sustained this role. Uncovering this process, the book “offers a reflective perspective on the ‘real life’ of women and their narrations about it, but also situates their lives and ideas within ongoing cultural and social debates that shape women’s social roles, experiences, and expectations in Japan today” (xvii).

Housewives of Japan is divided into three parts. In part I, the author unpacks her research methodology (chapter 1), critically evaluates the historical process of “housewifization” (shufu-ka) of Japanese women, and summarizes Japan’s “housewife debate” (shufu ronsō) (chapter 2). Part II introduces the study’s ethnographic data, gathered mainly among housewives of a suburban community near Osaka. This data was collected thanks to collaboration with Mariko Ishikawa, the study’s coauthor and key participant. The reader is presented here with the women’s narrations of their assumed social role as full-time housewives (chapter 3) and their “salaryman” husbands’ position within this “gender contract” (chapter 4), as well as accounts of their increasingly diverse and insecure lifestyles (chapter 5). In part III of the volume, Goldstein-Gidoni departs from her research site to take a closer look at the processes behind changes in housewives’ roles in postbubble Japan. She analyzes the images of housewifery as portrayed by the media (chapter 6) and sums up recent trends and government initiatives that she sees as having taken a “reactionary direction” (chapter 7). The book’s Afterword offers a reflection on the post-March 11 lives of the research participants.

Based largely on extensive observations, interviews and informal conversations, as well as e-correspondence and other tools of virtual ethnography, this book offers an excellent window into the “real lives” of Japanese housewives. It is impossible to summarize all its insights here, but suffice it to say that the issues discussed range from the central theme of the “professionalization” of female homemakers, identity formation and social class, to such mundane chores as manoeuvres involved in making the husbands take out the garbage. Goldstein-Gidoni also does a good job in elucidating a dazzling diversity of housewife types, including “charisma housewife” (karisuma shufu), “model housewife” (shufu no kagami), “working housewife” (kengyō shufu), “beautiful housewife” (utsukushii shufu), “ugly housewife” (minikui shufu), “second-class housewife” (nitō shufu), “first-class housewife” (ittō shufu), “special-class professional housewife” (tokutō sengyō shufu), and “delinquent housewife” (furyō shufu). Indeed, throughout the book, the reader finds an abundance of revealing Japanese vocabulary in addition to thorough reviews of debates that have emerged in Japan in relation to womanhood and housewifery.

The study is fairly well balanced, although some of its analytical conclusions seem to fit too readily with the author’s ideological stance. For example, the discussion of domestic power and control of the family budget would have benefited from more insights from an ethnographic inquiry into the male side of the “gender contract.” Furthermore, particularly in view of the popular Japanese saying that “women’s enemies are women” (onna no teki wa onna), the apparently often strained relations among housewives themselves—that is, within the “inside group” (nakama)—seems to be a topic that is under-explored.

The book is timely, given recent findings (not cited in it) showing that Japanese females, unlike their American counterparts, prefer not to work outside the household and are happier if they embrace marriage based on specialization (Kristen Schultz Lee and Hiroshi Ono, “Specialization and happiness in marriage: A U.S.-Japan comparison,” Social Science Research 37, 2008: 1216-1234). This latest “backlash,” the author contends, is, for one, stimulated by cultural constructs delivered through such “state agents” as the market and the media. What is somewhat unsettling in this picture, however, is that it paints the Japanese woman as a passive consumer of images created with a sole purpose of domesticating her in one form or another. To be sure, media’s attempts to engineer gender relations have been well known since Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew and father of modern advertising/propaganda, embarked in the 1920s on creative campaigns of “liberating” American women from societal shackles through cigarette smoking. As such, Goldstein-Gidoni’s discussion of Japan’s consumerist culture is illuminating (although limited by the emphasis on the specialized genre of women’s magazines, despite the important role of TV programs and commercials in Japanese consumerism); yet, its actual causal effect on the specific life choices needs to be demonstrated rather than assumed. This could potentially be achieved with more systematic data, such as surveys or in-depth interviews with various age and socioeconomic groups, including women before they marry.

The major weakness of this study, however, is its research design. Basing the argument on a view of the “State” that blurs boundaries between the state, market and society is problematic. There is, of course, nothing intrinsically wrong with broadening the narrow Weberian notion of the state, and the author is free to work from her own definition. However, the problem in this case is that such an all-inclusive variable, which comprises the government, the bureaucracy, the corporate sector, the market, the media (including privately published magazines), as well as the college system and some (read: “conservative”) academics, lacks precision. These agents, both individually and especially as a cluster, are by no means a monolith. Indeed, their interests have often conflicted and varied over time. Thus, although the book leaves no doubt that various agents have attempted to render Japan’s social reality, lack of analytical rigour causes this holistic approach, in which everything is deemed equally relevant and all vectors are pointed in exactly the same direction, to obscure more than it clarifies. It is for this reason that this work struggles to make predictions about the future of Japan’s “gender contract.”

Notwithstanding its shortcomings, the book is worth reading if only for its rich empirical content. It should appeal to a wide audience, including both specialized academics and general readers in particular.

Konrad Kalicki, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

Back to top

OCCUPYING POWER: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Postwar Japan. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Sarah Kovner. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012. xi, 226 pp. (B&W illus., map.) US$50.00, cloth . ISBN 978-0-8047-7691-2.

In her thought-provoking book, Occupying Power, Sarah Kovner examines the immediate and long-term impacts of the arrival of the Allied servicemen on the Japanese sex industry and sex workers. While focusing on the specific time period from 1945 until the 2000s in Japan, this book also helps us understand the more general and ongoing issues related to the politics of sex work under occupation, which Kovner broadly defines as “a condition of compromised sovereignty resulting from a foreign military presence” (5).

The central argument that runs throughout the book is how the arrival of Allied servicemen in Japan “produced a new political configuration that finally abolished licensed prostitution,” which “[i]ronically, and tragically … made sex workers less visible and more vulnerable” (2). In exploring the process and explaining why this occurred, Kovner focuses on questions such as “how intimate histories and international relations are interconnected in ways scholars have only begun to explore” (4) and “how an influx of new buyers of sexual services, different sellers, and varied approaches to regulation shaped not just the larger political economy of Japan, but also the politics of memory and national self-perceptions” (5). Kovner’s analysis gives “equal weight to the experiences of the sex worker, client, and regulator” (5), and treats sex workers as both symbols and actors with agency without assuming “that they were powerless victims” (56).

The book is organized in a broadly chronological structure, beginning with the arrival of the Allied occupying forces in 1945. Chapter 1 focuses on the initial reaction of the Japanese government to the influx of Allied servicemen and the measures adopted by the US and British Commonwealth authorities to deal with their concerns about the spread of venereal disease infections among their servicemen, which eventually led to the deregulation of the sex industry in Japan in 1946 under MacArthur’s direction. Chapter 2 explores the relationships between Allied servicemen and Japanese women, including sex workers, paying attention to the diversity of such relationships ranging from rape to short-term sexual encounter to marriage. This chapter also analyzes the reactions of the Allied and Japanese authorities to such relationships and to the biracial children born out of these liaisons. Chapter 3 demonstrates how Japanese observers and critics attempted to impose an order on the newly deregulated sex market. Their particular concern was the phenomenon of the so-called “panpan” who sold sex on the street and who were often understood as catering to Allied servicemen. They were seen as selfish women who sold sex out of materialistic desires, and were considered social evils that could threaten social morality and have a negative influence on Japanese children. As it turned out, this way of symbolizing sex workers influenced the political effort to ban prostitution, which Kovner documents in chapters 4 and 5. These chapters closely examine the movement toward the establishment of the first national anti-prostitution law, the Prostitution Prevention Law of 1956. Female Diet members and activists played active roles in the policy making process; however, Kovner demonstrates how this coalition of women did not include sex workers. Sex workers were used as the symbol of postwar Japan’s corrupted social morality or as fallen women who needed rehabilitation, rather than as rightful workers. Chapter 6 examines what happened to commercial sex and sex workers after 1956, focusing on “diversification, outsourcing, tourism and trafficking” (144). This chapter also points out how a similar tendency, which had emerged in the 1950s, resurfaced again in the 1990s, in which “criminalizing a form of commerce made real victims both less visible and more vulnerable” (146).

With rich data and numerous insights, Occupying Power offers a value contribution on a number of levels. For example, Kovner’s claim that “the memory of the panpan may well have changed the way Japanese men and women understand the experience of occupation, to the point that they have found it all too easy to believe that military comfort women voluntarily sold sex to Japanese servicemen in occupied China” (157-158) is an interesting insight that can shed light on the ongoing and heated debate over this issue. Kovner’s analysis also makes an important contribution to the question of sex workers’ agency in Japan. Kovner includes actual experiences and voices of sex workers in her analysis, “albeit mediated through judicial proceedings, Diet hearings, and press reports” (56). Her careful treatment of these voices persuasively argues how Japanese sex workers “could actually negotiate the terms of their own relationship with the occupiers” (17). Simultaneously, Kovner also reveals how Japanese sex workers have been marginalized in public debates and political processes, which have led to regulations that could harm the interests of sex workers. Kovner’s close analysis of the complex dynamics that led to this in Japan make her final remark very persuasive: “[a]ny attempt to improve the lives of sex workers must therefore be based not merely on moral principle, but on a critical analysis of the practical and symbolic politics of such measures” (158).

The book contains detailed descriptions of the complex history of sex work under the Allied Occupation in vivid narratives, which makes it an accessible and useful resource for anyone who is interested in Japanese history and the politics of sex work. This close analysis also slightly limits the scope of the book, however, and if Kovner could more fully engage in cross-national comparative analysis, as she suggests in the Introduction (8), the book could have wider appeal to audiences with an interest in the politics of sex work more broadly. Having said that, by paying attention to the agency of sex workers, yet situating their agency in the fluid, chaotic and complex context of occupation in which power imbalances of various kinds clearly existed, Kovner’s careful and nuanced analysis successfully complicates and challenges conventional approaches for understanding sex work and sex workers in Japan and beyond.

Kimiko Osawa, Yonsei University, Wonju, South Korea

Back to top

TUMULTUOUS DECADE: Empire, Society, and Diplomacy in 1930s Japan. Japan and Global Society. Edited by Masato Kimura and Tosh Minohara. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013. xxii, 298 pp. (Maps, tables.) C$29.95, paper, ISBN 978-1-4426-1234-1.

In the process of exploring Japanese society, empire and diplomacy during the 1930s, the eleven chapters herein reveal the decade to be one of multiple trends and not simply a long slide into war. The book is divided into three sections, the first addressing aspects of Japanese society at home. Masato Kimura considers first the options facing the Zaikai (financial elites) in the wake of the Great Depression: many remained inclined towards repairing relations with the United States and the United Kingdom. Despite their hopeful sponsoring of trade missions, however, they were ultimately sidelined. Jessamyn Abel’s chapter looks at the forerunner to the Japan Foundation, the Kokusai Bunka Shinkōkai (KBS). Decidedly internationalist in orientation, the KBS sought to present Japan favourably overseas, a job that became more difficult after the outbreak of war in 1937. After 1941 the KBS shifted its focus to Southeast Asia and the creation of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Building upon his earlier work, Cemil Aydin then explores Pan-Asianism in relation to Pan-Islamism to consider the civilizational discourse at the heart of each and asks why supporters of each came to embrace an alternative modernity. In the last chapter of this section Sumiko Otsubo reflects upon the debate surrounding the National Eugenics Law of 1940. Finding diverse opinions she shows ably how science and ideology had to come together to result in the bill’s passing.

The second section considers aspects of Japan’s empire. Through an examination of the Taiwanese port of Jilong, Evan Dawley shows that Japanese social work there was a progressive accompaniment to colonial urban planning efforts. In fact, even if social work aided colonial government control, the Japanese reliance upon Taiwanese participation may have rendered it more genuinely progressive. In a not unrelated fashion, in her chapter on Korean neighbourhood associations fostered by the Japanese, Jun Uchida shows the limits of Japanese penetration into Korean society, even during wartime. This underscoring of agency among Taiwanese and Koreans is echoed in Yuka Fujioka’s chapter on efforts taken by the Japanese foreign ministry to lobby public opinion in the United States. These efforts included working with the Japanese Association of America since many of its members understandably supported Japan’s more aggressive posture given their unwelcome reception in the United States. Others, however, supported the ministry for more positive reasons, though the paucity of sources makes it difficult to assess the Japanese community in the United States categorically.

The last section of the book reconsiders aspects of Japanese diplomacy in the 1930s. Rustin Gates’ analysis of Uchida Kōsai shows Uchida’s term as foreign minister in the wake of the Manchurian Incident (1931) to be not too different from his earlier terms two decades earlier. Thus, rather than see Uchida as caving in to rightwing pressures in his last term, it makes more sense to Gates to perceive Uchida as acting consistently as a Meiji-era imperialist. Perceiving Manchuria as necessary for Japan’s security, Uchida insisted upon Manchukuo’s recognition but at the same time pursued strong bilateral ties with the other Powers. In an opposite manner, Satoshi Hattori’s examination of Matsuoka Yōsuke’s term as foreign minister shows Matsuoka endeavouring to create something new, a novel alignment of great powers that would compel the United States to back down. Although covering previously trodden intellectual terrain, Hattori’s chapter is useful in that he introduces new materials clarifying Matsuoka’s reasoning. Peter Mauch’s chapter on Matsuoka’s successor Toyoda Teijirō also breaks new ground in that Toyoda has received relatively little academic attention. In considering Toyoda as a senior official in two ministries—the navy and the Foreign Ministry—Mauch portrays Toyoda as seeking to contend with not only stiffening American pressure but also growing domestic desires to confront the United States. In acceding to some of the demands of the latter, however, Toyoda ultimately found there to be no leeway in negotiations with the former, leaving him in an untenable position. The final chapter by Minohara sets out to uncover the apparent flip-flop by Toyoda’s successor Tōgō Shigenori. Not only did Tōgō shift from actively trying to prevent war with the United States to supporting war but he also opted to remain in the Tōjō Hideki cabinet after Pearl Harbor. Minohara’s reasoning is plausible but involves some speculation: Tōgō’s expectations were dashed by faulty intelligence.

A subtle counterfactual thread inherently lies just below the surface of several of the contributions to this volume, but together this volume does more than raise the rhetorical “what if?” These studies point to the essentially untidy nature of history. Every society is of course riven by a diversity of goals and agendas, a reality that becomes more complicated when that diversity confronts the world beyond its borders. These essays document some of the diversity of views apparent in Japan in the 1930s that lost out, yet in so doing also acknowledge the pressures insuring their likelihood of failing. As a result the volume presents some of the paradoxical aspects of Japan’s road to war and instructively muddies the water by showing not all Japanese to be in lockstep with activist military figures.

This is the third volume in the “Japan and Global Society” series at the University of Toronto Press, a series that focuses on Japan’s interactions with the broader world. Given that its contributors have enjoyed a variety of opportunities to share ideas and shape its collective orientation since first meeting in 2000-1, it also represents a little more than a decade of collaborative effort. The book would thus be a useful addition to most university libraries.

Bill Sewell, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada

Back to top

CAPITAL AS WILL AND IMAGINATION: Schumpeter’s Guide to the Postwar Japanese Miracle. Cornell Studies in Money. By Mark Metzler. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013. xvii, 295 pp. (Tables.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5179-9.

In his 2006 book Lever of Empire, Mark Metzler provided a masterful account of Japan’s efforts to cement its position in the late nineteenth-century gold standard and its subsequent struggle to return to the gold standard following World War I and into the 1930s. This book carries his interest in Japan’s financial policy to the 1940s and 1950s. He looks at key figures in Japanese immediate postwar economic policy such as Okita Saburo (of the Economic Planning Agency), Ichimada Hisato (the long-serving governor of the Bank of Japan), Arisawa Hiromi (the architect of the Priority Planning System that sought to revive key industries after 1945), and Ishibashi Tanzan (an economic journalist who was briefly prime minister). Alongside them were policy makers in the US Occupation, particularly Joseph Dodge. Metzler uses the work of the economist Joseph Schumpeter as an overarching framework, arguing that a policy of “inflationary” finance underlay the phoenix-like ascent of Japan from the 1950s.

Using Schumpeter as a framework does not make that task easy. He was a powerful intellect of unbounded curiosity, a romantic who was interested in the forest and the trees—but did not build systematic theory and was fundamentally uninterested in policy. That made him fascinating as a lecturer and raconteur but meant that his influence on the later development of economics and of policy was minimal. He was aware of his failings, at least subconsciously. His personal library resides at Hitotsubashi University, and includes the most advanced mathematics treatises of his day but he used not a single equation in his writings. He was a founder of the Econometrics Society, pushing for the development of statistical data analysis; his own work includes none. Instead Schumpeter insisted on looking dispassionately at all sides of arguments, even arguing for the workability of the socialism that he personally despised.

By making Schumpeter central to his story, and insisting on casting his argument in Schumpeter’s terms, Metzler weights himself down with idiosyncratic jargon that dates to the 1912 Theory of Economic Development, and to early work on monetary economics and business cycles. Unfortunately much of the latter two either has turned out to be wrong (Schumpeter’s theory of business cycles was developed before Simon Kuznets and the development of modern national income accounting and the data it provides) or a dead end (Schumpeter’s capital theory is analogous to Marx’s effort to develop a labour theory of value). Instead it was his romantic vision of “creative destruction” that has had a continuing impact, reflected in studies of entrepreneurship and industrial organization. That however did not find a home until Robert Solow’s first formal growth model (1956), which provided a framework for distinguishing the role of capital accumulation from that of technical change, and in work in industrial organization on the role of firm exit and entry that only gained currency in the 1980s.

Metzler, however, latches onto Schumpeter’s term “money-capital.” That muddies his arguments throughout, and leads to many basic errors. For example, the book is riddled with places that confuse relative and absolute price changes (102, 112), and that confuse financial flows with flows of goods and services (202). He ends the book, for example, by talking about “deflation” stemming from manufacturing, where what Metzler really means (I think!) is that productivity in manufacturing increased faster than that in other sectors, leading to relative price falls (217). Given that the book focuses on the issue of inflation it is curious that he ignores the past century’s writing on that issue; Irving Fisher is mentioned only once in passing, Milton Friedman not at all.

He also provides a confusing picture of monetary policy. That is ironic on many counts. First, Metzler devotes much of a previous book to the interaction of central bank policy and the gold standard, and unlike here, in general translates those debates into modern terminology. One puzzle in this book is why there was no globally coordinated disinflation following World War II, as there had been in the 1920s. He attributes it to social learning (166) without realizing that the Bretton Woods system represented a decisive break with the gold standard which did not attempt to reconstruct global capital markets, which remained moribund until the 1970s. There was in practice no post-World War II analog to the gold standard. Second, he emphasizes throughout the book the use of an inflation tax to support economic development, which the data available today shows to be unimportant. Instead in the early years government and corporate savings (retained earnings) were central, not “money-capital.” Again, Schumpeter suffered from a lack of data that allowed subsequent economists to pick apart the savings-investment nexus.

Third, he spends three of his 8 core chapters (and much of his introduction and conclusion) on Schumpeter’s writings rather than those of the key Japanese actors. This contributes little to his overall project. Indeed, Metzler himself argues that the key actors—Ichimada at the BOJ, Ikeda and Ishibashi in government—were not disciples of Schumpeter. Yes, Schumpeter had more disciples in Japan than in the United States. However, Metzler fails to demonstrate that he had a decisive influence on policy, hardly surprising since Schumpeter himself wrote almost nothing on practical matters, consistent with his brief and undistinguished stint as the Austrian Minister of Finance in 1919. Nor does Metzler demonstrate that he was a teacher to more than a small subset of those Japanese involved in making policy.

In the end, while Metzler provides snippets of the fascinating policy scene in 1940s Japan, that is only about half of his book (chapters 5-7 and chapters 8-9). Even there he fails to illuminate the richness of the intellectual threads at play, from Keynes and the classicists to the German historical school and to Marx and even the Stalinist example of “big push” industrialization. If anything, his book makes the case that seat-of-the-pants empiricism rooted in the experience of individuals such as Ichimada and Ikeda was more important than high theory of any school.

Michael Smitka, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, USA

Back to top

South Asia


BOLLYWOOD: Gods, Glamour, and Gossip. Short Cuts, 52. By Kush Varia. London; New York: Wallflower Press, 2012. 126 pp. (Illus.) US$20.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-906660-15-4.

The Hindi-language cinema based in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) has acquired global recognition in the last two decades under the label “Bollywood,” and the same period has seen the welcome publication of numerous scholarly works devoted to it, as well as the proliferation of college courses surveying its history, conventions and transnational impact—finally acknowledging that this “other” of Euro-American filmic conventions has been one of the world’s most avidly consumed and influential entertainment forms for well over half a century. Recent entrants in the category of introductory overviews include Tejaswini Ganti’s Bollywood: A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema (2nd ed., Routledge, 2013), and Kush Varia’s book, reviewed here, written for the “Short Cuts” series that is meant especially for film studies courses.

Despite some commendable features, Varia’s book is regrettably uneven. Much well-written and insightful analysis—sometimes addressing interesting topics (such as diasporic fandom and gay readings of films) not treated in other introductory works—alternates with awkwardly written and even ungrammatical passages, and the plot summaries of important films, presented as sets of “case studies” to illustrate each thematic section of the book, are at times confusing and inadequately contextualized. In addition, unexamined and misleading clichés (such as that which forms the book’s alliterative subtitle) occur periodically, despite the author’s stated aim to go beyond such journalistic formulas and to address, within a brief compass, the historical breadth and thematic depth of this prolific cinema.

After a brief introduction that outlines the book’s aims, the first chapter, “History and Industry,” traces the development of cinema on the subcontinent, noting precursor art forms and performance genres, early feature films and studios, the impact of sound (which ended the dominance of imported films and established both the convention of operatic melodrama and of Hindi-Urdu as a cinematic lingua franca for much of the region), and the evolution, through several thematic periods, of cinema after Indian independence. Much of this is factually sound, clearly presented and accompanied by citation of relevant scholarship, although the author’s periodization of post-1947 cinema appears to owe more than a little to the 2004 first edition of Ganti’s book, which is not cited. Films selected as case studies here are both apt and initially well-analyzed (e.g., Pyaasa, 18-19, Mr. India, 23-25), though the two most recent choices (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Lagaan, 27-30) receive more cursory treatment; curiously, the seminal Amitabh Bachchan films of the 1970s, though mentioned, appear as case studies only in later, topical chapters.

Chapter 2, “Narrative and Genres,” is less well organized. An illuminating discussion of, for example, the persistence of religion in Hindi cinema’s brand of “melodrama,” and of its linguistic registers, is followed, unaccountably, by sloppy analyses of two of the most celebrated films of the 1970s (in reverse-chronological order: Amar Akbar Anthony and Sholay, 34-36). A decent treatment of the vital role of music and song culminates in clumsy and inadequate plot summaries of Baiju Bawra and Dil Se (42-44). The general discussion of “Genres” that follows is notably weak, introducing only “the Social” and “Romance” (categories so broad and vaguely defined that they may be applied to most Hindi films); later sections address, with somewhat greater clarity, “The Historical and the Islamicate Film,” and “Supernatural Genres”; a final section on “Other Genres” briefly alludes to war and gangster films.

The third chapter, “Characters and Morality,” is similarly uneven. Insightful discussion of the persistence of classical and familial role models is followed by cursory and confusing analysis of three films (Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…!, Mother India, and the 1955 Devdas), again in unexplained reverse-chronological order. A following section on “Villains and Vamps” is again well written, and the chapter concludes with a welcome discussion of “Gay, Lesbian and Transgender characters.”

Chapter 4, “Settings and Style,” is a disjointed collage, ranging from thoughtful discussion of stock film sets (mansions, huts, cabarets, hospitals) to less cogent treatments of animals, rainstorms, religious festivals and costuming. To illustrate the latter topic, two important films, Shree 420 and Khalnayak, are discussed—the former, decently (though the author cites the “colour” of a character’s dress in this 1955 b/w film); the latter, less so. The next chapter deals with “Stars and Audiences” in similarly erratic fashion. Bachchan is treated at last, but is over-emphasized and a-historically identified as “Bollywood’s biggest star” (98); the immense popularity of other male and female actors, through more than six decades, goes unmentioned, apart from the (interesting and notable) identification of gay male fans, especially in the diaspora, with tragic heroines like Meena Kumari. A brief conclusion (“Bye-Bye Bollywood?”) muses appropriately on some of the changes occurring in the industry today.

It is fairly common these days to find academic books that appear to have escaped the diligence of a copy editor or proofreader, and Varia’s Bollywood offers a particularly egregious example of this trend. To the instances of poor writing already mentioned must be added frequent typographical errors, some of which appear to be relics of an auto-correct function allowed to go unchecked (e.g., “transgression,” apparently for “transition,” on page 63, and the nonsensical “which has spurned some of the greatest successes,” on page 70, where the author doubtless meant “spawned”). In addition, a number of words or phrases are accidentally repeated, and an entire sentence beginning “But the main reason for the failure of A Throw of Dice to connect to domestic audiences” occurs twice in the same paragraph on page 13. A few jarring factual errors mar discussions of important films—thus, star Shashi Kapoor is misidentified as his brother Shammi in the synopsis of the seminal Deewaar on page 97. It is disappointing to see such sloppy non-editing in a prestigious film studies series, and it unfortunately compromises the suitability of this often-interesting book for use by today’s undergraduates—who sorely need examples of lucid prose.

Philip Lutgendorf, University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA

Back to top



DALIT ASSERTION. Oxford India Short Introductions. By Sudha Pai. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013. xli, 201 pp. (Tables.) US$17.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-19-809593-4.

During the 2009 national elections, with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP–Majority People’s Party) riding high on the back of its electoral success in the 2007 State Elections in Uttar Pradesh, the party leader Mayawati was openly touted as a potential prime minister and was regarded as a key player in national politics. Fast forward to the recently concluded 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the BSP hardly merits a mention. A low-key campaign culminated in a wipe-out in which the party failed to secure a single victory. Other Dalit parties, such as the Tamil Viduthalai Ciruthaigal Katchi (Liberation Panther Party) whose leader Thirumavalavan came to prominence as an MP during protests over the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka in 2009, and his interventions on the Ambedkar Cartoon controversy in 2012, also drew a blank. Some of this is due to the “Modi wave” which dominated media coverage long before it became a reality, but it also reflects uncertainties, questions and critiques surrounding Dalit politics. Professor Sudha Pai’s introduction to Dalit Assertion, thus, is both timely and welcome and helps to contextualize and explain some of the central processes and debates around Dalit mobilization in India.

After an introduction to the emergence of Dalit politics—both institutional and extra-institutional—the book comprises five key chapters that deal with the ideological underpinnings of Dalit assertion, mobilization at the grass-roots level, the performance of Dalit political parties, the rise of Middle Class activism and a consideration of possible future directions. The introduction sets the scene well; it is neither too detailed and dense for the non-specialist nor so simplistic as to put off more expert readers. Pai highlights the rise of Dalit assertion in multiple forms but also outlines the fissures within the Dalit category and analyzes what is described as an “impasse” in Dalit politics. We then receive an overview of the ideological strands of the Dalit struggle. Here the book focuses on three prominent ideological currents: the Dravidian, Gandhian and Ambedkarite (including Kanshi Ram’s adaptation of Ambedkar) approaches. The reflection on non-Brahminism in South and West India is heartening given the frequent neglect of Southern experiences in such accounts. The key positions of each strand are outlined and Pai reflects on how popular and durable each approach has been, before concluding that Ambedkarite ideology is on the rise and best captures the intent of younger Dalits. Some reflection on why Communist parties failed to address Dalit issues and retain the Dalits who were initially mobilized in class struggles would have been welcome here, though I would not quarrel with the main focus of the chapter.

The rationale for the three substantive chapters is persuasive, since there is clearly no one form or mode of assertion. The tripartite division into grassroots, political party and middle-class activism allows Pai to capture important currents of Dalit mobilization and assertion. The book draws on examples and research from across India in these three chapters, which demonstrate the author’s familiarity with key developments and trends in Dalit struggles. The first chapter documents the localized challenges to caste discrimination that have tackled forms of untouchability head on, but also reflects on the impact these contests have had. Pai notes how challenges from below are often met by violent responses, not from those at the apex of the caste hierarchy but from Backward Caste groups seeking to defend their power and prestige. The book also charts the rise of intra-Dalit conflicts as different castes compete for scarce resources and rally behind different leaders or strategies. One reason why Dalit assertion has slightly stalled of late, it is suggested, arises from these internal divisions. Nor are these divisions confined to caste, as we see in the chapter on parties: the move to political institutionalization has entailed a split between the radical Dalits, who wish to break with the system and annihilate caste, and more pragmatic activist,s who seek a share of power within the existing system of political relationships. The compromises and debates entailed in this process are captured here and offer one reason for the decline in Dalit political fortunes, as does the discussion of how Dalits at the grassroots level are increasingly frustrated by identity politics and desire economic and social development. Nevertheless, as Pai notes, Dalit parties have “introduced greater social inclusiveness into the political system” (107).

The final substantive chapter addresses the debate about an impasse from a different angle. What Pai shows here is that newly educated and affluent Dalits who benefitted from early assertion and reservation but are now disillusioned by Dalit parties are not necessarily insulating themselves from less fortunate Dalits, but are engaged in a range of interventions that seek to rethink Dalit involvement in society. This chapter focuses on the Bhopal document, the debates around reservation in the private sector, and calls for supplier diversity. These campaigns mark a recognition that the significance of the state as an employer is declining and demonstrate a shift in Dalit aspirations. The call for supplier diversity shows an understanding of innovative policies that might undermine the networks of caste that inform decisions about who to employ or trade with and serve to perpetuate forms of exclusion. The conclusion then thinks through key issues with each of these main strands of Dalit struggle and reflects on how a more meaningful and socially equitable democracy might be attained. At a time when Dalit voices in Europe and the US are increasingly prominent, some reflection on global links and struggles would have been welcome, as would some consideration of the increasing use of social media by Dalit activists, but these are minor quibbles. Overall this is an excellent and highly recommended introduction to the diversity and impact of Dalit assertion which helps us think through the current state of Dalit politics.

Hugo Gorringe, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom                                  

Back to top

THE PROMISE OF POWER: The Origins of Democracy in India and Autocracy in Pakistan. By Maya Tudor. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xiii, 240 pp. (Table, figures, maps.) C$95.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-03296-5.

In the author’s own words, “the central puzzle motivating this study has been why, despite broadly similar institutional inheritances and colonial legacies, did India’s and Pakistan’s democratic trajectories quickly diverge upon independence?” (205). Why and how was democracy institutionalized in India and authoritarianism entrenched in Pakistan so soon after both emerged from a common colonial experience is not a new question, but Maya Tudor’s Promise of Power offers probably the most comprehensive and thorough answer to date. Going beyond the traditional notion that the prospects of democratization in a post-colonial developing country are invariably linked to its level of economic development, social make-up and emerging institutional stability, Tudor builds a solid historical-political case to explain how the post-colonial states of India and Pakistan developed such divergent political trajectories after 1947. The answer, she explains, does not lie merely with the politics, parties, personalities and institutions that emerged after independence; the phenomenon of political divergence has deeper roots in developments that long preceded the transfer of power in 1947.

Following a useful introductory chapter, in which the central argument of the book, its intended theoretical and substantive contributions to the subject matter are clearly explained, the following four content chapters offer detailed and comprehensive analysis of the evolution of the class composition and consequent political programs of the Indian nationalist movement and the Pakistan campaign. In these carefully crafted chapters that are well supported by sound empirical evidence, Tudor clearly elucidates the differences between Indian National Congress organization and the nationalist movement that it led on the one hand, and the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan, and the Muslim and provincial politics that it engendered, on the other. Here, the key thrust of the book emerges: class differences and their historically conditioned interests fundamentally affected the shape, content and political agenda of the parties that eventually dominated the politics of the late colonial state and the subsequent successor states of India and Pakistan.

The composition of the dominant classes, and the alliances that they formed to protect or further their material interests, not only determined the strength, reach and durability of the political parties that emerged to contest political power in the 1930s and 1940s, but also compelled their political trajectories, leading to particular outcomes. The Indian National Congress, which essentially represented the urban and rural middle class, was able to develop consensus and unity through alliances of various social interests, complex leadership structures that linked high command to grassroots, as well as salient and inclusive programmatic reforms, thereby laying strong foundations for a stable and durable democratic system after independence. The Pakistan movement, on the other hand, depended on the “coalition of convenience” built by the landed aristocracy in the Muslim majority provinces in northern India to secure political power in order to protect their vested interests. There was less desire on the part of the political elites to effect democratic and distributive reforms to groups that did not share class interests, but were only tenuously linked to the party on the basis of shared religious identity. The Pakistan movement was also defined “negatively” as a response to the threat of Hindu majority domination and therefore lacked strong grassroots party infrastructure and programs for mobilization. This resulted in the absence of institutionalized power-sharing structures during the transition to independence. The outcome was regime instability leading to autocratic regimes and subsequent periods of bureaucratic-military rule in Pakistan.

In both countries, post-colonial developments followed the trajectory already set in the preceding decades. At this “critical window of transition” (217), the relative strengths and weaknesses of the respective political parties in India and Pakistan thus determined if they were able and willing to forge compromises, institutionalize power sharing through effective constitution making, and maintain organizational integrity as they assumed political power at independence. The outcome of all that, Tudor argues, was to result in the consequent long-term democratic stability in India and the constant regime instability in Pakistan.

This is a carefully researched and clearly written study that not only makes a compelling argument but also offers perceptive insights into the history of the Indian and Pakistani political movements. While the broader political and social contexts that accompany the narratives in the chapters are not necessarily new to readers familiar with the political history of India and Pakistan, the author must be commended for the convincing manner in which the historical conditions and circumstances in the lead-up to 1947 and beyond are marshaled to support her overarching argument. Overall, this illuminating book is an enjoyable read. The Promise of Power is a valuable study that has much to offer to those wishing to comprehend the political dynamics of India and Pakistan. It is, at the same time, an important contribution to the literature on the challenges of democratization in post-colonial developing countries.

Tan Tai Yong, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Back to top


CITIZENSHIP AND ITS DISCONTENTS: An Indian History. By Niraja Gopal Jayal. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. viii, 366 pp. US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-06684-7.

This is a rare superbly written magisterial book on the idea and practice of citizenship in India. It is a political and ideational constitutional history of citizenship that takes a clear intellectual position on citizenship and development. Three significant themes are dealt with. First, is India moving from a liberal conception of citizenship by birth and naturalization (jus soli) towards the more conservative jus sanguinis principle of citizenship by descent? Second, the book elaborates the tension between group differentiated rights and the creation of a civic community. Finally, debates over the question of social and economic rights, and civil and political equality are detailed in an exhaustive and nuanced manner.

The first chapter is a graphic account of the dilemmas of “imperial citizenship” and “colonial citizenship.” Imperial citizenship refers to the treatment of transnational Indians who were discriminated in relation to British-born, Dominion-born and European-born people in colonial India. Colonial citizenship refers to the rights of Indians in India. Indian laws generally empowered the rich, the landed and the educated, while paying some regard to minority communities and the disadvantaged. The Indian quest for equality at the time of independence therefore arose from its absence during colonial rule.

Legal Citizenship and the Shadow of the Partition tells a nuanced story about the Indian commitment to jus soli and clear deviations from it. The deviations, for example, pertain to Muslims wishing to return to India from Pakistan after partition and their claims to property, and the treatment of Bangladeshi migrants in Assam in the 1980s. In both cases, being Muslim was a disadvantage. Liberal voices nevertheless prevailed when the Supreme Court upheld the rights of Muslims who were inadvertently trapped in Pakistan at partition and returned back with Pakistani passports. The narrative reveals not only the Hindu-Muslim problem but a more complex problem of the Assamese not accepting Bengalis and other such inter-ethnic issues.

The next chapter details how migrant dalits and adivasis from Pakistan have had to struggle to obtain citizenship, and even more its benefits, while the rich and powerful Indian diaspora has been wooed by the government.

The book moves from a fascinating section on legal status to a section on citizenship and rights. The chapter “Pedagogies of Duty” presents a fascinating history of how the British first deployed the idea of citizenship and rights to legitimize rule over a divided society. It was this agenda of citizenship and arguments for obedience to which there arose a nationalist response: arguing why these rights lacked substance and morality. It provided an opportunity for the educated elite to rise above social and cultural differences to make political arguments about political and social equality. The next chapter details debates in the Constituent Assembly that led to a privileging of civil and political rights over social and economic rights. The historical detail and interpretation of various views on why Ambedkar changed his mind about the primacy of economic and social rights is just one example of the attention to historical detail.

The final chapter on rights describes how civil and political rights were highlighted in the constitution but not social and economic rights. The chapter remains skeptical about the new rights-based approach to development initiated after 2005, where citizens have been granted the right to food, work and education, among others. The chapter argues against the selective approach to targeting the poor and certain depressed social categories. And, it opposes cash transfers in lieu of public services. It concedes that the period of corporate-sector-driven growth in India, is one where these rights have been provided, even though the book is skeptical about the benefits of industrial deregulation and globalization.

The next section of the book is devoted to citizenship. Chapter 7 describes how the dominant view within the Congress Party was largely opposed to group-differentiated citizenship for a variety of different reasons. It was the Muslim League and Ambedkar who sought representation of special interests. Women received some special rights. Hindu nationalists favoured a Hindu India with no special rights for other communities. The chapter details these ideational and political struggles in colonial India. Chapter 8 tells the story for scheduled tribes, who received special rights and reservations but whose human condition has only exacerbated internal violence, and the rise of the idea of backwardness and reservations for backward caste groups.

The book bemoans challenges to civic citizenship in the form of group differentiated rights. While these arguments are powerfully articulated, reservations have played a role in the creation of a scheduled caste party—the Bahujan Samaj Party and numerous backward caste parties in states like Tamil Nadu—where development has taken hold and gotten entrenched. One would have liked to learn more about the Indian citizen’s newfound civic rights to education, work, food and privileged government information. Where the book succeeds most brilliantly is in charting the historical roots of India’s developmental predicament through the conceptual lens of citizenship and rights.

 Rahul Mukherji, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Back to top

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN INDIA:Sovereigntyand (Anti)Conversion. Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series, 60. By Goldie Osuri. New York; London: Routledge, 2012. xii, 204 pp. (Figures.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-66557-5.

The front page identifies Goldie Osuri as Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media, Music, Communications and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University, Australia. In the epilogue,subtitled “Conversion as profanation,” she describes her personal background and the reasons for writing the book. Born into a fourth-generation Christian family in Narasapur, West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, she grew up in a multi-religious environment, where Hindus, Muslims and Christians of various denominations apparently lived peacefully side by side. However: “In 2010 the state of Andhra Pradesh experienced the second-highest number of attacks against Christians in India” (159). Osuri comments: “Conversion now is a charged issue in the state and the violence encouraged by Hindutva groups is on the increase. I offer this ethnography of lived conversions to Christianity in Andhra Pradesh as a way of engaging in a counter affective biopolitics, a counter to Hindutva incitement of hatred” (159).

The chapter titles reveal the book’s theoretical orientation: 1. (Anti) conversion as exception: genealogies; 2. (Anti) conversion: transnational bio/necropolitical engagements; 3. Sovereignty and the Indian secular; 4. What’s love got to do with it? Sovereignty and conversion; and 5. Profaning religious freedom.

Much space is taken up by discussions on political philosophy and legal theory, quoting Aristotle, Kant, Spinoza, Carl Schmitt, G. Agamben, J. Derrida, M. Foucault and A.S. Mandair. The relevance of these writings to (anti)conversion in India is not always very clear. The bibliography contains some 400 titles: the only comprehensive work on Hinduism listed is Wendy Doniger’s controversial Hindus, An Alternative History (by now banned for distribution in India). P.V. Kane’s monumental History of Dharmasastra is not mentioned, though it is certainly of greater relevance to India than the writings of the extensively quoted Carl Schmitt (a prominent law professor in Hitler’s Germany). Nor are there any references to classical Indian writings on political theory or to the sources of traditional Indian/Hindu law.

Osuri challenges the claim of Hindutva organizations to represent the original and essential India. She is unqualifiedly hostile towards the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bajrang Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She repudiates Vir Savarkar, the “conceptual founder of Hindutva,” who held that “Indian national identity, must, at its foundation, be based within the political philosophy of Hindutva” and approvingly quotes Chaturvedi: “Hinduism is only a fraction, a part of Hindutva, whereas Hindutva is not a word, but a history” (2).

Osuri is aware that “(anti)conversion” during the British Raj, especially in Adivasi areas, had much to do with economics and local politics. While the British colonial government supported Christian missions in India, some native rulers passed anti-conversion laws, especially in tribal areas. Discussing the background to the 2010 disturbances in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, involving around 50,000 (mainly Christian) Adivasis and Dalits, Osuri acknowledges the complexity of the issues, but puts the blame for the violence squarely on Hindutva activists. She also hints at pro-Hindutva bias in the commuting of the death sentence for the murderers of Australian medical missionary Dr. Graham Staines and his two young sons, burned to death in 1999 in their camper by members of the Bajrang Dal.

Chapter 4, different in style and content from the rest of the book, discusses two popular Bollywood productions: Jhodaa Akbar is a historical film about the love-marriage between the Muslim Emperor Akbar and the Hindu Rajput princess Jhoda, who continued worshipping Krishna at the court of Agra. Saat Khhoon Maf tells the story of a Goanese Catholic woman, who killed her seven husbands—Hindu, Muslim and Christian—and died a Catholic nun.

Chapter 5 takes aim at the influential Hindu American Foundation, which she dubs Yankee Hindutva, commenting: “Ironically, in the 21st century, transnational Hindutva attempts to align itself with US Imperial sovereignty in a post 9/11 context” (133).

I agree with Osuri’s condemnation of the attempted violent and/or deceitful Hinduization of Adivasis, of the jarring totalitarian language of some proponents of Hindutva, and of the politicizing of religion. However, I am missing an equally critical stance towards Christian missions, which came to India with the totalitarian claim of possessing the only true religion and being the only way to salvation. While Christian missions in British India were more humane than the Spanish-Portuguese conquista in the Americas, and while some Christian missionaries effectively protected Adivasis against exploitation and abuse by outsiders, the Portuguese in Goa, Diu and Daman placed before the Hindus the alternative of either being baptized or leaving their homeland. They introduced the Holy Inquisition, which from 1560 to 1812 tortured and killed thousands.

Religious conflicts are not amenable to rational solutions: the “sovereign” majority—right or wrong—will always prevail and minorities must accommodate themselves. “Tolerance” is a modern secular concept and neither universally practiced nor enforceable. The 1950 Constitution of India, shaped by modern Western models, is very liberal. It guarantees the free exercise of (all) religions, including their propagation. But it also allows an interpretation like that of the Niyogi Commission in 1957. The commission (which also included an Indian Christian), ruled that “conversion” (to Christianity) can be legally prohibited for reasons of public peace and national security.

Osuri’s work is a major contribution to the debate on religious freedom in general and in India in particular. Since she is an Indian Christian, one can understand her bias against militant Hindu organizations and Hindu political parties. However, an unbiased outside observer would agree with the moderate proponents of Hindutva that Bharat is the cradle and the home of Hinduism (however vaguely defined) and that Hindus in India have the right and the duty to protect their own traditions from undue and unfair outside interference. Traditional Hinduism has been largely tolerant and Hindus have lived for centuries in peace side by side with other faith communities—as Goldie Osuri’s own hometown Narasapur has shown.

Klaus K. Klostermaier, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada

Back to top

ECOLOGY IS PERMANENT ECONOMY: The Activism and Environmental Philosophy of Sunderlal Bahuguna. By George Alfred James. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2013. xii, 266 pp. (Illus., maps.) US$85.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4384-4673-8.

In this book, George Alfred James explores the life, ideas and activism of the Gandhian environmentalist and social worker, Sunderlal Bahuguna. The book provides insights into the intellectual influences on Bahuguna and how his experiences as an activist shaped his ideas over time. One of James’ major aims with this book is to explore the intellectual roots of Indian environmentalism, focusing particularly on the environmental ideas inherent in India’s spiritual traditions and Gandhian philosophy. James illustrates the practical values of these ideas, by showing how they have been embodied in Bahuguna’s work.

It should be acknowledged that this book does not claim to be aimed at an academic audience. Rather, James’ intended audience is “people of all ages, but especially young people who will be inspired and motivated to further study the environment and to be involved in the struggle for the future of the planet” (3). Perhaps for this reason, the book is written in a simple and accessible style and does not assume too much background knowledge from the reader.

The book’s central chapters are arranged around major events in Bahuguna’s life, presented chronologically. Chapters 2 to 6 describe Bahuguna’s formative years, examining his major intellectual influences and his early experiences with activism and development work. These chapters provide an informative and accessible introduction to Gandhian philosophy and its evolution and application in the Garhwal hills. We are introduced to the work of Sri Dev Suman, Mirabehn, Saralabehn and Vinoba Bhave, all of whom had a profound influence on Bahuguna and his wife, Vimla Nautiyal. There are also detailed accounts of the role of Bahuguna and Vimla in the development of Sarvodaya collectives in Tehri-Garhwal in the 1950s, which aimed to promote Gandhian-inspired development in the region.

Chapters 7 to 10 deal with different aspects of the Chipko movement: the mobilization for forest protection and local employment with which Bahuguna’s name is most associated. In these chapters, James gives an overview of the events of the movement, considers different “modes of resistance” employed (placing special emphasis on the role of religion) and examines different perspectives on the Chipko message. The final chapters deal with Bahuguna’s later activism. Chapter 11 describes the foot march (padyatra) that Bahuguna undertook between 1981 and 1983, in which he walked the breadth of the Himalaya to promote environmental awareness and develop a broad perspective on the condition of the Himalayan ecosystem. Chapters 12 and 13 explore Bahuguna’s involvement in the movement against the Tehri Dam. James considers some of the controversies surrounding the role of Hindu nationalists in this movement and the question of whether the movement was a “failure.” Finally, chapter 14 presents a summary of Bahuguna’s philosophy, which brings together Gandhian ideas, ecological science and spirituality. James’ account of the role of religion in Bahuguna’s thought is particularly elegant, highlighting the value of a perspective that sees the divinity in nature and opposes the illusion (maya) of the capitalist economy.

The book is highly effective as a work of biography. It provides a very clear sense of Bahuguna’s motivations, intellectual influences and changes in his viewpoint over time. The book falls short, however, in its aim of providing insight into Indian environmentalism. This is chiefly because its primary empirical content is a series of interviews with Bahuguna and secondary materials written about him. James rarely takes a critical perspective on this material. When he does engage with critiques of Bahuguna, the aim seems to be to defend Bahuguna, rather than to carefully evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his position. We receive very little insight into the perspectives of rank-and-file members of the movements that Bahuguna came to represent. Such perspectives are surely important to develop any comprehensive view of “Indian environmentalism.” This is particularly evident in James’ representations of Chipko. For example, in chapter 8 he argues that religion was a major force for mobilization in the movement, citing the use of padyatras (foot marches, or “pilgrimages”), fasts and prayer recitals. However, since James’ claims regarding the significance of these mobilizational techniques is based almost exclusively on Bahuguna’s accounts, the reader is left uncertain as to how significant they really were for Chipko’s rank-and-file supporters.

In chapter 10, James does make some attempt to engage with criticisms of Bahuguna. He considers some of the claims that Bahuguna was at the centre of a division within Chipko between those who favoured development and those who favoured forest conservation. James makes an important contribution by countering some of the simplistic representations of Bahuguna as being anti-modern and anti-development. He demonstrates that Bahuguna’s philosophy was always informed by the economic needs of Uttarakhand’s villages, though his understanding of “needs” and “development” were informed by an ecological and Gandhian perspective. He goes on to argue that the supposed divisions within the Chipko movement were exaggerated by academics and journalists. In saying this, James appears to gloss over claims that Bahuguna’s ecological narrative was at odds with the perspectives of local participants in Chipko, who were more in favour of local-led development than environmental conservation per se. On these issues, James simply reproduces Bahuguna’s perspective: that local people’s claims were always for forest protection, while the claims for the development of small-scale forestry were made by local industries. This overlooks that local industries are led and potentially supported by local people. In the absence of any empirical data on local perspectives (besides Bahuguna’s), the debate that James presents is simply one of competing assertions from activists, journalists and some academics.

Even if this book is aimed more at young activists than scholars, these lapses are not helpful. The quest for sustainability requires honest appraisals of points of tension between environmental conservation and local development aspirations—not just celebrations of prominent and articulate activists.

Trent Brown, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia

Back to top

MEASURING VOTING BEHAVIOUR IN INDIA. By Sanjay Kumar and Praveen Rai. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2013. xx, 175 pp. (Illus.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-81-321-1044-6.

In his foreword to this useful and compact guide to public opinion surveys, Yogendra Yadav—the popular and media-savvy face of India’s public opinion polls—claims that “opinion polls are well-known and little understood in the Indian public life” (ix, emphasis added). As a user of Indian opinion surveys over the past three decades, I share his hope that this useful survey manual might go some way to combat what he calls “methodological illiteracy about opinion polls.” However, “politicians, media persons and academics,” the three crucial segments of India’s opinion makers, are unlikely to flock to this text. This has to do with the style of the book—more a primer than an evocative introduction—and its inadequate engagement with the fabric of Indian society. Despite their erudition, Kumar and Rai have not quite succeeded in locating opinion polls within the multiple methods of social and economic research currently in vogue.

That the survey of political and social attitudes has made great strides in the Indian media over the past decades is easily seen from the omnipresent forecasts of voting intentions in the run-up to any election, and there is always one round the corner, somewhere, in India. The landmark post-poll survey of the Indian electorate following the 1996 parliamentary elections set off the new trend of supplementing political news with snapshots of opinions and attitudes. Since then polls have gained in sophistication, frequency and variety. There is scarcely a newspaper—English medium or published in one of India’s over twenty vernacular languages—or weekly and monthly magazine which does not cater to this growth industry. However, familiarity is not the same as knowledge, and surveys, imported from their original place of birth in the United States, have often become more of a fashion accessory in the media competition for readership than an aid to deepening the knowledge of the political and social process.

The main strength of the book lies in its meticulous, workman-like delineation of the survey method, an introduction to multistage stratified random sampling which is able to generate a sample rich enough to sustain detailed inquiries into the voting behaviour and political and social attitudes of sub-groups within the vast and culturally diverse Indian electorate. Chapter 3, where the authors focus on Multiple Methods of Measuring Voting Choices and explain why forecasting election results based on exit polls works well in the USA and why it fails in India, is one of the key lessons of this book. This, Kumar and Rai argue, is because in India, opinion polls never developed into an academic endeavour for analyzing elections but are mainly undertaken by market research and polling organizations for predicting seat distribution. Their suggestion for scrupulous attention to the forming of the questionnaire and precautions to take in administering them, and illustrations of how this can be done, are among the other valuable features of this useful book.

Despite these useful features of this book, there are some shortcomings that might detract from its appeal. Opinion surveys are par excellence methods of analyzing individual attitudes. And the voting preference of the individual is the mainstay of electoral democracy. Western students of Indian politics might be sceptical about the feasibility of the extension of these two basic assumptions to Indian society where organic and hierarchic social identities are the most prevalent social networks and where elections, in consequence, often acquire a different character from their Western equivalents. Many Indian readers of opinion surveys also share this scepticism about the veracity of polls. How free is a dalit (castes that were once untouchable and often remain so in practice though the practice of untouchability is a criminal offence) woman to vote, and how free is she to share her opinion and attitude with a stranger in a survey format? The fact of the matter is that such people vote copiously and strategically, but what makes this possible does not form part of the account of Kumar and Rai. The underlying processes that affect polling should have been highlighted more fully, particularly because this has been the focus of considerable research. The authors would have done well to delve into the scholarly attention devoted to these issues by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, to which they belong and which has done the pioneering work in this field. For an answer to the sociology of voting behaviour, such as, for example, whether voting decisions are influenced by “political rather than primordial group considerations,” one can turn to D.L. Sheth’s “Political Development of the Electorate” (15) and a series of other excellent essays in D.L. Sheth, ed., Citizens and Parties: Aspects of Competitive Politics in India (Delhi: Allied Publishers, 1975).

Survey research is not the only method of studying voting behaviour empirically. The authors could have dwelt on why ecological correlations, which analyze voting behaviour in terms of areas rather than individuals as units of analysis, has not caught on in India despite the availability of good census data and the matching of constituency units with their socio-economic composition. Similarly, the authors would have done well to refer to the use of multiple methods which makes it possible for survey researchers to look at their findings from other angles such as discourse analysis, aggregate data and path dependency that open the door to the currently popular evolutionary institutionalism, as supplementary methods that help survey researchers get more out of their material.

On the whole, the authors should be complimented for providing a useful link between the consumers of survey data and the producers of this vital tool of social and political research. They have paved the way for the deepening of the application of survey research to electoral analysis in the social and political context of non-Western societies.

Subrata K. Mitra, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany

Back to top

CENSORIUM: Cinema and the Open Edge of Mass Publicity. By William Mazzarella. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2013. ix, 284 pp. US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-05388-1.

The book under review is the result of painstaking field and archival research and reflects the author’s extraordinary versatility as a scholar. Drawing on work done in the field of censorship by both Indian and Western scholars and on interviews with people who have long-standing associations with Indian cinema and related fields, Mazzarella undertakes an analysis of Indian film censorship across colonial and postcolonial periods. Exploring continuities and discontinuities across these periods, the author claims “not to assume the insincerity of the censors’ discourse,” but rather takes it “seriously” (21), thereby moving it beyond “an entirely cynical discourse” (20). In the process, Mazzarella grapples with issues that have a direct bearing on our political culture and the processes of legitimation. The insights that we gain from the analysis done by Mazzarella can be applied to deepen our understanding of various issues that beset our political process and have baffled the analysts of Indian democracy, both native and foreign.

Nevertheless, the language of Censorium is jargonistic and the arguments are intricate. An Orientalist with little grounding in Western philosophical thinking may not find it easy reading. Being a foreigner, Mazzarella is easily able to look at the discourse of censorship from a distance and with a degree of critical detachment that is required for its proper understanding; however, the same strength could become a limiting factor in the sense of not being able to enjoy a degree of familiarity with social and cultural practices that comes naturally to a native.

Adopting a dialectical approach, the author explores censorship discourse from within. Thus, “the ideological tenacity of censorship discourse in the face of—or better, because of—its many inner contradictions” is one of author’s central preoccupations in the book (2). Further, Mazzarella pursues censorship discourse from a wider perspective in this ethnographic project: “My way into censorship is at the same time my way out to a much broader set of questions. In brief, I argue that thinking through film censorship discloses basic problems in the grounding of political and cultural authority in mass-mediated societies” (2). Indeed, the contradictions of censorship discourse and the basic problems in the grounding of political and cultural authority in Indian society are recurrent themes throughout the book. Justifying his focus on cinema when other media are also frequently targeted by censors, both official and self-appointed, Mazzarella convincingly argues that “the cinema is the one medium that in India is thought to reach everybody” and that “cinema spectatorship is a way of belonging to a mass public without having to be literate” (10).

At a more general level, the author attempts to theorize what he refers to as “the problem of public affect management” vis-à-vis modern mass media through an exploration of the specific features of cinema regulation during periods of heightened anxiety and moral panic in colonial and postcolonial India; for Mazzarella, these periods are: the 1920s and the 1930s and the 1990s and the 2000s. Interestingly, pointing to discontinuity, the author notes that the period from the 1930s to the early 1960s was marked by “a genuinely vibrant popular nationalism” that “managed to bring aesthetic discernment and cultural order into relatively smooth alignment.” Thus, “during this period film censorship operated within what looked like a functioning performative dispensation” (87).

In chapter 1, the author dwells upon the open edge of mass publicity and performative dispensation: two concepts that are vital to understanding his arguments. The open edge of mass publicity is considered as “a structural challenge that is inherent to mass-mediated societies” (29). Elsewhere, he defines this structural challenge: “the element of anonymity that characterizes any public communication in the age of mass publics” (37). For Mazzarella, any claim to authoritative cultural order is a claim to a performative dispensation. Thus, performative dispensation is understood in terms of contests among competing cultural groups, both through official institutionalized structures as well as informal channels, to lay claim to authoritative cultural order by combining patron/police functions, albeit often unsuccessfully. Allegorical representation of these contests as attempts at wielding Indra’s banner staff aptly describes ongoing tussles in our society over cultural propriety/impropriety and is a telling commentary on our civilizational specificity.

Throughout the book there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the author is constructing a general theory of performative dispensation and power. Let us, for example, consider this: “Be that as it may, I think we need to consider both the heyday of Nehruvian nationalism and the contested dispensations of the cultural emergency as historically situated responses to the challenge of producing sovereignty in mass-mediated democracy—a challenge that is, of course, by no means restricted to India” (151). However, nowhere does the author mention which “other” society he has in mind. More generally, the reader is left groping in the dark as to which, according to the author, are mass-mediated societies and which are not.

Mazzarella insightfully employs ideas deriving from psychoanalysis to account for contradictions and ambivalence in the stand of elites in a diverse society like ours, which is widely understood to be perpetually caught between tradition and modernity. Finally, in the last chapter, the author dwells on obscenity, which is understood as a tendency of image-objects and not something that inheres in them. Obscenity, thus, is spotted in “the amorally generative potential that lies at the open edge of mass publicity” (191).

The main contribution of the book lies in the author’s willingness to take censorship discourse beyond the cynical, and also in providing us with insights that can be applied to discourses on many issues that beset our political process, beyond cynicism. Arguments are coherent and the book is well organized. The proof reading is good except for a few typos.

Ganeshdatta Poddar, Foundation for Liberal and Management Education, Pune, India

Back to top

SEPARATED AND DIVORCED WOMEN IN INDIA: Economic Rights and Entitlements. By Kirti Singh. New Delhi: SAGE Publications, 2013. xxiii, 255 pp. (Illus.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-81-321-0952-5.

Precious little attention has been paid in research and in policy to the lives of women after marriage. This admirable book goes some considerable way towards exploring the reality of women who have been in marriage but find themselves separated, deserted or divorced.

The book draws on a survey of 405 such women to explore their daily lives and the difficulties they face after the end of their marriages. Singh’s core concerns are living standards and income as well as access to the court systems through which women seek to claim their legal rights.

An introductory chapter maps the legal landscape, as well as women’s success in navigating this, with particular attention to the allocation of assets at the end of a marriage and the ability to claim maintenance. Singh attends to the problem of the failure of Indian law to recognize a woman’s contribution to the economic survival of a marital unit, insomuch as this is neither quantified nor recognized at the time of divorce and is, consequently, not factored into the allocation of assets.

A very helpful overview chapter then summarizes the main findings of the study and is followed by a section describing the sample of women surveyed. Four subsequent chapters explore the following: earning capacity and work status, family status and lifestyle, spousal and child support and the dowry system and finally social status, mobility and skills and decision making. Findings from different cities are reviewed next, with a final chapter that presents conclusions and recommendations. A wealth of data, in tables and graphs, is presented throughout the book, supplemented with summaries of accounts of women respondents.

The argument is set out at the very start, well fleshed out by data and concluded in policy recommendations at the end of the book. In the foreword, former judge Sridevan notes that “the law‘s gender neutrality is a fiction” (xix); this theme runs through the book. Another thread is that with women’s work in the household not being given a monetary value, it fails to be recognized as a contribution, either to the household or to the career or work progression of the husband.

A key finding is that upon death or separation, Indian women by and large find themselves without assets. Singh, a lawyer, makes a central and key argument that equality for women cannot be realized without a right to the equal division of property belonging to both spouses. Drawing on Canadian and European examples, Singh promotes the concept of Community of Property in marriage, so that all assets of the marital home are pooled and then divided. She argues for economic rights as the key to women’s equality.

At the time of dissolution of marriage or of widowhood, the law generally serves a woman leaving the institution less favourably than a man, with pitiful amounts of maintenance being awarded and often after lengthy court procedures and delays.

Women surveyed had made contact with women’s organizations, state women commissions, police and/or courts; one could argue that there is an inbuilt bias in the sample towards women who know of state structures and how best to access institutional support. The broader picture, therefore, is likely to be much more challenging, for many women lack the ability, knowledge and networks that enable them to access these supports.

Some of Singh’s key findings are as follows: that maintenance, though provided for by law, is extremely difficult to access; that the majority of women turn to their natal families if they are left alone at the end of a marriage (including if they have children), where tension and a lack of welcome is often apparent; and that those who are able to take paid work outside the home earn too little for independent survival. Of the women surveyed, 83 percent cited violence as a cause for separation, including women across all communities and religions.

There is a particular problematic that stems from the marital home, where many couples live with the husband’s family. The marital home is not a place where the wife can easily remain post-separation or divorce. Women also struggled to retain moveable assets, such as land, cars and jewellery, after the separation, or to claim money or goods given in dowry. Where maintenance claims were settled by the courts, most cases took between one and five years to reach a conclusion. Support for children was granted in under 50 percent of cases.

Singh’s policy and practice review concludes that family courts have been tried but they are too few; women-only staff teams at police stations were established in the hope that women would access these more than other stations and would be successful in registering cases, including reports of violence. Yet Singh concludes that the hoped-for improvements have not been realised. Women need access to immovable assets—especially property—but also moveable assets such as household items and savings. Many women therefore become assetless on the dissolution of marriage, though arguably they were already so before then.

Singh rightly calls for more and more effective efforts by the state to ensure social welfare and poverty alleviation in general. There are currently provisions for widows but very little for deserted or divorced women. Yet, as this book shows, their challenges and experiences have much in common.

A focus on what happens after marriage continues to highlight the need to explore both the nature of adult womanhood as being legitimately framed only by marriage, as well as women’s poor profile in the labour force (especially in well-paid work) as it reflects both of these areas of concern. We would do well to join the dots.

While many of the arguments and conclusions are not new—accessing courts in India is difficult, the laws do not provide well for separated women, and natal families are the main alternative for women on the demise of marriage—the data provided here are really valuable. They give critical flesh to arguments about the difficulties women face in such circumstances.

The data, in graphical form and explained in the text, are plentiful and are very useful in helping to understand the reality of women who find themselves outside the institution in which acceptable adult womanhood is socially bound.

The layout and nature of the text is at times unfriendly: small print and text that summarizes some of the tables can make for hard work. More attention to prose and commentary would have been helpful. Finally, given that it was published in 2013, the book would have been strengthened by use of 2011 census data, even if it had delayed publication by a few months.

Purna Sen, London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom

Back to top

THE BANGLADESH READER: History, Culture and Politics. The World Readers. Meghna Guhathakurta and Willem van Schendel, eds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013. xiv, 550 pp. (Map, illus.) US $27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5318-8.

Situated within the world’s largest river delta, Bangladesh contains the eighth-largest national population in the world, and the majority of its inhabitants speak the world’s sixth most widely-spoken language. Yet Bangladesh remains largely neglected by the international community, and tends to feature in the Western media only when there is a natural disaster or, as in the case of the April 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, a man-made one.

The latest addition to Duke University Press’ World Readers series is a gem. It offers both general readers and specialists an unprecedented and much-needed array of information, voices, images and perspectives on Bangladesh’s history, politics and culture. The 134 extracts that are contained within—including newspaper articles, letters, speeches, fiction, academic writing, posters, memoir, poems, a recipe, and a host of other forms of text—cover a vast amount of ground. The book also contains a wealth of illustrations, including some gorgeous photographic plates.

The task of reviewing a book such as this one is of course largely impossible, given the amount and range of material contained within, but I will try to convey a flavour of what is here. The selections are grouped into nine sub-sections: voices from Bangladesh, early histories, colonial encounters, Partition and Pakistan, war and Independence, dilemmas of nationhood, contemporary culture, the development gaze and Bangladesh beyond its borders. Each section, and each contribution, is carefully introduced by the editors, giving the reader a strong sense of overall cohesiveness that makes the book a real pleasure to read, either from the beginning of the book in sequence, or equally satisfying, by dipping in and out at random. One way to approach the book in the first instance is simply to read these introductions in sequence to gain a fascinating overview of the country before engaging with the material.

The first section, containing diverse contemporary voices, immediately sets the scene for what follows, with entries by Shana K., a garment worker, Abdul Qader Mullah, a senior member of Jama’at e Islami (whose views might not match every reader’s understanding of the characterization given to him of ‘fundamentalist’), and Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, each vying for the reader’s attention. The early history section ranges across the diverse local and non-local rulers of the territory of Bengal including Afghans, Ethiopians and Arakanese, and traders from China, Persia and Arabia. Moving on, the entries on the pre-1947 colonial encounters range from new religious movements to European entrepreneurs, while the section on Partition and Pakistan, alongside the familiar (such as the Awami League’s famous “Six Points”) provides some new insights into what is one of the better documented periods covered by the reader, such as the 1964 Garo exodus, and the destruction in the Chittagong Hill Tracts wreaked by the Kaptai lake project. We then arrive at war and Independence, which includes a chilling account of Operation Searchlight by Siddiq Salik, a junior officer in the Pakistan army in 1971, and an equally distressing transcript of a telephone call between Kissinger and Nixon. As one might have expected, many voices are represented in the dilemmas of nationhood section, reflecting a diversity of views on religion, the military, and issues of ethnicity. The extract from Kalpana Chakma’s diary, discovered after her disappearance, allegedly at the hands of the army in 1996, is particularly moving, caught between army violence, local patriarchy and Bengali “ethnic oppression.”

By the seventh section, on contemporary culture, it has become clear that the impoverished nature of the outside world’s view of Bangladesh has been vividly exposed and long left behind. Rather than replaying all-too-familiar dichotomies of urban/rural, or religious/secular, the editors talk instead of a “multilayered cultural fusion” (367), and of the politics of cultural space. B.K. Jahangir’s piece on the timeless art of Zainul Abedin is a highlight, and one is immediately tempted to put Shornomoyee’s recipe for Ilish fish with mustard sauce to the test! The issue of development is approached imaginatively, combining some well-known academics with the voices of ordinary people. Finally, the section on Bangladesh’s global dimension draws on migrant accounts, and a piece by the Clean Clothes Campaign on the issue of garment workers’ rights within international value chains brings home the issues that underpin the tragedy of Rana Plaza (which occurred after the book went to press).

A real pleasure of this collection is collision between the familiar and the unexpected. It brings together in one place some of the key writings that will be essential for anyone wishing to engage with the country (such as Sheikh Mujib’s speeches, a Rabindranath Tagore story, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s 1905 proto-feminist satire Sultana’s Dream, Rounaq Jahan on the rise of the vernacular elite, Rehman Sobhan on the economic disparities of Pakistan, Richard Eaton on the rise of Islam); but at the same time readers will delight in the many unusual and unexpected pieces that lie scattered throughout its pages. And while the volume might be thought by some people broadly to endorse a particular vision of Bangladesh (diverse, multicultural, pluralistic) with which not everyone might agree, it is by no means didactic. For example, Lamia Karim’s view of developmental non-governmental organizations as “modern landlords” is followed by Ainoon Naher’s description of mobilization by village elites against outsider efforts to empower the poor. Different points of view jostle within these pages so that readers can make up their own minds about what remains a fascinating and complex country.

Overall, this is a hugely impressive feat of scholarship for which the two editors should be congratulated. The lyric of James (Nagar Baul)’s 2005 Baul-inspired rock song is as good a place as any for me to end, and for readers of this wonderful book on the ongoing story of Bangladesh to begin: “Forge your way through the milling crowd, Turn the leaves of sorrow; and find the garden of dreams” (410).

David Lewis, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom

Back to top

GLOBALISATION, EMPLOYMENT AND EDUCATION IN SRI LANKA: Opportunity and Division. Routledge Studies in Education and Society in Asia, 2. By Angela W. Little and Siri T. Hettige. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xiv, 270 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$135.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-63808-1.

The authors have provided a comprehensive overview of the education system, policies and infrastructure in Sri Lanka, tying these very neatly to employment in Sri Lanka within the ambit of globalization. The book is mainly focused on understanding the effects of Sri Lanka’s liberalization in 1977 on education and employment. However, the authors give the book added depth by providing a concise description of colonial education policies, systems and infrastructure. These have hardly changed since Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, especially in regard to social class structure and employment, in a country where a “majority of school-going children … preferred government jobs” (147).

A fascinating central feature of this book is the discussion of the peculiar nexus between education, the political landscape and the socio-economic demographics of Sri Lanka, which have propagated ethnic and social-class identities by “the division of the education system along ethnic lines” (182) and medium of instruction, leading in some instances to violent youth uprisings. The book posits that the majority Sinhalese ethnic divide and the student uprisings in 1971 and 1987-1989 (both spearheaded by the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana [JVP], whose agitation in the first instance had “less to do with the type of education available for rural children … [and] more to do with the continuing monopoly on high-status educational and occupational opportunity by the English educated” [36]) had much to do with class divisions. The disenchantment of Tamil youth with government educational policies and inadequate employment opportunities, especially in the government/public sector, led eventually to the civil war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

In chapter 4, the authors draw attention to the transition from English to Sinhalese or Tamil as a medium of instruction in schools from the mid 1940s onward, and chart the detrimental effect this policy has had on gainful private-sector employment. Yet, the authors make clear the advantages of education in the vernacular by providing evidence for increasing literacy in the secondary and tertiary sectors. Chapter 5 provides information on the availability of foreign education in Sri Lanka through cases studies of UK-accredited institutes and businesses offering opportunities to students in Sri Lanka.

Chapter 6 provides an interesting ethnographic study of the “aspirations and expectations” of youth and their parents (in their youth). The survey spread across nine areas consisting of a mix of urban and rural areas and provided insights to the question “has economic liberalization had an impact on the levels and types of aspirations and expectations of youth?” (150). The answers to the survey in regard to youth preferences and parents’ preferences for employment for their children is useful for policy makers in both the educational and employment sectors.

The unintended consequence of fostering ethnic identities over a national identity through the education system has on occasion led to violence, as mentioned above, and the authors warn “if the education system is maintained in its present form, it will continue to underpin ethnic relations” (192). This brings us to the realization of the importance of education in postwar reconciliation amongst communities. Chapter 7 provides an in-depth discussion of the challenges and issues surrounding this topic, while providing useful information such as the desire amongst students for “the opportunity to learn together with students of other ethnic groups” (192).

The book’s concern for comparison in three important areas is applauded. The authors have looked at the pre- and post-1977 periods, comparing the aspirations of the current young generation with those of their parents, and comparing Sri Lanka’s educational and employment policies with those of the Asian Tigers during the 1960-1990 period and with India/China during the period 1990–2012.

Yet, there are important areas the authors fail to develop, thus doing a disservice to the holistic nature of the book. These are as follows.

  • The unionization of tertiary education. While the authors mention the difficulties students face in completing tertiary education, readers would benefit if the unionization amongst lecturers and students alike was made explicit in discussion. In 2012, the Federation of University Teacher’s Associations (FUTA) undertook strike action, lasting 99 days, protesting against stagnant government investment in education, and low wages. Student unions in universities protest on a regular basis against government plans to introduce private, international universities in Sri Lanka.
  • The lack of opportunities for students who study in international schools. The authors make perfunctory mention of international schools, noting that “in 1977/8 there was only one international school … since then the numbers have mushroomed” (101). While students completing A-Level qualifications receive internationally recognized certifications (as “Sri Lankan universities do not recognize foreign ‘A Level’ qualifications” [102]), entry and study in overseas universities is restricted by the costs for tuition and stringent visa procedures for host countries. This is compounded by the unavailability of financial aid schemes for Sri Lankan students in Sri Lanka and in most foreign countries. Further, those that manage to take loans cannot return easily to Sri Lanka given their financial obligations. Obviously this situation contributes to the brain-drain begun since the 1950s.
  • The private tuition malaise. The authors have recognized the popularity and frequenting of private tuition classes by students enrolled in general education, including higher secondary education. Readers would have benefitted had the authors delved into the contentious issues surrounding private tuition such as the inability of state teachers to complete syllabi for various reasons including self-interest, as some of the same teachers promote their private tuition classes. This then throws into question the availability of state “free education” and state measures enforcing teacher accountability.

Overall, the book provides a valuable introduction into education and employment in Sri Lanka for those uninitiated in the subject, while chapters 6 through 9 provide food for thought for policy makers, practitioners and academics.

Gloria Spittel, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Back to top

THE PITY OF PARTITION: Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide. Lawrence Stone Lectures. By Ayesha Jalal. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013. xv, 265 pp. (B&W photos.) US$27.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-691-15362-9.

This is a highly readable book on the life and writings of the most outstanding Urdu short-story writer Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955), by the historian Ayesha Jalal, a close relative of Manto’s; her father was his nephew.

Jalal expands her ambit from archival material, which hitherto has been her only source of writing on the Partition, to include oral history as she moves away from high politics to the stark ground reality of unprecedented violence that claimed more than a million lives and forced 14-18 million people to cross the India-Pakistan border at the time of Partition in mid-1947.

However, she expresses doubts about oral history as a reliable source for scholarly research. She remarks: “Privileging memories shaped by violent ruptures cannot but provide a distorting prism for looking into the history of the entire gamut of social and political relations” (13). It is an involved construction because there is nothing to suggest that memory should be privileged. Methodological innovation which does not privilege one source material over the other and attempts a multi-layered analysis combining high politics, the conduct of officialdom in the field, and the experiences of the people, three levels in the structure and process of the partition, is certainly an option.

Conventional historians, including Jalal, put their pens down once government reports on the partition prepared by the British ceased to be available (not written at all or those that remain classified up to this day) after the 14th of August, when power was transferred to Indian and Pakistani administrations in the partitioned Punjab. However, political scientists can link these levels in a theoretical framework to attempt a holistic and comprehensive study of that great upheaval. In my book, The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012), I have demonstrated the usefulness and relevance of such methodology. Reviewers have, without exception, found the employment of oral history collected from hundreds of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs a very useful methodological innovation.

Consequently, when Jalal attempts a biography-cum-literary evaluation of Manto, she combines newspaper editorials and news items, articles on Manto, letters he wrote and received, some official documents and reports, with oral history collected through discussions and interviews with his family, relatives, friends and contemporaries. The result is an amazingly informative, even-handed, and lifelike portrait of the great writer.

Manto’s elders were from Kashmir. They were shawl merchants who settled in the Punjab. His father was a magistrate. Saadat Hasan was born to his second wife, whom his relatives never accepted. The genius grew up lonely, discriminated against, and angry. He was an unsuccessful student who found himself in the company of leftists wanting to overthrow British colonialism and imbibed that message. Long years of struggle in Lahore, Bombay and Delhi to make a living from writing fiction and film stories and scripts followed. He was victimized for allegedly writing obscene stories and dragged into courts. Married to a woman also of Kashmiri extraction, Safia, he found in her his bedrock, though he had wanted to marry a cousin whom some rich suitor claimed successfully. Together they had four children, three daughters and a son. The son was the apple of his eye but he died when still an infant. Manto could never overcome that blow.

Manto became a rebel; an anti-imperialist to the end of his life; jealously independent and irreverent, hounded by right-wing forces and ostracized by orthodox communists. He could make fun of religion. He had many close Hindu friends, including the famous actors such as Ashok Kumar and Shyam; yet wrote the Arabic numerals 786 (symbolizing the Quranic formula “I begin in the name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”) on the top of each story he wrote. A critic of religious fanaticism, he was simultaneously a realist convinced that religion shapes human behaviour and cannot be wished away. Jalal tries to explicate these contradictions and does it very well.

The selection of the short stories is extremely fair. The breadth of Manto’s writings covering sexuality, violence, corruption, politics, culture, individualism, class and society is amply presented. Equally, his skills, ranging from portraying tragedy and horror to sarcasm and humour and pique absurdity, are aptly demonstrated. Jalal devotes a whole chapter to the fictional letters he wrote to Uncle Sam with regard to how Pakistan would be used and exploited. He could foretell that the Americans would be promoting fanaticism and extremism in Pakistan. History has proven him right. Yet Manto left India and came to Pakistan, where under the influence of literary critic and ideologue Hassan Askari, he began to assume some typical Pakistani nationalist standpoints vis-à-vis India.

Jalal mentions that Manto used to celebrate March 23rd, the date of the 1940 Lahore resolution passed by the Muslim League demanding Pakistan. This is doubtful, because not until 1956 was that date declared the national day of Pakistan. By that time Manto was dead, succumbing to mounting debts, excessive drinking and an intellectually suffocating milieu that emerged in Pakistan as the demand for making Pakistan a proper Islamic state picked up momentum.

It is widely mentioned that Manto wrote to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (a Kashmiri Brahmin like Manto but a Hindu) urging him to vacate Muslim Kashmir just as he (a Muslim) had left India and migrated to Pakistan. If such a letter was written then Manto succumbed to the logic of the two-nation theory on which Pakistan is based. It would have been interesting to know if such a letter was written at all. Jalal has not taken it up in her discussion, which is rather peculiar.

Ishtiaq Ahmed, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan,

Stockholm University Stockholm, Sweden, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Back to top

INDIA IN SOUTH ASIA: Domestic Identity Politics and Foreign Policy from Nehru to the BJP. Routledge Advances in International Relations and Global Politics, 108. By Sinderpal Singh. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. x, 163 pp. US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-62530-2.

The literature on Indian foreign policy has long been dominated by a standardized realist mode of analysis cast in the vocabulary of national interests and power distribution. It is refreshing therefore to find a work that—without ignoring questions of power and interest—is firmly embedded in an ideational framework. Sinderpal Singh’s India in South Asia, written in a lucid style that eschews the dense jargon common among constructivist writings, centres on how the politics of identity framed within India’s domestic political context is reflected in its foreign policy toward its neighbours, mainly Pakistan, but also Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Singh studies the discourses on secularism, democracy and anti-imperialism during the Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) eras and shows how contests over them shaped domestic politics and thence the foreign policy realm over the years.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s syncretic approach to religion and national identity made India’s clash with Pakistan over Kashmir “a battle over two contending identities of statehood—secularism and communalism” (32). His democratic credentials were evident in his willingness to seek the Kashmiri peoples’ preferences in choosing between India and Pakistan. But when Pakistan joined the US-led alliance system, Nehru’s anti-imperialism and his desire to preserve India’s autonomy from big power domination led him to back away from his position on plebiscite in Kashmir.

Indira Gandhi’s quest for domestic power drove her to shift from Nehru’s institutionally based democracy to a more personalized rule that bypassed institutions in favour of populism. This was reflected not only in her policies on currency devaluation and bank nationalization, but equally in foreign policy, as when she sought to appeal directly to the Pakistani public by returning territory seized by India during the 1971 war. The BJP undertook a radical re-invention of Indian identity by wrapping it in “Hindutva” (“Hindu-ness”), which was imbued with hostility toward Muslims both within India (as in the state of Gujarat, which witnessed horrific anti-Muslim violence in 2002) and without (vis-à-vis Pakistan’s “betrayal” in the occupation of territory in the Kargil region of Kashmir, and large-scale Bangladeshi migration into India). In all three cases, the overriding factor was anti-imperialism, which—rather broadly defined by Singh—brought threats of intervention from the United States, China and potentially others. This caused Nehru to back away from conciliatory approaches to Pakistan and Nepal; Indira Gandhi to lean toward the Soviet Union to counter the Pakistan-US nexus and invoke the “Indira Doctrine” in Sri Lanka; and the BJP to exercise restraint against Pakistan to preclude American intervention.

There are interesting and unexpected insights. Nehru the anti-imperialist appeared anything but that in asserting India’s “special interests” in Nepal. Mrs. Gandhi, to many the quintessential realist, made concessions to Pakistan to provide ballast to the democratically elected (and deeply hostile) Z.A. Bhutto for his political survival. And the BJP began by espousing “Gandhian socialism,” of which “swadeshi” (self-sufficiency) was a critical component before it turned liberal after assuming power.

The strengths of the book are evident. It will occupy a distinctive place in the literature on Indian foreign policy because it links domestic politics and foreign policy through a seamless analysis of the two realms; it uses a constructivist framework that gives it a prominent place among writings on the subject; and it adopts an ideational approach that goes well beyond older arguments based on Indian exceptionalism. Realists may object that it does not quite undermine their case. Anti-imperialism and the quest for autonomy, which have been key components of India’s foreign policy identity, are also easily accommodated by realist analysis. Academics will find the theoretical content a bit thin. Given the author’s express contention that realist and liberal theories are inadequate for a full understanding of foreign policy, a more extensive engagement with the theoretical literature could have strengthened the argument. A discussion of the considerable work on the relationship between dometic and foreign policy would have done likewise. The author might also have tackled some critical questions, such as why Mrs. Gandhi eschewed the bomb after the 1974 test; or why the BJP’s hostility toward Muslims did not prevent Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee from undertaking his Lahore initiative.

That said, Singh’s work is likely to be of enduring value. It will effectively shift the median in the literature on Indian foreign policy away from purely power- and interest-based analyses to a more nuanced understanding of a complex reality that encompasses ideational themes. The book is timely at a juncture when India is engaged in an energetic debate over its identity. The BJP’s efforts to invigorate domestic politics with a new Hindu-pragmatic identity and the promise of a more decisive foreign policy befitting an emerging power will be better understood by readers who have had the benefit of the historical grounding and conceptual tools provided by this book.

Rajesh Basrur, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Back to top

AN INDIAN POLITICAL LIFE: Charan Singh and Congress Politics, 1957 to 1967. The Politics of Northern India, 1937 to 1987, v. 2. By Paul R. Brass. New Delhi: SAGE Publications, 2012. xxiv, 475 pp., [12] pp. of plates. (Illus., maps.) US$69.95, cloth. ISBN 978-81-321-0947-1.

We have never seen, nor are we likely to see, anything quite like this book—or rather, like the multi-volume treatment of which it is the second instalment (with more to come). Its unique value derives in part from Chaudhary Charan Singh, the political leader who is its main focus. He was an inveterate writer not just of documents for public consumption and long letters (sent and unsent), but of highly detailed private records and assessments of political processes and policy issues—to which he brought a fine analytical mind. And he preserved these documents!

The other key element is Paul Brass’s long engagement with the politics of Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s largest state and Charan Singh’s region—and with the man himself. This goes back more than half a century; an appendix contains transcripts from interviews in 1961 and 1962. Brass is one of the great interpreters of India, and he has here a massive trove of quality evidence.

The decade covered in this book (1957-1967) was a curious, low period in Charan Singh’s career. It stands between his earlier (and greatest) achievement as a minister in UP (covered in volume 1), zamindari abolition: that is, the breakup of large landholdings across much of that state. That reform largely removed inequities which would have made politics in this crucial region inherently unstable and grossly unjust: the sort of vile politics that survive in the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh. It also benefited small and medium cultivators who duly became Charan Singh’s committed followers. But that political base did not suffice to raise him to pre-eminence in his state, so the years covered here were marked by considerable isolation and repeated frustrations. He broke with the Congress Party just after this narrative concludes, built an opposition party, was jailed during Indira Gandhi’s emergency (1975-77), then emerged as a senior figure in the subsequent Janata government, and was for six months a caretaker prime minister in 1979. The excitements of those years will figure in a later volume.

In the first half of the book, the focus alternates between chronological narratives of events and rich discussions of important themes: the region’s political economy, the redrawing of states’ boundaries, and debates over the development model for UP and indeed, for India. In those debates, Charan Singh—the champion of agriculture in general and owner-cultivators in particular—was on the losing side, as agrarian surpluses were redirected to fund state-led industrialization.

The second half of the volume concentrates on the decline of the Congress Party in UP. It deals in great detail with corruption and factionalism. Indeed, it is astonishing that infighting proceeded more or less unabated even amid India’s war with China, and just after the death of Nehru. Brass also assesses the strangely ill-judged roles played by the party’s national leaders in a state that provided the very core of their power base. The Congress high command in New Delhi made numerous destructive interventions and—remarkably often—remained inert when urgent action was needed. We get glimpses here of an aloof Jawaharlal Nehru, of (even in that early period) a devious and paranoid Indira Gandhi, and of a stubbornly (and surprisingly) non-committal Lal Bahadur Shastri (Nehru’s successor as prime minister).

We also get fascinating accounts of Charan Singh’s usually shrewd machinations—which nevertheless seldom bore fruit. He was often quite vocal in advancing meticulously constructed arguments based on far more evidence than other Congress politicians deployed then (within and beyond northern India) or indeed since. And yet on other occasions, he carefully remained mute, when his views had no chance of success, or when his advocacy of an issue would do more harm than good.

Brass is careful, even in the overall title for this series of books, to clarify that his focus is “northern” India. This is welcome since things were rather different in western India—where Y.B. Chavan was building a remarkably broad base for Congress—and in the south.

This study is decidedly sympathetic to Charan Singh, but Brass also provides plenty of criticisms which lend credibility to the analysis. He could be naïve, and only partly aware of his own defects of character. He was at times inconsistent and at others rigid. He was sometimes ineffective as an administrator. He tended to be insensitive to the pain that he inflicted on others, a trait that mattered greatly since he was perhaps India’s “great denigrator” (352). He was unsympathetic to the plight of the labouring classes and adivasis (“tribals”). He condoned police excesses, and on one occasion failed to deal effectively with religious riots. So this book is by no means the cosy story of Charan Singh “as told to” Paul Brass.

It is striking to see how lively the debates were over political and policy issues in that era, before Indira Gandhi radically centralized power in the Congress Party and stifled discussion, along with intra-party democracy. Debates have revived a little in recent years, but the contrast with that earlier period is still striking.

Brass offers us a bleak view of UP politics—and abundant evidence to justify it. This is apparent from titles and sub-titles in various chapters: “Political Farce…,” “Crisis and Sabotage,” Groupism and Venality,” Forms of Corruption,” etc. Charan Singh was similarly despondent. He emerges here as a lonely figure, thwarted by rivals: a man with ideas and a political base that would only begin to flourish after 1967, when the narrative in this volume concludes, after Charan Singh had left the Congress Party.

Other scholars (including this reviewer) have based their analyses on extensive interactions with key Indian politicians. But it is hard to imagine anyone ever matching the exhaustive account that Brass provides: thanks to decades of deep immersion in UP and close interactions with Charan Singh, to that unrivalled archival goldmine, and to the author’s acuity.

James Manor, University of London, London, United Kingdom

Back to top

INDIA TODAY: Economy, Politics and Society. By Stuart Corbridge, John Harris, and Craig Jeffrey. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity Press; Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley [distributor], 2013. xv, 384 pp. (Figures, tables.) C$26.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7456-6112-4.

India Today is a vigorously informative volume that conscientiously examines some of the big debates of contemporary India in the context of wide-ranging empirical and theoretical perspectives. The co-authored text will be extremely relevant for academics, students, policy makers and development practitioners working in India and beyond, as well as those curious to understand more about the extent and nature of economic, political and social transformations taking place in post-liberal India.

John Harriss, Stuart Corbridge and Craig Jeffrey have well-established research commitments in India and bring their intimate knowledge to bear on a series of timely questions which represent the titles of stand alone, yet intersecting chapters: When and why did India take off? How have the poor fared (and others too)? Why hasn’t economic growth delivered more for Indian workers? Is the Indian state delivering on promises of “inclusive growth” and social justice? How did a weak state promote audacious reforms? Has India’s democracy been a success? Is government in India becoming more responsive? Does India have a civil society? Has the rise of Hindu nationalism halted? Why has Maoism become such a force in India? Does India have a civil society? Does caste still matter in India? How much have things changed for Indian women? Can India benefit from its demographic dividend? The answers to these subjects are examined through a broad and rigorous review of the literature to illuminate contrasting arguments across different sites and scales of analysis, within India and beyond. This capacity to navigate a range of disciplinary approaches and regional material reflects the interdisciplinary and situated expertise of the authors and contributes to one of the book’s greatest achievements.

Concerning the trajectory of India’s economic “take off,” Corbridge, Harriss and Jeffrey are careful to nuance the more popularized narrative of India’s “neoliberal turn” in 1991 with the IMF reforms. Instead, they place this moment within the context of India’s much earlier liberalizing tendencies and institution building to show how these practices provided the fertile foundations for India’s longstanding economic growth to accelerate. Readers acquainted with Harriss and Corbridge’s earlier work, Reinventing India, may find this relatively familiar territory. Yet, this book importantly expands the lens on India’s economic successes to chapters that critically assess the unevenness of economic growth and its manifestations, notably around employment and poverty alleviation. In the context of the Government of India’s public commitment to “inclusive growth,” attention is turned to the efficacy of “pro-poor” policies (Right to Education, Right to Food and Right to Work) that were largely implemented under the Congress-led coalition. These have been mainly celebrated in the global development community, not least India’s Right to Work Act, however Corbridge et al.’s optimism is somewhat tempered by their grounded insights into the politics of the Indian middle classes. They argue that in everyday life, the aspirations of India’s middle classes conflict with, and often compromise, the aims of “pro-poor” policies and efforts to address uneven development.

The second section turns the attention to politics to unpack India’s politics-business nexus and reveal how this has fundamentally informed the shape of India’s post-liberal landscape, comprising economic reforms by stealth and a notably pro-business rather than a pro-market agenda. The notion of India’s democratic success and extent is unraveled through a methodical discussion that contrasts the scope of its formal and substantive processes since Independence. This generally positive story is further nuanced through an examination of the limits of governance and the lived realities of progressive democratization in contemporary India, where questions hang over whether the “right” people benefit from political power across different scales. The ways in which power has found expression through overt and more banal forms of everyday violence represents the backdrop for thinking about the fortune of Hindu Nationalism and of Maoism. Despite the Hindu right Bharatiya Janata Party being currently out of power in the national government, the tract of Hindutva sentiment and its pernicious anti-Muslim rhetoric remains in tact. Meanwhile, situated within a broader discussion around “insurgency,” it is argued that Maoism has gained traction in India’s rural resource-rich states due to a complex, situated relationship between political mobilization, state maladministration, accumulated grievance and liberalization. Yet, whilst the reasons behind the rise of Maoism in India may be contested, the overriding conclusion is that, in the end, the poorest will always lose out.

Although of course implicated in the first two sections of the book, the question of society in India today receives its own platform in the third and final section, where the circumstances of civil society, caste, women and India’s demographic dividend come under scrutiny. These form strong stand-alone chapters, but lack the kind of crosscutting arguments which cohere parts 1 and 2. More explicit linkages between the character of India’s civil society and the critiques leveled around middle-class politics and poverty alleviation may have been productive. However, the robust and logical analysis of the continued yet shifting centrality of caste underpins a particularly valuable chapter, not only for students and relative newcomers to India, but also those seeking clarity on what can be a perplexing aspect of Indian society. The mixed optimism on the situation for women in India serves to remind the reader of India’s uneven regional development, particularly in recent decades. Though the crucial social-economic indicators may be up, their scope is partial and mainly limited to urban areas and more progressive regions. The book moves towards its conclusion with a view to the future, and an examination of the potential for India to capitalize on its pending demographic dividend. Set in contrast to China, India’s future looks much bleaker, its failure to facilitate mass education and health services, infrastructure and good governance means it will likely squander this window for positive transformation.

It is a truism of reviews on such far-reaching volumes to point out areas not included, so perhaps it would be more interesting to speculate on the headline questions of a revised edition in twenty years time, when it is very likely that the vital and increasingly pressured nexus between water, food and the environment will be much harder to overlook in understanding the dynamics of India’s economy, politics and society. In sum, however, India Today impressively marks a particular moment in post-liberal India. The authors have succeeded in representing tremendous breadth and depth of perspectives and although offering their specific steer through the material they decline to close down the debates but instead enable the reader to interpret India’s complexities: its contradictions and juxtapositions and its achievements and flaws.

Philippa Williams, Queen Mary University of London, London, United Kingdom

Back to top

Southeast Asia


HOT SCIENCE, HIGH WATER: Assembling Nature, Society and Environmental Policy in Contemporary Vietnam. Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Monograph Series, no. 124. By Eren Zink. Copenhagen: Nias Press, 2013. xx, 270 pp. (Figures, tables.) £18.99, paper. ISBN 978-87-7694-128-4.

Hot Science, High Water is a rare and much needed contribution to the study of how decisions are made and policies formed on environmental issues in intricate relations to the reproduction of culture, politics and society. It shows how scientists are not only experts in their fields but also members of a particular social and cultural order. Behind this insight is not merely the merit of ethnographic work, but also productive engagement with actor-network theory to cast light on activities that have given shape to policy, scientists and ultimately society. Using Latour’s framework, the book productively counters foundational approaches to environmental crisis, such as that of political ecology which seeks to contextualize the crisis within a narrative of capitalism. It also problematizes most effectively the institution of policy making, which often assumes the power of “best practices” in influencing varieties of environmental ideals, norms and ethics.

The author Eren Zink, who teaches anthropology of science at Uppsala University, did an excellent job in assembling accounts that feature the intricate social production of scientific discourse in Vietnam in the context of unequal exchange of knowledge between the Global North and the Global South. Instead of looking at the power of international norms and scientific discourses, such as that of Climate Change, in influencing Vietnamese environmental policy, Zink shows how Vietnamese scientists reworked and appropriated those norms to produce policies that work for their own material and moral ambitions. He tells a story about the production of difference, not so much by way of exposing competing accounts about the environment and Climate Change, but by way of harnessing the knowledge to serve other purposes, an act that dislodged the authority of the international agencies who seek to control the practices of knowledge in Vietnam.

Zink follows the Vietnamese scientists and the mechanism by which they remade matters concerning environmental crises into something that could address other issues. The whole processes of remaking brought in social practices that are far from scientific (such as micro-politics and cultural economies) but are equally important in understanding the Vietnamese way of producing nature and environmental policy. There is no doubt a strong component of constructedness of nature and crises but Zink makes clear that the book is in no way denying the crises. The concern is about how the global environmental crises are made relevant to the local situation and how much such efforts rely on the practices of cultural economy.

The book’s strongest theoretical contribution is situated in Zink’s use of “slippery space,” defined as a space produced (by Vietnamese scientists) for misunderstanding and misrecognition of power and knowledge, which ironically served as a basis for collaboration with international development agencies. He applies this concept (and the more familiar idea of habitus from Bourdieu) rather loosely (or better productively) to capture a variety of instances of exchange between different habitus, between the local and foreign actors and between natural and human actors.

As theory occupies a central component in the framing of the ethnographic finding, Zink opens his narrative appropriately with a useful exploration of the concepts and theoretical tools that have made the actor-network theory an accessible and productive method, if only one is willing to follow the scientists at work. Chapter 2 provides another important angle to understanding the making of nature and society in Vietnam. It demonstrates the power or the agency of history and the culture of scientific training in Vietnam and how the power of Confucian learning continues to shape the contemporary habits of scientists in their production of scientific knowledge. The “Science Histories” chapter is a pleasure to read, as it contextualizes the manner of working of Vietnamese scientists in their habits (chapter 3) and in their negotiation with nature (chapter 4) and international development and scientific agencies (chapters five and six). One of the best parts of the story is how the scientific fact of climate change is made to work for seemingly unrelated things, such as kinship relations, political patron-client, and career advancement, without jeopardizing relations with frustrated international agencies. Another great story concerns the formation of national Climate Change policy, which is based on an acceptance of the scientific facts of Climate Change, but it sides with other developing countries in their refusal to accept the mitigation projects proposed by industrialized countries. The last chapter is most interesting as it tells the story of young scientists who have returned home with new scientific knowledge and their own professional ideals but encountered the habitus that demanded adaptation of their manner of working which would in turn shape their scientific knowledge itself. Young scientists who are moving in and out western institutions have also learned to constitute their own slippery space to deal with older scientific establishments in Vietnam.

We thus return to the central theme of the book – how scientists made a space for themselves in the social space of Vietnam by way harnessing global interests, concerns and ideals about nature and crises. In Taking local culture and politics seriously, Eren Zink presents novel insights into the history and ethnography of science and policy-making while simultaneously contributes greatly towards advancing our knowledge about Vietnamese society.

Abidin Kusno, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Back to top


THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA: Tangled Strands of Modernity. By Loh Kah Seng et al. Singapore: NUS Press, 2013. 347 pp. (B&W photos.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-9971-69-692-4.

The history of decolonization and the making of independent nation states continues to interest scholars across various disciplines. Competing accounts of the tumultuous fifties and sixties, formative years for the forging of a national identity in Malaya and Singapore, have emerged to enrich our understanding of the past. The monumental memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew can be read against The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Poh Soo Kai et al. , Strategic Information and Research Centre, 2010). The University Socialist Club and the Contest for Malaysia: Tangled Strands of Modernity adds a scholarly, well-researched dimension to this list. Focusing on an important student organization, the University Socialist Club, the authors embark on a riveting account of the Left in Singapore. The Left, whose role is often elided or consigned to footnotes, emerges as a key player in the exciting years of nation formation. The careful control of tonal objectivity in the authors’ skillfully chosen language makes this an admirably balanced account in which no individual or group is privileged.

Solidly grounded in traditional historical sources such as colonial office records and other written documents like student writings, the authors also use oral histories and interviews. As they see it, “our book is one instance of how oral histories can contribute to the imperial archives and student writings to enrich academic scholarship” (11). Organized chronologically, the history of the Socialist Club is explored within the larger context of major political events of the fifties and sixties. Thus the role of the club acquires wider resonances in the context of the Fajar Trial, the resistance to Malaysia and Operation Coldstore, to name a few. The thematic concerns which undergird this study of a formidable student club shares with other postcolonial writings themes such as identity (both individual and societal), the envisioning of a nation, and the surveillance mechanism of managed decolonization. The book is enriched by the authors’ familiarity with subaltern and postcolonial theories on decolonization and nation formation. Referring to Partha Chatterjee’s “derivative nationalism” they see the paradoxical position of the Socialist Club members whose anti-colonial stand did not prevent the adoption of a Western model of modernity. More significantly, the authors are fully cognizant of the power of the discursive dimension in the Cold War order of information gathering. Words were not only referential but “patently accusatory and transformative” (257). Thus terms like “socialist,” “communist,” “left-wing,” and “right-wing” acquired loaded meanings.

Beginning with the Socialist Club’s formation in 1953 and its early activities, the authors then trace the club’s continued role in speaking up for “stifled Malayans” after the Fajar Trial. They question the binary Manichean thinking of official accounts which see a simple divide between apathetic English-educated students and chauvinistic, Communist-influenced Chinese-medium students. Far from being apathetic, club members organized talks to educate students on socialism, helped to “invigorate left-wing trade unions” (86) and, together with other students groups, attempted to form the Pan Malayan Students’ Federation. The club’s promotion of Malay as the national language showed a non-communal approach, privileging class over ethnic-cultural ties. Divergences did occur because conflicting opinions operated both within the club and between the club and its critics. The term “socialist” engendered various shades of meaning as Fabian socialists, liberal socialists and democratic socialists lay claim to “socialism.” In spite of sharing socialist ideals, club members’ overlapping roles reveal that the identity of left-leaning student activists was not homogeneous, but fluid.

A note-worthy contribution is the authors’ recognition that even after Operation Coldstore, club members continued to use their publication to educate and inform. One detail which draws our attention is the club’s refusal to accept Lee Kuan Yew’s offer to grant a new permit for the publication of Fajar if the publication’s name was changed. Such a change of name would alter the historical legacy of the club by dissociating it from “its anti-establishment credentials and history” (200). The range of its critiques on many important issues such as the merger debate would be further neglected.

The theme of curtailment adds to our understanding of the surveillance which the postwar world order mandated. Besides more overt forms, surveillance consisted of the “systematic collection and use of specific forms of information” (155). The authors note the state’s use of paternalistic imagery in representing the student activists as naïve youths easily susceptible to leftist propaganda and thus in need of paternal guidance and chastisement. Arrests, incarceration and the toll on individuals are poignantly portrayed via the use of interviews which makes history come alive, complementing the documented evidence in a mutually enriching manner. Oral history as a reflection on identity is rightly seen as a continuing dialogue between past and present since “even the silences of memory are socially significant” (235).

Careful selection of materials offers us a balanced picture of the achievements and shortcomings of the University Socialist Club. Some members were silent about violations of civil liberties by communist states. The club’s vision of a non-communal Malaya where multi-racial workers unite across racial lines to forge a modernist Malaya underestimated the divisive power of ethnic ties. A socialist nation could not square with that of a fledgling Singapore where, after 1965, rapid industrialization required a vastly different concept of capital acquisition and social engineering.

The University Socialist Club and the Contest for Malaya: Tangled Strands of Modernity will appeal to scholars across many disciplines and the general public. Careful not to dismiss the official state narrative of nation formation as mere propaganda or promote the memories of the Left as gospel truth, the authors succeed admirably in adding a nuanced perspective to the history of Malaya and Singapore. Informative biographical sketches of the club’s members will educate future generations about a group of important individuals in our past. For some, the club’s members were too idealistic, fuelled by “moral authority, derived from their nascent roles as intellectuals and change makers” (134). Yet many of them paid a heavy price for their beliefs. They deserve a place in our reflection on the legacies of the past as these impinge on the present.

Wong Soak Koon, Independent Researcher
Universiti Sains Malaysia (retired)

Back to top

FAITH AND THE STATE: A History of Islamic Philanthropy in Indonesia. Brill’s Southeast Asian Library, v. 1. By Amelia Fauzia. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2013. xxx, 346 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$156.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-23397-3.

For the past few decades, an enthusiasm to revitalize philanthropic practices has had far-reaching consequences to the increasing visibility of Islam in the Indonesian public space. Questions about how and why the culture of giving is being rejuvenated within the religious communities are always interesting to pose, partly because the practice of giving, or philanthropy so to speak, is not only about altruistic behaviour. In a nation-state era, philanthropic practices are also constructed by different social, cultural, economic and political factors. This book concerns the historical development and institutional transformation of charitable activities in Indonesian Islam, and examines the political dynamism behind a rapid development of Islamic philanthropic organizations.

The author, Amelia Fauzia, focuses on the state’s role in providing welfare schemes for communities and its consequences to the institutional transformation of philanthropic organizations. According to Fauzia, philanthropy is primarily embedded in civil society, and philanthropic activism is heavily dependent on the state’s welfare policies. She argues that the major factor energizing philanthropic activism among civil society is the state’s weakness in providing an adequate welfare plan. The author also comes to the conclusion that a “weak state” will lead to “strong philanthropy” and a strong state will be characterized by weak philanthropy.

The book consists of four sections divided into seven chapters. In the first section, “From Early Islamization to Islamic Kingdom,” Fauzia provides an overview of the historical development of the religiously motivated giving in Muslim societies. The author highlights the views of ulama (Islamic scholars) and the Muslim interpretation of the normative concept of Islamic philanthropy, such as zakat (almsgiving) and waqf (pious endowment). It is mentioned that, in the past, Muslims in the Indonesian archipelago channeled their zakat to local religious leaders or directly to the poor. Zakat, therefore, functioned as a community-based social security system, as it was fully managed in the hands of society. The absence of any record pointing to the direct engagement of kings or sultans in mobilizing the religiously inspired philanthropic in Indonesian kingdoms indicates that zakat was considered a private matter, instead of a public affair. Nevertheless, she notes that the rise of the nation state has influenced the pattern of the relationship between religion and the state and has changed Muslim views about Islamic philanthropy. Consequently, there are at least two competing streams of opinion among Muslims about how zakat (almsgiving) should be practiced and organized. The first stream is concerned with the revitalization of zakat as a part of the state’s fiscal system; the second stream puts emphasis on the function of zakat as a grassroots social security system.

The second part, “Islamic Philanthropy under Non-Muslim Rule,” discusses the development of Islamic philanthropy from the Dutch colonial period until after Indonesian independence. The author’s detailed exposition of Dutch colonial policies on Muslim philanthropy suggests that zakat was perceived by the Dutch government as a Muslim private matter, and the Dutch colonial government clearly distingushed between the public and private spheres. This type of Dutch policy provided an opportunity for Islamic associations founded in the early twentieth century, such as Muhammadiyah (the modernist Muslim organization) and the Nahdlatul Ulama (the traditionalist Islam), to govern philanthropic funds independently. Active participation of Islamic organizations in philanthropic practices before the Indonesian independence can be seen in the role of Muhammadiyah and the Nahdlatul Ulama in financing a wide array of social enterprises, including the operation of schools, orphanages, clinics, disaster relief agencies and other welfare-oriented social activities. Before the independence era, Muslim concern about zakat was still restricted to Islamic jurisprudential issues.

The next part, “Islamic Philanthropy in the Independent Indonesian State,” examines the process of the bureaucratization of Islamic philanthropy in post-Independence Indonesia, marked by the modernization of waqf during the Old Order era, and the increase of the state interest in zakat organizing in the New Order era. The author critically examines the New Order’s ambiguous policy on Islam. According to the author, on the one hand, the New Order regime firmly asserted Pancasila as the state ideology in order to celebrate the religious and cultural diversity among Indonesian citizens. On the other hand, the New Order also intensified its Islamic policy to accommodate Muslim interest, such as the issuance of regulation on waqf and zakat, as well as the state involvement in sponsoring state-sponsored Islamic philanthropic agencies.This part also presents a contemporary development of Islamic philanthropy. The author draws particular attention to the formation of Indonesian zakat regulation such as the issuance of zakat law and debates on zakat organizing between the supporters of government-sponsored zakat agencies and the advocates of civil-society-based zakat organizations in post-New Order era.

The last section is the conclusion, in which the author discusses two main issues. The author suggests that there have been two competing trends among Indonesian Muslims on how to manage Islamic philanthropy: 1) a strong inclination to privatize Islamic philanthropy; and 2) the state’s enthusiasm to institutionalize (or bureaucratize) Islamic philanthropy. Secondly, the author is concerned with the notions of voluntarism within the communities which have strengthened philanthropic activism in Indonesian Islam. In her reflection, she underlines the necessity to reinforce the institutional capacity of Islamic philanthropic organizations among civil society in order to promote social justice effectively.

This book is a valuable contribution to the literature on Islamic social-political history and should become an important part of studies of Indonesian Islam. It has presented very rich information about the dynamics of encounters between the state and civil society in Indonesian Islam. While the book is, no doubt, very worthwhile for observers in Islamic studies, political Islam and the history of Islam in the Southeast, it has not sufficiently included ethnographic findings of grassroots practices of philanthropy in contemporary Indonesian Islam.

Hilman Latief, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, Bantul, Indonesia

Back to top

CAULDRON OF RESISTANCE: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam. The United States in the World. By Jessica M. Chapman. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2013. xi, 276 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5061-7.

Recent years have yielded a rich harvest of book-length studies on the period from the end of the First Indochina War (1946-1954) and the Geneva Accords to US imperial intervention, the establishment of the Republic of Viet Nam (RVN, 1955-1975), and the Ngo Dinh Diem regime (1954-1963) in the country’s southern half. Authors like James Carter, Philip Catton, Seth Jacobs, Mark Lawrence, Fredrik Logevall and Edward Miller have expanded our knowledge of, in particular, the politics and diplomacy of the era. Much of that recent work provides a more complex portrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem and the US-supported state he established in the crucial months and years after the Geneva Conference. While the contours of a nuanced treatment of the RVN and the Diem government had already appeared in Viet Nam Studies, such a detailed analysis of Ngo Dinh Diem had been lacking in Viet Nam War Studies, still dominated by US-centrism and largely un-emancipated from Cold War prerogatives. Neither “US puppet” nor “Churchill of the East,” Ngo Dinh Diem emerges in this new literature as a nationalist in his own right, masterful in manipulating political forces around him, and, while beholden to the US, ruthlessly pursuing his own agenda.

Jessica Chapman adds to this œuvre with her important, immensely insightful and readable Cauldron of Resistance. Like many of her recent peers, she focuses particularly on the years 1953-1956: the end of the French war, the Geneva Conference, and political events and diplomatic moves in Viet Nam’s south surrounding the dual replacement of the Associated State of Viet Nam (ASVN, 1949-1955) under Bao Dai with the RVN under Diem and of the French presence with US overlordship. In her treatment of the symbiotic, yet contentious Diem-US relationship itself, Chapman largely focuses on the familiar cast of characters and political and diplomatic archives like other recent publications. She similarly notes the irony of the Ngo Dinh Diem regime: Diem’s personal traits and uncompromising, violent strategies that soon assured the RVN’s stabilization in the country’s southern half also led to his downfall in 1963; his singular feat of imposing central state power over the southern regions came at the heavy price of simultaneously sowing the seeds of the eventual destruction both of his regime and the US neo-colonial project south of the DMZ.

The core contributions of Cauldron of Resistance, however, lie in the twist that Chapman adds to our knowledge of the ASVN and the early RVN. She provides the first sustained study of the Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, and Binh Xuyen as influential political actors since the 1940s and argues convincingly that these “politico-religious organizations” be considered centrally in any serious analysis of the period. Here Chapman positions herself against prevailing notions in the literature that too quickly dismiss these “sects” and “crime cartel” as regional power brokers without national ambitions and as “warlords” defending their fiefs, whose bloody destruction in 1954/55 only serves to highlight Diem’s success at “nation-building” and as a mere way-station towards the RVN’s ultimate confrontation with communism.

Rather, Chapman argues, these three politico-religious organizations were deeply embedded in the multi-ethnic, multi-religious environment of Viet Nam’s deep south and arose in a milieu of millenarian movements, secret societies, syncretic religious and cultural associations, and multipolar power under a repressive, unsettling colonial regime. They defended their autonomy and pursued their anti-colonial, yet anti-communist national ambitions in uneasy alliances with, variously, the French, Trotskyites, the Japanese, the Viet Minh, and Bao Dai loyalists, or in violent conflict against some of these forces at other times. (Chapman’s chapter 1 provides a superb overview of this multifaceted history from the 1840s to the 1940s.) By the early 1950s, the Cao Dai, Hoa Hao and Binh Xuyen enjoyed formidable political and military power in the south and prominence in the vigorous public debates and behind-the-scenes maneuvers surrounding the Geneva Accords. In the complex contexts of their times, they were rational political actors.

Cauldron argues that US officials, however, were deaf to the appeals of these politico-religious groups as they misread them—encouraged by Ngo Dinh Diem—as exotic, irrational, anti-modern, “feudal” warlords, bandits and sects. Chapman’s point here wonderfully complements Seth Jacobs’ argument that the US threw their support behind Diem in part because his Catholicism, conservatism, and anti-communism resonated deeply with, and hence was legible to, 1950s US political culture.

Chapman’s second major argument is that it was Diem’s intolerance of the challenge to his power posed by the Cao Dai, Hoa Hao and Binh Xuyen, more so than any communist threat, that motivated the rapid construction of the RVN’s repressive state apparatus in 1954-1956, when there was no active revolutionary resistance south of the DMZ. Even after destroying the three organizations’ militias by 1955, Diem continued to employ, with active US support, his police state’s “terroristic” campaigns against all opposition, even if outwardly anti-communist, mainly out of concern over lingering politico-religious networks and influences. This is a novel argument challenging conventional Cold War interpretations, but Chapman’s diligent documentation is indeed persuasive.

The book’s important third insight arises from its preceding argument: Diem’s state terror campaigns were so uncompromising, indiscriminate and violent that they eventually drove politico-religious partisans into an alliance of necessity with southern communists and created the late 1950s revolutionary conditions leading to the founding of the National Liberation Front (NLF). Misread by US officials, excluded from power and hunted by Diem, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, and Binh Xuyen leaders and followers became constitutive members of the southern revolutionary resistance that ultimately helped defeat the RVN and the US. Here Chapman gives us an indication that a thorough re-evaluation of the NLF outside of Cold War clichés is an urgent task awaiting the field.

I have a few quibbles with Cauldron of Resistance. With its emphasis on the three politico-religious groups, the book’s title hardly reflects its actual focus and genuine contribution. Given that the power bases of the Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, and Binh Xuyen were in former Cochinchina, Chapman should have given the reader a better understanding of their political activities and ambitions in other regions, particularly the centre. I also find the author’s use of the term “communist” sweeping, even as she forcefully argues, in the case of “sects,” for a more nuanced terminology. The book’s glossary of Vietnamese diacritics contains quite a few errors. Finally, Chapman’s conclusion with its US foreign policy recommendations and linkage to the so-called “war on terror” seems contrived and naïve; some of its language (e.g., “In Vietnam, the battle between the forces of communism and those in support of American-style liberal democratic capitalism…”) stands in contradiction to the book’s very points.

Nevertheless, Jessica Chapman’s Cauldron of Resistance is a fine achievement and a welcome addition to the study of 1950s Viet Nam and US interventionism, contains a number of important arguments that demand reconsideration of our assumptions, and therefore is highly recommended.

Christoph Giebel, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Back to top

ISLAM AND THE MAKING OF THE NATION: Kartosuwiryo and Political Islam in 20th Century Indonesia. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 282. By Chiara Formichi. Leiden: KITLV Press, 2012. xvii, 244 pp. (Map.) US$49.00, paper. ISBN 978-90-6718-386-4.

If there is one particular form of political Islam in Indonesia that continues to be a security issue today, it is the Negara Islam Indonesia, abbreviated NII (Indonesian Islamic State), that is invariably called the Darul Islam, abbreviated DI, the “abode of Islam” or the ideal Islamic state. The NII was proclaimed by Sekarmaji Marjan Kartosuwiryo (1905-1962) on August 7, 1949 in Cimambang, West Java.

Even though the NII and the DI had been crushed by the Indonesian military more than a half century ago in the aftermath of the capture and execution of Kartosuwiryo in 1962, some splinter groups and cells of the NII continue to remain active underground. It is supposed by many circles of the Indonesian public that a certain splinter group of former NII members remains active, in order to recruit Muslim youth to fight for the cause of the Islamic state of Indonesia. This same splinter group of the NII is also allegedly very close to Indonesian military figures or groups.

The fact that the ideal of, and efforts to create. an Indonesian Islamic State (NII) continue to grip the imagination of a few Indonesian Muslims is briefly outlined by Formichi in this book (185-200). This short discussion deals with the current discourse on Kartosuwiryo’s NII. In the post-Soeharto Indonesia, there is a growing tendency among Islamic-state-oriented Indonesian Muslims to glorify Kartosuwiryo and NII. Despite its brevity, Formichi’s account is one of the most significant strengths of his work compared to other studies on the NII and Kartosuwiryo.

In addition to that, there are some other basic differences to Formichi’s book compared to other earlier works on the NII/DI, particularly the monumental study of Cornelis van Dijk, Rebellion under the Banner of Islam: The Darul Islam in Indonesia (1981). Van Dijk views the Kartosuwiryo’s rebellion mostly as a social movement that used Islam only as a rethoric and rallying cry.

In contrast, Formichi considers Kartosuwiryo’s NII/DI as a genuine expression of political Islam aiming at the creation of an Islamic federation in the archipelago. He argues that roots of the Kartosuwiryo can be traced back to his writings and political activism in the Sarekat Islam (SI, Islamic Association), the earliest Islamic nationalist movement that was founded in 1911 and changed its name to Partai Sarekat Islam Indonesia (PSII, Party of Islamic Association of Indonesia) in 1929.

Very active in the SI since his earliest twenties, Kartosuwiryo’s political career seems to skyrocket when, according to Dutch sources, he was promoted to the position of SI secretary general after the congress of the organization in October 1927. According to SI documents, however, he became very active as a regular writer in the SI newspaper FadjarAsia.

According to Formichi, in his articles, Kartosuwiryo showed his commitment to Islamic ideology. In his articles he criticized colonial policies, socio-economic injustices, abuse of power by police, and Dutch religious and political “neutrality.” In addition, he also addressed the international dimension of the nationalist struggle for merdeka (independence). Reading his articles, it is no surprise that he was regarded by the Dutch authorities as a “religious fanatic” who was more than ready to use (and abuse) Islam for his political cause.

Formichi criticizes the failure of other scholars to take a serious consideration of the role of Islam in the NII/DI movement. In his observation, most works produced between 1949 and the 1980s downplayed the role of Islam in NII/DI’s motives for action, highlighting instead its violent turn in later years and its opposition to the established political authority of the Republic of Indonesia. Formichi argues that the failure to take seriously the importance of Islam in the NII/DI movement has gone hand-in-hand, until recently, with a more general marginalization of Indonesia in discussions of political Islam.

Based on this framework, in Formichi’s view, scholars like van Dijk, mostly viewed the origins of the Kartosuwiryo’s rebellion in the frustration of regional military commanders who were sidelined in the formation of a national army and popular discontent towards agrarian reforms and political centralization in Jakarta. Furthermore, Kartosuwiro was considered as lacking Islamic credentials that would give him credibility to lead the efforts to establish an Indonesian Islamic state.

On the other hand, Formichi argues that the NII/DI movement, which he calls “Indonesian Islamism,” cannot be separated from the rise of political Islam in other parts of the Muslim world. This has actually been also suggested by C.A.O. van Nieuwenhujze in his book Aspects of Islam in Post-Colonial Indonesia (1958) that the DI movement was influenced by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood ideas. On the the other hand, B.J. Boland, in his The Struggle of Islam in Modern Indonesia (1982), speculated that Kartosuwiryo got some influence for the Pakistani Abu A’la al-Mawdudi.

While there is no evidence of Mawdudi’s influence on the NII/DI movement, Formichi suggested that there was some contact among Indonesian Muslims in Cairo with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, supposedly included Hassan al-Banna, its supreme leader. These Indonesians in turn transmitted the pan-Islamic ideas that would get a warm reception in those Indonesian Muslims who aspired to create an Indonesian Islamic state.

In conclusion, through this “revisit” study of NII/DI, Formichi is able to show convincingly the Islamic political roots of Kartosuwiryo. With the same token, he shows factors that make this kind of expression of political Islam a failure, not only in the past and the present time, but also beyond.

Azyumardi Azra, State Islamic University, Jakarta, Indonesia

Back to top

CONJUNCTURES AND CONTINUITIES IN SOUTHEAST ASIAN POLITICS. Edited by N. Ganesan. Singapore: ISEAS, 2013. xv, 240 pp. (Tables.) US$34.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4379-94-6.

Historical institutional (HI) analysis has become a prominent methodological tool for estimating the impact of institutional variation on outcomes. Areas of study from finance to business to political science have applied HI to investigations, and Conjunctures and Continuities in Southeast Asian Politics places itself firmly within this literature by providing several strong cases for examining Southeast Asian politics through the HI lens.

The book is divided into two sections which include, first, the establishment of an HI framework and second, its application via seven case studies. Conjunctures and Continuities primarily focuses on identifying conjunctures that have occurred within Southeast Asian state politics. A benefit of using conjunctures, also referred to as “formative episodes” or “historical junctures” (1), according to N. Ganesan, is that they allow engagement with both inputs and outcomes, or lack of outcomes (i.e., continuities) of events as opposed to bookending critical historical turning points. The clear methodological foundation outlined in the introduction is applied throughout the book as each chapter follows a similar template: a case is made for the choice of conjuncture, antecedent conditions and key players are identified, and possibilities of path dependence and implications are assessed. The conjunctures chosen by the authors include periods centred around the following events: 1986 “People Power” movement in the Philippines, the road to doi moi in Vietnam, 1988 Uprising in Myanmar, 1992-1993 UN-sponsored national election in Cambodia, 1998 collapse of Soeharto’s regime in Indonesia, 2006 coup against Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand, and the 2008 national election in Malaysia.

There are several notable contributions offered by this book. First, while HI analysis is an often divergent field with little methodological consistency, Ganesan’s outstanding explanation of why and how the methodology is being applied puts readers, even those who may be unfamiliar with HI, at ease. Additionally, by firmly establishing a methodology in the beginning, Conjunctures and Continuities avoids the lack of cohesion often present within edited volumes. For the most part, the resulting continuity of structure through the HI framework leads to insights that are easily engaged with from one chapter to the next.

A second strength of the book is that while the cases do not reveal much in the way of new information, they do provide unique analyses. For example, Rommel Curaming and Lisandro Claudio’s chapter on the Philippines convincingly informs readers that the subsequent effects of the “People Power” movement are not limited to structural changes as previous literature has focused, but are also reflected in “discursive resonances, that de-centre analysis from central state institutions” as well as in “long-term changes in political culture” (42). In another example, Tin Maung Maung Than tests the belief that the events of the 1988 uprising in Myanmar should be seen as historically significant, finding instead that its legacies remain “contested, contentious, and problematic” (90) and it is not yet clear if they will have a lasting impact.

A third strength resides in how the authors challenge existing literatures’ tendency to focus only on change when studying significant historical events. In perhaps one of the most enlightening contributions of the book, Ehito Kimura points out that while most literature focuses on explaining and identifying change, social scientists may have as much to learn from discovering why continuities persist in the face of seemingly transformative periods (143). The book reveals through its numerous case examples that considerable insight can be gained from observing instances of continuity, especially in cases where change is expected.

While Conjunctures and Continuities provides several notable contributions, there are some shortcomings. First, while the accomplished goal of the book is to identify some of the historical junctures present in Southeast Asian politics, the book’s theoretical implications would have been strengthened if the authors had applied additional continuity such as pre-determining the institutions to be examined or specifying a type of conjuncture. As it stands the theoretical implications have a hard time traveling outside of each case and this is evidenced in the brevity of the conclusion, which finds only a few ways to assess the chapters as a whole.

A second shortcoming is that the methodological task of each chapter requires that the authors sacrifice depth over breadth, which limits the extent to which the claims travel and allows significant room for debate on the claims that are made. The use of conjunctures as the point of interest in each chapter requires the authors to not only provide enough evidence to support their choice of event, but to also account for the causal pathways that lead to and away from these events and determine what institutions matter and how. The consequence of juggling so many variables is that the chapters provide only cursory understanding rather than in-depth investigations with substantive supporting evidence. For example, Ramses Amer writes that the “main aim of this chapter is to analy[z]e and assess the impact of historical conjunctures on modern Cambodian society” (103). While Amer’s chapter eloquently presents a case for four conjunctures, starting with the overthrow of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970, the task of assessing causal pathways in over 40 years of history is simply too large to perform in a single chapter with analytical rigour.

Despite these few limitations, however, Conjunctures and Continuities in Southeast Asian Politics stands as a solid contribution to HI literature and offers informative and original insights to the cases. Moreover, the book represents a thought-provoking investment that encourages discussion and opens a doorway for further work.

Kedra A. Hildebrand, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Back to top

A HERITAGE OF RUINS: The Ancient Sites of Southeast Asia and Their Conservation. By William Chapman. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xviii, 340 pp., [16 pp.] of plates (Figures.) US$59.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3631-3.

Southeast Asian governments have become increasingly eager to have sites, cities, landscapes and other cultural attainments inscribed on the World Heritage List. It would be salutary if this attention was due to awakening concern on the part of politicians to preserve their heritage for psychological and aesthetic reasons; however, one may be forgiven for suspecting that political and financial considerations have also become involved. It is now appreciated that inscription on the list is a great way to increase tourism, and thereby revenue.

William Chapman has compiled a very valuable synthesis of the history of human involvement with remains of ancient architecture in Southeast Asia. As a summary of a vast and complicated subject, with relevance to a number of fields, from the abstract such as archaeology and history to the applied such as tourism studies, this work is significant. A brief introduction which deals with general concepts such as “heritage” and the evolution of related controversies regarding what should be done with ruins is followed by the heart of the volume: five chapters, each of which deals with one or more countries, exploring case studies. There are two concluding parts: a final chapter on “The future of Southeast Asia’s ancient sites,” and a thirteen-page section entitled “Conclusions.”

The author’s objective is to provide a comprehensive overview of the important architectural sites of premodern Southeast Asia with respect to their current physical condition, the measures taken to preserve them from further deterioration, to repair damage to their materials, and to restore them to something resembling their appearance at some point in the past. None of these objectives is easy to define in practice nor is implementation of policies to maintain and protect them uncomplicated. Political, philosophical, technical and economic considerations usually require choices to be made among alternatives, none of which is optimal from every point of view. Choices among alternatives involve trade-offs, and are influenced by a number of factors, including those of self-interest on the part of entrepreneurs and politicians, and desires by segments of populations to recreate something which may in fact never have existed and is based on illusory notions about the past.

This work explores the socio-political factors which influence the means and policies chosen to deal with Southeast Asia’s ruins on the part of the national authorities who hold jurisdiction over them. Many people approaching Southeast Asia for the first time are surprised to discover that the region contains a high density of historic structures, some of which have been granted world heritage status by UNESCO, others which are of national or international importance from the points of view of tourism, education, research and contemporary religious belief. It is difficult to do justice to the complexities of the local cross-currents of conflicting interests among stakeholders found among the ten (or eleven, if one counts Timor Leste) nations of Southeast Asia. It is difficult for example to assess the extent to which corruption and other negative factors have played roles in the policies of conservation of heritage buildings in Southeast Asia.

It is easier and less controversial to point out the technical and economic factors which have resulted in the current status of heritage building conservation in Southeast Asia, and this is in general the approach which has been followed in this book. No such overview has been attempted in the past, and this book will be useful both for students in various social sciences and humanities, and for scholars and policy makers, including those in international funding agencies.

The subject is indeed vast, and the author has in general coped very well with the challenge of achieving both breadth and depth of discussion. The author’s copious footnotes and 38-page bibliography provide citations to quite a comprehensive swath of the literature, from books to internet sites.

The problem of educating local tourists to treat the monuments with respect is ongoing. In most cases tourists, even local ones, have only the vaguest notion of the history of the site or the meanings of the art symbols. The vision of two million Indonesian Muslims per year visiting the Buddhist monument of Borobudur is one of the interesting cases where the perceptions of local visitors regarding the relevance of their own ancestors’ achievements to their contemporary existence (and identity) can be explored in more depth (and an Indonesian doctoral student at the National University of Singapore is in 2014 about to complete his dissertation on precisely this subject). The volume under review here provides numerous other cases which could be investigated from a similar perspective.

Heritage conservation theory and practice are rapidly evolving throughout the world. New voices, new political developments, are producing continuous change. As the author notes (229), the impact of new tourists from China and India on heritage sites, their preservation and interpretation, has yet to be felt, but will definitely change the equation. Since 2011, basic changes in Myanmar’s government and economy have engendered many new threats and opportunities for heritage preservation, development and interpretation.

This book is a comprehensive snapshot of a swiftly flowing stream, and some of the variables described here will be superceded within a few years. Nevertheless, as a guide to the current state of the art in Southeast Asia, this ambitious book is likely to remain a basic source for years to come. It distils basic information and policy considerations of great interest to decision makers in government and private industry, scholars and students from a wide range of disciplines.

John N. Miksic, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Back to top

SITUATED TESTIMONIES: Dread and Enchantment in an Indonesian Literary Archive. By Laurie J. Sears. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xxv, 318 pp. (Map, illus.) US$57.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3683-2.

Can an entire nation be haunted by a trauma that is originated from phantoms, ghosts from the past that are not materially real yet exist in the psychical realm? Can fantasies, spurred by a desire for a future that may fail to come true, become the source of a “national trauma”? Can dread of what is perceived to be lacking in the present join forces with melancholia of what may be lost about the past (because memory fails to remember it) in order to paralyze a nation and sabotage its progress toward the future? Above all, can one psychoanalyze a nation bearing such a complex neurosis? Situated Testimonies by Laurie J. Sears attempts to answer these questions. It reads almost like psychoanalytic accounts on the celebrated case of the Wolf Man, which continued to haunt Freud until his death, except that in the case of this book the patient that seeks to be cured, yet refuses to reveal its most guarded secret—the locus of his trauma—is not the Wolf Man but a nation called Indonesia. It is not exaggerating to say that the book itself is haunted by what it tries to do and is never completely sure of what it claims to have achieved.

Undaunted by the task of close reading from a psychoanalytical perspective of several colonial and postcolonial novels by both Dutch Indies and Indonesian authors, Sears writes about traces of trauma that are repressed by history but express themselves through literary works. The authors of these works are, as Sears suggests, “eyewitnesses of their time” (2), but they are barred by mainstream and official discourses of history from talking about what they have seen. As a result, what initially happens as historical events turn into traumatic experience. Literary works become sites where the unspoken is re-enacted through narrative structures, even if such displacement does not offer any significant therapeutic effect and threatens to prolong the trauma instead. Drawing ideas and concepts from psychoanalysts such as Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, as well as Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, who have rescued Freud’s legacy from oblivion in today’s world by their daring reinterpretation of many of Freud’s controversial theories, Sears argues that colonial and postcolonial Indonesian novels serve as a kind of “mnemonic device” not just to remember the past but, further, to “keep the past alive” (13). In psychoanalysis, there is a fundamental difference between the two.

Sears uncovers the gaps hidden beneath the narrative textures of novels and novellas written by Maria Dermoût, Louis Couperus, Tirto Adhi Soerjo and Soewarsih Djojopoespito, and Armijn Pane from the Dutch colonial period in the Indies, and the fiction produced by Pramoedya Ananta Toer and Ayu Utami, who belong to postcolonial Indonesia. The primary tension that gives shape to these works is between the incomprehensible natural and supernatural world of the past on the one hand and colonial modernity which offers a future, yet a highly problematic one, on the other. The characters are trapped between these two incompatible worlds. They manage to take a critical stance toward oppressive colonial practices but, at the same time, either they lament the loss of past imperial glories, as do the characters in Dermoût’s and Couperus’ novels, or they are ambivalent toward modernity, as is apparent in the works of Tirto, Soewarsih, and Armijn. In contrast, the major characters in Pramoedya’s and Ayu’s works are those that “are damaged by the past” (191) and branded with stigmas of oppressive regimes. That is why, Sears argues, “they cannot heal themselves, and they cannot heal the nation” (192) regardless of how hard they struggle to distance themselves from the power that has corrupted their sense of being.

Where is the nation in this complex scheme of things, then? The characters of the works discussed in this book embody and personify the nation. They are metonymies of the nation—of a presence that has to be represented by another because it cannot present itself—that repeatedly show up in the works from different generations of authors. The nation, in Situated Testimonies, is metonymical not because it only occurs in the imagination of its members but because it is traumatic. The nation is like a crypt that preserves the past in order to kill it and bury the past in order to keep it alive—a tomb for the living. As such, the nation always lacks something, and this sense of loss is passed down from one generation of authors to another. The nation is also a phantasm: hope and dream of the future that is dreaded because it carries phantoms of the past. As a theme, it haunts the book.

However, like an analyst who experiences a process of transference vis-à-vis her patient during therapy sessions, Sears concludes the book with ample optimism that there is hope, and that the nation has a future because, through writing stories, history can be changed. Sears believes this “afterwardness” of history opens up ways for literature to deal with traumatized memory and decipher the crypt that protects the source of the trauma so that the “enigmatic signifier” (the nation) may someday find its ultimate signified and cease being an enigma. This I find problematic, for healing—in the psychoanalytic sense—never simply means liberation from trauma. In most cases, it merely means accepting the fact that one can never completely be rid of neurosis, just like Freud’s Wolf man, who lived and died with his unspoken magic word, even though he was “hypothetically healed.” Still, this book deserves praise and warm welcome because of its new ways of reading Dutch Indies and Indonesian texts that have been or are in the process of being canonized. By taking trauma in these novels as a theme of her book, Sears has revived the Dutch Indies literary works and built a bridge that connects them with the more recent works, published long after the end of the colonial era.

Manneke Budiman, University of Indonesia, Depok, Indonesia

Back to top

CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE AND DEMOCRACY IN INDONESIA. Problems of International Politics. By Donald L. Horowitz. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xviii, 326 pp. (Tables, map.) US$29.99, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-64115-0.

Indonesia is a far-flung archipelago of more than 250 million citizens, whose highly variegated society, while 90 percent Muslim, speaks some 700 languages. Its economy, meanwhile, is geared simply to commodities and services, trapping it at a modest level of development. How is it, then, that such uncongenial soil supports the only polity among ASEAN countries today regarded by Freedom House as “politically free”? In this remarkable book, Donald Horowitz finds the answer to Indonesia’s democratic resilience in a medley of factors: starting conditions, fortuitous timing, consensual elites and viscous but free-moving social forces, producing a benign kinetic that he labels “multipolar fluidity.” But most signally, within this constellation, institutions have emerged which, by feeding back to perpetuate the alignments in which they originate, have kept democracy on beam.

In focusing on Indonesia, Horowitz begins by recounting that its society involves a vast patchwork of micro-identities. But at “rare and dangerous moments” (38), affiliations can gather in sharp confrontation along main axes of secular-nationalism and modernist and traditional Islam, locally demarcated as aliran (cultural streams). His task, then, is to show how institutions have been created in ways that deter political elites from so mobilizing voters along these lines that sentiments are brought to the boil, breaking democracy down. It is worth rehearsing his surprising findings as they disturb some cherished understandings in political science.

First, in terms of sequencing, it was fortuitous in Indonesia that electoral contestation preceded institutional change. Elections held shortly after Suharto’s demise brought legislators to power who, better than any constituent assembly or commission that outside experts might counsel, designed institutions that they could live with, increasing prospects for their eschewing the social mobilizing by which democracy would be threatened.

Second, in afterward revamping the constitution, legislators adopted a form of list proportional representation (PR), ensuring that more than one party represented each aliran. In this way, they encouraged movement by voters within streams. In addition, as the many parties that appeared contested elections avidly, they sought to extend their reach by forging “odd-couple coalitions,” whether Muslim-Christian, santri-abangan, or indigene-immigrant in scope. This prompted movement by voters across streams as well. What is more, the multipolar fluidity that set in was reinforced by a president who, after 2004, was contrarily elected on a plurality or, even better, a majority basis. Specifically, with citizens finding their aliran only indistinctly reflected in presidential slates that were few in number and broad in appeal, they were driven again to wade across streams, or lose sight of them altogether, their gaze averted to the personal appeal of lead candidates. Horowitz proposes a wise dictum for democratic stability in Indonesia: “foster intra-group competition, encourage intergroup alliances” (275).

But this too challenges a longstanding adage in political science, specifically, that presidential systems and legislatures elected on the basis of list PR, by pitting a majoritarian executive against a fissiparous cabinet, necessarily make for grievous tensions and deadlock. Horowitz argues, however, that in Indonesia a directly elected president and list PR have been optimal, sustaining multipolar fluidity by deterring candidates from recklessly activating aliran.

Third, rather than any “one shot’” package of constitutional reform, Indonesia’s institutional change was incremental and protracted. But if this precluded the early codification of electoral rules that experts might prescribe, it has enabled legislators to pursue ongoing institutional adjustment, thereby ensuring their continuing loyalties. Of course, this narrow pursuit of rewards does not always cumulate in collective long-term benefits. Horowitz shows that many legislators, while citing parliamentary stalemate and Outer Island rebellions during the 1950s, but more gravely concerned that their own large parties should prevail, have tried repeatedly to banish the smaller parties upon which much multipolar fluidity depends.

Hence, in seeking to dampen PR’s proliferative effects, legislators have imposed ever more stringent requirements on parties that seek to contest elections. But while avoiding fragmentation among micro-identities, Horowitz contends that this risks bifurcation between secularists and Islamists, “splitting the country down the middle.” Sundry anomalies have also set in. For example, despite extensive decentralization, parties hoping to contest at the local level must still meet a perverse requirement that they operate a country-wide branch structure. Further, while parties compete vigorously in elections, they afterward collude in legislative arenas. And the oversize cabinets in which they meet, while evoking inclusion and consensus, are mainly held together by a “conspiracy of silence,” with members tolerating each other’s looting of state assets in order to finance their party activities. Presidents also prefer oversize cabinets to minimum winning coalitions, helping them face down the parties that would blackmail them with threats of defection.

Fourth, in the ensuing absence of serious opposition and accountability, Horowitz turns to questions about democratic stability and quality, challenging the old saw that all good things go together. By posing counterfactuals, Horowitz demonstrates that in Indonesia, democracy’s stability and quality vary inversely. In particular, if corruption were better controlled, narrowing the conduits to patronage that parties require to survive, habituated collusion might give way to sharp confrontation. Further, if religious minorities were better protected, encouraging them to practice their beliefs more openly, they would draw the ire of the Muslim majority and rambunctious vigilantes. And finally, if these axes were to intertwine, with vigorously competing parties now hardening along the secular-Islamist divide, multipolar fluidity might congeal in a deadly bipolar faceoff.

In sum, Horowitz offers a sumptuous and thoughtful account. His book will hold obvious appeal for the legions of dedicated Indonesianists. But it might profit the generalists even more, confronting at many turns their long-held tenets about democratic stability. Even so, a few queries might be raised. At what point is democracy’s quality so compromised, with the freeness and fairness of elections disfigured by corrupt financing, for example, that democracy slips into some authoritarian category? On this score, we might ask how analytically separable and sequential democracy’s stability and quality really are.

Further, Horowitz places great store on originating conditions, prodding legislators down a pathway on which they are partly predestined. But this is to muddle legacy and agency, making it difficult to disentangle their respective contributions to institutional change in even the single case of Indonesia, much more in any theoretical way across other divided societies. The direction of causality between institutions and legislators is also unclear, with rules changed regularly by legislators who are then bound by them, but only until they are changed again. As Horowitz observes, electoral laws have been altered in Indonesia prior to every election.

Finally, however institutions took shape in Indonesia, if just a couple of presidential slates, by issuing overarching appeals, help to promote multipolar fluidity, why couldn’t a limited number of big parties, in establishing themselves as catch-all vehicles, do the same? Would the shared preeminence of, say, Golkar and PDI-P, necessarily do more to polarize aliran than to dilute them? The two-party system that preceded Marcos in the Philippines indicates that they might not, intimating that Indonesia’s (re)framers, in their wariness over small parties, may have a point.

William Case, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

Back to top

DEMOCRACY AND ISLAM IN INDONESIA. Religion, Culture, and Public Life. Edited by Mirjam Künkler and Alfred Stepan. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. xv, 252 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-231-16191-6.

Written by a group of specialists on Indonesian politics and Islam, the book examines the successful story of Indonesia’s journey toward a democratic state. More specifically, this edited volume (1) discusses the uneasy processes of political transition from an authoritarian rule to a consolidated democracy, (2) underscores key issues that provide a rationale for making democracy work, (3) analyzes factors that could jeopardize democracy (e.g., violations of state laws, religious intolerance and violence, etc.) and social groupings that could have the potential power to derail democratization or fragment the state such as the (anti-reform) military, violent Islamic groups, and regional separatists, and finally (4) offers insights that could possibly maintain—or even make a better attainment of—the quality of “steady democracy” in the post-New Order Indonesia such as a well-functioning system of law enforcement and the political will and bravery of the government to protect the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion (21-23).

The bottom line of this fine volume, however, is to provide a theoretical framework for—and empirical data of—democratic transition and possible consolidation in a Muslim country. Editors of this volume argue that literature in political science on transition to, and consolidation of, democracy or varieties of possible democratizations in Muslim-majority countries remains less substantial if not impoverished; thereby this volume is an academic endeavour to fill these gaps (3). Based on the careful examination and thorough analyses of Indonesian experiences in handling political shift and in achieving democracy, the editors propose some theoretical foundations that underline (1) the compatibility of Islam and democracy, (2) the positive role of religion in global politics and public spheres, (3) the contribution of civil society in the democratization process, and (4) the possible collaboration of religious and secular forces as well as Muslim and non-Muslim elements in transforming a military dictatorial rule to a civilian democratic government.

Having been described by some observers as a democratization wonder, Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, undoubtedly offers a great example to examine a political passage from dictatorship to democracy in a Muslim society. When Suharto collapsed in 1998, which marked Indonesia’s political transition, many observers of Indonesian politics predicted this country would soon become the next Balkans. What happened in Indonesia, surprisingly, was not a state disintegration but rather a solid democratic integration. Edward Aspinall in this volume (126-146) provides explanations of why and how Indonesia survived from separatism. The cornerstone of Indonesia’s success in implementing a state policy of decentralization, in quelling secession, and finally in boosting support for democracy, Aspinall argues, was the transfer of some political and financial authority from the central government to the sub-provincial of 495 county-like districts and municipalities across the nation. This policy—and strategy—aimed at preventing the rebirth of provincial pro-independence sentiments and political movements that historically, since the country declared its independence, had tested the integrity of the Indonesian unitary state.

Besides the peaceful decentralization, the book also analyzes other significant accomplishments of post-Suharto democratic Indonesia including, but not limited to, the transformation of the military and the demilitarization of governments (89-108), the rise of many independent political parties, the increasing participation of women in public affairs, the widespread presence of CSOs, the production of many “pro-people” laws, the increase of civilian regimes, the growth of free press, and the implementation of free elections. Muslims in the country are also more in favour of secular democracy than Islamic monarchy. Muslim parties of all kinds have lost support to fully national secular-based political parties (24-50).

The defeat of Islamic political parties does not mean that secular political actors have suppressed and isolated religious ones. Conversely, today’s Indonesia witnesses what Alfred Stepan calls “twin tolerations,” namely “toleration of democracy by religion and toleration of religion by democratic leaders” (7). The Indonesian case makes clear that the participation of religion in public, political domains does not necessarily defy or transgress secular, democratic practices, so that John Rawls’ warning to uproot religion from politics in order to establish a liberal democracy has lost an empirical ground.

Despite highlighting some compelling arguments, data and analyses on contemporary Indonesian politics, the book has some weaknesses, including the portrayal of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, the country’s two largest Muslim institutions, which the editors describe as the backbone of Indonesian democracy, without examining anti-pluralist and anti-democracy factions within these organizations. In fact, during the New Order, it was only NU, especially during the late Abdurrahman Wahid, that became the strongest Islamic advocate for democracy. Unlike his uncle, Yusuf Hasyim, Wahid worked closely with secular and non-Muslim democrats to resist the New Order and struggle for democratic government, human rights, and the state’s pluralist ideology and Constitution. Muhammadiyah, conversely, instead of supporting non-state civil society groupings and criticizing the New Order, enjoyed patronage with the ruling government. As a result, this organization received advantages from the government such as funds to build its schools and other properties. Members of Muhammadiyah also enjoyed strategic positions in governments, educations, state companies, etc. The sharp, sometimes harsh, rivalry between NU and Muhammadiyah during the New Order was evident and prevalent. While NU, with Wahid as a main leader, referred its opposition to the New Order as a “cultural strategy,” Muhammadiyah, with Amin Rais as the primary figure, called its support for the government a “structural strategy.” Muhammadiyah transformed itself into a non-state vital force of democracy when this organization was led by Ahmad Syafi’i Maarif, the country’s leading human rights advocate and intellectual, at the end of the New Order.

Furthermore, the book also seems to romanticize the positive role of civil society in democratizing the state without examining the rise of “uncivil” civil society such as ethno-religious sectarian groupings that mushroomed in the post-Suharto Indonesia as an “unintended political reformation of 1998” that also could ruin democracy. The book also tends to underestimate the role of the (retired) military in running government without mentioning their positive contributions for good governance. In fact, there were some high-quality popular military rulers who could successfully transform their territories into a stable region such as Governor Mardiyanto of Central Java and Governor Karel Albert Ralahalu of Maluku.

Despites these lacunae the book undoubtedly provides a plentiful essential resource for those interested in the study of post-authoritarian government, Muslim politics and, particularly, Indonesian Islam. This volume is a welcoming edition after the publication of Robert Hefner’s 2000 Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratizations in Indonesia.

Sumanto Al Qurtuby, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, USA

Back to top

POLITICS OF ETHNIC CLASSIFICATION IN VIETNAM. Kyoto Area Studies on Asia, v. 23. By Ito Masako; translated by Minako Sato. Kyoto: Kyoto University Press; Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press; Portland, OR: International Specialized Book Services [exclusive distributor], 2013. xxii, 229 pp. (Tables, figures, maps, photos.) US$94.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-920-90172-1.

Masako Ito, associate professor of modern Vietnamese history at the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies at Kyoto University, traces in excellent detail the consequences of the adoption in the 1960s of a policy to determine the ethnic composition of Vietnam. When the country was reunified in 1979, the government announced that “Vietnam was a multiethnic state” with 54 ethnic groups (1).

Vietnam’s ethnic policy was rooted in Marxist-Leninist theory and modelled on the application of that theory in the Soviet Union and China. Vietnamese ethnologists, most trained in the USSR, were charged with carrying out research to determine who belonged to which dân tộc and, more particularly to which “minority ethnic group” (dân tộc thiểu số), on the basis of language, shared culture, economic status and self-identity. This research led to the recognition of 53 ethnic minorities and the dominant Kinh (ethnic Vietnamese).

As Ito shows, once the list was established, it was reified and became impossible to change. A major reason for this was that new policies aimed at promoting the development of minority ethnic groups instituted subsequent to the ethnic classification of the population resulted in vesting these groups and local districts with significant minority populations with specified benefits (51ff). Ethnic leaders and many local officials thus had no desire to see any changes in the system of ethnic classification.

Many local groups whose ethnic identities were not officially recognized were displeased with their assigned ethnic status and some began to press to expand the list. Their concerns led the government to reopen its inquiry into the ethnic diversity of the country. In 2002 the government asked the Institutes of Ethnology and Linguistics in the National Academy of Social Sciences “to undertake a state-funded project named the Investigation to Determine Ethnic Group Composition in Vietnam” (67). For the next several years this project was undertaken by ethnologists and linguists from these institutes.

A major contribution of Ito’s study is her own research during this same period among some of the problematic groups, that is groups whose leaders had become “vocal” in seeking official recognition of their distinctive identities. In 2004 Ito conducted field research in several provinces in the northeastern corner of Vietnam, where the major ethnic group is identified officially as Sán Chay. This group, numbering about 150,000, is made up of two subgroups, the Cao Lan and Sán Chỉ, which, as Professor Ito found, really are very different, speaking languages belonging to different language families and not sharing a common culture. Despite this, the request to recognize them as separate groups was shelved and “the groundwork is being laid for [the] quiet end” of the request (86).

Professor Ito found a similar reaction to a petition by the approximately 40,000 Nguồn people in Quảng Bình province near the Lao border. At the time of the initial ethnic classification, there was a difference of opinion as to whether these people belonged to the Mưởng ethnic group, or to the Kinh, or were a distinct group (86). In the end, it was decided that they were a subgroup of the Kinh, and thus were not a distinct ethnic minority. “As ‘ethnic self-consciousness’ is counted the most important criterion for ethnic group determination, the Nguồn quite rightly ask why their claim is not accepted.” But their request has also been shelved because “from the state’s point of view the Nguồn’s demand is an issue laden with dangerous factors which could lead to the ‘breakdown’ of the nation” (105).

This perspective also has precluded other groups—such as the Pa Dí, Thu Lao, and Xá Phó, small groups living near the Chinese border in the far northern part of Vietnam among whom Professor Ito also did fieldwork—from gaining acceptance of their petitions for recognition as separate ethnic groups. On the other hand, the Ơ-Đu, a very small group—numbering only several hundred people—living in the mountainous area of Nghệ An province, have retained their distinctive ethnic status first granted them after the first ethnic classification program. Indeed, as Professor Ito demonstrates well, the Ơ-Đu were created by this program.

In the end, despite the conclusions of the new officially mandated inquiry, no group has succeeded in persuading the government to institute any changes in the original ethnic classification scheme. This is because “it remains essential for the preservation of the vested rights of various administrative cadres and a majority of academic cadres to continue to assert that Vietnam is a ‘multiethnic community of 54 ethnic groups’” (187).

Professor Ito has succeeded admirably in juxtaposing her study of official documents, interviews with officials and academics, and the results of her own excellent first-hand field work to demonstrate why ethnic classification in Vietnam has been far more a political than a scientific project. Her book deserves to be read not only by those interested in Vietnam but also by others interested in the politics of ethnicity more generally.

Charles Keyes, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Back to top

SECURING PARADISE: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai’i and the Philippines. Next Wave. By Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez. Durham: Duke University Press. 2013. X, 284pp. (Figures.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5370-6.

This work explores connections among many things, but especially between the United States military and tourism in Hawai’i and the Philippines. While most of the author’s overarching arguments are sound, I am not convinced she has made them as well as she might have. That is, I wonder if Professor Gonzalez’s approach is likely to convince readers who are not already sympathetic to the points she espouses. And I think it important that it should—there is much of value here.

I found myself responding viscerally at the outset, when I encountered her portrayal of an archetypal GI as “an American soldier and a sunbathing tourist” (4). It evoked a lingering memory from my early childhood, not long after the end of World War Two, when my father told me a story from his days serving in the highlands of Burma. Idly leafing through an armed forces publication, he came upon a spread about recreational opportunities in Hawai’i. The centrepiece was a sailor sunbathing on the beach at Waikiki: it was his brother, a navy electrician at Pearl Harbor. Any querulousness I might have had about this book’s linkage of the military and tourism utterly vanished in that flash of recollection.

But a few pages further along I was stopped by a second image, the notion that “the United States viewed Hawai’i and the Philippines as feminized territories needing discipline and protection” (13). I have no trouble understanding analyses that lead to such sweeping conclusions, and appreciate the perspectives they provide us. But there is rhetorical overkill here, and it exemplifies what I experience as the underlying problem with this book: it substitutes all-encompassing polemics and critiques for nuanced, searching analysis. Like all peoples, Americans possess widely contrasting views and pursue competing goals. And like most views and goals, these are contradictory and inconsistent. Any generalization about how Americans conceptualize Hawai’i that overlooks erupting volcanoes with rivulets of molten lava streaming down their sides or white, foaming spray flying off the pounding surf is missing something. And many American males, probably most, compete with one another, striving to dominate their rivals, as much as they seek to control females. I repeat: I understand and appreciate the theoretical approach Gonzalez employs here, but she needs to dig more deeply.

There are parts of Securing Paradise that ring brightly. When Gonzalez leads us through a visit to the historical park at the Corregidor fortress in the Philippines, for instance, she replaces rhetoric with acute observation and description in ways that are vastly more satisfying. She captures the multiplicity of ways in which the park’s designers seek to shape historical understanding. Drawing lines that link World War Two and the Vietnam War, she recounts the opening ceremonies at the Pacific War Memorial there in 1968, at the peak of the Vietnam conflict, allowing the reader space to reflect on Ferdinand Marcos’s dedicatory speech honouring those who “fought to make peace, if not possible, an enduring condition of human life,” and she resists the temptation to cudgel us with remarks about the irony resonating in this scene (101).

But on the whole, war and the military and all that they entail call for a look at something more than just that which lies on the surface. I respect what she’s trying to get at when she says “The soldiers are young for most part, just boys far away from home” (103), and it reminds me of how I came to the Pacific (including Hawai’i and the Philippines) to fight the war in Vietnam when I was still a teenager. I was sent on to Australia to help commemorate the battle of the Coral Sea, from the previous war, and fell in love with the Pacific islands I encountered along the way. But there’s more to it than that. I was in spirit, if not chronology, a weary old man by that time, so disillusioned with what I had been ordered to do that I then devoted most of my career to resisting American colonialism in the Pacific islands. It is precisely because my love of the Pacific was begotten by the war that I so deeply appreciate the attention she draws to these linkages. But the conclusions she insists upon quite ignore all the other possible ways in which these emotions can play themselves out.

Again and again, Gonzalez draws attention to telling ironies, including the popularity of Pearl Harbor as a tourist destination, the use of helicopters to view Kauai, and the repurposing of a jungle training camp at what used to be the Philippines Subic Bay naval base as a recreational attraction. She has an extraordinary eye for these sorts of juxtapositions. As long as she is reporting she holds my attention, but repeatedly she resorts to posturing in place of analyzing, and then I begin to drift. If she wants to have an impact outside the cultural studies community, and I think she ought to, she would do well to hold her own abilities, as well as those of the readers, in higher regard. She doesn’t need to hammer her points home so bluntly—in fact, doing so seems to detract from her message. And she could perhaps benefit from considering a notion that Isaiah Berlin often cited: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.” In connecting the dots, Gonzalez might strive for a little more nuance, subtlety and complexity: the lines she draws seem just a little too straight, at least to this reader.

Glenn Petersen, City University of New York, New York, USA

Back to top

A FEW POORLY ORGANIZED MEN: Interreligious Violence in Poso, Indonesia. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land en Volkenkunde, v. 285; Power and place in Southeast Asia. v. 3. By Dave McRae. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2013. x, 214 pp. (Tables, maps, graph.) US$103.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-24483-2.

A Few Poorly Organized Men provides a rich, nuanced account of one of the most protracted violent conflicts accompanying Indonesia’s democratization in the aftermath of President Suharto’s May 1998 step-down following more than forty years of authoritarian rule. Central to this careful, detailed study of the unfolding dynamics of violence that racked Poso district in Central Sulawesi province from 1998 to 2007 is the analysis of a division of labour that was repeatedly refigured throughout the violence but in which, consistently, a small group of “loosely organized” core leaders and combatants played a dominant part in shaping the conflict in interaction with other social actors and the inevitable contingencies of warfare and daily life in Indonesia’s uncertain post-Suharto years.

Throughout McRae pays close attention to how the lived experience of conflict inflects and rearranges the priorities of social actors. In this way the book departs from several other studies of communal conflict in post-Suharto Indonesia that assume a priori the instrumentalist motivations of elite political actors in fostering violence. In contrast to a narrow focus on the onset of violence, the book analyzes changes in the forms and intensity of violent conflict over time through close scrutiny of its organization and shifting modalities. Each chapter addresses a distinct form of violence, engaging the relevant theoretical literature, as the book unfolds chronologically across four overlapping phases of violence identified by the author.

In a clear and helpful introduction McRae begins to lay out his argument regarding the crucial role of a division of labour in the dynamics of conflict and the importance of attending to violence’s distinct manifestations through a discussion of some of the main literature on communal conflict in Indonesia but also, for instance, South Asia. Chapter 2 introduces the enabling context in Poso for the onset of violence but especially its protracted duration. Relevant is the pervasive climate of uncertainty forming part of Indonesia’s profound political transition but also the anxieties of Christians concerning their place in Poso, the relative demographic parity of the district’s Muslim and Christian communities, and the longstanding history of competition between them which meant that violence subsequently more easily developed along religious lines. Chapter 3 describes the first phase of violence in which from the start a small group of men played a crucial part as organizers of riots by mobilizing large crowds and circulating rumours of violence perpetrated by the religious other. Violence during this initial phase of “politics by other means” (17) engaged rival local political patronage networks, was staged for political effect and, generally, did not see people targeted due to their religious identity alone.

In light of the escalation of violence following the initial riots of April and May 2000, chapter 4 further develops the argument concerning the centrality of a crucial division of labour in the conflict, showing how a small group of Christian combatants not only were key instigators of violence during this second phase but responsible for the majority of killings. In demonstrating how most people implicated in communal violence are not themselves drawn to kill others, that “neighbor did not kill neighbor” (70), this counts as one of the book’s most important contributions. Rather, in situations of violence such as that of Poso, McRae argues that a small group of combatants—who enjoy broad community support, can rely on the ad hoc mobilization of community members, and have the space in which to operate with impunity due to the absence of state intervention or other deterrents—can effectively carry out massive killings. As elsewhere, the author is attuned to the contribution of complex human motivations such as the experience of loss and feelings of retribution on the part of men who themselves or whose families suffered losses in the earlier riots.

Only in chapter 5 does McRae write in terms of “religious violence,” understanding it as emergent in the conflict’s unfolding dynamics rather than somehow given beforehand. The arrival on the scene of mujahidin or members of Indonesia’s jihadist networks during the conflict’s third phase abetted the emergence of a new form of violence in which the religious identities of participants came to define a long phase of two-sided violence. Besides aiding fellow Muslims, a crucial motivation for mujahidin was an explicitly religious agenda according to which local Muslim youth received both military-style training and religious instruction. A last phase of diminishing violence corresponded to the establishment of Muslim military dominance and the belated if critical intervention of the Indonesian state in the form of the Malino peace agreement. The very fact of this agreement and the ensuing improved security meant that violence increasingly took place as occasional unilateral attacks carried out by mujahidin groups and their main backers, a de-escalation that went along with a “narrowing” of the forms of violence (157). Over time the conflict’s division of labour was such that only a small core of Muslim combatants remained responsible for sporadic violent attacks that continued until 2007.

The book’s final chapter addresses the significant negative role of the Indonesian state in Poso’s protracted violence. Important throughout was the state’s repeated deferral of intervention into the conflict and the demonstrated importance of such intervention when it did occasionally occur. Once again, a crucial factor here was human agency or the misrecognition on the part of state authorities of their own capacity to quell the violence. Not only did the central government’s will to intervene fluctuate but, following an especially subtle argument, such fluctuation depended on an assessment of relative crisis: once “an invisible psychological line was crossed,” (160) the state would turn to harsh intervention; inversely, when the sense of crisis passed the state withheld significant pressure.

In sum, A Few Poorly Organized Men is a thoughtful contribution to the study of communal violence generally and to that of Poso and Post-Suharto Indonesia specifically. If I have one minor complaint it is that the detail of description threatens at times to overwhelm the book’s otherwise significant contributions.

Patricia Spyer, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands

Back to top

FOREST OF STRUGGLE: Moralities of Remembrance in Upland Cambodia. Southeast Asia: Politics, Meaning, and Memory. By Eve Monique Zucker. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. xii, 233 pp. (Figures, B&W photos.) US$28.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3805-8.

This is a fabulous and timely book. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Cambodia’s mountainous southwest, it takes a “social memory approach [combined with] theoretical paradigms concerning morality” to explore the reconstitution of village life following the significant violence and dislocation experienced in the region (and the nation) during the 1970s and beyond.

In the main, this book provides a lucid account of a village named O’Thmaa. As the author rightly underlines, studies of the events, experiences and afterlives of Khmer Rouge violence in “base” (moulâdthan) areas and communities are almost nonexistent. (These were areas and communities under Khmer Rouge control from the early 1970s that subsequently provided a material and political base for the rule of Cambodia as a whole from April 1975.) O’Thmaa is one such community, though its members fought both for and against the Khmer Rouge, as well as for various groupings in preceding conflicts. Moreover, “accusations among the villagers [of O’Thmaa] had led to a significant number of executions [of fellow villagers]” (7).

There are several interwoven aims of the book, including concern with “how communities negotiate the memories associated with difficult pasts and come together to rebuild their lives” (7), “how people and their societies cope with radical and violent social change” (176), and with “the moral ideals or virtues for which individuals and communities [such as present-day O’Thmaa] strive” (172). The larger commune that contains O’Thmaa, Prei Phnom, and the neighbouring commune of Doung Srae, are brought into the analysis at various junctures to provide comparative perspectives on how villagers are reconstituting their shared existences.

The book is accessible for the non-anthropological reader because it starts from the ground and builds up. It offers analyses of everyday social interactions—including commensality and assistance—and of kinship in O’Thmaa. In addition, the book analyzes various contemporary festivals and observances associated both with Khmer Buddhism (including a chapter on Bon Dalien) and the guardian or tutelary spirits of this upland locale. Significant attention to the question of moral discernment (sâtisampajania) is given throughout, as are the wider societal constructs of the civil and the wild (srok/ prei), trust and distrust, “face” (mukh), agency and victimhood. The book will thus be of great interest to ethnographers of Cambodia and scholars of Khmer Buddhism, as well as to those concerned with social memory in post-conflict societies beyond issues of formal political discourse and state-based initiatives.

A significant part of this fine-grained study of morality and remembrance in O’Thmaa concerns the village elder, Ta Kam, a former village chief who many families hold responsible for the execution of their loved ones during the 1970s. Zucker’s account of the complex and changing relationship between villagers and Ta Kam should be essential reading for anyone interested in the current international criminal tribunal, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The conclusion of the book comments explicitly and expertly on this formal legal mechanism for “dealing with the past” vis-à-vis social memory at the village scale. Insightful as the case of Ta Kam is, Zucker does not claim that the same social practices are wider spread though, as she notes, instances of living with Khmer Rouge perpetrators certainly is.

Indeed, as a caution against generalizing about Cambodian social memory, the book offers very important lessons in socio-spatial specificity. Zucker explores how even the neighbouring communes of Prei Phnom and Doung Srae “have the means and motivation to produce different narratives about the past that [nonetheless] still share common features” (176). An example of differing stories about an historical Thai invasion of the region proves this point, allowing Zucker to note that: “Prei Phnom and Doung Srae’s distinct ways of coping with the past and their notions of modernity and tradition reflect their recent histories” (146). In these and other ways, the book goes to the heart of the question of whether or not (and how) the experiences of “base people” (neak moulâdthan) have differed significantly from other Cambodian groups. It also gives a nuanced response to the question of the degree to which (and in what ways) contemporary Cambodian communities still (differently) struggle with the losses and ruptures of the late twentieth century.

Resonant and resurfacing memory (149), the mixing of memory (139), and the projection of an idealized past onto the future as a moral ideal (173), are each fascinating discussions. And although the book is (necessarily) limited to a discussion of processes at the village or community level, the social space of the household as an intimate zone of relatedness suggests itself (to this reader at least) as a potential future research site for a closely related set of research questions about the reconstitution of household or family life in such areas.

Students contemplating ethnographic fieldwork in similar contexts would do very well to read this book, and early! Zucker is open about the challenges of ethnographic research, and does not omit the story of her own development as a researcher: her earlier states of not-yet-knowing, her immediate responses and confusions, her hopes and humour. But neither does this personal voice dominate, rather the quality of thought and mastery of the field demonstrated in the book is greater for it. Here is a deftly detailing voice whose growing knowledge, sensitivity and involvement encourages these attributes in the reader.

Rachel Hughes, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

Back to top

THE BUDDHA SIDE: Gender, Power, and Buddhist Practice in Vietnam. Topics in Contemporary Buddhism. By Alexander Soucy. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 2012. x, 244 pp. (Figures, tables, B&W photos.) US$49.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3598-9.

In an age marked by “post” and “isms” in anthropology, it is refreshing that ethnographies written with such clarity and theoretical precision are still being produced. Alexander Soucy’s fascinating book on Vietnamese (in particular, Hanoi-centred) Buddhist practice covers the gamut of indigenous definitions as to what constitutes Buddhism and its performance in everyday life. Soucy’s ethnography weaves history, personal anecdotes, anthropological musings, politics and theory in a manner that is accessible and highly readable. He populates his book with colourful vignettes and the voices of men and women who consider themselves Buddhists, to varying degrees. These interlocutors share their stories with Soucy and the reader gets a glimpse into their lives and the moment of interactive exchange between the anthropologist and his friends. By the end of the ethnography, the reader feels like he has been to Hanoi, entered the pagoda complexes, walked through the crowds of elderly women worshippers, heard their sutra chanting as well as the gossips, condemnations and irks that pepper the way some Vietnamese define Buddhism. An ethnography is the story of people and their lives encapsulated within a rich theoretical debate. Soucy’s book is a success on both these levels. It was a page turner and I found it hard to put down.

Soucy writes about the way Buddhism, gender, politics, power, spirituality, travel and Vietnamese notions of personhood are enmeshed in the contemporary practice of Buddhism in Hanoi. Although focusing on Sino-Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhism, Soucy rightly points out the difficulties in thinking about orthodoxy and categories in a culture where Buddhism and popular spirit cults have often influenced one another. This dynamism is evident in the way people talk about their practice. Soucy’s ethnography focuses on the going ons at two pagodas: the large and nationally celebrated Quan Su pagoda and the smaller Phuc Loc pagoda. Yet, he does not restrict his analysis to these two Buddhist spaces but rather looks at the networks and connections people make with other Buddhist sites across the northern (and in some cases, southern) Vietnamese landscape. The study of religion in Vietnam has largely been dominated by works on spirit cults/possession rituals with little being written about the way Buddhism is lived in the country. Soucy shows that in many so-called “Buddhist” landscapes, Buddhism and spirit cults occur side by side. Yet, the complexity emerges in the way people define themselves as religionists, with some proudly proclaiming to be Buddhists by virtue of their religious practice while others—in particular, older educated men—tend to distance themselves from religious activities and focus on a more Confucianist foci of education and study. Then there is the influence of the Communist state with its long history of religious opiate. Soucy’s work comes at a time when anthropology has moved away from an earlier concern with the neatness of social categories to focus on the multiplicity of noisy voices that animate social and ritual realities. By the end of the book, the reader does not have an answer as to the question of what constitutes Vietnamese Buddhist identity. Rather, what emerges is a tapestry of identities defined according to gender, age, political association, social economic level and so forth. This is a refreshing take not only on Vietnamese religion but on the study of religious identities in many modern societies. As I read Soucy’s work, I could not help but think about my own research in a small Malaysian Thai Buddhist village, where similar type issues seem to be the norm. Here I would like to add a minor critique to the book. Although Soucy covers the Vietnamese material thoroughly, I would have liked to have seen more of an engagement with other societies—in particular, with other Buddhist societies that have emerged from long-standing political conflicts, e.g., Sri Lanka, Laos and Cambodia. To his credit, Soucy does provide us with cross-cultural comparisons but these are often relegated to minor points in endnotes. Soucy’s gaze (and he mentions this in his introduction) is very much directed at Hanoi and Mahayanist practice. Yet Buddhism in Vietnam is definitely more complex. Soucy writes of how one of his interlocutors preferred to wear robes akin to practitioners in the south rather than the common brown robes of the north. There was also a mention of Theravadism in the ethnography and much of what some of the older men told Soucy about Buddhist ideas seemed clearly derived from intellectual Theravadin debates. Here Soucy could have complicated his picture by showing the variants of Buddhisms in Vietnam and how these variants (and not just the spirit-side) were instrumental in forging the gendered and social identities that form the theoretical ballast of the work. Perhaps Soucy could engage more with his own earlier work on transnational Vietnamese Buddhism. Although he writes about pilgrimages and movement, and the sale of popular Taiwanese robes and wooden fish in pagodas, the reader does not get a clear image of the global scale of Buddhist practice in the region. Vietnamese Buddhism has had a long history of cross-cultural influences with China and subsequent movements and migrations of Vietnamese into diasporic landscapes. Adding this global dimension to the discussion would definitely enhance the scope of the work and its theoretical contribution.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Soucy’s ethnography. I particularly liked chapter 7, where Soucy writes about “conspicuous devotion,” an aspect of Buddhist practice that one rarely reads about in ethnographies. Most writings on Buddhist communities tend to eschew the negative, in part due to the anthropologist not wanting to create unsavoury images of the society and people he/she is living amongst. Yet Soucy does this with great tact and manages to show that many in Hanoi practice a form of popular Buddhism where public recognition is about the power to be included and excluded. This, like the ethnography, is a fascinating window into a little-known world. The Buddha Side has set the bar high for many an anthropologist interested in writing about Buddhism and Buddhist identities, both in terms of its rich theoretical content as well as its brilliantly composed ethnography.

Irving Chan Johnson, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Back to top

POTENT LANDSCAPES: Place and Mobility in Eastern Indonesia. Southeast Asia: Politics, Meaning, and Memory. By Catherine Allerton. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 2013. xi, 221 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3800-3.

Catherine Allerton’s book Potent Landscapes is an anthropological study of Manggarai settlements in West Flores in Eastern Indonesia. In many ways it is a classic village ethnography, increasingly the exception within an anthropology that has turned its attention away from the rural towards the urban and transnational. Allerton’s initial fieldwork anxiety in the late 1990s is significant as she wonders whether the village she has chosen is “too remote.” Yet she turns this remoteness to her advantage, using contemporary anthropological theory to conceptualize broad themes such as place and mobility while producing an elegant contrast to the classic models of Eastern Indonesian ethnography, most notably the structuralist tradition of the Leiden School.

The Manggarai settlements that Allerton studied are ostensibly Catholic but people continue to have “animist” beliefs and practices, particularly in the context of rituals aimed at affecting the environment and social relations. Furthermore, through state resettlement programs, the highland village that was at the centre of the study had a site in the lowlands, where political authority and schooling was centred, while ritual authority remained in the highlands. Yet, one of the book’s main goals is to move beyond these forms of dichotomies—between Catholicism and animism, between highlands and lowlands, for instance—and develop a more phenomenologically oriented approach to Manggarai lifeworlds.

Influenced in particular by Tim Ingold’s work on the “fundamental historicity” (4) of the environment as well as Bruno Latour’s concern with non-human agency, Allerton is interested in describing how people in Manggarai “dwell” in—rather than for instance symbolically represent—the landscapes they inhabit. In disturbing distinctions between “natural” and “cultural” environments, Allerton highlights how landscapes must be understood as constantly under construction in relation to not only the everyday experiences and practices of individuals and communities, but also the agency of material and physical forms such as rooms and waterways. By way of this perspective, she describes how place and mobility are co-constructed through various literal and figurative “pathways,” for instance marriage, childbirth and migration.

In contrast to the classic tradition of Eastern Indonesian studies—which has focused on the “house”—Allerton begins with the “room” in chapter 1. In particular she notes how the room can be considered in biographical terms, as a space that is transformed with rituals and changing family structures, as well as a critical starting point for considering the ethnography of everyday life. Rooms themselves gain particular characteristics, even agency, that allows for the protection of its inhabitants. Via the room, Allerton returns to the house in chapter 2, which she considers not primarily as an architectural object, but rather as a particular kind of place characterized by permeability—of sounds and smells, in particular—as well as what she calls “liveliness.” Again, this is in stark contrast to earlier structuralist approaches to the house in the region. Chapter 3 furthers this approach by considering marriage “not simply as a set of rules and classifications but as a sequence of place-based, practical actions” (74). In this context Allerton introduces marriage as a “path” that connects dwellings and villages. In other words, marriage is considered as a practical process and form of travel that comes to connect and transform places. Chapter 4 shifts attention to the environments that surround settlements and are at the centre of agricultural subsistence, for instance, fields, forests and waterways. In this process Allerton highlights how ritual, story-telling and subsistence must be understood together as a form of dwelling. Spirits and subsistence are thus closely integrated and should be not be dichotomized in terms of ritual and labour. Like the rooms described in chapter 1, the broader landscape that people in Manggarai inhabit embodies a form of agency that always remains outside of people’s complete control. Chapter 5 considers the changing relationship between the highland and lowland settlements, and particularly the effects of state resettlement and the definition of the highland village architecture as “authentic” in cultural terms. By following discussions concerning the so-called “drum house” that is only allowed in independant ritual communities, Allerton considers the shifting politics of landscape. The book’s final chapter considers more explicitly the relationship between place and mobility, and movement between the highlands and lowlands, across the region and to other countries such as Malaysia. Once again there is an attempt to break down dichotomies, in this case between mobility and immobility, by highlighting how movement depends upon a form of rooting or dwelling in particular places, most notably the village.

In conclusion, it should be noted that this book is a welcome addition to studies on Eastern Indonesia, in particular, and Southeast Asia, more generally. Characterized by rich ethnographic description and unusual clarity in the face of complex theoretical discussions, Potent Landscapes is an ideal book for undergraduate teaching and introducing students to a world that is both mundane and unfamiliar.

Johan Lindquist, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

Back to top

SOUTHEAST ASIAN HISTORY: Essential Readings. Edited by D.R. SarDesai. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2013. x, 365 pp. (Table, charts.) US$43.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8133-4857-5.

This is a revised edition of SarDesai´s Southeast Asian History: Essential Readings (Boulder: Westview Press, 2006) and, like its predecessor, can be a companion to the author´s textbook, Southeast Asia: Past and Present (seventh edition, Boulder: Westview Press, 2013). The readings would usefully supplement any other textbook on Southeast Asian history, although the organization of these readings closely follows that of the four parts of the textbook, “Cultural Heritage,” “Colonial Interlude,” Nationalist Response” and “Fruits of Freedom.” Of these, the last and the first sections are the longest, while colonial rule as such receives relatively little space, although the third section, including nationalism and Japanese occupation, could be seen as picturing the decline and demise of the colonial era.

Let the buyer beware: the revised edition is little changed from the previous one. Five items, in all nearly one hundred pages dealing with the US war in Vietnam and Cambodia, have been eliminated, reflecting the editor´s desire to spend less time on the Second Indochina War. Instead, a much briefer pair of statements from Malaysia´s Mahathir bin Mohammad (whom SarDesai calls “Mohammad”) records his vision for Malaysia for 2020, and this is reflected in an additional “Vision” from ASEAN on the same topic. The other addition, Keith Taylor´s “The Trung Sisters in the Literature of Later Centuries,” shows how Vietnamese nationalism perpetuated the legend of their uprising against China. After the select bibliography, a new chart of Southeast Asian history provides an overview of significant events over the centuries. Unlike the first edition, this one has no index.

In geographical extent, the readings appear to cover the entire region, but Singapore has only subordinate mentions, while Laos and Timor Leste have few or none. Combining chronology and geography reveals that the texts on the Philippines are all from the Spanish colonial period—surely the articulate and rhetorically gifted Filipinos of the twentieth century could have added provocative material to the final section as well!

This leads to another problem. While most of the readings add information and background, the “voices” of Southeast Asians form only about one-fifth of the book, 66 pages by my count. These include Rizal, Sukarno, U Nu, Mahathir and Aung San Suu Kyi, but not Lee Kuan Yew, Suharto or others. Other primary sources, accounts by first-hand observers like Fa-hsien [Faxian], Marco Polo or de Loarca, add a mere 16 pages.

Some items are from “outsiders.” These are Lenin´s “Theses on Nationalism and Colonialism,” a text that exercised great influence on Ho Chi Minh and on other Southeast Asian nationalists, and excerpts from Lyndon B. Johnson´s 1965 speech, “The United States in Vietnam,” the apologia for the widening of the war by bombing targets in North Vietnam. Another is the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize eulogy for Aung San Suu Kyi, which pales compared to her own words.

About two-thirds of the book is comprised of reprints of other, secondary sources. These include Ian Mabett on early “Indianization,” and Heine-Geldern´s essential “State and Kingship in Southeast Asia.” In comparison, John Whitmore (“Foreign Influences and the Vietnamese Culture Core”) delineates the interaction of Chinese culture and indigenous Vietnamese responses in pre-modern times. Also important is an excerpt from Ben Kiernan´s “Pol Pot´s Rise to Power.”

The editor provides brief explanatory introductions. He has barely edited the texts, although some were shortened. Probably others could have used more editing. Certainly, a footnote could explain why U Nu wrote that on “the evening of 14 May [1945]” (182), the Japanese ambassador informed Burmese leaders that the atomic bomb had been dropped, that the Russians had entered the war against Japan and that Japan would surrender. The following reading from Elly Touwen-Bouwsma places these events (correctly) in August.

Many factors—suitability, length, availability and personal preference—can govern the choice of readings. I have problems with at least two of them. John Leddy Phelan´s “Hispanization of the Philippines” is a valuable discussion of the peculiar development of a special Philippine Catholicism, but it illustrates this point with minute details about the administration of the Sacraments. Could another article have illustrated Philippine developments more succinctly, or could this one have been shortened? The other is A.J. Stockwell´s “Decolonization in Malaya, 1942-1952,” which seems ill-placed in the section on “Nationalist Response.” Stockwell´s original title, “British Imperial Policy and Decolonization in Malaya” [italics mine] better reflects its contents, which describe not a struggle between Kuala Lumpur and London for the independence of Malaya but primarily a battle between the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office in London over Malaya. Imperial history, yes, but not “nationalist response.” While in the editor´s opinion this may reflect the real power struggle, Onn bin Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman or even Chin Peng might have had something more pungent to contribute. Also, Buddhism and Islam take a back seat to political developments. Thus, Greg Fealy´s fine survey of Islam in Southeast Asia appears almost as an afterthought at the end of the book.

Perhaps it is too much to hope that students might pick up a book by Kartini, Mahathir or Aung San, even to read only parts of it. SarDesai has laudably attempted to cover the region in an interdisciplinary way, offering an alternative to messy or unbalanced collections of photocopies sometimes assigned to students. More local content, perhaps even some presentation of opposing views, could have enriched the choice, but if the editor has not quite met these ideal goals, the problem may lie with the complexity of his task and, in the end, the challenges of teaching Southeast Asian history.

Mary Somers Heidhues, Independent Scholar, Göttingen, Germany

Back to top

CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE PHILIPPINES: Theoretical, Methodological and Policy Debates. Rethinking Southeast Asia, 11. By Gerard Clarke. London; New York: Routledge, 2012. xxiv, 257 pp., (Maps, tables.) US$135.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-57272-9.

Should a Philippine edition of this book ever get published, it will surely be one extensively consulted by activists, policy makers, politicians, and ordinary readers—and with any hope, it may contribute to meaningful change. As of this writing, one news story currently grabbing the headlines of national dailies involves a couple who allegedly skimmed millions from politicians and the Philippines Armed Forces by funneling development funds to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) and people’s organizations (POs). The husband and wife team used the monies to fund a lavish lifestyle of world travel, high-end real estate, and blowout parties in Hollywood. This evolving story validates of one of Gerard Clarke’s key arguments: that civil society organizations (CSOs), of which NGOs and POs are the most representative, no remain longer the exclusive tool of those defending the interests of the underclasses. On the contrary, CSOs also have become a means through which the powerful corrupt, promote and protect themselves.

Clarke begins his narrative with a thorough overview of civil society theories from Plato to John Keane, the arguments behind these reflections, and a global “statistical contour” of CSOs. Such organizations generally pursue two sometimes complementary, sometimes contradictory goals, he points out: advancing “democracy” and reformatting aspects of a society’s political economy to benefit the poor. These goals are in turn affected by forces of political economy and resultant social structures, either reinforced or undermined by a government’s laws and policies.

Clark then turns to the specific case of the Philippines, tracing a history of CSOs from the Spanish colonial era before exploring the social character of various forms of CSOs. The most fascinating chapter in this section examines the statistical contours of Philippine civil society. Here Clarke reveals the considerable diversity of CSO groups past and present, examining the nature of their work, locating them in classes or social sectors, and describing their relations with state and society. His statistical map demonstrates how it is that the Philippines has remained a weak and crippled civil society, despite the proliferation of hundreds of NGOs and POs. Civil society has become less a domain of progressive politics, the author argues, but rather a realm where different organizations, including political and ideological rivals can be found. This disturbing portrait of NGOs and POs coopted by state leaders and oligarchic families working with them to pursue patrimonial ends rings depressingly true. Moreover, when the state feels threatened by left-leaning CSOs, it unleashes military and para-military forces to destroy or weaken them.

Thus, despite the American transplant of Tocquevillian democracy, attempts in the 1950s by NGOs and political leaders to reform governance after a communist-led peasant uprising almost toppled the state, and two popular uprisings that overthrew a tyrant (Ferdinand Marcos) and corrupt politician (Joseph Estrada), the formation of effective civil society in the Philippines is still decades away.

This book is the first comprehensive study of Filipino social forces and the various organizations they spawned across time. It is likewise the first to situate the Philippine experience within theoretical and policy debates on civil society. But it is not without failings. For example, Clarke’s broad history of Philippine civil society overlooks certain critical issues: no explanation is given as to why some colonial CSOs persisted in the post-colonial period while others disappeared. Discussion of American involvement in the formation of reformist, anti-communist CSOs during the 1950s—which could have lead to a helpful evaluation of the role of other external actors—is also underdeveloped.

Violence is as much a habit of militant CSOs as it is with the state. Yet while Clarke is certainly aware of the internal blood-letting that nearly destroyed the communist party in the 1980s, he does not examine how the party’s CSOs condoned or turned a blind eye to its subsequent assassinations of “renegades.” The author’s statistical contours tell us a great deal but leave one critical question unanswered: how much have Filipinos’ lives improved since CSOs have began their work? Finally, as Clarke knows, Philippine politics is largely local in character. The arguments of this book would benefit enormously from extended case studies of CSOs in the provinces and the towns where political clans and warlords dominate, one that could have been done easily given the trove of studies of local politics available (some of which he even cited).

Nonetheless, these minor objections should not discourage readers from appreciating the value of Civil Society in the Philippines. The book deserves to be read carefully, especially by Filipinos troubled by the political direction their country is taking. It is a shame that its exorbitant price will most likely keep it out of their reach.

Patricio N. Abinales, University of Hawai`i-Manoa, Honolulu, USA

Back to top

THE HISTORICAL CONSTRUCTION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN STUDIES: Korea and Beyond. Edited by Park Seung Woo, Victor T. King. Singapore: ISEAS, 2013. xviii, 468 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$49.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4414-58-6.

In Western countries, Southeast Asian (SEA) studies has now declined to the point of elimination at many universities. But SEA studies is on the rise in East Asia, as documented in this work.

In chapter 7, author Heryanto describes how the new cultural identities being forged in SE Asia today by the “waves” of Japanese and Korean television serials, music and films will require a total rethinking of the underlying presuppositions of SEA studies and its “overall structure and defining framework” (228). With selected examples, Heryanto thoroughly reviews the influence of new technology and media, affecting even one’s self-identity. Analyzing themes of personal self-restraint, “cultural proximity” (241) and lack of overt sexuality or violence, he finds that the unifying factors are a kind of internationalism, and a strengthening of the legitimacy of the new middle class (250). His outline of a future indigenous SEA studies abandons the paradigms of the past, as networks and flows replace the nation-state as the unit of study.

SEA studies in China (chapter 2, Park S-M) has always been focused on the overseas Chinese and their ties to the “homeland,” which in fact helped establish modern Chinese SEA studies. Thus an “Oriental Orientalism” is strong in Chinese research, something “to be expected” in the view of the editors (28). Another factor is China’s numerous ancient texts on SE Asia, which tend to limit research on contemporary or theoretical issues. A recent theme in Chinese SEA studies is ethnic populations straddling China’s borders with SE Asia.

Japan (chapter 3, Insun) has the largest number of historians of SE Asia, but publications in Japanese do not circulate internationally, despite the “world class quality” (84, 102) of the detailed research, due to generous funding for long-term in-country field work and language study (103).

In chapter 3 author S.W. Park (112) notes that Korean SEA studies began in earnest after demilitarization of the Korean government in 1987 led to a general opening of the country and the return of many PhDs from the US. Currently Korea holds regular conferences with Japanese and SE Asian institutes, and there is much promise for those Korean academics who produce more analysis and theoretical interpretation (136).

SEA studies in Singapore (chapter 5, S.K. Lee) is well respected, especially the accomplishments of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Institute of SE Asian Research. But is this indigenous SEA studies? Located on the world’s busiest commercial sea-lane, Singapore naturally has a global perspective, using merit-based recruiting, English language, and foreign experts in business, government and academia.

Early British scholars had a thoroughly imperialist perspective, which author Lee calls their “ecology” (164). A flourishing Chinese scholarship in Singapore was largely eliminated by the 1980 merger of Nanyang University into NUS. The Asian Research Institute at NUS (est. 2001) has been the recent flagship of SE Asian research, and is now in the hands of Singaporeans, who emphasize a broader Asian studies (182). This will affect SEA studies worldwide, such is the influence of Singapore today.

Chapter 6 (H. Choi) is on SEA studies in Vietnam, which entered the field relatively late, but Vietnamese scholars were writing of a “common ancient civilization unique to Southeast Asia” (209, 212) long before Western scholars arrived. After đổi mới in the late 1980s, local SEA studies institutions were set up rapidly; however, many were too rushed, and did not last. Choi (202) finds that in Vietnamese international research projects, seeking business connections is more common than doing research.

Vietnamese scholarship was also deeply influenced by the Soviet Union, with much ideological rhetoric. Today, Vietnamese research tends to be in specific disciplines and on Vietnam, despite an official stress on interdisciplinary approaches to the entire region (216).

In Chapter 8, V. King argues that the British were pioneers in SEA studies within the region (267), but he stresses that British imperial support of SEA studies was “fitful and indecisive” (270). The generations of British academics who worked in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Rangoon constitute an honour roll of famous scholars. King gives strong evidence that many of them studied SE Asia in its own right (308-315). The ongoing role of the School of Oriental and African Studies and the Association of SEA Studies in the UK (ASEASUK) are chronicled, and there is a good review of the debate on the reality/artificiality of SE Asia (272-77). Finally, King reviews the impressive European contributions to SEA studies, in particular those of Germans and Austrians.

Chapter 9 shows the impact of 250 years of colonialism upon Dutch society itself. Author F. Colombijn concludes that SEA studies within the Netherlands has finally “decolonized” itself, but the path through postmodernist perspectives has not been pleasant. Many Dutch feel colonization was beneficial to Indonesia, and people have to be pro-colonialism or against it (both Eurocentric views), leading to much heated debate (326).

The three colonial burdens of contemporary Dutch scholars of Indonesia are (1) the extensive archives of the VOC and of the colonial government, (2) the emotional debates over the morality of colonialism, (3) how such heavy moralizing impedes academic work from a detached perspective (325-27). Thus Dutch scholars seek objectivity in wider debates on ethnicity, nation-building, etc. (341).

Australia (chapter 10, J.J. Fox), has enjoyed strong government support for Indonesian studies, but they too have suffered declining funding. A 2008 report showed a large drop for Indonesian language courses (down 24 percent) and Thai and Vietnamese were almost wiped out (383-4). One success story is the Update series, annual lectures well-attended by the public. There are now Updates on all SE Asian countries, the Indonesian Update covering two days with 400-plus attendees, and a counterpart in Jakarta (371).

The last chapter (by Song S-W) chronicles SEA studies in the US, which contributed much to theoretical frameworks while focusing on the modern period (399-400). Describing the American decline of SEA studies, author Song mentions “the loss of official interest in sustaining the huge funding of area studies, resulting in the general decline of student interest as well” (400). But by what mechanisms does funding affect student interest? None of the other authors or editors of the volume deal with this question.

In 1961 John Smail called for an “autonomous history or SE Asia.” Other American theoretical concepts were “loosely structured social system,” “agricultural involution,” “shared poverty,” “theatre state,” “syncretic religion,” “moral economy” of minority peoples, “spiral approaches to history,” “imagined communities,” “upstream/downstream” relations, “center/periphery” relations, and “borderless polities.” American SEA studies replaced colonial perspectives, but also brought a Cold War worldview and other ethnocentric “universals.” This chapter shows that as a genuinely autonomous SEA studies is pursued through small-scale studies of minority peoples and cross-border flows, the field becomes more diverse and fractured, and thereby more vulnerable to attack by globalization theorists.

For a dedicated student of SE Asia, the book contains jewels of personal details of the esteemed authors and administrators, and the background to famous issues and debates. The copious bibliographies of each chapter are goldmines. But the brightest gem is Heryanto’s chapter, which masterfully points to the global future of SEA studies.

Jim Placzek, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Back to top

FOUR DECADES ON: Vietnam, the United States, and the Legacies of the Second Indochina War. Scott Laderman and Edwin A. Martini, editors. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013. ix, 334 pp. (Figures.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5474-1.

This outstanding collection of eleven essays focuses on the legacies of the Vietnam wars in postwar America and Vietnam, with emphasis on the American choice of denial over closure, illustrating the aptness of Socrates’ comment that it is worse to commit a crime than to be the victim of one. The collective conscience of the Vietnamese, despite their far greater suffering, is clear; in the US, though the wounds it suffered were borne “only” by its veterans and their families and communities, guilt remains the unremembered legacy of every American.

The essays constitute a handbook for teaching and learning about how the Vietnamese have coped with the after-effects of the war and how different US administrations have handled their humanitarian responsibilities. A number of the essays merit study by every citizen.

The focus is on Vietnam and the US. We learn little about the two other Indochinese nations, Laos and Cambodia, and almost nothing about China, which looms in the background. Before the war China had aided the Vietnamese communists, furnishing Washington with a rationale for waging war against Vietnam: stopping Chinese aggression. Afterwards, Vietnam gravitated to Russia and China to the US, and Sino-Viet relations turned antagonistic in tandem with Sino-Russian relations. During the war Russia and China had conflicts, but overall did more to help than hurt the Vietnamese.

Only one essay goes into the last years of the war showing how Washington foreclosed possibilities of a more pluralistic politics. In “Legacies Foretold, Excavating the Roots of Postwar Viet Nam,” Ngo Vinh Long writes, “Unless one understands how the policies of the RVN [Republic of Vietnam / South Vietnam Government] effectively destroyed the pluralistic potential of the south, one cannot understand the myriad developments that unfolded in Viet Nam in the years after the war came to an end” (17). The Paris Peace Agreement, signed January 27, 1973, contained promises and commitments that were not kept. Four days before the signing Nixon announced publicly that Washington would recognize only its own Thieu regime as the “sole legitimate government.” This negated beforehand the Agreement’s commitment to allow the Vietnamese to “decide themselves the political future of South Vietnam . . . through general elections” and Washington’s promise not to “continue its military involvement or intervene in the internal affairs of South Vietnam” (17). The Agreement further provided for a National Council to supervise a “national reconciliation” “of the two South Vietnamese parties,” meaning the Thieu ruling group and the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong). To give these prospects a chance to come to fruition Hanoi restrained its forces (32). However, massive US military aid to the Thieu regime continued and so did Congressional funding, so that the eventual outcome was the continuing imposition of the Thieu regime’s dictatorship. As in China 1945-1949 the population, war-weary, demanded peace, not ongoing civil war, and was alienated from Washington and its governments. This suggests why Thieu’s regime crumbled so quickly under the final onslaught from the north: it could no longer hold the allegiance of the population or of its own army.

In the second essay, “Viet Nam and Vietnam in American History and Memory,” Walter Hixon shows how the state, media and film industry worked to erase the actually existing Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian victims of Washington, leaving the Americans as victims not the losers of the war. To what end? “As the history and memory of ‘Vietnam’ were being repackaged, the United States resumed its normal interventionist course in foreign policy . . . first Carter and then more aggressively Reagan intervened to roll back reformist governments in Central America” (52).

In addition Washington pursued a policy of revenge against the Vietnamese, supporting the Khmer Rouge dictatorship in Cambodia and its military action against Vietnam. At the same time sanctions and other penalties were imposed on Vietnam, until, in the early 1990s under Clinton, normalization was achieved. Washington had up to then maintained a hostile attitude toward Hanoi, claiming that prisoners of war were still being held, a largely if not completely mythological assertion. Once it was shown that no such large body of missing American soldiers actually existed, American objection to normal relations dwindled. (Though the author does not mention it, Vietnam was also being courted as a counterbalance to China. In “Missing in Action in the Twenty-first Century,” H. Bruce Franklin offers a detailed narrative of how the POW/MIA issues were falsified and exploited to make unreasonable demands of Hanoi and then to evade responsibility for the catastrophic damage done to the land, economy and people.

Another instance of Washington’s unfair treatment concerns Vietnamese catfish, a product lured into the American market on the basis of free trade and then subjected to tariff discrimination at the behest of domestic fishing interests. This cruel trifling with norms of “free trade” and “rule of law” illustrates the hypocrisy of politics in US commercial practice, the subject of Scott Laderman’s “A Fishy Affair: Vietnamese Seafood and the Confrontation with U.S. Neoliberalism,” an essay suitable for every Economics 101 class worldwide.

Other essays offer enlightening commentary on literature, on film, agent orange, and the environment. Each of the eleven is a gem, for which the editors are to be congratulated. Since the book is balanced between American and Vietnamese issues, it is fitting to close this review with a note on Heonik Kwon’s “Cold War in a Vietnamese Community,” which shows how Vietnamese veterans on both sides of their civil war learned to come to terms with their tragedies and to acknowledge, even respect, the pain and losses of former enemies to achieve closure and reconciliation through mourning and remembrance.

From the US a good number of veterans and others have gone to Vietnam to share grief and memory across the artificially created boundary of “enemy nation” and also to contribute financially and personally to easing the continuing suffering there. The day may come when the conduct of official America rises to that level of humanitarianism and transcends its narcissistic denials. For that, however, the habit of scapegoating others, especially the Chinese, must be transcended. Is the drumbeat of negative reportage on China and its past really about deflecting attention from the harm that Washington has done in Indochina?

Moss Roberts, New York University, New York, USA

Back to top

CATHOLIC VIETNAM: A Church from Empire to Nation. From Indochina to Vietnam v. 5. By Charles Keith. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. xiv, 312 pp. (Illus.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-27247-7.

In the margin of the early China mission the first Catholic missionaries arrived in a politically divided Vietnam from the 1570s on. They had a history of modest results, frequent opposition, but sometimes also royal support in a kingdom that was united in the early nineteenth century. In the period from 1860 to 1880 French colonialism took over the administration of the country, although a nominal kingdom continued. In September 1940 Vietnam was occupied by the Japanese army. In September 1945, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed in Hanoi. It defeated the French army in 1954 and the Americans in 1975. Catholics never represented more than 10 percent of the population; this was at the end of the French colonial period. Nowadays the population is about 8.5 percent Catholic.

Keith concentrates in this book on the French period, 1860 to 1940. His first chapter explores the idea of the difference between the modest presence in the last period of independence, the Nguyen Kingdom, and the strong growth during colonial administration. From 68 French missionaries in 1868, there were nearly 400 a generation later. In the vivid symbolic language he likes, he sees the contrast also in the “enormous cathedrals in the centers of Hanoi and Saigon, both completed in the 1880s” (30).

Chapter 2 presents “a colonial church divided.” It chronicles a long list of complaints by the Vietnamese people, most voiced by the clergy, about the French in general and especially their missionaries. One missionary loaned funds of his order to a colon[ist] for the sake of his family in France. Some were addicted to opium, or lived with Vietnamese women. There is even a story about a local priest who was accused of having killed a missionary who had tied him up and whipped him. Keith does not give a complete narrative, let alone much statistics and institutional history, but instead offers a series of stories that together build a picture.

Chapters 3 through 5 discuss the 1920s and 1930s, when the Vatican wanted to build a church, independent from French colonialism where anticlericalism, freemasonry and preference for Buddhism was often strong. In 1933 the first Vietnamese bishop was nominated, followed by two more in 1935 and 1938. Vietnamese priests began mission work in the tribal regions of the mountains in the west of the country. A Catholic press was established, magazines, newspapers and books in Vietnamese, printed in the adapted Latin alphabet as developed by the early missionary Alexandre de Rhodes (in Vietnam between 1627-1645). Catholicism was more an urban than a rural phenomenon: in 1897 one-third of Saigon’s 38,000 inhabitants were Catholic (153). In the 1920s the popular French Catholic organizations were also established in Vietnam: Association de Saint Vincent de Paul, Catholic Action, Catholic Boy Scouts, Eucharistic Crusade. Popular Catholicism developed through various places of pilgrimage, the most popular being La Vang.

Chapter 6 treats the political parties and actions by nationalist Catholics. Here again, the Vatican is a symbol of the international and non-French character of the Catholic Church. Religion is by many described and experienced as not bound to a specific ethnicity or geographical identity. Besides, the social message of the Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI was also interpreted as a criticism of French colonialism, “both by identifying French secularism as the root of radical mass politics and by focusing on how the oppressive nature of colonial rule had birthed and sustained communism in Vietnam” (200).

Chapter 7 discusses the most dramatic period of this history, the Japanese occupation of 1940, the declaration of independence of 1945 and the French attempt to come back to its former colony, resulting in the defeat of the French, the division of the country in 1954, and the unstable and corrupt government of the Saigon administration, for the first time under a Catholic president, Ngô Ðình Diệm. The epilogue bears as title “a national church divided,” an echo of the title of chapter 2. It is no longer the opposition of French versus Vietnamese clergy and faithful, but the Catholics of the North who in 1954 migrated to the South and caused many problems in this region. Here the book ends: without much theory, but again with symbolic and meaningful stories like the one about the use of the names of former Northern parishes for the new settlements in the South.

Charles Keith does not concentrate on religious history, but on social and political positions. He does not present the formal structure of the story, but gives anecdotes, quotes and symbolic events that are elaborated on in order to portray the tragic and dramatic lines of history during the hundred years between 1860 and 1960. He starts with an appalling photograph on page 2 of three Vietnamese priests arrested in 1909 for nationalist, anti-French activities. The last photograph, in the epilogue, is of Ngô Ðình Diệm, president of the (southern) Republic of Vietnam, side by side with his brother, who became archbishop of Hué, Pierre-Martin Ngô Ðình Thục.

One of the more theoretical issues discussed here is that of revisionism, the process of changing interpretations of persons as pro-French, nationalist, religious or socialist (180-183). While reading about the portrayal of the priest Trấn Lục (from a paragon of colonial cooperation to a true patriot) I was thinking about the negative portrayal given here to French colonialism and to the Communist rule: times they are a changing. Charles Keith has not given us an easy book, no dry bones, but in many episodes a living history resembling a Greek tragedy rather than a dull textbook for history classes.

Karel Steenbrink, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands

Back to top

Australasia and the Pacific Islands


THE DEATH OF THE BIG MEN AND THE RISE OF THE BIG SHOTS: Custom and Conflict in East New Britain. ASAO Studies in Pacific Anthropology, v. 3. By Keir Martin. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2013. xv, 256 pp. (Illus.) US$95.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-85745-872-8.

In 1995, several months after the volcanic eruption that covered Rabaul in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, I drove from the airport to the only remaining hotel, stunned at the desolate, monochrome landscape. The road had been cut through metres of ash and the once beautiful tropical township was deserted. The village of Matupit, located on a small island, was covered in ash. Several Tolai people I met assured me that it had gone forever. Keir Martin began his research there in 2002, by which time it had risen from the ashes, was again densely populated and the Matupi were once more demonstrating their legendary adaptability. This superb ethnography documents and analyzes the processes of change and people’s complex responses to them up to the mid-2000s.

Matupit and its inhabitants’ capacity for transformation have been the subjects of numerous anthropological studies since the 1960s, notably by A.L. and T.S. Epstein, who described the various ways that changes introduced by colonial administrations (particularly plantation agriculture and the cash economy) had resulted in dramatic shifts in social relations, land tenure and patterns of settlement. Martin’s research follows many of the same themes, but in a very different historical context. The eruption destroyed the village of Matupit, but almost all Matupi survived to participate in those activities associated with reconstruction, including relocation to the land set aside for them at Sikut, an area many kilometres from their village, inland from the new provincial capital, Kokopo. The land at Sikut, allotted to specific people by the provincial government to enable them to establish cash crops, is legally distinct from that held according to customary tenure. This difference, and the ways that people respond to and interpret their ownership, provides Martin with a central theme of the book, the relationships of land and people in a modern state system that retains customary land rights.

Martin engages with many of the classic topics of Melanesian anthropology: the relationship of people to land; reciprocity and the tensions inherent in exchange relationships; the ways that ritual exchanges are affected by the use of money; inter-generational conflicts; the contested definitions of custom or tradition and the means whereby men gain power and authority. His study locates contemporary Tolai in the global political economy, where the forces of neo-liberalism draw new lines between government and citizens and where new forms of sociality emerge. Martin’s examination of the ways that people have, in some instances, embraced government changes relating to land tenure provides an excellent example of the need for caution in the ways that anthropologists have characterized the Melanesian state as an alien, post-colonial enterprise that routinely ignores the interests of villagers. He shows how the transfer of customary land, when “strengthened through statutory declaration,” actually suits the desires of Tolai. It effectively strengthens the status of that land as “customary,” thus enabling matrilineal descendents to claim it in future generations.

Inter-generational tensions, conflicts and changing outlooks loom large in this ethnography. The Tolai, like many people in Papua New Guinea, often remark and reflect on the changes that they have observed in their lifetime. Elders usually insist (like elders elsewhere in the world) that the younger generations have lost respect for them, have no knowledge of the ways that traditions should be maintained and have become individualistic and selfish. Martin explores these generational differences in ways that acknowledge the mixed emotional responses: regrets and censure, impatience and dismissal, sorrow and anger. But the strength of his discussion of generational tensions lies—particularly in his chapter on the decline of fish trap technology—in the ways he interweaves personal reactions to specific transformations with a broad analysis of the effects of commodification on social transactions and the obligation to reciprocate.

Martin takes on the difficult task of negotiating the divisions in current anthropological interpretations of the nature of socio-economic change in Melanesia. He points out that those who stress “cultural continuity that underlies surface changes” are left in a bind—they effectively return their subjects to “the savage slot” of radical alterity. The emphasis on continuity effectively restores Melanesia to the status of “a discrete, separate and essentially ahistorical culture that is either destroyed by or survives the threat of Westernisation” (177). In his scrutiny of the range of reactions to changes, Martin offers a third way, which stresses not only the differences between people, but also the material grounds for variation. Here, as elsewhere in the book, he presents the ways that moral positions, especially those relating to ideals of mutuality, reciprocity and obligation to kin, derive from the fact that “traditional” and “modern” are coeval and in flux.

The title of this book encapsulates its major themes: the changing forms of leadership, male power and the moral responses they provoke. This provides the context for the author’s critique of the debate about possessive individualism and relational personhood. Once again he moves away from the antinomies of current anthropological debate and exposes the subtleties, contestations and circumstances that make notions of the Melanesian self, moral behaviour and adherence to “kastom” shift and combine. This is a groundbreaking ethnography: brilliantly conceived, clearly written and utterly convincing.

Martha Macintyre, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

Back to top

MAKING SENSE OF MICRONESIA: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture. By Francis X. Hezel. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xii, 182 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$27.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3661-0.

Fran Hezel is a Jesuit priest who has worked in Micronesia for 45 years. He’s seen colleagues, Peace Corps volunteers, researchers, contract workers in education, healthcare and development, and a dozen other types of international visitors struggle to understand Island society. This short, readable and informative book distills his substantial scholarship and extensive personal experience of Micronesian life into a form that offers frank and useful advice to the next generations of foreigners lucky enough to spend time in the region.

Like Raymonde Carroll’s Cultural Misunderstandings (1990, U. Chicago Press), Hezel uses the idea of cultural logic to uncover the principles of human relationship that underlie behaviour. His anthropological analysis, though, is soft-focused through straightforward prose and the use of anecdotes and personal experiences to show the principles in action.

The book consists of 12 brief chapters, each dealing with a sphere of life in which Micronesian and American (or “western”) cultural expectations fail to find common ground. Each begins with a personal story, then briefly explains the cultural principle that underlies the behaviour (often puzzling to outsiders), and discusses how changing conditions over the past half-century have created strains in Micronesian life. For example, the chapter on “forging an identity” discusses how matrilineages and extended families governed life, and how recent changes have increased individualism and altered the family’s role, creating problems such as youth suicide. The chapter on “the uses of information” describes how Micronesians—though generous in sharing wealth—tend to hold information close, seeing knowledge as a protected personal resource. Thus, “public information” is hard to come by, and even administrators who have had specialized training at the government’s expense tend to hoard their expertise.

Topics covered are the emphasis on personal qualities, the role of the family, ideas of privacy, the obligation for individuals to respond to family needs, “rights” discourse, sharing and generosity as marks of wealth, secrecy, social signals such as silence and withdrawal, respect, gender relations, sex, expressions of love and caring, and dealing with conflict, loss and grief. While Hezel’s affection for Micronesians and respect for their society is evident, he does not avoid discussion of land disputes, family conflict, incest, alcohol abuse and political challenges. The final section, “In Summary,” argues that this very wide range of behaviours can be understood–by the patient and observant cross-cultural visitor—as the reflection of several underlying cultural principles: personalization, the “primacy of group identity,” and patterns of cooperation.

While anthropologists might disdain quick-read “cross-cultural manuals,” it cannot be denied that they offer a valuable opportunity to inform international workers about a host culture. The worst of these offer brief “how-tos” or lists of “customs” and “taboos.” Hezel’s book takes a much more rewarding approach, inviting the newcomer to think about the cultural principles that underlie unfamiliar behaviour, and to develop the capacity to patiently explore cultural differences.

Those who know Micronesia well will find little that is new here, and they might even disagree with some of Hezel’s evaluations (for example, his assumption that “modernization” is inevitably changing Micronesian society in the direction of Western individualism, or his necessarily brief analysis of gender roles as balanced and complementary). But, even these readers will enjoy the author’s insights and obvious appreciation of island cultures.

The brevity and clear writing in this book make it a great deal more accessible to the non-specialist than nearly all ethnography or anthropological analysis. Yet it should not be thought that this clarity reflects any superficial understanding of Micronesian cultures. Fran Hezel knows the islands and its people intimately, and his goodness in sharing his knowledge so lucidly emphasizes how important he thinks it is that foreigners who go to Micronesia to “help” take the time to learn about the people they hope to serve. “There is no shortcut for understanding a culture,” he writes (164), but this book will surely make the trip easier for those spending time in Micronesia. It might also give Islanders themselves some new ways to think about their culture’s past, present and future.

Lin Poyer, University of Wyoming, Laramie, USA

Back to top

NEW AUSTRALIA’S ASIA: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century. Edited by David Walker and Agnieszka Sobocinska. Crawley, WA: UWA Publishing; Portland, OR: International Specialized Book Services [exclusive distributor], 2012. 376 pp. A$39.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-742583-49-5.

The complexity of Australia’s engagement with Asia continues to exercise the minds of scholars and policy makers. This is not a phenomenon that is confined to the recent past. Even before the creation of Australia as a nation-state in 1901, insecurity about Asia among elites and grassroots opinion has been counter-balanced by perceptions of the region as representing limitless commercial opportunities. This binary outlook on Asia has underpinned and driven much of Australia’s attempts to engage with its region since the nineteenth century.

One of the recurrent debates in the Australian context is how, and the extent to which, Australia can be “truly engaged” in the region. A lot of the country’s engagement in Asia is transactional: a massive export trade to China and Japan being the most salient example. More intimate forms of Australian engagement in Asia—including investment, cultural interaction, and political relationships—have been the product of decades of hard work by committed individuals. In short, and somewhat ironically, Australia’s engagement in its own region has not come easy.

Australia’s Asia: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century captures the essence of the pendulum swings that have characterized Australian approaches to Asia over the past century and a half. As the editors note in their excellent opening chapter, “Australia’s enthusiasm for Asia is as old as its anxiety” (14). The theme framing this book is that, by looking at historical developments permeating Australia’s discourse about Asia, we can glean important insights into what is shaping contemporary discussion over regional engagement. While the Gillard Government’s 2012 White Paper entitled “Australia and the Asian Century” argued that “the power of geographical proximity” would translate into unprecedented future opportunities for Australia, this narrative was not new. To quote the editors: “Successive generations have been told that their future would be increasingly Asian” (4).

This book is composed of five discrete sections and includes thirteen chapters, plus an introduction by the editors and an epilogue. The book assembles a wide range of contributors from various disciplinary backgrounds—while historical studies is the dominant discipline, the authors bring to bear different theoretical perspectives, varying methodical approaches (e.g., some privilege biographical analysis, others state-to-state relations), and they all have a unique take on the depth of Australia’s engagement in Asia. In short, the chapter contributions are quite diverse, which is a real strength of the book.

This diversity is further reflected in the division of labour among contributors across the five sections. Section 1, “The big three,” analyses Australians’ attitudes towards China, India and Japan around the turn of the twentieth century; section 2, “Racial identities,” examines a number of personal experiences of those who experienced racism resulting from Australian attitudes towards Asians, and the role of ethnic identity in shaping experiences; section 3, “Love and hate in the region,” that is concerned with Australian experiences of being located in Asia (Australian military personnel in occupied postwar Japan and, more recently,  Australian tourists in Bali); section 4, “Chinese puzzles,” which examines different aspects of Sino-Australian relations; and section 5, “Absent Asia,” which analyzes the history of Australian intellectual engagement with the region, including the continuing debate over how best to embed the study of Asia into Australian primary and secondary-school curricula.

The editors have done a first-class job in assembling high-quality chapters that make an important contribution to the existing literature on Australia and Asia. As the editors themselves observe, too much of the recent commentary on the importance of deepening Australian engagement with, and understanding of, Asia tends to overlook the rich debates that have taken place among Australians for the better part of 150 years or more. Put another way, there is a distinct lack of appreciation of history. Moreover, this book tells an important story about the role and impact of individuals—not just elites, but in many cases ordinary citizens—in building Australia’s relations with Asia. It is a valuable remedy to the ahistorical approach of so many of the debates within Australia over regional engagement and is a useful text for those outside Australia interested in acquiring insights into what motivates the country’s approach to its region.

Andrew O’Neil, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia

Back to top

A FARAWAY, FAMILIAR PLACE: An Anthropologist Returns to Papua New Guinea. By Michael French Smith. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xi, 229 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$52.00, cloth.  ISBN 978-0-8248-3686.

In A Faraway, Familiar Place Michael French Smith writes of his return in 2008 and 2011 to Kragur village in Papua New Guinea, the scene of his two earlier books. He first lived and worked there in 1975-1976 as a graduate student in anthropology, as related in Hard Times on Kairiru Island. He recounted his brief return trips of 1981, 1995 and 1998 in Village on the Edge. The trilogy follows the timeline of a memoir. With self-deprecating good humor, Smith shares his struggles with homesickness in the field, employment in the corporate and bureaucratic world of Washington, DC, and the bodily insults of malaria, dengue and aging.

The anthropologist’s memoir is secondary to the narrative of events in village life, ethnographic detail and anthropological insights. During his 2008 visit, elections for the national parliament and the local government council were in progress. Because political arguments were in the air, they take a large place in this book, just as concerns about the meaning of economic development did in the earlier ones. Smith’s understanding of matters political, economic, social and cultural is always informed by his reading in anthropological theory, but scholarly references are never foregrounded.  Because all of the fieldwork was done after Papua New Guinea attained independence in 1975, Smith never really grapples with the heritage of Australian colonialism, which is perhaps a weakness of the book.

Smith allows the concerns of villagers to shape his fieldwork, leading him to spend much of his time in 2008 working with groups of clan representatives on their clan histories. This came to be the straksa (“structure”) project, from which he produced digital genealogical charts that he took back to the village in 2011. Kragur interest in this project was stimulated by their expectation that they might have to deal with multinational mining firms seeking to exploit the gold that had been discovered on the island.

Smith’s work has never sought to picture the exotic side of Kragur life, always making it clear how fully the villagers’ identity is shaped by their adherence to Catholicism and their efforts to reconcile Christian ethics with the individualism demanded by modernity. The present book talks about the continued Pentecostal/charismatic influence within their practice of Catholicism. In 2008 a controversy arose over whether to invite an outside speaker who claimed to be able to root out sorcerers. This led to more open discussions of magic than Smith had previously encountered, as a man showed him his mother’s mandible, which he had kept for use in divination.

Smith’s jacket photo of villagers producing sago starch took me back five decades to my own first fieldwork in East Sepik Province. I remember women impatiently telling me, “scratch that on your banana leaf,” after I asked the same question more than once as we walked through the forest to the swamp where their sago palms grew. Though their language had not yet been written, it did not take these villagers long to learn that my memories were scribbled in my notebooks. In time, the knowledge I had acquired by connecting the genealogies of many people impressed even the elders, and I returned to my desk to find someone had practiced penciling circles and triangles on a scrap of paper I had left out. Literacy would not arrive for another generation in my distant part of the Sepik.

On Kairiru Island, just off the north coast at the provincial capital of Wewak, literacy and formal education had arrived much earlier, along with the Catholic mission fathers. The few Kragur villagers who have gone on to higher education have joined Papua New Guinea’s salaried urban elite. Still Kragur remains even now a “village on the edge,” with few prospects for economic development. A small businessman operates a tourist guesthouse in another village on the island, but unreliable transportation and communication with urban centres makes this as difficult as other prospects for development.

Unlike anthropologists who write for a handful of other academics or travel writers who pander to readers’ taste for savage life, Smith writes with the anticipation that the Papua New Guineans he knows will read his books, and he discovers that they do. The honest, clear and conversational style that Smith has honed makes reading him a pleasure for students and scholars alike. This book is a good read for anyone who wants to see what life is like in rural Melanesian villages that have little access to cash but hold adequate access to land and clean water to meet their needs.

Patricia K. Townsend, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, USA

Back to top

INTERSECTIONS: History, Memory, Discipline. By Brij V. Lal. Canberra, ACT: ANU E Press, 2012. xi, 321 pp. A$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-922-144347-9.

Brij Lal remarks that this anthology of 21 recent essays on Fiji “is principally for readers in Fiji, offered in the hope that it might prompt them to commit their own experience and thoughts to paper for future generations” (307). While those of us beyond Fiji will equally benefit from Lal’s insightful commentary on the land of his birth, this quotation emphasizes that his writings have become an intensely personal “participant history” (39). He is as much a protagonist as the author of these histories, and the essays deftly weave between autobiographical narrative, social history and political analysis. Lal defines writing as an act of “giving concreteness and form to reality” (2); his stellar career has almost single-handedly written the Indo-Fijians into historical existence, and this new anthology amounts to a substantial part of that concretion, and much more besides.

Chapters 2 through 7 survey (with great clarity) Fiji’s troubled political history and ethnic tensions since independence in 1970. Heartbreak Islands summarizes the changes to Fiji’s political landscape over the last forty-five years, emphasizing how the foreign-educated, and paramount-chiefly titled statesmen of the mid-twentieth century (Lala Sukuna, Kamisese Mara and others) have been replaced by opportunistic leaders coming to power on a provincialist platform or through military promotion. Lal observes that Fiji is quietly reeling from four military coups in less than twenty years. Open racism is tolerated in parliament itself, and discriminatory property inheritance laws have driven more than 80,000 Indo-Fijians to emigrate since the racially motivated coup of 1987. Those 300,000 who remain are classified as vulagi (“visitors”) in their own country. Chapter 3 details Lal’s involvement with the drafting of the 1997 Fijian constitution, and its self-motivated rejection by indigenous Fijian politicians on the grounds that constitutional democracy is a “foreign flower” unsuitable for Fiji. Lal analyzes how the Indo-Fijians have been scapegoated by indigenous politicians representing them as a controlling force in the country, while Indo-Fijian land leases have been revoked on racial grounds and democratic representatives ousted by force. While the Gun is Still Smoking compares the constitutional status of indigenous and Indo-Fijian citizenship in relation to the state’s key legal documents, and concludes that the outgoing British administration shirked its commitment to the equal rights of the Indo-Fijian population during the transition to independence. Chapters 5 and 6 explore different aspects of modern party politics: the difficulties of power-sharing between the SDL’s Laisenia Qarase and the Labour Party’s Mahendra Choudhry; the underlying causes of Frank Bainimarama’s 2006 coup; the vibrancy of Fijian political campaigning portrayed through a pastiche of memories. The first third of the anthology concludes with Ungiven Speech, where Lal critically analyzes the international community’s reaction to Fiji’s recent political convulsions and democratic failures.

The Road from Laucala Bay and Coombs 4240 initiate a lighter tone, and provide autobiographical insight on Lal’s academic career as a historian. In the former, he evokes the unique character of the University of the South Pacific, which he witnessed in its early life. In the latter, he considers the changing nature of academia over the span of his years at the ANU. Chapters 10 through 12 explore the postcolonial cultures which the indenture system has created around the world. Lal frames indenture as a principal motor of the Indian global diaspora, and shows that the post-indenture Indian cultures of Fiji, Uganda and Central America differ significantly from those cultures formed by recent Indian migration to Britain or North America. Although Lal recognizes the ex-patriot Indo-Fijians resettled in Australia and New Zealand to possess the same “twice-banished” (156) status as the formerly Ugandan, Trinidadian, Guyanese or Surinam Indians scattered to the four winds, he emphasizes the cultural specificity of these Indianisms, which are (he observes) more actual than superficially apparent to outsiders. In this vein, the cultural uniqueness of Indo-Fijian identity comes into sharper focus in chapter 13, where Lal reflects on his changing linguistic relationship to spoken English, Hindi and Fijian as a function of his biography. Primary Texts develops the same theme through a discussion of his Anglocentric school books, dissecting the ideological mechanisms of British late imperial education.

Chapter 15 marks another thematic shift, with four diverse chapters of biographical vignettes. Chapter 15 examines his cousin’s political career in Fiji over the last twenty years, while chapter 16 follows the fates of three Labasa schoolmates as their families build new lives in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Chapter 17 is autobiographical, and documents Lal’s shifting identity and confounded expectations as he finds himself a Labasa man in the Rewa delta, a Fijian in Chuuk and Bougainville, and a not-quite-fellow Indian in Trinidad, Guyana, London and South Africa. Chapter 18 presents four obituaries, two of minor characters in Fiji’s recent history, and two of his fellow commissioners on the Fiji Constitution Review Commission. These latter biographies lead neatly on to Caught in the Web, where Lal answers the internet critics who have (bizarrely) vilified him for causing the race-based political system he unsuccessfully called on the government to abandon. Chapter 20 transcribes an interview of Lal conducted in 2000 by the Rotuman scholar Vilsoni Hereniko, which ranges over many of the foregoing themes, and highlights how complex the politics of ethnicity have become in modern Fiji. Lal’s epilogue Speaking to Power describes his interrogation by the Fijian military in 2009, following his public criticism of the Australian High Commissioner’s expulsion. An Australian citizen, Lal was released after three hours of physical abuse, and given 24 hours to leave the country and never return. This is a moving, intelligent, even-handed and skilfully written anthology. An insightful history of modern Fijian politics and an admirable work of postcolonial social analysis, it should be indispensable reading for anyone concerned with Fiji, politics, race relations or the Indian diaspora.

Andy Mills, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom

Back to top

TREASURED POSSESSIONS: Indigenous Interventions into Cultural and Intellectual Property. Objects/Histories: Critical Perspectives on Art, Material Culture and Representation. By Haidy Geismar. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013. xvi, 297 pp., 8 pp. of plates (Maps, figures.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5427-7.

The global struggle over ownership seems to have increased markedly in scope and complexity. Also in the Pacific, debates about cultural and intellectual property rights are frequent and contested, with for example Fijians furious over the appropriation of masi (barkcloth or tapa) designs by their national airline as well as by a New York fashion designer who used these designs on an “Aztec” dress. In her article “The Expanding Purview of Cultural Properties and their Politics” (in The Annual Review of Law and Social Science 5, 2009: 393-412), legal scholar Rosemary Coombe notes that especially for marginalized and or indigenous people, cultural claims are central to their engagement with international or nongovernmental institutions in order to assert their identity, obtain greater inclusion in political life, defend local autonomy, and engage with or resist global markets (394-5). However, she also critiques the lack of interdisciplinary scholarship in this area and the need to explore “a new and vital field of cultural rights norms and practices emerging in the shadows of cultural properties yet to be validated by formal systems of Western Law” (394, cf 407). In Treasured Possessions Haidy Geismar has conducted such a detailed, interdisciplinary study of how global forms of cultural and intellectual property are being redefined by everyday people and policy makers in two Pacific nations: Vanuatu and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Geismar successfully links perspectives from anthropology, legal anthropology, museum studies and material culture studies to explore the fascinating nexus of culture, property and indigeneity. Treasured Possessions shows how in Vanuatu and New Zealand, alternative notions of property, resources and heritage are emerging. While claims by local communities in these countries are advanced in national and international settings, they are at the same time very cultural and community specific. Throughout the book, Geismar highlights that “we need to understand the intersections of indigeneity and intellectual and cultural property as a provincializing move that destabilizes our certainty about what is local and what is global” (207-8). She highlights this perspective through literature reviews and theoretical arguments in combination with well-presented case studies from Vanuatu and New Zealand, where she has worked for more than ten years.

The fist chapter introduces the analytical framework, key concepts and questions that reappear throughout the book. Geismar’s framework takes both legal codifications and popular understandings of law into account, as well as the particular social and political histories and contexts that inform the production of intellectual and cultural property rights (3).

Chapters 2 and 3 introduce the historical and political contexts of Vanuatu and New Zealand and set out in more detail the frames of indigeneity and law in both places. This regional comparison continues throughout the book, revealing the different frames of indigenous identity, legal practice, museum culture and discourses of ownership and property (26). Chapters 4 and 5 follow the history and contemporary progress of Intellectual Property (IP) rights in Vanuatu and New Zealand, respectively. The Vanuatu cases discuss carvings, carvers, commodities and copyright issues in the context of Vanuatu’s graded (ranked) society. The case of carvers making carvings they had no entitlement to for a hotel via a non-Vanuatu female art dealer, reveals the complex mediations between kastom, traditional copyright “laws,” law and grassroots agency, exposing the limitations of generic legislation as well as the possibilities for the recognition of a new kind of “legal” regime (88). Likewise, the New Zealand cases described in chapter 5 reveal the ways in which IP has been absorbed and subverted, creating new indigenous forms of national property and entitlement. The case of the toi iho trademark and the branding of Mãori cultural production in New Zealand elucidate the clashes between cultural artists’ concerns of indigineity and marketing versus the government emphasis on national identity and financial accountability. It also reveals the nature of the provincializing process, which “may always be read in two ways: as a promotion of the subaltern and as a conduit by which the mainstream (or colonial) is relentlessly perpetuated” (118).

The next three chapters focus on questions of cultural and intellectual property in the context of museums, which have become intriguing sites for exploring alternative models of ownership. Chapter 6 discusses museums in Vanuatu and New Zealand and how they have emerged at the forefront of indigenous rethinking of cultural and intellectual property rights, as well as the tensions, politics and paradoxes that this process entails (122). Chapters 7 and 8 explore the role of museums in the aestheticization of cultural property forms, with a discussion of the market for Mãori treasures (Taonga) and its auctions in New Zealand, and pig banks as cultural heritage in Vanuatu, respectively. Both chapters reveal the processes of how intellectual and cultural (heritage) property are negotiated and how these are linked with processes of indigenization, or provincialization, as Geismar argues. As she concludes: “treasured possessions come to mediate between sovereignty and the state, between market and culture, and themselves instantiate a space in between. It is in this space that we can still think about the possibilities of alternatives, what they might be, and how they might work” (215).

In conclusion, this impressive, but at times densely written study, is not only a must-read for those working on indigenous intellectual and cultural property rights. Treasured Possessions is a valuable contribution to Pacific Anthropology and its interdisciplinary perspective enables a wide readership, ranging from scholars and students in (legal) anthropology, to those interested in material culture and museum studies.

Anna-Karina Hermkens, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Back to top

STEEP SLOPES: Music and Change in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. By Kirsty Gillespie. Canberra, ACT: ANU E Press, 2010. xvi, 254 pp. (Chiefly col. illus., col. maps, music.) A$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-9216-6642-1.

All musical traditions are influenced by the environments in which they are created and practiced. For the Duna people of Papua New Guinea’s Hela Province, their mountainous homeland of “steep slopes” has guided their music systems in a number of ways. Ethnomusicologist Kirsty Gillespie is perceptive in selecting that theme as the guiding motif of her musical ethnography. “Steep slopes” is an apt picture of the decisions that many small communities face regarding the value and future vitality of their musical traditions. Continuity of traditions, let alone revitalization, in the face of attractive international options is a tough hike for any community. These early years of the twenty-first century have seen growing scholarly engagement and applied advocacy in the complexities of language and cultural endangerment. Gillespie’s book is a valuable entry into that discussion, touching on larger issues while looking at a particular language area of the Papua New Guinea highlands.

Steep Slopes comprises six chapters, framed by an introduction and conclusion. The introduction sets up Gillespie’s framework for research and study. She charts a path for her ethnography that will avoid the traditional-vs.-modern dichotomy that has so often characterized discussion about endangerment and revitalization. Accepting as a given the ongoing hybridization and change inherent in all cultures, Gillespie chooses the terms “ancestral” and “introduced.” These are more useful handles for looking at Duna musical traditions, though still leaving open questions of how long it takes an introduced music to become so integrated locally that it can be regarded as ancestral. This is less an issue right now for the Duna, with their relatively recent history of contact with “the outside world,” but it becomes more difficult when looking at Papua New Guinean communities who have had much longer contact with the Christian church’s hymn-singing traditions.

Chapter 2 is a survey of details expected of any musical ethnography: general Duna conceptions of music; the role of the musician; the relationship of music and dance; a general survey of available instruments; and other related topics. I am particularly fascinated by the kẽiyaka, or praise names, that are one of the most distinctive elements in Duna song. In song texts which use repeated lines of text, the one changing element in each line will be a different kẽiyaka, with the whole song featuring a progression of these alternate praise names. Gillespie and colleague Lila San Roque develop this research further in their excellent chapter, “Music and Language in Duna Pikono,” in Sung Tales from the Papua New Guinea Highlands (Alan Rumsey and Don Niles, eds., Canberra, ANU E Press, 2011, 49-64).

In chapter 3, Gillespie looks at the influence of Christian missions, and the interactions between introduced Christian song, ancestral song and introduced popular song. Her brief overview of this history is more nuanced than in some other ethnographies, but I still felt it tended to oversimplify matters. I wasn’t convinced of the Duna people’s “seemingly forced adoption of Christianity” (82), for example, and at times throughout the chapter Gillespie almost implies a weak, ready-to-be-dominated position of the just-missionized Duna—a typical, though certainly unintentional, perspective when writing about first contact with Christian missions. However, Gillespie’s affirmation of the importance of language in any story of encounter is refreshingly accurate; I appreciated her attention to linguistic considerations, here and in other chapters. I was less convinced of the significance of connections between Christian song and Duna-composed songs in similar styles.

In chapter 4, Gillespie shares the story of the death of a young woman, which leads to thoughtful consideration of mourning songs in ancestral and introduced styles. Looking at laments in Duna culture allows Gillespie to reflect on the place of women in Duna society, family structure, and artistic methods of referring to a specific person in song. This leads into chapter 5, which focuses on land issues. In addition to agriculture, Gillespie also looks at the idea of traveling through geography in the song genre khene ipakana. “Steep slopes” make a literal appearance in this chapter, as the rugged mountains are offered as a challenge to prospective lovers in courting songs.

Courtship is the primary subject of chapter 6. I was especially interested in Gillespie’s description of disco nights in the Duna villages. These dance parties are a tangible picture of the awkward, still-in-process changes in contemporary life as Duna young people, severed from traditional rites of passage, try to find their way from adolescence to adulthood.

In the final chapter before the conclusion, Gillespie considers matters of preservation and revitalization, wondering what is the future of Duna ancestral traditions. She looks especially at cultural shows, one of Papua New Guinea’s premiere settings for showcasing its artistic traditions. Based on interviews with Duna stakeholders and cultural show participants, she concludes that although the shows do provide a setting for continuity of traditions, they are not a viable context for serious preservation. The shows tend to be aimed at an undiscerning tourist audience, and the shows are not as regular as a preservation project would require.

Steep Slopes is a revised version of Gillespie’s 2007 PhD thesis, and like many other thesis ethnographies, its shortcoming is merely a too-broad scope of topics. Gillespie covers a lot of ground, but some of it receives too little attention and—though interesting information—does not contribute the unifying theme of the book. Other of Gillespie’s publications, shorter and more focused—such as “Giving Women a Voice: Christian Songs and Female Expression at Kopiago, Papua New Guinea” (Perfect Beat 11(1):7-24, 2010)—affirm Gillespie’s strengths as a scholar. But that is a small criticism, and given the relative dearth of published research about Papua New Guinean communities and their musics, Steep Slopes is a welcome addition to the understanding of current issues in Melanesian expressive arts. Gillespie’s engagement with previous Duna scholarship, and her command of current issues in anthropology and ethnomusicology, are exemplary. Steep Slopes should be read by anyone interested in Melanesian and Pacific cultural studies, as well as advocates for cultural revitalization.

Neil R. Coulter, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea

Back to top

MELANESIA: Art and Encounter. Edited by Lissant Bolton, Nicholas Thomas, Elizabeth Bonshek, Julie Adams and Ben Burt. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. 2013. xix, 362 pp. (colour illus., colour maps.) US$120.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3853-9.

Few visitors pressing into the galleries of the British Museum to view the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon Marbles and other treasures of the ancient world have any awareness that the museum is also home to one of the greatest ethnological collections in the world. The earliest objects were collected during the famed voyages of Captain James Cook in the Pacific. In subsequent years, the Pacific collections continued to grow as explorers, government agents, missionaries and researchers made contributions. Today, the Melanesian collection alone totals more than twenty thousand objects along with hundreds of drawings, photographs and pages of documentation. Significant as the collection may be, as Nicholas Thomas states in the introduction to Melanesia: Art and Encounter, it has been “consigned to something of a no-man’s land at a tremendous distance from the communities that produced it, yet disdained as a focus of seriously (sic) scholarly attention by anthropologists and art historians in the West” (xiv). This extraordinary volume is a welcome and highly creative response to this “scandal.”

Melanesia is the culmination of a five-year project which also resulted in the creation of a revised and expanded online catalogue of the objects. Following a widespread trend in museum studies, the project not only funded enhanced academic research by professional curators, anthropologists and art experts based in Western institutions, but forged partnerships with Melanesians from whose communities the objects originated. This entailed consultations in various parts of the region to gather responses to photographs of the objects as well as sponsored visits of Melanesian elders, scholars and students to the British Museum stores themselves. Sixteen of the book’s 57 chapters are written by or reproduce interviews with Melanesians, several of them expert artists in their own right. A dedication to respectful consultation and collaboration, however, sets the tone for the volume as a whole, not least in the core recognition that objects are, in Lissant Bolton’s words, “situated in relationships—relationships within Melanesian communities, between people and spirits, between the collectors and people from whom they obtained the objects, sometimes between non-Melanesian,” reflecting “a Melanesian preoccupation with the relationships objects can enable” (331).

The book is divided into six regional sections: southern Papua New Guinea; northern and highlands Papua New Guinea; West Papua; Solomon Islands; Vanuatu; and New Caledonia. Fiji, which is often included in the Melanesia region, is left out, ostensibly because of strong Polynesian cultural influences but one imagines also to keep the project at a manageable scope. Each section gets an editorial introduction providing an overview of the history of collecting in the region as well as outlines of the essays. While the overall geographical coverage is broad, the distribution of the essays naturally reflects that of the objects and the historical circumstances of their collection. Thus nearly two-thirds of the book focuses upon the former British and Australian colonies of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands with far less attention to Indonesian and French territories, including the former shared New Hebrides (Vanuatu). In addition, objects related to war and ritual are overrepresented, also reflecting patterns of collecting. To the credit of the editors, however, the collection includes several excellent essays on textiles and other forms of women’s art.

Melanesia is lavishly illustrated with beautiful reproductions of objects in the collection or inspired by it, archival prints and photographs of artists and ordinary people creating and performing their arts. The book is far from the ordinary coffee table catalogue of Pacific art, of which there have been many. There is no attempt at comprehensiveness—either in advancing a theory of Melanesian art or providing an overview of regional types and styles. Nor is the art simply allowed to “speak for itself.” The 57 essays from 52 contributors are very diverse in their topics and approaches. Those unfamiliar with the region and/or only interested in the art might well find the approach frustrating if not entirely incomprehensible. I think, however, that most people with even a small knowledge of Melanesia will find the essays a delight. Most are short and engagingly written. All draw upon original research and materials, lending insights into the objects and their relationships and, in several instances, carving out innovative approaches that could be profitably applied more broadly.

Given the number of essays and contributors, it is impossible to do more here than outline some of the key topics and themes addressed in the book. These include assessments of prehistoric objects; oral traditions connected to or inspired by carvings; background accounts of collectors and the situations under which collections were made; the motivations and uses of objects in missionary collections; archival sourcing of objects through old photographs and other records; ethnographic descriptions of contemporary performance and other uses of indigenous artistic forms; documentation of techniques used in the manufacture of objects, past and present; spiritual associations of objects such as masks and magical stones; the place of objects in indigenous conceptions of relational personhood; the deliberate creation of objects for the European market; the exchange networks along which artistic objects are created and passed on; attempts to resurrect abandoned art forms; and accounts of the experience of Melanesians visiting the collections.

The most poignant of the essays concern the shifting and conflicted attitudes of Melanesians concerning the objects stored at the British Museum, most long abandoned in their home communities. For most of the collaborators, encountering the objects evoked pride in their ancestral past and, for some, an inspiration to revive abandoned traditions. Yet for many Melanesians, masks, clubs and magic stones are reminders of a “time of darkness” their ancestors rejected. As I write this review, the speaker of the Papua New Guinean Parliament is orchestrating the destruction of the works of art adorning the Parliament building in a controversial attempt to purge “heathenism” from the nation. As modern-day Savonarolas emerge in the wake of the latest wave of Christian fundamentalism sweeping through the Pacific, the objects kept safe in the British Museum storerooms become ever more valuable for future generations. And ever more important to make visible, accessible and secure.

John Barker, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Back to top

FOODWAYS AND EMPATHY: Relatedness in a Ramu River Society, Papua New Guinea. Person, Space and Memory in the Contemporary Pacific, v. 4. By Anita van Poser. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2013. xiv, 274 pp. (Illus., figures, map.) US$95.00. ISBN 978-0-85745-919-0.

In contemporary Melanesian ethnography, we read of cultural answers to the challenges posed by various guises of modernity. This trend is not exactly novel. Cargo cults, after all, were once a hot topic of research. Today, studies of nation making, commodity chains of coffee, Christianities, prisons, conservation and mining comprise an analytical landscape which makes it seem that the local is less and less defined by autonomous, indigenous value systems. Anita von Poser has written a new ethnography from a different angle: it concerns how pre-capitalist cultural value may be viewed as relatively uninfluenced by modernity. The centre of Foodways and Empathy is thus doggedly local, almost to an extent that might be seen as contrarian (or perhaps antiquarian): it is a study of a single locality within Bosmun, a large and well-known village on the Lower Ramu River, inland from the North Coast of Papua New Guinea.

von Poser made several research trips to Bosmun during the first decade of the current century, which began on behalf of her doctoral dissertation. Her book’s main goal is to explain the great effort Bosmun women and men give over to evaluating each other’s moral worth and the pre-capitalist, local-level narratives, symbols and processes in terms of which they do so. Foodways and Empathy is basically about what it means to be good in Bosmun. That is to say, it is about how people present themselves to and see others as ethical persons in a small-scale, kinship-based community.

The central trope in Bosmun culture for being good consists of two dispositions and one activity: the first is to want to be generous with food, specifically sago, and the second is to be empathetic to the appetites of close and collateral kin. The Bosmun associate the latter attitude with the eye, which should keep a close watch on others and infer their feeling-states nonverbally, feeling-states they locate in the stomach and its hunger for food. Reciprocally, Bosmun folk expect to be observed. Others will be watching out for one’s needs and wants; spectatorship and evaluation of the other being a point of local pride.

In four long, but ethnographically rich, chapters, von Poser reports on meanings, practices and contexts of food exchange in Bosmun culture, many of which have been described in nearby Lower Ramu/Lower Sepik/Schouten Island societies. von Poser discusses Bosmun cosmology and its main culture-heroes (Sendam) and heroines (Nzaria) who created parts of the landscape and introduced food-related values. She discusses food in relation to concepts of “face” as well as in the contexts of courtship, marriage, animism and ritual. But most significant are the constructions of sago, whose production should occur in a distinctly moral ethos, whose preparation should be done in a social and stress-free setting, and whose distribution should be associated with regard for the other. The Bosmun refrain from eating sago they themselves have planted. Plate-carrying women constantly cross the village space at mealtimes as households dispatch sago-based meals to neighbours with whom they share kinship (van Poser calls this “food shifting” and at one point compares the “food generous” women’s bearing to the carriage of beautiful models on a catwalk). Modernity briefly enters into her narrative to the extent that it is held in disgust as a site of greed, laziness and tinned fish.

There is much of importance in and much to admire about Foodways and Empathy. It fills an important empirical gap in Lower Ramu studies, for one. Its ethnography is detailed and von Poser’s analytical stance is frank and straightforward, for another. And, for a third, it dwells on an intriguing modality of the social in Melanesia about which one hears little.

Yet several problems stand out, the most important of which is the ethnographic absence of a pivotal, crucial figure. von Poser argues that food and spectatorship are the main forms of empathy in Bosmun culture and sheds light on their significance in the many settings mentioned above. Food is acutely and exquisitely social in Bosmun, as it is everywhere else, and therefore analysis of its constructions must ultimately refer to the manner and practice of the exemplary other, the original foodgiver, in human life. What culturally particular kind of nurture does she practice? Is it unconditional? Is it abundant? Is it at all inconsistent? How is it problematic? How is it managed among siblings and the father? However, nowhere in von Poser’s book do we find data and analysis about the practices of mothers, the absence of which is particularly anomalous, given the great extent to which her research was primarily done with women.

The second shortcoming I see with this book is with its comparative methodology, or rather its lack of a comparative methodology. von Poser must be credited with reading widely in the Melanesian literature and for marshalling it now and again in order to clarify Bosmun data. But there are puzzling moments. For example, she asserts that gender relations there are “uniquely” complementary by contrast to a highlands group that she cites. However, gender in the Sepik and the Schouten Islands, the very region of study, has been repeatedly described in precisely these terms. A last issue: this book deposits modernity into footnotes and confines it to a final few pages. von Poser has persuaded me that food exchange is highly moral in Bosmun society, but the implicit claim that it can be analyzed independently of capitalism in static terms that exclusively draw from myth, social structure and customary personhood, is a bit much.

Foodways and Empathy makes a helpful contribution to regional scholarship as well as to studies of food as a cultural construction and to psychological anthropologists interested in person perception from a cross-cultural viewpoint. von Poser’s book offers up a fascinating, keenly observed account of the ways in which Bosmun people view and assess one another’s hunger. I look forward to reading more from her about how they may manage to do so in the future.

David Lipset, University of Minnesota, Twin-Cities, USA

Back to top

ECHOES OF THE TAMBARAN: Masculinity, History and the Subject in the Work of Donald F. Tuzin. Edited by David Lipset and Paul Roscoe. Canberra: ANU E Press, 2011. vii, 317 pp. (Illus., maps.) A$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-921-86245-8.

David Lipset and Paul Roscoe have edited a handsomely produced commemorative volume to honour their Sepik colleague, Don Tuzin, who died in 2007 at the age of 61. Tuzin, whose teaching career was in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, San Diego, had a distinguished research career based on his two field trips among the Arapesh speakers of one of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) largest villages, Ilahita, located in the East Sepik Province. His four books about the villagers, The Ilahita Arapesh: Dimensions of Unity, (1976); The Voice of the Tambaran: Truth and Illusion in Ilahita Arapesh Religion (1980); The Cassowary’s Revenge: The Life and Death of Masculinity in a New Guinea Society, (1997); and Social Complexity in the Making: A Case Study Among the Arapesh of New Guinea, (2001), were each a significant contribution to the anthropological canon.

The fourteen contributors to the volume, all either Tuzin’s colleagues and friends or former graduate students, have written articles that emanate from one of his many intellectual interests. Regarding Tuzin’s interests, the editors note that “driven by methodological individualism and a strong commitment to comparativism, he focused on social control, dreams, politics and art, cannibalism, food symbolism, the psychodynamics of masculinity, the origins of religion, sexuality and childhood.” The editors’ introduction includes an incisive account of Tuzin’s cultural background and career and a commentary on the organization and contents of the book. The articles are organized into four rather awkward sections but, concerning Tuzin’s myriad interests and the occasional contributors’ oblique connection to his work, I can appreciate the editor’s planning challenge. As usual for a festschrift, the articles vary greatly in organization and style. Several of the articles, e.g., Roscoe, Lipset, and Gregor, while extolling Tuzin’s research, examine aspects of his work and offer different interpretations or explanations.

Section 1 is titled, “History, Masculinity and Melanesia,” with articles by Paul Roscoe, Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin, David Lipset and Bruce M. Knauft. My comments regarding the papers in this section, as in the others, are by necessity brief and, unfortunately, cannot convey the theoretical and ethnographic complexities that make the book a compelling read, at least for a fellow New Guineaist. Roscoe, who worked among the Boikin, also located in the East Sepik Province, takes exception to Tuzin’s explanation for the formation of Ilahita’s large population. While Tuzin posits a prehistoric migrational hypothesis to explain its size, Roscoe makes a strong case for its enormity due to natural population growth because of its desirable ecological condition.

Tuzin’s third book is a dramatic exposition of the collapse of Ilahita’s culturally dominant male initiation cult and its negative impact on male-female relations. Hauser-Schäublin worked among the neighbouring Abelam who similarly abandoned their hegemonic male initiation cult. She creatively implements the detailed analogy of an ordinary Abelam string bag to understand this radical cultural transformation. Lipset’s fieldwork is with the Murik Lakes people, another East Sepik Province, located near the mouth of the great Sepik River. Using Jacques Lacan’s concept of the phallus as a symbol of symbols, Lipset examines the fate of ritual masculinity among the Murik people in terms of the Gaingiin male age-graded society and its improvised cultural changes in contrast to wholesale cult abandonment. Knauft’s paper centres on PNG’s Highlands and his work with the Gebusi of the Western Province. Taking a broad view of the cultural meaning of masculinity through time, he finds that its permutations are unpredictable, noting that the Gebusi, who relinquished their male initiation, longhouse and traditional dancing, have revived them.

The authors in section 2, “Culture, the Agent and Tuzin’s Methodological Individualism,” are Kevin Birth, Don Gardner, Stephen C. Leavitt and Joel Robbins. Birth, a Caribbeanist with fieldwork in Trinidad and Tuzin’s former student, examines the “uncanny” in Tuzin’s work as informed by the ideas of Charles Morris, Giambbattista Vico and Susanne Langer, and its important ontological and epistemological implications. Like Birth, Gardner is interested in the scholarly ideas that helped shape Tuzin’s research, especially Karl Popper’s “methodological individualism,” that Tuzin acquired from his Australian National University professor, Derek Freeman, a life-long friend. (It is a testament to Tuzin’s interpersonal skills that it was Margaret Mead, not Freeman, who wrote the introduction to his first book.) Leavitt, another of Tuzin’s graduate students, did fieldwork with the Bumbita Arapesh, a group bordering the Ilahita Arapesh. Leavitt uses his data from a male informant recalling childhood experiences to explicate Tuzin’s view that culture arises from the possibilities of individual action and subjectivity. Robbins, using data from his fieldwork with the Urapmin of PNG’s West Sepik Province, contrasts his holist approach to the study of society to Tuzin’s methodological individualism.

“Comparativism, Psychoanalysis and the Subject” locates the papers in section 3 authored by Michele Stephen, Karen J. Brison, Thomas A. Gregor and Gilbert Herdt. Stephen advances Melanie Klein’s psychoanalytic importance of the mother image in personal development and adjustment. She uses her fieldwork in Bali to amplify her views with an extensive analysis of the performed monsters, Barong and Rangda. Brison, another former Tuzin graduate student, later worked in Fiji where she compared play in rural and urban school children, the focus of the present essay, and their take on hierarchy and equality. Gregor’s paper plumbs the problem of the ritualized cruelties inflicted on young male initiates that Tuzin characterized as “cultural addictions.” Gregor takes exception to this view, citing the “ego-dystonic nature of the cults” and the “moral ambivalence” of some members that can facilitate their collapse. Herdt studied the ritualized male homosexual initiation cult among the Sambia in PNG’s Eastern Highlands Province. His paper is concerned with the men’s secrecy in their “harnessing of sexual speech” and the related notions of both Freud and Foucault.

Section 4, “Style,” contains essays by Alexander H. Bolyanatz and Diane Losche. Bolyanatz, who did graduate research in New Ireland under Tuzin’s supervision, focuses his paper on Tuzin’s gracious and courteous style as a fieldworker, then reflects on his own fieldwork style and the handling of doubtful cultural disclosures. The final paper is by Losche, who worked in the Abelam-speaking village of Apangai a few miles from Ilahita. She compares the rhetorical styles of Tuzin and Margaret Mead, showing how each adopted a magisterial and authoritative voice in an initial cultural account only to shift to a more nuanced and uncertain voice in a later work about the same people.

The editors conclude with Tuzin’s complete bibliography. In this otherwise exemplary 317-page volume, it is notably missing an index and, inexcusably, identifying notes on the fourteen contributors.

William E. Mitchell, University of Vermont, Burlington, USA

Back to top

CREATING A NATION WITH CLOTH: Women, Wealth, and Tradition in the Tongan Diaspora. ASAO Studies in Pacific Anthropology, v.4. By Ping-Ann Addo. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2013. xii, 227 pp. (Figures, tables, maps.) US$95.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-85745-895-7.

“Creating a Nation with Cloth” provides an excellent insight into how contemporary Tongan women, living far away from their ancestral homelands, experience textile wealth and use it to build up and reinvigorate a network of relationships that spans a huge geographical area. This fourth volume in the series of publications by the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO), is divided into six chapters, preceded by an introduction and completed by a conclusion. The well-written concatenating chapters start with a focus on materiality to move over to the role of women and the financial and identity implications of gifting traditional textile wealth. The book compellingly demonstrates how women, textile wealth and tradition are enmeshed.

The introduction sets out the premises on which the analysis presented in the book is built. Ping-Ann Addo explains how koloa, valuable objects which can comprise barkcloth, fine mats, baskets and coconut oil, are a means for Tongan women to participate in the building of a multiterritorial Tongan nation strewn geographically over New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

In the first chapter entitled “Migration, Tradition, and Barkcloth. Authentic Innovations in Textile Gifts,” the focus lies on the technologies of making barkcloth, including the use of innovative materials in both Tonga and one country of the Diaspora, New Zealand. The concept of “pragmatic creativity” (50) which the author had first introduced in an earlier co-authored publication with Heather Young Leslie (Introduction: Pragmatic Creativity and Authentic Innovations in Pacific Cloth), is applied to account for design and material innovations initiated by commoner Tongan women who in so doing effectively shape their multiterritorial nation. The second chapter, “Gender, Materiality, and Value. Tongan Women’s Cooperatives in New Zealand” turns to the social agency of women in diaspora who make and gift koloa. Addo argues that Tongan commoner women engage creatively with modernity by tapping into financial support opportunities from the government, local councils and arts bodies to create and use objects that are valued culturally. Chapter 3, “Women, Roots, and Routes,” recounts case studies of three Tongan women, tracing how they perform their traditional gender roles as “culture workers” (93) when exchanging koloa. Coined by Patricia Hill Collins (From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism, Temple University Press, 2006), the notion of culture workers reflects, according to Addo, women’s active engagement in the definition of their gender, femininity and position in kin groups and society as a whole. The fourth chapter, “Gender, Kinship, and Economics. Transacting in Prestige and Complex Ceremonial Gifts,” moves away from the materiality of exchanges, to consider the relationship between women’s identity and their kin on the one hand, and ceremonial gift-giving and reciprocation on the other. Consequently the author examines how Tonganness is practiced globally. In section 5, “Cash, Death, and Diaspora. When Koloa Won’t Do,” Ping-Ann Addo chooses the specific case study of a funeral to examine the challenges engendered by exchanging koloa between multiple locations, especially when these valuables are exchanged alongside cash. She concludes that “Money generically bespeaks good Tonganness, but koloa materialises appropriate Tongan womanliness” (165). Finally, chapter 6 looks at the central role of the church in the competitive gift-giving of both cash and koloa. Churches in general, but the mainstream Methodist churches specifically, are channelling the flow of textile and cash wealth by operating as the recipients and the transferors and thus giving Tongans the opportunity to distinguish themselves on a personal level, while also respecting traditions. In her conclusion, Ping-Ann regroups her work around two themes: the movement of people and the movement of things. She also suggests that her own research would be enhanced by studying how dwelling somewhere affects the sense of identity of second-generation Tongans in the Diaspora. It would in a sense contribute to testing her conclusion that the exchange of valuables in this continuous movement of people is effective in providing Tongans a renewed sense of being at home.

Through careful ethnography, the publication articulates the processes at play when large amounts of barkcloth and mats are exchanged and gifted over long distances within the contemporary Tongan ethnoscape. In dealing with the gift-giving activities of contemporary Tongan women, this important study engages in a nuanced way with the theory of the gift in Oceania, and the exchange of textile wealth in particular. Ping-Ann Addo’s work also contributes to the studies of modernity and globalization and Diaspora communities. Her careful analysis teases out the different attitudes and shifts of views towards material culture of commoner and chiefly women in the twenty-first century. To explain these variations, historical events—generally dating no earlier than the nineteenth century when the modern kingdom was being shaped—and sensibilities are taken into account. Regretfully, no attempt was made to unravel the relationship between mats and barkcloth. Are there occasions when fine mats are preferred over barkcloth or vice versa? However, this book adds considerably to the understanding of how material culture works in a contemporary society and how women can bind geographically scattered communities through the movement of these valuable objects, which are the products of female activity.

Fanny Wonu Veys, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, The Netherlands

Back to top

POLYNESIANS IN AMERICA: Pre-Columbian Contacts with the New World. Edited by Terry L. Jones et al. Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2011. xix, 359 pp. (tables, figures.) US$85.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-759-12004-4.

This volume marks the latest revival of a 150-year-old debate on the timing, nature and scope of trans-Pacific contacts prior to the European expansion. Early nineteenth-century speculation on the possibility of connections between the Americas and the Pacific Islands was given more substance from the 1860s, when the apparent similarity between the Quechua term for sweet potato, cumar, and the Polynesian kumara, was first noted and attributed to human transfer. Despite the longevity of the debate, there are still precious few unequivocal proofs of trans-Pacific contact, and most of these remain ambivalent in terms of the light they shed on questions of agency or the direction of movement; of these proofs perhaps the most significant has been the discovery of charred sweet potato in Mangaia in the Cook Islands dated long before European contact with the Americas. Generally, transfers of people, ideas or materials in either direction do not appear to have been substantial, and were almost certainly out-weighed by their impacts. Yet significant questions hang on the resolution of these issues, ranging from the specifics of cultural-historical reconstruction in the Pacific and the Americas through to more general understandings of the processes of inter-cultural contact and exchange, and the pace of adoption of novel crops and artefacts. Was sweet potato, which entirely transformed the New Guinea Highlands, available for adoption a thousand years ago, through Polynesian transfers, or seven hundred years later through European transport to island Southeast Asia? How might we re-evaluate the sailing capacities of South Americans and Polynesians were we able to demonstrate that either one or the other was responsible for trans-Pacific voyaging?

Their choice of title alone indicates that the editors of Polynesians in America have nailed their colours firmly to the mast, focusing on Polynesians (and not Americans or Asians) as the agents of contact and transfer, and this immediately introduces some unevenness to the collection and its conclusions. Most of the chapters are revisions of papers presented at a 2010 conference session, to which the first two editors, Terry Jones and Alice Storey, have added a set of four introductory chapters, framing the debate (as they see it). While the later chapters are collectively compelling, the introductory chapters are less convincing: reintroducing the case for Polynesian contact (chapter 1); a review of the history of diffusion theory (chapter 2); a very light skim through possible evidence from oral traditions (chapter 3); and a more thorough overview of the trans-Pacific debate (chapter 4). The perspective adopted throughout is from debates conducted largely within American archaeology, where a strongly conservative and processual attitude to the question of trans-Pacific contacts has insisted on better evidence than has been tendered in the past. However, the absence from the volume of any of the authors of these contending views, such as Atholl Anderson or J.E. Arnold, robs the collection of any sense of a robust discussion, leaving readers to challenge the more tendentious claims, and inviting further scepticism about the broader enterprise.

Nine more substantial chapters address particular lines of argument or bodies of material, including: the artefact record from North America of possible Polynesian influences (chapter 5); the specific case of Polynesian contact with ancestors of the Mapuche people of central-south Chile (chapter 6); a review of the proxy evidence for human movement derived from the distribution of commensal plant and animal species (chapter 7); a reappraisal of recent evidence for the pre-Columbian introduction of Polynesian chickens to the Americas (chapter 8); another case study, this time of evidence for Polynesian contact with the Gulf of Guayaquil in Ecuador, as a possible source of the Quechua term for sweet potato (chapter 9); a summary of possible cognate terms in Polynesian and American vocabularies (chapter 10); an inspection of three possibly Polynesian crania from Mocha Island off the coast of Chile, also a find spot for what may be pre-Columbian chicken bones (chapter 11); an argument for a faster and more efficient settlement of eastern Polynesia, as the likely point of departure for voyagers to the Americas (chapter 12); and a review of Polynesian voyaging capabilities (chapter 13). Though most of these chapters summarize or lightly extend arguments and material previously presented, the cumulative weight of their evidence begins to amount to a serious case for Polynesian contact with the Americas, or Ecuador and Chile more specifically.

The volume leaves me with two reservations: the first is the adequacy of a hard copy-only book in a field as dynamic as this. The broader debate addressed here has been contested in on-line journals over the past decade, and a static and largely one-sided contribution in book form cannot hope to capture the complexity of different positions, or offer evidence in entirely convincing detail; and by the time most readers have digested the contents of this volume, it will have been superseded by articles announcing new materials and new developments in the debate. What the book might have offered instead was genuine reflection on, and advances in, the ways we approach debates around diffusion, particularly where the contacts are likely to have been fleeting, partial and restricted. How do we generate really demanding questions for further research, rather than simply seek further evidence to support existing positions; how might debate proceed more productively than it has thus far? What are the conditions for selection and adoption of novel materials and ideas in cross-cultural encounters? And what might the trans-Pacific debate contribute to theories of contact and diffusion elsewhere? On these matters, the present book is largely silent.

Chris Ballard, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Back to top

ISLANDS OF LOVE, ISLANDS OF RISK: Culture and HIV in the Trobriands. By Katherine Lepani. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2012. xiii, 241 pp. (Figures, maps, photos.) US$34.95. ISBN 978-0-8265-1875-0.

The Trobriand Islands were once described by Annette Weiner as “one of the most sacred places in ethnography” (13). Trobriand Islanders figured centrally in the classic works of Bronislaw Malinowski, who held them up as exemplars of “primitive man” in mirrored opposition to Western society. The irony is that the Trobriand culture differs in significant ways from other parts of Papua New Guinea (PNG): the institution of paramount chiefs, an unusually rich tradition of magic and mysticism, elaborate memorial ceremonies dominated by massive exchanges of banana leaf bundles and skirts between women, and a remarkably positive attitude towards pre-marital sex, among other things. Paradoxically, the cultural extremes of Trobriand society may make it a better candidate for the examination of comparative issues than other more “normal” Melanesian societies. Regardless, for almost a century, the Trobriands have inspired some of the most sophisticated and influential ethnography—while triggering equally fierce debates—in the anthropological canon. Katherine Lepani’s superb new book very much follows in this august tradition.

Islands of Love, Islands of Risk deals with topics at once new and familiar. It is primarily a study of how Trobrianders have understood and responded to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, particularly to outside interventions intended to educate and protect the population. The Papua New Guinea (PNG) population as a whole has exceptionally high infection rates for sexual transmitted disease and is thus highly vulnerable to HIV. Given the inadequacies of the medical system in remote rural areas, estimates of how many people in the Trobriands have HIV are “highly speculative.” In contrast, the “discursive presence” of HIV/AIDS is pervasive due to effective awareness campaigns, particularly the village birth attendants program, which reaches most women of child bearing age at the village level (31). Drawing upon ethnographic observation as well as individual and group interviews in 23 villages across four of the six Trobriand Islands, Lepani provides the first full-length monograph examining both the execution and reception of HIV/AIDS interventions and information campaigns in a rural Papua New Guinea community.

Making sense of how Trobrianders have responded to HIV takes Lepani into territory first explored by Malinowski in Sex and Repressions in Savage Society (1927) as well as Weiner’s feminist reappraisal of the 1970s and more recent writings on gender and relational personhood. The depth of the ethnographic record allows an unusual degree of insight into how gender roles and sexual practices have changed over the past century. (Remarkably little!) She provides a particularly revealing review of the long history of government interventions in response to sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the Trobriands, dating back to the establishment of a venereal treatment clinic in 1905. Lepani’s main concern, however, is the ethnographic present of 2000-03. She writes a fine-grained account of gendered agency through the life cycle, moving from the considerable sexual freedom of youth through the complementary responsibilities of women and men in birth and child rearing and the multifold exchanges that constitute the reproduction of clan-based personhood. Lepani’s sensitive description of Trobriand attitudes towards sex, however, will no doubt attract the most interest. Trobriand sexual culture, she notes, is unique in PNG in terms of the enthusiastic validation of premarital sex with multiple partners (102). Yet Trobriand sexual practices and desires are very much cultural productions: regulated in terms of how partners are selected as well as the essential roles played by love magic and exchanges. “Young people,” she observes, “represent their sexual freedom as a process of decision making that involves careful discernment and studied selection, not careless abandon” (127).

Given such cultural orientations, Trobriand Islanders have been unusually receptive to certain aspects of HIV/AIDS awareness and medical interventions. Unlike elsewhere in PNG, they do not attribute the pandemic to a vengeful Christian God; and from the paramount chief on down there is a general acceptance of the need to use condoms to protect oneself from STIs. While multi-partnering in general and a growing trend of older married men bribing young women for sex leaves the Trobriand population increasingly vulnerable, Lepani finds hope that those affiliated with AIDS in the future will find compassionate care within their extended families. For the most part, however, she documents mismatches between the intentions of HIV interventions and the local reception. To some degree, these are practical. Boxes of condoms often sit locked up in government offices until they become useless because officials are awaiting permission or lack access to networks to distribute them, for instance. At a deeper level, however, there is an ontological divide between the Western understanding of disease vectors through individual behaviour and the Trobriand conception of serious illnesses and accidents as the consequences of moral breaches of collective morality—an understanding that, for now, places the invisible but highly dangerous condition of HIV infection into the class of sovasova, chronic illness resulting from clan incest. At a more fundamental level, there is a serious mismatch between the moral assumptions of HIV awareness discourses that portray sex as dangerous and an individual responsibility and a culture which celebrates sex in the context of collective well-being. The running theme of the book is that a truly effective HIV intervention must be built upon “a foundation of respect for both the commonality and diversity of human sexual desire and experience” (133). She demonstrates just how challenging this is to accomplish even with the best intentions.

Lepani brings a quiet authority to this complex study. She has long experience with HIV awareness campaigns and was the principal author of the National HIV Prevention Strategy in PNG. She is also a member, through marriage, of the Trobriand community. While addressing a dark and difficult topic, the ethnography presents a positive, compassionate and intimate portrait of contemporary life in the Trobriands. Drawing effectively on personal vignettes, the text is wonderfully evocative, accessible and engaging. It is an important book that will be of considerable interest to specialists studying cultural responses to HIV around the world. Yet it is at the same time an engaging introduction to a contemporary Melanesian society that I enthusiastically recommend for undergraduate teaching.

John Barker, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Back to top

CHRISTIAN POLITICS IN OCEANIA. ASAO Studies in Pacific Anthropology, v. 2. Edited by Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2012. ix, 235 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-85745-746-2.

In this volume a group of anthropologists of Oceania address the interaction of Christianity and politics in the region, from the most local interpersonal relationships to national and (to a much lesser extent) international identities and movements, with case studies from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. While an assertion in the Introduction that the authors “make the case that politics in Oceania can only be understood by taking account of Christianity, and vice versa” is a bit grand, as much Oceanic politics takes place without reference to Christian faith, the volume certainly does show that the assertion is at least very often the case; and that Western academic attempts to study the politics of Oceania without reference to Christianity and the churches are likely to be inadequate.

Moving from the local to the national, the various contributors discuss conflicting church views of the much-storied “underground army” of Makira, the “tripod” relationship of church, provincial government and chiefs in Isabel, and the political culture of new Evangelicals and Muslims (Solomon Islands); the apparent (but only apparent) lack of interest of the Urapmin Pentecostals in politics and the heated political land disputes of three churches of the Waria Valley (Papua New Guinea); the tendency of churches to take on state functions in the context of a weak state (Vanuatu); the culture-Christianity of the New Methodist Church in its relationship with the Bainimarama military dictatorship (Fiji); and an overall national view of the relation of churches and politics (Papua New Guinea). The volume also contains a helpful afterword. Overall, the volume is refreshingly open and non-ideological and the authors make some effort to be in dialogue with one another.

All the essays are detailed, thoughtful and considerably nuanced in their analyses. As such, the volume is a fine example of the emerging discipline of the anthropology of Christianity, finally not afraid to move into theology, history, psychology and sociology for a more complete analysis. Because of their common multi-disciplinary approach, the essays complement each other well. The volume avoids earlier anthropological approaches that see Christianity (especially Christian theology) as a pariah to be avoided, if not actively opposed. Likewise, helpfully, new Christian churches or perspectives (where appropriate) are discussed here in relationship with the mainline churches from which they emerged. The chapters by Handman (PNG), Scott (Solomon Islands) and Tomlinson (Fiji) are particularly good on this point, as much recent Oceanic anthropology of Christianity has tended to focus on new Pentecostal and Evangelical groups as though they had no relationship with the older churches, with the latter often regarded as no longer of interest.

The strength of the volume (its contributors’ specialized knowledge of their particular areas) is also its weakness as these well-established specialties shape the priorities of the volume rather than more historically significant interactions of Christianity and politics. For example, for Vanuatu, the exceptional role of the churches in the Vanuatu independence movement remains substantially unaddressed; for Solomon Islands, the role of the churches (including denominational identities) in the implementation and solution of the “ethnic tension” crisis of 1999-2003 is hardly addressed; few of the chapters address the paradox that all the countries discussed have very high percentages of Christians yet are deeply rooted in corruption, from the local to the national level. The exceptions are the Fiji chapter, where the analysis is clearly rooted in discussion of the country’s extraordinarily significant coups, and the national survey of the relationship of the churches and politics in PNG.

Because Pacific Christians are generally hospitable and trusting, even to anthropologists, and sometimes the resulting relationships may be very short or continue over years (or are interrupted by long absences), the data for this volume is not always consistent and this inconsistency can affect interpretation; a very negative interpretation might even end the relationship. One senses this issue in the chapter on the Isabel “tripod,” where there was much more conflict than expressed here over the 2010 selection of an Isabel bishop living overseas to be paramount chief and (even more strongly) the selection of his local deputy; debate over the latter continued all night before the inauguration, which almost did not happen. One senses a reluctance to be too critical, lest it damage relationships. Conversely, the chapter on Pentecostal groups in Honiara and the Western Solomons and Islam in Malaita seems to be based on somewhat fleeting relationships and not so squarely fixed on politics, though that is perhaps inevitable, considering the transient character of some of the groups and persons discussed.

Despite these minor criticisms, this is a fine volume, perhaps even a landmark, in the anthropology of Christianity in Oceania and all the chapters are of a high quality. Some will become standard points of reference. But one is still left with the problem of many anthropologies, many Christianities, many contexts, many histories, many personalities and many exceptions, some discussed, some not; trying to get any analytical consistency across such diversity remains a major challenge. Insofar as the authors begin from local contexts and root their analyses there, and are in dialogue with one another, this volume is a major contribution and one begins to see some common themes emerging. I doubt that Christianity will again be marginalized in the ethnographical study of Oceania.

Terry M. Brown, University of Trinity College, Toronto, Canada

Back to top

LANDSCAPES OF RELATIONS AND BELONGING: Body, Place and Politics in Wogeo, Papua New Guinea. Person, Space and Memory in the Contemporary Pacific, v. 3. By Astrid Anderson. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2011. xii, 262 pp. (Tables, maps, figures, photos.) US$95.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-84545-775-4.

The legacy of a prominent ethnographic forebear is an especial burden for an anthropologist conducting fieldwork for a doctoral degree. Ian Hogbin looms large in Astrid Anderson’s monograph, which is based on her dissertation research on the island of Wogeo, off the north coast of Papua New Guinea. Hogbin conducted fieldwork on Wogeo in 1934 and 1948, and his two authoritative books about the island, The Island of Menstruating Men and The Leaders and the Led, had become part of the canon of Melanesian anthropology by the 1980s. Anderson conducted her research in the 1990s, not only on the same island but also based in the same village as Hogbin. She has negotiated the historical engagement well, approaching the inevitable interpretative differences with her predecessor diplomatically and nicely illustrating the degree to which he had become integral in the mythology of the Wogeo themselves.

Her book is divided into four parts. The first is a scene setter prefaced by an origin myth. It describes the island and its people and the important place of Hogbin in Wogeo’s recorded history and contemporary memories. The second discusses bodies, taboos and death, showing the degree to which bodily care is at the same time a nurturing of networks of relations. The male cult famously described by Hogbin is a memory nowadays, but Anderson revisits it to contextualise it with other bodily rituals, and her greater attention to gender aspects provides further insight into the subject of embodiment. The third part focuses on landscape, place, knowledge and leadership, taking the perspective that the social landscape and the geographical landscape are mutually constitutive. The final part draws these themes together in a group of chapters on “the way histories of people, places and kinship can be seen as arguments in an ongoing process of establishing a proper social landscape” (69), which the author calls the politics of belonging.

While more than half a century had passed between Hogbin’s era and Anderson’s fieldwork and much had changed on Wogeo, she has not made the book a study of exclusively “current” issues. Her ethnography draws on that of her predecessor, providing additional information and detail of her own, and deconstructing the contemporary view held by the Wogeo of their own past and kastom. The focal aspect for a reader familiar with Hogbin’s ethnography is the difference in analytic perspective. Hogbin was a functionalist (Radcliffe-Brown, Firth and Malinowski were his main influences) noted for his attention to precise representation. Anderson, for her part, invokes Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, and cites Roy Wagner and Marilyn Strathern as inspirational theorists. Her application of Heidegger is actually limited and focussed on his discussion of “dwelling,” which has become popular in recent anthropology concerned with landscape and spatial socialization. Merleau-Ponty is briefly cited in relation to embodiment. The author (like a growing number of others in contemporary anthropology) regards the perspective served by these fragments of the two philosophers’ work as phenomenology. While this modish generalization is surely in need of interrogation, Heidegger’s discussion is well-used here in a series of examples towards the argument that dwelling and experience in the Wogeo landscape are a continuous creation and manifestation of a meaningful world.

The most discernible analytic influence throughout the book is Wagner, and it is his work on symbols that provides the real fuel for the author’s re-reading of Wogeo sociality.

Anderson brings the combined interpretative shifts exemplified by Wagner and Strathern to bear on kinship and relation. She consequently gives a more nuanced account of kinship and relation than Hogbin was able to and, in a particularly strong passage in the book’s last section, expands significantly on his observations on house construction. Here she really does bring together her titular themes of landscapes, relation and belonging, showing for example how the various parts of a house are imbued with meaning: she gives detailed descriptions of how individual rafters are connected to particular pieces of land as they embody histories of the land-holding people who hold rights in them.

Classic Melanesian ethnographies are nowadays often used as little more than an uncritiqued backdrop to contemporary anthropological research on topical development-related issues, as if there were nothing more of value to say about traditional sociality in rapidly changing societies. Worse, they are sometimes dismissed as irrelevant in the face of a concern with local engagement with global processes. In contrast, the reflexive potential of anthropology is demonstrated in this book, which revisits, enhances and improves on the insights of a previous good ethnographer at the same time as it offers new material from a contemporary fieldworker equipped with a different analytic toolkit.

Michael Goddard, Macquarie University, North Ryde, Australia

Back to top

BEING MĀORI IN THE CITY: Indigenous Everyday Life in Auckland. Anthropological Horizons. By Natacha Gagné. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013. xvi, 345 pp. (Maps.) C$32.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-4426-1413-0.

As Gagné points out, until relatively recently, there has been a paucity of anthropological work on indigenous ways of life in the city. This lack is perhaps a result of two factors: a disciplinary tendency to prioritize small-scale societies which engage in “authentic traditional” practices and where relationships with land and resources are perceived to be primordial; a lasting conceptualization of such communities as relatively bounded and the methodological challenges associated with undertaking participant observation in a multi-complex site. This book is timely given that an incredible 84.4 percent of Māori now live in urban centres compared to 50 percent of the world’s population. Auckland, the main site of Gagné’s research, is the largest multicultural city in New Zealand; Greater Auckland has a population of 1.3 million, and is home to just under one quarter of all Māori. Auckland also has the highest population of Polynesians of any city in the world.

Gagné’s research, described as one of the few ethnographic studies on Māori urbanization since the 1970s (i), employs classical anthropological methods of long-term participant observation and interviews to capture “the everyday combat … regular experiences and strategies of urban-based Māori” (4). In the introduction and first chapter she contextualizes this struggle within the history of Māori urbanization from World War II, the Māori renaissance of the 1980s and more recent battles for land and resources in light of neoliberal policies of privatization and devolution. Crucial to this background is the colonization of New Zealand and the evolving significance of the Treaty of Waitangi and Waitangi Tribunal as a means through which Māori articulate indigenous losses and seek compensation. The Office of the Treaty Settlements, an alternative and more direct method of negotiating with the Crown, is not explored. Gagné does, however, provide a comprehensive overview of the main issues and a multitude of references for readers interested in further exploration.

In the second chapter Gagné emphasizes the diversity of experiences of Māori in the city. This diversity includes: different tribal identities and homelands and the absence of this type of identification; length of time in the city; occupational and educational heterogeneity; whether residence is in a predominantly brown/working class or Pākehā (New Zealand European)/middle-upper-class neighbourhood (this dichotomy is not nearly so clear-cut!) and strength of attachment to kin and tribal territory. Gagné sympathetically highlights the contradictions that inhere in the discourse surrounding “authentic” and “urban” Māori and the politics of differentiation used to demarcate Māori and non- Māori ways of being and doing. Key to the discussion is the concept of “comfortable,” which Gagné’s participants use to highlight their oft-conflicting feelings of being at home/not at home in the city. Closely connected with this are the bonds of Māori kinship as expressed through whānau (extended family), hapū (sub-tribe) and iwi (tribe) and the organizing principles of whanaungatanga (a kinship ethic that communally and horizontally unites) (55) and whakapapa (a vertical descent ethic which enables boundaries to be created) (55). Gagné shows how these concepts have become lived in the city, how whānau includes non-kin members and how, despite this elasticity, the underlying ethical values, principles and structuring elements remain intact. The ability of whānau to expand in the city is again emphasized in chapter 5.

The third and fourth chapters underscore the importance of place, here grounded in marae, the traditional Māori meeting place, ceremonial centre and a principal site in which to reaffirm tribal culture and belonging. In the third chapter Gagné traverses the literature on marae highlighting traditional functions, associated protocols and symbolic representations. Threaded throughout this discussion is the hint that she is inclined to concur with Sissons’s (Building a house society: the reorganization of Maori communities around meeting houses,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 16, no. 2, 2010: 372-386) recent assessment of Māori society as being structured by a relationship between houses, rather than, or at least as well as, descent. This argument comes out more clearly in chapter 4, where Gagné uses her own ethnographic material to describe an urban Māori suburban house which, she argues, is a marae. Two main points are used to validate this analysis: “these houses, like ‘real’ marae are all about sharing and the community … [and] these types of houses and their principles are not necessarily part of everyone’s daily experience. A house is not necessarily in a permanent state of being … it could be so only on special occasions” (120).

Gagné’s analysis of the continuation yet also mutability of marae is an important contribution to the study of modern Māori society. Perhaps missing from this discussion are the more contentious and conflictual aspects of contemporary marae. For instance, various government departments consult with Māori on marae, introducing new types of power dynamics and technologies; a notable tension exists over whose protocol is prioritized. Waitangi Tribunal hearings, long held on marae, involve Māori presenting their history of loss and alienation in the midst of Tribunal judges, well-heeled lawyers and other hapū groupings which often have alternative renderings of history and they may individually be subjected to intense questioning from Crown lawyers. Such hearings are deeply emotional and politicized occasions and the Tribunal often leaves a heightened conflict in its wake. In the event of a successful claim, marae may become further entangled with bureaucratic procedures; marae, rather than hapū, are the channel through which compensation, held by the central iwi, is distributed on an annual basis. As these examples suggest, the modern marae is not purely a Maori space but has, in some instances at least, been infiltrated, maybe even co-opted, by bureaucratic and state forces.

In the final three chapters Gagné weaves together her themes by employing the concept of “universes of meaning,” which is as an “orientational device through life, experiences, and practices” (12). She shows how a politics of differentiation can serve to create a distinctive universe of meaning for Māori, but that this universe is paradoxical, has internal inconsistencies and continually intersects with alternative universes: “in practice … Māori and Pākehā people alike internalize multiple universes of meanings and develop multiple identities and ways of engaging within these worlds” (229). In her conclusion, Gagné makes a compelling argument regarding the importance of an anthropology concerned with ordinary, superficially apoliticized, indigenous city people: “What is really significant is the continued general attachment of Māori people to the idea of being Māori and to Māori identities” (253).

Fiona McCormack, The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Back to top

THE NON-INDEPENDENT TERRITORIES OF THE CARIBBEAN AND PACIFIC: Continuity or Change? Edited by Peter Clegg and David Killingray. London: Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2012. xix, 206 pp. (Maps, tables.) £25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-9569546-0-2.

The volume The Non-Independent Territories of the Caribbean and Pacific: Continuity and Change? edited by Peter Clegg and David Killingray is a collection of articles whose focus is the governmental, administrative and policy changes that have occurred recently with regard to what might generally be called non-self-governing or non-independent territories in mainly the Caribbean and occasionally the Pacific. Written by economists, political scientists, government administrators, historians and lawyers, the articles delve into some of the complex governmental, policy and constitutional alterations that impact the administration of the “imperial fragments” (1). Fragments being an apt metaphor to describe how the authors allude to how the administrative powers sometimes understand these territories: bits of unfinished business, stale crumbs from the imperial “cookie,” so to speak.

The first four articles (written by David Killingray, Peter Clegg and Peter Gold, Ian Bailey, and Ian Hendry) deal specifically with the United Kingdom’s “remnants… of empire”(xvii), now officially called the “Overseas Territories.” One chapter exclusively explores the Netherlands and its Caribbean territories; and in my opinion, it is the best chapter (by Lammert de Jong and Ron ver der Veer). Another focuses on France’s Overseas Territories (by Nathalie Mrgudovic). Yet another concentrates on the role the European Union has in their member states’ non-independent territories (by Paul Sutton). Two more delve into the many concerns, and some notable benefits, for the administrative powers related to the Caribbean economies supported by international banking, offshore finance and the business of tax havens (by Mark P. Hampton and John Christensen, and William Vleck). Finally, Carlyle Corbin provides an overview of how self-governance has been framed internationally in relation to these non-independent territories that remain around the world.

The space in this review prevents a detailed summary of each article; all of which vary from one another. However, general themes emerged within most. Clegg and Killingray assert in the introduction: “Non-independent territories adhere to the metropoles for a variety of reasons, most importantly economic advantage, although security and sentiment also play a part” (xix). The striking word in that sentence is “adhere”—the image being of those crumbs that simply cannot be brushed away. Having gobbled up these territories in the years of intact imperial desserts, since World War II the imperial game of “keep them or set them free” has been in play; decisions partially motivated by imperialistic desires and partially those wishes of the people within these territories. As is appropriately noted throughout many of the chapters, what often remained of empire after the years of reshuffling was, as deJong and van der Veer euphemistically call it, “Kingdom-lite”: meaning, from the metropole’s position, less on guilt and responsibility, and more on a sense of “moral” relief at technically being a “colonizer” no longer (65). The administrative powers allowed these territories a semblance of self-governance at varying levels in various territories. Another euphemism expressed by de Jong and van der Veer suitably encapsulated this relationship: “LAT, or Living Apart Together” (64). But eventually for these administrative powers, Kingdom-lite was viewed as not as lite as once believed because in these non-independent territories the weaknesses of no independence with some local autonomy “simply [was] seen as a failure: huge budget deficits, poor education, social degradation and flawed law enforcement” (66).

In present-day colonial “modernity,” administrative powers no longer see independence as an option for most of these remaining territories, but rather an abiding state of in-between-ness, and the reality of enduring responsibility—and a “moral” responsibility at that. As is often stressed by some in this volume (as summarized in the afterword): “Despite the continued enthusiasm of some of their politicians and oft-repeated criticisms of the ‘colonial’ powers and their level of influence, the people have shown little appetite for re-visiting the issue” of independence (195). Especially given the international economic instability of recent years, these administrative responsibilities are believed to continue to weigh heavily on national budgets. As a result, some within the metropole question a continuation of any relationship with non-independent territories. For example, de Jong and van der Veer state: “Dutch political parties on the far right express loudly and clearly: ‘Sell them on eBay, hand them over to Venezuela’” (80). This is an extreme sentiment, but I think one that summarizes, at least in part, the essence of what the administrations see as their colonial plight. Because despite the responsibilities formulated in colonial yesteryears, the eternal question remains on the tip of the administrative powers’ tongues: Who benefits?” (152), which in all reality should be framed as “Do we benefit?”

Nonetheless, administrative powers, as it was noted throughout this volume, have in recent years attempted to reconceptualize a more “hands-on” relationship with their territorial possessions (81). The chapters on Britain stressed that they want to promote “good governance, democracy and the rule of law” in response to the not-so-benign neglect allowed to fester in some of the non-independent territories (22). However, the ways in which the various powers have been going about changing these relationships are in flux—in seeming fits and starts, legalistic and incomplete—heavy on bureaucratic intent and low on actual practice.

As might be indicated above, the somewhat detached and top-down perspective of these articles may not resonate with some readers. Also, this is not a volume to understand the indigenous or islander perspectives, although flashes occasionally peek through. Indeed, these chapters tend to minimize and gloss over the complex ambivalence that many of these territories and their peoples may have in relation to their administrative powers. Also, the prose can be imposing, made that much more challenging because of the liberally sprinkled acronyms for non-independent territories and governmental organizations (FCO, TCI, OECD, OT, to list but a few). Yet I found this collection to be thought-provoking. It lays out some of the administrative truths, complexities and puzzles related to non-independent territories as political entities. Indeed, the overload of acronyms is rather symbolic and indicative of colonialism today—in a way abbreviated but yet mysterious, if not harshly opaque.

Laurel A. Monnig, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, USA

Back to top

TAX HAVENS AND SOVEREIGNTY IN THE PACIFIC ISLANDS. UQePress Pacific Studies Series. By Anthony van Fossen. St. Lucia, QLD: UQ ePress, 2012. xi, 411 pp. (Map, tables.) A$38.50, paper. ISBN 978-1-921902-21-2.

Tax avoidance. If you are a major, multinational company, incorporated in the UK, Australia or the United States, here’s how you do it. You re-incorporate yourself in some country that has low or, even better, no taxes on corporate profits, and that offshore tax haven becomes, for tax purposes, your new home. No, you don’t have to be doing business there; you don’t have to move your head offices there, or, indeed, any office at all. All you need there is an agent who will put your name on a brass plaque on their door, together with the brass plaques of all the other companies they represent. From then on, all your worldwide profits are credited to that offshore company, making your taxes low or non-existent.

And how, you may ask, do you, the domestic company—still operating out of London or Sidney or New York though, now, technically, a subsidiary of your own offshore holding company—get your hands on those profits without having to pay taxes when they come to you? At this point, the tax avoidance game gets even better. The domestic company borrows that money from its offshore parent, thereby realizing no income. Quite the opposite, that infusion of cash puts a great big liability on its balance sheet.

The use of offshore tax havens and financial centres is not new, although—and this insight is one of the many contributions of van Fossen’s readable and valuable study—with the decline of colonialism and the concomitant increase in the number of small sovereign states, the jurisdictions able to become offshore havens has multiplied. In the nineteenth century, most tax havens were in Europe—Switzerland, Lichtenstein and the Channel Islands, for example—close to the companies they served. The island nations of the Pacific have only recently become centres of offshore financial activity; they had to wait both for the development of rapid communications channels and for the end of colonialism, which freed them from the constraints of rule by the US and Australia, neither of which favours offshore tax havens. Now, however, the Pacific Islands are major players:

The Cook Islands concentrate on forming trusts to protect assets from seizure by courts, wives, husbands or creditors. Samoa is excellent for registering international companies, which can hold stocks, bonds real estate and other assets so that taxes can be avoided on incomes from dividends, interest, rents or profits when the holdings are sold. Vanuatu has more offshore insurers, banks, casinos and tax-free real estate than any other Oceanian haven. Offshore mutual funds operate in Vanuatu, and hedge funds register and banks book large international loans in the Cook Islands to minimize taxes, avoid regulations, and increase secrecy. (1-2)

Pacific Island nations are economically and militarily far from the equal of the UK, the US or Australia but, van Fossen points out, international law creates the legal fiction of a world made up of nation-states that are equally self-reliant. Sovereignty means that, if a country wishes to have no taxes on income or profits, or wants to encourage Internet gambling, or permit banks to keep their accounts secret, so that money can be laundered more easily, it may do so.

It is pretty widely agreed by now that the effect of offshore tax havens on the economy of their host countries is close to zero. Most of the money flowing into tax havens flows out again almost immediately. Van Fossen notes some possible financial benefits: “offshore centres may generate government fees, employment, training, investment, high-end tourism, better tele-communications and greater international recognition” (3). But, the emphasis is on the “may.” He would agree that plaques on office doors generate precious little in the way of employment, training, investment or even tourism.

The primary economic results are a relatively small amount added to government coffers—although, if a country is poor enough, even the few thousand in corporate registration fees can make a difference—and a bump up in the incomes of a score or so indigenous compradors. However, the effect of these on a host country’s politics is probably way out of proportion to the net economic benefits to the country as a whole. There is a great incentive for those few who benefit economically to make sure that the money keeps coming, an aim requiring that domestic legislation continue to be friendly to the offshore companies. Corruption is an inevitable consequence of tax haven status.

One of the easiest ways to criticize an author is to accuse him of not writing the book he never intended to write. I will not do that. But, I will say that van Fossen’s exhaustive study of the legal and political regimes that support Pacific Islands tax havens begs for another scholar or two to study the political or cultural impact of these financial centres on the countries in which they are located. How, for example, have the social structures and Vanuatu been affected by the presence in Port Vila of offshore banks and Internet gambling companies? What are the consequences for the people and cultures of the Cook Islands, say, of the cluster of large international banks booking loans from its capital?

Van Fossen does not try to answer these questions, though there is much grist for an anthropologist’s mill in his descriptions of the takeover of Pacific Islands financial centres by Australian and Asian gambling and money laundering interests, or his revelation that the nearly-successful secession movement in Vanuatu’s Espiritu Santo was backed by US multi-millionaires looking for tax free havens for their wealthy, libertarian friends.

Jean Zorn, CUNY School of Law, Long Island City, USA

Back to top

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

Faculty of Arts
Buchanan A20
1866 Main Mall,
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1, Canada
Tel: 604-822-3828
Pacific Affairs
#376-1855 West Mall,
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z2, Canada
Tel: 604-822-6508
Fax: 604-822-9452

Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC  | © Copyright The University of British Columbia