Forthcoming Book Reviews

The following book reviews have been received at Pacific Affairs and will be published in the print edition within the next 12-18 months. Please note that minor textual changes may occur before final publication in our print and official online edition (hosted at IngentaConnect and here).
We do not accept unsolicited book reviews.
Last updated 7 June 2017

Pacific Affairs accepts books for review from publishers and authors that have been published in the previous two years only. Our focus is 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 and the Himalayas Southeast Asia Australasia and the Pacific Islands

To search on THIS PAGE ONLY: (Mac) Command + F or (PC) Control + F

Asia General

NEW

THE POLITICS OF ISLAMIC LAW: Local Elites, Colonial Authority, and the Making of the Muslim State. By Iza R. Hussin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. viii, 351 pp. (Table, illustrations.) US$37.50, paper. ISBN 978-0-226-32334-3.

This historical study of the colonial and post-colonial evolution of Islamic law is driven by the following issues: the way in which contemporary institutions of Islamic law have been shaped by colonial antecedents; modern Muslim state reliance upon colonial-era frames; how institutional and theoretical frames shaped Islamic law; Islamic law as an arena of political contestation; and Islamic law as state-controlled and a powerful arsenal of the modern state.

Hussin succinctly highlights the importance of the historical study of Islamic law:

Given recent political and legal controversies in many Muslim states, the need for deeper understanding of the politics of Islamic law has rarely been greater; at a time when misunderstanding of the core dynamics of Muslim states and communities is prevalent, the need for the systematic study of the underpinnings of contemporary Islam has rarely been more pressing. Muslim societies today continue to struggle to define what is Islamic … a better understanding of past struggles may help inform future movements, whatever direction they take. (8–9)

Despite Islamic law being central to the book’s focus, the framing of Islamic law is less than precise. However, Hussin does make note of commonly understood (but truncated) notions of Islamic law, in particular, the conflation of Islamic law with sharia, the parsing of Islamic law as fiqh, and its conflation as personal status or family law (7). Islamic law is described as “multiple, slippery and contested” (7) and a “contingent and constructed political space, through which historical processes work” (9). The “multiple, slippery and contested” understanding of sharia in the contemporary political context is explored in the Malaysia case study.

The working definition of the post-colonial state is less than precise and as a result, discussion of the post-colonial secular (or quasi-secular) constitutional foundations of the Malaysian, Indian, and Egyptian post-colonial state is ambiguous. A rigorous discussion of Ahmed Kuru’s (2009), Abdullahi An Naim’s (2008), and Khaled Abou el Fadl’s (1997) comparative and political-legal analyses of the foundational dynamics of Muslim-majority states would have addressed this limitation.

A key strength of this largely historical study is the way in which Hussin ambitiously compares the making, unmaking, and remaking (10) of Islamic law in three former British colonies—Malaya (Southeast Asia), India (South Asia), and Egypt (Middle East)—by diligently excavating significant amounts of archival material in the Malay, Arabic, and English languages. She mines the archival material creatively, focusing on treaties, trials, and portraits of local male elites. These “creole pioneers” shrewdly used multiple modes of representation to different audiences to achieve goals that often diverged from the colonial project (164). An analysis of the shifting portraits and personas of elite women would have enriched the discussion.

The choice of Kathleen Thelen and James Mahoney’s (2010) historical institutionalist framework effectively highlights the way by which elites exploited institutional ambiguities to their advantage. The employment of James Scott’s (1998) framework of resistance via “hidden transcripts” is also particularly useful. That said, Hussin has relied too strongly on the frameworks of anthropologists and sociologists such as Wael Hallaq and Talal Asad. Their frameworks may not be particularly useful in understanding the complex political dynamics of non-Arab post-colonial states such as Malaysia and India. Asad’s framework potentially obfuscates the significance of Malaysia’s and India’s post-colonial secular democratic foundations and its relevance for nation-building and citizenship rights in multi-religious societies beyond the Middle East.

Hussin convincingly demonstrates that local elites played critical roles in the construction of Islamic law as a codified and state-centred system that is limited to areas of personal and family law. Transformations in local legal systems profoundly altered political systems (14). But this point is not altogether novel. What is rather novel, however, is the assertion that “the law was conceived, bargained over, and used by powerful men and women involved in the workings of the colonial state” (23). The inclusion of elite women as having contributed to the workings of the colonial state offers a potentially innovative spin to the book. But who are these vanguard elite women? Were they wives or daughters of elite men? Unfortunately, these questions are not elaborated on. Only fleeting references to the relationship between gender rights and Islamic law are found in chapter 7’s discussion of women who have renounced Islam. It was a little surprising that the Malaysian regime’s politicization of Islam coupled with the growing influence of salafi-wahbabi Islam within the sharia court system and Islamic bureaucracy were not discussed more systematically in this chapter.

By and large, The Politics of Islamic Law is an impressive comparative and historical study that has extended the boundaries of scholarly knowledge on a complex topic that continues to challenge the vast majority of Muslim-majority states.

Lily Zubaidah Rahim, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia                                                            

Back to top


A NEW STRATEGY FOR COMPLEX WARFARE: Combined Effects in East Asia. Rapid Communications in Conflict and Security Series. By Thomas A. Drohan. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2016. xvii, 304 pp. (Figures.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-60497-920-6.

This book offers an unconventional approach to an age-old question: how to formulate and execute strategies in pursuit of security and in defense against threats. Traditional ways of thinking about strategies are more about how statesmen and military planners can best mobilize and apply resources at their disposal to achieve a particular objective. Left underappreciated and much less answered is how effective strategies with combined effects are needed and can be developed in confronting and defeating today’s complex threats.

The author argues that an effective strategy must take account of the diverse understanding of security and develop a comparative approach to addressing the fundamental questions of confrontation and cooperation, threats, and effectiveness. Specifically, each of these questions requires a strategy with a spectrum of instruments of power that can be applied to deliver combined effects both psychologically and physically. In essence, that author suggests that carefully designed strategies with appropriately chosen tools can have the combined effects to “prevent or cause certain behaviors and attitudes” (11)  and “influence will and capability” (11).

Security culture features prominently in this innovative approach to understanding why strategies succeed or fail, and how national interests, objectives, and tools are perceived, defined, and selected. The rationale for developing an analytical framework derives from the author’s dissatisfaction with the American exceptionalism and US military culture of technology-determinist, one-dimensional, lineal, and single-effect approach to problem-solving and warfighting. The failure to appreciate and grasp the complexity of many of the security challenges that policymakers and military strategists face therefore has serious consequences.

To illustrate his points, the author selects China, Korea, and Japan as his case studies. Each case contains one chapter that summarizes and reviews the dominant security culture, followed by another chapter focusing on a particular set of crises or challenges to demonstrate how security culture affects threat perceptions, informs the selection of strategies, and influences their execution for combined effects.

The Chinese security culture draws from its historical legacy and cultural superiority, its sense of centrality in the East Asian international system, and as reflected in the tributary system, and a fixation on territorial integrity predominantly informed through its “hundred years of humiliation” at the hands of foreign powers. The use of force has not always been considered the strategy of first choice; instead, defeating the enemy without fighting demonstrates supremacy in military leadership. A combination of deterrence, coercion, and compellence on the one hand, and persuasion, inducement, and assurance on the other ensures the maximum effects in affecting the enemy’s will and behaviour. The strategies used by both Beijing and Taipei in cross-Strait relations—characterized as the unsettled sovereignty—reveals how the two governments use a combination of confrontation, assurance, and even cooperation to achieve their respective objectives: eventual unification for China and de facto independence or at the minimum, status quo for Taiwan.

The Korean security culture has been informed by a history of subjugation to great power dominance and therefore a strong will to maintain independence and ensure survival in often inhospitable security environments. At times, pragmatism necessitates appeasing one great power in order to fend against another. The ability to properly manage major power relationships has been a critical element in ensuring the Korean nation’s maintenance of either the semblance of or real independence. This is how Korea has dealt with its more powerful and often aggressive neighbours—China, Japan, and Russia. North Korea’s combination of the juche principle, military-first policy, and the pursuit of a nuclear weapons program over the past two decades is a clear demonstration of how Korean security culture informs a strategy of confrontation and cooperation to ensure regime survival, bargaining for economic benefits, and deterrence of any threats to the DPRK with the retention and development of nuclear weapons.

Japanese security culture reveals the ambivalence of a past record of militarism and aggressiveness and post-war pacifism, a combination of isolation and engagement with the outside world, reflected in a strategy of reactiveness even though at times this actually translated into very proactive, and indeed aggressive, behaviors. The chapter on the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets reveals how Tokyo applies a combination of diplomatic, economic, and defensive measures to protect its sovereignty claims, driven primarily by its energy security concerns. While refraining from turning the dispute into a military confrontation with China, Japan nonetheless seeks to engage US commitments through the US-Japan security pact.

Through these case studies, the author seeks to demonstrate the critical role security culture can play in the selection of strategies whose synergetic application may result in combined effects on intended objectives. This is certainly refreshing as it draws our attention to important elements heretofore either understudied or largely ignored. It challenges traditional thinking on strategy and provides a unique way of thinking and applying it given the multitude of challenges today.

While the book makes an important contribution to the literature on strategy, the reader needs to be reminded that culture is not destiny. In fact, left unspoken, but implicit throughout the book, is the fact that hard power remains the bedrock and critical ingredient of any strategy, in addition to its application to deliver the optimal combined effects. For instance, it is not clear whether North Korea’s ability to achieve its goals has largely been due to its skilful application of strategy, or is in fact the result of discordance and the competing interests of its interlocutors, providing Pyongyang the opportunity to undermine the latter’s objective of persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. This book is intended for an audience with the knowledge, expertise, and attention to navigate the labyrinth of strategic concepts and military terms. In other words, the book’s strength could well prevent it from reaching a larger readership.

Jingdong Yuan, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia                                                               

Back to top


MIDDLE KINGDOM AND EMPIRE OF THE RISING SUN: Sino-Japanese Relations, Past and Present. By June Teufel Dreyer. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. xi, 454 pp. (Figures.) US$79.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-537566-4.

Can Japan and China learn to get along? More than a few observers will hesitate to say yes. After all, recent years have treated us to an apparently unending stream of bad news: clashes in the East China Sea over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, diplomatic competition in Southeast Asia, Chinese fury at the visits of Japanese politicians to Yasukuni Shrine, heated rows over the legacy and interpretation of Japan’s role in World War II—the list goes on. At times, it appears as if there is nothing uniting the two giants of East Asia.

Such views are unfortunate, disquieting, not entirely false—at least in a contemporary sense—and unlikely to change in the near term. What it also highlights is the pressing need for a new perspective as well as original ideas to ensure the China-Japan relationship does not completely fall off the rails. To inform this debate, however, it is crucial that we have access to an insightful and informative literature, one that provides a deep and balanced account of China-Japan interactions. While scholarly articles on particular aspects of this 2000-year-old relationship abound, full-volume treatments of the subject are frustratingly rare. It was thus with much anticipation that this reviewer opened June Teufel Dreyer’s latest book.

The result is disappointing. A professor of political science at the University of Miami, Dreyer focuses on the post-war era. She does not attempt to provide a new historical interpretation nor does she try to offer policy advice on the way forward—the latter is particularly surprising given that she has done consulting work for a number of institutions, including the American government, at different times throughout her career. As for her sources, Dreyer relies mostly on secondary material and her primary documents are almost entirely in English. For students and researchers alike, Dreyer’s dry book will mostly be useful as a reference tool to review the sequence of the key events that have connected Japan and China in the twentieth century.

Dreyer organizes her survey in three broad sections. The first, divided into seven chapters, reviews bilateral relations from the time of the first recorded Japanese Embassy to China, in AD 57, all the way to the present. The second section, composed of the three following chapters, respectively focuses on post-WWII economic rivalry, military competition, and Taiwan’s past and present relations with its two neighbors. Section three is billed as a conclusion, but it merely summarizes the material reviewed in the previous chapters and thus, is neither particularly useful nor enlightening.

One of the many reasons Dreyer’s book feels unsatisfying is that it fails to deliver on its bold promise. Though subtitled “Sino-Japanese Relations, Past and Present,” it has little to say about the past: Dreyer skims over the first nineteen centuries of contacts in less than thirty pages. Cultural relations during the first millennium of our era, though largely unidirectional, were extensive, at times constructive, and constitute a useful historical background to help contextualize the negative trend of the present. Whether it is the tale of Eichu, an eighth-century monk who spent thirty years in China and introduced tea to Japan, or his contemporary, the better known Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, there is plenty of rich material to mine, but Dreyer chose not to do so.

The century preceding the Pacific War is given a more thorough account. By then, Dreyer points out, pre-existing cultural and diplomatic patterns, which had changed little over time, were beginning to shift. As Japan awoke from centuries of near seclusion and embarked on an ambitious program of modernization, it began to see China in a different light. In the past, Japanese cultural elites had expressed great admiration for the Middle Kingdom, its culture, philosophy, and institutions. By the 1880s however, China had lost much of its luster. The Qing government was inching towards collapse, weakened by conflict with Western powers, the Taiping Rebellion, and domestic unrest. In fact, many in Japan felt that it “had declined into an entity that was no longer worthy of emulation.” By comparison, Japan had never been conquered and “retained and nurtured ancient virtues” (42). Tokyo began looking for models elsewhere, in Europe and the United States.

Dreyer’s prose is competent, albeit fairly dull, and she misses many opportunities to enliven her story with personality sketches that could provide human context to her broader narrative. For instance, she says nothing at all about the crucial friendship between Sun Yatsen and Umeya Shokichi, an early film buff who established a company that would later become Nikkatsu Corporation, and also a generous financial backer of Sun’s many unsuccessful revolutionary schemes—by one account, Umeya provided Sun with billions in today’s US dollars. It was also in Umeya’s residence that Sun married his second wife, Song Qingling, who he had met in Japan in 1915.

In other cases, Dreyer teases her reader with fascinating connections, but frustratingly fails to dig deeper. She says little about Nosaka Sanzō, a charismatic adventurer who helped establish the Japanese Communist Party in the 1920s and then became its most important post-war leader. Nosaka, who travelled to Russia and worked for the Comintern for a while, spent much of the war years ensconced in Yanan with Mao Zedong where, inter alia, he was involved in the reeducation of captured Japanese soldiers. Dreyer says equally little about Saionji Kinkazu, the head of the Beijing-based Japan-China Cultural Interchange Association between 1958 and 1970, and one who is said to have befriended Mao and Zhou Enlai.

One thing Dreyer does well is showing how countless small incidents are slowly but constantly tearing at the fabric of the bilateral relationship, in a way that seems to preclude any significant and durable long-term improvement. The decade spanning 2006 to 2015, to which Dreyer devotes a full chapter, was rich in tit-for-tat irritants: Japanese Diet members attending the Taipei inauguration of Ma Ying-Jeou in 2008; the Dalai Lama and Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer receiving visas to visit Tokyo in 2009; a Chinese fishing trawler ramming a Japanese coast guard vessel in 2010; Japan nationalizing several islands in the East China Sea in 2012; cyber attacks from the mainland throughout. Dreyer lists many more. But unfortunately, she does not offer solutions on how to break this cycle.

This, in the end, is what sinks the book. As an author concentrating on the contemporary era, Dreyer seems to have spent little time doing fieldwork. For the 2006–2015 period, for example, she relies almost entirely on newspaper clippings—of the 169 citations for that chapter, a mere two refer to Dreyer’s personal interviews. Many of the individuals who have helped shape the China-Japan bilateral relationship in the last three decades are still alive. Seeking their perspective could have been enlightening. It would certainly have provided some zest to her story. Her book is all the poorer for it.

Martin Laflamme, Global Affairs Canada, Ottawa, Canada
(The views presented here are the author’s own)

Back to top


POWERPLAY: The Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia. By Victor D. Cha. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. xv, 330 pp. (Illustrations.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-400-88343-1.

Victor Cha’s Powerplay looks into the origins of the American “hub-and-spokes” alliance system in Asia. It builds on his earlier exposition of the “powerplay” strategy outlined in an article in International Security (2009/10), to explain why the United States opted for bilateral alliances in Asia over the multilateral model applied to Western Europe through NATO. He argues that during the period in which alliances with Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan were formed (early 1950s to early 1960s), Washington sought maximum control over its new Asian allies based upon the enormous asymmetry of power in America’s favour. His emphasis is on how this specifically bilateral format provided for excellent leverage over potentially rogue allies; led at the time by Chiang Kai Shek, Syngman Rhee, and Yoshida Shigeru. Paradoxically, Cha argues that by doubling down or “hugging” its troublesome allies close, Washington was able to restrain them from sparking major regional-wide conflicts in Asia that the US was unprepared for, given its strategic inclination toward the central front in Europe. The book spans eight chapters, including one outlining the powerplay thesis, another on the origins of the hub and spokes system, followed by the three case studies—Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan—and generously including counterarguments to the main thesis. It draws upon an extensive bibliography (in which all the leading lights of American IR are dutifully name-checked), and an array of US official/archival sources that lend excellent detail to the analysis.

As usual Cha undoubtedly delivers a work of accomplished scholarship. While the book is very interesting in parts and definitely a worthy addition to the literature (especially the theoretical discussion of alliance pathologies), this reader does have a number of reservations regarding the powerplay thesis itself. First, the notion that alliances can function as pacta de contrahendo’ or pacts of restraint is not new (pace Paul Schroeder, cited by Cha). Thus the argument’s premise is less revelatory than advertised. Second, since the powerplay thesis is predicated upon this assumption, it suggests that American statecraft was carefully aimed at the creation of a system of separate bilateral alliances in order to purposely achieve such a result. Instead, American policy makers ended up making a virtue of a necessity when their efforts to encourage a multilateral collective security arrangement came to naught due to the various internecine squabbles between the putative member states in Asia. The proposed Western Pacific Collective Security initiative and Pacific Ocean Pact, which failed, as well as ANZUS and SEATO (which was to be joined to an East Asian collective defence system), demonstrate the obvious American proclivity for multilateral security arrangements, wherever feasible. While Cha does touch on these efforts, some sleight of hand is at work in presenting selective quotations/evidence in favour of the powerplay thesis whilst downplaying or omitting contrary proof. The counterarguments section, rather than disarming critique, actually undermines the argument, especially if the reader independently searches some of the source material to find unequivocally contrary statements of national policy such as “the United States should encourage and where desirable participate in collective security arrangements in the Pacific area” (NSC 125/2, August 7, 1952, FRUS 1952-54, Vol. 14 China and Japan, Part II, Washington, DC: The U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985: 1305). Even once the US settled for bilateral agreements—with the ROK, for example—the mutual defense treaty stated that this was “pending the development of a more comprehensive and effective system of regional security in the Pacific area” (see “The Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America” October 1, 1953, effective November 1954). For this reason the book functions much better as a descriptive analysis of how the US was forced to give up on security multilateralism in East Asia and settle for bilateral arrangements as an alternative. Consequentially, the benefit of this bilateral alternative was found to be a greater measure of American control over these Asian states through dealing with them individually, rather than collectively, as originally envisaged. Thirdly, it is conventional practice to include three cases, but one wonders if the powerplay thesis might have been extended to Thailand, the Philippines, or South Vietnam, for example, which may have revealed some interesting insights, as well as strengthened the powerplay thesis. Finally, for all of the supposed foresight that went into the separation of the spokes, it is notable that the United States is now tenaciously seeking to “network” these together into a tacit multilateral front to buttress its position vis-à-vis a rising China (as part of its “rebalance” policy). The Trilateral Strategic Dialogue between the US, Japan, and Australia is a case in point. China is also advancing its own multilateral architecture, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, among others. The trend in the region therefore appears to be moving beyond bilateralism, even as these American legacy-alliances endure.

The author is an establishment figure in the DC beltway and so there is little that is controversial about this book—it could be read as an ex post facto justification of the alliance architecture the US created in the postwar period. The implication that the extant alliances represent a “public good” in the contemporary era assuredly follows. To be fair Cha does include some thorny problems and awkward critiques associated with these security pacts, but does not go as far as reflecting that Washington, by establishing these alliances at the outset, intervened to prevent the “natural” security equilibrium at that time, which has bequeathed the region with the legacies of a divided China, a divided Korean Peninsula, and an “abnormal” Japan. These are three of the most salient security problems and potential causes of conflict in the Asia Pacific today. Likewise, those with an eye to democratization and human rights might look askance at the bargain the US struck to perpetuate rather unsavoury regimes through the arming and enriching of brutal military dictatorships in Taiwan and (subsequently) Korea, in addition to effectively exculpating Japan from a conclusive reckoning with its wartime victims in Asia. For all the alleged political virtues of the powerplay-alliances, such opportunity costs must be acknowledged and those of alternate scenarios for Asia—without US alliance intervention—envisaged. To address these important questions the reader must search elsewhere.

Thomas S. Wilkins, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

Back to top


POSTCOLONIAL THOUGHT AND SOCIAL THEORY. By Julian Go. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. xii, 248 pp. US$27.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-062514-6.

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

—Rudyard Kipling, “The Ballad of East and West”

Social theory emerged in Europe and the United States during the nineteenth century, at a time when “the great nations” of the West were colonizing and “civilizing” territories around the world. Although the prevailing forms of colonialism have changed, the legacy of modern empire continues to haunt the theoretical frameworks and ways of thinking among researchers in the twenty-first century. Kipling’s claim that East and West will never meet still rings true, despite the presumption among many prominent scholars—including those studying Asia and the Pacific—that they are strong enough to transcend global divisions and adopt a universal perspective.

Postcolonial theorists have convincingly addressed colonial blind spots in social theory for several decades, while heterodox sociologists like Raewyn Connell and Gurminder Bhambra have recently brought postcolonial insights into the mainstream of their field. Julian Go’s Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory follows in their footsteps and breaks new ground by providing a clear, coherent, and convincing argument for decolonizing social theory and initiating a third wave of sociological postcolonial thought. The book starts by posing the question: Is social theory beyond empire possible? Go suggests that although social theory has served empire whereas postcolonial thought has contested empire, the two fields have much to offer each other. To support this key point, chapter 1 examines the first wave of postcolonial thought that arose from anticolonial struggle and the second wave that originated in academia. First-wave authors such as Frantz Fanon and W.E.B. Du Bois recover the subjective experiences of the colonized, fight Western imperialism and racism, and challenge Enlightenment modes of knowledge. Second-wave authors like Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak stress that Western discourses on colonial territories construct colonized people and societies as objects to be ruled, while closing off spaces for the subaltern to represent themselves. Chapter 2 confronts the imperial standpoint and metrocentrism in social theory, which lead influential scholars ranging from Karl Marx to Anthony Giddens to adopt the “colonizer’s model of the world,” normalize the “law of division” separating the West from the rest, and repress the history-making potential of colonized people.

After identifying the postcolonial challenge and describing metrocentric social theory, Go discusses two kinds of relational sociology for analyzing connections among colonizers and colonized in chapter 3. Relational social theories oppose substantialism by treating interactions and networks as constitutive of actors and social systems. Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory, for example, highlights overlapping arenas of struggle in which actors compete for valued resources. And Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory prioritizes local, trans-local, and transnational relations among humans, non-human objects, and natural environments (rather than individuals, nation-states, and the world-system) as key units of action and analysis. Go calls for postcolonial relationalism in studies of overlapping territories and intertwined histories, urging scholars to pay special attention to how events in colonies around the world are integral to the formation of European modernity. In the fourth and most important chapter, Go draws on feminists to propose a subaltern standpoint theory. Contrary to the imperial standpoint shaping conventional research, the subaltern standpoint refers to the experiences, positions, and perspectives of social groups at the bottom of the imperial global hierarchy. Go relies on what he labels “perspectival realism,” accepting that a real world with knowable characteristics exists while insisting that how we perceive and represent that world partially depends on the particular observer. He suggests that subaltern standpoint theory offers an innovative (yet incomplete) map of the world that allows sociologists to see what was invisible, hear what was inaudible, and learn from subjugated knowledges. It encourages researchers to avoid false universalisms, focus on concrete problems and contexts, consider subjective orientations in analyzing action, and produce new theories and concepts for studying humanity. Finally, the conclusion reviews how postcolonial relationalism and subaltern standpoint theory enable a third wave of sociological postcolonial thought that not only confronts colonizing forms of social theory, but also opens the social and political sciences to new ways of thinking and acting in the contemporary world.

My brief summary cannot adequately capture the clarity of Go’s writing, quality of his synthesis, and significance of his theoretical manifesto. Nevertheless, I hope that the wider relevance of Go’s book is obvious to readers of Pacific Affairs. In my view, Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory is a key text for scholars seeking to critique the mainstream paradigms of their particular fields and create alternative approaches. It allows me to recognize the imperial standpoint and lack of attention to subaltern subjectivities in my field of social movement studies, for instance, while motivating me to develop new ways of doing research that prioritize the stories, positions, and perspectives of subaltern activists. It also encourages specialists on Asia and the Pacific to ground their observations and arguments in the complex colonial history of the region, and to be sensitive to how the legacies of imperialism continue to shape the conditions of Asian or Pacific people and cultures in the twenty-first century. Even Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory has its limitations, however. By taking for granted that direct forms of colonialism are in the past, for example, it tends to overlook how indigenous peoples around the world, Palestinian refugees, and aboriginals in Australia—among many others—still confront territorial rule today. And it almost completely neglects the crucial role of Mohandas Gandhi in South Africa and India as a first-wave postcolonial thinker and revolutionary. But these gaps in the book should only inspire us to add our own contributions to “the rising third wave of critical post-colonial knowledge” (202).

Sean Chabot, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, USA                                                              

Back to top


PEOPLE’S SPACES: Coping, Familiarizing, Creating. By Nihal Perera. New York; London: Routledge, 2016. xiii, 246 pp. (Illustrations.) US$59.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-415-72029-8.

Nihal Perera’s latest book foregrounds ways in which people make spaces in line with their cultural practices, everyday activities, and shifting aspirations. While at first sight this might appear to be a somewhat mundane dimension of contemporary urban and regional studies, Perera makes a compelling case for its significance. In part, people’s spaces and the efforts that go into making and maintaining them are important simply because of their historical and geographical ubiquity. Of course, there is spatio-temporal variability in both the need for and scope of people’s spaces—Perera suggests that they are often particularly significant in the global South—but people everywhere (re)make their living space in ways that exceed codified, professionalized knowledge in the fields of architecture, engineering, or planning. Even more significantly for academic audiences, Perera argues that scholars of planning and researchers in cognate fields have given insufficient attention to people’s spaces. He puts this down to a privileging of expert knowledge and conceptual abstraction, as well as an overwhelming tendency to focus on the state and the market as the key drivers of socio-spatial change. People’s Spaces: Coping, Familiarizing, Creating seeks to provide a corrective to those extant tendencies by detailing the transformative capacity of ordinary (and, in some cases, more marginal or subaltern) members of society.

Following a substantial introduction chapter that lays out the intertwined professional, political, and scholarly contributions of the book, the subsequent ten chapters are all case studies. Each of those chapters is straightforward and readable, the emphasis being on empirical material that demonstrates the book’s overall thesis in different times and places. Six of the chapters are on Sri Lanka, including two on Colombo under European rule. They concern how space in the colonial city was “indigenized” (chapter 1) and “feminized” or appropriated by women (chapter 2). These chapters revisit and extend Perera’s earlier historical work which first made him known to transdisciplinary urban studies audiences (Society and space: Colonialism, nationalism, and postcolonial identity in Sri Lanka, Westview Press, 1998). The other Sri Lanka chapters examine: how ordinary people forged their own spaces, social structures, and institutions during the separatist conflict (1983-2009), exceeding the ethnic and spatial dichotomies of the war; the means through which residents of Galle Fort negotiated and, in some cases, circumvented World Heritage Site restrictions on their socio-spatial practices; how post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in Hambantota district were dictated by donor agencies in ways that constrained survivors’ rebuilding capacity (a kind of “second tsunami,” 130) until they were able to infuse the process with their own memories and aspirations; and, the social dynamics of a handiya (a socio-spatial “intersection”) in a suburb of Colombo.

One of the Sri Lanka chapters and three of the other four chapters are co-authored. Those explicitly collaborative parts of the text, as well as many of the ideas and material in the single-authored chapters, arose from an immersive planning study program that Perera himself initiated and directs. I would have liked to have read more—beyond the acknowledgements section of the book and brief mentions elsewhere—about the three-way learning relations between researcher, students, and local community members that this entailed. Certainly, the process gave rise to rich empirical insights into space-making practices across many sites: in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Dharavi (in Mumbai, India), Daanchi (outside Kathmandu, Nepal) and Gangtok (India) as well as in Sri Lanka. Perhaps revealing some of my own disciplinary preoccupations as a geographer, I was surprised that there was no explicit conceptual engagement with “place” in the book—Perera draws instead upon work on (trans)locality—especially given its explicit focus on the human rather than abstract dimensions of space. What I really do appreciate, however, is Perera’s conceptual understanding of the workings of power in space/place-making. Across various cases, he shows how people’s spaces are not crafted in some autonomous realm outside or beyond wider authorities, but through negotiated relations with them. As in the seminal work of James C. Scott that Perera refers to at several points, such relations rarely manifest in the form of overt protest or resistance, and this is precisely why many other scholars miss or (wrongly) dismiss them.

There is no doubt that People’s Spaces contributes to the development of a relatively neglected area of contemporary urban and regional studies. Perera is correct, I believe, in attributing that neglect at least partly to the primacy currently afforded to political economic processes rather than sociocultural practices. To that I would add mention of a tendency for scholars to be drawn to the high-profile and spectacular rather than the everyday or (seemingly) mundane. In making the case for the novelty of his contribution, however, I do think that Perera overlooks some important traditions of existing work. The Chicago School of Sociology, for example, included myriad examples of urban ethnography that examined ordinary people’s sites, spaces, and associated institutions in their own terms, rather than trying to fit them into overarching theoretical categories or more-than-local explanatory frameworks. Indeed, these are among the oft-cited criticisms of the Chicago School and of ethnographic approaches to urban society and space more widely. This is not to suggest that the same forms of criticism may, in turn, be extended to Perera’s book. Apart from covering multiple time-spaces, coverage of each of his case studies is attentive to local detail without being localist (especially chapter 6, where work on translocality is mobilized to understand the constitutive connections involved in post-tsunami rebuilding). In addition, the conclusion chapter does an effective job of summarizing how the varied cases speak to the volume’s wider theme. I do wonder, however, whether more could have been done to draw out comparative insights across the diverse examples of “people’s spaces” covered in the book. The empirically rich material assembled for each of them certainly suggests potential for further work along such lines.

Tim Bunnell, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Back to top


TWO CRISES, DIFFERENT OUTCOMES: East Asia and Global Finance. Cornell Studies in Political Economy. Edited by T. J. Pempel and Keiichi Tsunekawa. Ithaca, NY: Cornelll University Press, 2015. viii, 267 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8014-7971-7.

Many books have been written about the global financial crisis (GFC) of 2008 and 2009, but most have focused on its origin in the US, propagation to Europe, and debates in these countries on policy responses. This multi-author volume deserves attention as an important addition to the sparse literature on the GFC’s impact on the rest of the world (the “global periphery”), the East Asian countries in this case. It examines the remarkable resilience of the East Asian countries to the GFC against the backdrop of the experiences during the Asian Financial crisis (AFC) of 1997 and 1998, and the policy challenge of reshaping development strategies in the post-GFC era.

The introductory chapter by Pempel and Tsuenekawa and chapter 1 by Pempel provide the context for the rest of the volume. The state of the debate and unifying concepts are discussed in the introductory chapter, followed by a synthesis of the patterns of economic growth in the East Asian countries in the lead-up to the two crises, policy responses to the crises, and recovery. Chapter 1 presents a broad picture of the differences between the two crises in terms of the state of economic vulnerability and resilience of the East Asian countries in the context of globalization of finance and the long-term relations between business and government. Taken together, the two chapters make a compelling case for paying attention to the divergent political conditions that give rise to crises and the political changes that crises may catalyse, going beyond the narrow confines of pure economic analysis, for broadening our understanding of the causes and policy responses to crises. However, I am hesitant to agree with the authors that differences between the AFC and the GFC “run afoul of” the conclusion advanced by Reinhart and Rogoff (This time is different: Eight centuries of financial folly, Princeton University Press, 2009) that the sources of vulnerability to finance crises are strikingly similar across countries, regardless of the nature of the political regime. This critique seems to reflect their failure to distinguish between indicators of vulnerability and of general economic performance. In fact, the country case studies in this volume are supportive of the Reinhart-Rogoff inference.

The rest of the book is divided into two parts, dealing with the comparative performances of selected East Asian countries in the two crises and the drivers of sustained economic success of the countries in the region in the post-GFC era.

The four chapters in part 1 are by far the best in the book. Chatib Basri (chapter 3) discusses in an illuminating way Indonesia’s response to the two crises, with an emphasis on the role of policy reforms implemented in response to the AFC and political regime shift in successfully managing the GFC. The key message of the chapter is that Indonesia came out of the GFC so much better compared to the AFC, owing to a combination of good policies and a measure of “good luck.” The term “good luck” is, however, used here to refer to some structural features of the economy (rather than “good fortune”), in particular the lesser degree of integration with the global economy, and export concentration in primary products (which resulted in an export boom on the back of increased demand from China). These structural features of course played a role in cushioning the economy from the GFC. However, we should not ignore the widely acknowledged facts that the lesser degree of global economic integration and failure to diversify into manufacturing exports are also a part of the explanation of Indonesia’s relatively poor economic performance record in the regional context.

In chapter 3, Yun-ha Chu provides a fascinating analysis of how a set of well-entrenched institutional arrangements (including a strong and independent central bank), and a long-standing policy orientation characterized by a cautious approach to global financial integration played a pivotal role in Taiwan’s resilience to both crises. The most important message of the chapter is that, unless capital controls are appropriately embedded as a legitimate tool of public policy, financial globalization will continue to remain a major source of countries’ vulnerability to financial crisis.

Yasunobu Okabe (chapter 5) examines path dependence in vulnerability to financial crises through an innovative comparative case study of financial-sector reforms in Thailand and South Korea in the aftermath of the AFC and the contrasting experiences of the two countries in the context of the GFC. The financial-sector reforms of the two countries in the aftermath of the AFC were strikingly similar, but unlike Thailand, Korea was on the verge of another capital flight crisis in 2008 (which was avoided through a quick injection of US capital). This was because of the longstanding pro-industry policy stance of the Korean government of providing the Korean business conglomerates (chaebal) with access to finance under concessionary terms from state-controlled banks that compromised the independence of the Central Bank. Barry Naughton (chapter 5) provides a penetrating analysis of the impact of the two crises on institutional and policy evaluation in China.

The chapters in part 3 are substantial contributions on specific aspects of the experiences of East Asia economies, but overall their contribution falls well short of the objective stated in the introductory chapter: addressing the issue of whether “East Asia’s successful weathering of the GFC … suggest[s] that East Asia is poised for a ‘second Asian Miracle’ analogous to that touted by the World Bank in 1993” (p. 3). Much of chapter 6 by Thomas Pepinsky is a synthesis of the causes and impact of the two crises, which largely overlap with chapter 1. The discussion in the chapter on long-term growth prospects is limited to only one paragraph. Richard Doner (chapter 7) examines the growth patterns of Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia in the context of the recent policy debate on the “middle income trap,” followed by a discussion on possible adverse effects on long-term economic growth  of relying solely on macroeconomic measures to manage crises. However, the case he makes for using crises as an opportunity for implementing the structural adjustment reforms needed for escaping the so-called middle-income trap ignores the issue of the political palatability of such broad-based reforms in a crisis context (as discussed in chapter 3). Chapter 8 by Keiichi Tsunekawa, on the stagnation of the Japanese economy, makes interesting reading in its own right, but it is not well integrated within the overall structure of the book

In summary, this is a book with many strengths that outweigh its weaknesses. It certainly belongs on the reading list for anyone interested in Asian development, financial crises or the debate on reforming the international financial architecture.

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

Back to top


JEWISH IDENTITIES IN EAST AND SOUTHEAST ASIA: Singapore, Manila, Taipei, Harbin, Shanghai, Rangoon, and Surabaya. New Perspectives on Modern Jewish History, v. 6. By Jonathan Goldstein. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2015. xii, 242 pp. (Illustrations, map.) US$140.00, cloth. ISBN 978-3-11-035069-2.

Jewish Identities in East and Southeast Asia, by Jonathan Goldstein, is perhaps one of the most remarkable contributions to the already rich literature on Jewish experiences from the late twentieth to mid-twenty-first century. What makes this book unique, however, is its focus on the study of Jewish experiences in seven settings in East and Southeast Asia (namely, Singapore, Manila, Taipei, Harbin, Shanghai, Rangoon [Yangon], and Surabaya), a region rarely treated in the voluminous collections of essays in American and European libraries regarding the plight of Jewish people during this period. Thus, this work is a great contribution, offering a new, though less theoretical, perspective.

Of course, the author’s interpretation of historical experiences as narrated by individual Jews through various works of literature consulted herein can be subjective and other scholars may not buy into the same interpretations. What is important, however, is that the book itself has presented a unique collection of accounts to help us understand the formation of Jewish identities in East and Southeast Asia using five instruments or themes: colonialism/imperialism, memory, regional nationalism, socialism, and Zionism.

In this regard, the author writes that the various origins, political and  socio-cultural conditions, and experiences of assimilation, economic participation, and linguistics adoption by Jews in the seven different cities profiles led him to the conclusion that over time Jews have formed multiethnic, multinational, and transnational identities as they lived in their given region.

The book is divided into five parts focusing on the seven different geographical areas. Part 2 examines Singapore’s Baghdadi Jewish community; part 3 explains how the “bagel boys” of Manila lived and assimilated in the Philippines; part 4 deals with the Jewish “transient community”; part 5 illustrates how Jews in Harbin formed their transnational community; part 6 explains the experience of the dynamic economic participation of the Baghdadi Jews, including the presence of the Eurasian Jewish community; and lastly, part 7 compares and contrasts the experiences of Jews in Rangoon and Surabaya.

The presence of Jewish society in the region covered can be traced back to colonial times when some European Jews served their colonial masters, such as the English, Spanish, and Dutch, in the expansion of trade beyond Europe as these countries competed for overseas markets for their surplus and for sources of raw materials. This so-called “capitalism outside Europe” was the dominant point of reference among these competing European powers. This activity was facilitated by their colonies in the Far East, including those cities that were long established ports for commercial and trading activities. Thus, it can be argued that these maritime routes created great opportunities for these colonial and imperial powers to connect with local traders. In many of these activities, European Jews worked laboriously in connecting Europe with Asia through maritime trade.

The eastward movement of Jews from the Middle East to India complemented the formation of Jewish communities in these cities. Both Singapore and China have a rich history of Jewish involvement in trade and economic activities. Singapore and China have shown a great sense of hospitality towards their Jewish settlers. As the author notes, Singapore has the oldest historical presence of Jewish institutions, while Shanghai in 1945 alone hosted around 20,000 Jewish refugees. Although the Jewish community gradually dispersed from Shanghai in the 1950s, many cultural indicators, such as synagogues, remained. In addition, Hong Kong—a British colony—once had seven synagogues with various communal institutions. Russian Jewish refugees who eventually became citizens of Israel have organized trips back to Harbin to visit their loved ones who for various reasons and circumstances remained in the area until their deaths. Yangon and Surabaya also have unique histories of Jewish communities that  fitted themselves into the political structures of Burma and Indonesia.

With the rise of Nazism in Germany, many European Jews escaped to seek refuge in friendly environments as far away as Manila, albeit in a very “selective” process. The degree of humanitarian crisis was compounded with more hardship as Japan, an ally of Germany, embarked on dangerous militaristic adventurism in Asia and the Pacific in the name of the Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere. This resulted in the destruction of cities and displacement of their inhabitants, including Jews.

This development, however, was not without positive consequences. The Jews learned that the only way for them to survive and lead normal lives was to create a country that would guarantee their religious, political, economic, and socio-cultural preservation; Zionism was perceived as the only viable solution to the persecutions they had historically faced.

Multiple efforts were spearheaded to obtain assistance from the rich Jewish communities in various Southeast Asian and Pacific countries to help build the new Israel. In several instances, the author endeavors to demonstrate some sort of multiplicity in the practice and understanding of Judaism by these Jewish communities, that is, the various elements that helped define and sustain their identities, existence, and survival. In addition to Zionism as a political ideology, perhaps the most important element was the idea of “zikaron,” or the essence of “remembrance” or “memory,” which allowed them to connect to their historical origins and identify with their homeland Israel.

Henelito A. Sevilla, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, Phillipines

Back to top



China and Inner Asia

NEW

REINVENTING CHINESE TRADITION: The Cultural Politics of Late Socialism. Interpretations of Culture in the New Millennium. By Ka-ming Wu. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2015. xv, 186 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-252-08140-8.

In late January 2017, just as the whole Chinese nation was set to celebrate the Spring Festival, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council of the PRC jointly issued a set of guidelines on preserving and developing “excellent traditional culture,” with major achievements to be registered in traditional culture-related research, education, protection, inheritance, innovation, and exchange by the year of 2025. While nothing new, this document culminates the post-Mao late socialist Chinese state’s renewed emphasis on promoting Chinese traditional culture as it strives to consolidate a Chinese national identity at home and boost China’s soft power abroad.

But how does this statist agenda hit the ground, especially in a region such as today’s Yan’an in northern Shanxi Province, the heartland of Yellow River agrarian civilization and the cradle of the CCP’s communist revolution, where Maoist revolutionary culture had once prevailed over traditional or folk culture, part of which was rejected as feudal, superstitious, and backward? What are the relationships between Beijing-based urban intellectuals and national culture promoters on the one hand, and local government officials, local intellectuals, and above all, indigenous artisans and ordinary peasants in this process of tradition, cultural protection, and promotion? Furthermore, what is traditional Chinese culture anyway and who is to define it, protect it, and benefit from it? How do multiple actors, various political, economic, and social forces, and initiatives of different scales and purposes interact, intermingle, and interpenetrate each other in the processes of traditional culture making? These questions and many more have never been so important and pertinent in today’s China studies, especially Chinese cultural studies, and anybody who is interested in these questions would want to read Ka-Ming Wu’s brilliant, insightful, engaging, and extremely timely book, Reinventing Chinese Tradition: The Cultural Politics of Late Socialism, a volume in the University of Illinois Press series “Interpretations of Culture in New Millennium.”

Based on the author’s doctoral dissertation and drawing upon extensive ethnographic work in Yan’an, including a twelve-month residency and follow-up visits spanning from 2003 to 2012, the book embodies Chinese cultural studies at its best. It is historically informed and sociologically well contextualized, while fully and richly ethnographical. Its analysis and arguments are of general relevance to anybody who is interested in transformations in Chinese folk culture, state-society and urban-rural relationships. At the same time, the book is also highly specific both in the spatial and temporal senses: the lurid and engrossing tales it tells are uniquely Yan’an and specifically pertinent to the state of rural folk culture in the first decade of twenty-first-century “late socialist” China. Consisting of a weighty introduction, five main chapters, and an extremely short conclusion of merely one-and-a-half pages, the book centres on three folk cultural forms, their practitioners, promoters, sponsors, and, above all, their socio-historically embedded transformation in rural and increasingly urbanizing settings in the Yan’an region: paper-cutting (chapters 1 and 2), folk story-telling (chapters 3 and 4), and spirit cults (chapter 5).

While managing to tell complex, nuanced, vivid, fascinating, and highly personalized tales of heritage making, identity formation, and cultural transformation, the book did a superb job in locating its analysis and interpretations against the drawback of a wide range of historical, empirical, and theoretical literature in China studies and anthropological studies. This, along with its references to Chinese language sources, makes it an extremely rich and insightful text, as well as an invaluable scholarly guide to students of Chinese cultural politics. The author is particularly skillful in making informative uses of relevant theoretical concepts. Examples include describing the constitution of folk culture as a “public agrarian sphere” and characterizing villagers engaging in folk culture making as “reflective performers of modernity.” Along the way, she also made her own original conceptual contributions to the vocabulary of interpreting folk culture in late socialist China. For example, inspired by Jean Baudrillard’s concept of “hyperreality,” the notion of “hyper-folk” is posited as “a mechanism of representation and experience making that replaces and resignifies rural reality” or “rurality without origins” (20); whereas the phrase “surrogate rural subjectivity” is deployed to “highlight the subject of rural villagers as an unstable category in today’s Yan’an, when many migrate to work in cities, live in an urban environment, lose their farmlands, and engage in non-agricultural careers” (141). In this regard, Ann Anagnost, one of the book’s back cover endorsers, certainly has it right when she says that the book offers “[a] wonderful balance of ethnography and theoretical argument.”

The most important point, however, is that the author manages to offer an insightful and engaging interpretation of rural folk-culture making as an ongoing process of contestation, or in her own words, of heritage making in China as a critical process of “narrative battle” among various social forces. Along the way, the author challenges any simplistic and dichotomous state versus society assumptions of a hegemonic party-state and subjugated people, an authentic and essentialized realm of the folk (minjian) and a manufactured and contaminated field of late socialist culture. Instead, as the author puts it adeptly, the book “attends to subtle ways the party-state socialist legacy, capitalistic practices, and traditional cultural practices dance together” (xii). There is no question that she has accomplished her aim in splendid form.

As with any successful ethnographer, the author is highly self-reflective and not shy of describing in great detail her methodology, her variegated roles, and many unexpected, even awkward, encounters in the field. Her nuanced treatment of the Maoist cultural tradition, her attention to the agency and subjectivity of peasants who take up the opportunity of folk-culture revival projects initiated by outside sources to explore, learn, and understand their own everyday practices in a new light, as well as her strong and consistent gender perspective, all contribute to make this book an outstanding and invaluable contribution to contemporary Chinese culture studies. The insights and arguments about the complex processes of contestation over traditional Chinese culture offered by this book become all the more relevant and important in the aftermath of the CCP’s newly released guidelines and the intensified narrative battles that these guidelines will no doubt engender in the coming decades.

One last point of appreciation and caution: with a brilliant cover featuring a paper-cutting image of a soaring red phoenix over a striking scene of a vibrant waist drum performance by Ansai peasants on the yellow earth, and numerous well-chosen folk cultural illustrations and ethnographic photos, this book is aesthetically well designed and a pleasure not only to read, but also to look at. However, the reader is advised to handle the book with care, perhaps in the same way of handling a paper-cutting product: the binding is rather poor. In my case, the first fourteen pages of the book had already fallen off before I finished reading the introduction!

Yuezhi Zhao, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada                                                                  

Back to top


NEW

GHOST PROTOCOL: Development and Displacement in Global China. Carlos Rojas and Ralph A. Litzinger, editors. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. vii, 260 pp. (Tables, B&W photos.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6193-0.

According to the text on the jacket, contributors to this volume see China as “haunted by the promises of capitalism, the institutional legacy of the Maoist regime, and the spirit of Marxist resistance.” Although it is hard not to agree, the chapters that explore the tensions underlying contemporary Chinese society do not add up to a new conceptualisation of how it might embody, as Carlos Rojas suggests in the introduction, both global capitalism and its communist antithesis. The concept of contradictory “protocols” dictated by these conflicting impulses, featured in the title, suggests an ambitious conceptual agenda, but remains unexplored by most contributors and offers little to connect the chapters. It is through the empirical richness of the heterogeneous but generally high-quality case studies that the book ends up presenting something of a diagnosis of contemporary China’s contradictions, though some have been covered in earlier work by these and other authors.

Yomi Braester analyzes the imagery of billboards surrounding the rebuilding of Peking’s Qianmen district, suggesting that they combine the celebration of the past with conjuring up the future, making the realities of the present disappear in the eyes of passers-by. Robin Visser shows how the wave of “eco-city” construction does little more than rationalize land transfers and facilitate suburban sprawl. Alexander Des Forges’ chapter is essentially a critique of a collection of texts by Chinese intellectuals on how migration was shaping a putative new Shanghainese society in the 1990s, a discussion rather characteristic of that period and therefore somewhat out of place in this volume. Bryan Tilt examines conflicts over dam construction on the Nu River, arguing they represent competing moral visions. In one of the most interesting chapters and the only one that engages with the concept of “protocols,” Kabzung and Emily T. Yeh argue that the teachings of senior Tibetan Buddhist monks who oppose the sale of yaks for slaughter as sinful ultimately converge with the objectives of state officials who encourage it, since both emphasize the need for Tibetans to become more “modern” through education and integration into the nation’s capitalist economy.

In a highly original contribution, Xiang Biao argues that the resilience of China’s political system is due not only to coercion, nationalism, and developmentalism, but also to what he calls a structural chasm between citizens’ understanding of “the state” as a moral actor and the logic of economic self-interest that frames their interaction with local officials. Xiang insists that this duality is not the traditional belief in the good emperor, but rather a legacy of “socialism” that enables people to preserve a political subjectivity not folded into neoliberal economic subjecthood. Rachel Leng’s chapter analyzes online gay fiction to point out tensions between the conflicting “protocols” that view homosexuality as both urban “cool” and subordinate to the demands of heteronormative domesticity. Lisa Rofel describes the hopes and fantasies of migrant workers in garment factories that produce garments for export to Italy. In some ways, her emphasis on encounters and hope echoes Xiang Biao’s “ethnography of incidents” in China’s labour export industry; these chapters also come closest to addressing the theme of “global China” indicated in the book’s subtitle. Finally, the chapters by Ralph Litzinger and Carlos Rojas analyze films that deal with the generational tensions between the desires of migrant workers and their children.

The book makes no attempt to make sense of the considerable variance in emphasis across contributions. For example, the hopeful note Xiang ends on, that the preservation of political subjectivities outside the realm of the neoliberal economy should allow the envisioning of possible futures, goes against Kabzung and Yeh’s conclusions in the preceding chapter. It would be interesting to ask to what extent that difference is due to diverging methodological and conceptual apparatuses and to what extent it is affected by differences in the groups studied (Han urban middle class versus rural Tibetan poor). The absence of such questioning on the editors’ part is a missed opportunity, since the chapters provide glimpses (albeit of uneven depth) of some of the best scholarship on the issues they cover. An actual conversation between the authors could reflect on, rather than merely showcase, the state of the art in studying contemporary Chinese society.

Nyíri Pál, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands                                                          

Back to top


NEW

ELUSIVE REFUGE: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War. By Laura Madokoro. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016. x, 331 pp. (Illustrations.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-97151-6.

This important book on Chinese migrants and refugees in Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960 comes out at a time when the issues it discusses are front and centre: anti-migrant/refugee sentiment fanned by right-wing politicians; the line between “legal” and “illegal” migration; handling mass movements of refugees. The book’s publication also coincides with increasing anxiety in Hong Kong over pressure from Mainland China, still ruled by the Communist Party; many in Hong Kong are descendents of refugees from communism. At the same time, Beijing sees Hong Kong as a haven for opponents of Chinese governments since Sun Yat-sen.

From the late 1940s on there were huge movements of people from Mainland China in to tiny Hong Kong. These movements followed mass migrations at the end of the Japanese occupation of much of China (1931-1945). The largest was the “return east in victory 胜利东流” (1945-1946): millions of wartime exiles returned to eastern and northern China. Simultaneously, several million Japanese were repatriated from China and Taiwan. In 1947 and 1948 millions of peasants were resettled in the Yellow River Valley; they had been driven from their land in 1938 by the flood precipitated by the blowing of the river’s southern dike to stop the Japanese advance. The resettlement project was funded by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency, its largest single project worldwide. Then, as the civil war in China drew to a close in 1949 and the Communist victory was assured, came the flight of two to three million supporters of the losing Guomindang to Taiwan.

Hong Kong, still a British colony, was faced with constant threats from the Mainland. There was no possible military defense, the fresh water supply could be cut at any moment. The territory could be overwhelmed by influxes of people, if conditions on the Mainland worsened; the largest influx came during the famine years in the early 1960s. Still Hong Kong received huge numbers of people, some part of long-running patterns of family and economic migration, some fleeing from the convulsions of the communist revolution: class warfare, land reform, religious persecution, revenge against the Guomindang. The authoritarian government in Beijing did not permit emigration. Hong Kong, with its complex topography (a map would show this) became the only exit from Mainland China. Without official permission people could arrive by train, boat, or on foot; they could even swim through shark-infested waters.

The handling of the mass movements in to Hong Kong offers examples for receiving newcomers. Hong Kong settled the incomers, and found employment, housing, education, and medical care for them. At its highest a third of Hong Kong’s population was of refugee origin. These people, energetic and hard-working, helped fuel the economic boom that would not falter for decades. Through the long process of settlement the Hong Kong authorities had to deal, with greater or lesser grace, with issues that parallel refugee movements into Europe at the moment.

Another perennial issue, distinguishing between legal and illegal migration, was beyond a clear distinction in Hong Kong. People had been moving back and forth across a notional border for a century, usually without papers. The post-1949 migrations had a new aspect. Though all the people coming from the Mainland were referred to as “Chinese,” there were real distinctions between them. Cantonese were quite at home in Hong Kong. People from further north in China, from Shanghai or Beijing, were strangers in Hong Kong and could not settle easily.

Getting on to a third country was very difficult for refugees. All Western countries had immigration policies that were race-based, analyzed in considerable detail in the book. These countries took in postwar refugees from Europe but not from Asia. The few exceptions were the Chinese intellectuals and political figures who were allowed in to the USA. And there was “a difference between exclusionary legislation in theory and in practice” (109). The long practice of getting round immigration laws in North America by ingenious devices such as “paper sons,” or the “loan” of legal documents, continued.

Western governments were hostile to Asian refugees, but the refugees had Western sympathizers, in Hong Kong and in host countries. Missionaries and NGOs highlighted the plight of poverty-stricken refugees and called for government action. The sympathy covered Chinese refugees in the 1950s and 1960s, and reached its peak in the flight of Vietnamese in the 1970s and 1980s. The sympathy was particularly strong in churches, as it still is today with the resettlement of Syrians refugees in Canada.

The definition of “refugee” comes up frequently in this book, as it does to this day. The United Nations Refugee Convention (1951) provides a broad definition, that often clashes with the immigration policies of the signatories to the convention. There is no room in the definition for people who are moving for economic reasons. “Refugee” is also a problem, for the recipients of the designation: the negative connotations of desperate, helpless people. Migrants may want to distinguish themselves from “refugees.” Jim Chu, the former police chief of Vancouver, had difficulty seeing his family members, who left Shanghai for Canada in 1962, as refugees. Much of the problem is with the English term. The Chinese term is simpler; refugees are nanmin 难民 – people in flight from difficulty or adversity, economic, political, religious, or from a natural disaster.

There is an ironic afterword to the race-based policies of host countries that Madokoro describes so well. Many decades later Western race-based immigration policies have morphed in to policies that favour immigrants from Hong Kong and China. Madeleine Hsu’s recent book The Good Immigrant: How the Yellow Peril became the model minority (Princeton University Press, 2017) deals with this turnaround. I hope that Madokoro will continue her work to include more recent periods, to show what became of the Cold War refugees.

Diana Lary, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Back to top


NEW

MASCULINE COMPROMISE: Migration, Family, and Gender in China. By Susanne Y.P. Choi and Yinni Peng. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016. x, 179 pp. (Map, Illustrations.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28828-7.

Since the 1980s, China has experienced a massive rural to urban migration, during which time rural men and women have found jobs in the big cities, ranging from domestic helpers to factory workers, and from security guards to construction labourers. Masculine Compromise, written by two sociologists, Susanne Y. P. Choi and Yinni Peng, is a feminist examination of how this migration has changed gender dynamics in contemporary China, with a focus on the lives, subjectivities, and emotions of male migrants. Based on numerous interviews conducted by the authors and their research team between 2012 and 2015 in three major migrant destination cities of Guangdong Province (Shenzhen, Dongguan, and Guangzhou), the book is a welcome contribution to masculinity studies in the China field.

The book is divided into eight chapters. Chapter 1 serves as the introduction, and chapter 2 provides a clear history of government policies related to rural-urban migration. Between 1985 and 2003, the Chinese state required rural migrants to register and acquire a temporary-residence certificate from the police station at their urban residence, and did not expect their long-term stay. The public media referred to migrant workers negatively as the “floating population” and “blind drifters.” But in 2003, the state ended the temporary-residence certificate requirement for rural migrants, and began to call them “peasant workers” (nongmin gong) and introduced policies to protect their interests, especially their labour rights.

After providing the historical context, the authors begin to explore the changes that migrant men showed in their understanding of masculinity vis-à-vis conventional gender norms in China. Chapter 3 focuses on the perspective of male migrants as boyfriends. Leaving home enabled these young men to meet and date young women from different parts of the country and experiment with their romantic and sexual fancies, but their parents insisted that they marry women from the same area. Meanwhile, the urban environment also made evident their disadvantageous economic position when competing with better-off urban peers. Reconciliation with parental wishes, the authors argue, is the common solution for these young migrant men. Most of them later married local girls with their parents’ approval, and romantic love became less important than family obligations and practical arrangements.

Chapters 4 and 5 examine migrant men’s understanding of masculinity through their role as husbands. Conventional gender norms require that a woman moves into her husband’s family after marriage, and men work outside and women stay home to act as caretakers. But financial pressures forced husbands and wives to migrate together to look for salary jobs in the city, where they had to negotiate their roles within the conjugal relationship. Migrant men wanted to maintain their dominant position by making distinctions between big and small issues and insisting on making the final decisions on big issues, such as where the family should eventually settle. Most men avoided living with their wives’ families because they believed that a uxorilocal marriage would be a disgrace. On small issues such as the family’s day-to-day finances, men were willing to compromise and let their wives be in charge. The authors also found that men making less money than their wives were likely to resort to physical violence in conjugal disputes to compensate for their sense of inferior manhood. Migrant couples also had to negotiate their housework responsibilities since both of them worked outside the home. While some men still tried to avoid household chores, which they thought were women’s work, those who participated actively in domestic work and childcare legitimatized their unconventional role by “developing a discourse of masculinity that stresses men’s dedication to and care of the family, and their responsibility for maintaining family happiness and marital harmony” (103-104).

Chapter 6 looks at migrant men through their role as fathers and argues that emotionality is the most important component. Migrant fathers who left their children behind did not hide their pain, guilt, anguish, worry, or sorrow. Mobile phones also made it possible for them to stay connected with their sons and daughters. This image forms a sharp contrast with the stereotypical unemotional, commanding, and authoritarian father. Migrant men usually left their children to the care of their parents. Chapter 7 examines how migrant men understood their role as sons. They agreed that filial piety, which means being able to take care of aging parents, comprised the core of masculinity. But their migration status made it difficult for them to personally attend to their parents in times of need. The compromise they found was to obey their parents from afar.

In their conclusion (chapter 8), the authors provide a definition of the concept “masculinity compromise,” which is also the title of the book: “they [migrant men] strive to preserve the gender boundary and their symbolic dominance within the family by making concessions on marital power and domestic division of labor, and by redefining filial piety and fatherhood” (152).

The book is very well organized and clearly written. What I wish that the book could have explored further is the following question: What do these changing gender dynamics tell us about the contemporary Chinese state? As a historian, I also want to ask: Should we attribute the change in gender relations and understandings of masculinity entirely to the migration process beginning in the mid-1980s? What about the achievements in gender equality made during the Mao era, despite the pitfalls pointed out by feminist scholars? These questions aside, I recommend this book to students and scholars of gender studies and Chinese studies, and anyone interested in contemporary China.

Wenqing Kang, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA                                                               

Back to top


NEW

TAIWAN’S IMPACT ON CHINA: Why Soft Power Matters More than Economic or Political Inputs. The Nottingham China Policy Institute Series. Editor, Steve Tsang. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. xix, 276 pp. US$129.00, cloth. ISBN 978-3-319-33749-4.

From the title, readers may be curious about what the editor and authors of this collection of papers had in mind. In 1949, the defeated remnants of the nationalist army of the Republic of China retreated to Taiwan, and today the relationship of forces vis-à-vis the People’s Republic of China appears more unequal than ever before.

Editor Steve Tsang sets the stage for the discussion by pointing to one aspect of the relationship that in fact is completely one-sided: as long as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintains its monopoly of power, there will never be even the consideration of the idea of Taiwan as separate from the PRC. To be clear, though the possibility is not imminent, invasion by the People’s Liberation Army would be, strictly speaking, from their point of view, occupation of its own sovereign territory. Also for clarity, the editor reminds us that since the late 1970s, China is post-Mao, not North Korea, and that it would be a mistake to not recognize this fact: dictatorship of a single party, yes, but no longer an all-encompassing totalitarian police state. Around the same time, Taiwan also began to traverse a democratization that today exercises a strong attracting force on the citizens of China (a theme of this book). The most important difference lies in the completeness of the transition in Taiwan, a result that the CCP cannot ignore, and one that will continue to set an important part of the agenda in cross-Strait relations. All of the above is cause for guarded optimism, as reflected in the chapters to follow.

Chapter 2, by Brady, follows up with a revealing panorama of the sensitivities of the CCP in the realm of addressing their Taiwan problem, how (even seemingly every day) discourse must be politically filtered. The extensive catalogue of “suggestions on correct terminology” by the Central Propaganda Department reflects the seriousness of the Party’s concern. A personal favourite of this reviewer is the strict prohibition on using the term “language” to refer to the language most people speak in Taiwan (it should always be called a “dialect”), or referring to the “indigenous people” of the nation (correct term “ethnic minorities”). “Nation” would be completely out of bounds, as would be the correct and proper title of Tsai Ing-wen. Interestingly, the powerful influence of how these boundaries are drawn reaches into the Taiwanese media itself, but then at the same time encounters pushback from Mainland journalists who need to preserve credibility.

Some of the chapters seem to have been written prior to the electoral victory of the Democratic Progressive Party in 2016, which may give the impression of being slightly outdated, but to the contrary, this actually lends a measure of objectivity to the analysis. In the case of chapter 3, by Lin, it allows the chapter to stand above, so to speak, the recent turn of relations and growing tension between the governments of Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.

Despite the implication of the subtitle, the chapters (5 and 6) on the impact on the economy of the PRC are important to study: how the Taiwanese free market economy participated in one of the most important transformations, and not just in terms of scale, of the late twentieth century. With China today on the verge of becoming the world’s leading economic power, it is easy to forget the role played by Taiwan, along with Japan and South Korea, in the infusion of investment capital. In particular, the Chinese-speaking entrepreneurs taught the Mainland enterprises modern business practices, models of efficiency (a bedrock of productivity), and how to transition to a market economy. China can thank Taiwan for a large part of its success with its emerging international supply chains. Applying the so-called “developmental state model” proved to be essential in avoiding the shock and disruption of overthrowing a state-owned economy. It is no coincidence that with the opening of the economy came a gradual reform of the totalitarian political system, despite the continued frustration with its pace and the violent relapses of repression, as in June 1989. For understandable reasons (the frustration, perhaps), many commentators deny this historical link, one that the editor and contributors, to their credit, do not.

Another example can be found in the realm of culture, how China opened the door toward the east, first to Taiwan. The compelling story of how Taiwanese writers and artists found an audience in China beginning with the period of opening under Deng Xiaoping is told in chapters 7 and 8. Parallel to the participation in the liberalization of the economy, they intervened in the literary renaissance, emerging from the dark ages of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. Simple novels and love poems, others sung by Deng Lijun, were a sensation because they weren’t about the model New Man and New Woman, but rather the decadent and ordinary relationship between two individuals. On a related note, see the interesting study by Michelle Yeh of the 1980s Mainland Misty Poets (in this case a minority genre, but not unconnected to the interest in popular literature): “Light a lamp in a rock” (Modern China, 1992 vol. 18).

The book leaves us with a contradiction. On the one hand, given impulse with the passing of the dictators (Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong in 1975 and 1976, respectively), the impact of democratic Taiwan now appears remarkable. The extent of material repercussions such influence might have on PRC society, leading to broad-based questioning of CCP authority, is very hard to gauge. It may turn out to be minimal considering the present conditions of the CCP’s lock on internal political discussion. As Tsang concludes, it’s the soft power, as limited as this turns out to be, that provides for some measure of leverage in cross-Strait interactions and exchanges, keeping these as open as possible.

Norbert Francis, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, USA                                                         

Back to top


THE AGE OF IRREVERENCE: A New History of Laughter in China. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Christopher Rea. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015. xvi, 335 pp. (Illustrations.) US$70.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-28384-8.

Christopher Rea’s new book, The Age of Irreverence, is an extensively researched study of laughter in a modernizing China. While noting roots even further back in history, Rea focuses on the transition and development laughter underwent that he argues began in the late nineteenth century and continued into the first several decades of the twentieth century with the establishment and flourishing of a modern print industry and culture. Beginning with the late Qing and extending to the beginning of open warfare between China and Japan in 1937, Rea describes his notion of laughter as, “denot[ing] a broad spectrum of attitudes and behaviors ranging from amusement to buffoonery to derision” (4). He continues, “The comic cultures of this historical period, I argue, were too heterogeneous to be reducible to a cozy sense of humor defined by ethnicity or nationality. They crossed barriers between high and low, Chinese and foreign, and between genres and modes of production as well” (14). The body of Rea’s study is split into five expansive chapters titled “Jokes,” “Play,” “Mockery,” “Farce,” and “The Invention of Humor.” These chapter headings are also the main analytical categories Rea deploys in his work. Though there is a certain amount of unavoidable overlap between these categories, these distinctions, and perhaps more interesting, the tensions developed between and among them, prove quite useful in elaborating the fertile ground Rea has marked out for his New History of Laughter.

Given the scope and limits of this review, I think it impossible to give a full account of Rea’s achievement in this book, even in summary. Instead, I will provide a mere skeleton in order to leave space for assessment. In a day and age in which publishers and authors frequently produce slim volumes of 150–200 pages, Rea’s book clocks in at 335 pages. I am the last to suggest that length alone is a sign of achievement; however, the weight of the work lies in the extent of the research Rea conducted in order to write this book. Again and again, Rea’s notes cite original publication of works in journals or newspapers and contrast this to one or multiple full-volume editions of the particular work in question (I have to admit, I also burst out laughing when I encountered the “bonus endnote,” number 95 on page 251). Clearly he has devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy into locating and consulting these various sources. Indeed, Rea’s text proper ends on page 165. Fully one-half of the book is end matter, including two very informative appendixes, meticulous notes, glossary, and bibliography. In truth, this is both strength and weakness: Rea’s extensive research is simultaneously exhaustive and exhausting. Yet, the scale of the research displayed in this book will certainly make this the first source any scholar wishing to approach this subject, or one related to it, will reach for.

Likewise, Rea’s close attention to the ways that print media industrial practices influence and inform the cultural practices of laughter is particularly useful. The modality of short forms, such as jokes or anecdotes, match the need for “copy” in journals and newspapers that have a uniform size but inconsistent amounts of articles, advertisements, announcements and so forth, and Rea argues this led to a demand for these genres. This demand, in turn, led to the generic development of literary modes—humor, farce, and so on—which in one way or another were intended to induce laughter. Thus, the overall orientation of the study is towards a chronological development of laughter in modernizing China. He begins then in the late Qing with familiar names such as Wu Jianren and Liang Qichao and gradually proceeds to the 1920s and 1930s to other familiar names such as Lao She and Lin Yutang. Lu Xun, and to a lesser extent Zhou Zuoren, are touchstones throughout the book, constantly invoked as backdrop but rarely if ever the focus of Rea’s attention. Against and alongside these canonical names, Rea places the entertainment industrial complex, including for example the ha-ha mirror of Shanghai’s The Great World amusement park and the fiction of Xu Zhuodai. These groups, so often understood separately in terms of canonicity/non-canonicity, are interlocked in Rea’s discussion, both in terms of their practice of humorous writing and in their arguments concerning humor’s purpose. I have not even broached the subject of Chinese-English or English-Chinese translation of humor that Rea discusses in some detail. There are any number of such contrasts and reshuffling of the standard groupings in our understanding of modern China, and especially in modern Chinese literature, that Rea enacts in his book. And these are the study’s biggest contribution to our understanding of the dynamics involved in China’s modernization.

What Rea does not give his readers, however, is any significant theorizing of the consequences that stem from regrouping the players in China’s cultural modernization in the ways he does in this book. The Age of Irreverence clearly demonstrates that these discourses, in all their various forms, on laughter and humor existed in the period from the late Qing, through the early Republic, and on into the years leading up to the war. What conclusions to draw form the recognition of these discourses is largely left up to the reader. This begs an obvious question: how large or small was the impact of these discourses of humor and laughter on the trajectory of modern China’s development, culturally, politically, aesthetically or in any other way? This question (or others) will have to wait for further analysis before we can address it.

As a side note, as I read the book (in late 2016 and into early 2017) I was reminded over and over of parallels to contemporary American society. Whether it be the alt-right insults of cuck or libtard, or the mockery and farce of liberal comedians such as Jon Stewart, we can find precedents in Rea’s study. The dynamics of this contemporary discourse often seem to mirror that of China a century ago. A theorization of humor’s social and political effects could prove most useful in this regard, so that these tools may be taken up strategically rather than merely haphazardly.

Andrew Stuckey, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA                                                                    

Back to top


CONTEMPORARY SINO-FRENCH CINEMAS: Absent Fathers, Banned Books, and Red Balloons. Critical Interventions. By Michelle E. Bloom. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. x, 271 pp. (Illustrations.) US$59.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5158-3.

The terrain of world cinema studies has been a treacherous one. This is because the terms of our comparison have been historically and ideologically coded through the epistemic violence of colonization and decolonization––and more recently, neoliberalization, recolonization, and renationalization (See Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, eds. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988], 276–286; see also, Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, eds., Multiculturlaism, Postcoloniality, and Transnational Media [New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003]). In addition, we often forget that such epistemic violence affects not only the voices of the colonizer and the colonized, but also those critical attempts made by intellectuals (including ourselves) who seek to reconfigure their own subaltern position. In Contemporary Sino-French Cinemas, Michelle Bloom scrutinizes a series of film coproductions between Sinophone and Francophone cinematic auteurs and communities. For her, establishing a comparative discourse requires an acknowledgement of the inevitable process of othering in both the objects of study and our critical language (14–21). Her book demonstrates that such a discursive process puts the critical agent (self) and the object critiqued (other) under erasure, thus leaving the traces of their erasure visible. Such a process of erasure in turn enables us to critique the very structure of differences that in-forms the epistemic violence at the first place (for the concept of “under erasure,” see Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology [1967], trans. Spivak [Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1997], 62).

Bloom’s study is divided into two parts: Franco-Taiwanese cinema and Franco-Chinese cinema. The former may or may not bear any traces of the auteurs’ nationality, ethnicity, or cultural sensibility, yet the absence of these traces haunts the film texts as a presence of the structure of differences that constitute France/China and the Other (29). As opposed to their Taiwanese counterparts, which tend to focus on mixture and intertextuality, the mainland Chinese auteurs make visible intertextual “failures” such as displacement, mistranslation, and misunderstanding (137). Yet, these failures are crucial in the configuration of authority, power, and agency out of the epistemic violence that constitutes the difference between “China and the West.”

Each film Bloom studies is best considered a site where a mode of cross-cultural dialogue is reconfigured. In her analysis of Cheng Yu-chieh’s Yang Yang (2009), Bloom scrutinizes the way the film recodifies the term métissage. Even though the term can be interpreted simply as “mixed race,” it carries the connotation of biological impurity and moral degeneracy from the colonial discourses; yet it also makes visible the liminal space at which the racialized and gendered power asymmetries in such discourses can be turned into a site from which new social relations can be reimagined (34–37). Yang Yang’s representation and negotiation of métissage is indeed symptomatic of the way the métis/métisse has been treated in both French and Sino-Taiwanese discourses. Featuring actor Sandrine Pinna (Zhang Rong-Rong), who herself is a métisse, the film makes visible the struggle of a métisse left behind in Taiwan by her French engineer father (hence, a “product” of neocolonialism), in a society where she has trouble naming––let alone positioning––the racio-cultural liminality at which she has been abandoned (43–71).

While métissage can be considered a symptomatic form of negotiation, intertextuality can be regarded as a cinematic auteur’s active claim of their creative agency. In her analysis of Tsai Ming-liang’s What Time Is It There? (2002) and Face (2009), Bloom examines Tsai’s painstaking references to the works of François Truffaut (1932–1984). Tsai does so by casting Truffaut’s “double” Jean-Pierre Léaud in the former film, and his signature actresses Fanny Ardant, Nathalie Baye, and Jeanne Moreau in the latter. In addition, he also reconfigures the relationship between the image and the spectator by restaging and referring to specific scenes in Truffaut’s works, thus actively rewriting the authorial relationship between the director and the spectator. In so doing, the power asymmetry between France (as the author of the Nouvelle Vague) and Taiwan (whose auteur [Tsai] re-authors and reauthorizes the Nouvelle Vague through such intertextuality) is also revised (78–108). For Bloom, intertextuality is further developed as cinematic makeover by Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon (2007), as Hou does not simply remake the 1956 film Le Ballon rouge (Albert Lamorisse). Instead, he hybridizes, displaces, and rewrites the overall semiotic structures between France and Taiwan, a process that actively demands the spectators to rethink the structure of differences that underlies our understanding of their interdependent relationship (111–136).

For Bloom, Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2001) examines the power of translation by representing moments at which translators, through deliberate mistranslation, bring about social changes, individual freedom, and new means of expression during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Yet, such liberty is ultimately limited by social classes and global political asymmetry (139–159). In her analysis of Tang Xiaobai’s Conjugation (2001) and Jia Zhangke’s The World (2004), Bloom studies how imitation is not necessarily a sign of subservience, but can be appropriated by the imitator as a means of making visible the structure of differences that constitute the power relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. It also enables those who are confined within “China” as a political community to traverse their sense of economic and sociocultural entrapment (186–187).

Bloom’s study offers not only an insightful scrutiny of a series of individual texts, but also tropes by which we can open up further discussions of inter- and intra-cultural cinemas. In the end, the term “Sino-French” is best understood not as one that recalls the historically unsettling dynamic between the self and the other, but the productiveness and emancipatory potential of a dynamic that enables us to resist any temptation to reach a settlement.

Victor Fan, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom                                                          

Back to top


BUILDING CHINA: Informal Work and the New Precariat. By Sarah Swider. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press [an imprint of Cornell University Press], 2015. xxi, 187 pp. (Tables, figures, B&W photos.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8014-5693-0.

This masterly study of China’s urban construction workers is structured by an ingenious original concept: the “employment configuration,” a relational notion distinguishing the pathways workers pursue to acquire their positions and the mechanisms employed to regulate and discipline their activities on the job. Swider spent an intensive year in the midst of builders, living and sometimes working with them, sharing a smoke or a drink, and managing to enter their dorms to play cards and watch television, while forging friendships that enabled her to produce a fine-tuned, rich, and intimate portrait of those struggling in this dangerous and exhausting profession. Though Swider spent some time in Guangzhou and Shanghai as well as in Beijing, most of the work, involving 130 interviews, took place in the capital.

“Employment configuration” is a powerful tool allowing Swider to identify three large categories separating types of employment relationships: mediated, embedded, and individual. The first entails large labour contractors’ recruitment (of up to thousands) in the rural areas and control by a contract labour system. It confines the workers to specific worksites, and provides housing and nurture plus a safety net good for at least a year, at whose end wages are to be dispensed (but often are not). Since the employees are restricted to spaces behind walls surrounding their worksites, Swider calls their world a “city of walls.”

Embedded employment is arranged via social ties (of kin, hometown, province, and occupation). Their habitat is a “city of villages,” where sentiment, shared values, “bounded solidarity,” a term borrowed from Peng Yusheng (who got it from Alejandro Portes, though Swider does not mention that), “enforceable trust” (which she does attribute to Portes) or sense of obligation to one’s fellows guide behaviour, as networks among workers transmit employment information and influence action. Those relying on such mechanisms coalesce in cities, unlike the charges of mediated employment, who trade transport into the city and a relatively secure place to work for a bonded tie to their bosses. The embedded, paid by the job, live much more flexibly and may develop a range of skills, unlike their confrères trapped in a mediated mold. Their work is self-regulated or governed by their own networks, their safety net supplied by those in their grid. Swider sharply depicts a migrant “village in the city” or migrant enclave, with its internal diverse migrant origins, occupations, and economic statuses.

The third configuration, individual, features a “city of violence.” Here employment relations are regulated through violence, while street labour markets, often commanded by powerful labour market bosses, are subject not to contracts or common ties but ruled by “an unregulated despotic market” (90). Here migrants “work for food and shelter, not for wages” (90), under total instability. It is the deplorable, unpredictable conditions of their lives and the raw vulnerability with which they must contend daily that lead many into criminality.

Swider shows how each configuration embodies a different combination of production (work on the job), daily reproduction (sustenance) and social reproduction (providing for family), but does not explicitly define these concepts. It would enrich her tale were she to spell out more fully how, for instance (103), production and social production are spatially separated in mediated employment, but production and daily reproduction are merged, whereas in individual employment, “production and social reproduction are both tenuous” (103). She may have miswritten on either page 38, where she states that the mediated model’s contracted labour system “merges production and daily reproduction on the jobsite,” whereas on page 57 she argues that contractors “merge production and daily social production” by having “workers live and work on the jobsites.”

The book contains what is known about the hukou system and internal migration, but presents much new material on the construction trade. There is a chapter each on the three employment configurations, one on protest, and a final chapter laying out the senses in which China’s builders labour in precarity. The discussion of protest traces the structural factors causing unpaid and delayed wages and the battle for urban space between authorities and migrants: the two main prods that enrage the workers, fuelling everyday resistance, public dramas, and disruption. At times thousands of workers contend collectively for weeks on end. With the advent of the Internet and social media, it is sometimes possible to garner public attention and thereby pressure the state, though we are not informed about just how often this occurs.

I found some errors in the bibliography: Wang Feng is not Feng Wang, thus his work should be listed under Wang; Wang, Lin, and Ning’s paper is cited in the text as from 2013, but the bibliography states 2014. A tick is the persistent use of quotation marks, sometimes to set off a term coined by another scholar, such as “bounded solidarity” and “sporadic enforcement of the laws, or ”for terms she herself devised (“employment configuration” and “permanently temporary”). But there are others, such as labour regime, in regular usage, and public drama, sojourner to settlement, protest of disruption, and time crunch, where the cause for these marks is obscure. These frequent markers can distract.

The book is disappointing when it comes to comparisons of places, industries, and times (despite Swider’s assertion that employment configurations can be compared along these dimensions). There is just one page (134 and top of 135) on other countries, only a few sentences contrasting her three cities, and almost no mention of how builders differ from migrants in other professions. One final quibble: Swider maintains that literature on the Chinese urban informal economy “is largely missing” (xiii). But she omits reference to Kuruvilla, Lee, and Gallagher’s edited book, From Rice Bowl to Informalization (Cornell, 2011), Ching Kwan Lee’s edited book, Working in China (Routledge, 2007) (and much else by that author), has just two references to Lei Guang, very little from Li Zhang’s Strangers in the City (Stanford, 2001), and just one fact taken from my own Contesting Citizenship in Urban China (California, 1999). I was intrigued to note many similarities between my three gross sets of transients in the cities: the state-protected, the community-connected, and the anomic isolates, on the one hand, and Swider’s three employment configurations, on the other. But there is no mention of this congruity.

All said, however, this is an important book, well argued, expertly presented, and finely analyzed. Empirically, it adds considerably to our understanding of the construction industry, while conceptually furnishing a very fertile framework for grasping the intricacies of informal employment in the cities of China.

Dorothy J. Solinger, University of California, Irvine, USA (retired)                                                  

Back to top


KNOWING CHINA: A Twenty-First-Century Guide. By Frank N. Pieke. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. x, 226 pp. US$26.99, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-58761-8.

Frank Pieke adopts a China-centric perspective to move beyond Western preoccupations, desires, or fears. Knowing China is not aimed at determining whether China is or will become capitalist, or remain socialist. Instead, Pieke explores twenty-first-century China as a unique kind of neo-socialist society, combing features of state socialism, neo-liberal governance, capitalism, and rapid globalization. Pieke argues that delineating the distinctive features of this neo-socialist society not only helps us to know contemporary China better but takes us beyond the old dichotomies of West versus East, developed versus developing, traditional versus modernity, democracy versus dictatorship, and capitalism versus socialism.

Chapter 1 introduces the concept of neo-socialism. Pieke explains that from the perspective of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), market reform is only a means towards a more important end: a vigorous Communist Party leading to a strong state that governs a healthy nation and represents a powerful country. Rather than breeding conservatism, this conviction thus inspired a pragmatism and willingness on the part of the Party to constantly reinvent itself, while retaining core Leninist principles that guarantee its authoritarian leading role over state and society. An intrinsic part of neo-socialist strategy has been the selective, partial, and gradual nature of marketization of state and collective assets and functions. However, neo-socialism is not an ideology or a logically consistent model of governance but an analytical shorthand for the recombinant and open-ended nature of political, economic, and social development.

Chapter 2 starts with an analysis of the nature of socialist party rule. The Party after the reforms has in certain respects become more rather than less Leninist. These features include collective leadership, Party discipline imposed on the behaviour of its members, and Party control over leadership appointments. However, the ultimate objective of the Party is no longer communism; instead, it promises a united nation, a strong country, and a prosperous and harmonious society. Surprisingly, the Party after 1978 retained and deepened the highly decentralized structure of the administration that made local governance affordable and adaptable but also very difficult to control.

However, Pieke cautions that despite its successes, not all is well, and the long-term success of the neo-socialist strategy is by no means an established fact. Increasingly, Party politics is captured by special interest groups, the private interests of the families of high Party leaders, and even organized crime. The fall from power in 2011 of Bo Xilai laid bare the deep divisions in the Party leadership and showed the danger of a return to the devastating factional politics.

Chapter 3 examines the question of how a communist regime and a capitalist economy can exist alongside each other. Despite strong similarities with capitalist countries, Pieke shows that China charts its own course of neo-socialist development as much in the economic realm as in other aspects of politics, society, and culture. A closer look at the economic reforms shows that the growth of a market economy supports rather than undermines the socialist institutions and strategy of the Party. While thousands of state enterprises were let go, a select few were turned into large state-owned conglomerates and spearheads of further economic development and globalization. Neo-socialist industrial policy has thus been highly graded and selective. Whereas markets have been created in which all economic actors have to operate, certain strategy enterprises and sectors of the economy have been protected.

Pieke further argues that longer-term prosperity has less to do with the further development of market economy and more with the challenges that are generic and global rather than specifically having to do with the socialist legacy of the regime. Among these post-reform challenges, Pieke highlights three: demographic change, innovation-based growth, and environmental degradation.

Chapter 4 turns its attention to society. Under Mao, Chinese society had been wholly subsumed under the Party and the state. This totalitarian ambition was abandoned after the start of the reforms. In the 1990s the autonomy of individuals, families, enterprises, and organizations became a cornerstone of the Party’s unfolding neo-socialist approach. China has become a society of enterprising strangers who are free, albeit within the political limits imposed by the state, to pursue whatever goals or desires drive them. Just like in capitalist societies, freedom comes at a price: risk, inequality, individual responsibility, alienation. New forms of sociality based on religious beliefs, leisure and pastimes, lifestyles, or special interests have emerged to fill the gap created by freedom and individualization.

Chapter 5 argues that under neo-socialism, nation building and nationalism have become even more important than in the past. Chapter 6 tries to gauge the consequences that neo-socialist approaches have on the impact of Chinese people, businesses, capital, and culture in the world that we all live in. Pieke concludes that neo-socialist state strengthening, the proactive support for world-leading firms, the emergence of an intensely competitive market and society, and the aggressive nation-building project are preparing the way for China’s prominent global influence. China will become a global power not only because of a deep-seated wish to be independent from Western civilizers. There are also signs that China as an emerging power will not hesitate to become a civilizer in its own right, imposing its modernity on others.

I find this book very interesting and well written. Its innovative concept of neo-socialism is very useful to capture the distinctiveness of contemporary China, which consists of an uneasy combination of different contradictory elements that defies any easy characterization. In addition, this book is very informative because Pieke has done an excellent job in synthesizing the findings in Chinese studies to answer such research questions as: why the communist party will not fall from power, why China’s economy will continue to grow, but not forever, and why Chinese people have freedom without universal human rights. Thus, both general readers and area specialists will find this book indispensable for their in-depth understanding of contemporary China.

Alvin Y. So, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong SAR, China                    

Back to top


ETHNIC CONFLICT AND PROTEST IN TIBET AND XINJIANG: Unrest in China’s West. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. Edited by Ben Hillman and Gray Tuttle. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. vi, 268 pp. (Tables, maps.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-16998-1.

This edited volume presents theoretically rigorous and ethnographically rich social science research concerning Xinjiang and the Tibetan areas of China. Its nine chapters cohere not only methodologically and thematically, but in a common argument: the authors challenge longstanding assumptions about the primary importance of ethnic and religious identities to Uyghurs’ and Tibetans’ discontent vis-à-vis the Chinese state and Han Chinese. Instead, they offer explanations rooted in economic change, local government, and ordinary people’s perceptions of the state.

Most of the chapters demonstrate the usefulness of comparisons between China proper and Inner Asia in narrowing down proximate causes of discontent. The authors point out the ways in which the expansion of state-directed infrastructural development under the Open Up the West campaign has affected Uyghurs and Tibetans much as they have Han. In Xinjiang and Tibet, Beijing subsidizes highly visible, labour-intensive projects that nominally are meant to “develop” the region but instead feed into local networks of official corruption and fail to enrich Uyghur or Tibetan workers. In Yeh and Nyima’s words, “The imperative to capture central level subsidies results in perverse policy implementation by local government” (155). Their subtle argument, like most in the volume, operates on two levels: in terms of policy and its reception, efforts at “environmental protection” are more likely to contribute to resentment when they are insensitive to local knowledge and needs. Moreover, Tibetans perceive that the state demands gratitude for its often-ineffective interventions. The result is the erosion of faith in Beijing’s claim to benevolence. Mortensen makes a related argument about the importance of the popular understanding of “the state” among Tibetans and observes considerable variation between regions. He finds that dissatisfaction has no necessary connection with ideology, religion, or ethnicity, but rather usually stems from human beings’ perennial concern with subsistence.

Cliff’s theoretically sophisticated argument makes similar observations in Xinjiang. He analyzes Uyghur discontent as a consequence of the region’s economic normalization within the Chinese system. The state supports economic development through two tracks: the first is large-scale infrastructure projects from “partner” provinces in China proper, which incentivize debt farming and the dispossession of land from small farmers, incidentally mostly Uyghur. The second is the creation of “lucrative chaos,” an artificial “frontier” economy that mainly benefits Han settlers, whose enterprises do not employ or promote Uyghur workers. Uyghurs, like many poor people in China proper, find themselves displaced, and then trapped on the lowest tier of the social hierarchy. Harlan finds exceptions to the rule, but they prove Cliff’s thesis: only those Uyghurs who successfully learn to navigate the guanxi networks of Chinese society succeed in the new Xinjiang economy. Hillman likewise looks at Tibet in the context of the broader Chinese political economy. He asks why since the 1980s sub-provincial governments in Tibetan-majority areas have not been as responsive to local concerns or as innovative as their counterparts in China proper. He finds a deeply entrenched system of disincentives against engagement with local issues in the official system of assessments and rewards, combined with incentives to misappropriate official money in informal networks of influence.

The tone-deaf insistence of campaigns for culture assimilation also leads to counterproductive results. Henry’s piece argues that unrest stems less from the imposition of the Chinese language in Tibetan education per se and more from the frequency and intensity of those efforts. Leibold likewise characterizes discontent as the product of increasingly rapid social and economic change under a weak government and constantly changing policies. As Terrone explains in the context of Xinjiang, the strong emphasis on cultural assimilation in propaganda typical of these regions has the unintended effect of heightening Tibetans’ and Uyghurs’ awareness of their culture as the object of state power. In certain areas, “education reform” has become a vector for securitization, as well, which undermines the supposedly noble intentions of the state and reminds non-Han of their inferior position in China. Nevertheless, the volume is not entirely pessimistic in its outlook. Robin demonstrates that young Tibetans in China are articulating new universalist discourses of rights that reflect their own reactions against a growing Chinese particularism, rather than the influence of exile leaders.

A short review cannot do justice to the subtlety of the arguments in this volume, which will be of interest to anyone seeking lucid, innovative explanations of politics, economy, and society in Xinjiang and Tibet. Recently, “Xinjiang studies,” “Tibetan studies,” and “Chinese studies” have become increasingly separate fields, and work on contemporary issues in China’s West, with some outstanding exceptions, has rarely drawn on such rich ethnography or engaged so thoroughly with broader social-scientific questions. While we often speak of Uyghurs and Tibetans in the same breath, it is rare for scholarship to bring their situations into detailed comparison. This volume is a model for productive cross-regional scholarship and demonstrates the value of combining deep area knowledge with disciplinary rigour.

Eric Schluessel, University of Montana, Missoula, USA                                                                    

Back to top


SINO-U.S. ENERGY TRIANGLES: Resource diplomacy under hegemony. Politics in Asia Series, 99. Edited by David Zweig and Yufan Hao. London; New York: Routledge [2015] c2016. xxiii, 283 pp. (Illustrations.) US$160.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-77808-5.

David Zweig and Yufan Hao’s edited volume provides a rich combination of depth and scope. The volume examines ten resource-rich states in which China has made significant investment in energy, and in each case, explores the extent to which Chinese investment does or does not change the existing relationship the resource-rich country has with the United States. Finding little evidence to suggest the US has tried to use China’s need for energy resources to slow its rise, they seek to explain how these triangular relationships unfold and with what significance for international relations.

The editors group the states into three categories, based on the resource-rich states’ relationship with the US. They examine three “allies” (Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Australia); four “neutrals” (Angola, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, and Brazil); and three “pariahs” (Iran, Sudan, and Venezuela), positing that US response to China’s engagement will depend on its previously existing relationship with each state.

What makes the volume so successful is the enlisting of scholars with deep country-specific energy expertise to examine the research question, and combining their expertise with familiar experts in China energy, including the editors, Philip Andrews-Speed and Mikkal Herberg. Due to this combined expertise, the book highlights the agency of resource-rich states that are allegedly caught in this circumstance of “triangularity.” Nicholas Thomas shows that Australia is able to pursue its own interests amid pressure from both sides. Wenran, Zweig, and Siqin demonstrate that Canadian domestic concerns about China’s investment limit that activity more than does US intervention. In Ian Taylor’s chapter on Nigeria, China finds the ruling elites no easier to manage than have investors before them, and Watson and Zweig show that Venezuela pursued China’s investment in a deliberate act of provocation which raised little response from the US. For each case, the Sino-American competition is background context rather than the primary focus of the narrative. Zweig and Hao’s research model is unusually robust for an edited volume, and many of the authors take issue with the triangulation model as provided, arguing for its limited applicability to their country case, or interpreting it differently from their fellow authors. Even so, the model yields some useful comparisons across cases even as the chapter authors provide unusual levels of country-specific energy expertise.

The in-depth comparison of cases provides new insight into several trends. The first is the dazzling scope of China’s efforts in energy. These cases show Chinese companies moving rapidly on many geographical fronts from Brazil (where they startle the government with a $10 billion investment offer) to Saudi Arabia and Iran (rivals which received investment at roughly the same time).  China also displays a range of skills in these cases – from working in the face of Canadian domestic opposition to acquire desired companies, to mastering the technology for processing (notoriously difficult) Venezuelan crude.

In the face of fundamental energy-related shifts in trade and investment, another trend that emerges among many of the “allies” and “neutrals” case studies is a progressive delinking of their economic and security interests. This is particularly striking in Nicholas Thomas’ Australia case and Yitzhak Shichor’s Saudi Arabia case, and in Sebastien Peyrouse’s Kazakhstan case (although Peyrouse makes clear that the triangulation of interests in that country is Russia-China-Kazakstan, with the US in a distant fourth position). A third trend that emerges is that the United States has effectively used sanctions against resource-rich states as a weapon in pursuit of non-energy goals. John Garver’s Iran chapter and Sonja Regler’s Sudan chapter colourfully recount how the US applied enough pressure to change China’s calculus of the risks it was taking by pursuing energy development in resource-rich states targeted by the US for exclusion from the world community. Based on the cases offered, the effectiveness with which the US uses sanctions is not reflected in US pursuit of other energy goals.

The case-by-case examination in this volume is mostly a strength, but it does pose one notable weakness: the interaction of China and international energy institutions is underexplored. Five OPEC states are included among its cases, but in none of them is the issue of China-OPEC relations examined. Angola’s decision to join OPEC, for example, which took place in 2006 much to the surprise of the US, happened after significant Chinese investment in the oil sector; however, Alex Vines’ chapter on Angola does not address this at all. What role China’s preferences had in Angola’s decision—and what approach China takes towards OPEC given its relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, and Venezuela—matters for future markets. Similarly, China opted to become an Associated Member of the International Energy Agency in 2015, rather than pursue full membership. What shaped this decision, and what was the interplay of members’ reluctance and Chinese interest, is another important question.

The chapters that frame this volume make clear the different approaches that China and the United States have towards energy security. Ideologically, US and Chinese pursuit of energy security reflect radically differing embedded assumptions. As the authors note, while the US has long advocated markets over mercantilism and institutions that help avoid zero-sum approaches in crisis, China has emphasized securing external supply and developing long-term state-to-state relationships. The cases presented here suggest that the US has not used energy to constrain China’s rise, but neither has it focused on safeguarding the US market vision for energy. This volume strongly illustrates China’s long-term commitment to ensuring its access to adequate energy for the future. Meanwhile, the United States, through the development of its resources at home (and radical shifts in price), has become less engaged in energy development and in the concerns of resource-rich states. How China’s participation will change markets and relations in the long term remains to be seen, but this volume offers rare insight into how China’s participation is progressing to date.

Theresa Sabonis-Helf, National War College/National Defense University, Washington, DC, USA

*Views expressed in this review are solely the author’s and do not represent the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense or the National Defense University.

Back to top


CHINESE ECONOMIC STATECRAFT: Commercial Actors, Grand Strategy, and State Control. By William J. Norris. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2016. x, 303 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5449-3.

China does not just officially engage with its economic partners. Its unofficial interactions are perhaps more important. William Norris’ Chinese Economic Statecraft: Commercial Actors, Grand Strategy, and State Control delineates between diplomacy and statecraft in this manner. Its first two chapters construct a generalized theory for evaluating the government-business dynamics of any state. The third chapter applies this theory to the particulars of China’s “grand strategy” (46), a classical realist term borrowed from international relations theory that Norris defines as the “rational strategic logic” (48) of a given nation. Together, these three chapters delineate a comprehensive theory and comprise part 1, “On Economic Statecraft.” The remaining three sections of the book each address an economic sector using case studies that examine the theory through various combinations of the politico-corporate nexus. Part 2 discusses state-owned natural resource companies; part 3 highlights the experience of private fruit farmers and pro-independence entrepreneurs in Taiwan; part 4 examines state finance. Especially with its last section on Chinese sovereign wealth funds, the book’s approach is illuminating to those scholars discerning the complex relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and the far-flung agencies of its unique financial regulatory regime.

Norris theorizes that the “direct, classical mercantilist power of the state to dictate policy” (18) has gradually given way to the state’s “intentional manipulation” (13) of commercial actors to incentivize them to behave in line with national strategic interests. In other words, economic statecraft is replacing economic diplomacy. To predict the extent to which such influence is successful, Norris rather ambitiously proposes a tidy two-by-two matrix, the kind that always seem to sneak into business school curricula. It neatly tries to forecast the outcome of any given interaction between corporate enterprises and the state. Whether or not state unity is monolith or fragmented and whether or not the goals of the state and private interests are compatible comprise the four potential regions of this rectangle.

Principal-agent theory anticipates the result of economic statecraft in the most troublesome quadrant of this matrix, where state unity is high but the goals of the state and commercial entity differ widely. This amalgam of modern economics and political science posits that institutions or people (agents) do not always work well with the governments or corporations (principals) tasked to supervise them. The agent’s condition persists until their own selfish desires are almost perfectly aligned with those of their principals. Thus, these situations, in which the constant subtle thrum of economic statecraft may deliver the most value to the principal in terms of agent interest transformation, are where the author attempts to develop a broad and instructive theory of economic interaction. As such, Norris posits five independent variables that explain a state’s likelihood of success in their unofficial economic pursuits. In addition to the aforementioned state unity and goal compatibility, market structure, the nature of the reporting relationship, and the balance of relative resources are examined in a series of case studies that explicate the theory. Though maybe a little forced in its theory building, the effort is admirable in its potential explanatory power and breadth.

The work is not without criticism, however. The model’s inputs rely on a highly stylized binomial variable: state control. The idealistic assumption that state control either exists or not oversimplifies an increasingly complex hybrid state capitalist structure and too easily dismisses China’s unprecedented international financial configuration. To his credit, Norris admits to this conceit, stating that “in reality state control varies continuously” along a spectrum, but claims that characterizing the variable in discrete terms is necessary to make the model more “manageable” (23). In his case discussion, Norris provides sufficient detail to compensate for this coding convention. However, the cases in this book—for example, state oil companies and Taiwanese entrepreneurs—are purposely selected for their extreme profiles on this particular variable. Yet, if a theory aspires to be truly robust, it must be useful in predicting the outcomes of interactions between government institutions and commercial actors that, increasingly in the modern Chinese politico-economy, have a complex and evolving relationship with the state at many different touchpoints. Would an examination of internet behemoth Alibaba, for example, with its offshore holding company and dizzying cross-ownership structure of myriad entities involving Chinese state funds and non-Chinese investors alike, break the model? More work is needed to test the limits of Norris’ otherwise illuminating framework. Another shortcoming of the book is the relative staleness of many of the case studies. The work itself is a refresh of Norris’ dissertation submitted to MIT in August 2010. A reexamination of the framework using more cases from the post-crisis Xi Jinping era would do much to prove the validity of the theory.

To this reviewer, the part of the book with the most promise lies in its prospective capacity to explain China’s recent moves to “effectively leverage the sovereign wealth aspect of its monetary power” (164). Part 4 examines China’s sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) from the novel perspective of defining any state fund charged with the responsibility to invest excess foreign reserves as an SWF. Hence, Norris’ findings that the cross-purposes inherent in the design of semi-autonomous funds, like the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), National Social Security Fund (NSSF), and China Investment Corporation (CIC), may result in institutional wrangling is novel and informative. Though the SWF universe has yet to provide too much empirical data for in-depth analysis, the Norris framework appears sufficient to explain and forecast that important monetary landscape as it changes in real time.

Advanced scholarly discourse on the Chinese political economy of this high quality is always welcome. Though not as statistically robust as the works of Nicholas Lardy, Norris’ broad-view interdisciplinary approach analyzing diverse issues, from state-owned extractive industries to cross-Strait relations to state-run investment funds, all from the perspective of the same unifying theory, is ambitious. Whereas such breadth may present complications when assessing model validity, the potential for the theory to be widely applicable is also one of the greatest strengths of Chinese Economic Statecraft.

Nicholas Krapels, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China                                                 

Back to top


GENERAL HE YINGQIN: The Rise and Fall of Nationalist China. By Peter Worthing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. viii, 316 pp. (Maps.) US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-14463-7.

For more than a half century conventional wisdom has attributed the defeat of the Nationalists and the triumph of the Chinese Communist Party to the corruption and incompetence of Chiang Kai-shek and his inner circle. Ever since Mao and the Communists swept to power in 1949, the prevailing view has been that Chiang and his cronies were the authors of their own misfortune, reaping the predictable harvest of years of corruption, incompetence, and unwillingness to heed the advice of their American advisers. But in recent years this narrative has started to unravel at the edges, and General He Yingqin: The Rise and Fall of Nationalist China is an important contribution to this process.

Peter Worthing, an associate professor of history at Texas Christian University, is well known in military history circles for his earlier work, A Military History of Modern China: From the Manchu Conquest to Tian’anmen Square (Praeger, 2007). His latest work focuses on General He Yingqin, one of the most influential figures in the Nationalist regime and a stalwart supporter of Chiang Kai-shek. In his introduction Worthing provides a concise summary of He’s treatment in standard English-language secondary sources, noting that there are few references to the general despite his having been an important participant in every critical episode of Chiang’s career. Indeed, He’s résumé reads like a chronology of key events in the Nationalist era, making his absence from scholarship on the period puzzling. There are passing references to He in some classic works, such as Lloyd Eastman’s influential book Seeds of Destruction: Nationalist China in War and Revolution (Stanford, 1984), but Worthing notes that these texts dismiss He as incompetent and corrupt, portraying him as a pernicious influence in Chiang’s inner circle. While this view had its origins in wartime criticism directed at He by General Joseph Stilwell and others, the same charges continue to appear in scholarly treatments of the Nationalist era as recently as 2011. To Worthing, this negative portrayal seems difficult to reconcile with He’s long career. While it is conceivable that Chiang might tolerate a certain level of incompetence in exchange for unquestioning loyalty, it strains credulity to assert that he would consistently rely on such a person to handle tasks critical to the survival of his regime.

General He was certainly no sinecurist, for he served in important posts throughout the Nationalist era. He clearly enjoyed Chiang’s confidence and exerted a great deal of influence at critical junctures, which in Worthing’s opinion makes him long overdue for further study. General He Yingqin presents a revisionist examination of He’s life, starting with his childhood in Guizhou and ending with his relocation to Taiwan in 1949. Worthing takes full advantage of Chinese-language primary and secondary sources from both sides of the Taiwan Strait in order to situate He in the context of his times. While Worthing is hardly an apologist for Nationalist shortcomings, and does not hesitate to criticize He’s actions where justified, he makes a point of acknowledging the enormous difficulties He faced and the constraints under which he operated, factors other scholars have seemed reluctant to consider when passing judgment on him.

Worthing’s study starts with a brief overview of He’s early life, with a focus on his education at military academies in China and Japan. Worthing stresses the importance of He’s time in Japan, arguing that it provided him with valuable contacts (including Chiang, who was one year ahead) and a first-class military education. Unlike Chiang, who only attended a military preparatory school in Japan, He went on to graduate from the Imperial Army Academy (Rikugun Shikan Gakkō), receiving what was at the time the very best military education available to both Chinese and Japanese officers. Only a handful of Chinese cadets completed the rigorous program, making He part of a very select company. Worthing does an excellent job of piecing together the details of He’s activities between the 1911 Revolution and his eventual employment at the Whampoa Military Academy as chief instructor in 1924, where he quickly became Chiang’s close collaborator. At Whampoa, Chiang found a kindred spirit in He: both men were sober, fastidious, disciplined, and patriotic, and both had taken away from their time in Japan a faith in the military as a vanguard institution in the struggle to build a modern China. As Worthing argues, Chiang and He would become collaborators not because the latter was a reliable yes-man, but because the two soldiers shared a common vision for China.

The remaining chapters of the book present a careful analysis of He’s role in the defining events of the Nationalist era. He served, inter alia, as a regimental, divisional, and army commander in the Eastern and Northern Expeditions, director of demobilization and military restructuring, senior commander during the rebellions of 1929 and 1930, commander of the anti-Communist Encirclement campaigns, chief negotiator with the Japanese between the Manchurian and Marco Polo Bridge incidents, minister of war, wartime chief of staff, and even premier for a brief period in 1949. As Worthing reveals, He was no passive bystander in these roles, nor was he simply the executor of others’ policies, but his reserved demeanour and avoidance of the limelight meant that many contemporary observers overlooked his contributions. Worthing’s account of He’s role in the Anti-Japanese War is especially revealing, and provides a long overdue corrective to Stilwell’s harsh criticism.

Overall General He Yingqin presents a balanced account of one of the key figures in the Nationalist era, and shines new light on some of the most important events of that period. Worthing succeeds in demonstrating that He was not the incompetent sycophant or reactionary militarist others have made him out to be, and this book should be required reading for anyone seeking a better understanding of the challenges faced by the Nationalist regime.

Colin Green, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada                                                         

Back to top


CONVERGENCE OR CONFLICT IN THE TAIWAN STRAIT: The Illusion of Peace? Routledge Research on Taiwan, 18. By J. Michael Cole. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. viii, 215 pp. US$150.00, cloth, ISBN 978-1-138-69623-5; US$58.95, paper, ISBN 978-1-138-69624-2.

This book has been released at an important moment, timely as we assess the first year of President Tsai Ing-wen in office and China’s predictable response, all in the light of speculation about the policies of the incoming Republican administration in the United States. The chapters span the period beginning with the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration of Chen Shui-bian through to the run-up to the January 2016 elections and their immediate aftermath. The September 2016 Hong Kong Legislative Council elections were another milepost in a parallel unfolding of the democratic challenge to Beijing, originating back during the final months of 2014. Because of this linkage, the author devotes a large part of the analysis, in a book about Taiwan, to developments in Hong Kong. For both, the prospects appear stark, as observers remain hopeful, prompted by faint signs of medium- and long-term progress. China’s response has been predictable, but also, for both international observers and participants, alarming. President Xi’s turn toward a new Cold War stance in the region is the backdrop to this concern. Above all, it is the sober evaluation of objective facts and constraints as they are, and an understanding of the viable pathways forward, that the reader should keep in mind while studying the chapters.

The new government must look to consolidate all potential unofficial ties and points of support among the democracies and emerging democracies, political parties, and democratic movements of East, Southeast, and South Asia. On the front line, together with Taiwan, are: Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Myanmar, and India. International support to the embattled and isolated democratic movement in China forms part of this united front. Continuing to call attention to the growing crackdown in the PRC, which has turned back incremental gains of previous periods, strengthens the resolve of Taiwanese democrats. It also helps to galvanize awareness throughout the region for the need to counter China’s threatened subversion of Taiwanese sovereignty. Her natural allies face similar pressures—in the case of South Korea, military. Thus, annexation by China would be a severe blow to the interests of all. The national interest of each of the Pacific Rim democracies, the United States in first place because of its longstanding formal commitment (the Taiwan Relations Act), coincides entirely with that of all the others. This is the overarching theme of the book, perhaps formulated in a different way in some of the chapters. The incoming Trump administration is expected to continue to stand by the TRA, as did its predecessor. An interesting question will be the consequences of the predicted failure to ratify the TTP, one of the cornerstones of President Obama’s Asia policy. Under pressure from protectionist currents in both parties, even the Democratic candidate abandoned it. The coming weeks and months are full of uncertainty on a number of key points.

A central argument of the author turns on the conditions that will forestall the overthrow of Taiwanese democracy, the “firewall.” One that commentators often overlook concerns getting its own developing institutions and civic/political consciousness in order. The consensus on defense of autonomy and de facto sovereignty is broader than it appears; that is, it is not restricted to the DPP and its allies. Even on specific questions of national identity, such as favouring official recognition of the Taiwanese languages, broad layers within the KMT find common cause with their “green” counterparts. On some of the relevant core issues, positions surprisingly coincide. For example, a current consensus views the offer by the PRC of a Special Administrative Region status with great skepticism. In the end, overriding imperatives of national unity and security are at stake, an understanding that the Tsai administration, in its moderate and defensive posture, has shown itself to be acutely cognizant of. This orientation, as the author points out, may be related to the exceptional circumstances of Taiwan’s transition to democracy, by all measure a model for the region, including for China itself. All of the above, by the way, should serve to reaffirm the commitment of the world’s democracies in support of Taiwanese self-determination. A number of aspects of this assessment are controversial, sparking further debate that we should all welcome.

An effective united front will seek to make the cost of occupation and annexation unacceptable. Chapter 12 is an assessment of the respective military capabilities. The panorama laid out here is the most stark. Readers should pay especially close attention here to the implications, given a possible recalibration on the part of Washington regarding its current security guarantee (for example, in the case of a future PRC reprisal). Given Taiwan’s robust capabilities, an invasion would commit overwhelming force of unmitigated violence to ensure that it prevails.

Throughout the chapters, Cole lays a large part of the responsibility for the confusion about the situation that Taiwan faces at the feet of academia itself. Professors and experts working outside of the PRC have choices. The soft power is strong, and the “Taiwan problem” is “inconvenient” (36). The invitations, the return visits, and the access are generous. But the invoice arriving in the mail often asks too much, depending on one’s specialty. Even publishing a paper, in a Western-based journal, is sometimes easier if you evade the difficult topic or soft-pedal a sensitive concept. Some researchers have made the decision that the complicity, when this happens (a complicated question), is no longer acceptable, that the sensitive topic can’t be avoided, and that their next invited lecture in China might be the last.

This study of China and Taiwan points to an important parallel with the threats posed to the smaller and weaker countries on the western border of the Russian Federation. Pursuit of great power pacts and “grand bargains” at the expense of sovereign nations turns out to be shortsighted and dangerous. These considerations have become timely again.

Norbert Francis, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, USA                                                         

Back to top


INFECTIOUS CHANGE: Reinventing Chinese Public Health After an Epidemic. By Katherine A. Mason. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016. xiii, 252 pp. (Illustrations.) US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-9892-1.

Current scholarship on SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) mainly focuses on the political features reflected in the response towards this public health emergency, a nostalgic review of Mao’s government-led mass health campaign, and public policy studies of medical reforms before and after the pandemic. Katherine Mason’s Infectious Change analyzes the public health changes brought on by SARS based on over a year of fieldwork in Shenzhen (which she refers to using the pseudonym “Tianmai”). The book focuses on the transformation from a “grassroots, low-technology approach” to “a professionalized, biomedicalized, and globalized technological machine” (3) by analyzing how a group of medical professionals at the TM CDC (Tianmai Center for Disease Control) dedicated themselves to building and serving “an idealized world of modernity, science, and trust” at home and abroad (3–4), which Mason refers to as “the common.”

She breaks this object of study down into four groups: the civilized immigrant common, professional common, the transnational scientific common, the common of global health practitioners, and a global common of modern, civilized people around the world. Mason meticulously examines these four commons, starting with the bifurcated service-governance relationship between civilized immigrants and the floating population. She explores the logic of guanxi (connections), renqing (human feelings), and ganqing (emotion) in daily public health work and how newly recruited young professionals have challenged this logic. She further examines how ambitious young and highly educated professionals are eager to join the transnational scientific community because of increased funding and higher publication standards after SARS. She looks at how these professionals interacted with survey subjects, patients, and foreign collaborators. Based on a case study of the emergency response toward the H1N1 flu outbreak, she investigates how ordinary powerless bureaucrats felt betrayed by this process (178), motivated as they were by scientifically informed professionalism while working under the pressure of authoritarian mobilization. In the end, the book addresses how a few public health professionals tried to contribute to both the transnational scientific common, and the local professional common by promoting service to the most vulnerable population in the city: those living with HIV/AIDS.

As an anthropological work, the book dexterously interweaves the changes in public health after the SARS pandemic with major social and cultural phenomena in the dynamic migrant city of Shenzhen, including immigrants, migrants, guanxi, renqing, and ganqing. Shenzhen is located in the Pearl River Delta, where SARS first broke out in early 2003 before escalating into the first global pandemic of the new millennium. One of the four special economic zones designated by the Chinese government in the early 1980s, Shenzhen has attracted millions of highly educated young professionals and low-skilled factory workers. In this social context, as Mason vividly shows, traditional social and cultural principles like guanxi and renqing create intricate and multi-faceted relationships in public health work. She begins by examining the dichotomic relations between public health professionals and workers and employees at factories and service sectors, which she characterizes using categories such as civilized immigrants vs. the floating population, a beneficial group vs. a sacrificial group, and being served vs. being governed. According to the author, the former has dedicated itself to monitoring and controlling infectious diseases among the latter in order to protect the young, educated, and “high-quality” middle class that public health professionals themselves represent and which Mason defines as “civilized community.” However, the large number of migrants in the city becomes a form of biocapital for the use of public health professionals, who are eager to join the international scientific community with research based on first-hand data. Meanwhile, a smaller group of young scientifically minded public-health professionals set out to build a professional common that could serve the needs of the entire group (92). These professionals, represented in the book by Chu, have focused their efforts on providing care for the most vulnerable, marginalized, and stigmatized group among the floating population.

The book also vividly shows the changing and entrenched logic and practice of guanxi, renqing, and ganqing in the work of these public health professionals. As Mason argues, the success of the professional common lies in accurate biostatistics that reveal scientific truths about the population and a reliable means of sharing those statistics (70). Social gatherings, such as banquets and drinking wine, became commonplace as places where these relationships could be cultivated. However, newly graduated young professionals had little experience or interest in attending these sorts of occasions and cultivating connections through them. Notwithstanding, they still had to resort to these to obtain the large number of disease, placenta, and cancer samples for their scientific research projects. Guanxi and ganqing were also particularly important in follow-up work on populations with HIV/AIDS.

The book convincingly discloses and analyzes the features and deficiencies of some contemporary international scientific research projects in developing countries. As Mason shows, young public health researchers, their mentors, and foreign collaborators have their own motivations for carrying out their scientific research. Young researchers are under great pressure to publish and eagerly aspire to join the international community. To receive domestic and international funding, their mentors need to show how their administration has performed, including publication numbers and the ranking of these, and proof of the impact of their research. According to the text, foreign collaborators seem to benefit from this process, which results in a “division of ethical labor.” As Mason argues, these external collaborators “transfer ethical responsibility for the wellbeing of local people affected by global health interventions to local public health professionals alone” (201).

However, the book needs to elaborate further on the continuity of some changes to Chinese public health after SARS. In fact, those changes took place following certain shifts in the macro environment that are linked with the motivations behind and changed orientations of scientific research in China. Nonetheless, this anthropological study has made a significant contribution to work on the professionalization of public health professionals, immigrant/migrant studies, scientific research ethics, theories of guanxi and renqing, and groups living with HIV/AIDS, issues it has examined from an interdisciplinary perspective in the changing, dynamic, and globalized context of Chinese society over the past decade.

Fang Xiaoping, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore                                                           

Back to top


FAREWELL TO THE GOD OF PLAGUE: Chairman Mao’s Campaign to Deworm China. By Miriam Gross. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016. xv, 357 pp. (Illustrations.) US$70.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-28883-6.

Beyond human travail, beyond societal disruption, beyond economic disaster, widespread disease, epidemic or endemic, has its uses. Medical science advances, careers are made, and political agendas rise and fall. This interesting book provides the first detailed examination of a well-known but until now poorly documented campaign to rid China of the blood fluke, Schistosoma japonicum. Human infection with this flatworm has been commonly known as snail fever in China because of the role of freshwater snails in its life cycle and transmission. As described in this carefully researched account by Miriam Gross, in the final phases of the war between the Chinese Communist forces under Mao Zedong and the Republican Army under Chiang Kai-shek, the dominant Communist army was thwarted by the lowly parasite which infected Mao’s army as it was learning to swim in preparation for the amphibious assault on Taiwan. The choice of snail fever as an early public health target of the new PRC leaders thus had both political as well as humanitarian resonances for the new government.

One of the first mass mobilization campaigns after Mao’s victory and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 was aimed at the problem of snail fever. Mao’s poem, used as the title for this volume, views endemic snail fever as a plague upon the Chinese people, a plague to be banished by the new socialist order. As shown by Gross, this campaign, often viewed as one of the first successes of the new Communist government, was in reality, a contest between the populist ideas of Mao and the elitist ideas of the entrenched public health authorities. It was a campaign based on mass mobilization rather than research-based, top-down approaches. Even with Mao’s support, there was considerable tension between local leadership and the central PRC government. This tension was managed rather effectively by restraint on the part of the central authorities, trying to establish the new collective socialism of the PRC.

The mass mobilization campaign at the local level used diverse means to combat old ideas and traditional superstitions and to instill new scientific ways of thinking. This campaign used approaches similar to the earlier anti-hookworm campaign of the Republican Period, waged under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation: village dramas, local talks, small incentives, and so on. As Gross explains, the campaign’s main success was to introduce new scientific ideas to the rural populations, especially the youth. The main weakness of the campaign was lack of financial support; in today’s jargon, it was an unfunded mandate.

The campaign had two components, prevention by snail control, and treatment with newer medicines. The prevention program was particularly problematic because it involved capturing and killing snails, mostly by burial of the snails, a very labour-intensive process. Local economies, still struggling to increase food production, were unable to devote sufficient labour to the anti-snail program and since it was run by local cadres, they rarely were enthusiastic about implementation of the prevention arm of the program, which required massive water and feces management schemes. Hygiene was seen as an urban fixation, not something of concern to rural communities.

While the actual snail-killing campaign was not particularly successful, according to Gross, the campaign did have the valuable side effect of combating superstition and introducing new scientific methods. This was later to be important in the consolidation of the collectivization program of the central government as well as to provide effective leadership during the later Cultural Revolution.

Even though the prevention campaign is famous, it was of dubious effectiveness because of local resistance from the authorities charged with its implementation. However, the treatment part of the campaign, even though based on Western medical principles and medications, was quite successful in reducing the incidence of snail fever over the course of a few years. Although the government described the rural population as backward and superstitious, most accepted Western medicine even though they distrusted Western ideas generally, and medicine specifically. The medical treatments did work, however, and that was recognized. As China transitioned from an empire to a socialist state, people came to accept more intrusion into their personal lives, including centralized mass treatment campaigns.

While elimination of snail fever was happening partly due to the revolutionary zeal of doctors armed with improved treatment, soon there was back sliding and recurrence in many places. Even though the prevention part of the program was never a great success, Mao’s authority and example were powerful incentives to accept the new treatments and some prevention. Disease was controlled but not eradicated.

At the national level, this mass mobilization campaign served other goals. Party strategy was to use health campaigns in rural areas to help develop and consolidate Party control as it aimed toward general ideas of socialist collectivization. In addition, technical skills in the villages increased because of the health campaigns, and this led to a kind of grassroots science that was of great help generally, and specifically in strengthening scientific socialism. For better or worse, as Gross argues, this was well demonstrated in the role these local youth would later play as leaders in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (815).

Gross uses newly available archival sources to revise the common view that the campaign against snail fever was an unqualified success, a model of collective, grassroots hygiene that has been seen as leading to the 1978 WHO Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care. As a needed antidote to this popular conception, she provides a balanced and clear-eyed analysis of an important milestone in global health and of the early days of the PRC.

William C. Summers, Yale University, New Haven, USA     

Back to top


CHINA’S MILITARY TRANSFORMATION: Politics and War Preparation. China Today Series. By You Ji. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2016. xix, 284 pp. (Tables, figures, map.) US$22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7456-7078-2.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (the PLA, as China’s army, air, naval, and strategic missile forces are collectively known) has experienced a wave of growth and change in the twenty-first century. The ongoing changes to China’s military forces and the inevitable implications for Asia-Pacific security have attracted great academic attention in the West, especially in the United States. As a leading scholar in the field, You Ji provides a timely research monograph on the PLA’s transformation into a professional and technical modern army in the years from 1990 to 2014. Based on the available Chinese sources, You, head of the department of government and public administration at the University of Macao, offers objective surveys and an insightful interpretation by analyzing the civil-military relations, security concerns, organizational change, and new defense strategy of the Chinese military. His historical approach, concise narratives, and many figures and tables throughout the volume are very helpful for readers’ understanding of the recent and complicated evolution of the PLA.

His book focuses on the key issues the PLA faces today such as CCP (Chinese Communist Party) control, the anti-corruption movement, combat readiness, and tensions with the US armed forces over the disputed islands in the South China Sea. He provides a “roadmap of how the PLA has modernized itself as a credible fighting force globally” (227) by pointing out that the PLA has transformed itself “from a tactical homeland defensive force to one that is capable of strategic offensive missions beyond national borders” (144). The book should be read by international strategy analysts, Chinese military experts, Asian studies specialists, military historians, and those who have an interest in contemporary China, the US-China relationship, and Asia-Pacific security.

The first chapter, titled “China’s Changing Civil-Military Relations,” examines the PLA’s evolution from the party’s-army or the “Party in uniform” (25), to its partial “autonomy” after Deng Xiaoping (leader from 1978 to 1989) (41–42). In the next chapter, “PLA Politics under Jiang and Hu,” the author continues to explore the changes to China’s civil-military relations from Jiang Zemin (1989–2002) to Hu Jintao (2002–2012), who had transferred power from the old-guard party/military leaders to postwar technocrats. “Institutionalizing civil-military interplay is a key attribute in this evolution,”  You writes (47). The third chapter discusses “the PLA and National Security” by detailing “the PLA’s directional leadership in China’s policy-making process concerning its national security and defense-related foreign affairs” (23–24). The fourth chapter analyzes the formation and function of the People’s Armed Police (PAP), including its organization (totalling 1.3 million troops, 100), chain of command, and operation. The author emphasizes that “[a]s China is experiencing rampant corruption, social injustice, and public disorder, increasingly more mass protests can be expected. … In sum, the PAP is a crucial armed force for PLA internal security missions” (115). His fifth chapter, “National Defense Strategy,” concentrates on the PLA’s primary functions—war fighting—to explain why and how the high command had made major changes five times in its national defense strategy, which as “practical and realistic” guided its force employment and war preparation (138). The next chapter, “Aerospace Power,” explores Beijing’s vision and preparation for air and space war in the near future on “how to combine air and space power in terms of building a joint command chain, a mutually supplementary force structure, and interconnected software and hardware weapons systems…” (145). In his last chapter, “China’s Deep Ocean Expansion,” You examines the PLA Navy (PLAN)’s transformation in the 2000s to 2010s when it was “extending its operations from coastal defense to far-seas power projection” (181). He, however, is critical of PLAN carrier-centric development, writing that “[t]he vulnerability of carriers to saturated air and undersea attack has been proven” (200). In his conclusion, the author believes that the PLA is still in the middle of its transformation since “[i]t is an ongoing process to catch up with the breakthroughs of global hi-tech technology, changing security environment, and evolution of military theory” (215).

The book offers a Chinese perspective with unique insights into the important facts which have shaped military reform and made unprecedented changes over the past thirty years. Some Western historians have overlooked the complex nature of the PLA transformation from one generation to the next. For example, You examines the institutional and ideological separations of the army from the party as part of the PLA’s modernization, while others look at the Chinese military modernization through “a process of normal equipment upgrade facilitated by natural technological progress” (225). And he concludes that the PLAN would not risk a naval war over the disputed islands in both the South China Sea and East China Sea since its “carrier-centric transformation” would not guarantee any victory in the conflict against the American and even Japanese navies around these areas (203–208). Currently, many American as well as Japanese strategists and naval analysts predict that there will be a naval clash sooner or later between their navies or air forces and the PLAN or PLA Air Force (PLAAF), both of which have become more and more aggressive over the disputed areas in the seas.

Although You has done an incredible amount of research on such a broad subject in one volume, his work could have provided more coverage on the military budget process, financial resources, weapons procurement, and defense industries as important topics in the study of the PLA. While having used 23 out of 33 pages to criticize Beijing’s carrier development, the chapter could have gone into more detail on China’s deep ocean expansion, as its title indicated. The PLAN has more than 600 warships, including nuclear submarines, 430 warplanes, and more than 300,000 sailors, soldiers, and marines, as the second-largest navy in the world, exceeded only by the US Navy, while it has only one aircraft carrier.

Xiaobing Li, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, USA

Back to top


THE RED GUARD GENERATION AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM IN CHINA. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Guobin Yang. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. xv, 262 pp. (Illustrations.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-14964-8.

This is a very ambitious and thought-provoking book, which attempts nothing less than to solve three highly contentious issues in the study of the Cultural Revolution and its legacies in less than 200 pages. First, Guobin Yang offers a new perspective on how to explain the roots of factional violence in China’s Red Guard movement; second, he provides an intellectual portrait in the long durée of the “Red Guard generation,” referring to the age cohort born around 1949 who attended middle school by the mid-1960s and for whom the Red Guard movement was the formative experience of their lives. The size of this cohort is not precisely defined (10 to 120 million) (6), but rather depends on whether or not one also includes students in elementary schools and universities. Yang’s final aim is to reveal changes and continuities in Chinese political culture and patterns of popular protest. The arguments are presented in a very accessible style of writing that eases classroom usage, especially at the undergraduate level.

The book is divided into seven chapters, which by and large follow a chronological order. After presenting a case study of factional violence in Chongqing in 1967, the book then traces aspects of political culture that influenced the Red Guard generation and delves into Red Guard theory production during the Cultural Revolution. Chapters 4 and 5 deal with the sent-down period, looking at how the hardship of “ordinary life” transformed the Red Guard generation’s previous revolutionary ideals, and furthermore depict aspects of underground culture that led to new forms of community and a reconceptualization of identities. These newly constituted identities were crucial in turning away from the Cultural Revolution, and by the late 1970s ushering in a period referred to as a “new enlightenment.” The final chapter is closest to Yang’s previous work and traces factionalized memories from the early reform era to the present.

The author is less interested in presenting new materials than in offering new explanations based on theories of Victor Turner, Max Weber, and others. The basic argument may be summarized as follows: Chinese political culture in the 1950s and early 1960s predisposed the Red Guard generation to certain perceptions of reality, most importantly inscribing the sacred nature of the revolution. “Performance” assumes centre stage, as Red Guards tried to live up to or even reenact some of these features during the Cultural Revolution. It is thus “ideas” rather than social background or political circumstances that Yang privileges in his explanations of Red Guard behaviour. The sent-down period is seen as a liminal stage that resulted in a routinization of the revolutionary ideals, as the mundane aspects of everyday life in the countryside superseded abstract notions of class struggle.

The book is strongest in the sections linked to its second goal, the generational portrait. Based on a plethora of memoirs, interviews, and contemporary documents, Yang presents the changes in Red Guard world outlook and self-perception by way of intriguing quotes and interview excerpts. Some issues, such as how members of the Red Guard generation actually perceived the world (64-68), merit a more detailed account. Also of interest are the recurring symbolic repertoires of political protest and the personal continuities, in a process that Yang aptly describes as “funneling out” (156), with activists decreasing in number following the arrests in the wake of every major outbreak of protest.

The book’s brevity, while making for a pleasant read, hampers a full development of many of its arguments. Replacing current explanations of Red Guard factionalism by providing a chapter-length study on Chongqing, which Yang claims applies to most major Chinese cities, is ultimately unconvincing. While Chongqing clearly is one of the most remarkable places to study violent conflicts in the early Cultural Revolution, the involvement of a large number of workers from the military-industrial complex joining different groups does not lend itself easily to purely ideational explanations of Red Guard factionalism. To be sure, including notions of “performance,” “script,” or “enactment” in our understanding of Cultural Revolutionary factionalism (as other authors have done in the past) is crucial, but this “performative turn” does not replace detailed studies of specific social and political contexts.

In terms of theory, the book offers interesting connections but shies away from some of the most difficult questions, such as that of belief in what is quite problematically defined as Maoist “orthodoxy.” It was precisely the lack of a coherent set of “orthodox” guidelines that provided the political space for the politics of the performative, as both the “Sixteen Points” and the “May 16th Circular” contained numerous inconsistencies and self-contradictions, not to mention the citational nature of Mao’s “supreme instructions.” Moreover, Yang employs Lü Xiaobo’s characterization of the “sacredness” of the revolutionary project, without offering an explanation of how we should analytically define and understand these notions of “sacredness” or “sacrality.” The stimulating nature of the book is further hindered by the uneven quality of the chapters, thus chapter 3 on Red Guard theory production offers neither new cases nor a novel analysis beyond what Wu Yiching and others have already explored in much greater detail. There are a few factual errors that are always hard to avoid, such as stating that the Cultural Revolution ended fifty years ago instead of forty (164) or giving the print number of Mao’s Selected Works between 1966 and 1970 as 4.2 billion copies (127) instead of 744 million. The former number includes the Little Red Book and various other writings. Pinyin syllables are also left unorthodoxly unconnected throughout the text.

While the book does not provide a clavis Sinica, a hidden key to unravel the mysteries of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, it does offer a highly intelligent overview of the Red Guard generation that is especially helpful in viewing the long-term development of this age cohort, as well as providing new perspectives on how to analyze this generation’s self-perception during changing periods of the recent Chinese past.

Daniel Leese, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany                                                                  

Back to top



Northeast Asia

NEW

IGNITING THE INTERNET: Youth and Activism in Postauthoritarian South Korea. By Jiyeon Kang. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. xi, 241 pp. US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5656-4.

Given the recent global attention directed at South Korea’s candlelight protesters in Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul, Jiyeon Kang’s monograph on South Korea’s Internet-born youth activism in the first decade of the twenty-first century is timely. Kang perceptively captures emerging modes of post-authoritarian youth activism through an effective triangulation of ethnography, discourse analysis, and historical analysis. In this book, Kang examines the sociocultural context of South Korean youth in the twenty-first century, the online discourses that emerged during candlelight vigils, and ways in which candlelight protests were remembered by the young participants.

Kang’s study comprises two chronologically divided yet thematically interwoven parts, along with introductory chapters and a conclusion. The two introductory chapters provide the theoretical and historical contexts in which the emergence of the Internet-born and candlelight-equipped protesters are situated. The author proposes the intriguing anthropological concept of “captivation” to explain why and how this new post-authoritarian mode of social activism emerged through the convergence of online and offline spaces. According to the author, young people captivated by images and news circulated on the Internet were involved in a larger process of “cultural ignition” that led to candlelight protests as a new form of activism. Following this introduction, the author engages with the historical analysis of South Korean youth activism in chapter 1, where authoritarian legacies are compared with changes of the post-authoritarian era.

After the two introductory chapters, part 1 focuses on an earlier phase of post-authoritarian activism by analyzing the 2002 candlelight protests. In chapter 2, the author examines the origin of the Internet youth protests with reference to the 2002 candlelight vigils that emerged following the accidental killing of two civilian Korean girls by US military troops during a military exercise on South Korean territory. In particular, the author explores how images and texts about the tragic incident were captivated and circulated through online forums and how feelings of injustice were expressed in response to the incident and the following acquittals of the two US soldiers responsible.

In chapter 3, the author discusses how candlelight protests converged with mainstream politics during the presidential election of December 2002, in which Roh Moo-hyun emerged as a metonym for a new democratic era. As described in this chapter, despite the post-election disenchantment among young Roh supporters, the election revealed how vernacular discourses on the Internet could influence and articulate with mainstream politics. Drawing on interviews with Korean youth conducted in 2006, chapter 4 introduces young people’s memories of their experiences during the 2002 candlelight protests. The young people’s retrospective narratives suggest heterogeneous interpretations and memories. In particular, the author illustrates how young people’s corporeal and affective experiences of the protests contributed to shaping their political orientations. The author also claims that the co-existence of various and even contradictory interpretations of the candlelight vigils implies an emerging repertoire for youth activism in the post-authoritarian era.

While part 1 focuses on the 2002 candlelight vigils, part 2 addresses the post-2002 period with reference to the 2008 protests against the Lee Myung-bak administration for its decision to resume the importation of US beef, which provoked public concern about the danger of mad cow disease. By analyzing online discourses, chapter 5 discusses how the 2008 protests differed from the earlier 2002 protests. Here the author finds further development of Internet-born youth activism, wherein the Internet played a significant role in reconfiguring young people’s process of “doing politics.” The same period is addressed in chapter 6 through the memories of young participants. In the 2011–2012 interviews, despite varied personal memories, the young people revealed how they developed their own political views through affective and corporeal experiences during the protests. The author argues that, regardless of their individual social situations, the young people proposed personally meaningful political activities beyond the established institutional discourse of politics. In the conclusion, the author discusses the consequences of Internet-born protests by looking at the Internet’s influence on youth and the connection between online and offline spaces. The author suggests that post-authoritarian youth politics is “evolving beyond the repertoire of candlelight protests” (161).

This study offers both compelling analysis and rich ethnographic data. Its insightful exploration of the Internet and activism moves beyond the binary opposition between criticism of Internet-mediated, low-risk protest and the celebratory acknowledgement of the Internet as the new driving force of activism. Moreover, Kang offers up a critical framework through which she analyzes the heterogeneity of social actors and the processes of social movements. She interweaves an analysis of South Korea’s socio-political landscape in the first decade of the twenty-first century with a comparative examination of the perspectives of the government, mainstream media, alternative media, and the actual protesters.  Further, while maintaining its critical and analytical perspective, this study is written in a highly approachable style that will appeal to a wide range of readers. I highly recommend this book as one of the first English-language monographs on youth activism in post-authoritarian South Korea, one that paints a particularly insightful fresco of South Korean society and digital media activism in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Kyong Yoon, The University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada                                              

Back to top


NEW

THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF RAMEN: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze. California Studies in Food and Culture, 49. By George Solt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. xvii, 222 pp. (Illustrations.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28235-3.

What are the histories and social consequences of “conceiving of a working-class food in national terms?” (12). This is among the core questions George Solt seeks to answer in his rich and convincing study of the iconic Japanese everyman’s noodle soup, The Untold History of Ramen. Solt’s attention to class and work provides a counterpoint to the frequent role of “traditional” cuisine in defining national food cultures, including recent washoku heritage campaigns in Japan. In five chapters, Solt traces ramen’s “relationship to changing notions of labor and nation” from its origins in Chinese-style eateries of the early twentieth century through its ascension to the most prominent example of Japanese “B-class gourmet” (8). He divides the book into two sections, part 1 offering a social history of prewar Shina soba pushcarts fuelling mass urban labour (chapter 1), US wheat imports and ramen on the black market in the Occupation (chapter 2), and the industrialization of food and work during Japan’s postwar era of high-speed growth (chapter 3). Part 2 covers the nostalgic rebranding of ramen in the 1980s and 1990s into a symbol of artisanal entrepreneurship alongside the decline of the forms of labour that facilitated its rise (chapter 4) and the globalization of ramen as a product of trendy, transnational youth culture in the 2000s (chapter 5).

The Untold History of Ramen makes several important contributions to the study of Japanese food history. Despite the flavour of its final chapters, Solt’s account is more interested in the socio-political history of ramen than in questions of cultural identity formation or the conviviality of the table that have preoccupied so many academic studies of food culture. Instead of relying on the common wisdom of the “secret histories of ramen” from which he draws inspiration, Solt’s keen historical sensibility allows the book to interrogate how cultural associations between ramen and the working class came into being. His discussion of the role of American wheat imports on the postwar proliferation of ramen provides a valuable supplement to Katarzyna Cwiertka’s (Modern Japanese Cuisine: Food, Power, and National Identity, London: Reaktion, 2006) concept of the “Japanese-Western-Chinese culinary tripod” in the development of modern Japanese cuisine, demonstrating how US food aid spurred the resurgence of a dish culturally associated with China.

Solt’s is a rare example of a study equally rich on the production and consumption sides, combining concern for the motivations and livelihoods of vendors with close attention to the temporalities of ramen’s social meaning and the material flows of ingredients and working bodies. The Untold History of Ramen makes a persuasive case for a quotidian dish as a legitimate subject of historical inquiry, as well as a productive lens through which to view twentieth-century Japanese social transformation.

Ramen seems caught somewhere between artisanship and industry, both in its operations and its place in the cultural imaginary. Although ramen was born in part as fuel for the agents of modern manufacturing, Solt demonstrates that it also symbolized a form of (often glorified) escape, from black market ramen stands undermining Occupation provisioning to the dream of an independent ramen shop as a postindustrial alternative to corporate structures. The self-made vendor of the prewar yatai or the apprentice-entrepreneur of the post-salaryman era implicitly hark back to a style of individualized labour and training presumed to be non-modern, despite ramen’s deep roots in the global flows and industrial development of the twentieth century.

At times, Solt’s narrative might benefit from an even more thorough examination of the specific conjunction between historical forms of labour organization and the social and nutritional functions of ramen. Labour in the 1880s, one possible origin point for ramen, looked quite different from labour in 1910, when Rai-Rai Ken was founded, which in turn differed markedly from labour in the 1930s, 1950s, 1980s, and so on. The nostalgic associations of ramen with a narrow moment in time might say more about the durable, constantly reinvented imagery of ramen consumption than it does about any organic relationship between ramen and work. In this sense, The Untold History of Ramen is not so much a history of labour patterns as it is of class representation, as the type of anonymous heavy-industrial wage labour that Solt expects readers to associate with ramen consumption was, at least in terms of sheer chronology, outside the norm in the modern history of Japan.

How far can we push Solt’s contention that ramen has become a representative national food of Japan? Even to the extent that it has been assimilated as a sign of Japanese cultural capital in the contemporary global market, ramen remains rife with subtle markers of Chineseness at home, including the katakana loanword script featured on the book’s cover. Solt’s final chapter offers a more compelling argument that ramen became Japanese when domestic and international youth culture reconfigured the terms of historical engagement in the 2000s, “where sights, sounds, and tastes stood in for texts, events, and ideas” (164). Ramen’s history and origins came to rely on what millennial consumers saw in front of them, including the invented traditions of Japanese representation slowly accumulating since the 1980s.

Finally, for a food that became so ubiquitously of the people, or at least the working class, Solt’s account could feel a bit more human. The book tends to characterize the lives and motivations of ramen purveyors and consumers rather than letting them speak for themselves, with the notable exception of the vendor hagiographies he cites from the 1980s onward. One wonders whether Solt’s decision to focus on centralized economic and political planning, especially in the second and third chapters, may have foreclosed the opportunity to explore the rich texture of everyday experience that food studies as a field is so uniquely equipped to express.

The Untold History of Ramen is a welcome addition to the fields of both modern Japanese history and food studies. It is an eminently readable and informative text that will appeal to specialists and general readers alike, as well as a valuable resource for undergraduate teaching.

Joshua Evan Schlachet, Columbia University, New York, USA                                                          

Back to top


NEW

BUILDING A HEAVEN ON EARTH: Religion, Activism, and Protest in Japanese-Occupied Korea. By Albert L. Park. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015. xi, 307 pp. US$56.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3965-9.

Since the late 1990s scholarly literature on colonial Korea has proliferated rather dramatically. One of the central and most contentious issues in such research has been the characterization of “modern” and modernization within the colonial paradigm, with “colonial modernity” emerging as a theorization attempting to reconcile the so-called “modernizing camp,” focusing on the modernizing characteristics of Japanese colonialism, and the “nationalist camp,” emphasizing the exploitative nature of the colonial regime. Through the lens of religion in the colonial era, a phenomenon similarly intersected by such conflicting historiographical narratives, Albert Park provides a welcome and skillfully crafted intervention into this important debate, offering fresh perspectives on the role of religious activism, theological thought, and their relationship to modernity within the post-1919 political milieu.

Building a Heaven on Earth focuses on three rural, faith-based agrarian movements—the YMCA (1925), the Presbyterian Church (1928), and Ch’ŏndogyo (1925) movements—that attempted to ameliorate the disruptive ruptures wrought by capitalistic modernity by embracing an agriculture-based economy that emphasized pastoral existence, communalism, and religious principles. For peasants caught between movements with a temporal orientation toward the future (leftists and bourgeois nationalists) and an idealized version of an idyllic past that rejected modern capitalism (agrarianists), these movements offered an alternative articulation of modernity that “sought to protect, enhance, and expand Korea’s agrarian heritage simultaneously through the adoption of contemporary ideas, practices, and institutions” (118). Park has thus challenged the dominant view of the 1920s as a period characterized only by the rise of secular critiques of religion and the retreat of religion into the otherworldly by illuminating the emergence of religious social engagement at the institutional level and the process by which such activism “rearticulated … religious languages and transformed religion into a vehicle to question the norms of modernity” (10).

Building a Heaven on Earth is divided into two parts, each of which consists of three chapters. In part 1, Park begins by tracing the origins of Tonghak/Ch’ŏndogyo and Christianity in nineteenth-century Korea, describing the process by which these religions furnished influential “languages, practices, and institutions” that came to be employed by followers to interpret the myriad social, cultural, and economic transformations that surrounded them. Park demonstrates that, although individual practitioners inspired by religious teachings engaged in various forms of social activism, up until 1919 these were conducted outside of the religious institutional purview. However, with the deepening of the capitalist economy and its transformation of the traditional socio-economic and cultural organization of rural society, coupled with the sharp religious critiques of the 1920s, Koreans witnessed the emergence of religion-based reconstruction campaigns that “seriously questioned the norms of modernity, addressed the extreme changes and problems caused by modernization, and set out to reform and stabilize the economic, social, and cultural lives of people” (79). Park then focuses his attention on theologies articulated by Yi Ton-hwa (Ch’ŏndogyo), Hong Pyŏng-sŏn (Protestant), and Pae Min-su (Presbyterian), all of which encouraged followers to engage with present social movements and experience religion in the quotidian rhythms of everyday life as a method to build a “heaven on earth” (chisang ch’ŏn’guk).

In part 2, Park characterizes rural Korea as a battleground where rival reform movements led by leftists, the colonial state, bourgeois nationalists, and agrarianists competed to “gain hegemonic control over peasants and achieve their ideal vision of the nation-state” (147). Within this crowded field, the YMCA, Presbyterian, and Ch’ŏndogyo movements distinguished themselves by promoting a modern capitalist economy centred on a reconstructed agrarian society with the potential to foster a durable, moral livelihood. Park then explores these agrarian theologies in action through analyses of rural economic cooperative movements carried out differentially by each organization but inspired in similar fashion by the Danish-style cooperative system. The book concludes with an account of each organization’s efforts to condition and discipline the minds of the rural population to the “truth” of rural capitalist modernity through literacy and education campaigns.

Park has produced a well-constructed, eloquently written work with a consistent argument solidly supported by thorough and diverse primary source research. Park’s utilization of theory is judicious and effective, demonstrating a firm command of a wide range of classic literature and social theory, as well as theology. Park’s book has the potential to break new ground in historiography on the Korean colonial period by highlighting the little researched but widely influential religion-based agrarian activism of the 1920s and 1930s. In this way, Park effectively problematizes the tendency of research on the colonial period to gloss over the relationship between religion and modernization while bringing to light significant faith-based responses to anti-religious attacks following the March First Movement, showing the durability of such discourse while simultaneously attempting to break down its hegemony.

Although the book does an excellent job of explicating the philosophical reasoning behind the agrarian movements and their implementation, what is less clear is the outcome of each movement. Moreover, Park’s assessments of the development and impact of the movements is almost uniformly positive, save for the perfunctory reminder to the reader here and there of the general difficulty of life on the farm. Due to this positive tone, the reader may be unsure at times whether the description of the movement is the position of Park or the movement leaders. Another aspect of the analysis that could have been more fully developed is the relationship between the colonial government and the agrarian movements. Park’s position is that the Japanese Government General quietly tolerated such religion-based activism because it diverted support from radical leftist movements, but without a close analysis of this relationship the Japanese presence appears more as the spectre of power and the potential arbiter of the movements’ ultimate fate rather than an interacting agent. Finally, the relationship between institutional leaders—many of them foreign missionaries—and those of the agrarian movements, although described to some extent, could have been explored in more depth to highlight the tension that existed between the conservative principles of leadership and the progressive tendencies of activists.

Despite these minor shortcomings, Building a Heaven on Earth succeeds in drawing scholarly attention to a major though overlooked aspect of the colonial landscape: religion-based agrarian activism. The book should be recommended reading for anyone interested in social movements and religion in colonial environments, in Korea and beyond.

Daniel Pieper, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada                                            

Back to top


NEW

TOURIST DISTRACTIONS: Traveling and Feeling in Transnational Hallyu Cinema. By Youngmin Choe. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. xi, 252 pp. (Illustrations.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6130-5.

Tourist Distractions analyzes Hallyu cinema through concepts of travelling and movement as epitomes of the Korean Wave. Hallyu cinema has been a critical site where capital, commercial commodities and cultural products circulate under the umbrella of “Asianization,” which the author defines as the shared affective experience of building East Asian networks. Geopolitical representations in East Asia and their re-imaginations among global consumer cultures open critical possibilities of reinterpreting regionalism and transnationalism through Hallyu in post-Cold War East Asia.

Choe elaborates on how cinematic representations of Hallyu cinema and their connotations reach beyond their cinematic diegeses through travelling and movement under the rapidly changing landscapes and afterlives of Hallyu’s own materiality in East Asia. Hallyu cinema is therefore not merely an important site of transnational commerce where the film industry and tourism converge, but also presents a transformative milieu that shifts Korea’s position from the postcolonial to the transnational.

Within these critical frameworks, the book is divided into three parts: “Intimacy” (Korea and Japan), “Amity” (Korea and China), and “Remembrance” (South and North Korea)—each of which consists of two chapters. Choe eloquently illustrates the trajectory of Hallyu discourses by showing the shifting emotions, tensions, and gestures echoing from embryonic transnational self-reflections to reveal manifestations of what she calls “tourist distractions.” By looking at Hallyu as affective media circulating via cultural and virtual commodity, her framing of “tourist distraction” is less indicative of cinematic spectatorship than representations of travel and tourist movement related to images and sites themselves, as well as the collective affect that continuously intervenes, disrupts, and re-contextualizes modern Korean society and culture.

“Intimacy” traces the theme of reconciliation between Japan and Korea: “Feeling Together: Pornography and Travel in Kazoku Cinema and Asako in Ruby Shoes” (chapter 1) through pornography, and “Affective Sites: Hur Jin-ho’s April Snow and One Fine Spring Day” (chapter 2) through an affective tourism by which audiences are expected to mimic the emotional experiences aroused in both spectatorship and through visiting the actual film locations. “Intimacy” further interrogates the colonial history and remnants of collective memory between the two countries. Focusing on the quotidian banality of its postcolonial audiences by way of sexual voyeurism, Choe argues that Korean and Japanese audiences obtained alternative viewpoints on their history and perceptions of each other. By cinematic intermediation through the narrative of postcolonial reconciliation, the colonial past and its legacies are affectively reinterpreted by obliterating historical references to the past, allowing audiences to virtually experience another’s body and place. The critical point of affective tourism is that viewers are expected to mimic the emotional experiences of filmic characters by visiting on-site locations, since the film sets were made when Hallyu began to gain momentum after the success of the drama Winter Sonata. Revisiting these locations, audiences become aware of Hallyu’s emotional and physical impact, both culturally and economically. Choe argues that the theme of “reconciliation through intimacy” is first generated in the embryonic stage of Hallyu, as distinct from the consumption of subsequent Hallyu films, such as April Snow (starring Winter Sonata’s famed lead, Bae Yong Joon), since it was produced to satisfy transnational audiences of Korean cultural products.

The book’s second part, “Amity,” explores transnational cooperation in the making of the film Musa, coproduced by Korea and China (chapter 3). Choe analyzes amity between the two countries through a so-called “bond of compassion” (yŏchŏng). Focusing on the parallel between the film and the MOD (making of documentary), which portrayed the development of a camaraderie between the Korean and Chinese actors and crew that transcended their complex relationship after the Cold War, Choe highlights the need for “provisional unity in order to accomplish pressing tasks” (108) beyond issues of nationalism and xenophobia. Stressing the foundation of shared affect emergent through “travelling” and collaboration, the author questions the circulation of the very localized meaning of “affect”: What would happen if local affect were to travel in a different transnational context? By analyzing the sonagi (rain) trope in the film Daisy by Hong Kong director Wai-Keung Lau, Choe analyzes the concept of sunsu (“purity” and “innocence” in Korean) (chapter 4). The recognizable fragments of sonagi and narrative are brought into the context of Hong Kong new noir to create a hybridized trope, which produces the anachronistic dialogue of aesthetic possibilities and contestation within the logic of transnational exchange.

The final section, “Remembrance,” shifts focus to South and North Korea. Here Choe addresses the past in relation to the concept of “border crossing” (chapter 5). For example, the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), a site common to the films J.S.A.: Joint Security Area, Yesterday, and 2009: Lost Memories, embodies varying levels of engagement and signals a post-memory border crossing and discourse of unification and division that was never personally experienced but has come to feel vital or lived by future generations. Through these films’ references to the Korean War and the DMZ, a critical space opens in which to synchronously address historical redress and test reflections/reframing of history and subjectivity in the age of Hallyu. Thus, the DMZ has a performative quality as a site of contestation between states, individuals, emotions, and constitutions. Choe further questions to what extent these Hallyu film sites are considered as memorials (transient monuments), and how the film Taekgukgi becomes a virtual experience of actual history that becomes altered amid the slipperiness of memory and mobility of Hallyu cinema (chapter 6). The transient film set as tourist destination often loses its meaning after the vanishing of a film’s popularity. Choe thus problematizes the underlying problems of commemoration through commercial film sets as memorials, since the film’s representation of wartime trauma reflects a gap as each generational audience consumes different filmic texts of the same historical incident. The author warns that the will to repair and redress historical trauma through the “cooperative optimism” and the transnational appeal of Hallyu cinema comes at the cost of a “historical amnesia in potentially dangerous ways” (196).

Although an impressive amount of scholarship on Hallyu cinema has been published in the last decade, the transnational affect of Hallyu cinema through re-contextualizing it as audience emotions, tensions, and transnational self-reflections has not been the focus of critical attention. Tourist Distractions fills this void in Korean film studies with a persuasive voice by establishing the transnational linkages of Hallyu to Japan, China, and North Korea since the early inception of the Hallyu boom. The structure of this book is, in this sense, coherent and logical. The book embodies the extent of global distribution of Hallyu and its appropriation of South Korean cinema as cultural exports of soft power to show the logic of tourism and the transnational network of cultural exchange, and the bonds of commonality in Asia through modes of commodification. The book ends by posing a rhetorical question, appropriating Spivak: “Can the global commodity speak?” The answer may be affirmative, but only within the prison of the global commodity mantra.

Yongwoo Lee, New York University, New York, USA                                                                          

Back to top


NEW

DEVELOPMENTAL MINDSET: The Revival of Financial Activism in South Korea. Cornell Studies in Money. By Elizabeth Thurbon. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016. xii, 221 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-5017-0310-2.

There is a large amount of literature on the South Korean developmental state, which is widely acknowledged as the driving force behind Korea’s economic success story from the 1960s until the 1990s. While this period is relatively well researched, we still lack a good understanding about what happens to developmental states when countries like Korea advance into developed OECD economies. In particular, since the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998, it has often been argued that the developmental state is dead and has been replaced by a neoliberal regulatory state. This occurred either because the developmental state became dysfunctional or by imposition from a “Wall Street-Treasury-IMF complex.” In her book, Developmental Mindset Elizabeth Thurbon offers a powerful critique of such “declinist accounts” and shows that studying the developmental state remains not just important in order to draw lessons for countries in the Global South but also for our understanding of contemporary capitalism in East Asia.

She argues that declinist accounts that see Korea converging to a US-style market-oriented capitalism draw wrong conclusions because they focus on specific institutions and policies of the developmental state. From her perspective, the developmental mindset was contested in particular during the Kim Young-sam administration from 1992 to 1997 but was since then revitalized under the pressure of crisis, global competition, and financialization. While she probably overrates the weakening of the developmental mindset under Kim Young-sam, her investigation of the policies and institutions based on the developmental mindset since 1997 are an important contribution, lucid and well researched. She persuasively shows that the Korean state remains strongly interventionist and uses a state-owned developmental bank (“financial activism”) to achieve techno-industrial upgrading and to remain export competitive.

Her idea-centred investigation of the developmental state in Korea offers important new insights but her perspective also leaves some blind spots and open questions that I hope will provoke a revival of the debate on the developmental state. First, the strength of focusing on the developmental mindset of the political elite is that it allows us to identify continuity even when there are substantial changes in institutions, policies, and the political orientation of governments. This strength, however, comes at the expense of clarity regarding what the developmental state is about, and underestimates the dynamic of state-economy relations. Ideas and goals matter but they only become relevant if they are embedded in an enabling institutional framework and correspond with a political and economic reality. There were and are many leaders in the developing world with a developmental mindset but only a few countries, including Korea, have actually succeeded in advancing to the status of a developed country.

Second, what enabled the developmental mindset in Korea since the 1960s was the coalition of state and business, in particular the chaebol, at the expense of labour and democracy. In this coalition the state formulated five-year development plans, providing subsidized loans and protection from international competition. Since the 1980s, democratization and globalization have gradually but substantially undermined this old developmental state. I agree with Thurbon that this did not imply a declining role for the state and a transformation to a pure liberal regulatory state. On the contrary, government spending is ever-expanding, and the state remains strongly interventionist and pro-business. At the same time, changes have been substantial. Instead of providing long-term plans and strategies for industrial development that would force the large private companies to invest, the state has become largely reactive by playing a supporting role for the private sector. While in the past state-controlled banks financed big conglomerates’ expansions into new industries, now large amounts of funds by state-owned developmental banks go into struggling old industries such as shipbuilding or SMEs squeezed by the big conglomerates. Fiscal stimulus packages after 2008 were largely used for infrastructure and channelled towards construction companies struggling with over-capacity. One of the strongest parts of the book is Thurbon’s investigation of government initiative and support for new industries under the IT-839 initiative of President Roh Moo-hyun (2002-2007) and the green growth agenda of his successor Lee Myung-bak (2007-2012). It is true that the developmental mindset remains strong and the state remains central in economic and societal coordination. However, what Thurbon describes seems to be the emergence of a new form of a developed, non-liberal capitalism with a strong corporatist state and not the rebirth of the old developmental state. If the developmental state is really reborn, she leaves the question “reborn as what?” for future debate.

Third, Thurbon makes a conscious choice not to discuss the limits and the problems of a developmental mindset for a developed country such as Korea. I think this choice is problematic because many of the cases of state and financial activism she describes are today seen as failures in Korea. Recent governments have consistently promised and failed to deliver a return of the high economic growth rates of the past. The prevailing ideology that growth and industrial development can solve all economic and social problems has become a major handicap for Korea’s development into a more democratic, just, and environmentally sustainable society. Even during the discussed green-growth initiative the objective was primarily growth and not ecological sustainability.

In sum, Thurbon’s new book is a welcome revitalization of the important discussion on the developmental state and improves our understanding of a distinct and path-dependent model of state-led capitalism that is emerging in East Asia. Her focus on the developmental mindset of the political elite is an important contribution to this understanding while at the same time raising many new questions for future debates. She offers a very compact and readable analysis while providing a strong narrative that would not fit into a standard journal article. I strongly recommend this book for all scholars and students of development as well as those curious about Asian capitalism and its spirit.

Thomas Kalinowski, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea                                             

Back to top


NEW

THE LIFE WE LONGED FOR: Danchi Housing and the Middle Class Dream in Postwar Japan. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Laura Neitzel. Portland, ME: MerwinAsia; Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press [distributor], 2015. xxvi, 159 pp. (Illustrations.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-937385-86-6.

Laura Neitzel’s book The Life We Longed For is a model of concise, lucid, thoughtful scholarship equally suited for the graduate seminar table and the undergraduate classroom. Its focus is the rise of the danchi, or apartment complex, as a locus of social engineering, political attention, and cultural dreaming during the 1950s and 1960s. Neitzel’s book brings scholarly attention back to the middle class of Japan’s twentieth century, a significant area of inquiry increasingly marginalized by the field’s ongoing fascination with Japanese empire and transnational history. Neitzel explores the work of “journalists, architects, social scientists, novelists, and filmmakers” (89) as well as the state agency known as the Japan Housing Corporation (JHC) and analyzes their collective efforts to democratize home and family, to rationalize human living space via the latest technological gadgetry, and to grow a postwar middle class committed to serious consumption as much as to hard work.

Neitzel first chronicles how the JHC addressed the housing crisis of the 1950s by developing suburban land into bedroom towns and by promoting the suburban apartment complex as a place to lead a “prototype of middle-class life” (25). She next examines the public discourse on the people who moved into these new “concrete islands of urbanity” (45). Known as the danchizoku, or the social vanguard of the apartment complex, they grabbed public attention as the beneficiaries of everything that was newly desirable in a nation moving beyond the demands and deprivations of war: liberation from hierarchical social relations, the introduction of material plenty within daily life, and membership in the showcase social group known as the middle class. Yet the arrival of prosperity also brought tension and anxiety. The privacy of danchi life led to isolation, the democratization of luxury yielded sameness and standardization, and technological efficiency produced boredom. Aspiration gave birth to anomie, as documented in the films of Hani Susumu and the literature of the alienated father/salaryman and the sexually promiscuous housewife. Neitzel concludes by analyzing the decline of the danchi as an emblem of postwar affluence and the curious rise of the danchi as an early twenty-first-century repository of nostalgia for good times gone by.

This book is a welcome contribution to our understanding of middle-class formation during Japan’s twentieth century. Neitzel joins a group of historians dedicated to establishing the cumulative common sense on this topic: aspiration mattered more than achievement within middle-class identity; the middle-class home was never separated from the world outside its walls but, instead, functioned as “a cultural/social pressure chamber and laboratory for measuring the effects of modernization and change” (111); and the 1950s was one of the pivotal decades of definition and growth for the middle class. (The other two were the 1920s and the 1980s.) She does not place the middle class of the 1950s in a temporal bubble but, rather, accentuates the links between the middle class of the 1920s and the 1950s, including their never-ending struggles to disentangle themselves from “the feudal,” a catch-all term for any established custom that frustrated the individual’s ability to act in new ways, whether marrying for romantic love or living separated from in-laws. Yet historians also need to more sharply distinguish the differences among the 1920s, the 1950s, and the 1980s as moments of middle-class formation. For instance, while Neitzel, Louise Young, and other scholars have pointed to the centrality of consumerism to middle-class identity during the 1920s and the 1950s, those moments displayed drastically different views on the virtues of consumerism. During the 1920s, when the practice of consumerism was coloured by a darkening association with immoral excess, the public reputation of the middle class was only weakly linked to consumerism; by the 1950s, fuelled by the rise of Keynesian economics and the state’s commitment to promote postwar economic recovery, consumerism acquired a veneer of patriotic action, and the middle class became publicly defined and socially sanctioned as consumers par excellence. Historians must be more attuned to the nuances of the evolution of the middle class. It was a dynamic social group with significant shifts in identity, habit, and membership across the twentieth century.

My one disappointment with Neitzel’s book was the absence of a sustained analysis of middle-class Japanese and their experiences of daily life within the danchi. While Neitzel skillfully examines popular discourse, mirroring the methodological approach of other historians of the Japanese middle class, she leaves to future scholars the task of relating popular discourse to everyday experience. Across the twentieth century, nestled in the pages of newspapers or the mokuji of magazines, is evidence of Japanese individuals aspiring toward material comfort, spiritual fulfillment, and emotional satisfaction. Historians must look more regularly to these voices to explain the propulsive forces that birthed the middle class. Institutions, whether secondary schools, print media, department stores, or apartment complexes, certainly guided individuals toward pathways to the middle class, but institutional efflorescence relied upon the energies of a populace eager to realize the promises of modernity and to pursue a new version of daily life that came to be stamped with the middle-class idiom. Future work must calibrate the dynamic relationship between these individuals and the institutions associated with membership in the middle class.

Mark Jones, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, USA

Back to top


NEW

SHADOW EDUCATION AND THE CURRICULUM AND CULTURE OF SCHOOLING IN SOUTH KOREA. Curriculum Studies Worldwide. By Young Chun Kim. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, c2016. xxv, 211 pp. (Illustrations.) US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-51323-6.

Pupils attend supplementary education institutions all over the world. While this experience is common, the intensity and prominence of “shadow education” in South Korea is noted in all comparisons and a reference point for the growing literature on this under-researched aspect of many education systems. There is a significant literature on South Korea that focuses on the economics of shadow education in particular, in part because the amount private households spend on this is so astounding when compared to public school expenditures.

Young Chun Kim adds to the general literature on supplementary education in South Korea. His primarily descriptive intentions show themselves in a book that is comprehensive in its coverage of aspects of shadow education, but that neglects to question or explain some of the characterizations of the curriculum of hakwon education that it makes along the way.

Kim opens the book with a discussion that places supplementary education in the context of comparative scores achieved by Korean students. He then proceeds with a history of shadow education in Korea. He offers a typology of the sector, and the three central empirical chapters detail hakwon as they cater to elementary, middle school, and high school students, respectively.

The book fails to properly define what is a hakwon. In the historical chapter, for example, any form of non-government-sponsored educational institution is included in the discussion. This leads to an intriguing mention of hakwon as an anti-colonial/anti-Japanese institution that is not explained further, but it also means that the specificity of shadow education as supplementing school education and following it in curriculum and content is lost. The historical chapter also does not really offer a discussion of how and why hakwon education first emerged and grew to such dominance.

The imprecision in defining hakwon continues in the typology set forth by Kim. While sports and hobby hakwon are not included here, they are mentioned repeatedly in the latter descriptions of students’ daily activities. But is the fact that piano classes are offered under the hakwon rubric enough to discuss this in the same context as the school subject instruction that seems to be the core of the hakwon industry? The typology is also odd in that it classifies hakwon by varying criteria, especially subjects and teaching methodology. Yes, hakwon do vary along those lines, but what are the curriculum studies questions that demand a classification by one criterion over another? This mixed typology then disappears in the substantive chapters, which offer different classifications that are based on government statistics.

The three chapters that offer a glimpse into Korean students’ daily schedule will be of some interest to comparative education scholars, though likely not to Korea, nor supplementary education specialists. These glimpses are marred by the absence of an explanation of how this fieldwork was conducted. There is a minimal explanation of methods in the conclusion, but the central chapters seem to offer these glimpses in merely anecdotal fashion.

It is curious that Kim leaves some of the most interesting features of Korean supplementary education virtually unquestioned. The South Korean context is unusual in that the government has declared war on supplementary education for many decades in a way that no other government has, including ones faced with a similar context, such as Brazil, Japan, or Turkey. But when Kim writes, for example, that “highly paid private tutoring for the wealthy was a problem in Korean society” (25), this is portrayed as a fact rather than an occasion to discuss what exactly is perceived as problematic and how that perception has come about.

A further curiosity is Kim’s overarching attempt to point to positive and negative features of hakwon education. While some of the negative factors seem more apparent (cost, burden on students, etc.), many of the positive aspects do not seem self-evident. “Unlike school teachers who have to follow the school curriculum schedule … hakwon instructors are kinder and gladly help the students” (37). Hakwon instructors are kinder? Can this be demonstrated? Is it a perception of kindness that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? What does that mean for the education system?

In this evaluative context, the academic achievement of Korean students is also not questioned. Is high achievement on standardized testing really the end-all goal of education?

Kim ends the book with some discussion of further questions that arise about Korean supplementary education in the context of curriculum studies. Some of these are clear in their importance. As the British Columbia provincial government, for example, is touting individualized learning plans, much could be learned about curricular matrices from the supplementary education experience outlined by Kim. He describes hakwon offerings that seem to both tailor learning to an individual’s needs, including personality, but also carry out this tailored learning. This book raises such fascinating questions, but does not offer many answers to them.

Julian Dierkes, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada                                           

Back to top


NEW

DECENTERING CITIZENSHIP: Gender, Labor, and Migrant Rights in South Korea. By Hae Yeon Choo. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016. xi, 200 pp. US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-9966-9.

If the modernization of South Korea was predicated upon two major revolutions, namely economic industrialization and political democratization, it is clear today that a third social revolution is transforming the fundamental structures of Korean society. South Korea is an outlier on several indicators when compared to other member states of the OECD. Among OECD nations, South Korea currently boasts the highest suicide rate, the lowest fertility rate, and the third highest divorce rate. In addition, the number of immigrants residing in the country has dramatically increased in recent decades, now at over two million, or 4 percent of the population. For a nation that has long held to notions of “pure blood” and ethnic homogeneity, it is remarkable that the government is now touting “multicultural Korea” as the necessary future direction for Korean society.

As South Koreans wrestle with how to incorporate the growing numbers of foreign workers, marriage migrants, and biracial children, they have had to rethink automatic assumptions about citizenship, national belonging, and Korean identity. In Decentering Citizenship, Hae Yeon Choo tackles these important issues through the lens of Filipina migrants residing in South Korea. The larger narrative contextualizing this ethnographic study is the relationship between macro structural forces—in this case, varying government policies for different categories of migrants—and the reactionary patterns of adapting and navigating at the levels of community and family.

The within-group comparative methodological framework Choo utilizes is a great strength of the project. She identifies three groups of Filipina women who are defined by their differential access to the South Korean polity. Through tailored laws governing citizenship, residency visas, and work permits, the South Korean government dictates different possibilities for work and family for these women. Still, a fundamental goal of this book is to show that within the larger context of bureaucratic control of public and private lives, migrants actively adapt to and challenge the limitations placed on them. As Choo succinctly puts it, migrant lives “are not simply determined by structural forces and imposed exclusion; they are also full of vibrant contestation that shifts and remakes the borders of citizenship” (166).

Over six empirical chapters (excluding a helpful theoretical introduction and concluding thoughts), Choo takes us into the world of migrant communal life in South Korea. We learn about how Ramona, Michelle, and other hostesses working in the “Basetown” nightclubs actively try to increase their chances of fulfilling their financial and family goals. In “Factorytown,” we are introduced to Roselle and Florence, who are part of a migrant labour population that is now over a half million strong. Through poignant accounts of personal struggles—such as Virgie, an undocumented worker who was unable to circumvent the constant threat of deportation—we get a glimpse of the spirit driving migrant workers to make both bold and subtle claims on the rights to economic, political, and social inclusion. Choo’s ethnography also provides a window into the lives of Carrie, Gayun, and other marriage migrants who leave their own families and friends behind in the Philippines to marry Korean men, a trend that is at the heart of the solution for the “bridal shortage” facing rural and lower-class bachelors.

Because of the comparative framework structuring the analysis, Choo is able to go beyond the general narrative of migrant exclusion by showing the diverging consequences of government policies for varying groups of Filipina women. Notwithstanding the substantial material and cultural barriers marriage migrants continue to face, Filipina wives married to Korean men are able to capitalize on the legal pathway to citizenship allowed by the South Korean state—a policy very much driven by the government’s long-term demographic concerns. Eschewing efforts by various feminist and civil society groups to apply the “discourses of victimhood and trafficking” to them (147), marriage migrants instead claim the identity of “citizen-mothers” to make salient the legitimacy of their marriages and families, as well as their place in Korean society. Migrant workers, on the other hand, are not afforded the possibility of citizenship under the current Employment Permit System, a barrier that has led to an increase in the proportion of undocumented workers relative to their legal counterparts.

Although Choo details dramatic and harrowing run-ins with immigration officers during “crackdowns,” we also learn about the tangible and emotional support provided to migrant workers by a densely networked ethnic community in Factorytown, largely revolving around the Catholic Church. Unlike marriage migrants and workers, however, hostesses serving American military stationed in South Korea are unable to take advantage of this community. There are several reasons for their within-group exclusion, including moral sensibilities surrounding their occupation and the fractionalizing competition for American GI clients and boyfriends. In short, Choo successfully explicates the differential impact of heterogeneously structured opportunities for the three groups of Filipina migrant women and perhaps more importantly, documents how members of each group exercise their agency when navigating and challenging the unique barriers they face. This rich ethnography is the first to provide such comparative analysis of a fast-growing immigrant population that is reshaping who South Koreans are and what South Korea is. As such, this book should be on the reading list for anyone who wants to better understand the social revolution that is sweeping South Korea today.

Paul Y. Chang, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA                                              

Back to top


NEW

IT’S MADNESS: The Politics of Mental Health in Colonial Korea. A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies. By Theodore Jun Yoo. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016. xii, 225 pp. (Illustrations.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-28930-7.

Theodore Jun Yoo offers some staggering statistics to introduce his history of mental illness in Korea: among Republic of Korea (ROK) citizens today, just over one in four (27.6 percent) experience multiple mental health problems over their lifetime. At 29.1 per 1000 people the ROK’s suicide rate tops the list of OECD countries (3). Despite this near-crisis situation, the topic has received minimal consideration in Korean academic literature. Yoo attempts to fill this void by tracing the history of mental illness, the care Korean practitioners have offered patients, and general attitudes that Korean society has harboured toward those afflicted with mental disabilities. His subtitle is modest. He covers ground beyond simply the “colonial period,” and presents a well-researched and carefully articulated review of his topic that crosses traditional time periods to consider pre-colonial Chosŏn history as well.

Korea’s baptism to modern psychiatry occurred soon after Japan’s Meiji government saddled the kingdom with the Kanghwa Treaty in 1876, and after Japanese medical practitioners armed with the latest research from Europe began crossing over to the peninsula primarily to care for Japanese military personnel (54). Mental illness had long been recognized as a problem in Korea, but its medical practitioners relied on more traditional treatment approaches. Among these were female shamans who, believing that “human problems [were] caused by [external] disturbances in the cosmic world,” performed the dramatic gut ceremony that incorporated “frenzied dancing, lively music, and food” to win over the spirit’s favour (21, 22). A second option was traditional Chinese medicine, which later in the Chosŏn period displayed a distinct Korean identity. This approach sought to balance the “complex network of internal and external forces” to return the patient to mental stability (27). Towards the latter half of the dynasty, as Neo-Confucianism dug its roots deeper into Korean society, the mental patient came to be ostracized, rather than treated, to hide family shame (42).

The transition to modern psychiatric practices received its biggest boost with the arrival of Western missionaries, and particularly Dr. Horace Allen, who received King Kojong’s blessing to open the Kwanghyewon (Royal) Hospital in 1885. In addition to attending to physical ailments, the hospital gained notoriety as a center for the care of “diseases of the nervous system” (51). The hospital eventually opened a medical school that trained Koreans in modern psychiatric practices. Materials documenting the approaches that doctors employed to treat patients at the newly opened Severance Hospital, however, are apparently scarce, if not non-existent. Yoo describes early Western practices as an intersection between medical treatment and missionary work. Similar to shamanist practices, they also saw the cause of the patient’s mental illness as external, the work of demons who needed to be exorcised before the patient could be properly healed (54). After annexation Korean psychiatric practices divided. Practitioners at the Severance Hospital, then under the directorship of Charles McLaren, adopted a more “humanistic” approach to mental care and Japanese practitioners at the government general hospital affiliated with Keijō Imperial University advanced a German-centred clinical approach.

Following the survey of Korea’s history of mental treatment during late Chosŏn and the colonial period, drawing primarily on print culture, Yoo offers interesting insights into societal changes in Korean perception of mental illness. Here his focus is on its “medicalization and criminalization” (111). Suicide provides one example. Perceptions on this act have gone through a most interesting transition from late Chosŏn to the period of colonial rule, as it had in Japan from Edo up through the Pacific War years. In the earlier period, Korean commoner suicide, when it received attention, was seen as indignation over failure or wrongful accusation, or as a means of preserving personal or family honour (122). It was only later that suicide came to be connected to mental illness, particularly as an “out” for those whose means of life were insufficient for paying the hefty costs that the Japanese administration levied on patients who required institutional care. While the Korean press treated rises in suicide rates as a “tragic by-product of colonialism and flawed modernity,” the colonial government likened it to a similar phenomenon experienced by Japanese, as an inevitable “price to pay to become ‘modern’” (140).

It’s Madness is a well-crafted, but disturbing, monograph that introduces a complex issue that has received insufficient treatment in contemporary colonial literature in general, much less in Korean historiography. Yoo’s time frame, from late Chosŏn through the colonial period, coincides with revolutionary changes in the way people viewed the mind. His description of this period in Korea suggests a trajectory of similarity between practices occurring at the forefront of psychiatry as to how the mind was to be studied, as well as how the mentally challenged patient was to be treated. Appending a brief introduction to the changes that were occurring primarily in Europe would have provided important contextualized background for Korean psychiatry history, while offering clues as to the influences that enlightened the thinking of such people as Horace Allen, who entered Korea just two years prior to when Sigmund Freud started his practice, and Charles McLaren, who commenced employment at Severance Hospital during the height of (Carl) Jungian psychology. (Yoo does offer a short footnote regarding this latter connection on page 167). That said, It’s Madness should gain consideration as an important read for students of colonial studies. It belongs on the bookshelf of all dedicated Korean studies scholars.

Mark Caprio, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan

Back to top


ADVOCACY AND POLICYMAKING IN SOUTH KOREA: How the Legacy of State and Society Relationships Shapes Contemporary Public Policy. By Jiso Yoon. Albany, NY:SUNY Press, 2016. xi, 211 pp. US$85.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4384-6251-6.

A comparative study requires additional investment in collecting data and identifying a proper analytical framework. The cost might be higher when we compare political systems in different cultural areas. However, this book provides an efficient and effective strategy for this type of research; that is to apply a framework, previously established in the case of the United States, to the case of South Korea, which has been understudied in comparative works. Hence, the book spends much time explaining politics in South Korea in terms of three elements: the relation between state and society, actors across sectors, and the media. Then it compares the case of Korea with the case of United States, where the original framework was developed. Of course, this strategy has a trade-off between theoretical generalizability and specificity of case.

Few studies have been conducted to evaluate similarities and differences in elements of the policy process and its outcome between Western and non-Western countries. This book has intellectual merits because of its original way of comparing two culturally different political systems.

This book is guided by four questions, which attempt to discover the principal characteristics of politics surrounding policy outputs in South Korea. The first question is, who dominates the politics surrounding policy making in South Korea? The author draws conclusions by evaluating three stages of the policy process: agenda setting, providing policy alternatives, and policy decisions. The president and the legislature are the important actors in the first stage, agenda setting. For the second stage, however, legislators are less capable of offering policy alternatives to an established agenda than are bureaucratic agencies. For the third stage, the decision-making power converges in the state bureaucracy and the political party, which has control of each policy agenda.

The second question is, how does the legacy of the state-society relationship shape the mobilization and influence of nongovernmental interests in policymaking? The author concludes that a large portion of Korean civil society has evolved through a history of confrontation with military dictatorships; this leads to politically biased interactions between civil society and the governmental sector, narrow public support for civil society, and their limited ability to influence the policy process.

The third question is, how does news—the medium through which the public learns about the policy community—promote or hinder the degree to which policy actors inside and outside the government engage in public policy debates? The author reports that the media mainly pays attention to what governmental actors do. Consequently, this concentration is closely associated with the weak capacity of legislators and nongovernmental groups to influence the policy process.

The fourth question is, how do institutional differences between Korea and the United States shape policy advocacy patterns in the two countries? To answer this question, the author compared the relations between characteristics of the policy actor group and the policy outcomes of both countries. The author concludes that both countries have a common trend, which is summarized as the growing participation of nongovernmental actors in the policy process. While Korean policy actor groups who challenge the status quo are more likely to reflect their policy goals, policy change occurs less frequently in the United States.

Notwithstanding succinct comparison, this book faces challenges that are common in comparative public policy research. For example, one finding of this book is that policy actors of Korea and the United States differ by advocacy strategy, meaning a centralized advocacy strategy within a narrow range in Korea and diverse strategies in the United States. However, I question whether the typology of advocacy strategy in this book can be used for general concepts regarding advocacy across countries. The author classifies the advocacy strategy into three types of lobbying, but additional and careful in-depth discussion is required to see whether the concept of lobbying can extend to the policy process of Korea, where lobbying is less institutionalized and consequently less-developed than in the United States.

Additionally, this book faces challenges regarding data collection. This book specifies that its method of data collection is the same as in a previous study of the policy process of the United States. This approach has merits in clearly comparing the policy process of different political systems with a common framework. However, replicating a previous study risks losing specificity of contexts, especially if the theoretical framework was unilaterally developed from case studies of a specific side. In the predictive models of the advocacy success of policy advocacy groups, the model fit of the Korean case was too low to convince readers of the results. The possibilities of policy change by another source, which is external to each policy community side, implies that several important variables might be omitted to explain policy change by policy advocacies. Hence, this book should have discussed what specific drivers of policy change could be omitted when this comparative work resorts to conceptual straining.

Finally, the book could have escaped theoretical silo if it had attempted to connect its findings to more policy process theories. Although this book partially borrows its conceptualization and framework from policy process theories, such as the multiple stream approach and the punctuated equilibrium theory, there are more established and competitive theories of policy process that can explain policy change and could have been employed in this book. For example, the Advocacy Coalition Framework and the Narrative Policy Framework also focus on the strategies of policy actors. A plausible connection is what portion of the behavior of policy actors in this book can be explained by using the two theories.

Kyudong Park, University of Colorado, Denver, USA                                                                         

Back to top


THE COLLAPSE OF NORTH KOREA: Challenges, Planning and Geopolitics of Unification. By Tara O. London: Palgrave Macmillan [an imprint of Springer Nature], 2016. xvii, 168 pp. (Illustrations.) US$54.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-59800-4.

How shall neighbouring countries deal with a collapsed North Korea? Tara O, Adjunct Fellow at the Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies—and a retired US Air Force officer—tackles this question in The Collapse of North Korea. The result is a well-researched, lucid and, for the most part, objective analysis of the steps necessary to prevent a collapsed North Korea from wreaking havoc in Northeast Asia and beyond.

According to O, and in common with the view of most Korea experts, the end of North Korea would mean the reunification of Korea. Thus, following a succinct introduction about North Korea’s class system and the disconnect that it has created between a small elite and ordinary North Koreans in chapter 1, O examines three different unification scenarios in chapter 2. She presents three possible situations: gradual and peaceful unification, unification through war and collapse and absorption. The author considers the first two scenarios unlikely due to Pyongyang’s unwillingness to reform and the strength of the US-South Korea alliance, respectively. Thus, O argues, the collapse of North Korea is the most likely pre-reunification scenario.

Will North Korea collapse though? Keen North Korea watchers know well that the collapse of the country has been predicted several times since the collapse of communism almost everywhere else in the early 1990s. Yet, Kim Jong-un is the third member of a Kim dynasty that has ruled North Korea since its inception in 1948. In chapter 3, however, O presents a careful analysis of the indicators and triggers that could lead to the collapse of the country. The indicators are well known to North Korea specialists. They include a crumbling economic system unable to satisfy the basic needs of ordinary North Koreans, the reliance on external assistance, the disintegrating information control mechanism, the on-going processes of leadership succession between Kim Jong-un and his father Kim Jong-il and power consolidation by the former, the possible queasiness of Pyongyang elites, and the growing number of defectors.

Building on a wealth of sources, O concentrates on three possible regime collapse triggers. She starts with an examination of elite disaffection and factionalism, powerfully arguing that Kim’s frequent purges and brutality show that he does not command the respect enjoyed by both his father and his grandfather Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea. Rule by force could therefore lead to elite-driven instability and systemic collapse. The author then focuses on famine and mass migration, followed by mass opposition. These two potential triggers can be conflated, since they focus on processes driven by ordinary North Koreans and the regime cannot contain mass disaffection. The parallels with the still-recent triggers behind the Arab Spring are clear.

Once North Korea collapses, what comes next? In chapters 4 and 5, O focuses on regional geopolitics and preparations and responses to a possible collapse. In the first of the two chapters, she first examines a regional geopolitical landscape in which tensions about a host of issues create enmity, but in which —crucially—deepening economic regionalism is likely to lead to cooperation. Thus, O analyses the national interests of the five remaining countries with an important say in affairs on the Korean Peninsula—the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea—as well as South Korea’s bilateral relations with the first three from the prism of a geopolitical landscape in which tensions are overridden by a need for cooperation to preserve economic links. Therefore, she argues, there is scope for regional cooperation in the areas of pre-collapse planning, North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, and stability and economic development. This is very welcomed, since many journalistic and—some would say—lazy analyses of contemporary Northeast Asia focus on the disagreements between the regional powers rather than the many areas with potential for cooperation.

In chapter 5, O discusses twelve different areas of preparation for and response to a North Korean collapse. They range from the obvious and already well-planned—such as ensuring quick control over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal—to the not-so-often discussed but equally important—including dealing with the unemployment of under-skilled North Koreans, the reforestation and flood mitigation of large swathes of underinvested North Korean land, and the development of the DMZ. O comes with a to-do list that to some might seem overwhelming. For example, she rightly points out that the education of a North Korean population that has lived under decades of Juche ideology will be far from an easy task. Yet, this list is a timely reminder that reunification is much more than bringing together two countries that most think should be together. The not-too-distant cases of Germany, Vietnam, or Yemen show that reunification processes take time.

In the concluding chapter, O provides a useful summary of the main points raised in the book. Arguably, this chapter also shows the only weakness that can be found with this book. The author’s analysis is very systematic, with one issue presented after another. It would have been interesting to know, for example, whether O thinks that South Korea’s bilateral relations with the United States, China, and Japan influence each other. Or whether migration from North Korea towards the south in a reunified Korea has any implications for unemployment or social integration. This is a minor issue in an otherwise very interesting read.

O’s The Collapse of North Korea will be of interest to Korea and East Asia specialists, whether from academia or from policy-making. It is recommended for those who want a broad and comprehensive overview of the challenges that Korean reunification would—or will, following from the author’s train of thought—entail.

Ramon Pacheco Pardo, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom                                       

Back to top


DEMYTHOLOGIZING PURE LAND BUDDHISM: Yasuda Rijin and the Shin Buddhist Tradition. Pure Land Buddhist Studies. By Paul B. Watt. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. xii, 181 pp. US$52.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5632-8.

Paul Watt’s new book, which features an extensive introduction to Yasuda Rijin and Pure Land Buddhist thought, followed by translations of six of Yasuda’s dense philosophical works, is not an easy read. As a premodernist most familiar with Shin Buddhism in its medieval forms, I found Yasuda’s writing, with its many invocations of German philosophy, quite challenging. But the book is well worth the effort required, for in these pages we gain access not only to the depth and seriousness of twentieth-century Shin Buddhist engagement with Indian, Chinese, and Western philosophy, but also to a crucial component of modern Japanese Buddhist intellectual history.

Watt’s book is organized as follows: Part I, which is just over 40 pages long, presents a biography of Yasuda Rijin and an overview of Pure Land Buddhist thought. It then places Yasuda in the context of the Seishinshugi (“Spiritual Awareness”) movement associated with Kiyozawa Manshi (1863–1903), Kaneko Daiei (1881–1976), and Soga Ryōjin (1875–1971) and delineates Yasuda’s own reinterpretation of Shin Buddhism. Yasuda, Watt explains, was the “most articulate spokesperson” of Seishinshugi philosophy. One of the core messages of this philosophy was that Amida Buddha and his Pure Land, so central to Pure Land doctrine, were not “otherworldly realities” but rather concepts that enable sentient beings to “discover their true identity” (34). Or, as Yasuda puts it, awakening is about achieving an “inner reality” where the mind is “at ease” (75, 109).

In Part II, which comprises the remaining two-thirds of the book, Watt provides translations of six different works. He groups the first two together, under Yasuda’s earliest writings, and presents the remaining four, which are longer, individually. Attached to each is a short introduction that provides context and outlines major objectives of the work at hand. As Watt explains, most of Yasuda’s works are both focused and erudite, meaning that they often read “more like meditations rather than philosophy” (34). In other words, Yasuda tends to expand at length on a single insight or set of insights, often forgoing contextualization and restating key ideas multiple times, but in slightly different ways.

Although I would describe this book as a difficult read, Watt’s introduction is clearly written and accessible. His overview of the Shin Buddhist tradition, which traces the intellectual threads of Shin Buddhist thought back to major Indian and Chinese figures, such as Nāgārjuna (2nd-3rd c. CE), Vasubandhu (4th-5th c. CE), Tanluan (476–542), Daochuo (562-645), and Shandao (613–681), are illuminating. Here we see that many of the seemingly radical interpretations of Yasuda have roots in the classical works of these figures. Tanluan, for example, proposed that Amida could be understood as “formless, ineffable reality itself” (22). I also appreciated the deftness with which Watt draws parallels between Shin understandings of entrustment (shinjin) and the general insight, commonly articulated in Mahayana traditions, that enlightenment is ultimately about “the transformation of mind” and “insight into the true nature of reality.” When the Shin concept of shinjin is reduced to this definition, Watt explains, it sounds strikingly similar to Chan and Zen descriptions of enlightenment (24). Still, while this observation may ring true to those who have heard contemporary Zen priests describe fleeting moments of insight or “being the Buddha” in language similar to that used by Shin priests to talk about experiencing the Pure Land for brief moments within everyday life, it also begs for further explanation. In particular, it would be fruitful to examine the degree to which similarities between Shin and Zen descriptions of enlightenment reflect specific developments in the intellectual history of modern Japanese Buddhism.

Watt’s translations of Yasuda’s difficult work are quite readable, and I admire the intelligence—and mental grit—that these translations reflect. Still, some additional help for the reader would be useful. Watt does provide helpful endnotes, but in many places I would have been grateful for lengthy footnotes or even more thorough introductions. Additionally, Part I could be expanded to address the innovations of Yasuda’s thought in more detail.

I learned a great deal from this book, both from the introduction and from Yasuda’s essays, but I was also left with many questions. A number of these undoubtedly reflect my own ignorance of modern Shin thought. As I struggled to make sense of the radical re-interpretations of Shin Buddhism offered by Yasuda and his teachers, I benefitted from the volume Cultivating Spirituality: A Modern Shin Buddhist Anthology, edited by Mark Blum and Robert Rhodes (Albany: SUNY University Press, 2011). It turns out that Watt initially published several of his translations of Yasuda’s work, as well as a shorter biography of Yasuda, in Cultivating Spirituality. Blum’s introductory essay in that volume, “Shin Buddhism in the Meiji Period,” provides essential historical background that contextualizes the innovations of the Seishinshugi philosophers and, specifically, what they were reacting against. It may be that Watt did not want to repeat what Blum had already explained so effectively in this essay, but as an outsider to modern Shin Buddhist thought, I found Blum’s essay crucial for understanding Yasuda’s ideas, especially his emphasis on practice and individual experience, both of which, at first glance, might seem to contradict Shinran’s well known exhortations that we rely on tariki (Other-power) rather than jiriki (self-power).

Many of Yasuda’s writings engage with Western philosophy extensively, especially that of Heidegger, Buber, and Tillich. This is another area where I felt Watt could have provided the reader with additional context. How representative was Yasuda’s use of these philosophers? Were other Shin thinkers invoking them, and if so, what was distinctive about Yasuda’s engagement with Western philosophy? What, specifically, about these philosophers made them useful to Yasuda’s project? Along the same lines, it would also be useful to consider in an even more sustained and systematic way the roles of D.T. Suzuki and Nishida Kitarō in the development of Yasuda’s thought.

The high level of sophistication evident in Yasuda’s writing also made me wonder about his audience. What do we know about the dissemination of his ideas? Watt is clear that Shin authorities regarded many of the Seishinshugi philosophers as radicals and sometimes even heretics (33–34). I found myself wanting to know more about the demographics of those who received and supported Seishinshugi philosophy. Who was reading the journals these men published in, and who was attending their lectures?

Another, related set of questions has to do with the legacy of Yasuda’s thought. Clearly the “demythologization” of Shin Buddhist thought undertaken by the Seishinshugi philosophers has had a lasting impact on modern and contemporary Shin Buddhism. But what exactly does this influence look like, and where, specifically, do we see it? Who are the more recent inheritors of Yasuda’s intellectual legacy?

In short, Watt has left us with some very exciting questions for future research. I commend him on this important contribution to the field and look forward to future studies of modern and contemporary Shin thought.

 Lori R. Meeks, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA

Back to top


アメリカの排日運動と日米関係 = AMERIKA NO HAINICHI UNDŌ TO NICHIBEI KANKEI [THE ANTI-JAPANESE MOVEMENT IN AMERICA AND US-JAPAN RELATIONS]: 「排日移民法」はなぜ成立したか = Hainichi Iminhō Wa Naze Seiritsushitaka [The Reason Behind the Japanese Exclusion]. Asahi Sensho, 942. By Toshihiro Minohara. Tōkyō: Asahishinbunshuppan, 2016. 310, 14 pp. ¥1600, paper. In Japanese. ISBN 978-4022630421.

Professor Tosh Minohara’s reexamination of the history of the anti-Japanese immigration movement, which culminated in the so-called Asian Exclusion Act of 1924, offers timely warnings and historical lessons to all of us across the Pacific. His book reminds us of George Santayana’s words: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” as President Donald Trump is taking an alarmingly dangerous turn toward the policy of “America first,” with an emphasis on isolation, exclusion, and racial and religious discrimination. Minohara’s book focuses on the intersection of white America’s racism, state-federal government relations, and partisan politics within the United States, and demonstrates how they undermined US-Japan relations. The author makes a compelling argument that immigration, which Americans largely treat as a domestic affair, developed into a diplomatic and international crisis. He shows America’s racially motivated ban on Japanese immigration drove Japan toward its decision to go to war with the United States two decades later, because America’s discriminatory action shattered Japan’s national prestige, which was equivalent to hurting Japan’s national power and interests.

The first half of the book traces the trajectory of the snowballing, anti-Japanese immigration movement in California, from the 1906 attempt to segregate Japanese students from public schools in San Francisco to the successful passing of the Alien Land Legislations in California. When the Japanese government protested San Francisco’s attempt at school segregation, President Theodore Roosevelt was able to block San Francisco’s action by working with both the city’s officials and the Japanese government. However, his successor, President Woodrow Wilson, mishandled partisan political opposition from California, and allowed the 1913 alien land legislation to pass, which prohibited Japanese immigrants from owning land in California. In 1920, under the slogan “Save California from the Japs,” anti-Japanese forces passed further legislation prohibiting Japanese immigrants from renting land in California by linking Japanese immigration to Japanese imperialism in the Asia-Pacific region.

The most important contribution of Minohara’s book is his reexamination of the making of the 1924 Asian Exclusion Act, by which the US Congress banned Japanese immigration completely. Minohara challenges the existing simplistic interpretation that the US Senate passed the legislation due to Japanese Ambassador Hanihara Masanao’s letter to Secretary of State Charles E. Hughes containing the warning about “grave consequences,” which the Senate viewed as a “veiled threat.” Minohara argues that Hanihara’s original letter was not intended as a veiled threat and Secretary Hughes actually encouraged Hanihara to rewrite a stronger letter with the hope that it would dissuade Congress from passing the objectionable legislation. Minohara also suggests that Assistant Secretary of State John V. A. MacMurray most likely recommended the wording “grave consequences,” for the State Department did not consider that expression to be threatening. Minohara argues that the real reason behind the successful passage of the Japanese Exclusion Act was the badly divided Republican Party’s desperate efforts to reunite the party and win the presidential election in 1924 against Robert La Follette, who had left the Republican Party and become the Progressive Party’s candidate. In addition, in that same year, the fallout of the Teapot Dome Scandal, the most sensational scandal until Watergate, shook the credibility of the Republican administration. Senior Senator Henry Cabot Lodge shrewdly used the anti-Japanese immigration legislation as a scapegoat and rallied all Republicans’ support by calling the Japanese warning of “grave consequences” a “veiled threat.” Secretary Hughes, who underestimated the effect of Lodge’s political maneuvers, ultimately failed to prevent the Senate from passing the legislation. The outcome irreparably damaged US diplomatic relations with Japan. This American act of racial discrimination of the Japanese disillusioned many Japanese intellectual and political leaders who admired US liberalism and democracy as the model of Japan’s future course. Minohara suggests many of them turned their backs on the white-dominated world system and sought a new order for Asians in Asia, although he does not discuss the subsequent unfortunate path the Japanese empire chose to pursue in Asia.

Minohara’s book is based on meticulous research of both U.S. and Japanese primary sources, but it is written for a general Japanese audience. There is no doubt that American readers will benefit greatly from Minohara’s book were it to be published in English. His book shows the dangers of the politics of fear and racism, especially when they are intertwined with intense partisan politics, the unintended consequences of which can be tragic. Furthermore, as historians and news media in the United States are facing the unprecedented challenge of “alternative facts” we need to embrace historical works that take historical evidence and accuracy seriously.

Noriko Kawamura, Washington State University, Pullman, USA

Back to top


THE CHANGING FACE OF KOREAN CINEMA: 1960 to 2015. Asia’s Transformations, 49. By Brian Yecies and Aegyung Shim. New York; London: Routledge, 2016. xxii, 282 pp. (Illustrations.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-70765-7.

This is one of the first monographs published in English that traces the South Korean (Korean hereafter) government policies and censorship on film production from the 1960s up to 2015. This volume makes a valuable supplement to the existing scholarship on the Korean film industry, as the majority of the existing scholarship in English on Korean cinema has focused on the transformation of the contemporary film industry since the 1990s (often characterised as the “New Korean Cinema” or “Korean Film Renaissance”), although as of late more attention has begun to be paid to the golden age of Korean cinema of the 1950s and 60s. Previous monographs on contemporary Korean cinema have explored how the Korean domestic film industry has blossomed in response to the US demand to deregulate the market, and subsequently yielded several internationally acknowledged directors, such as Bong Joon-ho, Hong Sang-soo, Park Chan-wook, Lee Chang-dong, and Kim Ki-duk.

The volume is divided into three parts, each of which is dedicated to one of three different eras—the 1960s, the 1970–80s and the1990s onward—with three or four chapters in each part discussing the changing governmental policies, salient industry practices, and various case studies. The authors further pay adequate attention to the transnational dimensions of the Korean film industry, by exploring production strategies between Korea and its neighbouring film industries—the industry’s attempt to adhere to governmental co-production guidelines by forging relationships with the Hong Kong industry, and the production of illicit adaptations of Japanese cinema (both of which are discussed in chapter 4), and the industry’s efforts to make inroads into the PRC’s opening market by offering co-financing and post production facilities (chapter 11).

Part I, on the golden age, shines the most in the volume, not only because less scholarship on the film policies of this era is available in English, but also because the chapters are more in conversation with the scholarship on other national cinemas, carefully advancing arguments with references. Such a case study as The Empty Dream (dir. Yu Hyon-mok, 1965), an adaptation of the Japanese film Daydream (dir. Takechi Tetsuji, 1964), exemplifies the ways in which the industry had been governed by diverse and, sometimes conflicting, forces: the governmental policies, the industry’s desire to carve out a niche market in the absence of Japanese cinema that was then officially banned in Korea, and the directors’ craving for artistic inspiration. The Empty Dream demonstrates well the government’s censorship on obscenity and the scapegoating of the directors who were vocal in criticizing the then government’s anti-communist ideology, as well as Yu’s experiment with aesthetic. The ambiguous status of the “literary film” (munye yŏnghwa) within the industry—an outcome of the industry’s effort to secure government subsidies as well as to earn aesthetic esteem from the public and critics—is nicely contrasted with European “art cinema” as a mode of practice. The adaptation of literary sources, often the work of well-established authors, well served the government’s desire to propagate cultural nationalism while providing an aesthetic safety net to be protected from controversies and criticisms.

Compared to part I, parts II and III engage less with the existing scholarship on both contemporary Korean and Western cinema. Some chapters suffer from the lack of adequate referencing, especially on corporate profiles and mergers (159; 164–166). Indeed, the 1970s and 80s were considered by many the “dark age” of Korean cinema, but the chapters do not provide insight into the directors and genres other than the decades’ usual suspects: Lee Jang-ho and too the often discussed “hostess” films or “ero” films. If the youth (counter) culture, as the authors claim, had been such a key phenomenon that underlined the 1970s, they could further have explored how that culture had been negotiated through other genres, such as youth films or teen pictures, despite the government’s controls over cultural outlets and expressions.

The most interesting chapter in part III is its focus on women producers and directors (chapters 8 and 9), a topic that deserves a monograph in and of itself. The authors rightly acknowledge the significance of women producers and directors, yet could have further questioned and challenged the industry practice that still seems to be based on familial relationships and ties; many female producers and directors are married to Korean male directors (for instance, Choi Eun-hee/Shin Sang-ok; Shim Jae-myung/Lee Eun; Ahn So-hyun/Choi Dong-hun; Hong Ji-yong/Min Kyu-dong). To what extent, then, despite the changing Korean film industry in terms of gender, is it a challenge to penetrate the networking system that still governs the many facets of Korean society: hakyŏn (education background)-chiyŏn(region)-hyŏlyŏn (familial relationship)? What were some of the women producers’ struggles in securing finance, or in manoeuvring within the patriarchal industry? What were some of the creative inputs from the women producers on particular films? Chapter 9 on women directors also reads rather descriptively, without offering insights into the films themselves.

Throughout the volume, except a few cases (Yeongja’s Heyday, 146), no original titles are offered for Korean films. The English translations of some titles (Old Park, Paksŏbang) and film movement (“Visual Age,” yŏngsang sidae) diverge from those more commonly circulated: Mr. Park and the “Age of Images,” respectively. Plot summary, occasionally, does not accurately reflect a film’s content (e.g., The Guests of the Last Train). Some of the Korean names neither abide by the Revised Romanization nor follow commonly circulated transliterations, including two of the so-called troika of the 1980s—Jeong Yun-hi [sic. Jeong Yun-hui] and Jang Mi-hi [sic. Chang [Jang] Mi-hee] and the well-known founder of Samsung, Lee Byung-chull [sic.]. In total, the quality of part I does not carry through to parts II and III, which results in the final work being somewhat uneven.

Jinhee Choi, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom

Back to top


YASUKUNI SHRINE: History, Memory, and Japan’s Unending Postwar. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Akiko Takenaka. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015. ix, 278 pp. (Illustrations.) US$57.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-4678-7.

In present day East Asia, there are few issues as contentious as the past, and there are few places that are the subject of as much controversial as the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. In this masterful and empirically rich study, Akiko Takenaka performs an invaluable service in providing an almost panoramic history of the origins of the Yasukuni Shrine and its evolution since its founding in 1869.

The book begins by tracing the origins of the shrine to medieval Japanese beliefs in the need to appease the spirits of the dead (goryō shinkō) by creating special shrines (Shōkonsha) and conducting placatory rituals. Originally created to commemorate the spirits of the soldiers who fell in the Boshin War at the start of the Meiji Restoration, Yasukuni quickly became a central site where the Japanese state sought to shape the official historical narrative and instill the spirit of patriotic sacrifice in the broader citizenry. Takenaka calls this exercise in transcendental authoritarianism “mobilizing death” in the service of the state.

The Shrine also became one of Tokyo’s main entertainment districts, replete with shops, curio shows, and regular festivals and horse races on temple grounds. Later these more traditional forms of diversion were expanded upon with the construction of a war museum that included full-scale battlefield dioramas that allowed eager visitors to vicariously experience the thrill of the Empire’s victories overseas. In this way, emotions of joy and excitement, as well as grief and sorrow, were molded by the state to serve national interests.

Takenaka gives an informative description of how after 1945 the Shrine continued to work closely with the government in the postwar era even after it became a privately run entity. Together with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, as well as the immensely influential Japan Association for the Bereaved Families of the War Dead (the Nihon Izokukai), she chronicles how the Shrine officials continued to draw up lists of who would be commemorated at the shrine and who would not. In the process, the Shrine became the center of a complex battle over how to remember modern Japanese history. In one of the most interesting sections of the book, Takenaka argues that the political saliency of the Shrine increased in the 1970s and 80s not only because of the changing international political environment, but because for the generations of Japanese who had no direct experience of the war the Shrine became a potential resource for coming to terms with the inherited trauma of the war (167).

Takenaka demonstrates that while the state has tremendous resources in shaping memory, even during the war its control was far from absolute and its version of history often contested. She movingly describes wartime scenes of grieving parents challenging the authority of the state, screaming at military officers during enshrinement ceremonies to give them their sons back and accusing them of being murderers. These counter narratives surrounding the shrine intensified in the post-war period, triggering fierce legal and political battles. To her credit, Takenaka resists a simplistic left-wing interpretation of the Shrine as simply a tool of state propaganda. Even while she clearly is on the progressive (i.e., critical) side of the debate over the Shrine, Takenaka also recognizes that for many ordinary Japanese the Shrine serves a genuine, intensely felt need for mourning and honoring departed friends and family members.

For all its virtues, the volume does suffer from some shortcomings. Those looking for a comprehensive analysis of the politics surrounding the shrine will be left disappointed. For instance, there is virtually no mention of how the issue of defense and national security became intertwined with the debate over religion and the Yasukuni Shrine in postwar Japan. Likewise, although she draws heavily on secondary literature on the Shrine, Takenaka does not provide a history of the intellectual debate over the Shrine. Instead, this is first and last, a social history of the Shrine. The book does an excellent job of providing insight on the personal experiences of ordinary Japanese as they try to come to terms with the mute reality of the death of loved ones, but Takenaka tends to overemphasize the role of cultural forces in shaping Japanese memory of the past. It may well be that by honoring the war dead as eirei—the spirits of the heroic dead—many in Japan evade the troubling question of how those same soldiers may have been perpetrators as well as victims. And by leaving the political and intellectual contexts largely unexamined, Takenaka skips over the underlying motives for why such a historical narrative is propagated in the first place.

The volume also suffers from occasional lapses into academic jargon, with Adorno, Halbwachs and La Capra being invoked without much value added to the analysis. While in some cases—as when she draws on the literatures on trauma and Holocaust studies—these excurses offer new insights, in other cases they wind up producing tangles of tortured prose that obscure more than they illuminate.

These quibbles aside, Akiko Takenaka has produced an extremely useful volume that joins the ranks of a growing body of high-quality literature on the politics of memory in postwar Japan. It represents a welcome addition to such landmark studies as Franziska Serpahim’s War Memory and Social Politics in Japan, 1945–2005 (Harvard 2005), Yoshikuni Igarashi’s Bodies of Memory (Princeton 2000), James J. Orr’s The Victim as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001), as well as James Breen’s edited volume Yasukuni, the War dead and the struggle for Japan’s Past (Oxford 2008). It will be of considerable value, not only to course instructors looking for a comprehensive history of the shrine, but also to experts in the field.

Thomas U. Berger, Boston University, Boston, USA

Back to top


ONE HUNDRED MILLION PHILOSOPHERS: Science of Thought and the Culture of Democracy in Postwar Japan. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Adam Bronson. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. ix, 268 pp. (Illustration.) US$59.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5533-8.

Attempts to foster a culture of democracy in Japan are the topic of this book. Adam Bronson focuses on the Institute for the Science of Thought, one of the most influential associations to emerge in Japan in the early postwar years. He follows the institute’s ideological as well as philosophical changes. We also get to know a number of key people in the organization and how they developed from a small research group to citizens’ activism in connection with the protests against the 1960 US-Japan Security Treaty. Science of Thought was one of the central rallying points marking the beginning of a citizens’ movement that has influenced civil society in Japan down to the present day. The research behind the book teaches us how intellectuals and citizens, through practical experience, tried to foster and create one hundred million Japanese philosophers.

For democracy to gain ground the immediate past must first be discredited as hierarchical and irrational. This is the topic of the first chapter. Science of Thought scholars forged a shared negative image of the prewar and wartime years as centred on an elite culture of all-male high schools, which many of them actually attended—an experience for which they later expressed regret. The pro-democracy groups that formed after 1945 were hostile towards any display of devotion to old Japanese thinkers such as Nishida Kitarō, whom they associated with the fascist past.

Chapter 2 addresses the way the Science of Thought scholars looked to America for solutions. They were disillusioned by West European thought, which they now associated with fascism and empire, and thought that the solutions to the apparent contradiction between intellectual and democratic culture were to be found in the US. The aim was to foster democratic citizens through the new science of communication, which was guided by principles of clarity and transparency. The group conducted statistical surveys and interviews in what became interdisciplinary research to probe the mind of ordinary people; this is treated in chapter 3. “The philosophy of ordinary People” (Hitobito no Tetsugaku) asserted that the philosophy that structured the life of an ordinary fireman was no less worthy of study than that of an intellectual. The idea of an “open room” was introduced through which they solicited the participation of non-intellectuals in a collaborative “thought movement.”

In the early 1950s the group thought that the social scientific methods that they were using were not helping overcome the separation between intellectuals and the masses. As chapter 4 describes, they now shifted their focus towards grassroots education in the countryside. This process started with Muchaku Sekyō’s Echo School (Yamabiko Gakkō), a collection of essays written by middle-school students in the impoverished Yamagata prefecture. It became an immediate runaway bestseller and later also a film. Another example was the sociologist Tsurumi Kazuko, who criticized her own earlier use of quantitative scientific methods and instead went on to become an active part of the communities she studied. She participated in amateur writing circles organized by female textile workers in Yokkaichi. Many imagined these as parallels to the reading and writing groups in the People’s Republic of China. They were geared to playing a role in a transition towards a revolutionary “village democracy in Asia.”

With the onset of high economic growth in the latter half of the 1950s the Science of Thought group started worrying about the growing material prosperity. They were concerned about their politically active classmates shedding their beliefs and undergoing an “employment conversion” when they graduated and about how conformism was being enforced in the 1950s just as in the 1930s. Chapter 5 shows how this led to the group promoting an oppositional stance embodied in the ideal of a classless society.

The conclusion, finally, is about the Science of Thought group’s struggle in connection with the protest movement against the US-Japan Security Treaty of 1960 and how they tried to transcend the political divide between progressives and conservatives and set an example of principled opposition to the government in the name of defending democracy. They countered the suggestion that a silent majority of the population supported the treaty.

The book is a historical exposé of the development of the Science of Thought and how the focus and philosophy of its members adjusted to the changing conditions in the surrounding society. It tells the story of how difficult it must have been for the Japanese to embrace democracy right after the war and how some individuals, believing in a scientific approach, really struggled hard to get it implemented in Japanese society. It is a good illustration of the devotion that individual Japanese citizens can bring to bear once they are convinced of a certain idea. Japanese society is often described as one that favours consensus but in this book we also gain insights into how fighting can go on inside organizations when members have different ideas—something which is not uncommon in civil society organizations in Japan today. It also testifies to the Japanese belief in “learning by doing.” Rather than emphasizing the development of refined theories, the Science of Thought members believed that democracy needs to be practised if it is to gain ground.

This is an unusual book that does not follow any specific trends. It gives a broad picture of left-wing and opposition movements in Japanese society and the struggle to establish a culture of democracy. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to gain insight into this type of democracy movement, on which we do not seem to have much research at the moment. The book is also a good read for anyone interested in philosophy in its broadest sense.

Marie Söderberg, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden                                             

Back to top


WRITERS OF THE WINTER REPUBLIC: Literature and Resistance in Park Chung Hee’s Korea. By Youngju Ryu. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015. xii, 235 pp. US$58.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3987-1.

In an era of cross-disciplinary cultural studies, it is refreshing to find a book like Writers of the Winter Republic, which focuses on the study of literature and treats its subject matter with utmost respect and care. The book’s approach is as useful as it is necessary to convey the ethos and significance of the cultural scene of 1970s South Korea, which was a time when literature enjoyed an extraordinary moral and cultural authority. The democratization decades of the 1970s and the 1980s was indeed a period when literature was “simultaneously art and more than art—a testimony, a rehearsal in revolution, a gospel of salvation, and ultimately a ‘second government’” (180). At the core of the book lies the question of how writers managed to turn literature into such a potent form of social critique and political defiance even in the context of intense censorship and the government’s control of national media. Youngju Ryu, a professor of modern Korean literature at the University of Michigan, pursues this question through four case studies on major writers—Kim Chi-ha, Yi Mun-gu, Cho Se-hŭi, and Hwang Sŏk-yŏng—all of whom have been canonical figures of minjung (common people) literary realism, a dissident aesthetic that in many ways represented political and economic alienation under South Korea’s succession of the dictatorial regimes.

The book’s four chapters are each organized around defining tropes of the writers’ work such as the outlaw bandit, the neighbour, to the homeless drifter. This organization is effective in highlighting the great thematic and stylistic diversity among the writers, along with their individuality. Chapter 1 examines the writings of Kim Chi-ha, the most iconic face of 1970s dissident literature, with a focus on his famous narrative poem “Five Bandits.” Ryu provides a detailed account of how this scathing parody of the corrupt elites effectively inaugurated a populist form of dissident literature by ingeniously appropriating the traditional poetic form of p’ansori. The book’s publication landed Kim in prison with a death sentence in 1974. As Ryu shows, the public outrage over the incarceration gave rise to the Chayu silch’ŏn munin hyŏpŭihoe [the association of writers for freedom and praxis; 1974-1987], to which both Yi Mun-gu and Hwang Sŏk-yŏng belonged.

Chapters 2 and 3 organically revolve around the central thematic trope of the book, the Levinasian figure of the neighbour as the congenial other, a stranger with whom one shares spatial and social proximity and for whom one should care out of an ethical choice rather than calculation. In Yi Mun-gu’s episodic portraits of rural villagers in works such as Kwanch’on Essays and Our Neighborhood, Ryu argues, the figure of the neighbour counters the rhetoric of Cold War identity politics by opposing individual humanity in its concrete presence to its ideological abstraction. As Ryu writes, Yi’s fragmented narrative form, which resembles the traditional biography of chŏn more than the modern novel, “attests to the violence of the stories it must narrate, and to the ultimate failure of the struggle to suture the wounds in the communal body” in the divided Koreas (76). The idea of kindness to strangers also anchors Ryu’s reading of Cho Sehŭi in chapter 3, whose lyrical omnibus novel The Dwarf commands a towering status in Korean literary history. The novel’s multi-perspectival, stream-of-consciousness narrative achieves important political effects, Ryu suggests, in two ways: by contesting the homogenous teleological time of national developmentalism through temporal montage, and by presenting a reportage-like account of state violence against vulnerable members of society through the allied voices of the victims and their middle-class neighbours. In these and other chapters, Ryu combines her careful reading of texts with a rich ethnographical study of the writers, for which she amply draws from personal interviews with writers and other literary figures as well as from newspaper articles, speeches, and court records.

The book brings us to the contemporary era in its last main chapter and the conclusion. Chapter 4 traces, through the key trope of “the drifter,” the literary trajectory of Hwang Sŏk-yŏng, who has given testimonial representations to virtually all major South Korean historical events—from participation in the Vietnam War, the 1970s labour union movement, the Kwangju uprising, to the 1980s national unification movement—and whose name epitomizes, along with a few others, 1980s minjung realism. Partly because of Ryu’s own ambivalence toward the more radicalized and doctrinally rigid literature of the 1980s, the chapter critiques Hwang’s belligerently masculine, patriarchal writings from a gendered perspective as much as it admires their rebellious call to action, which Ryu aptly characterizes as “mobility against mobilization” (140). Instead of Hwang’s recent, rather unconvincing experiments to globalize a Korean literature, Ryu turns in the conclusion to find a successor to the “warrior soul” of dissident literature in the works of Pak Min-gyu, whose surreal post-human stories of “irregulars,” that is, the precariat in neoliberal society, resist “the conjuncture of forces that makes human life less than humanly livable” (185). In this final analysis, Ryu may have done more to highlight Pak’s most characteristic science-fictional tropes, that of “the alien,” which at once expresses a profound sense of individual alienation and betrays the absurdity of a globally bipolarizing neoliberal social order.

As the first book-length study of 1970s South Korean literature, Writers of the Winter Republic fills an important critical gap in current Korean literary scholarship in the English world. The work stands at the crossroads of literary studies and political and intellectual history, and it makes for productive intersections with some of the most exciting scholarship in South Korean historical and cultural studies. The book will have its place among essential readings for students of postcolonial Korean literature and society along with Jin-kyung Lee’s Service Economies: Militarism, Sex Work, and Migrant Labor in South Korea (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) and Theodore Hughes’ Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom’s Frontier (Columbia University, 2014). More broadly, the book also joins and augments Paul Chang’s Protest Dialectics: State Repression and South Korea’s Democracy Movement, 1970-1979 (Stanford University Press, 2015) in renewing our knowledge of the 1970s, which has often been regarded as sort of an overture of the democratization decade of the 1980s but is being recently rediscovered for its own epochal significance. Indeed, the author is leading this worthy critical intervention of historiographical relevance not only by authoring this book but also by editing a collected volume of critical essays, Cultures of Yusin: South Korea in the 1970s (forthcoming, the University of Michigan Press).

Sunyoung Park, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA            

Back to top


SINGLE MOTHERS IN CONTEMPORARY JAPAN: Motherhood, Class, and Reproductive Practice. New Studies of Modern Japan. By Aya Ezawa. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016. xxv, 129 pp. US$80.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-2996-9.

Aya Ezawa’s book draws upon life history interviews with fifty-nine single mothers and aims to better understand “the class dynamics of family life and … the gender dimensions of social class in contemporary Japan” (107). It focuses on strategies that single mothers take to childrearing and obtaining and retaining jobs that can support their families, attending to how they negotiate their aspirations for their children and work-family conflicts. In her introduction and chapter 1, Ezawa introduces her framing questions, discusses her method, and sets the historical stage for her study. Chapters 2 and 3 examine women born after World War II who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, and what Ezra calls the Bubble generation, who came of age during Japan’s booming economy in the late 1970s and 1980s, before its long recession. Chapter 4 discusses single motherhood, focusing on how single mothers deal with financial and time constraints. Chapter 5 examines the class dimensions of women’s efforts to strike a balance between being good mothers and reliable workers who will be kept on in economic hard times. Ezawa wraps up the book with theoretical conclusions based on the recent experiences of single mothers from varied class and educational backgrounds.

Ezawa conducted her interviews between 1998 and 2000, with follow-up trips in 2004 and 2005. One of the strengths of her book is the empathy and close knowledge she conveys for her research subjects. We learn about how they made decisions ranging from marriage to work, divorce, and balancing work and family obligations. We learn where they cut financial corners, and how they relied on formal and informal arrangements to get by: government benefits, earnings, help from family members, and subsidized housing. The earlier generation approached education, marriage, and single motherhood in an innovative, feminist spirit of being pioneers who were finding new ways to establish and preserve families. In contrast, the Bubble generation was more apt to try to conform to the postwar Japanese family ideal of a breadwinner man married to a stay-at-home housewife. For both groups, women from middle-class families often went on to university and earned four-year degrees, while women from working-class backgrounds were more likely to pursue low-paid irregular jobs after finishing high school. Some high-school graduates pursued vocational training that helped them get and keep decent jobs (for example, as accountants), a strategy that Ezawa notes as an important route for single mothers to escape poverty. Though the composite portrait is clear enough, it was often difficult to track the different mothers’ voices, as Ezawa took the strategy of examining several issues one by one, drawing on several interviews to provide illustrations. Discussing a few exemplary women in depth (as she does in chapter 4) would have made it easier to track her subjects and to feel involved with their lives.

Ezawa zooms in on three women in chapter 4: Tanaka and Yamamoto (both middle class), and Kimura, a working-class woman. Tanaka worked two part-time teaching jobs in order to spend more time with her preschool-age daughter, managing despite being paid less with reliable help from her parents and by economizing on food and other expenditures. Yamamoto took the tack of being a workaholic who depended on her ability to earn a stable and relatively high income. She paid for babysitting services to watch her son, and prioritized giving him educational advantages even though she had little time with him because of work pressures. Kimura had two young children, and worked part-time as a bar hostess until she stopped working altogether. Living in a subsidized apartment helped her save a lot of money, and she relied on the government-provided dependent children’s allowance to stay at home with her children rather than spending long hours working to earn modest wages. Her own parents were unavailable to provide help with her children. Ezawa uses these three women to illustrate how the decisions

each made about work, mothering, and childrearing reflect their priorities and convey class values to their children, reproducing class in the process.

For the most part, Ezawa focuses on how single mothers manage their stressful lives at the individual level, only rarely stepping back to consider the remarkable changes transforming Japanese society at the turn of the twenty-first century. Articulating the systemic character of the economic difficulties and organization of the labour market and the pressures they place on young people would have made this study richer. Young people face historically high unemployment rates, intense pressure to take part-time, contract, or temporary jobs, and enormous pressure on those who do get good jobs to work overtime and accommodate company demands so that they can keep those jobs. Such work-related issues have made the postwar Japanese family ideal hard to achieve for the ranks of young people stranded in low-paid informal job tracks. As it has become harder to find marriageable partners, the ideal has given way to hesitation about marriage and childbearing, harsh conflicts between work and family life, very low fertility rates, and increasing numbers of women who feel they must choose between being mothers and having lifelong jobs or careers.

Putting this study into the larger social, economic, and political context might have sharpened the stakes of Ezawa’s argument. As marriages are later, fewer, and more likely to end in divorce, understanding how single mothers cope and the economic straits they face takes on greater urgency. One might have expected her to offer some ideas about policy approaches that could make it easier for single mothers to manage: government support for “good” part-time jobs in the private sector, for example, or increasing the number of public-sector jobs that are suitable for single mothers (for example, with part-time or flexible hours until children enter elementary school, and paid leave to cover doctors’ visits and children’s illnesses), or passing reforms in divorce law to hold fathers more responsible for supporting their ex-wives and children.

Patricia Boling, Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA

Back to top


LEARNING FROM A DISASTER: Improving Nuclear Safety and Security after Fukushima. Stanford Security Studies. Edited by Edward D. Blandford and Scott D. Sagan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016. xi, 219 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-9735-1.

The 11 March 2011 compounded disasters in Tohoku, Japan took some 18,451 lives, destroyed 125,000 homes and businesses, and caused US$235 billion in damages. After the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Futaba, Japan, nearly half a million people became refugees. Some tens of thousands of people from across the region remain in shelters to this day while up to 15,000 may not be able to return to their homes in towns like Futaba, Ōkuma, and Namie for years because of radioactive contamination. Japanese newspapers continue to cover the fallout from the events including the failure of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to safely maintain the hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive water on site at Fukushima. TEPCO has used containment measures such as ad hoc steel tanks for storage of the contaminated water and an underground “ice wall” which has so far failed to stop water from flowing into groundwater supplies and the ocean. The ongoing nuclear disaster—rated a seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the same as Chernobyl, despite lower levels of contamination—had political repercussions as far away as Europe. There, a number of countries, including Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland, used Fukushima as a policy window during which to examine their own nuclear energy policies.

Following a major natural-technological disaster like Fukushima, experts and policy makers alike scramble to engage in the work they do best: policy makers and politicians assign blame for failures or take credit for successes (Arjen Boin, Allan McConnell, and Paul Hart, Governing after Crisis: The Politics of Investigation, Accountability, and Learning, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008). Local politicians in the Tohoku area, for example, changed their political behaviour, depending on the disaster’s impact in their community, to reach out to politicians at the local, regional, and national level for assistance and demonstrate their competence to constituents (Daniel P. Aldrich and Yoshikuni Ono, “Local politicians as linking social capital,” Natural Hazards 2016). Subject matter experts, in contrast, hope to find patterns of behaviour linked to the event that can be avoided elsewhere (see Thomas Birkland, Lessons of Disaster, Georgetown University Press, 2006). This book, edited by Blandford and Sagan, brings together experts from a variety of institutions and disciplines (including nuclear engineering, environmental history, political science, public policy, and risk assessment) from Japan and the United States to analyze the events leading up to and following this man-made catastrophe.

It follows in the tradition of several other books which have sought to put the 3/11 events in Japan in context, such as Koichi Hasegawa’s Beyond Fukushima (Melbourne: TransPacific Press, 2015) and Naoto Kan’s My Nuclear Nightmare (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2017). Chapters in Learning from a Disaster cover topics ranging from the engineering and design basis for nuclear power plant construction through the security implications of and political leadership and organizational learning during the disaster. A concluding chapter by Edward Blandford and Michael May brings together many of the lessons found within the individual chapters and may be suitable as stand-alone reading for undergraduate and graduate courses looking for a quick summary of the findings.

Some of the book’s findings are well known at this point thanks to a plethora of Japanese- and English-language reports: this includes Japan’s Diet, think tanks and newspapers such as the Japan Times, and groups such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the American Nuclear Society. Three findings stood out in this edited volume. First, there was miscommunication and mistrust between TEPCO and the prime minister when they sought to govern and communicate about the disaster as it unfolded. An unorthodox use of an ad hoc command and control structure temporarily improved information flow between the two institutions (87). Next, the ex-regulator of nuclear energy, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) sought to manage the disaster through its inflexible use of radiation reference levels (such as the guideline of 20 mSv per hour as a safe level of exposure). That measurement was reached through political compromise and not through decision making based on science. Finally, despite various attempts to provide lessons learned from past disasters, including the 9/11 disaster in the United States, Japanese authorities did not learn lessons from past disasters and failed to adopt new practices which could have minimized risk during the Fukushima meltdowns (137). As such, a weak regulator, insufficient training for the plant operators, and the wide acceptance of the safety myth kept Japan from adopting strong accident mitigation measures (188).

One of the strongest chapters in the book investigates if Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plants were uniquely vulnerable in comparison with other plants in Japan and around the world. Using an original dataset of the tsunami exposure and disaster countermeasures of nearly ninety nuclear power plants from Japan, Europe, and Asia, Phillip Lipscy, Kenji Kushida, and Trevor Incerti show that Japan was “relatively unprepared for a tsunami disaster in international comparison” but that there was “considerable variation within Japan” (158). While observers may believe that smaller utilities and nuclear operators within Japan would be the most vulnerable, in fact “measures indicate that inadequate preparedness in Japan is concentrated among the largest utilities” (170). Those larger utilities include TEPCO, which serves nearly one-third of Japanese consumers, and Kansai Electric Power Company, which serves another significant percentage of the nation.

This book provides an easy-to-read reference guide to the disaster which will be of interest to graduate students and advanced undergraduates seeking summaries about Fukushima. Despite the book’s title, as past research and bitter experience have shown, it is unlikely it will assist regulators in preventing future disasters.

Daniel P. Aldrich, Northeastern University, Boston, USA

Back to top


LIFELONG LEARNING IN NEOLIBERAL JAPAN: Risk, Community, and Knowledge. By Akihiro Ogawa. Albany: SUNY Press, 2015. xv, 237 pp. (Illustrations.) US$80.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4384-5787-1.

In this thought-provoking book Akihiro Ogawa delves into the burgeoning realm of lifelong learning in Japan, with a particular focus on the state as one of its key sponsors. Building on his earlier groundbreaking study, The Failure of Civil Society (SUNY Press, 2009), Ogawa argues that “Japan’s neoliberal state has attempted to reorganize the public sphere by the generation of a new disciplined knowledge based on a strong lifelong learning initiative” (21). He situates the rise of lifelong learning in the context of concerns about risk and risk management, arguing that this style of learning is a response to both governmental and socioeconomic risk. For state officials, lifelong learning becomes a policy tool for counteracting risks by shifting responsibility from states to markets, public to private, and collectivities to individuals, while for individuals lifelong learning emerges as a complex space in which they negotiate processes of Beckian individualization inherent in Japan’s contemporary neoliberal reality. All of this Ogawa sets against the backdrop of discussions in Japan about the so-called “New Public Commons.” According to Ogawa, lifelong learning is often discussed in terms of how it might contribute to this new communal imaginary by producing “comprehensive knowledge” among proactive, problem-solving citizens who aim to reduce risk in the public sphere. As he notes, this problem solving is meant to happen in local communities where “people cooperate to govern aspects of their own lives” (19).

Ogawa presents us with a Japan far more complex than an all-powerful state effortlessly mobilizing docile individuals by structuring their thoughts and actions. On the contrary, we learn how, in neoliberal Japan, “knowledge constructing subjects” are not only “constrained against their will by discipline” but, more intriguingly, “how individuals create their own selves through discipline” (81). This approach gives the book relevance well beyond Ogawa’s focus on Japan.

In the six content chapters Ogawa investigates lifelong learning from the perspective of history, state policy, community schooling, social entrepreneurship training, and youth. Chapter 2 traces the historical emergence of lifelong learning through earlier phases of “social education” and “lifelong education.” While recognizing continuity over time, Ogawa wants to stress differences, which he does through an adroit analysis of key policy documents. The important difference Ogawa identifies in contrast to earlier programs of “education” is that in lifelong learning the emphasis has shifted to individuals “as agents of their own learning” (37-38). The historical continuity is the centrality of the local and local community, which appear to have been at the core of all three policy visions.

In chapter 3 Ogawa examines lifelong learning in the context of what he calls “risk management by a neoliberal state” (53). Through a fascinating investigation of the notion of “comprehensive learning” and the role of local communities in building the New Public Commons, Ogawa argues that the promotion of lifelong learning becomes a tool by which the state manages the risks of governance. As he notes, citizens “armed with this new knowledge” from lifelong learning are expected to “contribute spontaneously to activities like agenda setting and problem solving at the grassroots level and respond suitably to constantly changing social and political life” (54). Chapter 4 delves further into the idea of a New Public Commons but does so through the lens of a rooted ethnography. Ogawa immerses us into the world of bunka borantia or “cultural volunteers” who work in local public facilities offering lifelong learning opportunities. He suggests that these volunteers are adept in applying a kind of “civic knowledge” (shimin chi) which not only helps them deal with constant change in daily life but also contributes to the formation of the New Public Commons (74). Through state-initiated processes such as jukugi (due deliberation), Ogawa confirms the shaping role on civil society of Japan’s interventionist state, but he also stresses how such processes create “a certain kind of disciplinary subject” who potentially produces “positive solutions” for social change (96). The tension between structure and agency Ogawa identifies here is deeply thought provoking.

Chapter 5 takes us into the realm of community schools, a relatively new, still somewhat rare, but increasing component of Japan’s educational landscape. Overall, Ogawa is largely supportive of these schools, which are a direct result of the neoliberal turn in Japan. As he explains, “shifting control of schools from the government to local communities” opens up the possibility of local mutual assistance and perhaps the evolution of an educational system more able to incorporate the diverse needs of individuals and communities. On the one hand, these community schools are tools for the state to mitigate “governmental risk” through a form of retrenchment. But for individual children, the schools become an important portal for communication with the local community and local people. Through this communication, Ogawa argues, children “learn how to survive in this difficult and complicated neoliberal world” (115).

In chapters 6 and 7 Ogawa turns to lifelong education in the context of socioeconomic risk, utilizing Beck’s notion of individualization. Chapter 6 traces the experience of a group of ten unemployed men as they study in a state-funded course on social entrepreneurship. In effect, the state is asking these vulnerable individuals to “voluntarily take risks” despite their precarious socioeconomic situation. Although some of the class members do eventually become involved in third-sector activities, the majority do not. Ogawa is quite critical of the initiative, saying that “rather than being asked to take risks,” what they really needed was “real vocational training that would help them secure jobs and earn money for a living” (138). The reality was that they were in no position to take the risks associated with social entrepreneurship (138).

Building on this theme of responses to precarity, in chapter 7 Ogawa traces the emergence and benefits of career education for youth. Different to training in social entrepreneurship, Ogawa is more upbeat about the value of career education. As a phenomenon that emerged in response to the mounting pressures on youth to manage risks in a neoliberal world, Ogawa argues that career education has the capacity to “promote the social inclusion of youth” and become a “foundation for developing the citizenry of contemporary Japan” (149). At the same time, while career education can empower individuals and possibly strengthen civil society, Ogawa also reminds us that it is, ironically enough, “a strategy crafted by the neoliberal state to develop certain types of required human resources for its own benefit” (166).

In sum, Lifelong Learning in Neoliberal Japan is a thoroughly engrossing and, at times, unsettling account of one critical apparatus of neoliberalism in contemporary Japan. The tension Ogawa identifies between empowerment and constraint in lifelong learning offers a powerful insight into how some Japanese are trying to survive, to pursue autonomy, and to construct genuine community in a neoliberal world. The book will be essential reading for anyone interested in neoliberal politics, risk and risk management, state-civil society relations, precarity, and the challenges of life in contemporary Japan.

Simon Avenell, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Back to top


NOUVEAU-RICHE NATIONALISM AND MULTICULTURALISM IN KOREA: A Media Narrative Analysis. Routledge Advances in Korean Studies, 31. By Gil-Soo Han. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. xx, 181 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-78150-4.

In this work, the author discusses the racism and discrimination that “new Koreans” confront in their everyday lives in South Korea, choosing  the Korean media to analyze how this everyday racism is deployed on the individual and social structural level. He points out that South Korea has accepted massive numbers of immigrant workers and foreign brides since the 1990s because South Korean society urgently needed labourers for “3D” (dirty, difficult, and dangerous) work and brides for men in rural areas. So, these “others” have in fact contributed to Korean society by maintaining industrial production and the birth rate. Without them, South Korean society would face more severe problems. However, instead of receiving fair treatment from Korean society, these new Koreans are still suffering from harsh racism and discrimination. In the author’s analysis, he notes that “nouveau-riche” nationalism and “pure-blood” nationalism are the key factors in this situation.

This book is composed of nine chapters, including an introduction and concluding remarks. As each research-related chapter includes a short introduction, literature review, research methodology, and findings section, readers can easily read the chapters independently. In the introduction the author explains why he has examined this subject and how he has conducted his research. Chapter 2 defines his theoretical perspectives and research methods on racial discrimination in South Korea. He adopts the realist perspective of social sciences, which involves trying to determine the mechanism(s) of social phenomena through empirical investigations. The author posits “nouveau-riche” nationalism and “pure-blood” nationalism as the two major discriminatory operators in South Korean society. The former was generated by South Korea’s economic success, and as the term indicates, it is quite new, whereas the latter emerged as a self-empowerment tool against Japanese racism during the period of Japanese occupation, and remains a feature of Korean society. The following five chapters discuss concrete cases of race-related discrimination, except for chapter 7, on North Korean refugees. Chapter 3 analyzes the discourse of those who oppose the anti-racial discrimination law. Their main argument is that multiculturalism serves only a small number of Koreans, such as entrepreneurs, while the majority of Koreans suffer. Their logic is quite similar to that of other reactive right-wing groups, in that they argue that immigrant workers reduce job opportunities available to “original citizens,” and therefore the promotion of “multiculturalism” comes at the expense of the genuine “have-nots.” Confronted by strong opposition, this law has not yet passed. A small error in this chapter (49) is that the year of establishment of the first newspaper in Korea is April 7, 1896, not 1989.

Chapter 4 analyzes how migrant workers are exposed to “modern slavery” conditions. Two levels of discrimination oppress them: on the structural level, under the “industrial trainee” labour law system, they are exposed to systematic exploitation by entrepreneurs; and on the individual level, they experience racial discrimination in the workplace and in their everyday lives. Chapter 5 reveals clear racial discrimination cases in private teaching institutions’ English-teacher recruiting process. Their “valid” excuse is the customer’s preference for “white” instructors. Chapter 6 discusses a more “severe” discrimination case, according to the author, since it concerns children. The children of international marriages, especially those who have a Korean mother and an African-American military father, or a Korean father and a mother taken as an East Asian bride, suffer from social prejudice from an early age in school. The mechanism of this discrimination is based not only on “nouveau-riche” nationalism but also “pure-blood” nationalism, which is a social historical product of the trauma suffered during the Japanese occupation and the Korean War, from which South Koreans have still not managed to free themselves. Chapter 7 examines whether North Korean refugees living in South Korea are regarded as “our Koreans” or “other Koreans” in their everyday lives. The book’s research findings are not surprising considering the evidence presented in the book’s other chapters; these “new Koreans” also face difficulties in integrating into South Korean society professionally and personally due to the discrimination operated by “nouveau rich” nationalism. Chapter 7’s title captures the treatment these new Koreans receive from the “blood-sharing” South Koreans: “What more do you want?: deserted North Korean refugees.”

Chapter 8 examines how nouveau-riche racism influences K-pop stars’ black-facing performances. The author analyzes Internet comments about these performances to better capture interpretations of “the other.” As part of his concluding remarks, the author suggests a list of policy or legal-level implementations for the healthy development of multiculturalism in South Korea.

If I could give another title to this book, it would be, “The disgraceful naked face of South Korean society in the twenty-first century.” The author successfully articulates his conceptual framework of research (a realist perspective of racism) and presents concrete analysis based on a thorough examination of primary resources, such as newspapers and interview records, and scholarly works mainly in Korean and English. Primary sources and scholarly works in Korean are always valuable for a better understanding of Korean society as they may contain subtle but essential elements of the study subjects that foreign languages cannot express. Therefore, this book will be helpful not only for Korean studies students but also racism studies scholars who want to enlarge their study horizons. A few small flaws of this book are that some arguments and citations are redundant (for example, “the future of mistreatment of new settlers is civil unrest,” 3D workers socio-economic conditions, socio-historical explanations of “pure-blood” nationalism, and Noja Pak’s research about the origin and false argument of Korean “pure-bloodism”). However, these small flaws should not undermine this book’s undoubted contribution to Korean studies.

This book’s groundbreaking analysis of everyday racism in South Korea inspires readers to ask new questions, such as whether South Koreans will be able to foster a healthy multicultural society or turn towards the establishment of an extreme right-wing party, phenomena which can be observed in other developed countries but not yet in South Korea.

Jeong-Im Hyun, University of Turku, Turku, Finland                                                                           

Back to top


IMITATION AND CREATIVITY IN JAPANESE ARTS: From Kishida Ryūsei to Miyazaki Hayao. Asia Perspectives. By Michael Lucken; translated by Francesca Simkin. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. vi, 248 pp. (Illustrations.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-17292-9.

Michael Lucken’s Imitation and Creativity in Japanese Arts, translated from the French, concerns the period from the seventeenth century to recent times. It is, however, mostly a small number of twentieth-century arts that are his preoccupation as the preceding centuries are the counterpoint to his focal examples.

The first half, entitled “Historical Construction,” is divided into a number of thematic subsections that trace a narrative of imitation or lack of imagination (variously addressed as a strength, critical weakness, a defense against it, or indicative of some supposed national/geographical character) ascribed to Japan’s arts and other productive activities. These are marshalled from several centuries leading up to the early twentieth, from essays, novels, and travelogues by Europeans (English, French, and German).

It is a relatively conventional tale of an unacceptable standard maintaining that the West creates and the East imitates. When the West imitated the East, it was somehow alternatively creative rather than belated, indebted, or technically servile. Part of the interest here is how premodern European narratives about Japan (and Asia) alleged a lack of originality, dispersed by interlocutors who favoured the repetition of received ideas. As Lucken explains it, this was a case of a literary trope masquerading as an historical explanation of a distant people and country. This was subsequently internalized by the Japanese through into the 20th century, before it was partly decommissioned by late twentieth-century postcolonial studies. Lucken writes that “Complete imitation of the West, the blind and slavish kind that Westerners liked emphasizing and the Japanese even attributed to themselves, never existed” (50). Inarguably, however, some Japanese works could be incrementally close to their Western sources.

Part 1 is essentially a lengthy prelude to the writer’s more pertinent interests in his early twentieth-century and postmodern case studies that follow. Bridging the two parts are some reflections on the early- to mid-twentieth-century philosopher/cultural critic, Nakai Masakazu, cited through reference to Hasumi Shigehiko as being “the forerunner of all that is called in Japan contemporary thought” (59).

Four “masterpieces” are addressed in part 2 and these are said to represent contemporary influences and therefore muddy, even obviate, the un-nuanced creation/imitation binary in which imitation is not assigned a fixed position; the author calls this “the secret engine of twentieth-century Japanese art” (71). More specifically, Lucken’s idea is to consider how various modern and postmodern Japanese arts fit neither a progression from imitation, through individuation, then creation, nor a model moving from the rejection of imitation, followed by creation, then individuation.

His subjects are the “Western” oil painter Kishida Ryūsei’s portraits of his daughter, Reiko, done between 1914 and 1929, Kurosawa Akira’s black and white film Ikiru (1952), the photographic narrative Sentimental Journey–Winter (1991) by Araki Nobuyoshi that recorded the death of his wife in a succession of images that resulted in what might ultimately be called a kind of “still life,” and Miyazaki Hayao’s internationally acclaimed and popular animation, Spirited Away (2001).

The four topics are said by the author to in some sense cover the twentieth century, meaning that it can “be read as an aesthetic history of modern Japan” (6), but in fact, if we look at them together, the specific concern is with arts evincing either serial production or the unfolding of events in time, though the times in his examples are frequently complex rather than chronological. Furthermore, a suite of oil paintings, two films, and a photographic diary barely touch upon Japanese modernism’s diversity, yet alone the sheer range of a single artist’s oeuvre.

While these examples might reasonably be taken as “Japanese” masterpieces, it is their admixture of Western and Eastern references/influences that is of significant import, and what counts among Lucken’s interests are those art forms that are already considered under some form of Westernization rather than examples of Japanese arts that might seem more resistant. His examples erode simplistic distinctions of East and West until such ascriptions are largely themselves somewhat peripheral or perhaps perennially undecided. In his final study of Miyazaki, for example, he discerns “going beyond dialectical oppositions by a genuine openness to others” (206) that is part of his discussion of a larger perspectival metaphor inherent in the animation.

But it is also interesting to note that pushing his first early modern example further might yet yield the desired complexity escaping reduction to East and West. While Kishida was one artist introducing Fauvism to Japan (largely meaning postimpressionism in the Japanese modernist context), he subsequently turned to an increasingly myopic realism (as did many others) through an exploration of German Renaissance painting. Thus it appears he sought an alternative point of “rebirth” in painting that was distinct from the pivotal Italian one that formed the basis of the main Western art-historical narrative. This was not simply anachronism because while in Kishida’s time Western modernism was being introduced to Japan, so simultaneously was much of Western modernism’s earlier history. The images of his daughter, which number over a hundred, form a part of this exploration, but so do his numerous self-portraits, and his still-life paintings.

All of those subsequently underwent variant forms of sinification from at least since 1915 (the author’s explanatory route is through photography and early twentieth-century studies of the supernatural) in Kishida’s piecemeal adoption of aspects of Chinese literati painting that had been imported to Japan from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, then indigenized. From 1918, Kishida frequently began inscribing the flanks of his portrait paintings with kanji scripts whereas four years earlier, they were dated and signed in English. And Kishida would later depict himself on several occasions as a Chinese hermit in the mountains, or Reiko in figural multiplication as part of a mandala, or as a Chinese immortal. Kishida’s multifaceted cultural references, in addition to works in oils, mineral pigments, watercolours, prints, sketches, his illustrations, ukiyo-e/kabuki imagery, and even a votive plaque, evidence the often manifold and frenetic character of early twentieth-century Japanese modernism. Early 20th century art practices can sometimes rival postmodernism’s alleged pluralism.

Matthew Larking, Independent Scholar, Kyoto, Japan

Back to top


ACCIDENTAL ACTIVISTS: Victim Movements and Government Accountability in Japan and South Korea. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Celeste L. Arrington. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016. xiii, 234 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5376-2.

This is an excellent book. In her study on victim movements in Japan and South Korea, Celeste Arrington searches for an answer to the question of why some victims and their supporters receive more redress and compensation from the state than others. Her well-thought-out and elaborate analysis delivers not only an innovative answer to this question, but she also contributes significantly to theory building by developing a dynamic and interactive model in her book. Her comparative study is carefully researched and is based on impressive fieldwork conducted in Japan and South Korea with over 200 interviews from 2007 to 2015, as well as written sources in both Japanese and Korean. Finally, it is well and clearly written, which makes it a pleasure to read.

Beyond the introduction and conclusion, the main part of the book is structured into five chapters. After explaining her research question and introducing her argument in the introduction, Arrington develops the theoretical framework in the first chapter by constructing a redress scale in order to capture the variation in redress outcome and she identifies different ideal types of sequence patterns in conflict expansion processes. In the second chapter, she discusses how victimhood and state accountability have been constructed over time in both Japan and South Korea. She also analyzes lawyers’ autonomy vis-à-vis the state, structures, and grassroots embeddedness of civil society, as well as the diversity of the mainstream media. In the subsequent three empirical chapters, the author traces victim redress movements related to Hansen’s disease, hepatitis C tainted blood products, and citizens abducted by North Korea in both Japan and South Korea. She discusses the interaction between these movements, mass media, and the state and shows how differences in these processes have led to great variation in the success of the movements in enacting official inquiries and institutional reforms as well as in the success of gaining an official apology and state compensation. While the Hansen’s disease movement and the hepatitis C movements achieved full redress in Japan, the Hansen’s disease movement in South Korea and the abductee movements in both countries gained only partial redress. Furthermore, the South Korean hepatitis C virus movement did not obtain any significant redress from the state. In the conclusion, the main argument is recapitulated and some further examples are introduced to demonstrate the validity of the theoretical model developed in the study.

The main contribution of this book is the new and dynamic model on the interaction between victim redress movements, which frames the victimization and politicians. This interactive model is an important step forward from the static theoretical models of state-society interaction that are still dominant in research on civil society and social movements. Arrington’s main argument is that “gaining an elite ally too early in the claims-making process can be detrimental, even if outsider groups ultimately need elite allies to affect policy. … [It] reduces incentives to mobilize fellow claimants and sympathetic citizens, leaving these allies with less leverage” (4-5). Moreover, her book is also an important contribution to our understanding of the state-society relationship in Japan and South Korea. In contrast to the state-of-the-art research on civil society in Japan and South Korea, and despite much more homogeneous mainstream media and weaker advocacy capabilities by civil society in Japan, her study shows that conditions in the public sphere for redress movements are more favourable, and that victim redress movements have achieved better outcomes in Japan than in South Korea.

Despite being an empirical and theoretically strong and compelling analysis, this reviewer also identifies some shortcomings in Arrington’s study. To begin with, despite a very clear argument, it becomes unclear regarding how early is “too early.” This is a fundamental problem of any dynamic theoretical models. Moreover, one starting point of Arrington’s argument is that the transition to democracy in South Korea, as well as the end of uninterrupted rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan, resulted from the early 1990s onwards in more favuorable political conditions for outsider groups in both countries, which gave victim movements more collective leverage. While the end of authoritarian rule and democratization in South Korea surely fundamentally changed the political climate and institutions, I am not fully convinced that the same applies to Japan. As the author herself recognizes, victim redress movements related to the burakumin (an outcast group), as well as to Minamata disease, had already in earlier decades in Japan achieved favourable redress outcomes. The long (and nearly unique) stay in power of the LDP under a democratic system may in fact have much to do with its “creative conservatism” (T.J. Pempel), i.e., its flexibility in taking up new issues that made it to the public agenda, including the claims of victim movements. This also raises the question of whether the focus on politicians in the study is really reasonable, or if the role of state bureaucracies should not also have been incorporated in both countries. This would make the theoretical model much more complicated, but there is plenty of recent empirical evidence demonstrating that Japan and South Korea in many policy fields still exemplify strong states in which bureaucrats are not simple agents of politicians as their principals. Finally, as in nearly all comparative studies, one has to question if national political systems’ differences have been adequately taken into account. For example, South Korea’s president has, in general, more decision power and agenda-setting abilities than Japan’s prime minister. This, and other differences, might have a significant influence on the political processes, but are not included in the model and analysis.

Still, as stated at the beginning, this is, without a doubt, an excellent book. The comments in the paragraph above should not be regarded as a critique, but more as an illustration of how stimulating Arrington’s study is; one would like to immediately start a discussion with her. What more can we expect from an academic book? It can only be hoped that this book finds a large readership in the social sciences as well as in East Asian studies. The future is unwritten, but it can be assumed with high probability that this book will have a significant impact on the research on victim movements and on Japanese and South Korean politics.

David Chiavacci, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland                                                                

Back to top



South Asia and the Himalayas

NEW

WARZONE TOURISM IN SRI LANKA: Tales from Darker Places in Paradise. By Sasanka Perera. New Delhi; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing, 2016. xvii, 231 pp. (Illustrations.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-93-515-0922-6.

In May 2009 the secessionist war that had pitted the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) against the security forces of the government of Sri Lanka since 1983 came to a brutal end. Prabhakaran, the ruthless leader of the LTTE, and countless other combatants lay dead around the Nandikadal Lagoon, a small coastal area in the Jaffna Peninsula in the north of the island. For nearly three decades, apart from the period of truce (2002-2005) between the LTTE and the government brokered by the Norwegians, the country had been at war, with devastating social and economic consequences, especially in the northern war zone. In the predominantly Sinhalese South, however, the end of the war was hailed as a triumphal victory of what the government had dubbed without any irony a “humanitarian operation” aimed at rescuing a captive population from the clutches of a “terrorist” group.

War Zone Tourism in Sri Lanka offers the reader a sharp and sensitive ethnography of war-zone travels undertaken by Sinhalese tourists at two particular moments in Sri Lanka’s recent past. Through a foray into this very specific social and cultural practice, the author gives insights into what motivates such travel, what politics it reveals, in short what the practice means. The central focus of the book is the gaze of these travellers, a gaze that is clearly not uniform. For some of them it is pleasure and leisure that guides them while for others it is curiosity, religiosity, or patriotism, or a combination of these. Sasanka Perera has followed these travellers along their trail, observing them in the various locations from the Buddhist temple in Naga Dipa to the Victory Monument in Puthukkudiyiruppu. The reader discovers, gradually, the way the landscape of Jaffna has been reshaped by the postwar government policy of reconciliation through development and through an erasure of the past. LTTE cemeteries and formal LTTE monuments are no longer there. Sasanka Perera’s eye is sharp but he rarely shows impatience as he points out to the reader what the tourist sees and also what he/she fails to see: the endless rows of blackened palm trees, bullet-damaged houses, and large destroyed swaths of land. One of the many strengths of this book is the thick ethnography that comes with a deep understanding of and empathy with those who suffered and the tourists he is writing about. The photographs capture beautifully the sadness of the site.

The book devotes one chapter to Southern travellers touring Jaffna when the ceasefire was in operation (2002-2005) and another to their travels to a vaster area including Jaffna and former war zones such as Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu in the postwar era after 2009 and the re-opening of the main road in 2010. The book is composed of an introductory chapter that sets the stage and locates the study within a body of work on places, landscapes, and travels. The next two chapters mentioned above form the kernel of the book. A shorter chapter follows, that looks at photography as a practice that authenticates travel and cartography in warzone tourism. The book ends with a conclusion that brings the argument together through a perceptive analysis of the family resemblances of the mobilities of war-zone tourism with ancient and modern forms of pilgrimage.

War Zone Tourism in Sri Lanka is a singular contribution to the growing field of the sociology of tourism, which has explored for instance the rescripting of Angkor in the context of postwar tourism and heritage making (Leakthina Chau-Pech Ollier and Tim Winter, eds., Expressions of Cambodia: the Politics of Tradition, Identity and Change, Routledge 2006). Sri Lankan tourism has not until now elicited any scholarly interest; it is virgin territory that Sasanka Perera is ploughing. The book also speaks to memory studies as landscapes dotted with monuments and remains which also function as “lieux de memoires.” It ends on a rather pessimistic appraisal of the consolidation of a hegemonic view of history by the state and the armed forces. There is a glimmer of hope in the book, however, when the author describes a younger generation of tourists more interested in taking pictures of themselves on their mobile phones to post on Facebook than in reading the official explanations or talking to the soldiers. The short attention span of today’s consumer-driven youth may be a boon rather than an object of despair. Possibly they will leave the warzone largely untouched by the state’s partial representation of the events that took place during the war years.

My first point of concern is that the book tends to look at places as the static recipients of visitors that come and go. It might have been helpful to use the language of performance rather than place to think about the motivations and desires of tourists (Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums and Heritage, University of California Press, 1998) and view the production and consumption of tourist spaces, the shift from location to destination, as contingent and mutually constitutive processes. The other issue is the author’s choice to focus only on Sinhalese tourists, which he explains, albeit briefly, by asserting that Tamil travels to the former warzone constitute “an entirely different category of travel and experience which requires a very different approach in analysis ” (2). If a separate literature on Tamil visitors is produced, is the creation of a polarized literature of grief and tourism appropriate?

These quibbles apart, this is an excellent book, theoretically informed, clearly written, and ethnographically grounded, that deserves to be read widely by scholars in many fields, especially in cultural politics and visual anthropology, and perhaps also made available in the vernacular languages of Sri Lanka.

Nira Wickramasinghe, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands                                                    

Back to top


NEW

RECOVERING FROM A DISASTER: A Study of the Relief and Reconstruction Process in Sri Lanka after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Edited by Arne Olav Øyhus. Kristiansand, Norway: Portal Books; Portland, OR: International Specialized Book Services [exclusive distributor], 2016. 166 pp. (Maps, coloured illustrations.) US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-82-8314-095-8.

Arne Olav Øyhus’ edited volume provides insight on how four different constituencies in the far south of Sri Lanka are faring ten years after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004. The volume represents a collaboration between the University of Agder in Norway, the University of Ruhunu in Sri Lanka, and the Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce. Faculty and students in the International Master’s Programme in Development Management at the University of Agder wrote the bulk of the material, with local facilitation provided by Sri Lankan collaborators.

Professor Øyhus, a specialist in global development and planning, provides several chapters of background and introductory material as well as analysis and concluding remarks. These materials frame four chapters co-authored by students that deal with the status of recovery in the Hambantota area of a fishing community, a tourist town, a middle-class residential community, and an urban business community.

The first two chapters of the book introduce the “Ten Years After” study and provide background about the tsunami, including information on the natural hazard, the number of deaths and distribution of damage, and the relief and recovery operations that followed. These introductory chapters also quantify the funds received for recovery operations and outline both the general success of the endeavour and some of the difficulties and infelicities encountered.

The third chapter provides a theoretical framework for analyzing the data gathered in the study. After introducing the concept of vulnerability, it discusses community coping capacity in terms of social capital and agency, particularly focusing on internal community organization (called “bonds”) and external social connections (called “bridges”) that organize the flow of aid and disaster relief and recovery funds. The chapter then touches on governance issues and the importance of bringing disaster risk reduction strategies into mainstream development projects.

Chapter 4 introduces the case studies presented in chapters 5 through 8. These cases compile qualitative ethnographic material gathered in May and June 2014 by teams of master’s students from the University of Agder during a study tour in Hambantota District in Sri Lanka’s Southern Province.

Chapter 5 looks into the situation of the fishing community. Fishers complain that their resettlement housing is far from the ocean, making it difficult to look after their boats and get to the shore to fish. In addition, government caps on the price of fish, combined with the need to purchase expensive fuel, limit the fishermen’s ability to thrive.

Chapter 6 examines the “bonds and bridges” that facilitated recovery in the tsunami-affected village of Kirinda, where local leaders formed a coordinating committee that initially interacted with external organizations with good results for the village, but was later sidelined. Community members’ satisfaction with the recovery process depended on the idiosyncratic qualities of the NGOs that built homes for tsunami survivors.

Chapter 7 explores the recovery of the tourism industry in the town of Tangalle. The industry recovered quickly and has thrived, particularly since the end of Sri Lanka’s long-running civil war. Hoteliers relied on low-interest loans, and they chose to rebuild close to the ocean despite government regulations regarding a no-build buffer zone.

Chapter 8 considers small businesses in Hambantota. Displaced by the tsunami, many entrepreneurs were thereafter displaced two more times by large-scale development projects in the area that reorganized crucial infrastructure such as roads, harbours, and business complexes. The businesspeople suffered more from post-tsunami urban development schemes than from the tsunami itself.

In chapter 9, Professor Øyhus synthesizes and analyzes the data. A strong emphasis emerges in the ethnographic chapters on the lack of consultation with the local community. In addition, community suspicions about corruption in the distribution of relief materials come through clearly. The volume concludes with chapter 10, in which Øyhus and co-author Kim Øvland explore in a much more theoretical way the importance of integrating disaster risk reduction activities into sustainable development projects. The authors emphasize the importance of community involvement at all levels of planning and implementation.

The student researchers were able to spend only a relatively short period of time in their field sites. Data consists of roughly twenty interviews for each chapter. Scholars who have gathered in-depth qualitative information over a long period of time will recognize that deeper immersion in the community might have revealed additional nuances. In particular, interlocutors may strategically share memories and details to craft images of self and other through narrative. Relying only on short interviews, the University of Agder students lacked additional forms of data from which to evaluate the validity and reliability of their material.

The chapters of the book are relatively short and highly readable. The volume includes a great deal of material published in Sri Lanka in its bibliographic entries, which is a strength of the volume. Material published elsewhere is less well represented, and scholars versed in ethnographically based analyses of disasters will see holes in the bibliography. The volume would have been stronger if it set the situation in Sri Lanka within a wider global context, drawing on a broader range of sources and a larger set of comparable examples. In addition, the entire text would have benefitted from thorough copyediting.

I would recommend the volume to people who are curious to read a brief summary of post-tsunami recovery in the Hambantota area. The volume will appeal to disaster specialists, development practitioners, and people interested in the long-term effects of the Indian Ocean tsunami in Sri Lanka.

Michele Gamburd, Portland State University, Portland, USA

Back to top


GROWING THE TREE OF SCIENCE: Homi Bhabha and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. By Indira Chowdhury. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016. xxxix, 274 pp. US$54.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-946690-0.

This book examines how Homi Bhabha—best known as the founder of India’s nuclear program—created a culture of science at the institute he established—the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), one of India’s premier scientific research institutions. The book draws upon documents from the TIFR archives (that the author helped set up) and some forty interviews. It focuses on the TIFR’s first two decades, when it grew from just 13 academic staff and five graduate students in 1948 to a more substantial research Institute. TIFR presently has three schools at its campus in Bombay, and six related centers in Bangalore, Pune, and Hyderabad, undertaking research and graduate training in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and computer science.

An initial chapter discusses how TIFR was established in 1945 with the help of personal connections, private funding, and government support. It notes that India’s political and industrial elites considered science and technology to be crucial for India’s economic development, and therefore looked favorably on indigenous scientific ventures. Still, Bhabha had to convince the Tata Trusts to fund his proposal for a research institute comparable to centers at Cambridge, where he had obtained his Ph.D. degree. Here, personal connections helped Bhabha, as a trustee offered guidance on how to frame the grant request. Finally, Bhabha’s request dovetailed with the Trusts’ new direction in philanthropy, which focused on “pioneering” projects—that explored new frontiers and generated capacity building—rather than just on charity.

The book makes some other points on TIFR’s early development. First, Bhabha recruited distinguished scientists and mathematicians to staff the Institute. Second, the Institute could not secure a permanent home for several years, because the Government of Bombay bargained hard on the price and title for any land purchase; Bhabha eventually had to persuade Prime Minister Nehru to give TIFR a plot owned by the Defense Ministry. Third, Bhabha’s friendship with the director-general of India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) helped secure governmental funding for TIFR (the book notes that, over the years, CSIR helped establish over twenty other research institutes throughout India).

The remaining chapters discuss how Bhabha and TIFR created a “culture of science” or an environment conducive to original research. To provide context, the book notes that, while colonial India had several university science departments and medical colleges, these had not encouraged scientific research. It adds that, in the years following independence, the state bureaucracy made it difficult to create a research culture at universities, which also faced (and still face) problems of low salaries, under-staffing of laboratories, shortage of equipment, and lack of contact with the outside scientific world. The book argues that TIFR overcame these obstacles not just because it had adequate funding, but also through its mode of learning (a combination of lectures, seminars, hands-on training, and peer learning, which today’s educators would describe as “active” learning or learning through experiments); through a focus on hiring young scientists who would work their way upwards to the rank of professor; and through Bhabha’s international scientific connections (while this feature was hardly unique to TIFR—an international economic regime supporting scientific exchanges between the developed and developing world had emerged by the 1950s—what was unique was the top-notch caliber of visiting scientists at TIFR).

The international network helped TIFR in several ways. For example, TIFR students were mentored and taught by academics and scientists from abroad, enabling them to learn about new technologies. In addition, TIFR’s senior scientists went abroad for training, where they established connections that facilitated fresh research projects. Further, Indian students who obtained Ph.D. degrees with Bhabha’s international colleagues were recruited into TIFR. The book also discusses projects drawing upon international networks: the strong mathematics department, the first Indian computer—the TIFR Automatic Calculator (TIFRAC)—and the research clusters in Cosmic Ray Research, Molecular Biology, and Radio Astronomy.

The book concludes with some critiques. It notes that because Bhabha spent most of his time heading India’s Atomic Energy Commission, TIFR was, by the late-1950s, administered by its deputy director who had bureaucratic training not conducive to the needs of science and technology. Moreover, Bhabha’s internationalist vision resulted in TIFR becoming an island of excellence (the “Princeton of the East”) in isolation from other Indian research labs. Further, the book cites a 2005 lecture at TIFR that faulted TIFR for not being adventurous and not taking risks in pursuing new research frontiers (the same critique could be made of several research centers and, indeed, entire academic disciplines, worldwide).

Overall, the book highlights several features of TIFR in its first two decades—personal connections and funding that helped its development, its method of training, international linkages, the Institute’s art collection and architecture, its workshop where much technology and learning developed, and its presence in the cosmopolitan city of Bombay. While these certainly contributed to a conducive research environment, and the book offers much evidence about research outputs, it does not provide a comprehensive listing of these outputs, such as publications, projects, and alumni placements. This, then, is the task for further scholarship, which could compare the factors and conditions at TIFR with those at other research centers in India, and the research outputs at these various centers and institutes of research.

Dinshaw Mistry, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, USA                                                                

Back to top


PAPER TIGER: Law, Bureaucracy and the Developmental State in Himalayan India. Cambridge Studies in Law and Society. By Nayanika Mathur. Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xxii, 192 pp. (Map, illustrations.) US$110.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-10697-0.

On a scorching afternoon in the summer of 2009, I found myself straggling behind a group of ten women as they carried sacks of cement up a steep incline in the mountains of Uttarakhand. After reaching a plateau, the women placed their heavy loads next to a watering trough that was being constructed under the auspices of the Indian government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). The women shrugged their shoulders and laughed at my presumptions of their participation in decision-making when I asked if, and why, the trough was needed. Later, I found that these women were paid less than half of the government mandated wage for their arduous labor; the rest of the money was swallowed by village and administrative heads. As Nayanika Mathur might comment, the slippage evident in this one small project­—wherein underpaid villagers built a potentially unnecessary structure—is all too common under programs such as NREGS, which was designed to provide no less than 100 days a year of government employment to India’s most impoverished while producing projects needed by rural communities. In her book, Paper Tiger: Law, Bureaucracy, and the Developmental State in Himalayan India, Mathur ethnographically explores how the law linked to NREGS came into force along with the many difficulties associated with a scheme that her interlocutors described as “unimplementable.” The text draws upon the anthropology of bureaucracy and the state to demonstrate the everyday struggles through which law is translated into practice in ways that are “capable of producing absurdity” (2) as well as “contingency, uncertainty, coercion, and affect” (5). Overall, the book offers a timely—and otherwise difficult to obtain—insight into the inner workings of state bureaucracies, and of the professional lives of administrators in Uttarakhand State.

Whereas other observers of state programs like NREGS might be quick to dismiss its quagmires as the inevitable outcome of entrenched corruption, Mathur urges us to eschew this “lazy person’s answer” in our analyses of “why the Indian state fails with such startling regularity” (17). As she explains, “In lieu of joining the large chorus that spends its time bemoaning what is popularly described as the ‘cancer of corruption’ in India… Paper Tiger, instead, concentrates its attention on the much harder task of articulating the bureaucratic everyday” (20). This, to her mind, helps us get past some of the “primitivism” of the international development apparatus, which for too long has described governments such as India’s as lacking and aberrant in ways that closely align with colonial discourse and practice. Since much of the blame placed upon corruption is insufficiently backed by empirical data, Mathur’s study serves as a revelatory correction; her book employs painstakingly acquired data to concentrate on how the Indian state actually functions as its officials navigate bureaucratic procedure and policy inertia (ibid.).

The presentation of this data is spread across three main sections (and six narratively accessible chapters) in which the author discusses the sensibilities of remoteness as they influence life in her chosen field site; the everyday practices of administration in a sleepy town; the materialities and ambiguities of transparency; the letter-writing practices that convey nuance and hidden meaning; the high-stakes body language and intense boredom of official meetings; the challenging process of administering NREGS in the field; and the ways in which the state’s ineffectualness is most clearly exposed when it is unable to authorize the killing of a leopard that preys on women and children. But above all else, Mathur explains how and why the state—from the lowest administrative level to the highest branches of government—produces lots and lots of paper. So much paper, in fact, that it appears to Mathur and others that the production of documents is the main way that the state is able to show “progress” and “the accomplishment of development” (169).

The impressive means through which Mathur acquired the data to support her arguments helps us “study up” the chains of power that influence the lives of India’s rural poor. After an auspicious introduction via an official letter from the Chief Information Commissioner of Uttarakhand, Mathur was able to gain access to the everyday administrative workings of a “remote” office in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli District. With empathy and compassion, Mathur portrays the logics and practices of her colleagues in an administering NRGES office in the town of Gopeshwar, as well as across the district. Once established in the office, she undertook a project that knowingly committed her to the drudgery of governmental procedure and officialese that lasted from 10am to 5pm six days a week. This regime she continued over the course of a year in a town that public servants consider a punishment posting. It was a risky proposition, especially since those with whom she worked were uncertain if there was anything for her to discover in their offices that would be worthy of note.

Beyond her engagement with anthropologies of the state (including the work of Max Weber, Veena Das, David Graeber, and James Scott), Mathur draws upon insights from Michel Foucault, and to a lesser extent Pierre Bourdieu and Michel de Certeau. The author’s attention to the Foucauldian “regime of practices” that constitute the “paper state” is useful in this regard. The employment of Bourdieuian insights is mostly limited to his comments on power, which is the part of his work that is often overlooked elsewhere. More narrative direction for how readers might absorb and deploy the conceptual synthesis that the author builds would, however, have been useful. That said, the conceptual eclecticism is perhaps where the book provides the most use to readers hoping to understand how they can apply Mathur’s analyses to the exploration of bureaucratic and governing practices outside of India. Through her careful work, readers will catch glimpses of how they too can examine elements of affect and emotion amidst the banality of everyday governance, or the agency and materiality of official documents that were written to safeguard the professions of their authors rather than to improve the lives of those in need. Mathur additionally provides an example of how others might approach these topics in ways that keep an emphasis on the plight of the most marginalized, even as we discuss the dispassionate violence of the bureaucratic everyday with measured sympathy for those engaged in the mind-numbing production of the paper state.

Georgina Drew, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia         

Back to top


COMMUNITY NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND POVERTY IN INDIA: Evidence from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. By Shashidharan Enarth, Jharna Pathak, Amita Shah, Madhu Verma, John R. Wood. New Delhi; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing, 2016. xxiv, 414 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-93-515-0652-2.

The researchers contributing chapters in the book under review drew inspiration from the first goal of the Millennial Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2000, namely the eradication of poverty. They narrowed down the focus of their research to studying poverty reduction in four of India’s community natural resource management (CNRM) programs: participatory irrigation management, watershed development, joint forest management, and inland fishing cooperatives. The selection of the programs is premised on the belief that they all share many common features. The research project aims to study the four programs comparatively. The states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (MP) provide the context for the comparative aspect of the project. The book explores “two main questions, namely whether the promise of community managerial success has been realized and whether the CNRM projects and institutions have made an impact on Indian rural poverty” (xxii).

The book is neither the work of a single scholar nor an edited volume. Five scholars have contributed chapters to the book. They have worked together closely, and have been involved in each other’s contributions to the extent that the outcome can “be considered as jointly authored” (xxiii). There are eight chapters. Chapters 3 through 6 are on four CNRM programs, each written by a specialist. The introductory and concluding chapters, 1, 7, and 8, are written by a generalist in CNRM studies, John R. Wood. It is interesting to note that the chapters that involve introducing the subject matter of the book, drawing conclusions, and making generalizations and the all-important job of making recommendations based on the findings of the research are written by a political scientist whose disciplinary training gives him an edge over his team members when it comes to the question of making generalizations from data collected. Chapter 2 is co-authored by the generalist in the team, John R. Wood, and two specialists, Shashidharan Enarth and Amita Shah.

Gujarat has adopted a more “bottom-up,” gradual approach that involves grassroots initiatives and NGO inputs with regard to CNRM, whereas MP has taken a more “top-down,” rapid, and government-led approach. Thus, the selection of these two states for carrying out their fieldwork allowed the researchers “to see how differing approaches to implementation and operation in these two states made a difference to programmatic outcomes” (5). While acknowledging the serious limitations of the representative character of their samples, it is claimed that their research led to the discovery of a “range of successes versus failures (and all the gradations in between) of CNRM institutions” that they found both “challenging” and “enlightening” to analyze (39).

Chapter 2 explores the conceptual and methodological issues addressed in the research project. It also spells out the details of the fieldwork, including the focus group discussions and the household survey. Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 present research findings and analysis of the four CNRM programs of  participatory irrigation management, watershed development, joint forest management, and inland fishing cooperatives, respectively. A comparative perspective is maintained to bring out similarities and dissimilarities in initiation, performance, and outcomes of programs. All specialists writing chapters 3 through 6 attempt to answer a set of questions that guided their research: “1) At the village level, how was the CNRM project and institution introduced? 2) How did the project and institution perform, both de jure and de facto, in terms of CNRM goals? 3) What was the extent of productivity and income increase? 4) How decentralized and inclusive was the governance of the CNRM institution? 5) What has been the impact on the poor members of the village? 6) How integrated was the project intervention and what was the extent of the outreach? 7) How has the project and institution contributed to effective, equitable and sustainable resource management?” (40-41). Though with significant variations, the similarities and the differences that the answers bring out are instructive in drawing generalized conclusions and making appropriate recommendations.

In chapter 4, Jharna Pathak maintains that the “empirical realities presented and discussed will serve to create a conceptual framework (such as that used by Bandaragoda and Firdousi, 1992: 28) within which the impact of community participation, poverty and equity can be examined” (124). However, nowhere in the chapter is it clear what the conceptual framework is that the writer is referring to, nor is the reference mentioned in the section on references and select bibliography. Her use of the concept of “coercive cooperation” to explain government strategy wherein certain benefits are made contingent upon the end-users forming a cooperative is noteworthy.

Comparative findings presented in chapters 3 through 6 are explored in chapter 7 in the way of conclusions. Chapter 8 presents the main deficiencies of CNRM in the two states and suggests policy changes regarding CNRM and its role in the reduction of poverty in India. It ends on a note of optimism that the CNRM experiment in India “is worth pursuing as a vehicle for reaching the goal of ‘inclusive growth’” (385).

This book is a timely effort to examine the CNRM experiment in India, and it makes important recommendations to policy makers, NGOs, and activists working in the area of community resource management. For instance, examining the experience of JFM institutions in chapter 6, Madhu Verma’s suggestion to future policy-makers is “to ensure that sustainable livelihood interventions need to be accompanied by communication on the local project’s benefits and the importance of forest conservation” (353). Verma is also for greater involvement of NGOs specializing in CNRM projects to get better results. As well, drawing conclusion in chapter 7, John R. Wood recommends: “Thus it is essential that Project Implementation Agencies, whether they be government officials or NGO activists, set the terms early on as to how equity and sustainability are to be achieved, and follow through on both” (371).

The book will be equally useful to students and scholars of development studies as it brings to them important insights into the functioning of CNRM projects in different regions of India directly by those involved in conducting field studies.

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

Back to top


PIPE POLITICS, CONTESTED WATERS: Embedded Infrastructures of Millennial Mumbai. By Lisa Björkman. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015. xi, 281 pp. (Illustrations.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5969-2.

Mumbai’s ambitions to be a world-class city are constantly under threat by infrastructural challenges—be they related to rail, road, water, or power. Rapid rates of construction and re-landscaping in the city have also created new challenges for the routine provision of basic services. Lisa Björkman’s focus in Pipe Politics is on water. Water scarcity is a major source of political and economic risk for much of the world, and an impending source of conflict in many cities of the global south. But Björkman starts with more of a puzzle in Mumbai, where it is not water scarcity itself that is the essential problem. Mumbai is estimated to have as much water, and estimated leakage levels, on a per capita basis as London. Rather, Pipe Politics shows that it is the growing mismatch between the means by which urban development has been taking place above ground and the underground life of pipes and water below ground that disrupts and hinders flows of water around the city. Mumbai’s economic transformation has created a chasm between the water infrastructure and the rapidly changing landscapes that the city’s water engineers have to serve.

Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork within residential neighbourhoods and the water department, accompanied by close textual analysis, Björkman seeks to get to the bottom of the puzzling story of Mumbai’s dry taps. The book begins by detailing how administrative capacity to manage the city’s water infrastructure was hollowed out in the 1980s and 1990s as debates about public-sector restructuring and privatization led to an effective recruitment freeze and dwindling investment in the face of ongoing uncertainty about the future of water management in the city. This resulted in a situation in which the department’s survey section ceased functioning, and knowledge about the location of pipes, flows, and pressure became increasingly fractured and personalized. Yet even despite the chronic challenges within the department, water department labourers or chaviwallas (key men) continued to perform a “stunningly elaborate choreography” every day to keep water flowing through the city by managing water pressure and flow through the opening and closing of valves. Björkman goes on to document how the creation of a new market in transferable development rights in return for slum rehabilitation projects facilitated a construction boom in Mumbai that radically reshaped the urban landscape. In the process, the regulatory frameworks governing the built environment were divorced from the management of its water infrastructure. The continual bending of planning rules by “Mumbai’s world-class-city boosters” created “hydraulic chaos” for the city’s water department engineers (84).

Different communities of actors have sought to make sense of the city’s continuing water problems in varying ways. In chapter 4, Björkman shows that one way the city’s water engineers explain the problems they face is through reference to the city’s slums and the issue of “illegal” constructions where people steal water through “illegal” connections. Björkman carefully shows, however, that what has been happening—driven by the new market in development rights—is the recategorization of certain settlements as slums. This recategorization makes them targets for slum rehabilitation and the lucrative transferable development rights that come with it. She examines the neighbourhood of Shivajinagar-Bainganwadi, which was originally a planned municipal housing colony but has become known as a slum. Residents in this area have become dependent on ever more improvised “microtechnologies” to access water. Such micro-innovations have themselves helped to recast the housing colony as informal and illegal, driving the water department to focus on policing illegal encroachments rather than improving water distribution. This leaves the residents of the neighbourhood reliant on improvized strategies that are constantly vulnerable to disruption, either by the water department or other residents diverting water for their own purposes.

The unpredictability of flows of pipes and water produces a deep reliance on local knowledge and rumour in both “slum” areas and middle-class residential neighbourhoods alike. In this context, a second form of explanation for the perennial problem of dry taps focuses on corruption: either private profiteering by water engineers or by politically motivated tampering. Björkman writes: “Popular discourse suggests a general belief that rational and complete knowledge of the water grid actually exists among department engineers and planners but that corrupt engineers and labourers simply do not act on their knowledge and power to produce water in certain neighbourhoods” (168). The discourse of corruption allows for the reproduction of the idea that the water department does have coherent knowledge and authority despite the constant experience of water shortages and volatility in supply. Politicians themselves are caught in the act, too, as chapter 7 shows. Aware that water flows in his area will be interpreted as a sign of someone’s power, Suresh (a.k.a. Bullet) Patil, the municipal councillor, is driven to claim credit for alleged works of the water department, or to demonstrate his ability to prevent them from disconnecting pipes even when those pipes had been responsible for the spread of disease (201). The book ends with the story of a chaviwallah who himself wins a seat on the municipal corporation, defeating the Congress Party incumbent who had held the seat for twenty-two years. In M-East Ward, where Björkman was based, over half of the thirteen elected councillors have a connection to water, either through vendors, engineers, or plumbers.

This is a book written with a sense of fondness for the poetics of water, as well as the mundane routines that shape its everyday movement through the city. Through water, it illuminates the contradictory and overlapping logics that shape the political economy of urban governance in Mumbai, offering insights that will resonate in many other fast developing mega-cities.

Louise Tillin, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom                                                       

Back to top


FIGHTING TO THE END: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War. By C. Christine Fair. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. x, 338 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$34.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-989270-9.

Security is a relational phenomenon; it involves the capabilities, desires, and fears of one state vis-à-vis its counterpart. The desire for security is a defensive and self-preserving response to the threat of external harm. However, some propose that there are states that will always pose a mutual threat. In this regard, Pakistan, born in a hostile environment, continues to face serious challenges to its security from its primary adversary, India. Most importantly, the “trust deficit” that exists between Pakistan and India will never be eradicated until the Kashmir issue is resolved. Thus, Pakistan is in the process of enhancing its military capabilities to boost its psychological confidence and national morale.

In this context, C. Christine Fair has written an interesting book and provided a comparative evaluation of Pakistan’s strategic culture and security complexes, but in a very aggressively anti-Pakistan style. The author has also disregarded India’s frustrated desire for domination, its history of invasions and annexation of Pakistani sovereign territory, and chosen instead to focus critically on Pakistan, creating an impression that Islamabad is hostile and arrogant. However, the book constitutes a unique study in terms of assisting the reader to understand the nature of Pakistan’s security dilemmas. The author presents the idea that Pakistan was born insecure and continues to experience a security deficit vis-à-vis India. The author narrates the idea of security and essentially endorses the Indian factor as a legitimate instrument of security by Pakistan’s security establishment, which beautifully furnished the conceptual parameters of using religion to form a relatively inexpensive fighting force to defend the country. The author seems antagonistic in her depiction of Pakistan’s security panorama though she comprehensively discusses the developments and self-perceived objectives of the state security apparatus.

This book consists of eleven chapters, excluding appendix, notes, references, and index. The author covers a wide range of issues and establishes linkages between history, politics, and domestic vulnerabilities. She critically analyses the connection between Pakistan’s security policies and its ideology under its conservative civil-military establishment, an ideology that has worked as an operational force for national defense and as a form of psychological warfare. According to the author, during the Cold War, Pakistan used its US partnership as an excellent opportunity to take advantage of Washington’s desperate need to contain communism. Under the pretext of partnership, Islamabad accessed US military capabilities and other vital facilities to expand its influence and strengthen its bargaining position vis-à-vis India, much as Israel has done. India has proven the beneficiary of US support in the post-Cold War era.

In the introduction, the author deals with the nature of Pakistan’s security perception, which dominates its political landscape. Here the country has adopted strategies of guerilla warfare, proxy warfare, and low-intensity warfare as instruments against India. From this perspective, Fair mentions that Pakistan’s policy remains to convey the message to New Delhi that Islamabad will not accept its domination, and India must treat Pakistan as an equal, and thus that India must settle the Kashmir issue either through a plebiscite or by mutual arrangement. In chapters two and three the author criticizes the Pakistan military’s revisionist policy that antagonizes India. The author also explores how Pakistan’s policy makers are prisoners of the past, and how the country’s strategic culture is a reflection of a colonial legacy and shambolic economy.

In chapters four and five the author broadly explains the role of religion (Islam) in the creation of Pakistan and how the Pakistan military later took on the responsibility of defending the country’s ideological boundaries. According to the author, the Pakistan military established links with religious militants they considered to be an effective third line of defense. The author also unconvincingly argues how the Pakistan military is locked in by a colonial strategic culture to defend the country and treats Afghanistan with “strategic depth” to counter the Indian threat.

In chapters six and seven the author elaborates on how India and Indians (Hindus) are portrayed negatively as aliens in Pakistan’s socio-cultural literature. According to the author, the anti-India/Hindu narratives are successfully disseminated through electronic media, books, radio, and newspapers and thoroughly integrated into Pakistan’s education system, thereby successfully indoctrinating the populace. The author further analyzes the US strategic relationship with Pakistan, arguing it is based purely on selfish interests, while China, by contrast, is described as an enduring and reliable friend of Pakistan.

In chapters eight and nine the author explores the role of nuclear weapons in Pakistan’s strategic culture and how they have strengthened Pakistan’s leadership in the Muslim world. The author optimistically admits that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals reduce its foreign dependence, especially on the United States, while increasing its bargaining position with India and Afghanistan. The author explicitly argues how nuclear weapons have given tremendous psychological confidence to the country and how its security establishment uses militants as an operational strategic shield for Kashmir. In chapters ten and eleven the author elaborates on the circumstances behind Pakistani policy makers radically changing the philosophy of “revisionism” and their ultimate reliance on militants (Islamic proxies), which have served as strategic assets and helped Pakistan avoid direct confrontation with India.

This work is a thought provoking contribution to the study of Pakistan’s security dilemmas, providing interesting narratives, though partially selective in its arguments. Moreover, the book proves a cogent and well-referenced source of information on Pakistan’s strategic culture. It is a critical study on the history of the Pakistan-India confrontation and to be recommended to scholars, researchers, and students of politics, history, international relations, security, and war studies.

A. Z. Hilali, University of Peshawar, Peshawar, Pakistan

Back to top


POVERTY AND THE QUEST FOR LIFE: Spiritual and Material Striving in Rural India. By Bhrigupati Singh. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. xiii, 335 pp. (Illustrations, map.) US$27.50, paper. ISBN 978-0-22619-454-7.

Bhrigupati Singh’s ethnography of an impoverished region in Rajasthan is a rich and thought-provoking account of Shahabad, a remote area of disappearing forests in Rajasthan inhabited by former bonded labourers (Sahariyas), among other groups. Shahabad was known for a series of starvation deaths in 2001 to 2003 and Singh went there to understand life amidst deprivation and scarcity. But the account that he renders seeks to show the possibilities for abundant life even within such a bleak context, challenging standard definitions of poverty put forward by economists.

In a time where research is dominated by what Singh terms “new” India books, it is important to have accounts from rural India. I read the book as an interesting combination of the new and old, perhaps reflecting the current state of anthropology as a discipline. One the one hand, the book is structured like the older tradition of “village studies” in its holistic emphasis on the interrelation of very different domains, or “thresholds of life” as he puts it (“this book is a rhizome, growing in different directions” 3). The book moves from historical context—and a real strength of the book is a consistent historicizing of the domains studied—to spirit possession, from development efforts to asceticism, from dietary change, fashion, and erotic intimacies (affairs) to local deities and the question of poverty.

While ethnographically structured in the mode of village studies, much of the book is focused on engaging current theoretical concerns such as sovereignty, ethics, and the religious-secular divide. Its pervasive use of the first person and literary-philosophical writing style, drawing especially from Deleuze and Nietzsche, will be a point of diverging tastes among readers. The book is populated with concepts such as “political theologies,” “thresholds of life,” “intensities,” “potencies/potential” and a Nietzschian/Deleuzian conception of “life” (282-293). While written in an undeniably compelling and skillful manner, the frequent movement from the specific to the abstract and self-reflection—most pronounced in a conclusion written as a question and answer between himself and a Yaksa spirit (whose appearance in a dream apparently initiated the study)—will captivate and alienate readers respectively. One the one hand, the book makes the most consistent and comprehensive use of Deleuze in any ethnographic analysis I have read. But many readers may find this philosophical self-reflection unsettling, especially given the context of starvation deaths, hunger, and history (as well as apparently current practices) of bonded labour.

There is also a danger that such wide-ranging topics of study could gloss over important dynamics even if it does succeed in conveying a wider sense of the ways in which people conceptualize the quality of life. And Singh’s use of highly abstract concepts, while allowing new perspectives to emerge and not over-determining analysis, does risk concealing these dynamics. For example, in a fascinating account of the festival of Holi, an altercation started by alleged sexual harassment of Sahariya women by a government officer who was in the village to visit his lover, a village ration-shop dealer (ration-shops are tasked with providing highly subsidized food grains to poor households to prevent hunger), spirals into a near riot, police brutality, a protest movement, and court struggle. Singh describes this as reflecting a “circulation of agonistic intensities” (162). But especially given the context of hunger and what appears to be a dealer-bureaucrat-police nexus, it seems to me that this incident demands greater scrutiny. At the very least, this case suggests that the dynamics of the state and “sovereignty” are more complex than Singh’s concept of “Mitra-Varuna,” a paring drawn from Hindu mythology indicating the state’s dual nature of welfare and force (although such a distinction could be as easily taken from Machiavelli or even Gramsci). If as complex and multi-layered a “political theology” as that provided in the study of local deities were applied to this case, I suspect sovereignty would look rather different. Singh wants to move beyond the “dominance-resistance” dichotomy and his concept of “agonistic intimacy” does provide subtlety and complexity to overly simplistic activist accounts (although these conceptions are also part of the field). But although Singh lives at the offices of Sankalp, an activist NGO, and devotes an entire chapter to Kalli, an activist, the struggles and contestations that are taking place and appear to be a driving force of change in the region do not really figure into Singh’s conception of sovereignty and “agonistic intimacy.”

The end of the book contains what I found to be the most compelling chapters. These centre on in-depth and fascinating accounts of the lives of two exceptional people, Kalli, a Sahariya woman activist and Bansi, a con man/holy man. Singh portrays the lives of these individuals, and Bansi in particular, as embodying plentitude amidst scarcity. It is through Kalli and Bansi’s lives that Singh attempts to demonstrate his central argument, that there are diverse ways of living a “good life” that are ignored by mainstream development thinking. And with so much ground covered, both conceptually and in terms of topics studied, this book does succeed in compelling us to rethink how the quality of life is understood.

Jeffrey Witsoe, Union College, Schenectady, USA                                                                              

Back to top



Southeast Asia

NEW

FROM WORLD CITY TO THE WORLD IN ONE CITY: Liverpool Through Malay Lives. Studies in Urban and Social Change. By Tim Bunnell. Chichester, West Sussex: WILEY Blackwell, 2016. xvii, 284 pp. (Illustrations.) US$37.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-118-82773-4.

The main title of this fascinating book comes from the fact that Liverpool was already known as a “world city” in the late 1880s, although, as author Tim Bunnell points out, it wasn’t to be found in academic debates on “world cities” taking place a century later. With “hundreds” of Malayan seamen said to be living in the city of Liverpool (or specific parts of it) in the 1950s, our attention is immediately drawn to the multi-ethnic nature of the UK population, contradicting those scholars who hold that Britain has become a multi-racial society only in recent years. While much has been written on the role of empire in shaping metropolitan spaces, “very little … of that work has focused on the agency of colonial peoples in imperial cities” (8). Bunnell intends to rectify this. The rest of the book’s title, “The world in one city,” has now been officially adopted by Liverpool city as a marketing device.

The book focuses on the Malay ex-seamen and others who met at Liverpool’s Malay Club for over half a century. In particular, it examines the maritime linkages that made the Malay Club possible and also provided the main informants for the author’s investigative interviews conducted at the club between 2004 and 2008. These were the men who were part of the long-distance social networks, sailing the sea lanes and oceans linking one-time imperial Liverpool to the world region of Southeast Asia. In the early years of the author’s research there were perhaps only twenty ex-seamen still remaining, mainly in their eighties and nineties, so that in most cases Bunnell had to rely on prompted memories for much of his information.

From them, we learn of the various shipping companies registered in Liverpool in colonial times: the Blue Tunnel Line headquartered in Singapore, the Straits Steamship Company, the Prince’s Line, and other British companies, including those of prominent Liverpool ship owner, Alfred Holt, playing a key role in world commerce.

Malay seamen working for these and other companies came from the villages behind Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and were generally Muslim. They filled the roles of cook, fireman, quartermaster, bosun, and others, in some cases with as many as thirty working on a ship, knowing the routes and the routine. Malays, Mahrattas, Burmese, Siamese, Cingalese, were lumped together as lascars and, when not at sea, with their families occupied the ethnically segregated areas of Britain’s ports: Glasgow, Liverpool, Cardiff. The younger men could be seeking adventure in Australia or a place where they could jump ship. One of the more lucrative journeys for the shipping companies was the carriage of haji passengers in Liverpool-registered ships to the port of Jeddah, passing through Singapore twice (both outward and return journeys), taking their once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimages. According to Bunnell, such journeys formed a significant portion of the shipping companies’ income.

From the 1970s, the number of seamen using the club declined, increasingly outnumbered by the grandchildren and families of ex-seamen (some without indigenous language skills). With its rapid economic growth and expanding economy, the Malaysian government looked to educate its professional class outside the country so that, with an increased number of government scholarships available to study in Liverpool, university and other students increasingly took over the club, outnumbering the old seafarers. For the new arrivals, the Malay Club then became a place where children learned to be Malay.

There are many interesting themes in this occasionally dense and theoretical text, some of them pursued more deeply than others. Social networks, linkages, webs and “worlds of connection” figure frequently. Bunnell is a geographer who moves easily through different social, spatial, and political spaces and different divisions of labour: local, national, transnational, imperial, postimperial, postnational, supranational, etc. The political processes of Merdeka (independence) and Malaysianization are not mentioned in my review, though reports of ex-seamen seeing vessels in Liverpool belonging to the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation left vivid memories and impressions on the memories of many of the Malay ex-seamen.

Fluent in his subjects’ language, the author is clearly conscious of his own place in the fieldwork process; he is equally aware of the way his gender position may be affecting his interviewing, or how his own knowledge of what he is investigating influences what he records.

Bunnell has valuable comments to make on the subject of comparative studies, illustrated here with reference to the symbolic functions of buildings and comparing Liverpool’s Manhattan-inspired Royal Liver Building—in 1911 the tallest building in Europe and known as “the first British skyscraper”—with the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur (1990s), the tallest twin towers building in the world. Or again, when comparing Shanghai’s Bund waterfront with Liverpool’s Pier Head. Both looked to New York City for their models of modernity.

Not the least impressive aspect of the book is the very comprehensive forty-page index. Yet surprisingly, this doesn’t refer to one of the most advanced institutions in modern

imperial governance, of critical importance in the long run to maritime service. I refer here to Liverpool’s School of Tropical Medicine, established a year before the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This is not to detract from what is an impressive, theoretically sophisticated, and methodologically challenging book which certainly succeeds in meeting the author’s intention of drawing attention to “yet another of (Liverpool’s) ethnocultural groups” (22). The study is based on an extensive bibliography, archives, and participant observation in Liverpool, Malaysia, and Singapore, and interviews with some twenty remaining Malay ex-seamen. It will be of interest, amongst others, to researchers in world/global cities, and relational geography.

 Anthony D. King, Binghamton University SUNY, Vestal, USA

Back to top


NEW

SHI‘ISM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: ‘Alid Piety and Sectarian Constructions. Chiara Formichi, R. Michael Feener (editors). New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. xvi, 397 pp. (Illustrations, portraits.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-026401-7.

A study of Shi’ism in Southeast Asia has been a long time coming. Readers dealing with the Muslim zone of Southeast Asia continually run into references about ‘Ali, Fatima, the family of the Prophet and other names and terms that suggest a Shi’a influence. This raises the question: Is there a real and prevalent Shi’a force or presence in Southeast Asia or are these merely invocations without deep meaning? The editors of this anthology have provided an answer, namely that there was considerable Shi’a presence in the Islam that first came to the region, but it later lost out to Sunni Islam. As a result, discussions of Shi’a exist in the literature, in some celebrations, and in historical references. As well, modern Shi’ism, reflecting an Iranian stance against Western and other ideological viewpoints, has gained a foothold in certain places, particularly in Indonesia.

There are fourteen essays in the book. The first is an introduction to the study while the second deals with overall trends in Shi’a Islam without regard to world areas. The remaining twelve essays present evidence of Shi’a influence in Southeast Asia. The organization is logical, by subject area, the essays are well structured and well written, and the overall text is well edited. The contributors represent a truly international scope, with scholars from Australia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States. All are specialists in their fields and they range from senior scholars to those just getting established in the academic world.

One of the chief areas of scholarship in this book is contained in part 2: Literary Legacies, where four essays have Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, as their focal point. Most of the material comes from an historical literature that may be classified as “Muslim Women’s Literature,” in which Fatima and several wives of the Prophet are pictured as role models for later Muslim women. Fatima is portrayed with various attributes depending on the views of writers of various manuscripts. Stories from the Middle East stress Fatima’s charity, devotion to her father and husband and, above all, her poverty and humility. Stories from Southeast Asia follow earlier Hindu tales wherein Fatima is a princess who certainly is charitable, but still wealthy, refined, and socially astute. All of the stories emphasize her life before the birth of her children and thereby avoid her presence in the pivotal historical beginning of Shi’ism, with the martyrdom of her son Husayn. Hence, note the writers of these essays, Fatima’s importance could either be a reflection of Sunni respect for a member of the Prophet’s family, or a manifestation of Shi’a identification. Inclusion of the wives of the Prophet as ideal women seems to have been a device for making the documents identify more closely with Sunni Islam at a time perhaps when de-emphasis of Shi’a forms and outlooks may have been occurring in Southeast Asia. One article, discussing the sexual act itself, uses ‘Ali and Fatima as the model for conducting such relations, particularly in the use of certain pious phrases that should be uttered throughout the action. It is unclear, however, whether it is Sufistic practice that is the driving factor or an identification with Shi’ism.

A second line of investigation, found in part 3: Modalities of ‘Alid Piety and Cultural Expression, yields two interesting studies on ‘Ashura celebrations in the Malay-Indonesian world. Both developed historically to reflect local mores and entertainment traditions that retained only a semblance of the content or even context of the very pietistic forms commemorating the death of Husayn in standard Shi’a Islam. The first, by one of the editors, Michael Feener, traces the development of the Tabot celebration in Bengkulu, Indonesia. Local dancing, parades, neighbourhood processions, band competitions, picnicking, and the honouring of local shrines allow the entire region to participate in the event. Family hierlooms of small dioramas of metal or carved wood, often depicting scenes from the Hindu Ramayana, such as the mythical Garuda (bird), are an important part of the parades. The festival begins on Muslim New Year and ends on ‘Ashura. In the second article another author traces the development of the Boria celebration in Penang, Malaysia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Boria were parades with floats accompanied by revellers acting foolishly while dressed in outlandish costumes, usually intended to twit rival Chinese or Malay gangs and British colonial authority. Neither festival celebration has much to do with Husayn or the commemoration of his martyrdom.

A third line of investigation is contained in part 4: Contemporary Developments, where one author traces the rise of Shi’ite socio-political activism in Indonesia over the past twenty years. That author concentrates, in particular, on the activist Jamaluddin Rahmat’s efforts to create a Shi’ism adaptive to the existing Indonesian Muslim community. There are other Shi’ite activists who prefer a more purist, less compromising brand of Shi’ism, and there are Sunnis who regard all these Shi’a efforts as belonging to a “deviant” sect of Islam. The second article by Chiara Formichi, the other volume editor, brings up the work of the Rausyan Fikr Foundation in Indonesia, which promotes study groups where Shi’ite philosophy and history, but never law, are emphasized. Most study group members are university-level students. Such study is certainly not in step with usual Islamic educational activity prevalent in Southeast Asia, as the Rausyan Fikr promotes open thinking about religious lessons, rather than mastering the standard formulas of Sunni or Shi’istic orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

One important point not covered in the book is whether the influence of Shi’ism is likely to expand or fade in the future. Is the legacy sufficient to continue to have an impact? Is the influence of Iranian importance in the central Islamic world likely to promote even greater interest in its brand of Islam in peripheral areas? The two editors, now having a thorough understanding of ‘Alid importance in Southeast Asia, are likely candidates for making such an assessment. Hopefully they will take up the challenge.

Howard M. Federspiel, Ohio State University (Emeritus), Columbus, USA

Back to top


NEW

THAI POLITICS: Between Democracy and Its Discontents. By Daniel H. Unger, Chandra Mahakanjana. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2016. ix, 251 pp. US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-6263742-7-0.

The recent turbulence in Thailand’s politics has seen much ink spilled in an attempt to explain the root causes of conflict. Thai Politics: Between Democracy and Its Discontents does this and goes further by considering Thailand’s political future. Daniel Unger and Chandra Mahakanjana are negative about the nature of politics but are a little more optimistic regarding a more democratic politics following the current period of military rule.

Using modernization theory, the authors seek to understand why Thailand, as a middle-income economy, has been unable to embed a stable democratic form of government (1-5). In this effort, the authors are quick to dismiss notions that Thailand’s troubles are “a straightforward class conflict or the stubborn refusal of hidebound elites to relinquish power and privilege” (5). They also seek to dismiss any thought that the monarchy has contributed to political conflict (8-10). Neither dismissal is particularly convincingly handled. In fact, on class, the authors admit that material and structural factors and high inequality do motivate some of the political conflict. Their position seems to be to argue that “other factors”—intra-elite conflict, political culture—also need to be considered (5-8), a point few class analysts would disagree on. The authors also spend considerable space making a positive case for the monarchy, although their arguments are not new, being reflective of Thailand’s elite perspective.

The authors have structured their book to include seven chapters. Chapter 1 is the authors’ conceptual outline of the conditions that favour the emergence and consolidation of democracy and Thailand’s democratic failures. Chapter 2 provides the authors’ interpretation of recent events in Thai politics, providing a background for the following chapters. Chapters 3 to 6 follow the lines of enquiry set out in the first chapter, examining the history and structure of the Thai state, rule of law, political communication, and political mobilization. In chapter 7, the authors consider Thailand’s political future.

The authors’ approach to the analysis that they expand in chapters 3 through 6 emphasizes personalism, leaders’ morality (or lack of it), the strength of informal institutions, the role of the monarchy, and the hold of traditionalism. In addressing these themes, the approach is unsurprising for those familiar with the modernization approaches to Thailand that were dominant in the 1960s and 1970s. That said, the authors are eclectic, with references to Shakespeare, Hume, Nietzsche, J.S. Mill, Disraeli, Weber, Geertz, Bourdieu, and many more, often cited as quotations sourced from the works of others.

The authors are attracted by a culturalist approach. By quoting Ruth Benedict from 1943 and Thomas Kirsch from 1973, they resurrect—but do not name—a notion that Thailand is a “loosely-structured society,” resisting (appropriate) modernity and democratic governance.

Theoretical approach aside, most readers will find much to agree with in this book. It covers much ground, makes comparative references, and where it is available, the authors deploy survey data regarding political participation and attitudes. Some will be pleased to find that the authors, after considering a range of conflicts and repeated political failures, consider that Thailand can still manufacture a democratic future that adapts to “mass demands for political inclusion and rising levels of political participation” (212).

Yet getting to this agreeable conclusion is a complicated mix of methods and analysis that is less satisfying. In their comparative references, the authors are overwhelmingly struck by similarities between contemporary Thailand and Western countries of many decades ago. Thaksin Shinawatra’s politics is compared with Andrew Jackson’s populism (209-212), the Thai elite’s rejection of majoritarianism is compared with eighteenth-century British and American calls for limits on voting (23), rural-urban splits are compared with nineteenth-century Denmark (137), and Thailand’s “limited corporatist features” are said to resemble seventeenth-century Russia (165). These frequent comparative asides construct a narrative implying political backwardness.

Alongside these comparisons, the authors state that they “give much attention to Thai interpretations of social life, uses of information, patterns of participation in politics…” and more (23). Surprisingly, to do this, the authors rely almost entirely on resources in English. This means the Thai voices heard are those of an elite writing in English or those reported in English-language sources. The authors do not consider how this pattern might skew their results and the arguments they make.

While the authors identify that “weak institutions lie at the roots of Thailand’s democracy problem” (206), they make this a far more controversial argument when expressing support for a perspective that “too many Thais lack what it takes to sustain democratic institutions.” Acknowledging that this is a “decidedly politically incorrect stance” (206), chapter 5 presents an argument that forcefully makes this claim. Thais are said to debate with “low information content” and exhibit “poor quality public deliberations” (131). Further, they “employ crude stylized cognitive maps” (132), are overtaken by superstition (135), and are mostly “politically unsophisticated” (134). Data are mined to argue that Thailand’s children are poorly schooled by poor teachers, read little, and do badly on standardized tests (138-139). This has political outcomes as voters have limited knowledge, with poor, rural voters easily led astray (151). Given that a similar rhetoric stirred elitist and anti-election activism that led to a military coup in 2014, this assessment will certainly be contentious.

While the authors’ political perspectives are clear and, at times, they are somewhat uncritical of “yellow shirt” and royalist claims, they do seek to be even-handed. For example, they criticize Thaksin but also the generals who seized power in 2014. Likewise, while their numerous discussions of King Bhumibol are mostly uncritical, they do recognize that the monarchy must change and become a truly constitutional monarchy.

In the end, it seems the authors are liberals in search of democracy, recognizing the need for increased political inclusion but worried that this might be damaging for Thailand (and for its elite). In that context, Thai Politics will be applauded, criticized, and debated.

Kevin Hewison, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA
and Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

Back to top


ACTIVIST ARCHIVES: Youth Culture and the Political Past in Indonesia. By Doreen Lee. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2016. xvi, 278 pp. (Illustrations.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6171-8.

The term pemuda (youth) was both cherished and feared at one major point in Indonesian history. The Suharto regime (1966–1998) recognized the determinacy of pemuda, as the term first emerged in public consciousness in the early twentieth century in reference to a nationalist “oath” for unification. Pemuda however only gained its power when it was militarized during Japanese occupation for war mobilization. The term became popular in the time of revolution. The revolutionary connotation of pemuda was considered unsuitable for a post-Independence regime seeking order and stability. To domesticate pemuda the ruling elite invented the term remaja (a term associated with mama’s teenager) for Indonesian youth. All through the Suharto era, remaja was popularized throughout popular culture, even constituting a significant genre in the New Order’s film industry. Since the appearance of remaja, pemuda was confined to past heroism, frozen as a street name in Surabaya, Yogyakarta, and Medan (and perhaps some other secondary cities), but not in Jakarta. Pemuda, despite its critical role in fighting for Indonesian independence, was considered dead (much like the national heroes) by the New Order that sought to build a new legacy of its own.

In Activist Archives, Doreen Lee challenges us to think of pemuda not as a part of the historical past, but as a living “other” exiled within the national archive. She retrieves the political past of pemuda by returning them to the 1980s-1990s as undercurrents haunting the remaja era and beyond. The book thus is organized around the political lives of activist youth represented as neither round nor linear. Lee portrays their lives as always already linked to some moments of the past, “moving back and forth between 1998 and other experiences” (108), with their subjectivities located in space moving discursively between home and homelessness. Why this is so has to do with the state’s suppression of its own violence, which in turn has produced an archive that seeks to exclude activists. Such otherness felt among the activists, no matter how equipped they are in their activism, has the subtler consequence of a difficulty in grasping their own contexts of production and activity.

It is in this context that Lee’s work is truly fascinating and challenging. She seeks to bring back, via a route of history and anthropology, the figure of pemuda now in the form of “activists.” But the route taken is far from straightforward as both the field and the archive are not always locatable, ready to be observed and narrated. The activist youth exist—and this to me is the most important contribution of the book—in  multiple forms and engage us in many different ways, both concrete and imaginative: as environment (street, camps, posts, and home), image (art, film, and photography), artifact (t-shirts, banners, and cellphones) and discourses (of trauma, democracy, and emergency). For Lee, archive is shaped not so much by what it says, but by where it is located. She had to follow the discursive and often ephemeral paths of activists to grasp their excluded or exiled archive. Such an approach to archive is groundbreaking.

Throughout the book, Lee finds inspiration in a range of critical theories, from those of Giorgio Agamben to Jacques Derrida and Walter Benjamin. She has also brought to life the best of Cornell’s Indonesian scholarship characterized by rich ethnographic and historical materials, and perhaps most importantly, a strong sense of political engagement (although she never quite felt at home at Cornell, the “mecca of Southeast Asian Studies”). A most interesting part concerns Lee’s own subjectivity, and how she relates to her study, her field, and her Indonesia. “What I did when I was there” is more than a methodological report of a scholar standing from a position of an observer. It concerns “another story” about her embedded-ness in space and time (for Lee too belongs to Generation 98—no matter what this might mean). This has made her aware of her own class, ethnic, and gender backgrounds and what it means to live through (together and apart) an important chapter of Indonesian history, of 1998, before and after. Beneath this scholarship thus is a work of redemptive imagination of who constitutes the Generation 98 activists after years of suppression and misunderstanding, how they came to be, and what they have done, and perhaps more urgently, what they mean for today’s youth.

This book is also timely as its publication comes at the time when the streets of Jakarta are experiencing a war between the ghosts of different pasts, with each claiming to represent post-Reformasi activism. And yet the rallies and protests on the streets are energies with sources not necessarily in activists. Meanwhile, much of what is happening today is also inseparable from the technology of the virtual world, such as social media, which constitutes faceless groups. Discourses too have also shifted from human rights and democracy to the subject of religion, with Islam and the politics of morality at the forefront of activism. Lee sees some of these coming in her concluding chapter, but they seem to be beyond the reach of Generation 98—thus beyond the stretch of her book. Such a limit however is also the strength of the book, so Activist Archives can be called a definitive work that will be prized as perhaps the best “biography” of a generation of Indonesian urban activism.

Abidin Kusno, York University, Toronto, Canada                                                                              

Back to top


DYNAMICS OF DEMOCRACY IN TIMOR-LESTE: The Birth of a Democratic Nation, 1999–2012. Emerging Asia, 2. By Rui Graça Feijó. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2016. 335 pp. (Tables.) US$124.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-8964-804-4.

In June 2006, after the splintering of the young country’s security sector and the outbreak of communal violence in Dili, Timor-Leste’s President José Alexandre “Xanana” Gusmão delivered a long emotional speech in which he declared: “The President of the Republic is a sovereign organ. One single person, I myself am this Organ of Sovereignty.” For those unfamiliar with Portuguese and other Lusophone-country constitutions, the statement was bewildering; for others, it occasioned jokes. But there was no uncertainty about the ultimatum that followed: “Either ask your Comrade [Prime Minister] Mari Alkatiri to be responsible for this big crisis and the survival of the Democratic state ruled by law, or tomorrow I will submit my letter to the National Parliament to inform [it] that I have resigned as President of the Republic….” Faced with the choice, Alkatiri submitted his own letter of resignation, setting the stage for Gusmão to appoint José Ramos-Horta, a political independent and Gusmão-ally, as interim prime minister, and to request a new UN peacekeeping force. Even so, the political crisis, which included the displacement of more than 100,000 people, dragged on for a full year until new national elections could be held and Gusmão emerged as the country’s next prime minister.

Scholarship on Timor-Leste’s political development often employs the 2006–2007 crisis as a gauge either of all that was wrong or of all that has subsequently been achieved. For skeptics, the crisis was evidence of the failures of the UN mission that ushered the country from the 1999 referendum to the restoration of independence in 2002, of the deep-seated political cleavages emanating from the aborted process of decolonization in 1975, and even of the failure of East Timorese to fully embrace democracy. For others, the decade since the crisis charts the great successes of the Gusmão administrations and their continuation under Gusmão’s handpicked successor, Rui Maria de Araújo. It is into these muddy waters that Rui Feijó’s new book, Dynamics of Democracy in Timor-Leste, wades and shines an illuminating beam of light.

If the 1999 referendum signaled the promise of representative government, the constitution (ratified in 2001) was a blueprint for its operation. But the writing of the constitution was contentious, its interpretation contested and enabling legislation slow to see the light of day. Feijó’s first chapter provides a theoretical discussion of what democracy is and what it should be, highlighting the distinction between and intersection of horizontal and vertical accountability. The next chapter assesses a long list of Timor-Leste’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats at the time of the UN interregnum. Rejecting simplistic, one-size-fits-all formulas of international best practice, Feijó writes that, “a bumpy track on a dirt road in the beautiful mountains of Timor is a better illustration of the way ahead than a road on the Dili seafront recently paved to international standards” (127).

The chapters that follow address the critical issues of constitution writing under the UN, national elections, the semi-presidential system, and the promise of decentralization. Chapter 3 examines the difficult circumstances under which the first elections were held for a Constituent Assembly (CA) and the short-time frame set for it to write the constitution, revealing tensions between the terms “old” and “new” constitutionalists, which is shorthand for the Fretilin majority and those who opposed Fretilin. For Feijó, however, the fundamental problem was less the content of the constitution, which broadly followed a Lusophone model, than the decision to transform the CA into the country’s first parliament. “The result was that open political competition for elected posts prescribed in the constitution was delayed until 2007 and distorted by political choices” (151).

National elections are the focus in chapter 4. Feijó begins with a useful survey of electoral legislation, management, and levels of participation, before devoting separate sections to presidential elections (with a highlight on the success of “independent” candidates) and parliamentary elections. Drawing these strands together, the chapter ends with a discussion of regional variation in electoral results (which was particularly pronounced in 2007) and the role of personalities (with particular attention drawn to Gusmão’s “outstanding and charismatic persona”). In Feijó’s view, Timor-Leste’s performance has been overwhelmingly positive, though he does note that, “the 2012 elections reinforced the tendency for bipolarization around FRETILIN and [Gusmão’s] CNRT” (201). The reasons for this clearly go beyond institutional design, party loyalty or even personalities, and hinge in fundamental ways on the size, allocation, and even abuse of the state budget. Building on this, chapter 5 provides a close examination of semi-presidentialism in Timor-Leste, combining a sophisticated theoretical discussion with a highly positive appraisal of how the system has served the young country. In Feijó’s view, semi-presidentialism brought cleavages “inside the boundaries of constitutionally defined settings”, and hence imposed restraint (226). Gusmão, once again, is the hero of the story. The final chapter on “grassroots democracy” focuses largely on the still unfulfilled promise of decentralization.

This book will be of interest to a wide audience. For those concerned with questions of institutional design and the challenges of its implementation, the book provides a sophisticated account of semi-presidentialism and an encouraging perspective on democratic participation in newly independent states. For those familiar with Timor-Leste’s politics, the book calls into question many common assumptions and challenges the piecemeal approach to technical legal issues, the security sector, state administration, and a host of other sectors. For those in search of a primer on the first decade of independence, however, some companion reading is recommended to bring to life the major and lesser-known personalities and events, economic policies, and foibles involved in the building of this “common house” of democracy. While Feijó’s overall assessment of democracy in Timor-Leste is positive, he remains realistic: “Stability, which has marked Timor-Leste’s development in recent years, cannot therefore be equated with the consolidation of democracy” (290).

Douglas Kammen, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Back to top


THE UPROOTED: Race, Children, and Imperialism in French Indochina, 1890–1980. Southeast Asia—Politics, Meaning, and Memory. By Christina Elizabeth Firpo. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. xi, 260 pp. (Illustrations.) US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-4757-9.

“Uprooted” refers to the métis (mixed race) children born out of wedlock from Indochinese mothers and foreign fathers, who were forcibly removed from their mothers by French colonial authorities with the intent of cultivating their loyalties to France and curtailing indigenous cultural influences. Christina Firpo has been working on this topic for more than a decade using data she gathered from various archives and protection society programs. The collected data enabled her to create a database of more than four thousand métis children, which, according to her estimate, constitute approximately 40 percent of all métis who were put in the care of protection societies. The Uprooted is based on her 2007 dissertation and later research; the book goes beyond her previous work, however, in that it is more comprehensive in detail and stretches the timeframe through the period of decolonization until 1980.

Firpo addresses two main ideas in the book. First, she examines why the colonial government and protection societies intensively searched for métis children and claimed their custody. Second, she investigates the development of the métis protection societies and the shifts in attitude by the French. Firpo suggests that colonial authorities were motivated by their fear that female métis might become prostitutes, as this would have led to degeneration in the prestige of the “white race” and the status of the European bourgeois class. Moreover, French authorities worried about the possibility of rebellion by métis adolescent males because they were denied recognition as French citizens. The book is structured chronologically, guiding the reader through the history of changes in policies and French attitudes towards métis children throughout the colonial regime.

Chapter 1 discusses the early years of French colonial rule when métis children, unrecognized by their fathers and abandoned by their mothers, were put in Catholic orphanages. From the 1880s, French permanent residents of Indochina began forming child protection societies as civilian-led organizations independent of Catholic orphanages. Intolerance toward mixed-race relationships and anxiety about métis children as potential rebels constantly remained in the minds of colonial rulers. However, there was a change in approach toward métis children during World War I and its aftermath, as discussed in chapter 2. Their biological connection to the French was recognized and highlighted because of the need for more soldiers to fight the war.

In 1936 the colonial government decided to end the activities of private welfare organizations and centralized the métis children protection system (73). As discussed in chapter 3, the Jules Brévié Foundation, a unified protection society, was established to provide complete state control of activities related to métis children. In chapter 4, Firpo shows that during World War II, métis were recognized for their French blood because the colonial government wanted to use them to solve some of the colony’s demographic problems. Protection society officials sought out métis who looked “white” to educate and train them to become members of the French elite in Indochina and to use them as the colony’s administrators (91).

During the French Indochina War (1946-1954), the colonial government returned the protection system back to civilian control. Chapter 5 discusses the creation of the Fédération des Oeuvres de l’Enfance Francaise d’Indochine (FOEFI) led by influential adult métis leaders, with the goal of forming citizens loyal to France who would support the French colonial regime in Indochina. The last chapter reveals a new finding: from the end of French colonial rule until 1980, French civilians working for FOEFI continued to remove métis children from Indochina and send them to France without parental consent.

In reading the mostly sad stories of métis children born from “prostitutes” and French soldiers, one wonders if there were any genuine feelings involved in the histories of such couples during colonial times. Firpo mentions in the introduction that the stories of fatherless métis children remained unknown to both French and indigenous audiences, yet she also states that “Vietnamese language women’s newspapers published extensively … on the subject of the colony’s new child-care institutions … perhaps a veiled reference to fatherless métis children” (63). This makes me wonder if indeed the existence of more than ten thousand métis children remained unnoticed. Furthermore, Firpo writes, “the phenomenon of father’s involvement in the removal process indicates a cultural change in the role of fathers who had abandoned métis children” (99). What I learned from this book is that the fathers never recognized or admitted their paternity throughout the colonial period; instead, the colonial authorities formally privileged “father power” to provide the protection societies with the right to remove the children from their mothers. This was therefore not “a cultural change in the role of fathers” but was rather a legal strategy to achieve the same goal.

Overall, the author portrays colonial rule as mostly stable throughout its history and as though the colonial administrators always knew what to do. The whole of colonial and postcolonial history is divided into six periods and discussed in six chapters, with each chapter emphasizing changes in policies and attitudes toward métis children. But was there always such a clear distinction between policies adopted in consecutive periods? The author seems to have assumed that the colonial administration almost from the beginning had the capacity to create efficient policies and laws related to métis children. One may conjecture, however, that there would have been rather complex negotiations between colonial authorities and the local society concerning a number of relevant matters. Firpo suggests that the colonial authorities and protection societies systematically removed métis children from their mothers, thus raising questions not only about the consistency of the colonial state but also about the relationship between colonial authorities and the protection societies. As Firpo illustrates, they did not always work together, and the protection societies did not always share information with one another. Thus one may wonder about the degree of continuity in the treatment of métis children from 1870 to 1980, as one would expect ruptures, conflicts, and negotiations over the course of this history.

In conclusion, The Uprooted is a well-researched and well-written book on an important historical phenomenon that has remained practically invisible for a long time. The history of métis children as a potential threat but also a potential asset during colonial times was convincingly presented by Firpo and should be of interest not only to readers of Indochinese colonial history but to those in gender studies, Asian history, and colonial studies more generally.

Mai Bui Dieu Linh, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada                                                             

Back to top


LAND AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDONESIA: Searching for the People’s Sovereignty. Indonesia Update Series. Edited by John F. McCarthy, Kathryn Robinson. Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, 2016. xxii, 382 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$29.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4762-08-3.

Who currently controls land in Indonesia, and who should control it? These are the two questions at the heart of this informative edited volume. Struggles over land are ubiquitous, as the 55 percent of the population who still gain their livelihoods from agriculture compete for space with forest reserves, extractive industries, expanding oil palm plantations, burgeoning infrastructure, and peri-urban sprawl. The constitution imagines a wise and benevolent state that holds sovereignty over land and manages it for the maximum benefit of “the people.” The 1960 Basic Agrarian Law declares that land has a “social function,” and is to be used to secure the wellbeing of disadvantaged sectors of society. Tragically, neither the Suharto regime nor its successors have been committed to these principles. A massive reverse land reform continues to appropriate land from “the people” and allocate it to the cabals of profit-seeking politicians, bureaucrats, and financiers who dominate in the fields of timber extraction, mining, plantations, and urban development.

Decades after independence, Indonesia still does not have a national framework for governing land in a just manner. Sectoral departments such as forestry and mining compete for territorial jurisdiction, and 68 percent of Indonesia’s land mass is reported to be under concession to timber, plantation, and mining corporations. Administrative decentralization and direct elections have spurred claims to “peoples’ sovereignty” at multiple spatial scales. Outside Java, these claims are often linked to ethnic territories and “customary communities,” while in some of Java’s city neighbourhoods, the urban poor also assert the right to rule in their own domain. Each of these spatially referenced “sovereigns” has a different plan linked to the particular set of benefits that land affords them as a homeland, as an economic resource, as a site of revenue generation or speculation, as a place to grow food, or a place to build a house and access services. The result of these competing sovereignties is not a benign pluralism but a patterned process of inclusion and exclusion of which the constant is that poor and relatively powerless people lose out.

The volume, edited by John McCarthy and Kathryn Robinson, offers powerful and richly textured insights on this complex terrain. The chapters are of uniformly high quality, which is especially admirable given the very rapid turnaround between the 2015 Indonesia update conference at the Australian National University where they were presented, and the 2016 publication. Chapters are written by noted experts, and strike a balance between overview and update. The result is a landmark volume that is both “of the moment,” and destined to stand the test of time.

An overview by the editors sets the scene with a discussion of notions of sovereignty and the challenges presented by competing land uses and unequal powers. It reviews the sorry history of stalled land reform, the unresolved question of customary rights, and the tangled thicket of land law, in which scores of overlapping and contradictory regulations make land transactions expensive and insecure. It also notes the dynamic processes that are changing peoples’ relations to land across the archipelago: land grabbing for plantations, population growth, migration, and the rise of global agendas stressing sustainability, climate change, human rights, and “corporate social responsibility.”

One cluster of papers foregrounds the dynamic processes and powers that shape the actual control of land in various settings. A chapter by Nancy Peluso on “the plantation and the mine” shows how crop booms and a gold rush, combined with the violent eviction of rural Indonesians of Chinese descent and a state-manipulated discourse of customary rights, configured land control in parts of West Kalimantan. Laksmi Savitri and Susanna Price show the very limited effectiveness of new regulations designed to protect the land rights of indigenous Papuans who must negotiate with large plantation corporations on vastly unequal terms. Afrizal and Patrick Anderson also note the disproportionate power of plantation corporations, but see some potential in global and industry standards for informed consent. Studies by Suraya Affif on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), and Kathryn Robinson on mining, show how (some) local actors have been able to make effective use of global discourses (around climate change, and responsible mining) to advance their interests. For Lesley Potter, state policies that favour corporations are somewhat balanced by the determination of smallholders to enter the lucrative oil palm sector; the dynamic in this case is furnished by migrants, both state-backed and spontaneous, who flock to frontier areas to buy up land at low prices, squeezing the original landholders onto ever smaller pockets of land.

A second cluster of chapters foreground schemes for state-backed land regulation, their promises and pitfalls. Modes of regulation include allocation, mapping, planning, zoning, taxing, licensing, and attempts to formalize existing customary arrangements. Pierre van der Eng takes a long historical view of colonial land law and official attempts to map and tax land. Adriaan Bedner outlines the main contours of Indonesia’s land law since independence, with a focus on the 1960 Basic Agrarian Law, the New Order Forest Law, and the struggle for recognition of customary land rights that gathered pace in the post-Suharto period of reform. Chip Fay and Ho-Ming So Denduangrudee examine emerging options for the recognition of the land rights of indigenous communities. Jeff Neilson addresses the long-stalled process of land reform, and the different interests it could potentially serve. Aprilia Ambarwati et al. explain why distributive land reform based on the principle of “social efficiency” is still needed in rural Java, where the great majority of people who work in agriculture own little or no land. Delik Hudalah et al. and Jamie Davidson explore the inordinately complex procedures required to release land for the construction of urban housing and infrastructure, noting the unfair terms of compensation.

None of the writers expect that improvements to the regulatory regime will solve Indonesia’s land problem once and for all. A striking chapter by Patrick Guiness on Yogyakarta’s low-income city wards makes the counter-argument. He finds that urban residents already have an effective customary regime for regulating land access, complete with mechanisms to make investments in infrastructure and enforce community standards for managing common areas. He notes that top-down attempts to formalize rights tend to work against the interests of the poor. As several chapters point out, two-thirds of Indonesia’s rural and urban land parcels are not formally titled, hence informal or “customary” regimes are not limited to self-identified “indigenous people.” They are the operational basis for land control for much of the population. Taken as a whole, this is the dilemma that stands out most clearly from the book: terms like security, legal certainty, and recognition are very appealing, but strengthening the land rights of one set of actors usually means undermining the position of another set of actors (for example, migrants, women, landless people). The alternative approach to land regulation—based on flexibility, adaptation, and discretion, and building step-wise on existing informal practices—also sounds appealing, but it too has pitfalls: it exposes landholders to predation by officials who exercise these discretionary powers. Ironically, it is most often state-sponsored programs that promise to bring progress and development to “the people” that end up robbing ordinary people of access to land.

Tania Murray Li, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Back to top


FORESTS ARE GOLD: Trees, People, and Environmental Rule in Vietnam. Culture, Place, and Nature. By Pamela D. McElwee; foreword by K. Sivaramakrishnan. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016. xxvi, 283 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99548-9.

At high altitudes in contemporary Vietnam, one can see posted signs in the hills. “Destroying the forest,” they declare, “is a grave sin” (phá rừng là tội ắc). This slogan targets swiddeners, shifting cultivars who have resisted state-led sendentarization campaigns, and illegal logging. It also broadcasts the importance of environmental management, controlling the natural world and those who dwell within it. Anyone who seeks a thoughtful, contextual analysis of environmental management and its link to governmentality in Vietnam, as well as its comparative connections throughout and outside Southeast Asia, should studiously read Pamela D. McElwee’s Forests Are Gold.

Based on long-term ethnographic and archival research, McElwee’s critical examination of environmental policies and their everyday realities balances empirical claims, and some fascinating stories, with compelling theoretical insights. This book will interest not only academic specialists across a wide swath of fields but also more general readers who have an interest in international development, contemporary resource conflicts, and environmental issues in Vietnam and elsewhere.

McElwee calls readers to consider the imbrication of the environment with the political. Recalling Bruno Latour and Michel Foucault, McElwee frames this book as a study in “knowledge-making” and “environmentality” (13-23). Rather than review official policies, McElwee traces the stakes of contemporary environmental management, and environmental crime, from the late nineteenth century to the present. McElwee charts the conceptual terrain of historical environmental discourse in Vietnam, drawing on fieldwork, archives, and the author’s own experience with the comically eponymous “PAM” project (134).

Across five chapters and a conclusion, readers follow the shifting paradigms of resource management in Vietnam. McElwee builds an account of environmental rule grounded in the recent Vietnamese past. The first chapter explains “the emergence of environmental rule under French colonialism,” tying a political understanding of the natural world to an anthropocenic frame. McElwee continues into the postcolonial twentieth century with the second chapter, “Planting New People: Socialism, Settlement, and Subjectivity in the Postcolonial Forest,” which deftly guides readers through the forest policy changes that accompanied the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (1945-1976), including an insightful account of the shifting definitions of “shifting cultivation” during the 1960s (83). However, the chapters that engage with the period since 1986, after “Renovation” or Đổi Mới, when the Vietnamese Communist Party pursued a platform of measured reform, are the most compelling. “Illegal Loggers and Heroic Rangers” (97-133), “Rule by Reforestation” (134-171), and “Calculating Carbon and Ecosystem Services” (172-206) not only provide crucial context to the contemporary environmental issues in Vietnam, but each combines solid documentary research, ethnographic fieldwork, and a capacious appreciation for comparative studies into an edifying narrative of environmental rule in contemporary Vietnam.

Throughout Forests Are Gold, McElwee connects Vietnam to the larger scholarly discourse surrounding environmental rule, avoiding the pitfalls of an overly constrained area studies approach while crafting an account that is both theoretically engaged and accessible. Readers will benefit from the comparisons between the French colonial forestry regime in Vietnam with elsewhere in the French Empire, as well as the taungya system in British Burma (53). McElwee’s work will particularly interest China specialists; the discussion of State Forest Enterprises (SFEs, lâm trường) features empirical accounts of individual hardship that resonate with the “Sending Down” or xiaxiang campaigns (76-86). The sophisticated analysis of Forest Rangers (khiểm lâm) in Bình Thuận province, and the scandal that followed, contributes to a long discussion by historians, anthrpologists, and political scientists about the ways in which people negotiate state power, including appeals to a higher bureacratic authority, media pressure, and mockery (125-126). McElwee has written a book that continues a conversation about governmentality and environmental rule begun by scholars such as Nancy Peluso, Peter Vandergeest, James Scott, and K. Sivaramakrishnan, but also one that recalls the work of David Biggs, Ken MacLean, Daniel Kelliher, and Xiaobo Lü.

Although this excellent book will leave its readers with a trenchant and critical understading of contemporary Vietnamese environmental rule, it will also leave some readers, particuarly historians, asking questions. For instance, to what extent did forest management and environmental rule “emerge” under French colonialism (35)? Did forestry managers “put in place the earliest reforestation programs” during French rule (137)? These claims invite future historical research into the relationship between land management and government before French colonial rule, hopefully inspiring much needed work on the Vietnamese imperial past.

Forests Are Gold does more than clear a fresh path for historical inquiry, it also sows the seeds of an engaged, critical envinromental sensibility. Readers will find their understanding of contemporary Vietnam enriched by McElwee’s work. For this reviewer, Forests Are Gold gives new meaning to familiar signs in the hills.

Bradley Camp Davis, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, USA                                   

Back to top


INDONESIAN NOTEBOOK: A Sourcebook on Richard Wright and the Bandung Conference. Editors, Brian Russell Roberts and Keith Foulcher. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. xxiv, 262 pp. (Map, figures.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6066-7.

Ignorance about the world beyond their shores was a feature common to many US intellectuals during the early Cold War period, whether taking the form of unbridled confidence in their development models or in dismissing the value of social mores they were unfamiliar with. It also posed no hindrance to their travels nor curtailed the authority of their pronouncements. The famous African-American writer Richard Wright was no exception. The Color Curtain, a “report” of his visit to the Asia-Africa conference held in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, is as far removed from the extraordinary power and brilliance of his novels Black Boy and Native Son as one can imagine, yet it remains a go-to book for many scholars seeking to understand this historic conference.

Wright, sitting in self-imposed exile in Paris when the conference was announced, was quick to realize the significance of the event, and, unlike his government, was not alarmed by the prospect of the free coloured nations of the world getting together. He was also self-aware enough to realize that since he knew nothing about Indonesia, the best he could do was hope that the common discriminations of racial prejudice would be a sufficient bridge between him and his hosts. Given this, Color Curtain can be read as a report of Wright’s discovery of a world beyond the Black Atlantic, with the conference becoming a means of expanding a relatively limited worldview, much as Malcolm X’s visit to Mecca a decade later would help de-parochialize the latter’s ideas of race, struggle, and universalism. At worst, the book stands as a reminder that for all his deep insight into the racial and economic contradictions of the United States and despite the universalism implied by joining the Communist Party, Wright reverted to being an American when he travelled to the developing world. There is perhaps no better realization of his limits than when we discover that the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCR), a CIA front, paid for the celebrated author’s visit to Indonesia and had a significant role in shaping who he would meet. Wright never met the celebrated writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, for example, although there is an excerpt of the latter’s writing included in the volume where he expresses his admiration for Wright’s work.

This carefully curated “sourcebook” on Wright and the Bandung Conference is primarily written for specialists on Richard Wright, the African-American writer, and to a far lesser extent for those who are interested in the intersections of Bandung and the cultural politics of the Cold War. The editors are careful to point out that Wright’s account of his visit is often at odds with others’ memories or what is more likely to have happened, and we are repeatedly reminded that Wright’s Indonesian interlocutors found him unable to get beyond a “black and white” view of the world. Contradictions abound: Wright chooses to stay with the American ambassador in Indonesia although he detests the fact that this ambassador is the grandson of slave owners. Throughout the volume, the editors wonderfully contextualize the period and the people Wright met; the net effect is to make the reader far more interested in Indonesia in the 1950s than Wright at Bandung.

Following an excellent introduction, where the editors identify the different compulsions and intersecting literatures involved in producing a book of this kind, including the burgeoning field of Asian-African studies, the volume is divided into three sets of readings. The first, entitled “Transnational Crosscurrents,” helps situate Indonesian knowledge of Wright’s work. It includes excerpts from an official account of the rise of modern Indonesian literature, an essay by Pramoedya where he comments on the power of Wright’s writing and his lack of concern with beauty, “None!” (47), and an essay by Beb Vuyk that introduces a variety of Western writers to an Indonesian audience. The latter essay unwittingly highlights the unevenness of global literary knowledge, and reminds us of the tacit privilege that comes from being an American author writing in English. It is impossible to imagine, for example, a similarly informed essay discussing literary debates taking place in Indonesia, or even Japan, then just emerging from American occupation, being published in Partisan Review (one of the journals Vuyk mentions approvingly, also CIA-funded) during this period. Beb Vuyk’s writing here and later in the volume is a revelation; her voice is clear and direct, and she sums Wright up in his host and fellow CCR grantee, Mochtar Lubis’s words, “the fellow is color crazy” (203).

Part 2, “An Asian-African Encounter,” discusses Wright’s reception in Indonesia during his three-week sojourn. The section includes newspaper articles mentioning him, an interview in the “prominent cultural affairs publication” (95) Gelanggang, a report on an extended conversation between Wright and members of the Konfrontasi literary movement, and a lecture given in Jakarta, all very well annotated by the editors. These texts are useful in identifying the distance between the kinds of questions that drove the “universal humanism” of the elite Konfrontasi group and contemporary concerns of Western writers.

The third and final section of the volume is entitled “In the Wake of Wright’s Indonesian Travels.” It has writings by Beb Vuyk, Asrul Sani, and Frits Kandou, all written shortly after Wright’s visit, but also includes a short excerpt by Goenawan Mohamad, “Politicians,” written in 1977, and an article about classic Bandung hotels written in 2005 in which Wright is mentioned. These last pieces point to one of the weaknesses of the volume, namely, a tendency to try and include every Indonesian mention of Wright, whether relevant or not, a temptation that the editors have unfortunately succumbed to a little too often. This is a pity because it draws attention away from their own writing, which is so informative and intelligent that it makes the quixotic task of locating Richard Wright in Bandung entirely worthwhile.

Itty Abraham, National University of Singapore, Singapore                                                              

Back to top


MOMENTUM AND THE EAST TIMOR INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT: The Origins of America’s Debate on East Timor. By Shane Gunderson. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015. xix, 159 pp. (Illustrations.) US$80.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-0234-4.

How did East Timor (now the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste) manage to win its independence after being annexed to neighbouring Indonesia? A number of writers have attempted to answer this question, with several stressing Timorese diplomatic efforts outside the country as a key factor alongside resistance within the territory.

Shane Gunderson asks a different and rather counter-factual question: “Why did it take so long for the independence movement to build momentum?” (131). Instead of a historical approach, he starts with the knowledge that Timor-Leste won its independence, initially declared in 1975, then restored in 2002. Why did it take 24 years (from the 1975 Indonesian invasion to the 1999 referendum in which Timorese voted strongly for independence) to achieve this goal? Gunderson’s book, adopted from his doctoral dissertation, assumes the end result and asks why independence came when it did, not sooner. He employs the concept of social movement momentum, defined as “a driving social force furthered by an emerging field of inevitability harnessed to achieve goals in such a way that it attracts broader public support” (1). It is in this interpretive framework, rather than in unearthing new knowledge, that this book makes its main contribution.

Momentum and the East Timor Independence Movement is not a study of events within Indonesian-ruled Timor-Leste. Instead, it studies what Timorese activists and their overseas supporters called the “international solidarity movement,” a diverse network spanning the globe. Gunderson’s lens zeroes in on the United States and the role of US activists, academics, and other intellectuals in supporting and sustaining an issue and finally building a “momentum sequence” during the second half of the 1990s. He argues that the solidarity movement was able to build increasing support in this period through a series of turning points and thereby help achieve a goal—self-determination for the Timorese—that had not been possible in the 1970s or 1980s.

Individuals within the US solidarity movement loom large, with intellectuals portrayed as entrepreneurs of ideas that activists could then pick up on and promote through US government and United Nations forums. Names like Noam Chomsky and Benedict Anderson are prominent among the figures interviewed for this book. Gunderson shows their importance in the early years of US campaigning by highlighting the role of Anderson’s former students at Cornell, including some scholars who remain prominent, from Geoffrey Robinson to Douglas Kammen to Richard Franke. Most central is Arnold Kohen, who worked closely with journalists, religious networks, and members of Congress as the only full-time US campaigner in the 1980s. In 1991, journalist-activists Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn added intellectual leadership, and key activists in the New York peace movement, including Charles Scheiner and John Miller, formed the first dedicated US solidarity group, the East Timor Action Network. Although Gunderson draws on ETAN’s archives, he pays less attention to the organization than it might warrant, due to the stress on individual rather than collective narratives. The US focus elides the role of others in the international solidarity movement, especially those who did not work in English: Timorese diplomatic leader Jose Ramos Horta appears, a New Zealand activist is among the interviews, and British-Indonesian activist Carmel Budiardjo makes an appearance (though in a way that suggests her prominence hampered Timorese momentum by linking it to her role in Indonesian left-wing politics). The focus remains, however, a case study of the American solidarity movement. This does not take away from its contribution in illustrating the role of US activists, until now a little-told story.

Gunderson stresses a series of “turning points” in the Timorese march towards independence. Chapter 1 introduces the concept of momentum in social movement theory. Chapter 2 provides a brief historical background before chapter 3 introduces the book’s main interest, pro-Timor activism in the United States. Chapter 4 discusses campaigns in the US in the 1970s. American anti-communism proved decisive as a source of “negative momentum” for East Timor’s campaign. Chapter 5 continues the story in the years from 1980 to 1992, downplaying the common depiction of the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991 as a watershed, even while admitting the massacre was one of five turning points in these years. Subsequent chapters each address about two years. Chapter 6 covers 1993 and 1994, with a focus on US Catholic solidarity with the majority-Catholic Timorese independence movement. Chapter 7 depicts a UN-sponsored Intra-East Timorese Dialogue process as the key development in 1995 and 1996, noting also the growth of US activism (ETAN’s budget had tripled and the group expected it to triple again within a year). In chapter 8, covering 1996 to 1998, turning points include the Nobel Peace Prize going to Timorese Bishop Carlos Belo and to Jose Ramos Horta. The Nobel award sparked “the chain of events that created the feeling of inevitability” (101), Gunderson writes, even while arguing that previous writers have missed crucial turning points before and after. From 1995 on, Gunderson argues, the momentum was with the challengers to Indonesian rule. Chapter 9 examines the year 1999, with the referendum on independence as the last of several turning points that year.

Some troubles stem from the author’s lack of engagement with existing literature on Timor-Leste, prompted by his decision to stress participant narratives. For instance he writes misleadingly that Timor was “acquired in 1859 by Portugal through a treaty with the Netherlands” and occasionally refers to “Timoran” rather than Timorese. The names of journalist Robert Domm and diplomat Ibrahim Fall are misspelled, as is the name of Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Komnas-HAM). But the errors detract only slightly from the overall narrative and the theoretical contribution stressing social movement momentum building towards ultimate success. It may well be that studies on global activist movements should pay more attention to turning points that “give movement actors the feeling of turning the corner toward success represent[s] intermediate goals that can be plotted on a time line. Closely occurring turning points in a positive sense represent a momentum sequence” (136). The final “momentum sequence” seems to have been vital in reaching the movement’s goals. Here, Gunderson suggests, lie lessons for activists in other movements from the Timorese solidarity movement, which in the end proved remarkably effective.

David Webster, Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, Canada                                                                 

Back to top


CLAIMING PLACE: On the Agency of Hmong Women. Edited by Chia Youyee Vang, Faith Nibbs, Ma Vang. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. xxviii, 348 pp. (Figures, B&W photos.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8166-9778-6.

In my opinion, the foremost achievement of this collection is to be amongst the first full-length volumes to tackle issues linked to gender within and around Hmong society. A good number of dissertations and articles have been addressing this field from a variety of angles, predominantly in the US, but this book takes the field to new heights. This is accomplished with the majority of authors being members of the Hmong community themselves. The locale for this quest is resolutely the US, where fourteen of the fifteen contributors are based and where the subjects of their research are primarily located. The volume also touches on Asia through a discussion of diasporic Hmong experiences from Laos to the US.

The book is structured into four parts that unfold after an introduction by the three editors who, among other matters, locate the volume firmly within the field of post-Vietnam War diasporic movements to the US. Part 1, “History and Knowledge,” involves Leena N. Her, Ma Vang, and Chia Youyee Vang proposing a reading of the nascent field of Hmong feminist perspectives, justly bringing to the fore seminal works by Patricia Symonds and Pranee Liamputtong Rice among others. Part 2, “Social Organization, Kinship and Politics,” with Mai Na M. Lee, Julie Keown-Bomar, Ka Vang, and Prasit Leepreecha, presents what should probably be termed case studies supporting the ethnographic project underlined in the section’s heading. Part 3, “Art and Media,” incorporating Faith Nibbs, Geraldine Craigh, and Aline No, discusses current forms of expression such as social media, textile production, and cinema. Part 4, “Gender and Sexuality,” with Louisa Schein, Bruce Thao, and Kong Pha, contains the most original contributions as sex, eroticism, and LGBTQ issues have not often been addressed in the scholarly literature on the Hmong. Closing the march, Cathy J. Schlund-Vials writes a short afterword emphasizing further the Asian-American studies backbone of the book.

Clearly, bringing together a majority of female authors (12) to denounce “patriarchal domination” as the “culprit of women’s subjugation” (back cover) is not a novel idea within feminist and gender studies. Doing it in the context of a lineage, acephalous society, however—even when seen from the eyes of a small portion of its subjects accidentally transplanted to a hyper-modern world—is definitely taking the discussion one step further. A strength of this book thus becomes visible in the combination of an established, mainly Western feminist literature, with non-Western traditions. On the flip side, well-known critiques from the subaltern studies viewpoint of drawing on Western approaches for such work—Chandra Mohanty being referred to only in passing—also open the door to critique.

Hmong society—around five million in all—is poorly known to most despite a rich scholarship made visible in hundreds of publications, and through the accomplishments of a thriving diaspora making waves in the United States (around 270,000). This new book will definitely help bridge this gap. Nonetheless, it is important to put things in perspective and keep in mind that the American Hmong account for only about 5 percent of this group’s total population. The remaining 95 percent are found in the highlands of the six contiguous Asian countries where they have spread over a few centuries (in decreasing demographic order: China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia), with Southwest China as its historical and demographic hub (three million). In this regard, Prasit Leepreecha’s chapter in this book is particularly welcome. One of Thailand’s 155,000 Hmong and a researcher from Chiang Mai University with a PhD degree from the University of Washington, he addresses the predicament of Hmong women going through divorce in Thailand. In doing so, Leepreecha nicely bridges the East/West divide and contributes to giving a voice to Hmong women in Asia.

Claiming Place, thus, reflects the fact that a relatively small number of representatives of this largely Asian and rural society—though this book tends to talk about this latter fact in the past tense—have been very successful in putting down new roots in a Western democracy and are now giving back to their community. These representatives have been able to achieve, within two or three generations, the educational skills and credentials needed to critically analyze “the Hmong.”

One, however, can foresee the caveats inevitably linked to such a historically specific gaze, which can easily drift, as it often does in this book, into speaking indiscriminately on behalf of all Hmong. Ironically, this inattention exposes a hegemonic process by which a powerful localized narrative is pushed onto a larger transnational ethnicity that cannot talk back, still missing the political recognition of their distinctiveness from their respective states, particularly under communist regimes in China, Vietnam, and Laos, and not yet holding the power leverage to convey and promote their homegrown life projects on the national and international stages.

Nonetheless, most importantly, this book should be hailed as a novel and welcome contribution to gender studies among Asian Americans, the disciplinary field to which most of the contributors belong, with a special and fruitful emphasis put on one particular segment of US immigration, the Hmong, coming in this case chiefly from Laos. Readers should acknowledge and welcome this collection meant to help us better understand the experiences of female and LGBTQ Hmong and Asian Americans faced with high degrees of pressure to conform to a largely male-dominated world, both their customary one and, though in a different guise, that of their host nation.

Jean Michaud, Université Laval, Québec, Canada

Back to top



Australasia and the Pacific Islands

NEW

DECOLONISATION AND THE PACIFIC: Indigenous Globalisation and the Ends of Empire. Critical Perspectives on Empire. By Tracey Banivanua Mar. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xii, 265 pp. US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-03759-5.

Considerable scholarly attention has been devoted to the end of empire and decolonization, so it is timely that Tracey Banivanua Mar now draws attention to what she calls “a process” (6) that culminated in fourteen declarations of independence in the Pacific between 1962 and 1994. She positions decolonization as the result of two phenomena: assertions of rights by indigenous peoples and an international imperative enshrined in the famous United Nations Resolution 1514. The second position is well presented, with original and revealing research about Pacific Island submissions to international organizations and petitions to the League of Nations. Her third structural position is that decolonization should be studied holistically as a single sea-of-islands approach rather than through the nation state. She calls this an “unconventional framework” (4) but this is treated only briefly and instead selected case studies of indigenous self-determination in Australia and New Zealand, with examples from the islands, are presented to argue that assertions of indigenous identity go back a hundred years. The book is therefore mistitled and should have been called “Indigenous self-determination in Australia and New Zealand and the western Pacific,” a phrasing that better captures the author’s main focus and content. The framework throughout is contextualized by an “us-and-them” approach, with Mar, of Fijian descent, stating in the opening lines that she is on the “us” side.

The book’s introduction, “Sailing the winds of change—decolonisation and the Pacific,” sets out the key themes and offers a broad review of the literature, arguing that decolonization is best understood not as an event but through “spaces between nations, the interstices between colonial and national borders where people travelled and connected” (21). Unfortunately, there is little evidence historically of linkage as the fourteen sites of decolonization either fought their own campaign to force the colonizer out (for example, Samoa, Nauru, and Palau) or quickly adapted domestically as the colonizer walked away, as in PNG, Vanuatu, and the Solomons. Vanuatu, for example, did not engage diplomatically, share, or borrow from its neighbours, the Solomons and PNG, though these two countries had decolonized just five and two years earlier, respectively. Nor did Vanuatu engage with the Republic of the Marshall Islands or the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), which decolonized six years later. Although Fiji’s rapid transition, as Bob Norton’s research has shown, had close links to India, this is bypassed. Also not mentioned are Niue’s inclusion and then breakaway from the Cook Islands, Tongan pretense of autonomy (a “we were never colonized” attitude), or the long-term impact of gathering up disparate entities—the Gilberts, Ellice, Tokelau, and Banaba—to form the Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony (known as the GIEC).

Halfway through the book, at the end of chapter 3, Mar is still engrossed in the colonial era, looking for indigenous affirmations of identity. After interesting discussions about the saltwater principle, and events in the Solomons, Vanuatu, and Fiji, Mar makes the point that colonial powers ignored expressions of indigenous identity and potential governing mechanisms and instead imposed the nation state. Mar also states that colonial administrations had limited influence or “lightly touched” Island peoples (40). Mar argues that Diaspora and mobility were characteristics of the colonial period; however, the argument that decolonization has a hundred-year history becomes problematic as Mar focuses on Australia and New Zealand, and the arguments are heavily reliant on the archive rather than the promised islander-based narrative. Personal vignettes serve as a façade for each chapter. The term “centrifugal forces” then enters the dialogue, suggesting that often-militant, sometimes radical, indigenous resistance and concepts of governance were pushing against the nation state. This is not convincingly presented and the particular goals of the Santo rebellion, the New Britain Mataungan Association, Bougainville, Western Province in the Solomons, and half-hearted Rotuman expressions of self-determination are all ignored. Mar does bring in some telling factors for connected islander resistance such as the South Pacific Commission conference in 1965, delegations to the UN in 1970, and the 1978 Pohnpei Charter, but it is not enough to challenge the conventional nation-state pathway to independence. Mar excitedly claims that by 1970, stemming from indigenous movements, islanders were on the “cusp of a decolonizing revolution” (204) but this ignores the fact that Fijians hardly knew they were being forced to decolonize, and that only a small elite among Vanuatuans, Solomon Islanders, and Papua New Guineans understood that within a few years the colonizers would be gone.

The conclusion claims the two key decolonizing powers were Britain and Australia, but New Zealand and the US were also key players; indeed, nations that raised their new flag subsequently between 1970 and 1994 are overlooked. New Caledonia, French Polynesia, West Papua, Rapanui, Guam, and Hawaii are all continuing sites of resistance and self-determination and Mar could have addressed these more fully. The identity politics of the US and the Congress of Micronesia and the long struggles by the Marshalls, FSM, and Palau, and the role of churches, are not mentioned. The conclusion raises gender as a factor but this is treated briefly and deserves a longer discussion. Despite claiming that islander narratives and voices would be at the forefront, there is little for readers looking for outspoken islanders. Who wrote the constitutions or national anthems? Who danced at Independence Day? How did remote villages celebrate their new nation? Did dissenting islanders express their opposition in dance-drama and poetry in the run-down to raising the flag? I agree with the concluding statement that decolonization in the Pacific Islands was unique, but readers will probably question the claim that it was an “internal, often spatial, postcolonial project … an identity, a belief system and a thought process” (224). Mar notes she did not set out to write the definitive history of decolonization, and while this is an argumentative foray, the history of decolonization as suggested in the book’s title remains to be written.

There are some claims that careful checking could have avoided, such as confusing Phyllis Corowa for Patsy Corowa as founder of the Australian Pacific Islander Association, and conflating events in 1848 and 1859 to suggest that Ben Boyd’s labourers returned home via the North Pacific after a series of tragic events. Ratu Seru Cakobau is twice identified as the King of Fiji (22, 64), despite being given that title by European settlers even though he was only one of thirteen powerful chiefs who ruled domains within Fiji. There are omissions in the literature such as Robert Nicole’s Disputed Histories and Brij Lal’s histories of Fiji as it decolonized, told through biographies of A.D. Patel, sadly passing away on the eve of independence, and Jai Ram Reddy, a key figure in the political arena post-1970. More could have been made of David Chappell’s Double Ghosts and The Kanak Awakening and of Ian Campbell’s work on the Mau movement in Samoa. This is a well-written, deeply researched, and strident argument, but it is not convincing. As a study of “autonomy, cultural pride, survival and revival, custom and identity” (224), it offers a useful survey of the hundred years leading up to the 1960s and 1970s, but the Pacific experience of decolonization remains open for a scholar who will focus on the fourteen islands, and those still waiting, and their particular experiences leading up to flags being raised.

Max Quanchi, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia                                                            

Back to top


WEAVING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY POLICY IN SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES. By Miranda Forsyth, Sue Farran. Cambridge, UK: Intersentia, 2015. xiii, 279 pp. €62.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-78068-225-9.

The protection of intellectual property has become an important yet contentious issue since the liberalization of world trade policies. Smaller developing countries, including those in the Pacific region, argue that intellectual property regimes are necessary to protect traditional knowledge, expressions of culture, and associated genetic resources from misappropriation by foreign companies such as pharmaceutical multinationals and, for example, the Walt Disney Company, which released the movie Moana (2016) based on sacred stories from the Pacific (see Facebook page: Mana Moana: We are Moana We are Maui). Existing intellectual property legislation, however, is not suitable to protect traditional knowledge mainly because indigenous expressions of knowledge cannot be ascribed to one identifiable inventor and also because indigenous heritage is usually much older than is allowed within the scope of intellectual property legislation.

At the same time, it is crucial to point out that the main motivation of international institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to introduce intellectual property regimes in small island developing states is at right angles with indigenous goals. Intellectual property is promoted internationally as a development tool, with development understood as the transfer of western expertise and knowledge to the global South. The underlying assumption of this unilinear perspective on development is that the transfer of intellectual property leads to innovation. This view, however, is based on a conception of creativity that is inapplicable in many countries in the global South, where creativity is much more a collective phenomenon embedded within social networks and where the market economy is not such a pronounced regulating mechanism.

The authors of this book therefore depart from an extensive and detailed critique of dominant intellectual property regimes that are entrenched in a particular neo-liberal development paradigm. Through a range of case studies based on Pacific Island countries, they demonstrate the extent to which the political economy of development and its associated discourse of intellectual property have expanded into some of the world’s smallest, undeveloped countries. Rather than focusing on the extent to which intellectual property regimes either further or undermine the objectives of development, this book examines the normative and epistemological assumptions underlying a neo-liberal approach to development. Needless to say, this also has far-reaching implications for the design of alternatives.

After the authors have set out in a lengthy introduction and an opening chapter how they problematize the current development of intellectual property regimes in small island developing states, they exemplify their critique by identifying how imported global intellectual property regimes have impacted on health and education in Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Vanuatu. In chapter 2, they demonstrate the adverse impact of the law of patents on access to non-traditional medicines. In chapter 3, they show how existing regulations of copyright in Pacific Islands make many concessions to the global North agenda and thus frustrate the free flow of educational materials in small islands that are consequently unable to raise the educational standard of their young people. In chapter 4, the problems with the implementation of intellectual property regimes in the region are discussed through a comparison with the regulation of land tenure in the Pacific. A compelling argument is made that the introduction of an ideology of ownership, based on fixed rights rather that flexible rights associated with customary norms, leads to confusion as it disrupts traditional understandings of law.

The second part of the book turns away from a deconstruction of western regimes of intellectual property and aims at constructing an alternative approach. Here the authors draw on critical development theory and decolonization literature in order to show that both the concepts of development and intellectual property should be considered in a wider perspective with more attention for different cultural conceptions of knowledge and ownership. In order to oppose the commodification of knowledge and the dominant market-driven approach to the current regulation of intangible valuables, they outline a more pluralistic and culture-centered approach that weaves together a variety of state and non-state regulatory mechanisms and that is overall more strongly grounded in the social and cultural realities of the Pacific region. The theoretical foundation for this alternative view is elaborated in chapter 5, while it is further explored in the following three chapters presenting three in-depth case studies of the development of sustainable sea transport in the Pacific Islands, of conflicting intellectual property-related claims made over Fijian paper bark cloth (masi), and of the regulation of traditional medicinal knowledge in the Cook Islands. From these examples it becomes clear that there is plenty of dynamic innovation in the Pacific, with many innovators circumventing intellectual property regimes from the global North and relying instead on customary ways of doing things, which are themselves constantly evolving as they respond to new circumstances.

The main argument of this book is that intellectual property policies in small island developing states should be based on existing cultural understandings of rights over and access to intangible heritage. Placing culture at the heart of intellectual property also draws attention to the fact that western intellectual property regimes are a blunt instrument to advance development. Since intellectual property rules are ultimately concerned with creativity, innovation, and knowledge, which are all culturally contextual, any approach of intellectual property legislation should also be culturally located and geographically distinct in order to make it socially and economically relevant.

The authors demonstrate compellingly that intellectual property legislation should always be embedded within the socio-cultural context in which it is implemented in order to achieve development goals. They do so by weaving together policy debates, development discourses, postcolonial theory, and a range of detailed ethnographic case studies from the Pacific but with wider relevance for other developing countries. The only comment to be made is that neither a bibliography nor an index has been included, which makes it impracticable to search for references. Apart from that, this book provides not only a powerful critique of current intellectual property regimes, but also an attractive alternative of how small countries may implement intellectual property legislation without compromising customary practices.

Toon van Meijl, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Back to top


CHRISTIANITY, CONFLICT, AND RENEWAL IN AUSTRALIA AND THE PACIFIC. International Studies in Religion and Society, 26. Edited by Fiona Magowan, Carolyn Schwarz. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. xi, 299 pp. (Figures.) US$142.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-21723-2.

This ambitious, timely volume brings together thirteen leading and emerging scholars of the anthropology of Christianity in the Australia-Pacific region. Contributors’ discussions focus on expressions of renewal that, irrespective of their transformative, revival, or restorative successes, “have lasting and deep implications for experiences of self and society” (15), and reach beyond “charismatic formulations” to include “cultural, physical, and political dimensions” (2). Geographically based in northern Australia, Samoa, French Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, chapters are both firmly situated in their ethnographic contexts and integrated into an overarching comparative framework. Following the editors’ introduction, the volume is divided into three parts, each accompanied by a commentary. Commentaries identify common (and diverging) themes addressed in individual chapters, position chapters in broader theoretical debates, and speak to the contemporaneous, local, national, regional, and global influences and shapes of Christianity.

Part 1, “Christian Transcendence and the Politics of Renewal,” touches on familiar themes in the Australia-Pacific religion: Christianity’s historical and ongoing entanglement with political aspirations and imaginations and, closely related, uncertainties surrounding the shifting roles of indigenous cosmologies, rituals, aesthetics, values, and practices. The four chapters successfully avoid the trap of (more) dialectic discussions of continuity and rupture, and the roles played by mainstream and new Christian movements therein. Instead, they paint a picture that emphasizes the complex negotiations and, as suggested in John Barker’s commentary, “unexpected points of convergence” (26) that define contemporary projects of renewal rooted in the broader historical, political-economic contexts of which these projects are part. In this vein, chapters by Gwendoline Malogne-Fer, Yannick Fer, and Fiona Magowan compellingly explore conflicts surrounding aesthetic and performative practices of renewal as expressions of spiritual and political beliefs, linking these practices to neo-liberal policies, desires for “authenticity” in cultural tourism industries, and broader transnational debates and movements. As (partial) counterpoint, Rodolfo Maggio traces the rise of Pentecostal churches and charismatic worship in the Solomon Islands with reference to debates and frictions within the Anglican Church of Melanesia, rather than as primarily a response to external influences.

In her commentary to part 2, “Christian Renewal and the Transformation of Persons,” Diane Austin-Broos re-emphasizes the significance of anthropological analysis and ethnographic particularities for understanding continuity and change as “made, not simply given” (136), as ambiguous, not definite. Moving beyond a focus on ritual, liturgical experiences, the three chapters in this section elaborate on the daily significance of Christian renewal, specifically its intersections with bodily experiences and expressions of well-being and security. John Taylor discusses the innate connections between sorcery and Christianity in Vanuatu. Carolyn Schwarz and Jessica Hardin explore Yolngu (Northern Territory, Australia) and Samoan Christian narratives and practices surrounding health, healing, and wellness. Particularly intriguing is Hardin’s chapter on Samoan, evangelical Christian quests for healing solutions to lifestyle diseases, accompanying social anxieties, and changing reciprocity practices. Hardin shows how evangelical healing narratives emphasize personal relationships with God. Spirituality is related to the cultivation of a healthy body, a healthy self, and a nuclear family, while broader reciprocity-centered economic practices and developments are deemed to be at the core of metabolic disorders.

Part 3, “Christian Renewal and Change in Regional Development,” brings together a somewhat eclectic set of chapters. Kirsty Gillespie analyses ruptures and continuities in music creation and performance in the Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. Alison Dundon examines the relationship between Christianity and the construction of modern personhood among indigenous Gogodala missionaries who, between the 1950s and 1980s, were recruited by the Australia-based Unevangelised Fields Mission to spread Christianity to other parts of PNG. Lastly, Debra McDougall discusses the complexities of Christianity’s role in post-conflict, externally sponsored statebuilding in the Solomon Islands. In their diversity the three chapters highlight the scope of Christianity’s historical and ongoing significance in shaping practices and narratives in the Australia-Pacific region. Their complexities also underscore what Joel Robbins, in his commentary to part 3, identifies as core challenge faced by anthropological inquiries into cultural change: It remains to be seen if and how analyses of “discontinuity projects” (208), such as those discussed by Gillespie, Dundon, and McDougall, allow for developing a sufficient understanding of processes of change and continuity to identify broader theoretical themes. McDougall’s chapter illustrates some of the explicit shortcomings of other contributions. She adds an otherwise largely ignored transnational dimension by acknowledging the intersections between Christianity and the continuing and significant presence of foreign development workers, state-builders, missionaries, and the (global) development discourses to which, in various ways, they belong.

The volume’s strengths—the diversity of its contributions, the framing by means of commentaries and the broader comparative aspirations—are also its primary weakness. Individual chapters offer intriguing ethnographic case studies that convincingly demonstrate the significance of placing any debates on renewal projects in broader, local, regional, global, religious, social, economic, and political developments, practices and narratives. Yet, taken together, they leave the reader wanting more. In their introduction, Magowan and Schwarz emphasize the collection intends to contribute to anthropological studies of Christianity beyond the geographical confines of the Australia-Pacific. However, with notable exceptions, Joel Robbins and Debra McDougall in particular, chapters and commentaries only speak briefly or indirectly to non-Pacific anthropologies of Christianity and the wider-reaching theories of cultural change. This said, this volume makes a noteworthy contribution to analyses of renewal and conflict surrounding Christianity in Oceania in their ethnographic particularities and from a comparative perspective by explicitly bringing together Australia and the Pacific.

Stephanie Hobbis, The University of British Columbia, Kelowna, Canada

Back to top


ENGAGING WITH STRANGERS: Love and Violence in the Rural Solomon Islands. ASAO Studies in Pacific Anthropology. By Debra McDougall. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2016. xx, 287 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$120.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-78533-020-9.

When foreigners come ashore in the rural Solomon Islands, which is where Debra McDougall’s new book is set, a classic van Gennepian rite of territorial passage may ensue; the insecurity and unpredictability involved in traversing a no-man’s land are allayed by means of conventionalized scripts of symbolic action. In a way, the little rite evokes the Polynesian concept of the “stranger-king,” of sovereignty as overseas agency that must be domesticated by the landed citizenry. The sociopolitical authority of the landed community over its political-geographic boundary in space is symbolically asserted when male youth armed with spears and decorated in leaves and face paint threaten the new arrivals until a member of the ranking elite intervenes and beckons them safely in the community, not as “sharks on the land,” but as “guests.”

The intriguing point is not the moral transformation of the stranger that is achieved but what McDougall makes of the broader attitude it typifies. Not just new arrivals, Solomon Islanders view everybody in society as a “stranger.” Everybody descends from an “empty-handed” immigrant, or a woman captured during pre-contact warfare, or just lives on land that their matrlineage does not own. In other words, status legitimacy is an ongoing problem in Solomon Islands society, of which this ritual greeting, or “warrior welcome,” is a symptom instead of a solution. McDougall’s conclusion about this problem, which might be likened to an indigenous form of alienation, is more generative than ambivalent. “Intense attachment to place,” she declares, “is not incompatible with radical openness to others” (21). For McDougall, particularism should not be condemned as a subversive form of sociality that necessarily undermines society at the local level, much less the state level.

At the local level, questions about status legitimacy become particularly critical in contexts of land disputes, which modernity, needless to say, has done its part to exacerbate. Industrial logging began in the Solomons in the 1960s but only reached Ronongga several decades later. Environmental damage was done. No benefit was left behind. Instead, logging destroyed gardens and old settlements and old coconut groves. Meanwhile,  kinsmen, seeking to consolidate land claims, made efforts to exclude kin who became viewed as “other,”  for example, as not having descended from an apical ancestress. A series of land disputes, and inevitably, court cases followed. When the World Wildlife Federation wanted land rights, a controversy arose over the role of chiefs as landowners. Community development projects were undertaken, such as coconut oil production, which required stipulation of land boundaries.

Civil war broke out in Honiara, the capital of the postcolonial state, in the late 1990s. The violence, McDougall argues, was not caused by primordial, ethnic rivalry, as political scientists might assume, but rather resulted from state-based neglect of hereditary landowners on Guadalcanal who saw peri-urban migrants as being favoured, despite their illegitimate presence in town. Indeed, if anything, the violence was curtailed by the porous construction of social groups in an intercultural world in which acts of hospitality like the “warrior welcome” occur, as well as its valuation of usufructory claims through which non-kin may work on the land and start to become members of a matrilineage—but of course never in any conclusive way.

After two years of violence, the so-called “Ethnic Tensions” between Guale hereditary landowners who wanted to evict Malaitan settlers, the latter staged a coup, and all out warfare broke out. A multilateral mission, led by Australian military, arrived in the Solomons to police the region. “Hardened warlords” surrendered weapons. Perpetrators sought to personally reconcile themselves with former enemies and victims. Prayer groups formed in prison. The Australian prime minister arrived in 2003 and was greeted by the “warrior welcome.” But when riots broke out in the capital in 2006, state failure ensued. The world of Ronongga Island and of the Solomons, more generally, may be a “cosmopolitan space” of a sort, but it is one that is being severely compromised by modernity.

Engaging With Strangers is itself an engaging, if disturbing, ethnography, which left me feeling bewildered and exhausted at times. McDougall attends to the problem of illegitimate identity through an examination of the sociological, demographic, cosmological, missionary, political, and of course, economic impacts on the alienated construction of moral personhood among Ronongga Islanders, who are as often as not individually named. The narrative, that is to say, might have been edited with a more rigorous hand and made tighter.

Still, McDougall’s ethnography is thoughtful and composed in relatively accessible prose. It presents a useful example of a broader problem in the postcolonial Pacific, not to mention, the wider developing world, which I see as a kind of double alienation, one that is constituted in terms of both indigenous and modern estrangements.

David Lipset, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA

Back to top


HEARING THE FUTURE: The Music and Magic of the Sanguma Band. Music and Performing Arts of Asia and the Pacific. By Denis Crowdy. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. xiii, 183 pp. (Illustrations.) US$52.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5156-9.

Reading Denis Crowdy’s book, Hearing the Future: The Music and Magic of the Sanguma Band about the internationally acclaimed Papua New Guinea band popular during the 1980s, led me to dig out my copy of their first cassette, the eponymously titled Sanguma, that I had bought when I first arrived in PNG in 1978. I then had to find a cassette player, buried away in the garage, on which to play it. Listening to the ethereal sounds of Sepik bamboo flutes alternating with jazz riffs played on trumpet and keyboard transported me back to my first visit to Port Moresby, the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), and the National Arts School (NAS), where I had purchased the cassette en route to fieldwork on Manam Island. I was also transported “back to the future”—1975, when Papua New Guinea achieved independence and the nation’s future as it was envisioned in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the historical period that Crowdy analyzes in Hearing the Future. The band Sanguma and its distinctive fusion style were very much products of that post-independence moment that gave birth to the young nation’s hopes for a new pan-Papua New Guinea national identity. That idea provides the thesis for Crowdy’s book as well as his argument for the role music can play in national identity, a concept prevalent in ethnomusicology today (think of the role of reggae in Jamaica or calypso in Trinidad). Crowdy’s historical and musical analysis of Sanguma provides a welcome and compelling case study from a Pacific nation of this concept. So too does his analysis of the factors—most significantly, local forms of neoliberal capitalism— that contributed to the band’s eventual demise.

The broadest importance of the book is its evocation of that nascent period in the country’s history and the role Sanguma—and the National Arts School—played in it. The members of the original band were students at the newly established NAS and came from many different regions across PNG, facts that were important to both the band’s musical style and its ethos. How the music of Sanguma— based on a fusion of traditional PNG musical forms and progressive jazz performed on both traditional and Western instruments by musicians in traditional PNG bilas (feather headdresses and pig’s tusk ornaments)—encapsulated those hopes and created a style that reflected that ethos is the subject of Crowdy’s book. The very name of the band—Sanguma—the Tok Pisin word for supernatural “poison” or magic, evoked both ancestral power and the potency of music to transport the listener to another reality.

The author, an Australian musician who taught in the Faculty of Arts (FAC) at UPNG (the successor of the original NAS) from 1992 until 2000, interviewed members of the original band, including Tony Subum and Thomas Komboi, as well as former NAS faculty member Les McLaren and others who had taught them. Crowdy is in an ideal position to describe the historical and musical legacy of Sanguma as he was distant enough from its originary scene to be objective, but familiar enough with PNG, the PNG music scene, and the institutional context in which the band arose to astutely and convincingly analyze it. He begins with a discussion of how the band sought to engender what he calls “a musical Melanesian Way”—a reference to ideas about what should constitute an indigenous post-independence Melanesian ethos articulated by Melanesian intellectuals such as PNG’s Bernard Narokobi and New Caledonia’s J-M Tijbaou. Their doctrines set out the goal of incorporating important elements of Melanesian cultures—such as respect for the ancestors, local traditions, etc.—while embracing modern forms of government, economics, and technology and blending them to form something distinctly Melanesian. Crowdy describes Sanguma’s decade of international fame during the 1980s and its performances abroad. Ironically, the band was more popular abroad than it ever was at home, a fact Crowdy attributes to the urban, art school-educated background of the band members and the influence of their expatriate instructors, who conveyed their admiration for the musical sophistication of jazz to their students. In contrast to the Western music the Sanguma musicians were learning at NAS, the most popular music in PNG at the time was Western rock or country. Outside of Port Moresby and other urban centres in PNG, there was little interest in the sophisticated syncretic music Sanguma was playing. By far the longest, and most technical, chapter of the book is “The Sound of Sanguma.” Readers not familiar with Sanguma’s music or without access to one of the band’s nine recordings, or without an in-depth interest in the musical structure of Sanguma’s sound, will find this chapter slow going. Importantly, however, Crowdy also discusses how Sanguma’s music was a precursor to the new genre of World Music that arose in the West and elsewhere in the 1990s. He also attributes the band’s brief reformation in the early 1990s as a result of the emergence of World Music’s popularity. In the chapter “From Heard Future to Sounding Present” and a coda he describes the disappointments the band faced in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century as the PNG music industry became more commodified. Despite its technical core chapter, Crowdy’s book should be of interest not just to ethnomusicologists, but to historians, anthropologists, geographers (for example, Crowdy discusses the concept of “ecomusicology” with regard to Sanguma’s reception in PNG), cultural studies scholars, and students of global studies and development studies. Not only is the thesis of the book—the relevance of music to the creation of national identity—of broad import, but Crowdy’s analysis of the parallel trajectories of the demise of Sanguma and the difficulties PNG has experienced as the result of local and international inflections of neoliberal capitalism provides a fascinating, if sobering, look at an important moment in the history of Papua New Guinea.

Nancy C. Lutkehaus, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA

Back to top


NIUE 1774-1974: 200 Years of Contact and Change. By Margaret Pointer. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015. 376 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$45.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-5586-4.

As the title promises, the book delivers. Margaret Pointer presents a clearly structured history of two hundred years of this relatively small island. Though it experienced a series of processes of intensifying contact, common to many parts of the Pacific world, the island is also here in its unique features of geology, cultural expression, and politics. The book does not dwell long on the times before the coming of Westerners, though peppered throughout we get glimpses of an older conceptual world in narratives from oral tradition as well as recorded through the eyes of explorers, whalers, missionaries, traders, and commanders of British warships. Islanders’ interactions with these groups of foreigners comprise the first part of the four-part organization of the book, to be followed by sections on empire, New Zealand administration, and finally, the road to self-government.

In part B we see why this island became initially under British protection. The depredations of the Peruvian slavers seeking workers in 1863 were devastating here, as on many other small islands in the region, though it did not discourage mobile islanders from seeking subsequent overseas work on contract. Add to that London Missionary Society missionaries who were not only effective as church people but also actively concerned with the future of the people. To them and representatives of all the settlements on the island, Britain seemed a likely protector. But wider colonial interests prevailed with a British deal with Germany in 1886 to keep areas of the Pacific neutral and open to all traders, so Britain declined the Niuean petitions. The Niueans, then with an elected king, persisted. Britain’s eventual change of heart, stimulated by the agreement in 1899 to split Samoa between the Germans and Americans with Britain to have small pieces of the islands elsewhere, finally gave the Niueans the protectorate it sought in 1900. Britain soon gratefully handed Niue and the Cook Islands over to empire-aspiring New Zealand, much to the disappointment of the Niueans who knew the relative power of the respective states.

So Niue, encircled by Tonga, Samoa, and the Cooks, with an ocean between it and New Zealand, became the last carriage on New Zealand’s short colonial train after the Cook Islands, placed even further from the engine by the addition of yet another forward carriage, the mandate of Western Samoa as a result of World War One and Germany’s loss of its colonies. As the writer shows so well in part C, New Zealand, while no colonial exploiter, certainly gave the island short shift when it came to effective administration in the interwar years, not aided by the economic depression of the 1930s. World War II, an awakening in New Zealand of a realistic sense of itself and its place in the region under Peter Fraser, along with the influence of the United Nations saw a quickening of all levels of development and welfare support in education, health, and infra-structure.

The island and New Zealand’s department of Island Territories reeled in 1953 under the gruesome murder of the commissioner, Larsen, and severe injuries to his wife as they slept one night. This was no heroic nationalistic revolt but the bitterness of a couple of prisoners who escaped to get revenge for the rough manners of Larsen. It did incline New Zealand to pay even more attention to the island, however.

The book’s final part D addresses the detailed and careful steps to self-government in free association with New Zealand. Leaders, such as Robert Rex and Young Vivian, feature in negotiations. What impresses is the care that both parties displayed in this slow and difficult process, made more complex in that the United Nations delegates seemed to believe that Niue, along with the entire colonial Pacific, wanted to be rid of all hints of colonial association.

The book has many appealing features. The narrative has several one- to four-page inserts that highlight particular people or events, often with ample quotations from the actors. The illustrations are many, well chosen, and enlivening. The maps are clear and orient the reader. It is a beautiful book and a credit to its creator and the University of Otago Press.

While the history is naturally island-centred, it also discusses Niueans abroad: as migrant workers, as soldiers in World War One, and as more permanent migrants to New Zealand, an accelerating flow from the 1960s. In fact, the expanding diaspora believed by the 1970s that it had a major part to play in the island’s political destiny, an opinion not necessarily shared by those who decided to stay and live on Niue. This difference features in the discussions leading to self-government in free association with New Zealand in 1974.

Besides these positives, we are presented with a very readable, clear narrative. The author is even-handed throughout; there is no great Manichean struggle posited with evil colonialism and virtuous and vulnerable islanders cast against each other. She digs behind actions to show us what often-distant factors shaped people on Niue, especially the mental and physical distance between the New Zealand government and the island’s administration until post-World War Two. The tenor of the lives, and the behaviour and motivations of the island’s people and the outsiders involved are all there, with their strengths and weaknesses. The moral failings of a couple of administrators are mentioned but not excessively dwelt on, no more than the shame of the Niuean families of Larsen’s murderers. While not afraid to discuss the reasons why, say, a particular person was respected and another not, Margaret Pointer remains a compassionate historian, well acquainted with the human condition, as well indeed as she is with the island, its robust people, and her myriad sources. Her work is a valuable and accessible contribution to the history of the Pacific region.

Judith A. Bennett, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Back to top


THE BATTLE OVER PELELIU: Islander, Japanese, and American Memories of War. War, Memory, and Culture. By Stephen C. Murray. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2016. xii, 278 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$59.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8173-1884-0.

Back in the 1960s, one of my undergraduate anthropology professors, Robert McKnight, liked to speak of what he called anthropological “triangulation.” Specifically, he wanted to see work that would include Palauan, Japanese, and American viewpoints on Palauan social and cultural life, and I still recall diagrams he chalked on the board, illustrating what this process might look like. I have no reason to think Stephen Murray ever knew McKnight, but he fully realizes my teacher’s vision in this book.

The 1944 American invasion of Peleliu, the southernmost island in the Palauan archipelago, was an unmitigated disaster for everyone involved. It’s among World War II’s least-known major actions, but it remains etched in the consciousness of everyone involved in the battle, and their descendants. Its public obscurity notwithstanding, a good deal about the battle has been written by Americans and Japanese, both historians’ accounts and combatants’ memoirs. I have distinct recollections of watching the US Navy’s “Victory at Sea” television documentary series (1952–1953) as a child, and the scenes which lodged most deeply in my mind were undoubtedly those of marines with flame-throwers torching Japanese troops out of caves. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was Peleliu.

What’s been missing in all this outpouring is any consideration of what happened to the people of Peleliu itself. Murray, who first encountered Palau as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s and who subsequently wrote an anthropology PhD dissertation on this topic, has done an outstanding job of rectifying this. While his primary focus is on the islanders’ displacement during the battle, their subsequent return, and the complete devastation they found when they got home, he has managed to interweave analysis of not only of how Americans and Japanese, respectively, view the battle but of how entirely absent the Peleliu people have been in all these accounts. He has returned them.

I recall reading E.B. Sledge’s celebrated first-person account of the battle, With the Old Breed (New York: Random House, 1981), which he fought as a young marine, and wondering where the Palauans were while all this action was taking place, how they survived, and how they managed to re-establish their way of life following the war. Now I know that they had been removed to islands in the north, and that when they were finally able to return home they encountered conditions not unlike Gertrude Stein’s summary of returning to her hometown, “There’s no there there.”

Murray establishes all the many ways in which the island’s landscape and seascape were woven into the fabric of people’s lives. Because the lives of these individuals, families, and clan groups were all rooted in their natural world, it wasn’t merely that their history had been demolished, but that all the articulation points for ongoing social relations were erased. The Japanese and American veterans who wanted to commemorate their own losses on the island had virtually no interest in recognizing what they had done to the Palauans. They’ve visited the island and built monuments to celebrate their own sacrifices and remained oblivious to the disaster they wrought upon the islanders.

Lawrence Carucci, Lin Poyer, and Suzanne Falgout (The Typhoon of War, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2000; Memories of War, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007) have reported on Micronesians’ accounts of what World War II did to them and their islands, and Geoffrey White and Lamont Lindstrom edited two volumes analyzing islanders’ stories about the war from throughout the island Pacific (Island Theater: Island Representations of World War II, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1989; Island Encounters: Black and White Memories of the Pacific War, Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1990). The literature on the war in the Pacific, as the combatants understand it, is almost infinite. But this book is to the best of my knowledge one of the very few works that gives us a full picture of how the decisions made by the warring parties played out in the continuing lives of the noncombatants. Documentaries about the devastation of war in Europe and Asia commonly portray streams of refugees driven from their homes, and the rubble that is all that is left of those homes. In this book we finally get something comparable for the island Pacific.

There is another very compelling aspect of this book that deserves mention. It is clear in retrospect that there was little if any need for US forces to take Peleliu. It could have been bypassed in the way that so many other spots were during the island-hopping campaign that drove toward the Japanese homeland. This was recognized by many at the time. But because so many lives were lost in the battle, officials believed they had to emphasize the victory’s strategic importance. Much the same can be said about the invasion of Iwo Jima, one of the most iconic battles of the Pacific War (Robert Burrell, The Ghosts of Iwo Jima, College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2006). The refusal of military and political leaders to acknowledge their vast mistakes, for fear of offending those who made the sacrifices and the families of their survivors is, I suppose, understandable. As Murray notes, “Knowledge that their lives were cut short elicits the need to believe they did not die in vain” (155). But it has the disastrous consequence of preserving the preposterous notion that a victorious military makes few mistakes, and this in turn conditions people to attribute much greater wisdom to leaders than they’ve truly earned. As one marine veteran Murray quotes put it, “That sort of thing does disservice to the men” (199). Each disaster, covered up, begets a series of newer disasters.

Everybody lost at Peleliu, and Murray does a remarkable job of making us understand why.

Glenn Petersen, City University of New York, New York, USA

Back to top


ISLES OF AMNESIA: The History, Geography, and Restoration of America’s Forgotten Pacific Islands. By Mark J. Rauzon. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. x, 271 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$24.99, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-4679-4.

Rauzon’s book offers an exclusive, intimate tour of some of the most remote Pacific islands that have eventually become American insular areas. As a federal biologist, Rauzon is tasked with the unglamorous responsibility of eradicating invasive species from the islands and atolls of Amerikan Sāmoa, Baker, Guam, Howland, Jarvis, Johnston, Kiritimati, the Northern Marianas, Palmyra, and Wake. Each chapter embarks on an adventure to one of these floating ecological systems and the reader accompanies Rauzon, much like a nature enthusiast guided by an expert park ranger, to the national parks and wildlife refuges he strives to restore. With him, we hike up a waterfall to the steep, verdant, avian-rich cliffs of Lata Mountain in Amerikan Sāmoa to trap predatory rodents, and meditate with Thai Buddhists on Wake Island when taking respite from the savage business of killing elusive wild cats. We learn the fascinating fact of how the coconut palm tree, which is iconic of island life in the popular imagination, was actually introduced to Palmyra Atoll by Polynesians, and has since eclipsed the native pisonia tree. The scope of the book is impressive: ranging geographically from Polynesia to Micronesia; historically, from early European sea voyagers, such as, Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, to the ultramodern submersible that lowered famed film-maker James Cameron to the plunging depths of the Mariana Trench in 2012; and, in scale, from the contained world of the hermit crab crawling out from under a log to global concerns, such as, climate change. Moreover, Rauzon’s allusions to conservation efforts in New Zealand and Alaska create a relevant context that broadens our understanding of environmental issues in general.

One of the most compelling aspects of his book is his explication of the ethical dilemmas that are faced in the work of exterminating introduced life forms calamitous to vulnerable endemic species and fragile ecosystems. Island restoration is a double-edged sword in that ensuring the survival of some species necessarily depends on the elimination of others that may have an unfair genetic advantage. In an isolated ecosystem, the absence of threats from land predators may sometimes lead to the evolution of flightlessness in volant birds, such as rails. Introduce a feline to the mix and extinction of ground-dwelling avifauna becomes an all too real probability. The cats on Jarvis had already exterminated six species of seabirds when Rauzon and fellow conservationist, David Woodside, set out to hunt them down. This “inherently violent” (183) job is fraught with moral conundrums, especially for a cat-owner like Rauzon, who is acutely aware of his personal “cognitive dissonance” (181), which is further compounded by the disapproving eyes of the Buddhist Thais residing on Wake Island. Every cat, especially the last one, must be annihilated or else the others would have been killed in vain. Therefore, this line of work demands extraordinary degrees of determination, stoicism, and resourcefulness while living on limited supplies under the relentless sun, disconnected from the rest of the world for extended periods of time.

Despite the agonizing challenges endured, this occupation is not without its rewards. Thanks to the painstaking efforts of Rauzon and Woodside, Jarvis made a complete recovery, abounding with previously endangered bird species. At times, conservation endeavors may inspire ingenious solutions, as in the case of Guam and the Northern Marianas, where various invasive species, including the brown tree snake, water buffalo, goat, pig, and rhinoceros beetle, among others, have wreaked havoc on the ecology. Control and eradication methods have sometimes been fairly innovative, elaborate and expensive, involving aerial and ground shooting, trapping, building snake-proof fences, using biocontrol agents, chemical deterrents injected in baits distributed through helicopters, and so on. Simultaneously, captive breeding programs for birds on the brink of extinction are also undertaken. Although copious amounts of research and substantial funds are invested, the cascading effects of human intervention, labeled “unintended consequences,” are inevitable and success is not always ensured.

Conservation does not occur in a vacuum; indeed, Rauzon meticulously contextualizes his activities within the larger social, political, and historical landscapes of each island. We are privy to the chance landings and premeditated conquests and transactions that have rendered these isles into colonies and commodities over the last few centuries, transforming them first into guano mining camps and then relatively recently into nuclear testing sites. Notably, Johnston Atoll was the launching ground for the Pacific Project that entailed biological and chemical weapons tests and Operation Magic Sword that engaged in “entolomological warfare” (155) in the form of a chilling experiment on the deliberate use of mosquitoes for disease transmission. The strategic location of some Pacific islands has made them particularly attractive possessions (also called “picket-fence islands” [171]) for the United States, especially during different wars. The Marshallese island of Wake, for instance, has served “as portal to the Orient” (158), where an “amphibious airport” was once established (166) and the island was gradually fortified in preparation for World War II. Rauzon sensitively captures the personal experiences of prisoners of war in the Battle of Wake and delves into the often-overlooked ecological consequences of war on an island.

On the other hand, and, on a far more positive note, one of the most beneficial and hopefully enduring contributions of the United States has been the establishment of national parks and marine sanctuaries and monuments in the Pacific region. Undoubtedly, these play a critical role in protecting and preserving the natural habitats that sustain the biodiversity that Rauzon educates us about. However, loss of habitat is a pressing concern for human beings as well. As rising water levels threaten the residents of Tarawa, many migrate to Kiritimati, where overpopulation is increasingly problematic.

Understanding the challenging nature of island restoration encourages an appreciation for the stringent rules and regulations governing the admittance of foreign flora and fauna into unique ecosystems, for instance, in Hawai‘i. It also provokes further thought about environmentally responsible tourism. Rauzon’s passion for the islands and the life they harbor is evident. His humorous anecdotes and accessible writing style make his book a pleasurable read, one in which these “isles of amnesia” are vividly remembered. His book would appeal to environmentalists, biologists, conservationists, ecologists, Pacific historians and anthropologists, scholars of island studies, and readers interested in nature, wildlife, and American national parks.

Rachana Agarwal, Independent scholar, Cambridge, 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
Email:

Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC  | © Copyright The University of British Columbia