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Last updated 14 February 2018
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PAN-ASIAN SPORTS AND THE EMERGENCE OF MODERN ASIA, 1913-1974. By Stefan Huebner. Singapore: NUS Press, 2016. xiv, 397 pp. (Illustrations.) SGD$46.00, paper. ISBN 978-981-4722-03-2.
The Times of India (5 March) covered the Opening Ceremony of the first Asian Games, staged in 1951. The event, in New Delhi, was “Declared Open in Colourful Setting,” the newspaper reported. Jawarhalal Nehru, independent India’s first prime minister, was a strong supporter of the Games, and had suggested a motto for the 1951 event: “Play the Game in the Spirit of the Game.” During the event itself, “Ever Onward” emerged as a permanent motto, and in a climate of anti-Britishness among delegates, it was decided that the expression would be translated into the language of respective future hosts. If this was a tricky and sensitive decision, the choice of music and songs for the ceremonies was extraordinary, in a pan-Asian event in a radically post-colonial context. At the opening ceremony, participants and spectators were treated to Marching through Georgia and Way Down upon the Swanee River; at the closing ceremony the end of the Games was signalled by the Last Post.
This is just one of the countless arresting vignettes that bring alive the contradictions and tensions that characterize the history of pan-Asian sporting events in Stefan Huebner’s detailed and deeply researched study. Underpinned by around 107 pages of references, notes, and bibliographic detail, his introduction, conclusion, and eight intervening chapters examine the significance of pan-Asian sports events in the six decades from the eve of World War I to the mid-1970s. Huebner operates with a consistent conceptual framework in two ways. First, he regularly focuses, as he puts it (6), on three ideals that elites operated with in their aspirations to use sport as an influence upon the shaping of a “new Asian man,” and later a “new Asian woman” (6). These are internationalism, egalitarianism, and economic progress. The author shows how the political, religious, and economic aspects of these “ideals” were rebalanced as different Asian countries and their elites operated in this emerging transnational sporting calendar. Second, Huebner, noting that theoretical approaches to the study of sports remain “very much in their infancy” (11), anchors his analyses in three concepts: authoritarian high modernism, via James Scott; Anthony D. Smith’s ethno-symbolism; and nation-branding. This allows him to cover the historical sweep of the book and the geo-political range of the selected events with an appropriate and effective interpretive toolbox to hand.
The study is a chronologically based evaluation of three sports events, taking us from the series of the ten Far Eastern Championship Games (FECG, 1913–1934) to the one-off Western Asiatic Games (WAG) in India in 1934, and on to the Asian Games (AG), inaugurated in India in 1951, the seventh edition held in Tehran (1974). Huebner looks in particular at the elites who shaped the initiatives, but also, chapter by chapter, provides what we could call a semiotically inclined analysis of the ceremonies and symbols surrounding the events—the elements, one might say, of the sporting spectacle or mega-event. The overarching narrative in the study takes the reader in and out of China-Japan hostilities, sporting nationalism in an independent India, the politics of the Philippines and Indonesia, a persisting royalist presence in Thailand, and the economic consequences of oil wealth in Iran. It is a mind-boggling tour (Huebner himself calls it a “tumultuous ride,” 261) of the complexities and commonalities of Asian political, cultural, and sporting interests in the period. It is a comparative historical project of vast scale and proportion and Huebner is to be congratulated on accomplishing a study of such depth and quality that will be of interest to scholars of cultural history, political history, and sport studies, as well as international relations and diplomacy studies.
What Huebner shows in his overarching narrative is that the US Protestant missionaries from the US YMCA—many from Springfield College, the birthplace of basketball—who effectively established Western sports in the Philippines, were huge influences in the early “sportization” of that country, and ensuing relations between the Philippines and its early partners, Japan and China, in staging the early editions of the FECGs. All ten of the FECGs were staged by one of these three nations, but power passed from religious to more secular interests, and gradually involved, at the expense of civil society influences, more formal professionalized, political elites. The do-gooders in the Muscular Christianity tradition were in the long run displaced by political figures for whom the mega-sport event offered the potential to showcase national strengths and modernizing qualities on the global stage. There are nuances in these dynamics, case by case, and Huebner shows how Western sporting values and ideals were undermined by wider forces such as the World War I conflict between Western rivals; and how the Cold War made pan-Asian ideals increasingly difficult to sustain. Yet the study shows that the model of the supra-national sporting mega-event could be adapted to these localized or sub-regionalized circumstances, and still sustain a self-referencing and accumulative historical significance. But it was certainly not an idealized universalizing model that motivated the shah-inspired Asian Games of 1974, the final case study in the book, where nation-branding presented Iran as a modernizing, economic powerhouse on the cusp of global superpowerdom. The Tehran case is a sobering tale of the fragility of over-ambition, and of the ideological baggage (not Huebner’s choice of language here) that has been brought to the fore in the hyperbole and rhetoric so commonly employed in the winning and staging of, and justification for, the sporting spectacle.
Pan-Asian Sports is a book that will repay many return visits, to know more about a general point, or to inform a particular scholarly specialism. Each chapter depicts the elites and the strategies that put and kept this show on the road. It would be over-claiming to say that modern sports forms have shaped modern Asia. But Huebner’s outstanding and forensic scholarship confirms that sport events are invaluable sources for demonstrating the power dynamics of emergent elites, and their motives, in critical historical phases of the emergence of a modern Asia.
Alan Tomlinson, University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom
TELEMODERNITIES: Television and Transforming Lives in Asia. Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power. By Tania Lewis, Fran Martin, and Wanning Sun. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. viii, 314 pp. (Illustrations.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6204-3.
This book explores the captivating subject of lifestyle television and its presence and effect in “modernizing” Asian cultures. Chapters illuminate and describe striking similarities and startling differences in the consumption of lifestyle programming within and between geographic localities in China, India, and Taiwan. Using “lifestyle-oriented popular factual television … to examine shifting and emergent social and cultural formations” (2), the authors cover various forms of lifestyle programming, and pay attention to their representation across spatial divides, to illustrate lifestyle television’s effect through a range of topics including romance, religion and spiritualism, travel, health, femininity and patriarchy, family, and self-help.
Noting television “in many Asian countries … [as] the most powerful and ubiquitous media form” (3), the authors hone in on the medium’s impact through its programming—both conventional lifestyle programming and other instructive formats including “any nonfictional, non-news programming that incorporated direct advice to the viewer” (19)—“aimed at instructing the middle classes in matters of consumption, taste, and ‘the good life’” (3). As such, the demographic scope of this book is focused, yet, in the context of India and China, vast. Early on, the authors appreciate the difficulties in defining a monolithic middle class, especially in India, and the adoption of suzhi (human quality) in the establishment of new norms to manage modernization in China.
Together with the rise of the “middle class” in the countries analyzed, modernity and modernization is at the core of this book. However, instead of understanding modernity in Asia as the co-option of models, albeit dominant, from the West, the authors employ the multiple modernities discourse adding layers of complexities and depth to the book. The utilization of the multiple modernities paradigm, however, does not distract from the observance of transnational trends associated with rising consumerism and individualism symptomatic of conventional Euro-American modernities. Every chapter gives space to discussions on the aspirational and imaginative qualities of lifestyle programming depicting transnational norms of being juxtaposed against multiple modernities situated in on-the ground realities.
Chapter 1 charts the course of television, and lifestyle programming within China, India, and Taiwan. Comprehensively, the authors delineate the structure and ownership of television within each of these localities, mechanisms for access, audience demographics for lifestyle-oriented programs, and content. For example, “there is an explicit and disproportionate amount of advice … on topics of health and well-being targeting senior viewers” (32) in China in comparison to India and Taiwan, which reflects China’s large ageing population, and is an example of a competing modernity identified by the authors.
Key trends identified in chapter 1, such as the localization of transnational trends, political shaping of content, and the “division of audiences along linguistic, cultural, and geographic lines” (50) set the foundation for chapters 2 through 4. Interspersed with insightful comments from interviewees, chapter 2 tackles the politics of scale, and placemaking through comparative case studies of lifestyle programming developed on metropolitan versus municipal/regional television channels in China. Similarly, chapter 3 explores Indian television and its role vis-à-vis multiple divides based on class, space and place, cultural-linguistic, and disconnects “between lifestyles and ‘imagined worlds’ of television … in our interviews with poorer households” (91), and the growing prominence of regional television. The authors also wade into nationalism and television in the Indian context but surprisingly stay clear of sport.
Nowhere is the authors’ contention of competing multiple modernities more apparent than when it comes to the mediation of matters of the heart. This type of programming, while emulating transnational norms in format, sets, hosts, and expert guests, reverts to culturally appropriate content when the program topics include dating, romance, relationships, and marriage. For example, the exploration of love and dating in India and China in chapter 7 draws up examples of performative selfhood while tapping into “shifting attitudes toward love, sex, and marriage, and in particular the kind of calculative, individualist, and material turn … of Indian dating shows” (206). But the reinforcing of culturally acceptable and accepted gendered roles “underpinned by a patriarchal logic” (136) in India, and the articulation of “extremely direct pedagogical instruction in the rules of ‘proper’ feminine gender” (219) in China by “experts” display the nexus between the market, the state, the media, and the audience.
Both chapters 5 and 6 delve into the emergence of the experts on television for both entertainment and educational purposes by different audiences across the three countries for utilitarian, experiential, pragmatic, and aspirational purposes. The authors provide pleasing juxtapositions of the uses of experts to mediate information over metropolitan/national and municipal/regional channels to divides previously identified.
In a captivating exploration of religion and spiritualism in chapter 6, Da Ai, the television station of a Taiwanese Buddhist society, is situated within the intricacies of rational-ethical religiosity characterized by a “demythologization of traditional beliefs, a devaluation of ritual, a dilution of hierarchy” (184), and its critiquing of modernity’s excess vis-à-vis Buddhist precepts.
Holistic as the book is, it would have benefitted from some additional insights. The authors’ scant incursion into nationalism, especially in India, provides an overview, yet masks the growing imaginations of identities of the self and the other which are creating more divides in these rapidly modernizing spaces. In terms of sport, China’s hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics and India’s preoccupation with cricket could have further strengthened the multiple modernities discourse, and illuminated models of nationhood, and the convergence of geographic space and identities, if any. In exploring media forms and types in Taiwan, the authors curiously and continuously mention the use of Japanese media as a blueprint for Taiwanese programming. As such, it is confusing why the influential Japanese media is not investigated in depth.
Ultimately, the authors have provided an enthralling mechanism of “viewing” competing modernities in India, China, and Taiwan. The book is a resource for those interested in the development of television, lifestyle programming, and the multiple modernities in the world’s two largest populations.
Gloria Spittel, Independent Researcher, Dubai, UAE
GENDER IN MODERN EAST ASIA: An Integrated History. By Barbara Molony, Janet Theiss, Hyaeweol Choi. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2016. xiii, 534 pp. (Maps, B&W photos, illustrations, boxes.) US$55.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8133-4875-9.
This is an excellent textbook for an undergraduate course on East Asian history. It summarizes the histories of primarily women and secondarily men in Korea, Japan, and China from a genuinely comparative and global perspective. It also pays adequate attention to the interplays between gender and other categories of social hierarchy, including class, ethnicity, race, and sexuality. These critical perspectives are well sustained throughout the book, from the first chapter discussing gender relations in “ancient and medieval East Asia before 1600,” to the last chapter covering such relations in the current, post-Cold War. The consistent use of these perspectives makes this book stand out by compensating for the sweeping surveys on any given subject that textbooks are commonly bound to. The chapters alternate between the three Asian societies being studied, according to the historical direction of sociopolitical and economic change. For example, up to the early modern era, China, as the central civilization of East Asia, is discussed first, and then Korea as civilizational bridge, and finally Japan as the recipient of cultural diffusion. From the 1860s to World War II, the discussion begins with Japan, then moves to Korea, and ends with China, symbolizing the historical reversal in the direction of sociopolitical and economic change. During the Cold War and the post-Cold War eras, the authors alternate between Korea (South and North) and Japan as a source of sociopolitical and economic change in East Asia. The book lives up to the authors’ claim of offering “the first book-length work that focuses on gender in modern East Asia from both a transnational perspective at the macro level and an intersectional perspective at the level of the individual” (xii).
This book is written in a lucid and inviting style, perhaps even for undergraduate students who grew up with tweeting and texting as their primary mode of communication. In particular, this book does a good job in elevating sweeping historical surveys beyond descriptive narratives; it does so by focusing on the following thematic points. First, it approaches gender as a social structure that hierarchically organizes relations between women and men of various social groups. This is a basic but very important point because many undergraduate students and the general public tend to assume that gender is merely a more sophisticated-sounding term for women or it sounds neutral enough to unburden us from the vexing realities of women’s subordination and discrimination against women. Second, it links gender to other categories of social hierarchy and encourages students to see intersections between these hierarchies. This also allows the students to recognize differences and diversity among women and men as social groups and see that such variations often involve power differences. The section under the heading, “Sexuality and the Arts” (78–82), conveys an ideal discussion in this regard: it shows both the fluidity and constraint that Tokugawa society exhibited in dealing with femininity and masculinity in connection to sexuality. It also captures power inequality as a central factor in sexual encounters and interactions and thereby demystifies the romanticization of sexuality that is still prevalent in a popular view of sexuality. Third, it illuminates broader political and economic changes as the macro sources for altering gender relations and the remaking of meanings and practices of femininity and masculinity in a given social and historical context. This approach enables students to situate gender relations that individual women and men experience in their micro settings of families, romantic pairs, and a circle of friends in a larger context and thereby understand the social construction and reconstruction of gender in East Asian histories.
I would have preferred a more sustained and substantial discussion of men and masculinity in this book’s surveys of changing meanings and practices of gender. The disparity between discussion of the two dominant genders seems to reflect the relative paucity of existing studies of men and masculinities in these Asian societies. This in turn reproduces the common perception that women’s lives have been far more extensively and deeply shaped by gender than men’s, rendering critical roles that gender has played in men’s lives less visible, which is analogous to the relative invisibility of whiteness as a racialized category in the social hierarchy of race. Readers would have benefitted from more sustained attention to power, privilege, and invisibility in the discussions of men and masculinities in the modern era governed by nation-states when gender has become salient as a social category. Similarly, the discussion of sexuality is uneven throughout the book, reflecting the presence and absence of existing studies on this topic in these societies.
In chapter 10, covering “revolutionary social and gender transformations from 1953 to the 1980s,” there is a curious absence of serious discussion on militarization and militarism as crucial political and ideological forces in the politics of gender. Accordingly, there is no single index entry under militarism, militarization, and military service. During this period, both Koreas, China, and Taiwan were ruled by military or militarized leaderships and mandatory military service for men functioned as an important institutional mechanism for gender differences and hierarchy. The comparison between these militarized societies and the apparently demilitarized Japan could have been fruitful. Given that this chapter opened with the discussion of the global context marked by Cold War politics, readers would have benefitted from a substantial discussion of the masculinization of military service and its implications for gender hierarchy and citizenship.
Seungsook Moon, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, USA
AIRPORT URBANISM: Infrastructure and Mobility in Asia. By Max Hirsh. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. x, 201 pp.,  pp. of plates. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-8166-9610-9.
Max Hirsh’s Airport Urbanism offers an innovative (re)reading of contemporary cities through the lens of the airport. The book takes issue with expert understandings of urban development, and critiques scholarly approaches that “display an unfortunate reductive tendency to subsume all dimensions of urban change under a critique of neoliberalism” (viii). Hirsh’s work gives salience to a different kind of urbanism that complicates, if not contrasts with, elite planning notions of the modern, the progressive, and the globalizing. It seeks to historicize the manifold socio-cultural relationships that animate the city, and unearth the various disconnects between mainstream planning philosophies and lived experiences. In particular, the book focuses on the entanglements between mobilities, infrastructure, and urban form in East and Southeast Asian cities, where clearly different rhythms of urbanization are unfolding in tandem. Using Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore as its key examples, the book teases out a range of everyday informality and cost-consciousness that rub up against the glitz of urban life.
The introductory chapter opens with the author’s personal encounter with air travel in Berlin in the 1980s, when flying was still closely associated with the affluent. The seeming contradiction of travelling as a “non-elite” was, for Hirsh, symptomatic of the common conflation of a city’s offerings with one’s socio-economic status. The book nuances this view with understandings from Asia, calling to attention the rise of “the semi-privileged” who fly often, albeit on low-cost carriers. Using an “urban humanist approach” to capture their stories, chapter 1 immediately establishes the presence of parallel streams in Asian cities, as embodied by the diverse mobilities coursing through their airports. With specific reference to Hong Kong, the chapter uncovers a disjuncture between the design of the city’s airport (HKIA) as an efficient urban infrastructure for kinetic elites, and its less conspicuous function as a gateway for foreign domestic workers, low-skilled labourers, and Chinese tourists circulating to/from the city. Interrogating the slew of strategies that these non-elite travellers employ to become mobile, the chapter elucidates the entrepreneurial means by which they navigate Hong Kong and its expensive infrastructures through a variety of informal networks, social favours, and pop-up services. These stories suggest the tenuousness of “unifocal” understandings of the city as “sleek” and “modern,” exposing an underbelly that is just as much part of contemporary urbanism.
Chapters 2 and 3 extend this focus on the low-cost circuits threading through Asian airports/cities through an examination of certain “transborder infrastructures” and “special zones” springing up around Hong Kong. In referring to transborder infrastructures, chapter 2 calls attention to another stream of “non-elite” travellers—residents of the Pearl River Delta region—who take advantage of nearby nodes such as HKIA, beyond their jurisdictions, to connect with the world. Coinciding with a time when the Mainland’s infrastructures are not yet on par with the travel demands of its population, HKIA has stepped in to offer procedural enhancements like up-stream check-in and SkyPier (ferry connections) to facilitate the extra-territorial incorporation of these marginal populations within the airport’s orbit. Chapter 3 elaborates on this logic by elevating Shenzhen as a classic spillover or border city of Hong Kong. Sustaining another form of travel economy predicated on inter-modal connections and last-minute, over-the-counter ticketing to regional switching points, Shenzhen’s mobilities speak to a more colloquial form of globalization, which crucially supports the pent-up travel demands of the Pearl River Delta region that mainstream transport systems omit. Insightfully, these alternative systems depart from the usual discourses about prestigious international airports found in most literatures, making them an invaluable addition to mobilities scholarship.
The two closing chapters trace these non-elite circulations further south to Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, placing a particular spotlight on the low-cost carrier sector in each of these three countries. Observing Southeast Asia’s movement towards a single aviation market, Hirsh hones in on earlier discussions on the low-tech and less glamorous nature of these low-cost traffics, by fleshing out their dependence on offline channels for air ticket purchases, cheap bus transfers for getting to/from the airport, and old, defunct airports adaptively re-used as terminals for budget flights. Again, the new empirical cases presciently point out the contrasts between “plebeian” consumption patterns and the “first-world” image that urban governments tend to want to accrue to their cities. Nowhere is this contradiction more patent than in Singapore, where airport planning has taken on a more technology-savvy turn, even as air traffic growth in the city is driven largely by lower- and middle-class fliers not plugged in to the dot-com age. As the book concludes, this slippage between aspirational design and the less-than-congruent mobilities in Singapore and other Asian metropolises necessitates a serious relook at conventional rubrics of what counts as forward urban planning. It exalts policy makers to heed the lessons of the airport, to construct cities that are more in tune with the rhythms and flows of twenty-first-century “globalization from below.”
Airport Urbanism shines most in its advocacy of a subaltern view of contemporary cities. Innovatively, it does so through the metaphor of the airport and the messy, non-uniform streams that it carries. Rather than approaching these alter-mobilities as somehow residual or parasitic to the intended design of elite travel, Airport Urbanism exhorts scholars and urban planners to recognize them as a burgeoning norm in Asia, where large segments of the “semi-privileged” class can and are beginning to learn how to be mobile and urban in their own terms. While these networks of informality and cost-consciousness are not historically new, and indeed may not be as particular to Asia as the book paints them to be, the way in which Airport Urbanism puts these low-cost circuits into conversation with the conspicuous flows of kinetic denizens helps draw out a more balanced view, capturing the contradictions and simultaneities of international mobilities. This is a facet of today’s urbanism that is also worth highlighting, if to remind us that cities are not purely the domain of the well-heeled, but a shared space claimed, and resiliently transited through, by people from all walks of life.
Weiqiang Lin, National University of Singapore, Singapore
INSURGENCIES AND REVOLUTIONS: Reflections on John Friedmann’s Contributions to Planning Theory and Practice. RTPI Library Series. Edited by Haripriya Rangan, Mee Kam Ng, Libby Porter, and Jacquelyn Chase. New York; London: Routledge, 2017. xix, 307 pp. (Illustrations.) US$44.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-138-68265-8.
This book is, as the subtitle states, a collection of essays that engages with and reflects on the work of John Friedmann, eminent international planning scholar whose illustrious career spanned over half a century. It is divided into five sections: “Practicing Hope,” “Economic Development and Regionalism,” “World Cities and the Good City,” “Social Learning, Communities and Empowered Citizenship,” and “Chinese Urbanism.” The collection is bookended by a postscript from Friedmann and a preface from Leonie Sandercock, his life partner and an accomplished scholar of planning herself. While certainly not a hagiography, the book does present itself as a set of twenty-six “essay gifts,” a term used by one of the editors and very apt if we understand “gift” in the Maussian sense as a form of reciprocal exchange. Many of the editors and invited authors were once students or close associates of Friedmann, and their essays represent a symbolic repayment for his contribution to their own intellectual and professional development. Though generally written in academic fashion with ample empirical substantiation, the essays are short and often take on a reflective or dialogic tone. Unfortunately, John Friedmann passed away in June 2017 at the age of 91. The postscript recorded in this book is thus Friedmann’s last piece of writing: characteristically lively and lucid, it carries through his indefatigable commitment to conversation and optimism for the future.
The five sections reflect the dominant themes in Friedmann’s long career, but the individual essays do not slot neatly into the specific sections. Rather, several of Friedmann’s books and arguments seem to exert a much stronger influence across the essays: notably his defence of utopian thinking in “The Good City,” the framing of planning as social learning, as well as the concepts of urban “super-organism” and “urban fields.” Most authors explicitly engage with Friedmann’s work, showing how his political and intellectual projects have been extended to different contexts, put into practice, or reformulated in the face of new challenges. The essays by Tanja Winkler, Yuko Aoyama, and Mike Douglass are great examples of how planning theory travels across academies and continents and is built upon by generations of scholars to shape the world toward a common goal. I also find in Roger Keil’s response to Friedmann’s neglect of suburbs, Saskia Sassen’s questioning of the Good City in the age of privatization, and Keith Pezzoli’s defense of bioregionalization great instances of how intellectual traditions develop through disagreement. Finally, essays by Timothy Cheek, Aftab Erfan, and Libby Porter provide a more personal perspective on how Friedmann touched their lives as teacher, colleague, and provocateur. As short essays, they are not meant to be read as fully developed theses or contributions to scholarly debates. As “essay gifts,” however, they pay the highest compliment to Friedmann by keeping his ideas alive, not as dogma, but as dialogue. From the reader’s perspective, the book is infused with hopeful energy, as perhaps a vocation like planning must be or else fade into obsolescence.
The section that raised the most questions for me is the last one on “Chinese Urbanism.” After retiring from the University of California, Los Angeles, Friedmann started to study China and published “China’s Urban Transition” in 2005. In this section, essays by Klaus Kunzmann, Sheng Zhong, and Mee Kam Ng present rather contrasting pictures of what planning theory brings to the study of China and vice versa. Kunzmann focuses on the actual work of doing planning in China, highlighting the obstacles posed by cultural differences and institutional barriers. In this sense, he joins Friedmann as a Western scholar struggling to understand China. Sheng Zhong and Mee Kam Ng, however, attempt to shift the normative foundation of planning theory by bringing in Confucian values and philosophy. Zhong suggests that social learning is happening in Shanghai, but the agents are flexible bureaucrats and developers rather than insurgent citizens. Ng argues, through the case of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, that the Chinese route to the “good society” focuses on the cultivation of individuals as virtuous citizens rather than the transformation of social relations through activism. Unlike Kunzmann, they consciously uproot Friedmann from his foundation in continental philosophy and anarchist traditions and suggest that China must be understood within its own historical milieu. Conceding some ground to this argument, Friedmann suggests in his postscript that there could be a “culturally and institutionally specific Chinese version of planning theory” (294), and raises the concept of “human flourishing” as a guiding principle for planning. These are debates characteristic of a foundationalist planning theory that requires a vision of a “good society” as the basis for action. Attempting to replace this foundation with another reproduces the same kinds of questions that planning theorists have struggled with for a long time. Should there be many visions? Are they bound by historical experience or natural principles? Can “human flourishing” transcend cultural and political differences and create a unified theory of action? Are Confucian values, like the “Asian Values” debate in Singapore, an ideological smokescreen for political hegemony?
Another important discussion in the book is on insurgencies and the role of the radical/progressive planner. Most of the essays focus on civil society as the main protagonist for social change. Friedmann, in his postscript, is aware that the championing of civil society and insurgent action downplays the role of the state and resists the dominance of the market in contemporary societies. However, progressive action can arise from multiple sources and intersections and the classic division of society into market, civil society, and the state might be too blunt. Haripriya Rangan, for example, proposes that social entrepreneurialism might be the “business model” for the radical planner, while Chung-Tong Wu and Robin Bloch emphasize the role of the state in facilitating regional development. These essays highlight how planning theory must be analytically sharp and self-reflexive in order to remain relevant to and inspiring for practitioners today.
As a student and scholar of planning myself, I enjoyed this book. It is not a biography or a hagiography, but a permanent invitation to dialogue where the original interlocutor has quietly left the room.
Kah-Wee Lee, National University of Singapore, Singapore
CULTURAL POLITICS OF GENDER AND SEXUALITY IN CONTEMPORARY ASIA. Edited by Tiantian Zheng. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. ix, 229 pp. (Figures.) US$69.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5296-2.
This edited volume provides an interesting addition to the understanding of Asian gender and sexuality for ethnographic studies audiences. I appreciate that a substantial portion of the collection includes contributions by scholars from relatively marginalized locations, in terms of their affiliations with smaller-scale or teaching-centred academic institutions in the United States or scholars living and working outside of North America, such as Hong Kong and Cambodia.
Some chapters truly highlight the collection’s foci on agency and social institutions through their nuanced meaning making and engaged discussions with well-established arguments in the literature. For example, John Osburg’s chapter argues that elite nightlife is not simply a practice of hypermasculinity that utilizes the women involved as objects lacking agency, despite its appearance as “trafficking in women” among Chinese businessmen. Osburg’s chapter asserts, instead, that nightlife is a process of forming networks governed by codes of honour that consider the women involved as subjects, and that their own desires and motivations matter. In other words, the elite businessmen’s sense of status is not necessarily identified with the price paid for the “purchase” of the women’s services, but by subtle forms of value, such as fame, connections, and reputation that are confirmed by the depth of authentic affection from high-class girlfriends. While building on the work of anthropologists of gender and sexuality in China, the chapter’s reference point in analyzing nightlife is Anne Allison’s esteemed work on Japanese nightlife. Osburg departs from Allison’s analysis, however, on the measure of status and value through price by emphasizing the subtler forms outlined above. It also reveals the reflexive positionality of the author that the North American context is not used as a reference point for contextualizing the Chinese businessmen’s nightlife, as many Anglophone audience-centred ethnographies tend to do.
Danielle Antoinette Hidalgo and Tracy Royce’s chapter also deals with the issue of nightclubs, labelled BoySpace, in the context of a Thai society that allows both men and women to contest mainstream views of Thai masculinities and femininities. As with Osburg’s chapter, Hildago and Royce’s contribution highlights the agency of sex workers and clubbers in contesting Western media’s stereotyped representations of them, as coerced sexual labourers and exploitative patrons. Building on the well-established literature on Thai queer sexualities from both anthropology and queer studies, they put forward the particular nightclub contexts as another platform to deconstruct normative genders and sexualities.
Following the line of research that contests dominant media and social norms through the agency of gendered subjects, Heidi Hoefinger’s chapter features Khmer women who migrate from their hometowns to urban locations for work in the Cambodian entertainment industry. The chapter demonstrates that these women maneuver the material resources of men whom they are dating, rather than unilaterally being exploited by those men, and resist patriarchal social codes that require them to remain submissive. Grounded in the relevant literature on media and gender in Asia that points out the contradiction between an authoritarian regime and economic liberalism, the chapter concludes that the new female subjectivities in Cambodia are both complicit with those contradictory regimes and transgressive of them.
Aligned with the urge to deconstruct stereotypes of gendered and sexualized subjects, Xia Zhang’s chapter brilliantly reveals dimensions of stratifications of class and rural-urban division that intersect with formations of masculine identity. With a firm grasp of the enriched ethnography of China that deals with migrating subjects, urbanization, and notions implicit to class identification, such as suzhi (quality), the chapter steers away from simplistic understandings of male migrant manual workers as perpetual victims of an unprivileged economic and social status due to their displacement. It accomplishes this by illuminating the ways in which these workers construct a sense of self by reasserting their masculinity through pride in manual labour.
Other interesting chapters include the following. Despite the claimed focus of the volume, Kevin Carrico’s chapter on Chinese neotraditionalist desire and practices to attribute contemporary social problems to women—which he labels “misogynistic fantasy”—does not seem to center on a discussion of the agency of the women subjected to neotraditionalism. Perhaps Carrico’s point is rather to warn the reader of the danger of relying too much on “agency” for marginalized people who are subjected to social norms, especially in the discourse of balance in the yin-yang tradition where the neotraditionalist claims that tradition exerts value on women equally regardless of misogynistic practices. Ahmed Afzal’s chapter on Pakistani same-sex male relationships is well grounded in the ethnographic literature of South Asian sexualities and accurately points out the significance of adding Pakistani sexualities to the literature on South Asian sexualities.
Despite the contributions outlined above, there are some shortcomings in the volume. The length of each chapter is a bit too short to fully flesh out the contexts and problematics of the respective research issues. The importance of the state and political economy, emphasized in the introduction, is not given as much attention in most chapters, which focus rather on the agency of subjects. Most of all, the volume begs the question of how it conceives and represents “Asia.” Despite its claim to address gender and sexuality in Asia, the collection predominantly centres on Chinese societies.
These drawbacks aside, the more nuanced chapters, reviewed above, are informative and useful for teaching about gender and sexuality in the discussed Asian societies, particularly for students at the undergraduate level.
Jesook Song, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
SMART DIPLOMACY: Exploring China-India Synergy. By P.S. Suryanarayana; foreword by Ambassador Tommy Koh. Hackensack, NJ: World Century Publishing Corporation; Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. [distributor], 2016. xii, 317 pp. US$132.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-9338134-68-5.
This book addresses a question critical to the present security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region: How can the world’s two most populous and fastest growing neighbours, both possessing nuclear capacity, rise in a peaceful manner? P.S. Suryanarayana predicts that a “Sino-Indian Smart Zone” will appear, and provide a “‘virtual’-mindscape of ideas and practices in politics, economics, as well as science and technology” (1–2). Throughout the book the author keenly observes the driving forces of “China-India synergy” (68) and suggests a broader framework for analyzing the rise of these two actors in the Asia-Pacific, and more importantly, their stable bilateral relations. Suryanarayana argues that “the real determinant of the future of both China and India … will be how they capitalise on their respective national genius at every stage of development” (8) over issues critical to both states, such as population, bridging the income gap, and external threat (9). While he addresses the realistic challenges to pursuing synergies between China and India, the author focuses on the notion of “smart power,” goals pursued by both states that do not call for compromises over their respective interests (71). From the author’s point of view, finding the subject of smart power is the significant factor in smart diplomacy, and eventually creates China-India synergy.
In chapter 1, Suryanarayana provides a comparative analysis of China and India in the areas of politics, economy, military, and foreign relations. In chapter 2, he establishes whether two or more states with different politico-economic systems can remain at peace. “Norms will ensure” the co-existence (80), therefore the “Sino-Indian Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” (Panchsheel in Indian parlance) enunciated in 1954 are the basis of diplomatic synergy between China and India (78). The author illustrates that the shared principles of Panchsheel, including non-interference and respecting one another’s territorial integrity, enable China, under the community party rule, and India, under a multi-party democratic system, to remain ideologically at peace.
The author finds the source of China-India synergy not only in shared norms and ideologies, but also in the practical interests of the two states. In chapter 3, the author underscores the common interests of the two countries on regional and global issues, such as the environment and Pakistan-originated terrorism (117). Counter-terrorism is again discussed as a realm of possible cooperation between the two states in chapter 4 (184). The author also fully covers existential threats between China and India, such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China-Pakistan collaboration on nuclear and missile development, the Sino-Indian border dispute as well as different perspectives on Tibet. The author argues that none of these issues stand completely alone. In other words, issues are sometimes negotiable because there is an “apparent milieu of Sino-Indian reciprocity of ‘responsible’ attitudes” (154); for example, New Delhi and Beijing maintain neutrality on Tibet and Kashmir, respectively, so as not to unnecessarily escalate tensions.
The author’s one critical analytic contribution can be found in chapter 4. From a geopolitical approach, Suryanarayana interestingly discusses Russia, for which “Sino-Indian competition partly accounts” (167). He points out Russia’s close bilateral ties with China, India, and even with Pakistan, and increasing concerns by these three countries regarding the formation of a unfavourable power balance against them. Suryanarayana views this situation as “competition between India and China for Russia’s friendship” (208). The significance of the Russia factor is keenly observed as far as Sino-Indian relations are concerned. However, the author does not further extend the discussion on Russia to Russia’s possible leadership in BRICS and the institutionalization of Russia-China-India relations. In chapters 5 and 6, the author provides evidence from historical and contemporary diplomatic anecdotes advocating China and India’s peaceful coexistence.
Suryanarayana’s approach to the subject matter of China-India diplomatic synergy is heavily policy-oriented, and well-supported by policy sources. The book traces the trajectory of remarks and actions by Chinese and Indian decision-makers by collecting primary and, more uniquely, internal sources from historical and contemporary records. Personal correspondence between relevant Chinese and Indian personnel and Suryanarayana further deepens the credibility of the book’s analysis. For example, the author’s private source of information enables him to suggest a military-security dimension of China’s “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) project (131) that has been far less discussed compared to the economic expectations of OBOR.
Also worth mentioning here is Suryanarayana’s conceptualization of the “Asian Security Council” (224). In his book, the author primarily examines bilateral issues between China and India, and finds a way to sustain stability in their relations by synergising their respective national interests through smart diplomacy. Beyond the bilateral level of analysis, he also brings great power politics into the discussion and explains where and how the great powers, particularly the United States, can be positioned in the era of co-rising China and India (chapters 1 and 4). He further predicts the impact of China-India synergy on the current world order (73), and possibly in a “new consultative-forum” called the “Asian Security Council,” which is conceptualized and advocated in the book (224). The “Asian Security Council” indeed appears to be more progressive than an “Asian Concert” (224). An “Asian Concert” is created and governed by powerful actors, but the “Asian Security Council” would be based on inter-regionalism that includes the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which are respectively influenced by China, India, and “plurality” (225). Follow-up research should examine not only US strategy toward the changing nature of China-India relations, but also the responses of small and medium actors to the expected changes brought forward by this smart synergy.
Jiye Kim, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
NUCLEAR DEBATES IN ASIA: The Role of Geopolitics and Domestic Processes. Edited by Mike M. Mochizuki and Deepa M. Ollapally. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. x, 277 pp. (Illustrations.) US$85.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4422-4699-7.
The debate over nuclear power in the East, South, and Southeast Asian regions encompasses a wide range of associations. The topics range from the triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami, and reactor explosion) at Fukushima in March 2011, to a rich, earlier history, involving various post-colonial efforts to harness atomic power for a combination of symbolic, industrial, and military purposes. The eclectic nature of these distinct efforts might seem to mitigate against any general account for the region, but the ambitions of the volume under review lie precisely in this direction, seeking to bring coherence to a cluster of national and regional stories. More specifically, Nuclear Debates in Asia: The Role of Geopolitics and Domestic Processes, edited by Mike Mochizuki and Deepa Ollapally of George Washington University, aims to place domestic and international tensions in conversation with each other, seeking to model and better understand the complex processes by which states make difficult choices about their energy and security concerns.
In her introduction, Ollapally positions these tensions at the project’s centre, outlining the shared concerns of the authors. The project originated at a workshop that took place in 2014 at Vietnam National University in Hanoi. This bears mentioning here as the volume derives its aims from an explicitly political science framework, with an emphasis on security studies, and equally, seeks to do so by adopting a consciously “Asian” standpoint, considering the diverse motivations and strategies influencing the behaviour of a cluster of actors, ranging from the major investors (China, India, Japan) with a larger stake in nuclear power, to relatively new participants, here meaning aspirants such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Uniting these diverse actors is a set of questions tied to the significance of external factors for studying the choices made by a state, as opposed to the corresponding attention paid to a set of internal or domestic concerns. On this point, Ollapolly emphasizes that the role of external factors no longer proves sufficient as an explanation in itself, and with this gesture, the volume begins by adopting a skeptical approach to “the international lens,” the traditional framing mechanism for addressing these types of security concerns.
The literature review framing this central issue notes the prominent role of China within the larger region, and draws from this an assumption about China’s possible effects upon its neighbours, especially in terms of raising new security problems for East and Southeast Asia. Specifically, the volume brings up China’s increasing claims to portions of the South China Sea, along with a more general willingness to assert itself corresponding to its perceived rise in economic and political status. In contrast to this suggestive narrative of conflict, however, Ollapally argues that domestic debates for China’s neighbours are not driven exclusively by a need to respond to this aggressive style of behaviour, and here she critiques the neorealist position, along with power transition theory. In prioritizing a much larger role for domestic factors, Ollapally offers a means of disaggregating the state, appealing to analyses of its constituent actors at a much more fine-grained level, even while acknowledging the significant role of state elites within policy making.
For the domestic programs, the perceived link between the acquisition of nuclear power, at least in some capacity, and the turn to a military option, therefore appears as an open question. This is an important starting point, as it allows for a much wider range of possible explanations for a nation’s interest in the nuclear, bringing in not only state considerations, but also energy needs, civil society actors, and air pollution, and the relationships between these factors. If historians have long pointed to the lack of a necessary link between a nuclear energy program per se and issues of proliferation or military use, it is useful to find this claim mobilized explicitly within a security framework; and in fact, Ollapally underscores the thematic, noting that “the limited research on potential versus actual nuclear proliferation shows there is no automatic link” (9). In turn, this issue relates to the volume’s project of classifying its case studies according to three clusters or approaches, comprising a spectrum—realist, nationalist, and globalist—with these categories standing as descriptors for attitudes towards adopting certain technologies, and determining how to use them appropriately.
With this set-up, the volume proceeds through its cases, organized according to the oldest and more significant actors (China, India, and Japan, covering chapters 2–4), before turning to those with a moderate investment (South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, chapters 5–7), and finally, to the most recent examples, here including ASEAN nations (Thailand, chapter 8) and Pakistan (chapter 9). The spectrum mentioned previously allows for a high degree of play between its three categories, meaning that the classification scheme is not rigidly imposed, and rather, seeks to encourage some degree of blurring or complicating of individual behaviours and choices. At its strongest, the volume provides new insights into national programs and the interplay of regional factors, with a finer degree of shading in its characterizations. Hui Zhang’s China, for example, receives detailed consideration at both the level of its energy needs and its military ambitions, placing these seemingly disparate issues in the context of a need to respond to international institutions. In this respect, China ultimately receives a label of “realist-globalist,” juxtaposing its domestic concerns with international responsiveness.
Although of interest primarily to political scientists and those with a security studies focus in particular, Nuclear Debates in Asia provides a thorough introduction to the region and its nuclear concerns, potentially appealing to the historian, and perhaps even to the historian of science. Area specialists will also find much of interest, although the cases might need a supplement for use beyond the introductory level, and the inclusion of Southeast Asia (chapter 8) proves especially interesting as a new research area. At its core, the volume offers a fresh rejoinder to the established wisdom on many of these issues, and in this respect, points the way towards potentially challenging a primarily Americanist, prescriptive approach to the nuclear issue. If the characterization of Pakistan (chapter 9) as exceptional illustrates the difficulty of breaking free from an older mindset, the volume nonetheless aspires to do much more, bringing its questions to bear upon new countries and their internal politics, and balancing these factors with considerable attention to regional concerns.
John P. DiMoia, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany
CHINESE ENCOUNTERS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: How People, Money, and Ideas from China Are Changing a Region. Edited by Pál Nyíri and Danielle Tan; foreword by Wang Gungwu. Seattle; London: University of Washington Press, 2016. xiii, 296 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99930-2.
The humanities and social sciences identify, study, and represent people, their behaviour, and their relationality. However, there has not been sufficient reflection in the literature on how a group or a category of people can be identified as a target group to be studied and represented in certain ways. This ontological puzzle can be partially resolved by declaring the limited scope of the study. However, this still does not shed light on how a group of people can be intuitively selected and labelled as belonging to or representing that group. Scholars usually simply accept the existence of a group or take for granted the self-designated belonging to a group of people. Today, however, even people who could once understand their own identities may have to rethink them as the expansion of capital as well as the transnational flow of physical bodies, desires, and ideas are transforming relationality.
In Chinese Encounters in Southeast Asia: How People, Money, and Ideas from China Are Changing a Region, Pál Nyíri and Danielle Tan present eleven chapters that address the ways in which these conceptually difficult dynamics are playing out across China’s national borders, primarily amongst the subaltern Southeast Asian populations. The book claims that a study “on the ground” yields “better understanding of the realities,” (21) “which are not always in line with China’s policy goals and the intentions of various Chinese actors” (22). In fact, even the seemingly simple question of “who is Chinese?” can challenge the most experienced anthropologists in interactions with different generations of Chinese migrant cohorts and those crossing “restless borders” (5) in different time periods. Strategically retrieving, reconstructing, and sometimes resisting a particular kind of Chinese identity or a particular Chinese network simultaneously reconstitutes the self-knowledge of those initially considered non-Chinese. Hence, in “the Chinese political economy of ethnicity” (16), Chineseness can be socially acquired.
In his foreword to the book, Wang Gungwu, a renowned expert on Chinese Southeast Asians, points out several implications of this book. Wang argues that although the reality that “land borders may be no less open than maritime borders” has been “true for centuries,” it has been “neglected in the scholarly literature” (viii). In light of this, the main implications of this book are that it addresses a gap in the literature and provides empirical proof of the fluidity of “Chineseness.” It also strongly suggests that Chineseness has been fluid for long before China’s current rise. Furthermore, Wang is curious at how seemingly “positive growth” in combination with “developments that are strikingly negative” may either “consolidate the control for the young states” or “reinforce their boundaries” (ix). This echoes the worry that the Chinese or China can still serve as scapegoat, turning the image of a strong and fearless China upside down. He concludes by stating that the book “provides a view of what has become possible,” and calls for empirical research “matching the overseas Chinese roles to the larger story of rising Asia” (x). Thus, in my opinion, he implies a wish to dissolve “Chinese” as an analytically useful category.
In chapter 1, Pál Nyíri explores the political economy of Chinese ethnicity to explain the different nature of contemporary retransnationalization of Chinese Cambodians. In chapter 2, Brenda S.A. Yeoh and Weiqiang Lin record how new Chinese immigrants engender a sense of estrangement among Chinese Singaporeans. The story is different in chapter 3, where Hew Wai Weng depicts how pious Muslim Chinese become translocal via economic entrepreneurialism in Indonesia and Malaysia, thus transcending the traditional understanding of Chineseness in their cities of residence. Using the case study of Thai Chinese, Aranya Siriphon nonetheless reconfirms in chapter 4 that ethnicity is not sufficient for newcomers to establish guanxi, and thus benefit from the existing Chinese traders’ association. Caroline Grillot and Juan Zhang, in chapter 5, suggest that easy, though fragile, guanxi can emerge in the sex trade in Hekou. The chapter interprets how Chinese male businessmen enhance their masculinity in the face of Vietnamese partners by employing extremely submissive Vietnamese women who understand and skillfully meet their need for dominance.
Caroline S. Hau shows in chapter 6 that the story is equally, if not more, complex in the Philippines. Hau painstakingly moves between different levels of analysis to demonstrate the uneasy links between political-business alliances among elites and between nations, different generations of Chinese migrants, and the Chinese Mestizo, and Mestizo in general. Danielle Tan’s chapter 7 illustrates the capacity of the Lao government to discharge state functions to illicit “Chinese enclaves” in a peculiarly neo-liberal way through the inflow of Chinese private capital and public goods. In chapter 8, Kevin Woods reports a similar story in which Chinese investors enable the Burmese government to smooth the transition of ethnic strongmen to neo-liberal practitioners who, in cooperation with the government and crony companies, ironically impede global financial institutions.
Such ambiguously governed regions can result in the relaxing of environmental regulations, which, according to Oliver Hensengerth’s chapter 9 on water governance in the Mekong Basin, tempts the investing Chinese companies to disregard the higher international environmental standards. In chapter 10, Johanes Herlijanto presents the spread of a positive image of China in Indonesia that prompts the idea of learning from China. In chapter 11, Chris Lyttleton lists a number of affects that undergird Chinese influence everywhere in Southeast Asia that may by themselves generate desires for arguably myopic transformations.
The book’s provision of stories on the ground reminds the reader of the likely superficiality of most analyses that posit global and national parameters. However, readers may want to avoid over-romanticizing the agency of the subaltern actors introduced. Although larger forces cannot determine choices or prevent constant revising at the lower echelons, the strange alliance of neo-liberal and national discourses continues to overwhelm most of their alternatives.
Chih-yu Shih, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
COALITIONS OF THE WELL-BEING: How Electoral Rules and Ethnic Politics Shape Health Policy in Developing Countries. By Joel Sawat Selway. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xiii, 292 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$103.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-10304-7.
This book aims to develop and test a socio-institutional theory of public goods provision that can explain the diversity of health and education outcomes in developing democracies. Arguing that electoral rules function differently in different kinds of societies, three dimensions of social structure are used to determine societal type: the diversity of ethnic groups, their economic equality, and their geographic distribution. The author argues that different arrangements of these three variables in combination with electoral rules will lead to different party-building and policy-making strategies than those asserted under existing electoral theory.
Chapters 3 and 4 develop and test a socio-institutional theory of public goods provision, focusing on low and high ethnic-salience countries. Existing institutional theories are most applicable in low ethnic-salience societies. Two features of electoral rules that affect public goods outcomes are the number of legislative seats per electoral district, and the formula which determines how votes are translated into seats (majoritarianism and proportional representation [PR]). In ethnically diverse societies, PR systems that pre-determine the legislative representation of each ethnic group prevent interethnic coordination. But if ethnic groups are geographically isolated (as in many African countries), first-past-the-post systems would be no better in inducing pre-electoral interethnic coordination. What can be done about this? Selway cites the example of Indonesia, where although ethnic and regional conflicts exist, ethnic-based and regional-based parties have not developed for a very simple reason: the electoral law has successfully avoided such dynamics through the electoral rules established for both legislative and presidential elections. These party-registration rules effectively force parties to be broad-based and multi-ethnic. Such rules will not necessarily work in every ethnically diverse society, but should work in those (like Indonesia and Nigeria) where ethnic groups are geographically concentrated in their own regions.
The core of the book is the chapters examining the provision of health care in several countries that vary along both the electoral-rule and social-structure dimensions of the theory. The key case studies are really those of Thailand and Mauritius, but other case studies are also developed in considerable detail: Botswana, New Zealand, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Indonesia, all of them contributing in different ways to a testing of the theory developed in the first part of the book.
The Thailand case study is fascinating, the core of the analysis directed to understanding the remarkable shift from a highly wasteful expenditure of public health funds in the over-building of hospitals, purchase of over-priced medical supplies, and other forms of pork barrelling and rampant corruption, to the introduction of the universal health-care policy known as the “30-baht scheme” following the constitutional change of 1997. This constitutional change replaced a first-past-the-post system with a proportional representation system, which resulted in the replacement of a fractionalized multiparty system of narrowly oriented parties by an essentially two-party system of nationally oriented parties with independent policy-making capabilities. This led to much more detailed party platforms relating to aspects including health policy, in terms of description of the program, financing, and implementation. The benefits in terms of health outcomes were clearly evident.
The Mauritius case study is similarly detailed and insightful. In contrast to Thailand, Mauritius is an ethnically diverse society, with majoritarian electoral rules, both of which factors would normally be expected to work against effective public goods provision. However, it did not develop a narrow party system similar to pre-1997 Thailand, or an ethnicized party system as developed in Myanmar in its democratic period from 1948 to 1962. Mauritius outperforms Thailand comprehensively on just about every health outcome, a surprising performance, given that Thailand’s health performance is not so bad and that Mauritius is a more complex society. The national health system is so crucial to political success in Mauritius that politicians must pay careful attention to it. (The same was actually true of Thailand in the 1997 to 2006 period). Parties must be seen not only to be not harming the existing free and universal system, but as vigorously improving the system.
Though the book’s introduction promises to examine both health and educational outcomes, health outcomes are developed in much greater detail than educational outcomes. This is implicitly acknowledged in the title, where only health policy is mentioned, and also on p. 248, where it is acknowledged that education and other broad social programs might differ from health policies in ways that make them more difficult to change.
This reviewer is not a political scientist, and therefore not well placed to critique the political science aspects of the book, but can certainly comment favourably on the book’s analysis (using both quantitative and qualitative approaches) of the relationship of health outcomes to different electoral rules and ethnic situations. Just one quibble might be mentioned. In Malaysia, where the book appropriately lauds the remarkably good health outcomes on relatively modest health budgets, a political reason for the pro-poor health policy that is rather underplayed in the analysis is the ruling National Front’s reliance on a gerrymander giving much greater weight to rural electorates than to urban electorates. Since the rural Malay-dominated electorates in Peninsular Malaysia and the bumiputera-dominated electorates in East Malaysia are also the relatively poorest sections of the population, policies designed to satisfy this electorate will inevitably also be pro-poor.
As the author concludes, a one-size-fits-all institutional solution is inadequate for the rich variety of social structures in this world. More sophisticated analysis is needed in order to more accurately design rules for the variety of shortcomings faced by fledgling democracies. The promise of constitutional engineering is that if politicians are given the right incentives, perhaps we can put an end to bad governance. This would certainly have profound outcomes in terms of lowered mortality and improved public health.
Gavin W. Jones, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
THE VALUE OF COMPARISON. The Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures. By Peter van der Veer; with a foreword by Thomas Gibson. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. xii, 192 pp. US$22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6158-9.
It is uncommon to read a book at once solidly grounded in the fundamentals of anthropology, critically aware of some of the key problems with the discipline, and dynamically engaged with contemporary social and cultural theory. As the title of this insightful and thought-provoking book suggests, there continues to be great analytical value in comparative thinking about the nature and extent of social and cultural differences, but there are also critically important problems in conceptualizing how, why, and in relation to what kind of larger questions comparative research should be undertaken in the context of rapid globalization. Blurred distinctions caused by the movement of people, commodities, and ideas make comparisons more problematic but also more valuable, important, and insightful when done with rigour and sophistication.
As an anthropologist who has for many years studied religion and nationalism, and as a scholar whose work in South Asia has marked an important analytical shift toward the critical re-examination of essentialized analytical categories, here Peter van der Veer directly engages with a fundamental problem in comparative “cross-cultural” research: how to reconcile relativism and historical constructivism with analytical “generalization”—the process of gaining a better perspective on the larger whole—without essentializing important social, cultural, and historical differences.
To avoid the problematic essentialism of contrived binarism—local and global, individual and society, agency and structure—and methodological reifications attendant on these contrasts, van der Veer suggests that “fragments” can provide a useful framework for comparative analysis. While difficult to identify and define in abstract terms, a fragment may be conceptualized as a phenomenon, either a material thing or an institutionalized idea, that highlights the complexity of intersecting realities and domains of experience. Thus, commodities such as tea and opium are fragments that provide critical insight on the dynamic, inherently unstable interplay of cultural meaning in relation to trade, colonial history, emergent state boundaries, and modes of production, as well as globalizing forms of power more generally.
Fragments break down cultural preconceptions in analytically productive ways, producing critical insight on social relations and institutionalized systems of meaning—such as religion, ethnicity, and nationalism—by provoking questions that challenge fundamental assumptions. Building on this logic, the book is divided into three parts, each comprised of two chapters. The Fragment and the Whole introduces comparison—a “double act of reflection” (29) rather than a binary, two-dimensional juxtaposition—to problematize the anthropological concept of holism, and uses markets and money to fragment preconceptions concerning the logic of rational choice. Civilization and Comparison shows how value-laden cultural constructions of civilization and civil society are fragmented by discrete modes of exclusion. Here van der Veer effectively shows how we can better understand the nature of civilization in relation to the historical production of “Muslims” as a different kind of stranger in Western Europe, China, and India. Comparing Exclusion further develops an argument concerning the contingency of modernity’s reification of nations, nationalism, and religious communities by problematizing the binary structure of state vs. non-state formations in Southeast Asia. This is followed by a concluding chapter that very effectively and provocatively uses garbage and sanitation as “fragments” within the purvey of state systems of public management and civil society to help us better understand the dynamics of poverty, care, and “civic responsibility” in India and China.
Van der Veer’s analysis reminds us of the fundamental value of a critical, anthropological perspective, that necessarily works from within the inherent modernity of social science, to question basic assumptions concerning the “natural” integrity of constructs such as the individual as a rational actor, the cultural heritage of nations, the preemptive social legitimacy of states, and the cultural integrity of “religious” identities. Not only do analyses of fragments—commodities, identities, ethnicities, state institutions—reveal the ideological structure of these constructs, such analyses provoke interesting and important questions concerning the social and cultural dynamic of fragmentary wholes that do not conform to the hegemonic holism of global modernity and rational synthesis.
Considering what strikes me as the development and articulation of a very useful approach, one is, nevertheless, left with the question of what constitutes a fragment as clearly distinct from something that is neither a fragment nor fragmentary. Or at least that is a question that is likely to be posed by those—even some anthropologists—who seek stable, unambiguously demarcated and easily translatable terminologies that work within established frameworks of certainty. The best answer to this question is that fragments are made, they are not discovered. The making of fragments, very different from the production of synthetic wholes, entails adroit perceptivity, a chronically critical analytical attitude and, perhaps most significantly, intellectual sophistication. Anything can be analyzed as a fragment, and it is a matter of persuasive argumentation that makes the case for doing so either convincing or not.
Self-consciously intent on fragmenting certainty, Peter van der Veer makes a very convincing case for the productive instability and provocative inconclusiveness of definitive conclusions. As all good books do, this one opens outward to suggest as many questions as it answers. It is most certainly a book that should be read by scholars who engage—either explicitly or implicitly; consciously, unconsciously, and sometimes blindly, with the focused confidence of their categorical convictions—in the comparative analysis of social and cultural difference.
Joseph S. Alter, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA
DICTATORS AND THEIR SECRET POLICE: Coercive Institutions and State Violence. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute; Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics. By Sheena Chestnut Greitens.Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xix, 324 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$99.99, cloth.ISBN 978-1-107-13984-8.
In this voluminous study the author tries to develop a general theory to explain the institutionalized coercive use of force in dictatorships across cultures and over extended time periods. The key point of interest that informs this study is the relationship between coercive institutional mechanisms and levels of repression and state violence. To put it differently, the author wants to shed light on the institutional dynamics that shape the use of violence and the consequences citizens experience as a result of these policies. Theoretically, the author draws from institutional and threat perception models to embed her argument. She discards other models such as “path dependence” and “external influence” because, according to her, these theories cannot account for institutional variations in state violence (295).
Drawing on numerous examples from dictatorships around the world, with a special focus on the three case studies of Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea, the author posits that dictatorships face a “coercive dilemma” (12). Based on the threats dictators face when gaining power, they have two strategic choices: either build up a unitary and inclusive secret police force to monitor, prevent, or repress mass protest, or build up a more aggressive but disparate and segmented secret repressive apparatus to foil possible coups by rival internal elites. The author contends that dictators can only focus their energies on one of those two threats (4). In contrast to conventional studies that predict the massive use of violence to deter and contain possible mass protests, the author asserts that the existence of a fragmented and exclusive security apparatus is more likely to spread and sustain state violence than the existence of a unitary secret force organization for two reasons: namely, the organizational inability to gather intelligence information in an effective way and the higher occurence of incentives for state violence because the fragmented security agencies operate in parallel and compete with each other in persecuting opponents triggered by internal competition along divisive security lines (12). In the empirical part of her analysis, the author explores the different ways that dictators have organized their coercive apparatuses, using the examples of Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo, the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos, and South Korea under Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan. She demonstrates that institutional choices unequivocally shape the violence used against citizens. This phenomenon explains, for instance, why violence in Taiwan dropped over the course of the 1950s, but rose steadily in the Philippines under Marcos. By contrast, South Korea experienced two opposite patterns of state violence under Park and Chun: whereas Park relied on a more exclusive and fragmented security apparatus, Chun unified the apparatus, which resulted in lower levels of violence.
The author extends her findings to other regions of the world by exploring the situation in Chile under Pinochet and the situation of East Germany. It is difficult, however, to imagine how these two examples could possibly reinforce the argument put forward in the book. In Chile, for example, the author argues that a drop in violence can be explained by a reorganization of the security apparatus. A graph on page 272 showing the number of killed and arrested regime opponents underlines this drop. However, one could conversely argue that the drop in violence is related to the simple fact that after the first four initial months of the junta, when thousands of civilians had been murdered, jailed, killed, or had disappeared, there was no more opposition left as most opponents had been physically eliminated or removed from the streets. The case of East Germany is not convincing either. The author mentions correctly that the security apparatus did not respond with increased violence to popular unrest towards the end of the regime in 1989 (282). However, her theory cannot explain why the SED regime collapsed overnight. Indeed, evidence suggests that dictatorships crumble when support for the dictator falls apart and when the majority of citizens regard the regime as illegitimate. This is exactly what happened in East Germany when citizens lost their fear of the security apparatus and repression was no longer effective. The regime collapsed not because the Stasi was unitary and inclusive with a huge network of unofficial willing civilian informants, as the author suggests, but because it had become illegitimate and dysfunctional in the eyes of the citizens. There are several other cases which do not conform with the theoretical assumptions expressed in the study. Take, for example, North Korea: in the most enduring dictatorship in Asia, extreme state violence has been prominently used to purge internal high-ranking elites. Most of the 340 individuals executed since 2011 by the new ruler Kim Il Jong have been members of the inner power circle whilst executions of ordinary citizens have been the exception. Is there any reason to believe that the security apparatus is unitary and inclusive? If yes, how can this explain the high level of mistrust and violence against members of the inner circles? North Korea seems to put into disarray Greiten’s assumed link between institutional dynamics and the use of state violence against opponents. Another example which cannot be explained by Greiten’s framework is the repressive crackdown in Bahrain in 2011, which was underwritten by external actors. Finally, if we look at the situation in Syria, it becomes obvious that Assad’s repressive system has not only been extremely violent (two-thirds of all war crimes have reportedly been carried out by his troops) but also maintained unity, consistency, and pervasiveness among the security services since Assad’s election in the presidential referendum in 2000.
In addition, the study fails to account for and predict change: What makes seemingly stable dictatorships fail and what triggers their downfall? It is difficult to conceive how Greiten’s model can, for example, be applied to the 2011 revolution in Tunisia, when the army refused to shoot on protesters and President Ben Ali, whose security apparatus was deemed one of the strongest and most oppressive in the region, had to flee the country overnight.
In sum, if a theory cannot explain why levels of state violence vary or why state violence has become ineffective at a certain point in time, then it is an inadequate or incomplete theory. In the conclusion, the author herself reflects this lack of belief when she notes that “the answer lies at least partlyin the coercive institutions” [italics added] (296). To put it differently, other non-institutional factors such as lack of public support and legitimacy, psychological concerns, or external factors should be taken into account when exploring why dictators use force, stop using force, and why they might fail at the end despite the use of force.
Patrick Hein, Ochanomizu National Women’s University, Tokyo, Japan
ARCHITECTS OF BUDDHIST LEISURE: Socially Disengaged Buddhism in Asia’s Museums, Monuments, and Amusement Parks. Contemporary Buddhism. By Justin Thomas McDaniel. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2017. xiv, 224 pp. (Illustrations.) US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-6598-6.
In the past century, Buddhists have created a wide array of amusement parks, museums, and other sites for their leisure around the world. They range from the solemn to the kitsch, but regardless of their aesthetic quality, the prevalence and scale of these sites should make them hard to ignore. For example, as the author notes, twenty-six of the world’s thirty tallest statues are Buddhist. However, despite their size and number, sites of Buddhist leisure have been overlooked in the field of Buddhist studies. Since its appearance, the academic study of Buddhism, in both Asia and the West, has emphasized philosophy and philology. There are many reasons for this, including the traditional privileging of the ascetic and the doctrinal within Buddhism itself, as well as the impact of Western colonialism on scholarship on Buddhism. Starting in the 1980s, the cultural turn that swept through the humanities and social sciences began to broaden the scope of Buddhist studies to include cultural, practical, and quotidian elements of the tradition, but until now there was no full study of the leisure activities that Buddhists engage in as Buddhists.
In some ways this book follows the direction of McDaniel’s first book, which examined lived Thai Buddhism, focusing on the central role that ghosts and magic play in the tradition. In this new, more globally focused book, he has once again sought to account for phenomena that are widespread within contemporary Buddhism, but which have otherwise been overlooked. Architects of Buddhist Leisure examines Buddhist leisure spaces around the world, describing how they are conceived, constructed, and repurposed. The author has visited many such sites, and although he focuses on sites in Nepal, Thailand, and Singapore, he also discusses ones in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and even Avery Island, Louisiana, home to the McIlhenny Company, the makers of Tabasco Sauce. McDaniel loosely classifies these sites as 1) monuments/memorials, 2) historical, educational, and amusement parks, or 3) museums. These three categories also serve as the basic structure for the book, which is composed of three main chapters sandwiched between the usual introduction and conclusion. Each chapter begins with a short vignette describing the author’s visit to a site of Buddhist leisure, before launching into a detailed study of another specific site, or related series of sites. Chapter 1 focuses on the development of a large pilgrimage area at the Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini, Nepal, chapter 2 treats several sites of “Buddhist Spectacle Culture” constructed in Thailand by the wealthy Sino-Thai couple of Lek and Braphai Wiriyapan, and chapter 3 analyzes an ecumenical Buddhist museum created in Singapore by the Chinese monk Shi Fazhao. Each chapter balances moderately dense descriptions of the sites with discussions of their histories, creators, and designers, and the varied uses to which they are put by their visitors. McDaniel employs art and architectural history, anthropological theory, and narratives of the economic conditions at each site. The tone of his discussions, while always academic, can be quite lively as he provides readers with plenty of detail to keep them engaged.
In his analysis of these sites, McDaniel is particularly interested in the ways in which they serve to create a specific kind of “public.” He notes that studies of public space in the West have tended to exclude religious spaces, largely because churches and synagogues are usually private spaces requiring active participation by those who enter. Buddhist sites, however, do not necessarily require such active participation. As a result, spaces of Buddhist leisure have a different relationship to both Buddhism and the public. Although all of the sites discussed in the book are Buddhist in some way, they are often far removed from the formal doctrines and institutions of that tradition. Most of these sites contain no monasteries, and they house few or no clergy. Most of the sites were designed, created, and promoted by non-monastics with little doctrinal training in Buddhism, and as such they provide the location for a kind of Buddhist activity that is “non-teleological and nonformal,” as opposed to what occurs in and around monasteries (15-17). McDaniel expands on this observation in the book’s conclusion, noting that, as public sites of leisure, these places have few formal or ritual boundaries. They rarely aspire to any kind of authenticity vis-à-vis the Buddhist tradition. Rather, these sites promote a global Buddhist ecumenism that had never really existed in history. The imagined Buddhism presented at these sites is universal and timeless, and often lacks references to specific Buddhist traditions. In some ways, this renders these sites “non-places”; they resist categorization. The lack of specificity also reflects the fact that the creators of some of these sites did not even have the promotion of Buddhism as a goal in constructing them (169-172).
Apart from these observations, McDaniel is hesitant to make sweeping claims about what these sites mean for our understanding of Buddhism, which, though academically responsible, means that many of the book’s greatest assets lie in its descriptions. McDaniel’s repeated emphasis on the many ways in which these sites are not Buddhist (in the vision of their planners, the content of their imagery, or in the demographics of their visitors) can occasionally leave the reader wondering why they should be called Buddhist at all. This ambiguity is central to the book’s overall position, however, and is meant as a corrective to the idea that Buddhism is an otherworldly religion focused solely on lonely meditation and personal attainment, or that it is primarily a religion of ordered monastic life. Instead, what one encounters here is a Buddhism that is vibrant, pleasurable, democratic, and difficult to define. In short, it is a Buddhism that many Buddhists around the world would recognize.
Erik Hammerstrom, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, USA
YOUNG CHINA: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900–1959. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 385. By Mingwei Song. Cambridge, MA; London, UK: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2015. xiv, 379 pp. (B&W photos.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-08839-9.
In 1900, Liang Qichao published his essay “Ode to Young China.” He created the idea of youth as a symbol of young China and called for the nation’s rejuvenation. Since then youth discourse has been a central issue in China’s nation-building. What does it mean to be the youth? How has the discourse of youth evolved? In this well-researched cultural history, Mingwei Song offers a carefully constructed analysis of fictional representations of the ideal youth and youth discourse in novels by Ye Shengtao and Mao Dun in the 1920s, Ba Jin in the 1930s, Lu Ling and Lu Qiao during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), and by Yang Mo and Wang Meng in the 1950s, the Communist era. Using novels as primary sources, Song’s work situates literature in the larger historical transformation of China. He thus reaches a larger audience that includes all those interested in political culture, intellectual history, and youth history from 1900 to 1959.
The novels Song has chosen have undergone previous analysis. Some were condemned by Communist critics. Song’s contribution to the study of China’s twentieth-century history is to present the works as a coherent category by centering his analysis on the discourse of youth, using European philosophical, political, literary, and psychological theories, and in particular the framework of the Bildungsroman: the literature genre that depicts the spiritual development of a youth, rendered as “chengzhang xiaoshuo” or “novel of personal growth” in Chinese (53). The novels chosen are Chinese Bildungsroman. They share a master plot: an individual begins a journey in search of the realization of the inner self by merging with greater historical movements. The Chinese Bildungsroman, in comparison with its European counterpart, is more closely associated with the theme of national rejuvenation, reflecting the age-long Chinese concept of literature as a means of transmitting political ideas. Like China’s own journey, which has been full of struggles and frustrations, the protagonists’ growth connects more with an attempt to change the outside world, and often ends in frustration with no resolutions.
After an overview of youth discourse in chapter 1, chapter 2 explains how Liang Qichao has his ideal youth merge Chinese tradition with Western civilization. The ideal youth in Wu Jianren’s The New Story of the Stone is the hero, Jia Baoyu, from the Dream of the Red Chamber, who comes back to life as an “old youth,” deep in Chinese civilization and young with vitality. Chapter 3 argues that the New Culture Movement marked the beginning of the new youth generation trying to break away from tradition. In this context, Ye Shengtao’s novel, Nin Huanzhi (published in 1928) became the first truly Chinese Bildungsroman, although it is a disillusioned Bildungsroman in which the protagonist is caught in a cycle of repeated hope for change and repeated despair. Chapter 4 has Mao Dun’s early works as a focus. In his Eclipse (published in the late 1920s) Mao Dun creates a decadent image of youths filled with psychological anxiety, attempting to escape from reality. His Rainbow makes a Communist turn: the female protagonist’s developing personality leads to her transformation into a Communist. Thus Rainbow is the first Chinese Communist revolutionary Bildungsroman. Ba Jin’s anarchist Bildungsroman series of the 1930s (chapter 5) has a succession of protagonists. Although each novel does not follow the pattern of a Bildungsroman, together the protagonists of the series fit the journey of self-transformation, and develop into the ideal youth, Gao Juehui, in the Family.
In the Second Sino-Japanese War China’s political crisis made nationalism the dominant theme in literature. In chapter 6, Song chooses two novels outside this paradigm of national salvation: Lu Ling’s Children of the Rich and Lu Qiao’s Everlasting Song. Both “penetrate the complexities and ambiguities of individual subjectivity” against “institutional interventions” (239). Lu Ling’s ideal, youth strives for self-determination, refusing to submit to any form of constraint from family and ideology. Lu Qiao “focuses on the self-fashioning of youths” (239). It was the literary and academic dynamics of China’s interior under the control of the Nationalist government that made it possible for both authors to break away from the discourse of revolution. Lu Ling was under the influence of the literary theory of Hu Feng to resist spiritual slavery. Lu Qiao, a student of the National Southwest Associated University, based his novel on his experiences there, the most liberal institution at the time. Their works mark an alternative development of the Chinese Bildungsroman. Chapter 7 moves chronologically to the People’s Republic of China, when communist ideology was dominant, as depicted in Yang Mo’s The Song of Youth. Her socialist Bildungsroman maps a journey in which a female is gradually molded into a qualified communist youth. Yang’s taming of the youth motif, however, is challenged by Wang Meng’s works, which both glorify socialist youth and show resistance to that taming.
Not just an analysis of literature, Song’s work appeals to a wider audience as a contribution to the intellectual history of twentieth-century China. He situates the Chinese Bildungsroman in rich historical contexts, demonstrating how the novels closely reflect China’s efforts at reforming education in Ye Shengtao’s work, anarchist revolution in Ba Jin’s, advancing liberal humanism in Lu Ling and Lu Qiao’s, and Communist revolution in the works of Mao Dun, Yang Mo, and Wang Meng. Song’s book is also a history of youth. The novels are autobiographical, illustrating the journeys of writers themselves as intellectual youths, their own inner search and personal growth.
It would be unsettling if Song’s analysis had ended in 1959, the era of the Maoist youths, who went on to become Red Guards smashing China’s cultural heritage. China’s youth discourse did not end here. So it is good to see that Song has added a short epilogue with a critical review of Liu Cixin’s science fiction (published in 1999). He shows that in the Reform era, youth discourse undertakes another beginning. The Chinese Bildungsroman has become less political, more diverse, creative, and pluralistic, demonstrating youth’s search for individual growth in the new global context of yet another stage of Chinese nation-building.
Yihong Pan, Miami University, Oxford, USA
THE INTELLECTUAL IN MODERN CHINESE HISTORY. By Timothy Cheek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xxiii, 370 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$39.99, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-64319-2.
This book offers an epic account of the past 120 years of China’s intellectuals, as they tackled “reform,” “revolution,” and “rejuvenation” (three R’s, or what Cheek calls ideological moments) and pursued the meaning of “the people,” “Chinese,” and “democracy” in search of China’s future. The three recurring ideological moments, the three puzzling concepts, and the instrumental role of intellectuals are the foci of the book. Professor Cheek has successfully told the story of the intellectual in modern Chinese history, even if one may find it discouraging in the end: the swing between the three R’s has not ended, and the debate on the three concepts still continues after 120 years. But this makes the book a fascinating read for all those who are wondering where China has been, where it is now, and where it is going, especially for concerned students and scholars.
Discussing the various ideological moments and the ideas, worlds, and roles of China’s intellectuals, Cheek’s book is divided into six chapters: 1) reform (1895–1915); 2) revolution (1915–1935); 3) rejuvenation (1936–1956); 4) revolutionary revival (1957–1976); 5) reviving reform (1976–1995); and 6) rejuvenation (1996–2015). Now it seems that he has to add another chapter on “revolutionary revival,” since China appears to be continuing its swing between revolution (Mao), reform (Deng), rejuvenation (Jiang and Hu), and revolution again (Xi 2012 to now). Is it going to be followed by reform and rejuvenation in the future?
Another focus of the book is the evolving concepts of the people, Chinese, and democracy. It is interesting to note that from Liang Qichao’s time onwards, the term “people” gradually obtained a political aspect (46, 64, 105) so much so that in the Communist era, “class enemies” were not viewed as part of “the people.” Today, even if class struggle is no longer in fashion, those who do not support the Party-state are viewed as “hostile forces,” whether within or outside of China. They are deemed enemies of the people and penalized as such. The term “Chinese” has also undergone various changes. Zhang Binglin coined the term Zhonghua minzu to mean Han Chinese in 1907, and claimed that non-Han races could become Chinese only if they were culturally assimilated (tonghua) (49–50, 105). In the rejuvenation period of Jiang and Hu, and even in the Xi era, when talking about Chinese culture, Tibetan, Uyghur, and other minority cultures are often left out. Who is regarded as Chinese is still contested. The KMT was to develop democracy following the stages of military rule, provisional constitutional rule, and then constitutional rule (72), and democratic elections at all levels were finally implemented in Taiwan in the 1990s. But following Leninism, the CCP was practicing “democratic centralism” and “proletarian dictatorship” against the enemies of the people (107–111, 157). In the Xi era, the Party has increasingly consolidated its power in all walks of life and democracy has become even more of a dream for liberal intellectuals.
The role of intellectuals in China’s reform, revolution, and rejuvenation is the major theme of Cheek’s book. First, intellectuals are the people who have created and practiced the ideas of the people, Chinese, and democracy in their various forms. Second, they have all wanted to save China. Third, in their efforts to save China, they have always engaged Western thoughts no matter whether these are liberal or communist. Fourth, in their efforts to serve the state as revolutionary cadres, they made “a deal with the devil that came with severe constraints” and paid the price of engagement (117). Many, especially dissidents, paid the price with their lives (195). Fifth, one of those “severe constraints” is the propaganda state, whether it was the nationalist state under Chiang Kai-shek or the Communist state under Mao and his successors. Cheek calls this the “directed public sphere,” which is managed by the Propaganda Department of the CCP, where intellectual cadres are servants of the Party-state and where competing voices are removed or deeply attenuated (128–129, 322).
There are a couple of areas that I think future research should address. Cheek mentions intellectuals in the study of ethnic, religious, and gender issues but does not elaborate on them. But on each of these issues, there is a group of intellectuals who work to define the meaning of the people, Chinese, and democracy. Each group of intellectuals deserves a chapter or a paper of its own. Overseas Chinese (in the ethnic sense) intellectuals also need to be studied since they are actively engaged in defining these “enduring” ideas. All these intellectuals and activists are making an effort to influence what is happening in China. Even if the effect of their work is limited, their efforts are nonetheless important in China’s nation-building.
The book is almost flawless except for a few, very few places where I think improvements could be made. On page 109, when discussing the Three Principles of the People, “democracy” should replace the term “socialism” since that is what 民權, or people’s rights, means. On page 122, Cheek writes, “Landlords were shot…” Actually many, if not most of them, were beaten, stoned, or otherwise tortured to death. On pages 189 and 211, the nickname for intellectuals, the Stinking Ninth, does not derive from the Cultural Revolution. Rather, the saying comes from the so-called 九儒十丐, i.e., Confucians, who were ranked ninth, after officials, priests, doctors, craftsmen, and even prostitutes, but before beggars, during the Yuan dynasty. There are also several spelling errors. In footnote 5 on page 118, it should be Jiang Zhongzheng rather than Jiang Zhongzhen. On page 210, either Henan or Hebei should be used, not both. On page 270, first paragraph, the name should be Kang Xiaoguang, not Kang Shaoguang. Lastly, there are only a couple of places where Chinese characters are used, but more could have been used to make less familiar Chinese words or proper nouns more easily identifiable.
Cheek is one of the primary leaders in the study of intellectuals in China, and this book is the culmination of his various achievements in the field. It is a panoramic picture of China’s intellectuals over the course of over a century derived from a full understanding of the field of China studies. Cheek has absorbed and integrated the various perspectives and findings of those studies. Few books can surpass this one in its comprehensiveness and sharpness regarding the study of intellectuals and their roles in China’s development over the past 120 years.
Zhidong Hao, University of Macau, Macao, China
THE RETURN OF IDEOLOGY: The Search for Regime Identities in Postcommunist Russia and China. By Cheng Chen. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2016. x, 228 pp. (Tables.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-472-11993-6.
The literature on post-communist transition has overwhelmingly focused on the transition from planned to market-oriented economy, and the political transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Yet, despite the economic and political changes in the post-communist states, neither economic nor political transitions have happened as expected. In many post-communist states, not only has the transition to a market economy met great difficulties, but the initial democratization has also tended to be reversed. How can such developments be explained? Lately, scholars have begun to turn to other aspects of the post-communist transition. The book under review here stands out and makes an important contribution to this still growing body of literature. In this excellent study, Cheng Chen focuses on ideology, a subject that has been unduly understudied in the literature.
More than sixty years ago, in his Ideology and Organization in Communist China, Franz Schurmann pointed to the significance of political ideology to the Chinese communist state, arguing that what held Communist China together was ideology and organization. This argument is certainly applicable to other communist states. Therefore, when one talks about the transition, these two aspects are equally important. In this sense, Cheng Chen has brought ideology back in.
The book focuses on the transitions in China and Russia. Both are former communist states. While in a normative sense, Russia has transformed itself into a post-communist state, China continues to be communist despite its no less radical changes in both the economic and political domains. In socio-economic terms, a transformed Russia is apparently less successful than a still-communist China. In the former, the ruling party has been unable to bring the country socioeconomic prosperity, while in the latter, the ruling party has been able to achieve what many have called an economic miracle. Among others factors, ideology matters. Ideology-building (or “rebuilding”) explains the differences between these two states.
Based on interviews, surveys, political speeches, writings of political leaders, and a variety of publications, Cheng Chen looks into the different ways regime ideology has been rebuilt in China and Russia. The author contends that successful ideology-building requires two necessary conditions. First, the regime must establish a coherent ideological repertoire that takes into account the nation’s ideological heritage and fresh surges of nationalism. Second, the regime must attract and maintain a strong commitment to the emerging ideology, at least among the political elite.
The research in this study is well structured, and its chapters well arranged. The author first discusses the role of regime ideology in the post-communist context, and examines the two necessary conditions for successful regime ideology-building. This is followed by a chapter dealing specifically with the empirical issue of establishing the “success” or “failure” in building a post-communist regime ideology. The author then compares the two cases, namely, the Putin regime in Russia and the post-Deng regime in Communist China, and discusses in detail their respective ideology-building projects, assessing their varying degrees of success based on solid analysis. In the conclusion, the author goes one step further and systematically compares and contrasts the two cases, drawing out both theoretical and empirical implications based on the main findings of the study.
Ideology is important, but building an ideology is no easy task. Cheng Chen identifies some major obstacles to ideology-building in modern Russia and China and assesses their respective long-term prospects. The key problem during the process of ideology-building is the growing incoherence in ideological repertoires, which originate from rather different sources. The author also discusses how Russia and China employ different strategies to shore up elite support to build a new post-communist regime ideology.
The author delineates the differences between the two. In Russia, while the regime muddled through a rather inconsistent assortment of selected elements from the past(s), it only arrived at vague ideas devoid of concrete socioeconomic programs, such as “sovereign democracy” or “conservative modernization,” to define itself (93). In China, despite the regime’s successive ideological changes, it still suffers from a sort of “ideological deficit,” and its search for a clear and viable regime ideology remains a work in progress. Nevertheless, by comparison, Russia is less successful than China. The Chinese regime’s ideological repertoire has had a relatively consistent and clearly defined “core”—a state-sponsored nationalism that has been widely accepted, at least within the regime and perhaps within its society (123).
This book opens a new research agenda for the post-communist transition. It explores ideological changes in Russia and China, and explains the differences between the two. But more research questions can be raised. The ruling parties in both countries have endeavoured to construct new ideologies by putting together different sources, and tried to impose these onto its citizenry. But how relevant are the new ideologies to reality? Also, in both Russia and China there exist diversified ideologies at the societal level, and confrontations take place between and among ideologies. Questions such as how effective a regime ideology might be in a society with such diversified ideologies offer potential research subjects for scholars in the field.
Yongnian Zheng, National University of Singapore, Singapore
CHALLENGES IN THE PROCESS OF CHINA’S URBANIZATION. Edited by Karen Eggleston, Jean C. Oi, and Yiming Wang. Stanford, CA: Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, 2017. xvi, 264 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$24.95, eBook. ISBN 978-1-931368-41-4.
China’s urbanization is a deeply transformative process involving an unparalleled rate of new construction and historically unprecedented volume of rural-urban migration, posing significant challenges to planning and governance. As the country has a unique set of power, political, and institutional configurations, adapting existing knowledge is often difficult, and new problems continually emerge that require fresh perspectives.
Eggleston, Oi and Wang’s edited volume is a timely contribution to research on the most urgent problems confronting China’s urbanization process. It is divided in roughly equal parts between issues with land and with people—between spatial development, property rights, and land financing on one hand, and services for migrants, food security, and housing security on the other. I call it timely because the book is a response to China’s most recent national policies on urbanization and development, and the “challenges” referenced in the title have also been acknowledged by China’s top-level policymakers. As the central government seeks transition into a more sustainable form of urbanization, it becomes apparent that reforming historically rooted, politically motivated, and contextually embedded institutions is more than difficult. The book demonstrates these difficulties through a selection of empirical analyses, case studies, and critical assessments that share a focus on the political economy of financing social, economic, and spatial development. The editors emphasize, from both policy and research standpoints, the importance of understanding China’s politics and power dynamics and variations in local conditions in policy implementation. The central concern of this book is showing how policy actions taken in the past and present might affect and shape the developments to come. By discussing current problems, the volume offers readers ideas about directions for future research.
Of the contributions (not including the two introductory overview chapters), two chapters are based primarily on quantitative analysis: chapter 3 by Desmet and Rossi-Hansberg compares spatial growth patterns of India, China, and the US, and finds that while China’s service industry in medium-density clusters thrives thanks to good infrastructure, growth in mega-cities is bottlenecked by migratory restrictions. Chapter 8 by Huang et al. analyzes the impact of urbanization on food security in China and finds that urbanization moderately reduces supply and increases demand of grain and other commodities. Chapter 6 by Ai and Zhou provides an in-depth ethnographic analysis of the conflicting stakeholder logics and behaviors in Chengdu’s experimental property rights “clarification” process from the municipal government down to the village representatives and households.
The rest of the chapters offer evaluations and critical assessments of current policy designs or institutional configurations based on historical data, factual information, and/or literature review. Chapter 4 by Liu discusses in detail the (un)sustainability of China’s notorious locally-driven, land-based finance and development. Shi argues in chapter 5 that rezoning and administrative adjustment of localities can lead to misallocation of central funds when there is a discrepancy between a place’s official designation and its actual development. Chapters 10 by Yang and 11 by Khor and Oi trace the evolution of China’s housing reform—the former tracking the development of various types of commercial and public housing and the impact on housing security, and the latter examining the institutional challenges of affordable housing provision. Finally, chapter 7 by Gu and chapter 9 by Xu address problems with social service delivery for rural migrants: the former assesses the current status of providing compulsory education for children of migrant workers; the latter discusses fund allocation and transfer issues associated with migrants’ pensions, education, and healthcare, highlighting the difficulties faced by migrant-receiving cities.
Given such a content distribution, this book is most valuable for researchers who seek to understand China’s governance institutions, policy rationales, and inter-governmental relations and politics. Most chapters, in one way or another and to varying degree, either criticize the insensitivity of central policy mandates to local conditions, or highlight incongruences between ideation and implementation, or discuss conflicting rationalities/priorities/imperatives between different levels of government. The volume’s strength lies in its understanding of the central problems of China’s urbanization, as evident in its chapter selections and thematic organization. It offers a wide scope without sacrificing the details. The editors acknowledge that covering such a broad topic in one book also means that many other important aspects or impacts of urbanization need to be selectively left out. Because of its emphasis on China’s unique policies and practices, it is overall less theoretically inclined. As such, this book is best paired with others that explore in greater empirical detail and theoretical depth any one of its themes, lenses, or cases that have particular interest for the reader. The “critical assessment” chapters, such as chapter 4 on land financing and chapter 7 on migrant children education, provide detailed, comprehensive overviews of problems of such complexity that they can be greatly complemented by future case study research on variations in local scenarios and practices. Finally, the book might also benefit scholars of comparative urbanization to gain insider perspectives on China’s situation.
Christine Wen, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA
SHAKEN AUTHORITY: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. By Christian P. Sorace. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2017. x, 231 pp. (Maps, B&W photos., illustrations.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-5017-0753-7.
Many may be impressed by the Chinese government’s ability to manage crises in recent years. Although frequent, natural and man-made crises ultimately have had little politically destabilizing effect, but rather have been showcases of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) legitimacy and capacity. While scholars studying cases elsewhere have sought explanations for successful or clumsy crisis management from various tangible aspects of politics, like policies and their distributional outcomes, different actors’ stakes and strategies, etc., Christian Sorace’s new book, Shaken Authority: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, with rich empirical and historical details as well as illuminating analytical perspectives, directs readers to reflect on the ontological and aesthetic dimensions of China’s political system, in which enormous energies are mobilized to support government discourse and image. It reminds us that China’s official discourse is not empty propaganda; rather, “Communist Party utopianism persists in the production of dreamlike images around which reality is organized” (105).
As students of Chinese politics have long scattered their attention across specific populations, areas and issues, we need research like Sorace’s that examines the fundamental logic of how the whole system works. While this study is macro in its argumentation, it is also a granular and thorough report on the post-2008 Sichuan earthquake reconstruction. In the first three chapters, Sorace elaborates how: 1) the Communist Party’s “discursive path dependence” works; 2) Leninist and Maoist ethical norms—“Party spirit”—are embodied in cadre behaviour; and 3) the Party’s economic planning discourse works as “utopian pronouncements of the future to come” (15). These form the epistemological legacies and macro socio-economic context of the post-earthquake reconstruction projects. In the remaining chapters, Sorace conducts micro-level analyses of three reconstruction cases: the urban-rural integration plan in Dujiangyan (chapter 4); the tourism development in Yingxiu (chapter 5); and the massive attempts to make Qingchuan green (chapter 6).
Although the powerful state apparatus can turn political discourse into heavy-handed world-making activity, it often fails to use those processes to produce expected results. In the case of Dujiangyan, the Party sketched a blueprint for urban planning but the local socio-economic system did not work as intended. The Yingxiu residents indeed took the Party discourse seriously, using it as “the normative criteria through which they perceived the reconstruction as a failure of the Communist Party’s political and moral obligations” (122). In Qingchuan, “the ideology and discourse of ecological civilization is not powerful enough on its own to resolve” a series of contradictions inherent in the socio-economic structure (147). Frequently, observing the gap between the Party’s words and actions, even those who place genuine expectations in the Party’s promises might in the long run doubt all official accounts. In this way, by making directives to control discourse, the Party only creates traps for itself. It can only defend its narratives and “absorb shocks that shake its authority” by “silencing key voices that tell a different story through what are often Draconian measures” (151).
Recording the CCP’s extensive methods for responding to crises that shake its authority, the author does not make explicit predictions regarding where the CCP’s “discursive path dependence” is heading. However, he does ask, “Imagine a leadership visit where nothing is concealed. Would Yingxiu’s future be different?” (123) This is insightful, shedding light on the fundamental logic of the Chinese political system: even when “the hall of mirrors is smashed” (123), the Party will keep “performing a repertoire of legitimating narratives” (152) “through continuous transfusions, emergency interventions, diagnoses, and experimental treatments” (79–80).
The key question is how sustainable such governing approaches could be. Nowadays, we increasingly witness the Chinese government making rough and illogical “clarifications” after man-made catastrophes, taking the stance of “believe it or not, this is what we can tell you.” The recent official response to the Beijing kindergarten abuse scandal and the campaign to evict Beijing’s migrant workers are telling examples. If the convincing and preaching effects on the people of official accounts are continuously declining, and even the government itself becomes unserious about its language since it knows what really matters is the mechanism of violent suppression of different voices, then we may need to re-examine the precise mechanisms through which political discourse operates in the material world.
Notably, Sorace’s work provides important empirical correctives to several prevalent hypotheses of socio-political change in China after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. One is the “emergence of civil society” hypothesis. Sorace’s illustration of the top-down reconstruction process shows that (post)disaster management hardly created opportunities for a substantive expansion of civic participation, but rather was regarded by the leadership as a perfect opportunity for demonstrating Party strength. This is the general pattern of crisis management in China. The second hypothesis is that “the Chinese government is increasingly adroit and effective at managing crises.” Again, Christian’s careful case studies of the effects of reconstruction processes on the lives of low-level cadre and the people call this hypothesis into question; the prima facie success of the ruling party coexisted with many subtle and profound difficulties for individual cadre and citizens. The third hypothesis is the state-civil society paradigm, premised on state-phobic assumptions. Christian presents evidence that ordinary citizens did not complain about but rather requested Party intervention in their lives.
Methodologically, as sensitive as the subject of the earthquake (and disasters in general) can be, Sorace has demonstrated how to adroitly cope with such obstacles during fieldwork. By examining discourse nuances, he captures information from diverse sources ranging from various textual materials to daily conversations and behaviour, allowing highly flexible data collection strategies.
A book focusing on discourse and largely descriptive analysis can easily go shallow, but Sorace’s work offers profound insights into how power works in China by grounding abstract Party discourse in concrete state practices. The author demonstrates how to conduct a good discourse analysis study by analyzing texts in their contexts, which requires extensive knowledge of the socio-historical background of the data and a deep understanding of the theories revolving around the theme under study.
Yi Kang, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong SAR, China
LAW AND POLITICS OF THE TAIWAN SUNFLOWER AND HONG KONG UMBRELLA MOVEMENTS. The Rule of Law in China and Comparative Perspectives. Edited by Brian Christopher Jones. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. vi, 235 pp. (Figures.) US$140.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4724-8614-1.
During 2014, massive student-led demonstrations in Taiwan in March-April and in Hong Kong in September-December provided dramatic evidence that considerable political polarization existed in both societies. Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement was centered on a three-week occupation of the country’s Legislative Yuan protesting the attempt of KMT President Ma Ying-jeou to ram the highly controversial Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) through parliament. Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement erupted as a protest against a Chinese decision that, in essence, made it almost impossible for a pro-democracy candidate to be nominated for Chief Executive in the 2017 elections and represented the culmination of a series of disputes over the degree of democracy that Hong Kong would be allowed. Brian Christopher Jones’ edited Law and Politics of the Taiwan Sunflower and Hong Kong Umbrella Movements represents a sophisticated analysis of these two movements.
Parts I and II, plus one chapter in part III, considers these two important student movements individually from several analytic perspectives. Regarding the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan, Brian Christopher Jones and Yen-Tu Su conceptualize the Movement as a case of “confrontational contestation,” but they also argue that “democratic compromise” should prevail in its aftermath. Wen-Chen Chang analyzes the legal issues raised by the Sunflowers concerning the right to free assembly, with a particular focus on Taiwan’s domestic Assembly and Parade Act of 1992 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Taiwan ratified in 2009. Jiunn-Rong Yeh argues that the Sunflower Movement has enhanced the country’s “civic constitutionalism,” in which civil society assumes an active role to supplement the workings of courts and representative bodies. For Hong Kong, Albert H.Y. Chen presents an overview of Hong Kong’s governance from colonial times to the present, with a focus on the post-1997 period when the tension between the pro-democracy forces on the one side and China, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, and pro-establishment Hongkongers on the other over voting procedures escalated to the point of exploding in 2014. Fu Hualing raises several important issues relating to the Umbrella Movement, including the growing fears, especially among the young, that Hong Kong’s many achievements were under threat, the vision of “civic constitutionalism” that the protesters represented, the double-edged sword that the “rule of law” afforded the pro-democracy groups, and the growing polarization in Hong Kong’s politics and society. Daniel Matthews applies the concept of nomos, or the underlying normative foundation of a society, to develop an innovative interpretation of the Umbrella Movement as challenging in the very limited public space in the city and as shifting the cultural identities of Hongkongers. Chih-hsing Ho uses the Umbrella Movement as a case study illustrating the philosophical and legal issues about whether civil disobedience should or should not be punished, and concludes that the Hong Kong High Court took a very narrow perspective on when civil disobedience can be considered a right.
Three chapters in part III explicitly compare the Sunflower and Umbrella Movements; and part IV draws implications from the individual analyses in the book. Cheng-Yi Huang develops the concept of “unpopular sovereignty,” which exists when the people in a political unit are clearly not the source of the sovereignty exercised by their government, and argues that the Constitution of the Republic of China and the Basic Law deny popular sovereignty to the people of Taiwan and Hong Kong. Chien-Huei Wu tests the hypothesis that Taiwan’s and Hong Kong’s growing economic integration with China will undermine their democracy and rule of law and finds support for this thesis in some areas but not in others. Based on a personally conducted survey that focused on younger Chinese urbanites, Han Zhu concludes that most had an unfavorable view of the Umbrella Movement but were only marginally engaged with the Sunflower Movement, that this unfavorable evaluation was based on the perceived economic and social effects of the respective protest, and that they valued the rule of law over democracy. Brad R. Roth provides an overview of seven of the nine chapters in parts I–III and uses the issues associated with the relationship between political obligation and civil disobedience as a framework for synthesizing their arguments and insights. Jacques Delisle concludes that the Sunflower and Umbrella Movements both reflect challenges from China, were examples of civic constitutionalism and the invoking of “transcendent principles,” represented a not-always positive “intertwining of politics and law,” involved the growing impact of economic issues on their debates, and showed that China’s assumptions about Hong Kong and Taiwan were rather faulty. In contrast, the cases differ greatly insofar as China’s ability to affect these two polities.
Law and Politics of the Taiwan Sunflower and Hong Kong Umbrella Movements is an important book. It provides a sophisticated and insightful treatment of two massive student demonstrations. It goes well beyond simply describing and chronologizing these events. Rather, it raises complex issues regarding constitutional law, political philosophy, and public policy analysis. Consequently, it should be of interest to a broad readership.
Cal Clark, Auburn University, Auburn, USA
MANCHU PRINCESS, JAPANESE SPY: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army. Asia Perspectives: History, Society, and Culture. By Phyllis Birnbaum. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. x, 252 pp. (Illustrations.) US$24.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-231-15219-8.
Alongside soldiers and bureaucrats, Japanese efforts to dominate China involved individuals from many walks of life. Among the more colourful was Kawashima Yoshiko. Born Aisin Gioro Xianyu, she assumed several names in a high-profile life that ended in her 1948 execution. As a public personality she is discussed in detail in Japanese biographies and memoirs, and here we have the fullest study of her life in English, one that sifts Japanese materials. In doing so, Phyllis Birnbaum interrogates her sources as well as her subject in order to assess Kawashima in all her flamboyant and contradictory glory.
Kawashima was born a Manchu princess, the fourteenth child of a prince of the prestigious first rank, just before the Qing dynasty’s fall. Fleeing to Lüshun after the revolution, the family lived in a kind of exile, antagonistic to the new Republic. The family also accepted Japanese aid, and Kawashima was sent to live in Japan with an adoptive father in 1912, the “continental adventurer” (tairiku rōnin) Kawashima Naniwa. Birnbaum considers his life before proceeding with his adopted daughter’s life in Japan, a methodology repeated in considering other significant personalities with whom Kawashima interacted or could identify. These include the aristocrat Saga Hiro, the writer Muramatsu Shōfū, General Tanaka Ryūkichi, right-wing businessman Sasakawa Ryōichi, and the actor Yamaguchi Yoshiko (Ri Kōran). Contextualizing sources helps Birnbaum puzzle through the implications of their views of Kawashima, though Birnbaum also strays into territory only tenuously connected to her subject, such as a brief consideration of Japanese rural settlers with whom she would have had little in common (“Starting Over in Manchukuo”). The result is an episodic account of Kawashima Yoshiko’s life and times, one that tries to narrow the uncertainties about her life. This is difficult given the multiplicity of views evident in the materials, including contradictory stories offered by Kawashima herself.
For Birnbaum, Kawashima Naniwa’s exploits perhaps helped propel Yoshiko into a life of adventure, but at the same time the author notes a quirky personality evident early on. Mixing with conspiring continental adventurers and criminals exposed her to garrulous opportunists as a youth, and she continued to consort with writers, military adventurers, and other travellers as her quirks became more outlandish. Before turning twenty, for example, she shaved her head to escape gendered expectations—possibly because of rape—and returned to China. Her hair remained short thereafter, and she often chose to dress in men’s attire. After a short-lived marriage in 1927 to a Mongolian independence fighter, she split her time between China and Japan, often in dance halls, trying to find a social niche. This she famously discovered during the Manchurian Incident, beginning September 18, 1931 when the Japanese Kwantung (Guandong) Army took control of the region on behalf of the empire. Returning to China she helped spirit Puyi’s wife Wanrong out of Tianjin and allegedly supported the Japanese Army when fighting broke out in Shanghai by reconnoitering Chinese officers. She was also reported to have been involved in subduing the Chinese warlord Su Bingwen in northwestern Manchuria and given her own command of troops in the Japanese occupation of Rehe (Jehol). Although hard evidence for these exploits is negligible—making one query this book’s subtitle—the public avidly consumed published reports of her activities and Kawashima’s own boasting helped swell her reputation.
As a person raised in both the Chinese and Japanese worlds, Kawashima understandably felt an inclination to aid both. Disliking Chinese warlords and Nationalist officials, she gravitated to those in the Japanese military willing to take a firm stance in China. The forthright Kawashima, moreover, had no problem defending her actions publicly, and evidently enjoyed being in the spotlight. Outlandish behaviour was perhaps a way of ensuring continued public attention, but financial issues seem also to have pressured her to seek new opportunities and new lovers. In addition to a lavish lifestyle she had also become a drug addict. Kawashima, however, soured on the Japanese military, given police censorship of her activities and an increasingly heavy hand exercised by Japanese officials in Manchukuo. Her public criticisms became more trenchant, and Birnbaum reports that some in the Japanese military considered assassinating her. After war broke out in 1937 she offered to help negotiate peace between China and Japan, but was ignored. Dejected and increasingly isolated, Kawashima left Japan for Beijing with her three pet monkeys. There she awaited the end of the war, and did go into hiding upon Japan’s capitulation. Denounced as a traitor (hanjian), she was arrested and unable to defend herself given her reputation and notoriety among the Chinese. The public record was used against her and she was unable to claim Japanese citizenship and thus repatriation because it turned out that Kawashima Naniwa never formally adopted her. Birnbaum suggests ultimately that Kawashima acquiesced and awaited her execution with equanimity, but also reports rumours that at the last second she may have been spirited away to live out her final years in peace.
Birnbaum’s study reads well, but the references are frustrating. Instead of numbered references, the author identifies sources by repeating a phrase in the endnotes, identifying only sources of direct quotations. Not all quotes, moreover, are referenced in the back, presumably meaning that they were taken from the last reference noted—but some do not seem appropriate. Elsewhere, references to significant issues discussed in the text are entirely omitted, such as early Japanese efforts to support Manchu and Mongol independence from China (20). She also oddly lists the main personalities involved on the first page as “main characters,” as in a drama. Despite these qualms, the book does shed light on a controversial figure and deserves to be adopted by university libraries holding materials on this turbulent era.
Bill Sewell, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada
RUNAWAY WIVES, URBAN CRIMES, AND SURVIVAL TACTICS IN WARTIME BEIJING, 1937–1949. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 384. By Zhao Ma. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2015. xiv, 366 pp. (Illustrations.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-08838-2.
Runaway Wives is an original and moving study of the lives of the poor in wartime Beijing under Japanese occupation (1937–1945) and during the civil war between the Guomindang and the Communist Party (1945–1949). It is a tour de force, a rare insight into what war meant for the great old city, China’s capital until 1928. To date most work on the Anti-Japanese War has been on the unoccupied areas of China; this is a major addition to our knowledge of the areas under Japanese occupation.
The war years saw rapidly increasing poverty in Beijing. The economy was in the doldrums; the occupation authorities turned to printing money, which triggered inflation almost as bad as that in unoccupied China. The city was more and more crowded; peasants fled in to the cities of north China to escape the brutality of the Japanese armies in the rural areas. The occupiers and their local collaborators did nothing to alleviate poverty; their only concern for the civilian population was to control them. Ma Zhao refers several times to Lao She’s great novel, Four Generations under one Roof. The titles of its three sections express what the people of Beijing went through in the war: Bewilderment 惶惑; Ignominy 偷生; Famine 饥荒.
Very few records of the misery of the wartime city have survived. Censorship prevented news reporting. Sociological studies were out of the question. Ma Zhao, a son of the city, has found a fascinating way of bringing the lives of the poor to life, through court transcripts from trials for bigamy and adultery. The trials came about because two civil institutions still at work during the Japanese occupation, the police and the court system, were willing to listen to the complaints of outraged husbands whose wives had absconded and to arrest and charge the runaway wives. Beijing policemen were in a situation of the greatest difficulty during the war. Once the friendly local policemen, in charge of birth and death registration, keeping order and catching criminals, in the occupation heavy new tasks were thrust on them by the collaborationist city government: household inspections; drafting young men for forced labour; controlling the distribution of rations. These tasks made them vastly unpopular with the population, so much so that half the police force was dismissed in 1945, accused of collaboration. Ironically, though, the tasks put on the police in the occupation were continued under the Communist Party after 1949.
The misery of the poverty in wartime Beijing was intense, so overwhelming that the Japanese occupation was not uppermost in people’s minds. As much as 70 percent of the city’s population lived in deep poverty. The courtyards where the poor lived were tenements, each courtyard housing many families. The buildings were dilapidated, there was no electricity, no running water, no toilets. “Honey carts” trundled through the hutungs (lanes) every morning picking up “night soil.” Beijing was in a terrible state. After the end of the Qing Dynasty and the move of the capital to Nanjing, the city declined. In the war the squalid, smelly districts of much of the city were bursting with poor, shabby people, living in such close proximity that there was not an iota of privacy. This made it easy for the police to track down people living where they were not registered.
One sign of the social and economic collapse of wartime Beijing is that wives were willing and often eager to abandon a husband who could not provide for them. Implicit in the vivid stories of runaway wives that punctuate the book is that in a city where men vastly outnumbered women, marriages were fragile, conditional on the husband providing for his wife and children. The gender imbalance provided a range of opportunities for women: remarriage; concubinage; bigamy; elopement; cohabitation; prostitution. If a husband failed to support his wife she felt entitled to leave him. Usually she went to a pre-arranged new husband, without benefit of a formal divorce. There was a wedding, however: a ritual that gave social credibility to the marriage, and usually cost far more than the new husband could afford. Her departure did not offend social norms, but it did offend the law, which allowed her former husband, if he could find her, to have her charged with adultery or bigamy, and her new husband with abduction.
The lives of poor women should have been at least as bad and depressing as those of poor men, but in the cases that Ma Zhao brings to light the opposite is often true. Many women showed remarkable energy and initiative in coping with their desperate poverty and in fighting for what they saw as their rights. This was true of the runaway wives and also of the women, neighbours or relatives, who helped them leave their husbands. There was what amounted to an unorganized sisterhood willing to take action against inadequate husbands. This was not a free service: the income earned from finding a match for a runaway and organizing an escape was not insignificant.
Like many who knew the old Beijing I have deeply regretted its disappearance, and its replacement by an anonymous modern city of high-rise buildings, clad in glass, brass, and marble. This book is a corrective to a rather rosy vision of “Old Beijing.” Only part of “Old Beijing” was charming courtyards, quaint hutungs, and splendid imperial buildings.
So vivid are the stories that Ma Zhao tells that they would make a wonderful film to bring the old city to life, as The Return of Martin Guerre brought to life sixteenth-century France. It would be a forerunner to the Blue Kite, set in Beijing’s hutungs in the 1950s as communist rule took hold.
Diana Lary, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
THE MAGIC OF CONCEPTS: History and the Economic in Twentieth-Century China. By Rebecca E. Karl. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2017. xii, 216 pp. US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6321-7.
The Magic of Concepts is a set of related essays that identifies similarities and repetitions in debates about “the economic” and the nature of Chinese society in the 1930s and 1940s and the 1980s and 1990s, as well as their impacts on revolutionary strategies and policy making. Karl argues that an ideology of global capitalism underlies these points of resemblance and has been disguised in social scientific analysis and universal economic theories in post-socialist China. To uncover this hidden ideology, Karl critically reviews how late imperial and modern Chinese history has been incorporated into global history in recent decades.
Karl’s observation of a similar role played by global capitalism in China’s integration into the world economy in the 1930 and 1940s and 1980s and 1990s is truly surprising given the significant differences in socio-economic and intellectual contexts in these two periods. The Chinese economy in the 1930s and 1940s was largely based on a market economy and private property rights; yet the state did not have effective institutions of public finance to regulate the macro-economy and to safeguard the domestic economy against fluctuations in the international markets. China in the 1980s and 1990s was in the process of transition from state socialism to a market economy; but the state possessed a much enhanced autonomy and capacity in managing its macro-economy, particularly after the fiscal centralization of 1994. Moreover, global capitalism as a phenomenon and knowledge about it were quite different in the two periods. Thence, a careful examination of the contextual differences is crucial to establishing whether any similarities are the reflection of deeper patterns or constructions derived from Karl’s theoretical framework and ideological agenda.
Unfortunately, Karl’s discussion of the debates on “the economic” seems to be detached from the historical context. Little attention is given to the important debates on monetary and fiscal reforms in both the late 1930s and the 1990s, to which there was little contribution from either Marxists or market fundamentalists. Another example is the Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) in chapter 2. The concept of AMP was prominent in the 1930s and did indeed come back in the 1980s. Nonetheless, this revival seems to have been quite minor. Karl cites two historians, Ke Changji and Zhao Lisheng, and one political economist, Wu Dakun, as evidence, without providing any further information to show how influential these three scholars were in the 1980s. How then can we judge whether AMP’s “minor comeback in China historical analysis” (42) had any substantive impact on the economic reforms of China in the 1980s, let alone the reorientation toward a state-capitalism in the late 1990s?
Karl states that “the reorientation of Chinese socioeconomics in the 1980s toward growth and the accumulation of national wealth at any cost facilitated the return of the AMP” (59). But in the early 1980s no such reorientation existed. Karl attributes slogans and phenomena from the 1990s, such as “Good-bye to Revolution,” or high-speed growth with no regard for social cost as measured by massive lay-offs of workers of state-owned enterprises, to the 1980s (58–59). Those who shaped the economic reforms in the 1980s, such as Xue Muqiao, were sincere Marxists whose policies were mainly based upon their practical experience in managing the economy in the liberated areas in the late 1940s and in the PRC in the early 1950s. Integration with the global market in the 1980s remained very limited and well controlled by the state. The trajectory of reform from the 1980s to the 1990s should not be understood as a unilinear trajectory toward capitalism (see particularly chapter 4). Karl curiously does not mention the use of AMP in the 1988 TV series River Elegy (Heshang). Its producers, who were politically connected to General Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang, employed the AMP as a political strategy to call for a more liberal economy and more opening to the global economy. However, they did not have much influence on policy making in the 1990s; after June 4, most were either forced into exile or imprisoned.
Karl also notes the parallels between the introduction of the Austrian School into China in the 1930s and the popularity of the second-generation Austrian School economist Friedrich Hayek among Chinese intellectuals in the 1990s (chapter 3). For the reception of the Austrian School, Karl relies completely upon Wang Yanan’s critique without explaining whether or not it is justified. To connect Hayek to the market-oriented reforms, she mentions in a footnote (78) that Hayek’s major works were translated into Chinese in the 1990s and “sold briskly.” She also quotes Liu Junning that “the prime minister of China had Hayek’s works on his bookshelf” and that the former vice secretary at the Institute of Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences was a “firm Hayekian” (161). However, Karl does not provide any evidence as to how Hayek’s theory affected the actual making of economic policies, nor even which of his books were popular. The Fatal Conceit and The Road to Serfdom argue that it is impractical for state planners to determine prices, yet say nothing on how to reform state socialism. Hayek’s evolutionary approach to institutional development in Law, Legislation and Order could be used to criticize top-down radical reforms such as “Five Hundred Days to Capitalism” as irrational.
The contexts of economic theories in the 1930 and 1940s and 1980s and 1990s matter to our evaluation of Hayek’s influence. In fact, the disasters of the shock therapy in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the economic performance of Japan and South Korea in the 1990s made market fundamentalism less appealing to Chinese economic reformers. Neo-institutional economics and the political economy of late development, particularly the theory of the developmental state and its emphasis on regulation and on legal and political institutions, were quite influential among Chinese economists and reformers. Hayek’s influence should be judged against the range of economic theories and models that were known in China at the time. Market fundamentalism was by no means uncritically accepted.
In Karl’s view, “the appeal to ideology-free empiricism … through its reaffirmation of empiricist positivism as adequate conceptualization and method … is symptomatic of the pure ideology of the global and of universal economics as the expected history of the world” (33). But we should be careful to distinguish the relative autonomy of both economic analysis and empirical historical studies from ideology. The empirical investigation of rural households organized by the Marxist economist Chen Hansheng has had long-lasting value to scholars of different theoretical persuasions. Empirical studies of Chinese economic history that used terms such as semifeudalism, semicolonialism, or “sprouts of capitalism” accumulated to form the basis for the scholarship of R. Bin Wong and Kenneth Pomeranz, who situate their own studies against a broader review of global economic history. They reject a unilinear understanding of economic history by showing that a vibrant market economy does not necessarily become an industrial capitalism. Karl pays little heed to the varieties of development implied, such as industrial development based upon collective ownership (Wong) or energy-saving industrialization (Pomeranz).
Dialogue between critical theories of capitalism and empirical studies of the political economy of reform and the economic history of China is crucial to deepen our understanding of the interactions between China and the global market. Karl’s book is a valuable contribution to be followed by future scholarship.
Wenkai He, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong SAR, China
RURAL CHINA ON THE EVE OF REVOLUTION: Sichuan Fieldnotes, 1949–1950. By G. William Skinner; edited by Stevan Harrell and William Lavely. Seattle: University of Washington Press in association with University of Washington Libraries, c2017. xi, 265 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99942-5.
Few China scholars have had a larger impact than G. William Skinner, whose work on rural marketing and spatial order has provided scholars with a cogent model for thinking about social structure in China and beyond. It is well known that the original inspiration for Skinner’s model came from his dissertation fieldwork in Sichuan, carried out in the shadow of the advancing People’s Liberation Army and cut short after two and a half months by the PLA’s arrival. Skinner’s fieldnotes were confiscated by the new authorities, and Skinner himself always maintained that both his notes and the carbon copies he sent to his Cornell advisors were lost. Fortunately for us, they were not: when the editors (both of them former Skinner students) took custody of his papers, they found a full set of notes which, lightly edited and condensed, form the body of this book. The editors provide a short preface and helpful section summaries. The book also includes Skinner’s superb photographs, maps, an index, and a glossary.
Fieldnotes rarely merit publication. These ones do, for at least three reasons. Brief as they are, they provide a vivid picture of rural life in the Chengdu basin, just months before land reform brought irreversible change. They also give us a first-hand account of the Communist takeover, told by an open-minded and astute observer. Finally, they show us social science in action, as Skinner puts aside his earlier interest in child psychology and personality formation and quickly recognizes rural marketing as the best angle for an exploration of Chinese social structure. Skinner arrived in Chengdu in September 1949, having learned Mandarin (but not Sichuan dialect) during two years of Navy service. He spent October looking for a research site and discussing plans with Chinese scholars in Chengdu. Having settled on Gaodianzi, a market town a few miles south of Chengdu, he began fieldwork in mid-November. His early notes discuss the structures of rural life: land ownership and tenancy, farming, family composition, and domestic life. They include vivid descriptions of everyday technologies, dealing with such topics as food preparation, house construction and repair, and the work of the itinerant tailors, basket makers, barbers, etc., who pass through his hosts’ household.
It did not take Skinner long to find his topic: on the third day of his stay, Skinner notes “today was important: my first market day,” and from then on he appears to have attended the Gaodianzi market regularly. He did so primarily because this was where he met his informants: the local notables, leaders of the paoge secret society, students, and teachers who spent much of each market day socializing in the town’s restaurants and teahouses. On December 16, one month into his fieldwork and with the PLA rapidly advancing towards Chengdu, Skinner set out on bicycle to determine the size of the Gaodianzi market area. We do not know why he did so; his notes record his impressions and observations but are silent about his reflections and motivations. Nonetheless, one can feel his excitement as he finds out that market areas are spatially discrete. The insight that rural people always attend the same market, that in the course of months and years they become familiar with others who do the same, and that market areas therefore have to be understood as communities, was the first step towards a large and complex model of Chinese society in which the routine flow of retail goods forms a basic infrastructure which underpins all social organization. Markets, however, did not occupy all of Skinner’s attention. He conducted a household survey, collected information on local schools, and mapped local voluntary associations, including Confucian benevolent societies, religious brotherhoods, and the omnipresent “secret” society, the paoge. While “class” is not part of his vocabulary in these notes, he showed a keen awareness of the disparity in wealth and status between the wealthy and educated elite with whom he interacted, and the tenant farmers who lived together with his hosts, and whose lives he describes in moving details.
While Skinner worked frantically to complete his analysis, the PLA advanced and the Nationalists’ authority crumbled. He and his informants were less concerned about the PLA soldiers, whom they knew to be disciplined, than about marauding Nationalist soldiers and about fights between competing Nationalist factions. Skinner’s notes make frequent mention of the Nationalist soldiers billeted in his hosts’ home, of their panicked departure, and of the quiet and efficient way in which PLA vanguard units fill the resulting vacuum in the countryside days before they enter the provincial capital. The PLA’s official takeover provides a moment of high drama, coinciding with Chinese New Year and with the Dongyue temple festival, a two-day spectacle filled with processions, opera performances, and throngs of worshippers. A week later, Skinner was told that it was no longer safe for him to work in the countryside and he was put under house arrest in Chengdu; he was allowed to leave the country only in August 1950.
This book deserves to be read by all students of twentieth-century rural China, in particular those with an interest in Sichuan. It should be assigned to students preparing for fieldwork in China; Skinner’s acute observations and his strong sympathy for the people he studied (a sympathy which they apparently returned) remain a model almost seventy years after the fact. In teaching, it could be paired with Isabel Crook’s Prosperity’s Predicament, another study of rural Sichuan in the 1940s whose publication was delayed for almost seven decades.
Jacob Eyferth, The University of Chicago, Chicago, USA
REVOLUTIONARY NATIVISM: Fascism and Culture in China, 1925–1937. By Maggie Clinton. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2017. xi, 268 pp. (B&W photos, illustrations.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6377-4.
In her book Revolutionary Nativism, Maggie Clinton argues that between the years 1925 and 1937, following the iconoclasm and anti-Confucianism of the May Fourth Movement, the “right radicalized theorists” of the Guomindang (GMD), such as members of the New Life Movement and the CC (Central Committee) Clique, contributed to the reversal of “the historical fortunes of Confucianism” (198) in the twentieth century. They achieved this by “rendering Confucianism compatible with a path of modernization” (199). This “revolutionary nativism” and cross-class alliance are echoed in contemporary brands of Confucius Institutes, the celebration of a harmonious society, and in “Cold War champions of Asian values” (198–199). Clinton approaches the confrontation between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Guomindang (GMD), as a local manifestation of the confrontation of the two ideologies inherent in interwar politics, since they ended up on different sides of the communist-fascist world ideological axis.
This book not only examines the two parties’ violent feud in the 1930s through the lens of the ideological war between communism and fascism, it also explores the local roots of the rise of what Clinton calls GMD fascism, which was anti-internationalist, eschewed political liberalism and laissez-fair capitalism, and valourized the nation and “masculine prowess” (11). GMD fascism, an “extreme manifestation of nationalism” (4), was not a copy of European or Japanese models, though it was inspired by them it originated in China’s post-dynastic conditions (13). Among adepts of the GMD New Life Movement and CC Clique, “invocation of traditional values masked a profound reordering of the social world,” and included “a rationalized military or a Taylorized factory” (159).
This book examines the writings of such GMD leaders as Sun Yatsen and Dai Jitao, as well as the published periodicals and cultural production of the New Life Movement and CC Clique, as they attributed a special place to culture (16). Aesthetically, both the right-wing GMD and the CCP embraced the same “modern” aesthetics (188). Clinton explores the idiosyncratic relationship of the GMD with the notion of “revolutionary”: while the GMD espoused Confucian elitism (170), they also claimed revolutionary leadership (7). The United Front of 1923 to 1927 shaped the GMD’s militarized and technocratic milieus (chapter 1) and allowed them to fashion themselves as “anticonservative political vanguards” (21) in opposition to a foreign-directed communist insurgency, with the GMD’s fascist Blue Shirts claiming to have brought native things back to China (142). The GMD bound Confucianism and national revolutionary culture together with industrial modernity (chapter 2). This nativist discourse allowed the GMD to paint the Communists as anti-national and anti-Chinese, thus justifying their anti-Communist violence, to include both military campaigns and repentance camps (fanxingyuan) which propagated Confucian morality, the absence of which among Communists they argued excluded them from the Chinese nation (chapter 3). Confucian values were mobilized as a “bedrock of alternative modernity” for the needs of industrial productivity (chapter 4) and of the creation of “nationalist literature and arts” (minzu wenyi) that justified violence against leftist intellectuals (chapter 5).
This study not only places the New Life Movement in the context of 1930s Italian, German, and Japanese fascism, but also situates the GMD fascist-inspired movement in the larger international context, including Soviet and American influences and the confrontation between them. Though it had a different agenda, the GMD shared with the CCP a “politico-intellectual genealogy,” that is, a Leninist influence and anti-imperialist ideology (33). Parallels between CCP postwar production and even political campaigns and the GMD’s New Life rhetoric do exist (197–198), and GMD ideas concerning discipline, self-sacrifice for the nation, casting the “productive members of the society” (151), family cohesion, and the role of women in nation-building and deference to authority could be found in both fascist and non-fascist regimes (145). The labour ideals of the 1930s built on Fordism and Taylorism in various contexts, such as in the Soviet Union (148), but the distinct characteristic of this trend within the GMD was that those values in China were used to save the Chinese from social collapse (145).
This thought-provoking study raises new questions. While the fascists of the Nanjing decade based their vision on “native Confucianism” and “ignored everything that did not fit with their visions of a new order” (143), the GMD built its regional policy on ideas reminiscent of internationalism, even if designed in direct opposition to it (Craig Smith, “China as the Leader of the Weak and Small: The Ruoxiao Nations and Guomindang Nationalism,” Cross-Currents: East Asia History and Culture Review 24 : 36–60). Also, Sun Yatsen was not entirely anti-internationalist (74), but linked internationalism and nationalism together (Sun Zhongshan, “Sanminzhuyi: minzuzhuyi” [Three principles: nationalism], lecture 4, 17 February 1924, in Sun zhongshan quan ji [Collected works of Sun Zhongshan], 11 vols., Beijing: Zhong hua shuju, 1986, 9: 220–231, esp. p. 226). In the context of the interwar global moment, can we consider the nativization trend in GMD China as unique, or can we see it as a part of the indigenization trend of interwar globalization, which was the other side of the internationalization of organizations and ideologies?
Anna Belogurova, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
BITTER AND SWEET: Food, Meaning, and Modernity in Rural China. California Studies in Food and Culture, no. 63. By Ellen Oxfeld. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017. xv, 256 pp. (Illustrations.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-29352-6.
Ellen Oxfeld has spent over twenty years researching the village of “Moonshadow Pond,” Meixian County, Guangdong. She has amassed considerable knowledge regarding all aspects of the food economy. In this book, she describes with sensitivity, and in detail, the roles of food in society.
Moonshadow Pond was a farming village, but is now transitioning to a mixed economy. Rice was the elite crop. Sweet potatoes were the food of the poor; during difficult times they were the food of everyone. Onions, Chinese cabbages, and other Chinese vegetables and fruits were also cultivated. (Production statistics are found at the back of the book.) Today, agriculture is becoming an occupation for the elderly, as the young find easier and better-paid work.
Moonshadow Pond is typical of China in its use of foods and feasts to mark every social occasion. Social transactions create a constant circulation of foods, as people give gifts and “prestations” (socially obligatory gifts), exchange vegetables and eggs, sell small items to each other, and bring back special presents from town or from distant Hong Kong. The obligatory cup of tea lubricates all social interaction, even the most casual; older people remember the days when boiled water had to do. Childbirth requires the mother to consume healthy foods that restore her “blood” (iron), produce milk, and strengthen her body. Chicken stewed with ginger and other healing, mineral-rich items are common.
In the past 110 years, China has gone from imperial dynasty to war-torn “republic,” to total chaos in World War II and its aftermath, then a Communist government, bringing the enormous famine of 1958 to 1961 and then slow, uneven improvement, and finally rapid development in the last thirty years. Moonshadow Pond is close enough to Meixian’s capital to have profited from the last of these. Many Moonshadowers commute to the capital to work, and more young people are leaving the countryside permanently—part of the great country-to-city migration that has rolled over the world in the last 200 years and has finally reached all of China. More remote and less fertile parts of rural China remain desperately poor, but Meixian now has plenty of pork and vegetables, and even shrimp and ocean fish, formerly luxuries for this inland county. Moonshadow Pond’s traditions and changes are a fair sample of China as a whole. Extensive quotes from local people enrich the historic accounts and the explanations of the social uses of food and food exchanges.
Meixian is the traditional centre of the Hakka people (Kejia in Mandarin), a minority speaking a language (n.b., not “dialect”) incomprehensible to Mandarin speakers without special training. Some dishes are locally popular, though by no means confined to Meixian; these include chicken stewed with ginger, pig stomach with vegetables, and local swamp eels. More distinctively Hakka is stuffed bean curd (tofu): bean curd cubes split and stuffed with chopped shrimp, chives, fish, or other fillings. Local tradition holds that bean curd was used as a substitute for flour, unavailable for dumpling-making in old times. I missed any reference to cow spinal cord, a classic Hakka dish—possibly not Meixianese.
This book represents a valuable addition to studies of food in Chinese society. Recently, many historical and ethnographic works on Chinese food have appeared, both by Chinese and Western scholars, and several conferences have been devoted to the field. Food has been so important as a social marker throughout Chinese history that no one can neglect it. Chinese politeness often requires that spoken language at banquets, festivals, and celebrations is formulaic and has minimal communication value (it is “phatic communication” in Malinowski’s terms). Food transactions therefore often carry the social messages at such times. What is served, how it is served, how guests are seated, whom the host treats specially, and similar vectors take on much significance. Oxfeld has unpacked these matters with skill and perceptiveness.
However, I found the book’s lack of Hakka language terms problematic. Everything from plant and animal names to social terms is given in standard Mandarin. This deprives the scholar, and the interested general reader, of an opportunity to learn something about the Hakka language’s everyday usage. This language, spoken by tens of millions of people (the number is uncertain), is poorly documented, at least in the Western world; what materials exist are largely formal dictionaries and linguistic analyses. One cannot blame Oxfeld; ethnographers who write about Hakka communities seem to follow the Mandarin-only rule, as do many ethnographers in China today. This is unfortunate, given the Communist policy of standardizing Mandarin as the general language of the country. Local languages and dialects are dying out. Hakka will last a while, but someone should document its everyday forms and terms before they are lost.
Oxfeld also fails to identify some local plants. She records a wild-gathered green that she knows only as kumai; this is the general Chinese name for sow thistle, a widely eaten and even cultivated food throughout Eurasia.
E.N. Anderson, University of California, Riverside, USA
WARTIME MACAU: Under the Japanese Shadow. Edited by Geoffrey C. Gunn. Hong Kong: HKU Press; New York: Columbia University Press [distributor], 2017. x, 224 pp. (Graphs, maps, B&W photos.) $50.00, cloth. ISBN 978-988-8390-51-9.
World War II was a terrible human experience, during which China endured the longest and most extensive suffering. Yet Macau, a tiny Chinese city adjacent to Hong Kong and with a population of about 120,000 in 1936, miraculously warded off Japanese military invasion. Why was Macau so fortunate in avoiding the war? And did Macau endure any sort of hardship, not being a direct participant in that war?
Aiming to address these issues, the authors of this collection study wartime Macau and offer their explanations for the phenomenon. In chapter 1, “Wartime Macau in the Wider Diplomatic Sphere,” Geoffrey Gunn analyzes Macau’s five interlocking wartime diplomatic dimensions: the narrowed remaining space between Japan and Japanese-controlled South China; Portuguese-Japanese contention over Timor and its relationship with Macau; Portugal’s relations with the Allies, which affected its decision on Macau; the assassination of the Japanese Consul Fukui; and the Japanese military ultimatum of August-September 1941 to the Macau governor. What underlined Portugal’s “collaborating neutrality” with the Japanese over Macau, Geoffrey claims, was the September 1941 Tokyo-Macau agreement, under which Portugal acceded to many Japanese demands in return for maintaining Macau’s neutrality and access to a food supply. Japan respected Macau’s neutrality because of its interest in keeping Lisbon as an intelligence post and Macau as a favourable platform for the re-export of war materials, including opium stocks. Meanwhile, the Allies lost their interest in pressing Macau into the war because Macau was no longer a potential military foothold or a source of war materials to the Allies due to the Japanese blockade, while its neutrality made it a haven of European and Chinese refugees from Hong Kong and mainland China.
In chapter 2, “Macau 1937–45: Living on the Edge: Economic Management over Military Defenses,” João F.O. Bots appraises highly the leading roles Governor Gabriel Maurício Teixeira and Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU), a Portuguese National Overseas Bank, played in dealing with the economic crises of wartime Macau. They made plans ahead for contingency. Through the middleman Stanley Ho, and measures such as issuing “emergency certificate notes” in lithography and pangtans as promissory notes and using a ration system, they made a major contribution to stabilizing the currency and securing the rice supply, and provided a large number of European refugees from Hong Kong with monthly funding, shelters, food, sanitation, and clinic services. The society of Macau, including elites, various communities, associations and clubs, charitable organizations, etc., played a no less significant role in rescuing desperate people, raising and distributing personal donations, and keeping morale as high as possible. Yet, as Geoffrey discusses in chapter 3, “Hunger amidst Plenty: Rice Supply and Livelihood in Wartime Macau,” many locals fell “prey to hunger, disease, and lack of shelter and clothing” (72). Speculation and smuggling became accepted and tolerated and hyperinflation was a fact of life in Macau. While certain individuals thrived, the most vulnerable strata of Macau society, namely the Chinese refugee population and the indigent working class, suffered the most. Many of them had nutritional deficits, weight loss, dehydration, dysentery, fever and so on. Some media reported that the bodies of beggars and street people were actually being cannibalized. In 1941–1942, a cholera epidemic broke out in Macau. The cold snap hit Macau during the “black spring” of 1942, resulting in the creation of “the pit of 10,000 corpses” (81).
In chapters 4 and 5, “The Macanese at War: Survival and Identity among Portuguese Eurasians during World War II,” and “Nossa Gente (Our People): The Portuguese Refugee Community in Wartime Macau,” Roy Eric Xavier and Stuart Braga trace the refugee life of the Macanese, an ethnic group with a mixed Chinese and Portuguese ancestry. The Portuguese refugee community that escaped from Hong Kong received generous financial support, food rations, and other services from the Macau government, and were sheltered in the local Bela Vista Hotel and other settlements. In fact, this community enjoyed a high degree of autonomy in Macau, and was determined to set up its own resources, in the form of schools and churches, as well as organized sports, concerts, and entertainments, in order to keep its spirit high and life normal. In doing so, the prewar hierarchies separating the Macanese from their superiors were dissolved and a new identity of the Macanese as “intermediaries” between antagonists emerged. Many Macanese were viewed as “entrepreneurs” rather than black-market profiteers, who utilized their social connections and personal language skills to procure food and other resources for the community. Others were intensively involved with the Chinese and British undergrounds. Indeed, as Geoffrey describes in the last chapter, “The British Army Aid Group (BAAG) and the Anti-Japanese Resistance Movement in Macau,” Macau was turned into a base of anti-Japanese resistance, to which anti-Japanese Macanese activists, the BAAG, Chinese Nationalists, and the Communist underground all contributed, as well as a centre of Japanese espionage.
In short, the book tells us a story of World War II that has largely been ignored, probably because of Macau’s status of wartime neutrality. Contrary to popular belief, a neutral Macau had as difficult and complex a wartime life as cities directly involved in hostilities. With reliable sources, he contributors to this volume provide the reader with a microhistory, dissecting wartime Macau society and its diplomatic efforts into its many component parts. Since little attention has been paid to this subject, the book is unprecedented and a valuable source for those interested in the history of the Hong Kong-Macau region and World War II as well as the theme of war and peace and military history. As a conference volume, not every paper made the final edition, which was unfortunate as more context would have added value to this study. Further, had the authors included a comparative review of the existing literature on their research subject within a theoretical framework, the book would have been more comprehensive, interesting, and enlightening.
C.X. George Wei, University of Macau, Macao SAR, China
RADICAL INEQUALITIES: China’s Revolutionary Welfare State in Comparative Perspective. Harvard East Asian Monographs, no. 383. By Nara Dillon. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2015. 332 pp. (Illustrations.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 9780674504318.
Nara Dillon’s fine study of the history of the creation and expansion of China’s urban welfare is ambitious: she covers the initiatives for, influences upon, and pitfalls of providing welfare for the country’s urban workforce from the 1920s into the 1960s, plus observations on the future and international comparisons (among developed and developing countries). Dillon also includes shifts in the handling of “the unemployed” and “social relief” over time. The goal of the study is to understand “the paradox at the heart of the Maoist welfare state”: that the “most important social program for workers did not eliminate inequality; it entrenched it” (1).
The book traces the complexities of China’s convoluted and nonlinear labour history, especially from the 1940s into the early 1960s. It was surely no simple task to weave broad explanatory themes into the huge mass of detail that her clearly exhaustive and painstaking research unearthed. Dillon uncovers new material, such as how international influences—the International Labor Organization, European ideas and Soviet patterns, American aid, the US Congress of Industrial Organizations, and the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration—impacted the early days of labour relief in China; stories of ruralization back to the mid-1950s; the ways KMT factionalism stymied welfare work, but how KMT versus CCP rivalrous mobilization to recruit workers and attain international legitimacy spurred respective drives to expand welfare; and a 1956 draft of widely inclusive regulations put forth by the All China Federation of Trade Unions, which was quietly abandoned with the Great Leap Forward. She also links the major revolutionary campaigns of the 1950s and early 1960s (against “counter-revolutionaries,” the 3 and 5 “antis,” the 100 Flowers, and the Great Leap) with welfare development.
From welfare literature Dillon employs the concepts of “narrow,” “universal,” and “broad” welfare programs to show that China’s program, like that of most less economically developed nations, has overall been narrow, excluding vast segments of the populace. And she notes competition between welfare “insiders” and “outsiders” and the zero-sum distribution between them, and documents trade-offs the regime often faced (or perceived) between welfare and economic development.
The body of the book consists of six chronological chapters that trace, respectively, pre-1949 foreign involvement and models; Nationalist beginnings of a welfare state in the 1940s; the Communists’ own foundations from 1948–1951; the Soviet example during the First Five Year Plan, from 1952–1954; the second half of the 1950s, when restraint followed expansion; and the commune experiment from 1958–1962, which, again, was forced to shift drastically from universalism to a final, unequal project that excluded both the unemployed and the rural majority, constructing a “hierarchy of labor insurance … labor insurance contracts and social relief” that became “China’s permanent urban welfare state “ (261). As to the future, Dillon is both guardedly optimistic but pragmatically ambivalent.
While supplying an impressive collection of explanatory factors for the complex and twisting tale of welfare provision, the work appears reluctant to settle on a parsimonious exposition encompassing the entire body of data. This is definitely understandable. The author has learned so very much in her wide-ranging research that it would seem almost prohibitive to attempt to find an analysis that fits everything presented, especially given the frequent switches of policy under Mao, and the divisions of opinions among his lieutenants (Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai, for instance, did not always agree with Mao on how to treat capitalists, workers, or the unemployed). Sometimes China’s low level of economic development and inadequate amount of resources is the chief explanatory variable. At other times it is the degree and nature of opposition (racketeers in the 1940s, capitalists then and in the early 1950s); factions among policy makers versus one-party discipline; the existence or not of a cross-class coalition (between workers and unemployed); the structure of participation in policy (i.e., the extent of labour’s exclusive role); leadership and state administrative capacity; mobilization and the conditions undergirding it; national unity; rivalry for funds with other programs (social relief, help for the unemployed, the rural poor); legacies (expectations, narrowness, failures that produced caution later); the size of the population and labour surpluses; trade-offs between benefits and coverage; and discontinuities in economic development policy and the size of the harvest all had their roles.
In the end, it appears that it was the “difficulties posed by the high cost of expanding social insurance coverage in a poor economy,” however well-meaning leaders’ intentions, or, simply, “limited resources and a lack of state capacity” (268) that were at the root of a common conundrum in the less developed world. Dillon finds a “further problem” in the preferential incorporation of labour into welfare policy in that world. She attributes this to workers’ struggles to keep their own privileges while sacrificing welfare “outsiders.” But in fact one might read that move instead as regime choice.
Despite the enormous opportunity the book presents for learning new information about China’s early welfare programs, the sympathy I had for the heroic attempt to synthesize so much knowledge into one framework, and my admiration for the enterprise, I admit to having had some problems following the story. Some terms seemed to be used variably (“social insurance”—see pp. 10, 30, 53, 90, 118, 219, 228); the difference between social and labour insurance wasn’t clear; the terms “corporatism” and “labour contract program” lacked definitions; what really happened to excluded groups, especially the unemployed was not told, and, relatedly, there was no reference to the “sanwu” or “three withouts” (dependents, labour ability, source of livelihood) program. More importantly, there is scant mention of the role of political will, choice, and ideology among the leadership as reasons behind policy decisions. Overall, a presentation of welfare’s history that consistently highlighted just two or three factors might have oversimplified the stew but made it a bit easier to digest. Nonetheless, this is a landmark treatise that is unsurpassed in its energetic exegesis, a very welcome addition to labour and welfare scholarship.
Dorothy J. Solinger, University of California, Irvine, USA
OUTSOURCED CHILDREN: Orphanage Care and Adoption in Globalizing China. By Leslie K. Wang. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016. x, 190 pp. (Tables, figure.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-5036-0011-9.
China’s treatment of its children interests English-language readers for many different reasons. But as parents and non-parents alike know, judging how other people raise their children is fraught with peril. The open-mindedness that Leslie Wang demonstrates towards this thorny problem is one of the major strengths of her new book, Outsourced Children: Orphanage Care and Adoption in Globalizing China. Wang’s book tackles a vast array of issues regarding childcare in China and America: racial prejudice, disability, gender preference, domestic and international adoption, orphanage administration, class/religious influences on childcare practices, state interference in fertility management, orphan tourism, attitudes towards domestic labour, cultural imperialism, globalization, and more. If this list seems dizzying, it is: the book weaves through all of these topics across the world’s two most influential countries, tying some together, yet leaving the reader wondering why others are part of the story. By the end, Wang has presented us with a narrative experience that confirms her point that children “exist … at the juncture of local and global agendas” (23), but the central argument—and sometimes, even the central topic—remains elusive.
The book opens with an introduction to Emma and Henry, two disabled Chinese children who have been “outsourced” within China, giving the reader an immediate insight into some of the wrenching personal stories the author uses to tackle social, medical, and emotional dilemmas throughout the book. The chapter then expands to explore China’s recent economic and social development, including policies surrounding fertility planning (often known as the “one-child policy”), the scandal involving China’s orphanages sparked by the BBC’s 1990s documentary “The Dying Rooms,” changes in international adoption policies and their rationales, and the tension between the PRC Party-state’s responsibility for national social welfare and the desire of Western humanitarian NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) to “improve the lives of unwanted youth” (16). Here the unfortunately named concept of “outsourced intimacy” is introduced (“unfortunately,” because like 100 percent of those I unofficially polled, I initially assumed it referred to prostitution): “the process by which the Chinese state has outsourced the care of locally devalued children to Westerners who, using their own resources, remake them into global citizens” (4).
Chapter 2, “Survival of the Fittest,” reprises many of these macro-level themes, intertwining them with heartrending (and sometimes heartwarming) stories of individual babies. This chapter focuses on the concept of suzhi—“a set of quantifiable categories relating to the physical health, mental ability, and … productive power of individuals, groups and nations” (30)—currently trending within China about children’s potential contributions to China’s future. Wang compares these views with how other cultures have historically viewed the “social value of children” (28), making the critical point that even in the US, “as the U.S. economy developed and expanded, new ideologies of children” prevailed (28), radically changing the meaning and thus care of children. Yet she stymies her own valid argument by seeming to suggest that China’s “capitalist transformation” has achieved the point that cultural and childcare norms have already reached stasis (29). As a historian reviewing a sociologist’s work, I am gratified to see recognition of historical change, yet dismayed at the short time frame Wang allows for these processes.
Historical change is also discussed in chapter 3, “From Missing Girls to America’s Sweethearts,” which tackles the issue of gender bias in Chinese and American families. Wang reviews how Chinese girls became the focus for American and then Chinese parents seeking adoptions, leaving disabled children and healthy boys in China’s orphanages. While the absence of healthy girls in these institutions needs explanation (the author herself admits being “surprised to see boys everywhere” ), the digression into American adoptive parents’ “racialized preferences” (55–57)—while interesting—is the kind of departure that detracts from the main points of the book.
Chapters 4 and 5 delve into what Wang herself rightly characterizes elsewhere as her book’s primary contribution: a systematic study of daily life in Chinese state-run orphanages. These chapters present Wang’s personal insights as a volunteer participant-observer for two different Western charitable groups in China: the first an evangelical Christian organization running a special care unit of a Chinese orphanage, and the second a local grassroots group of affluent expatriate wives in Beijing working within a state-run orphanage. Here, Wang challenges us to understand “different logics of care” (78). She details how “affluent Western volunteers attempted to import a highly individualized middle-class approach to care that differed greatly from that of the local working-class Chinese caregivers” (78). The former she calls an “intensive” or “emotional” logic of care; the latter, a “pragmatic” or “custodial” logic (147–151). The different logics give rise to different ways of “raising the children,” and Wang does an admirable job of identifying and presenting both approaches sympathetically. She is less sympathetic to some Americans, however, particularly the ex-pat wives volunteering in Beijing, whom she calls “largely self serving” (151)—a criticism broadly true of any philanthropist, I would argue.
Chapter 6, “Waiting Children Finally Belong,” details the rise in special-needs adoptions in the US through the American evangelical church-based adoption movement (130). Here Wang also singles out certain actors for criticism. She argues that “the evangelical mission to pluck non-Western kids out of difficult circumstances one by one and place them into Western families has been bolstered by neo-liberal values that prioritize individual-level solutions over large-scale systemic change” (142), allowing Western Christians to “perform moral superiority and altruism” on disabled orphans (148). Although sympathetic to the original charge, the historian in me recognizes that social change will inevitably come, while meanwhile, lives are being saved regardless of the saviours’ motives. Wang might reserve some of her open-mindedness for these parents.
Wang’s book does a particularly good job of problematizing the work of well-meaning international NGOs. The futility of blindly imposing foreign ideals on actors not ready to accept them in environments unsuited to their acceptance comes through strongly in her book. Wang further nuances even this insight: The story of Dang Yan suffering from spina bifida reveals some of the unintended consequences of trying to forcefully export cultural imperatives, when her encounter with an emotional logic of care ends badly. Yet the ultimate outcome of Dang’s institutionalization (153) also shows that over time, change does occur, and happy endings are possible even for China’s disabled orphans. Neither a streamlined nor a particularly academic book, Outsourced Children offers a cross-culturally provocative smorgasbord introducing the politics surrounding China’s children.
Caroline Reeves, Harvard University Fairbank Center, Cambridge, USA
KNOWLEDGE ACTS IN MODERN CHINA: Ideas, Institutions, and Identities. China Research Monographs, 73. Edited by Robert Culp, Eddy U, and Wen-hsin Yeh. Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2016. xii, 382 pp. (Tables, B&W photos.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-55729-170-7.
This collection brings together new research by twelve historians of modern China, integrated into a thematically consistent and coherent whole. This is not just a group of papers, but a collective product showcasing a promising new area of investigation: the formation of academic and professional disciplines in Republican China.
In their introduction, the editors note a dearth of research on the establishment of modern disciplines. All contributors address this issue, and by reading the papers one learns a lot about what it meant, in Republican China, to be a geographer, an anthropologist, a lawyer, a judge, a civil engineer, an economist, a publisher, a journalist, or a scientist. Each chapter tells the story of its discipline, often through reconstructing the career trajectories of individual practitioners: Republican-era professionals whose names have not necessarily gone down into the annals of history but whose activities were crucial to the growth of their own fields. Collectively, the chapters in this book reflect the variety of career prospects available to educated individuals during this period. They add to the increasing number of studies that are reviving the rich diversity of Republican-era intellectual life and salvaging it from previous politicized oversimplifications.
A second claim the editors make in their introduction is that the essays contribute to our understanding of a “distinctive modernity” unique to modern China. Whereas intellectual life in most modern societies is characterized by increased specialization and a proliferation of relatively autonomous fields with their own standards, institutions, and dispositions, the editors feel that in Republican China these processes were more fluid, with professionals crossing over between academic and commercial institutions. In addition, they feel that the state, especially after 1927, intervened relatively more in the “arbitration of knowledge” and the establishment of professional institutions than in Western countries. I am not sure that a singular, distinctive “Chinese modernity” is what we should be pursuing in our study of this period, as it might turn out to be another oversimplification, but I do feel that the editors have been successful in sustaining this argument throughout the collection.
Several chapters take up the notion of fluidity across academic and commercial institutions. In the opening chapter, by Tze-ki Hon, the emphasis is on the establishment of historical geography as a field through commercial print publications. The chapter by Huei-min Sun, dealing with professional qualifications for lawyers, shows how newspaper advertisements for their services played a crucial role in constructing their professional identity. Elisabeth Köll, writing about the establishment of the discipline of civil engineering, with special reference to railroads, shows how commercial companies were in part responsible for professional training. Robert Culp presents a richly detailed study of the working practices of “petty intellectuals,” i.e., staff editors at publishing houses, whose habitus he describes in terms of a partial relinquishment of creative aspirations in favour of industrial-style cultural production. Similar aspects permeate the chapter by Timothy Weston, dealing with the introduction of journalism as a “hybrid field” where qualifications could be gained both through study and through on-the-job experience.
Virtually all chapters recognize the increasing significance of state intervention, especially under the Chiang Kai-shek regime. Clayton Brown shows how the discipline of archaeology became intricately linked to state-funded institutions aimed at preserving antiquities as national treasures. Glenn Tiffert’s discussion of the training of judges has fascinating information about state-sponsored bar examinations (including compulsory essays written in classical Chinese well into the 1940s!), while making the wider point that judicial independence was generally sacrificed in favour of national unity as soon as the war against Japan started. Köll’s paper shows how after the early period of commercially driven engineering, the state intervened in the early 1920s through the founding of Jiaotong University, and became itself the major employer of railroad engineers after 1927. The epilogue to Weston’s essay deals with the reformulation of journalistic independence in relation to service to the nation, especially during the war. Megan Greene’s contribution is devoted in its entirety to wartime debates about Ministry of Education policies that saw the natural sciences brought under state control for the benefit of postwar reconstruction, leading to a “confluence of interests” between scientists and the state.
The highlight of the collection is the essay by Bryna Goodman, which draws upon an impressive array of print culture material to revive public debates about the 1921 stock market “bubble” in Shanghai. Ranging from newspaper reports, to writings in professional bankers’ journals, to fictional accounts in literary journals, the wealth of material gathered by Goodman shows urban society coming to terms with “Western-modelled financial institutions and economic theory” (206). She follows the writings of Ma Yinchu as he emerges as a professional economist trying to demonstrate the significance of his discipline, while openly reflecting on the appropriateness of Western economic models for China’s development. This shows how thinking about a distinctively “Chinese” alternative to Western modernity was taking place already in the 1920s, casting further doubt on the editor’s use of “Chinese modernity” as an analytical category.
The final two essays cover different ground but are no less important to the overall idea of the collection. Timothy Cheek’s chapter on the Yan’an Rectification Movement shows how this movement can be seen as “interrupting the development of modern professionalism” (304). At the same time, his careful reconstruction of the actual implementation of the rectifications demonstrates the professionalism of the ideologues. Eddy U in his contribution looks at the differences in disposition between Long March veterans and “newcomers” in Yan’an, showing the latter to be less proletarianized in, for instance, their dress or their liberal views of romantic relationships, which indirectly led to their stigmatization as bourgeois intellectuals and to a negative redefinition of zhishifenzi that would have significant impact after 1949.
The collection ends with a discussant-style contribution by Wen-hsin Yeh, who places the Republican-era processes of professionalization in a wider context, especially in relation to the older, Confucian hierarchies that were much more based on seniority and less on field-specific qualifications. She ends with a timely warning that more work needs to be done to understand the continuities at work in state/knowledge relationships across the imperial, Republican, and Communist periods.
This is a very rich collection that will be of use to many historians of specific disciplines, while at the same time presenting a coherent overall argument that will feed into continuing discussions about China and modernity. It also has ample comparative potential for scholars working on social fields and processes of professionalization in other parts of the world.
Michel Hockx, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, USA
MODERNIZING CHINA: Investing in Soft Infrastructure. Edited by W. Raphael Lam, Markus Rodlauer, Alfred Schipke. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2017. xvi, 372 pp. (Tables, figures, boxes.) US$38.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-51353-994-2.
We know a lot about the effort China has put into creating hard infrastructure over the last three decades since the reform process started, with studies of its railways, roads, and energy systems. But since 2013 the Xi Jinping administration has set its sights firmly on creating a middle-income, more service-sector orientated, higher consumption economic model that will need institutions, regulatory frameworks, standards agencies, and a host of other entities under the purview of what the International Monetary Fund calls “soft infrastructure.”
China knows how to build high-speed train links and physical infrastructure better than any other country on earth. But reforming its tax system, constructing a workable and fair pension system for its emerging middle class, modernizing its administration, and generally upgrading the way in which it manages and governs itself are far harder goals. Part of this, as several of the book’s chapters make clear, is because of the ongoing tensions between the centre in Beijing and the provincial regions across the country. The mismatch between the revenue of local government and their spending obligations is a recurrent theme indicative of this tension, along with the ways in which in recent years raising of bonds, rescheduling of debt, and land sales have all been used to try and address the shortfall, all with varying but limited levels of success. The bottom line remains a political one, however, with Beijing resistant to empowering provinces to such an extent that they become too strong and start thinking they can push back.
The chapter on tax is illustrative of just how much of a mountain China still has to climb. From the era of Maoist statism, during which tax was simply an abstract notion, the country now has a complex system of personal, corporate, and consumption tax, with a national network of over 100,000 offices and personnel involved in making sure that it is paid. Tax merits close attention, despite its highly technical nature. This contribution doesn’t spell out the specific reasons for this: the ways in which it directly impacts on people’s wealth and their sense of justice in a particular society. But this study makes clear that a central office staffed with only 800 people trying to direct this whole mammoth exercise, the continuing divisions between provinces and the ways they collect some taxes, and the problem, shared with many other countries, of how to deal with the mega-wealthy are all massive structural issues that need to be urgently addressed.
A similarly daunting set of challenges is presented in the chapter on pensions. China faces a rapidly ageing population. Its current system, in which there are three broad groups of pension provision, from retired state enterprise employees, to those from rural areas, and those who worked in the public service apparatus, is once more fragmented across provinces. One of the key policy recommendations this book gives is simply to raise the retirement age, to as high as 67. We are used to viewing the Chinese government as all-powerful and highly coercive. It seems however that even in as simple a remedy as this, it fears angering its citizens, and as yet, no moves have been made to raise these age limits.
Across the areas of budget planning, fiscal administration, and even into the realm of internationalization of the Chinese RMB, a matter on which there are two detailed, very helpful chapters, one consistent theme sticks out: the need for China to have stronger institutions. Once more, the image of the unified Party state under Communism grates against the reality this book illustrates: of a country undergoing immense transformation and needing more and more sophisticated finance and bond markets, regulatory procedures for dealing with state enterprises and the private sector, and a means of allowing Chinese currency a greater international role without this being disruptive, but which currently simply lacks the administrative and institutional wherewithal to properly address these issues.
A critical reading of this book would need to recognize the immense amount of data that it contains. The 350-plus pages of text are littered with graphics, bar and pie charts, and lists of information. The book’s various authors have a huge amount of knowledge about the areas they address. Despite this, there is a sneaking suspicion that this work, while probably right on one level in most of its prescriptions, simply ignores the huge political impediments that stand in the way of many of the reforms its recommends. A unified national pension system makes great sense, for example. But it would also create a vast potential empire of vested interest. And the issues over tax reform have lurking behind them, as stated above, the age-old battle between the centre and Chinese provinces. Chinese attempts to set up more rational systems for its finance sector are only happening in a context where rule of law and freedom of information exist within tight parameters. The Chinese attempt under the Communist Party to create its own indigenous, hybrid system, but one where the Party maintains its supremacy, looks even stronger under Xi Jinping than his predecessors. And one can imagine the bureaucrats in Beijing in particular, who are the target of most of the advice offered here, appreciating the work’s deep knowledge of their system, but dismissing it for its over-rational disregard of the very specific political context in which they are endeavouring to build what they call “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Kerry Brown, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
EMPIRE AND THE MEANING OF RELIGION IN NORTHEAST ASIA: Manchuria 1900–1945. By Thomas David DuBois. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2017. xii, 249 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-16640-0.
In recent years, a growing number of historical studies have examined Manchuria (or China’s Northeast as it is called now) from a transnational perspective. This region’s rapid transformation, from being the Qing Empire’s sleepy frontier, then a warlord’s playground in the 1920s, and then the client state of Manzhouguo (1932–1945), was accompanied by international competition as well as unprecedented economic development and the movement of people, ideas, and goods within East Asia and to/from abroad. Empire and the Meaning of Religion in Northeast Asia brings the study of cosmopolitan Manchuria to new heights by treating religion as a prism for understanding complex social and political changes. Religion is defined here not only as a self-contained phenomenon, but also as a channel used by the state and social groups to disseminate ideas and to promote various agendas. Taking “transnational discourse communities as its basic unit of analysis” (14), this book describes how different institutions and specialized groups in Manchuria, such as commercial presses, Christian missions, social scientists, and lawyers, envisioned or used religion as a laboratory for social and spiritual engineering. Manchuria’s regional and global links facilitated the exchange of religious ideas and, at the same time, put new pressures on existing religious practices, as it happened in highly centralized Manzhouguo and in the rest of the Japanese empire.
This book covers the period from the late nineteenth century to 1945, when the Japanese regime in China collapsed. The book is organized thematically, with some chapters following a chronological narrative. Chapter 1 is a historical overview of Manchuria’s religious developments during the late Qing dynasty. The author discusses the emergence of multiple religious practices, such as Shamanism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, which were shaped by the multicultural nature of the Qing state as well as by the frontier nature of Manchuria, where the population was diverse and mobile. Remaining chapters deal with themes revolving around separate institutes or specialized groups which developed their own understanding of religion (chapters 2 to 5), and specific historical incidents in which religion and society affected each other (chapters 6 to 8). Chapter 2 discusses how different Catholic and Protestant missions brought to Manchuria “a variety of new idioms, practices and resources that transformed the practice and conception of religion” (30). The author demonstrates how the experience of living in Manchuria, with its misery and violence, transformed the missionaries. The most dramatic change, however, occurred after the suppression of the Boxer Uprising (1900) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), when European missions increased their influence in Manchuria by expanding social services (medical and educational) and by becoming the agents of social change.
Chapter 3 discusses how Western social science inspired a new generation of Chinese and Japanese scholars to develop different approaches to the study of society and religion in Manchuria, and in the rest of East Asia. Japan’s growing influence in Manchuria resulted in the expansion of Japanese institutions, where Chinese and Japanese social scientists had to balance Western scientific methods (i.e., fact-based research) and the ideological needs of a growing Japanese empire. But even in the rigid intellectual conditions of Manzhouguo, some Japanese scholars, armed with Western-style training, argued against the imposition of one unified religion (political Shinto) on a non-Japanese population for the sake of preserving a multicultural spirit in Manzhouguo, and its religious diversity. Chapter 4 analyzes how the Japanese-owned Chinese-language daily Shengjing Times, published from 1906 to 1944, portrayed religion and reached out to its readers. As a commercial newspaper, it covered local religious “news” (i.e., mocking popular religious practices and praising monastic Buddhism). When ownership of the newspaper and the aims of Japan in this region changed, the newspaper’s portrayal of religion became more ideological, in tune with Japan’s civilizing mission in Manzhouguo. Chapter 5 examines the role of law in creating a state religion in Manzhouguo. According to the author, “law was a practical concern, but also a discursive sphere, one where debates around the fundamental issues and identity of state, and its place in the empire found expression” (115). The promotion of the Kingly Way as a revival of Confucian ideology, and of the Shinto-style ceremonies commemorating the war dead, became part of spiritual engineering. New regulations aimed at promoting new moral principles of the state, and at remolding the minds of its citizens.
Chapters 6 and 7 address different religious activities such as charity, as a new type of religious expression by various religious groups, as well as graveside piety, as part of a Confucian revival in Republican China and Manzhouguo. The state authority in both cases was determined to extend its control over the charitable sector and of the filial tombs in order to transform the minds of the people through rituals. Chapter 8 examines how the Catholic Church negotiated its status in China, Japan, and Manchuria. Diplomatic links between the Vatican and Xinjing during the controversy over international recognition of Manzhouguo speak to the political importance of religion in domestic and international politics.
This book’s strength lies in its strong grasp of different historical trajectories and religious practices in China, Japan, and Europe, backed up by the author’s command of several languages and his access to multilingual sources. Instead of one straightforward argument, this book introduces multiple religious ideas and practices, discussed by different professional groups and institutions. The ease with which the author addresses a range of linguistic and sociological concepts, combined with an engaging narrative, will make this book attractive to different audiences. The book invites further questions: How do we select and define discourse communities as units of analysis? What role did the Russian Orthodox Church play in Manzhouguo? How did militarization and wars affect religion in Manchuria? Overall, Empire and the Meaning of Religion in Northeast Asia engages in an excellent critical analysis of religious ideas and practices, moving away from Eurocentric assumptions about the development of religion in this region and in the world.
Victor Zatsepine, University of Connecticut, Storrs, USA
CHINA’S ASIAN DREAM: Empire Building Along the New Silk Road. By Tom Miller. London: Zed Books Ltd; The University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2017. xii, 292 pp. (Maps.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-78360-923-9.
China’s Asian Dream is an ambitious trade professional publication that tries to capture the essence of China’s ambitions, as expressed in the state slogan “China Dream.” The slogan was originally intended for a domestic Chinese audience to aspire towards a better life, but the author casts the concept wider to include China’s economic and political ambitions in the Asian arena, thus the title “China’s Asian Dream.” The publication is written in accessible language and persuasively argued, with evidence drawn from secondary sources and the author’s own observations.
The analytical and interpretive portions of the publication detail the story of the rise of China and its nationalistic impulse to regain its self-perceived rightful place in the world (11), reflected in President Xi Jinping’s economic diplomacy in the “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) initiative. In doing so, the author argues China is creating a Sinocentric world order with some local nationalists showing nostalgia for a Ming-era tributary system (17). The author suggests there is a loosening of self-restraints on a more assertive Chinese foreign policy and international profile, away from “peaceful development,” “bide and hide,” and “harmonious world,” to “the nation’s resurgence as a great power to achieve the ‘Chinese Dream’ of national rejuvenation” (27-28).
Paralleling robust diplomacy, the author also describes the economic implications of the rise of China with the emergence of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and other financial institutions and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) underpinning the OBOR. Viewed in different ways by various parties, the author indicates that these institutions were even regarded as a challenge to the post-1945 Bretton Woods international system by some critics in Washington (37). However, the author argues that Chinese financing competition with regional rivals like Japan has benefitted Asia (45) as the two outbid each other for regional influence.
Throughout the publication, the author is careful to point out the presence of other regional powers and their possible unease with Chinese economic outreach. He addresses the persistent presence of Soviet/Russian influence on Central Asia, in language use, security arrangements, local culture, and military protection (89). In this sense, the author also exposes the underbelly of Chinese power, which is the lack of cultural soft power to influence others through non-military, non-political, and non-economic means (90). Following this line of argument, Asian governments are keen to exploit China’s tremendous economic power but Chinese culture is not universally well-loved and in many ways, it is contained by countries hosting Chinese investments.
The subsequent chapters address specific regions. Chapter 2 focuses on Central Asia and the volume switches gears from a macro-political economic analysis to observation studies of Chinese economic inroads, with short commentaries offered by petty traders on the ground. The author includes accounts of the doubts, suspicions, and even fears held by ordinary Central Asians fearful of being overwhelmed in economic competition by the re-rise of a hegemonic power in their neighbourhood (81). In chapter 3, the author hints at the potential leakage of national wealth if minerals are shipped out of countries like Laos when the Chinese railway lines are completed (104-105). In the same region, Cambodia is described in the book as a state that was spurned by the West based on human rights, driving the country deeper into a Chinese economic embrace (117-119). The author argues that Beijing has reaped geopolitical rewards when Cambodia has supported China in issues like Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea (SCS) (121).
The limits of Chinese diplomacy in the region are evident in the democratization of Myanmar, with the author casting it as “how China lost Myanmar” (chapter 4). The pro-democracy orientation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government is a test of how China has to deal with constantly evolving national interests with every change of government in Asian countries (159). Chapter 4 also includes a depiction of Beijing’s troubled relationship with New Delhi over a Chinese submarine docking at a Sri Lankan port (India’s sphere of influence) in 2014 (163) and memories of the 1962 Sino-Indian war (165), which created a trust deficit. Miller’s narrative depicts a powerful and confident China eager to establish its sphere of influence in the world but troubled by a relationship of distrust with its neighbours. Miller is careful to highlight potential beneficiaries, partners, allies, neutral intermediaries as well as rivals and enemies in interacting with China’s economic outreach.
Some factors are understandably de-privileged in the publication due to a very practical central focus on Chinese economic outreach. China’s millennia-old paranoia with internal control and order is based on the avoidance of dynastic implosions experienced cyclically throughout Chinese history. China’s ability to manage equitable distribution of resources while tackling systemic excesses and corruption will impact its political stability, which in turn is crucial to sustaining its external economic and geopolitical outreach. Therefore, for a more objective picture, Miller’s publication needs to be contextualized or paired off with another volume dedicated to studying China’s tremendous domestic challenges.
To dramatize the idea of the rise of China, the publication begins with a fictional future scenario detailing the apocalyptic collapse of Europe, a hostile US, and China as a global superpower (1). But the situation could take a different turn in alternative scenarios of major power responses to China’s assertion of its own interests. For example, will an abrupt shift from a policy of “biding time” for China’s rise to proactive (sometimes aggressive), far-reaching, and continental-wide diplomacy consolidate the otherwise disparate national interests of other major powers against Chinese geopolitical moves? If India, Japan, the US, and the EU find common ground for coordinating a response to China’s assertion of interests, the future scenario could be quite different from the hypothetical one painted by the author at the beginning of the volume.
Tai Wei Lim, National University of Singapore, Singapore
CENTRIFUGAL EMPIRE: Central-Local Relations in China. By Jae Ho Chung. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. x, 216 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-17620-0.
Why is China, unlike other large countries, stuck on a highly centralized unitary governing system, instead of adopting a federal governing structure? What drives China’s perennial preoccupation with effective control over localities? These questions are at the heart of Centrifugal Empire, which seeks to “reconstruct, empirically, how the central leaders of the People’s Republic have thought about localities and gone about designing modes of local governance” (3). The book argues that central-local relations in the People’s Republic have been shaped not only by its leaders’ contemporary political-economic agendas (for example, centralization and ideological control during Mao’s era; marketization and decentralization during the reform period) but also by China’s long historical past: established modes of central-local relations and historical memory of the capacity of “centrifugal forces” to threaten and to topple rulers and divide the centre. Communist leaders, therefore, are “as preoccupied as their imperial predecessors with local governance and devote much effort in improving their capacity to control regions and provinces” (3).
The book’s chapters discuss various dynamics of central-local relations. Following an introduction to the book’s conceptual framework in chapter 1, the second chapter relates to the issue of decentralization. It begins with a discussion of the Mao era, which the author identifies as “an exception to China’s centrifugal tradition” (16). It then focuses on economic and non-economic aspects of decentralization during the reform period, and concludes that while local discretion has, overall, increased considerably in the economic realm, the centre still enjoys extensive commanding power in non-economic areas. Chapter 3 discusses institutional changes and continuities in the Chinese local administrative hierarchy. It provides an overall account of the evolution of China’s system of local governance, and discusses four cases of institutional changes at the sub-provincial level during the reform period: (1) creating deputy-provincial cities; (2) turning prefectures into prefecture-level cities; (3) changing counties into county-level cities; and (4) designating counties and county-level cities as urban districts.
Chapter 4 explores the evolution of the central state’s perception of the local state in the People’s Republic. At the heart of the discussion is a three-image typology of the local bureaucracy: the agent (localities performing as the centre’s loyal agents), the principal (localities defending their own interests as opposed to national or societal interests), and the representative (localities articulating and defending societal interests in the face of the central state). The chapter then elaborates on Beijing’s different perception of the various levels of the subnational government. Chapter 5 discusses four types of instruments which Beijing has devised/refined during the reform period to rein in its localities (i.e., prevention, investigation, rule changing, and suppression) and suggests that “the People’s Republic’s principal mode of local control resembles that of traditional China more than that of the pre-1949 revolutionary era” (12).
Chapter 6 probes the impact of policy characteristics on local discretion. It typifies policies by three categories: scope, nature, and level of urgency. Based on the investigation of six national policy cases, the author suggests that, “assuming that all other things (i.e., local assertiveness, patronage networks, and societal demands) are similar among the provinces, the level of local discretion actually permitted for implementation is likely to vary with different types of policy” (90). Chapter 7 focuses on the evolution of four types of policy instruments for mitigating regional disparities: (1) vertical resource support; (2) vertical policy support; (3) vertically-induced horizontal support networks; and (4) voluntarily-formed horizontal linkages. It argues that “whereas Beijing’s policy support and vertically-induced horizontal networks were important in the early phases of the reform era, the center’s resource support and voluntarily-formed lateral linkages have become increasingly crucial in recent years” (116). Chapter 8 elaborates on central-local dynamics and state-society relations, and assesses that, in the future, strong centrifugal forces will continue to stand up against the centre, “which will in turn resort to many of the traditional means of local control in addition to modern, innovative ones” (148).
Centrifugal Empire succeeds at achieving its stated goals. Meticulously researched, it provides a wide-ranging account of central-local dynamics and their evolution. It integrates theoretical debate and rich empirical research, and sheds light on aspects which have remained under-studied to date: notably, the institutional evolution of the local governing system, the role of horizontal networks in China’s development, and the striking resemblance between traditional and contemporary times. The book contributes to many contemporary debates and raises intriguing questions and speculations regarding China’s future. Doing so in a relatively short book is a great accomplishment. However, I felt that parts of the book were too concise, and could justifiably have been more detailed. I wish the author had addressed the following in a more systemic and detailed fashion. First, the role (if any) of political indoctrination in post-Mao China in shaping central-local dynamics (e.g., via the Party school system and Party cells). Second, how, and to what extent, do structural governance institutions, which bring together officials from different tiers of the governance system, impact dynamics of central-local relations? And third, I wished for a deeper exploration of the terminology that central leaders have used to refer to the local state and its evolution.
Nevertheless, Centrifugal Empire is an excellent book—one of the most comprehensive accounts published on China’s central-local relations, and an important contribution to the field. It is highly recommended and suitable for sinologists and non-sinologists alike. Students may find this book a useful guide and a good starting point for delving into the complex world of Chinese governance. And it is definitely the kind of book that specialists want to have on their shelves.
Lior Rosenberg, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
TRACES OF THE SAGE: Monument, Materiality, and the First Temple of Confucius. Spatial Habitus: Making and Meaning in Asia’s Architecture. By James A. Flath. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. xix, 290 pp.,  pp. of coloured plates. (Tables, B&W illustrations.) US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5370-9.
Time, in Flath’s carefully documented book, passes through Qufu, leaving its indelible marks on Kong Temple, the shrine devoted to Confucius (Kongzi). The temple has withstood centuries of environmental degradation through ongoing, if intermittent, human interventions to maintain it. Kong Temple emerges in this telling as a physical presence greater than those who would use it for personal advancement or political goals. Before the advent of modernity, changes made to the temple and its environs were ultimately “absorbed into the old,” Flath argues (196), but once it was designated as a heritage site in the last century, Kong Temple became subject to a new maintenance regime premised on a binary between the static old and the dynamic present. Kong Temple is a potent relic of the past, yet its politicization during the twentieth century made it vulnerable to conflicting ideas about Chinese modernity; its commercialization in recent decades has produced “the deterioration of the historical environment and unbalanced criteria regarding the definition of historical relics” (198).
In the first half of the book, Flath examines three aspects of Kong Temple, each covering more than a two-thousand-year span of documented history before the Republican era. Chapter 2 examines the social life of the temple as a built artifact subject, in turns, to environmental ruination and human restoration, destruction, and reconstruction. Drawing extensively from stelae inscriptions that date to the time of the events, Flath describes a range of reasons why local officials, Confucian literati, and the imperial court thought Kong Temple should be maintained. “Repairing the old hall and aggrandizing the palaces and buildings,” he quotes an imperial stele dated 220 C.E., “this is how diligent students show respect for their study and this is how we make the rules and law. When the work is done the sage and the gods will protect the realm” (23). This passage, Flath notes, expresses an understanding that “custodial work provides a distinct political advantage . . . that it is indistinct from scholarship, and . . . that it is in accord with cosmic pattern” (23). Chapter 3 considers the ritual uses of the temple as material culture: a place of transactions among different temple constituencies. Kong Temple, he argues, was never under any one actor’s control nor were its rites merely a means of performing social relations. Chapter 4 walks the reader through the temple complex from the southern-most entrance through successive courtyards leading to the temple proper and behind it. Flath pauses at several key points to offer important details of their background and context. Here successive rulers, local officials, and Confucian literati inscribed their thoughts in stone in vain attempts to finally define Kong Temple’s meaning. Kong Temple constituted a force to be reckoned with; present exigencies remained at least partially subordinated to the temple’s enduring past.
Flath follows Kong Temple’s changing fate through the crucible that was the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. That attitudes toward Kong Temple underwent radical change in the modern era comes as no surprise. But Flath demonstrates that this shift was neither simply linear nor was the break entirely complete, though the differences in attitudes varied greatly. As late as the 1930s, many Nationalist officials, as patrons of Kong Temple rites, still viewed the temple as a powerful ritual site to civilize the restive populace. At the same time the Nationalist government’s position on the temple began to cross a critical divide, from maintaining the temple for its ritual uses, moral effects on the populace, and protection of the regime to protecting the temple as a heritage site, subject to different conceptions of the temple’s purpose. In 1935, the eminent architectural historian, Liang Sicheng, was commissioned to conduct a complete survey of Kong Temple funded, among others, by Jiang Jieshi. Liang “sought to counter the degradation of the historical artifact as well as its wider built environment by introducing the concept of conservation and in situ preservation,” Flath says, yet his scientific study produced drawings in which Kong Temple “appears as a technical anatomy rather than a monument” (143).
In chapter 6, aptly titled “Kong Temple Inc.,” Flath chronicles the deteriorating, if unintended, effects of conservation in the last several decades. The early post-Mao years saw promise that Liang Sicheng’s conservationist model might preserve Qufu’s original built environment. His protégé, Wu Liangyong, recommended a plan to preserve the town’s historical environment while also facilitating tourism with hotel accommodations based on the “national form” of architecture, famously exemplified in Beijing by I.M. Pei’s Fragrant Hills Hotel, which, in Qufu, produced Dai Nianci’s Queli Guesthouse, next to the Ducal Manor in 1986. By the 1990s, and the “advent of modern tourism,” Flath says, “the municipal government entered into a tortuous and convoluted process of trying to reinvent Qufu in the image of the modern tourist” (183). “Anything that might interfere with tourist comfort” (183) could be eliminated, such as a five-hundred-year-old neighbourhood, demolished in 2013 to make way for hotels, parks, and traditional shopping streets. In consequence, Flath poignantly surmises, “it is not the new structure that looks out of place but rather the old one. And thus develops the compelling need to synchronize the antique with the modern, not through in situ conservation, but by giving the relic a polished façade that reflects on its sponsors as well as the patina of age once reflected on the dukes of Fulfilling the Sage,” Confucius’s most direct descendants (183).
Flath tells the stories of an ancient relic’s battle with time, gravity, and human actions. The complex relationship between his archival sources and the discursive constructions of Kong Temple and its cult practices found in voluminous works by Confucian writers lies outside the scope of this book. Flath makes no claim to write an objective history of the temple of Confucius in Qufu. His history of the physical relic and its environs is an important contribution to our knowledge of Kong Temple and of such sites in general. His judicious use of stele inscriptions and recent archival materials significantly expands the documentary foundation of that knowledge.
Thomas Wilson, Hamilton College, Clinton, USA
TRANSFORMING PATRIARCHY: Chinese Families in the Twenty-First Century. Edited by Gonçalo Santos and Stevan Harrell. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. ix, 301 pp. (Tables.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99982-1.
Is Chinese patriarchy over? This is the central question addressed in this thought-provoking volume, edited by Goncalo Santos and Stevan Harrell. The book’s twelve chapters, which were all written by anthropologists, reflect the specific ways in which Chinese notions of marriage, family, and “traditional” gender norms have been significantly altered since the People’s Republic of China first opened up to the outside world in the late 1970s. Given the rapid changes brought about by market reforms, this volume is an important and timely contribution to the literature on Chinese gender relations and family life during this key era of economic development and globalization.
Because patriarchy is a broad term that must be considered within a historical and cultural context, this book categorizes China as a “classic” type involving “a hierarchical system of domestic relations that includes multiple intersecting structures of inequality including gender and generational inequalities, among others” (10). For centuries this system of male dominance derived its strength from a combination of economic, institutional, and ideological factors such as virilocality (women joining their husband’s family upon marriage), patrilineal inheritance, and the centralizing of power in the hands of senior male patriarchs. Historically, the sexes were kept separate and unequal by dividing their roles into dichotomies: inside/outside, heavy/light, and skilled/unskilled.
Even so, one must not assume that Chinese women have always been oppressed, powerless victims of circumstance. As Denise Kandiyoti famously discussed, throughout history women have been able to express individual agency, challenge structural limitations, and gain resources for themselves and their children through the use of “patriarchal bargains,” a concept that is extremely salient in today’s China. Undeniably, the rapid modernization of the economy and demographic transformations resulting from decades of fertility regulations have placed Chinese families in uncharted territory. This book primarily highlights changes that have occurred in the late-Reform era (mid-1990s on) in light of globalization, mass labour migration, urbanization, the expanding middle class, and the advent of the Internet. This begs the question: if China no longer fits the definition of classic patriarchy, then how should it be characterized?
The volume is organized into three main sections that address this question in rural areas, urban areas, and in spaces that use online/technological/commodified means. Many studies point to changing childbearing practices, particularly in regards to parental attitudes towards sons. Once the primary objective of Chinese parents, male offspring have become financial and emotional liabilities in an era of restricted childbearing, declining filial piety, and needing to pay for sons’ houses and weddings. Lihong Shi’s fascinating case study in a rural northeast village shows how parents increasingly prefer to have girls due to rising childrearing costs, declining beliefs about needing sons to continue the family line, and new views of sons as financial burdens rather than care providers. Despite young women’s newfound empowerment in this village, it is not enough to overturn societal ideologies of male dominance. Goncalo Santos draws attention to changing generational relationships by examining issues related to rural grandparents who care for the millions of children left behind when their parents migrate to cities for work. Although the media frames absent parents—especially mothers—as neglectful, the chapter shows that families partition the work of parenting into different roles of breadwinning and caregiving that allow responsibilities to be split across space and family members.
Urban areas, not surprisingly, are also seeing drastic changes in gender and generational relations. Separate studies by Roberta Zavoretti and Elisabeth Engebretsen highlight transformations in heterosexual and lesbian-gay contract marriages respectively. Zavoretti traces the trajectory of one educated, middle-class woman in Nanjing through the process of dating, marriage, and eventually childbearing to show how everyday bargaining within the household can reproduce patriarchy even among affluent urbanites. Engebretsen’s intriguing study discusses how urban, educated lesbians and gay men meet online and undertake a “marriage of convenience” to relieve intense family pressure. Although this arrangement may seem like a sound strategy for LGBT individuals to please their parents and obtain more personal freedom, the author shows that persistent patriarchal ideologies that favour men create a situation in which women have more to lose if they pursue a fake marriage.
The book’s final section highlights how new technologies and commodified practices are being deployed to assist families with childbearing and eldercare. Notably, Kerstin Klein’s chapter on assisted reproductive technologies and sperm donation demonstrates the state’s intervention not just in the fertility, but also the infertility, of its citizens. While the fertility regulations have limited most people’s possibility of adopting a child, there are nonetheless stringent restrictions on sperm donors and total restrictions against obtaining donor eggs that prevent many couples from being able to have a child. The irony of this situation lies in the fact that these urban, educated, affluent prospective parents are exactly the ones upon whom the government depends to create a so-called “high quality” population.
Ultimately, all of these studies suggest that new, modern practices of gender and generation within families continue to coexist with long-standing patriarchal norms. The role of the state can’t be ignored, as it simultaneously encourages (and at times restricts) marriage and childbearing to enhance societal stability while also placing the burden of social security and eldercare onto individual families. The anthropological take on these issues is enlightening, but it would have been useful to incorporate other family and gender-related research emerging out of the fields of history, sociology, and law. Furthermore, the studies hint at globalization without truly engaging in the ways in which transnational actors, ideas, and practices are both flowing into and pulling people out of the country, in the process influencing new approaches to family. As China moves towards becoming the world’s most powerful economy, it is increasingly necessary to examine cross-border processes and interactions. Nonetheless, this volume is a treasure trove of useful, interesting, and in many ways groundbreaking material that will undoubtedly influence the next generation of Chinese gender and family scholars.
Leslie K. Wang, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, USA
FINDING WOMEN IN THE STATE: A Socialist Feminist Revolution in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1964. A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies. By Wang Zheng. Oakland: University of California Press, 2016. xv, 380 pp. (Figures, B&W photos.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-29229-1.
The goal of Wang Zheng’s latest book is to highlight the role played by feminists in official state organizations, and, more importantly, to bring their work into the conversation about cultural transformation in China. Through archival work, historical research, and interviews, Wang strives to question the dominance of patriarchy in the socialist state. She is also working against a “lingering Cold War paradigm” that implicitly emphasizes the totalitarian aspects of the Chinese Communist-led state, without recognizing the way in which diverse groups altered the status quo (7). Wang identifies several cohorts of “socialist state feminists,” the development of which begins with early Communist women from the May Fourth generation and ends with women who joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the late 1940s (8). The work of a few feminist men is also part of this story.
Wang’s research illuminates the strategies used by state feminists to further their goals. The most important is the “politics of concealment,” which primarily means that feminist officials used Party language to formulate subversive action, but also includes self-effacement in the form of hard work, self-sacrifice, and a disavowal of power (18). This self-deprecating behaviour was necessary because the gender-related projects of state feminists were often overruled in favour of a focus on class struggle. The insistent risked being labelled as bourgeois, and the official claim that China had already reached gender equality made it difficult to point out the continued existence of inequality. Therefore, even though Wang’s goal is to uncover cracks in the authoritarian structure, her work also illustrates the restrictions often imposed on the Women’s Federation by male officials, who were reluctant to address women’s concerns. The limitations experienced by state feminists could be read as evidence that the patriarchal state was indeed dominant, a possibility confirmed by some of Wang’s interviewees. For example, Hou Di, an influential editor of Women in China, commented on the extremely low status of women during the Mao era and the frequent attacks on their abilities (102). Wang argues that in modern China, the contradictory mix of Fredrich Engels’ theory of women’s liberation and the bourgeois feminism of the May Fourth period created a special situation that could only be addressed through the politics of concealment. However, the “hidden script” of feminist activity, lurking in adherence to Party language and self-effacement, is hardly unique to China (17). Superficially agreeing while working behind the scenes to change things is a ubiquitous strategy of those without power.
Wang unearths some fascinating interactions, such as Luo Qiong’s memory of the role played by Deng Xiaoping in assisting the Women’s Federation when it was under attack during the Great Leap Forward, and Dong Bian’s spectacular efforts to establish and sustain the journal Women of China. Part 2 continues this trajectory, investigating the way in which state feminist actors pushed their agendas through film. Chapter 5 revolves around the work of Chen Bo’er, an actress, director, playwright, and writer who became famous in 1934 for her role in The Fate of Graduates (Taoli jie). Chen also directed Daughters of China (Zhongguo nü’er, 1949), a film that drew attention to revolutionary heroines, an approach Chen expanded as director of the art department of the Central Film Bureau after 1949 (Chen died in 1951). Chapter 6 centres on Xia Yan’s work in socialist film screenwriting and adaptation. Wang reads Xia’s screen adaptation of The New Year’s Sacrifice—which endowed Xianglin’s Wife with more agency than did the story by Lu Xun on which it was based—as a feminist text. Chapter 7 traces the downfall of Xia Yan at the hands of Jiang Qing, and chapter 8 details the transformation of the Iron Girls from a positive icon of strong womanhood in 1964 to an example of all that went wrong with socialist gender ideology in the 1980s, when a newly developing capitalist China rejected this vision of socialist women as masculinized and demanded “natural femininity” (231).
Wang’s book is a spirited and useful study of a group of women (and some men) who embedded themselves in the state and fought for equality, often against great odds. Unfortunately, it is marred by her conviction that her methodology is the only way to study film, and that those who focus on “final products” (i.e., film interpretation and analysis) are woefully inadequate (170). Wang repeatedly names them and criticizes their lack of archival research, which, she argues, causes them to miss the important roles played by Chen Bo’er and Xia Yan. As with the supposedly powerful Cold War paradigm—which has long been under attack—film scholars who work interpretively become straw dogs, against whose work Wang contrasts the originality of her insights.
Although there is nothing wrong with a focus on plot and filmic history, as well as on the interactions of those working in film, this approach cannot provide a comprehensive perspective. Film can indeed be a historical source, but there are many ways in which film—like an archival document, perhaps—may be more richly understood. Wang ignores the way that creative work functions: how its structures knowledge, how it works subtly to influence ideology, when and how it becomes counterproductively didactic, and how the dialectic of aesthetics and subjectivity unfolds. She discounts the large body of film theory that has developed over the last one hundred years, with its provocative and revealing inquiry into aesthetics and ideology. Even so, I may not have objected to Wang’s approach to film had she not suggested that whereas others are neglectful, her work has exhausted every avenue. Wang seems unaware that her valourization of archival research above all other kinds of inquiry constructs a flattened form of history that is closed off from engagement with interdisciplinary interpretation, an approach that ultimately diminishes the considerable value of her study.
Wendy Larson, University of Oregon, Eugene, USA
LEFTOVER WOMEN: The resurgence of gender inequality in China. Asian Arguments. By Leta Hong Fincher. London: Zed Books; Chicago: University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2016. 215 pp. (Figure, box.) US$15.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-78360-789-1.
Leta Hong Fincher, a former journalist and daughter of China academics, is the first US citizen to earn a Tsinghua University doctorate in sociology. Her dissertation traced Chinese women’s de facto exclusion from the exponential wealth accumulation created by China’s expansive urban property market. Fincher’s book, Leftover Women, builds on this research and connects it to what she terms “resurgent” gender inequality in post-socialist China. Women not only earn less than men, but they have less parental help with home purchasing. In 2011, marital property rights were legally redefined to emphasize ownership by the party named as owner on the deed. Because married women are pressured to leave their names off deeds, they often lose control of substantial assets. Although Fincher touches on rural ownership, her main focus is the urban property-owning elite.
The title, “Leftover Women,” refers to a fabricated crisis of single educated urban women. These women have been derided in state media and in the rhetoric of the official All China Women’s Federation since 2007, when the Chinese Ministry of Education “added the term to its official lexicon” (3). Educated women are urged by the state, society, and their families to marry before the age of twenty-seven, lest their own choosiness, education, and career focus result in their becoming “yellowed pearls,” no longer marriageable (and thus unlikely to produce the high-quality eugenic children upon whom China pins its future). Fincher argues that pressures on educated women to compromise their standards so they can marry young result in their acceptance of unequal marriage conditions that intensify the gender wealth gap, creating dependence and susceptibility to marital abuse. Fincher’s work, which emphasizes gendered disparities in property ownership, suggests that the leftover woman discourse has played a causative role. Although Fincher reflects that messages she has received via Twitter from women in South Asia, Russia, Turkey, and Singapore evince similar social pressures to marry, pressures that may also be felt in the US and the UK, she concludes that in China the “one-party state intent on social engineering” exacerbates gender discrimination by means of a one-two punch of propaganda and information controls that disadvantage women (4).
Leftover Women is based on observation of purchasing norms in Beijing real-estate agencies, Chinese online surveys of home buying, and approximately 150 e-mails that Fincher received after posting a solicitation on Weibo, a platform that combines Twitter and Facebook functions. Her e-mail correspondence samples 151 college-educated women and 132 men in as many as twenty Chinese cities. She also conducted sixty in-depth interviews, and analyzed media portrayals of home-buying and gender. She supplements discussion of “leftover women” and men’s advantaged accumulation of real-estate wealth, with examination of inequality within extended families (in which savings for home purchases flow preferentially to sons and nephews over daughters); connections between women’s limited property rights and domestic violence; challenges for feminist and LGBTQ communities; and state constraints on feminist activism. Along the way, she draws on interviews and newspaper reports for illustrative stories of women’s victimization and resistance.
Fincher’s slim book, aimed at a general audience, achieved immediate acclaim for exposing new facets of gender inequality in China. Although already in its second edition, it is unfortunately unlikely to satisfy China specialists or other well-informed readers. Although she traces some symptoms of new gender discrimination, she does not offer a compelling analysis. Links that are drawn between “leftover women” discourse and a variety of inequities rest on murky argument, uneven evidence, and inadequate citation. (Zed Books’ minimalist citation style may also be to blame.)
The organization of the book works against the clarity of its argument. At the approximate midpoint of the volume, an odd place to introduce history into the narrative, Fincher briskly surveys the shifting character of Chinese women’s property rights over the past millennium. Whereas the introduction evoked a retreat from revolutionary gains, this historical interlude highlights the Song dynasty as “the golden age for women’s property rights” (110). Thus the baseline for “resurgent” inequality is unclear. If, indeed, “more property was transferred to women” during the Song than at any other historical moment, and the problem of women’s diminished rights began with the Ming dynasty, then readers need a great deal more context on family property and law in late imperial China—and on the enduring connections between this past history and the present—to effectively comprehend contemporary inequalities. If today’s inequalities result instead from reform-era “erosion” of the Communist celebration of gender equality (7), the interpretive lens should reflect more substantively on shifts in political economy. Without this framework, the socialist allocation of shared housing and contemporary market-based property rights are not easily compared. If, in the past, the one-party state intervened on the side of greater equality, is the one-party state the key problem in the re-emergence of inequality, as Fincher appears to suggest?
In terms of grasping the dynamics of the contemporary urban gender wealth gap, Fincher provides no explanation for the 2011 shift in the legal definition of property rights that she emphasizes. The precise dimensions of the wealth gap are unclear, moreover, because Fincher does not consider other forms of wealth accumulation outside of housing. Absent from analysis is the recent explosion of wealth management services, a venue for investment that—in contrast to urban housing—is recognized for high levels of female investors.
Fincher correctly calls attention to conservative rhetoric and retrograde laws that disadvantage women. Nonetheless, in the pattern of inequality that has emerged with China’s accommodation of capitalism, the most brutally disadvantaged are rural people and workers. Within this broader picture, even within its gendered landscape, the urban women who are Fincher’s focus might best be contextualized as both beneficiaries and victims. The partial scope of Fincher’s focus, though attentive to urban women’s vulnerability and activism, does a disservice by obscuring this larger picture.
Bryna Goodman, University of Oregon, Eugene, USA
GODDESS ON THE FRONTIER: Religion, Ethnicity, and Gender in Southwest China. By Megan Bryson. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016. xii, 246 pp. (Illustrations.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-9954-6.
Can the story of a goddess illuminate how borderlands’ peoples position themselves against empires and nations? Megan Bryson is largely successful in arguing that the tale of Baijie, “goddess on the frontier,” provides such insights. Baijie was not a single deity but rather four legendary figures linked by name, gender, and location of worship in the Dali region of China’s Yunnan Province. To tell the tale of all four Baijie legends, Bryson’s book sprawls across a millennium, from the Dali Kingdom (937–1253) to the present, and analyzes the textual and visual representations of Baijie. The book seeks to reveal how “Baijie’s transformations from the twelfth century to the present have echoed and shaped Dali’s local identity and how it has been gendered” (2). This is a particularly insightful contribution to understandings of gendered representation in China’s inter-ethnic encounters.
Bryson’s main method is to analyze textual and visual evidence, which is then contextualized within historical time frames. In this way, Bryson reveals how elite male writers used Baijie to position “themselves in relation to China” (3). The earliest manifestation of Baijie was as Baijie Shengfei (Holy Consort White Sister), depicted in the Buddhist texts of the independent Dali Kingdom. In chapter 2, Bryson provides a convincing reading of three Dali ritual texts and the only extant visual work (the Fanxiang juan) depicting Baijie Shengfei, arguing that the goddess reveals how elites articulated their “politico-religious” identity as a civilized, distinct polity. Baijie Shengfei was a local female serpent (nāgī), represented in the tradition of Indian dragon maidens but with a twist: the painting techniques were Chinese and the goddess appears chaste and fully clothed in the best Confucian tradition. This reading is reinforced as Bryson expands analysis to Baijie’s consort, Mahākāla, a fierce Buddhist guardian deity popular in India but not Song China. Bryson hypothesizes that Dali elites used Mahākāla’s fierceness to articulate a masculine autonomy, while Baijie Shengfei’s chastity undercut Song ideas about Dali as an uncivilized borderlands with sexually undisciplined women (59).
By the 1400s, long after the independent Dali Kingdom’s destruction by the Mongols and its incorporation into the Yuan (1279–1368) and then Ming (1368–1644) empires, a new Baijie had emerged. In chapter 3, Bryson traces the stories of Baijie Amei (Little White Sister) in Ming materials, from her miraculous birth to her immaculate conception of Duan Siping, founder of the Dali Kingdom. While the emergence of this Baijie legend corresponded with the rise of the Bai ethnonym, Bai history, and the use of genealogy by Dali elites to claim local Bai ancestry, Bryson challenges the standard interpretation that this was an era of growing Bai ethnicity in the wake of outside conquest. She reveals that a single Dali clan, the Yangs, produced many of these writings and that the Yangs probably promoted the significance of the Dali Kingdom’s miraculous origins because they claimed Baijie Amei as an adopted daughter. Her extraordinary birth along with her conception of Duan Siping therefore underpinned Yang claims of local status rather than broader claims to a shared Bai ethnicity (92–93).
In chapter 4, Bryson traces the legend of a widow martyr who came to be called Baijie Furen, a story that, by the late Qing (1644–1911), had evolved into the tale of a widow who drowns herself rather than submit to her husband’s murderer. As Bryson explains, the legend is both local, in that the murderer was founder of the Dali Kingdom’s predecessor, and translocal, in that Baijie Furen borrowed aspects of the iconic tales of Meng Jiangnu and Qu Yuan. Thus, Baijie Furen’s legend was shaped both by Qing efforts to promote civilizational and ideological loyalty on the frontier—in the form of chastity among women—and by ongoing local efforts to preserve a unique historical identity that also marked Dali society as civilized according to Confucian gender norms.
In chapter 5, the inquiry expands to include both the analysis of symbols in texts as well as interviews (conducted 2006 to 2009) with worshippers of the local village goddess Baijie. For elites producing current textual representations, the goddess is an example of ethnic difference, a distinctly Bai deity who continues to minimize the difference between Bai and Han through her adherence to Confucian gender norms. Worshippers, however, do not emphasize Baijie’s ethnic dimension, allowing this village deity to unite rather than divide diverse neighbours. Over the past millennium, the various forms of Baijie have therefore been used to “simultaneously signif[y] that which marks Dali as a politically, historically, or ethnically distinctive place, and that which marks Dali as civilized by the gendered criteria of Chineseness” (170).
In its ambition to link religion, ethnicity, and gender to larger stories of identity over a vast period, the book is necessarily reductive at times. While the basics of Bryson’s important arguments should hold, specialists in different disciplines and eras will likely be spurred on to further consider their implications. For me, an historian of frontier policy and ethnicity in Qing and Republican times, I know from other work that it was not always the case that “Qing officials worked to spread Chinese civilization to the frontier” (110). I also suspect, based on recent studies, that the salience of Han identity rose to unprecedented importance in the nineteenth century. How do these basic historical developments, which the book does not consider, impact the representation of Baijie Furen and Bai identity over the course of the Qing period? The book also deploys the concepts of ethnicity and Zomia without engaging broadly with these subjects’ complicated literatures. For example, the book refers to Dali as part of the highland Asian region of Zomia in ways that, like James Scott’s Art of Not Being Governed (Yale University Press, 2009), seem static and in contradiction to Willem van Schendel’s original purpose for radically rethinking Asian spaces in “Geographies of Knowing, Geographies of Ignorance” (Environmental Planning D: Society and Space 20, no. 6, 2002). But these are relatively minor concerns, and China specialists from multiple disciplines should welcome this new book.
C. Patterson Giersch, Wellesley College, Wellesley, USA
THE CHINA MODEL: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy. By Daniel A. Bell. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015. xii, 318 pp. US$29.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-691-16645-2.
A genre-bending combination of Western and Confucian political philosophy, analysis of contemporary and historical China, and comparison across political systems, The China Model has already been widely reviewed in terms both glowing and disparaging. Written by a Canadian-born scholar well-travelled in Asia and North America, now a professor at Tsinghua University and the dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University, the book has rightly been described as thought provoking, insightful, illuminating, and infuriating.
Bell is a gadfly in the best sense of the word: here probing, preening, and promoting the concept of meritocracy in a way that certainly hits a nerve with liberals inside and outside China who have an unshakeable faith in the superiority of electoral democracy. Based on reviews of the Chinese translation, it has also hit a nerve in official China.
At the heart of the book is a sophisticated analysis of some enduring and fundamental political questions central to the Western experience since Plato: what makes for good leadership, how should leaders be selected, and how should inept ones be replaced?
Bell’s main focus is meritocracy as both an ideal and a reality in the Chinese political system, past and present. He starts from the premise (a) that China is doing some things very right in large part because of how it selects its leaders; and (b) that China can and should improve its system of selection and promotion that nevertheless has “a clear advantage over electoral democracies that leave the whole thing up to the whims of the people unconstrained by lessons of philosophy, history, and social science” (108).
While both admiring and intrigued by the Chinese philosophy and practices of merit, he does not shy away from problems in the Chinese political system including abuse of power, rising inequality and reduced social mobility, factional in-fighting, and harsh treatment of the CCP’s domestic critics and minority groups. Most importantly, he underlines the growing threat to its legitimacy that will require more participation, more democracy, freer speech, and more independent social organizations. Without this, it is “difficult for defenders of political meritocracy to counter the criticism that coercion lies at the heart of its political system” (197).
Rather than seeing these flaws as fatal to regime survival or prescribing a one-person, one-vote system, he makes the case for political reform involving more democracy at the bottom, experimentation in the middle, and strengthened meritocracy at the top. Teaser: he recommends that the Chinese Communist Party rename itself “The Union of Democratic Meritocrats,” (Minzhu xianneng lianmeng) (198), one of the ideas removed from the Chinese-language edition.
It is not necessary to agree with his analysis or sensibilities to appreciate a lucid discussion of the defects of both electoral democracy and the current Chinese system, his effort to find in Chinese traditions and philosophy a durable playbook for domestic rule, and an informed account of the practice and philosophy of such devices as the examination system.
As several critics have emphasized, the book moves back and forth between political philosophy and history, on the one hand, and political science on the other. As Andrew Nathan and others have pointed out, it is perplexing whether the book is about the myth, aspiration, and ideal of the Chinese system—an imaginary China—or its very different reality.
Looking beyond China, Bell identifies a crisis of governance in Western political systems “that has undermined blind faith in electoral democracy and opened the normative space for political alternatives” (3). It is worth noting that he wrote this even before the political rise of Donald Trump. This crisis may be worse in American-style presidential systems than Westminster-style parliamentary systems (the Canadian Senate and House of Lords are appointed, not elected). Singapore is high on his list of effective alternatives.
Whatever the durability and strengths of the distinctive blend of animating forces and specific practices of the Chinese system, it is very unlikely to serve as a model outside of China’s immediate neighbourhood even for a generation of millennials in Europe, North America, and elsewhere disillusioned by the performance of their own regimes.
Rather, Bell’s book is a sophisticated and sincerely empathetic corrective to the absolutism and triumphalism of an unquestioned faith in American-style electoral democracy. And in the Trump era it may even suggest some useful insights on how and why inept leaders can be replaced as well as a reminder of the damage they can do. We used to ask, “Would the world be a better place if China acted more like the United States?” For at least the moment, the answer is empathetically more negative.
I’ve thus placed The China Model on the list of twenty contemporary books that I recommend to senior students for provocative insights into contemporary China, books that raise fundamental questions about its internal dynamics and global significance. Bell’s book speaks to the possibilities and limits of understanding China from the inside out while using universal concepts and standards subject to incessant and informed debate. Also provided by the publisher are two appendices to the book, available free of charge at the publisher’s website. These are “Harmony in the World 2013: The Ideal and the Reality” (http://press.princeton.edu/releases/m10418-1.pdf) and “A Conversation between a Communist and a Confucian” (http://press.princeton.edu/releases/m10418-2.pdf).
Paul Evans, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
SECURITY RELATIONS BETWEEN CHINA AND THE EUROPEAN UNION: From Convergence to Cooperation? Edited by Emil J. Kirchner, Thomas Christiansen, Han Dorussen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xxii, 250 pp. (Tables.) US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-14903-8.
A collaborative effort between Chinese and European scholars, this volume is useful in documenting the breadth of ties between the European Union (EU) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Ten substantive chapters on a wide range of topics—military-to-military relations (or “military security”), human security, cyber security, economic security, climate and energy security, regional conflicts, nuclear proliferation, terrorism and organized crime, civil protection, and migration—are bookended by an overview chapter and a conclusion.
This book underscores the reality that for decades the security relationship between Beijing and Brussels has tended to function as a wading pool: quite wide and adequate for getting wet but not deep enough for actual swimming. In other words, the relationship is suitable for conducting a range of Sino-European security interactions but with significant limitations on how in-depth any one of these can venture. Nevertheless, if the early months of the Donald J. Trump administration are indicative of a new trend in US security policy, the potential exists for building a deeper Euro-Chinese pool. But even if this were to occur, there are structural and normative limitations, as some contributors note. While the PRC is a single centralized state, the EU is a collection of individual states, each with its own foreign and defense policies. Second, as the three co-editors note in their introduction, Brussels and Beijing “have very different attitudes to key principles of inter-state relations” (1). Indeed, the PRC appears more comfortable in its relationships with other authoritarian states than it is with democracies. Moreover, while neither the EU nor China sees “the other side as a potential enemy or military threat” (1), each is formally or informally allied with a rival or adversary of the other, and these states—namely the United States and Russia—actually do pose military threats to the other security partner.
Consequently, to date the security relationship between China and the EU has been relatively modest overall. According to Simon Duke and Reuben Wong, “[t]hus far … the main venue for building military-to-military relations” between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the armed forces of EU countries has been in cooperation on anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden through the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction meetings in Bahrain (33). Of course, mil-mil interactions with China occur not between the EU per se but rather between the armed forces of individual European countries or between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the PLA.
A significant contribution of the volume is an insightful comparative analysis of Chinese views and approaches to security. This provides a welcome variation to the all-too-familiar treatments of China alone or the US-China comparison. Of particular interest are the chapters on nuclear proliferation, cyber security, and climate change. On the proliferation issue, the extent of China-EU cooperation has been significant and in at least one case—Iran—via the so-called P5+1 mechanism, to reach a nuclear agreement with Tehran in April 2015. On another daunting proliferation case—North Korea—authors Nicola Casarini and Xinning Song accurately observe that “the EU is essentially a bystander” (78).
Meanwhile, security in the cyber realm has become a significant and thorny global issue in which China’s role is highly problematic. Here, as in many other security areas, European and Chinese perspectives and strategies are at odds. The EU approach, according to Sebastian Bersick, George Christou, and Shen Yi, is “defensive, legal and resilience-focused” while China emphasizes “establishing cyber sovereignty” and prioritizes “security and control” rather than “rights, openness and freedom” (169). Consequently, the authors conclude that “prospects for deeper cooperation between the EU and China remain largely at the level of rhetoric rather than practice” (169).
Climate security is especially topical since the United States decided in June 2017 to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. This development will test whether the potential of greater cooperation between Beijing and Brussels might become a reality. While there may be actual cooperation, more likely China will seek to leverage largely symbolic cooperation on this high-profile issue to score points at US expense. Nevertheless, there are built-in limitations on Beijing-Brussels cooperation based on normative and national security grounds. As Yan Bo, Katja Biedendopf, and Zhimin Chen note: “While the EU emphasizes the conflict multiplier implications of climate security, China focuses on the development angle” (113).
A welcome addition to the growing literature on China-EU relations, this volume also offers a fresh comparative approach to contemporary Chinese security affairs.
Andrew Scobell, RAND Corporation, Washington DC, USA
PARK CHUNG HEE AND MODERN KOREA: The Roots of Militarism 1866–1945. By Carter J. Eckert. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016. xii, 472 pp.,  pp. of plates. (Maps, illustrations.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-65986- 475.
This book is divided into two parts: the first is about the development of Park Chung Hee as a military officer, while the second traces the roots of South Korea’s modernization from the 1960s under President Park Chung Hee. The book’s first part, titled “Contexts,” consists of “Militarizing Time,” “Militarizing Minds,” and “Militarizing Places and Persons,” while the book’s second part is composed of “Politics and Status,” “Politics and Power,” “State and Society,” “Tactics and Spirit,” and “Order and Discipline.”
Although Chosŏn society had a strong tradition that “esteem[ed] civil literati culture (mun) while looking down on all things associated with the military (mu)” (56), the necessity of reforming effete Chosŏn society was gaining in urgency in the face of a growing crisis emanating from outside Korea and which accompanied the global militarization process. This process of reform also helped produce male-centered, racist martial notions that were often laced with and buttressed by Social Darwinist concepts.
In 1896, a Korean military academy was established during the Korean emperor’s refuge in the Russian Embassy. This attracted the best-qualified young Korean men between 18 and 27 years of age regardless of social background. These were the products of the first wave of militarization in premodern Korean society, and this wave of military training continued even after Korea’s annexation by Japan in 1910, and up until the Korean Independence Movement of March 1919.
The second wave began in the 1920s, in particular through the Japanese-imposed mandatory military training in schools, something that was supported by Korean cultural nationalists. Although the military training was regulated by the Japanese government-general in Korea without any public consensus, the Dong-A Daily, the most popular Korean newspaper at the time, published an editorial in support of the training. The first educational institutions to start the training were normal schools and commercial schools, including the Taegu Normal School where Park Chung Hee was educated.
Another catalyst of militarization in the colonial period was the Manchurian Incident of 1931. The Japanese occupation of Manchuria and the creation of the puppet state of Manchukuo provided an opportunity for Koreans to raise their status and power, particulary those who entered the Japanese military, for military life attracted men, like Park, who “cherished ambition” (87–88). The Manchurian Military Academy (MMA), which emulated the Japanese Military Academy (JMA), was a melting pot composed mainly of ethnic groups from Manchuria, Japan, and Korea, and provided an opportunity for the best students, including those from poor families. In sum, the development of the military officer Park Chung Hee does not just tell the story of one individual’s trajectory; it is emblematic of the social discourse of the period in the first part of this book.
The second part of the book presents a precise examination of the MMA. The influence and impact of the curricula of and life in the MMA on Park was the most important root of the prototype of South Korean social norms in the 1960s and 1970s as established by President Park. The author stresses the atmosphere in Japanese society in the 1930s, when ambitious young military officers attempted several military coups and social reforms to carry out the so-called Shōwa Restoration. The military’s intervention in politics seemed not to violate social and political norms. Moreover, Korea’s Chosŏn Dynasty was established through a coup in 1392 and the short-lived Kapsin Coup in 1884 was positively portrayed during the colonial period. According to the author, such precedents made it possible for Park to implement a military coup in 1961 with the object of saving South Korean society. The Japanese officers who were involved in failed coups of 1930s Japan moved on to Manchukuo, where they played critical roles not only in key institutions like the South Manchurian Railway, but also in the Manchukuo Government and the MMA. The MMA cadets were trained under the idea of total war, which might be positioned as between socialism/communism and the ideals of the Shōwa Restoration, as the author points out.
The author further argues that 1970s Korean society was an incarnation of MMA ideas. As a Japanese government publication expressed it during the Asia-Pacific War, the essence of the total war idea was “to activate the fundamental energies of national growth and development” and to link “defense and economy inseparably” (213). The total-war system had two prerequisites. One was the reform and regulation of the economy, which would “introduce state planning and coordination over the entire range of the economy” and “ensure the ‘full capacity’ of the nation in all areas could be ‘mobilized and uniformly exercised’” (213). The second prerequisite was psychological mobilization, where businessmen served the state interests and people lived under a unitary sense of “mutual dependency” and “national co-existence and co-prosperity,” adhering to the so-called idea of total-war thinking (213–216). The psychological side was connected with the ideas of “certainty of victory,” “can-do” spirit, and “no slacking,” which are mentioned in the latter part of the book.
In conclusion, the author argues that among the MMA Korean graduates, no one embraced this ethos more thoroughly and enthusiastically than Park Chung Hee, and he and his fellow alumni found “a home in South Korea and Korea’s martial lineage, honed at the MMA in Lalatun and JMA in Zama, gained a new lease on life” (322), despite the fact that the legacies of the MMA and JMA vanished in Japan.
Starting from 1990, the author conducted countless interviews with individuals involved in the military academies at Lalatun and Zama, and cites an impressive range of primary sources and works in Chinese, as well as in English, Korean, and Japanese. In addition, through fieldwork in the former locations of the MMA and the JMA, Eckert is able to vividly describe the geographical characteristics of these sites in order to illustrate the conditions of the cadets at the time. However, I wonder how the author might, in the second volume of this study dealing with Park post-1945, tally his own logic regarding war criminals during the Asia-Pacific War with the creation of another “total-war system” in post 1945 South Korea, a system accompanied by its own inevitable security crises and human rights violations. Park’s activities after his commission as a second lieutenant, which was not clearly detailed in this study, will be a key part of that logic. For answers, researchers must await the next volume in this series, which will detail the third wave of militarization in Korean society after 1945.
Tae-Gyun Park, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
JAPANOMANIA IN THE NORDIC COUNTRIES 1875–1918. Ateneumin Publications, v. 75. Edited by Gabriel P. Weisberg, Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff & Hanne Selkokari. Brussels: Mercatorfonds; New Haven; London: Yale University Press [distributor], 2016. 296 pp. (240 color + 66 b&w Illustrations.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-300-22011-7.
The term Japonisme was coined by the French art critic Philippe Burty in a series of articles published in 1872 to describe the impact of Japanese art and objects in a variety of media and forms throughout Europe from the mid-1850s on. Academic literature on Japonisme as inspiration and (mis)appropriation has accumulated in volume and range since the inception of the term, but this work has been largely fixated on France, England, the Netherlands, and the United States, in large part due to the prominence of artists who were influenced by Japanese woodblock prints in these countries, such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, James McNeill Whistler, and B.J.O. Nordfelt. The beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated Japanomania in the Nordic Countries aims to fill a lacuna by a close look at the less-studied transmissions, manifestations, and interpretations of Japanese art in Scandinavia during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
Based on an exhibit that was initially held at the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, where I saw it in February 2016 (it moved to the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo later in the same year, and then to the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen in 2017), the chief curator and lead editor Gabriel Weisberg, who has published extensively since the 1960s on Burty, Impressionism, Naturalism, Realism, and Japonisme in France, has organized the book into seven sections. As might be expected of a work positioned in art history and based on an exhibition, there are close analyses of individual works and artists, with notable Norwegians, famed Finns, and decorated Danes making significant appearances. But it moves beyond fine-grained studies of specific artworks to explore a wider range of collectors, curators, exhibitions, and media involved in the dissemination and reinterpretation of Japanese art and objects throughout Scandinavia.
Section 1 establishes the international context via an overview chapter by Weisberg, and a summary of Japonisme in English artists, including the famous wallpapers of William Morris, by Widar Halén. Section 2 describes the ways in which Japanese art and objects were transmitted and collected, with Weisberg providing an account of the progression from travel books, photographs, and commercial activity, to artists’ networks, exhibitions, and eventually to wider mass consumption of Japonisme. Halén describes the early collections of Japanese art in Nordic countries in museums in his chapter, and Leila Koivunen focuses on Finland’s Museum of Applied Arts holdings of the same period.
Section 3 overviews the early history of Nordic discovery and dissemination of Japanese objects. Anna Kortelainen analyzes the Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt’s exposure to Japonisme in Paris, in particular the orientalist tropes of geisha and women in general in kimono. Susanna Pettersson examines the activities of Herman Frithiof Antell, the first Finnish collecter of Japanese fine and applied art, who had also commissioned work from Edelfelt. Malene Wagner looks at the influences of Japanese art on Danish depictions of nature in the illustrations and the porcelains of Karl Madsen and Arnold Krog, respectively. Ellen Lerberg explains the role of Jens Thiis, the curator of the Norwegian Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Kunstindustrimuseet) in the expansion of Japonisme, and Koivunen’s chapter provides a close-up of the woodcuts displayed in the first exhibition of Japanese art in Helsinki, held in 1897.
Section 4 shows how the widespread interest in Japanese aesthetics vivified the visual vocabulary among Nordic artists. In his chapter Halén argues that in Norway, Japan filtered through English and Continental Japonisme became a proxy for the medieval art that was admired at the time. Anna-Maria Von Bonsdorff depicts the ideal of simplification in Japanese art as manifested in the work of the Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck, and Nils Ohlsen explains the influences of Japanese woodblock prints on Nordic interior paintings. Hanne Selkokari introduces the activities of Gustaf Strengell, a Finnish architect and museum curator in organizing a “second wave” of exhibitions on Japanese art.
Section 5 features three chapters. Leena Svinhufvud parses Japonisme’s intertwining with Finnish textile art to conclude that there was conscious and selective adaptation rather than wholesale applications, meaning that the art produced was as much Finnish as it was Japanese (204–205). Trine Nordkvelle probes the prints of Norwegians Nikolai Astrup and Edvard Munch to show the influences of Japanese woodblocks via the direct documentation of Astrup’s studies of Japanese art, circumstantial evidence of Munch’s exposure to things Japanese, and readings of specific paintings (208–210). Nils Ohlsen’s analysis of Japan’s influence on Nordic photography shows the overlooked importance of photography relative to woodblock prints as a medium through which Japan was presented and received.
Section 6 focuses on nature as genre and motif: Von Bonsdorff traces the ways in which Nordic depictions of nature were influenced by Japonisme, while Vibeke Waallann Hansen deals with two Norwegian painters—Thorolf Holmboe and Theodor Kittelsen—who were closely associated with the Art Nouveau of the 1890s. Finally, section 7 features two chapters that deal with the popular consumption of Japan. Halén, in his fourth contribution to the volume, traces the diffusion of “Japan Mania” via the popular press, operettas, and fashion, and Harri Kalha provides a fascinating overview of late-nineteenth-century Japonisme postcards as simulacra, copies without originals, arguing that the “fantasy of Japan found its most compelling expressions in the postcard” (262).
Despite its comprehensive coverage, some areas of elision provide suggestions for possible avenues of future research. First, Sweden seems curiously under-represented, with artists such as Anders Zorn receiving little attention despite their relative prominence. Second, sculpture appears rather sporadically. Given the renown of August Rodin’s series of sculptures of Japanese actress “Hanako,” it would have been useful to have provided further explanation of why some forms, themes, and genres were less emphasized. Third, while the selected bibliography is replete with books, articles, and exhibition catalogues in English, French, Finnish, Danish, and German, there are only two exhibition catalogues in Japanese/English despite the existence of a much larger body of published academic work in Japanese on Japonisme around the world. Fourth, Utamaro, Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other famous Japanese artists are referenced in reverent tones, but Japanese traders, dealers, artists, and writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are notable in the book largely by their near absence. There are salient yet brief discussions of self-Japonisme in postcards (268–269), and “fruitful misunderstandings” in interior paintings (187), but further investigations of the imbrications of power, orientalism, and commerce would have provided additional cross-disciplinary bridges. However, the aim of the book is explicitly and squarely on outlining receptions and influences of Japonisme in Nordic countries, and it emphatically succeeds in that important task by providing a plethora of rich and useful details.
Hyung-Gu Lynn, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
FEMININITY, SELF-HARM AND EATING DISORDERS IN JAPAN: Navigating contradiction in narrative and visual culture. Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies Series. By Gitte Marianne Hansen. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. xii, 210 pp. (Illustrations.) US$148.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-90530-6.
This book explores the relationship between normative femininity and the increasing number of cases of eating disorders and self-harm in Japanese society. Both scholars and public commentators commonly suggest that the association of thinness with ideal femininity in the media and entertainment industry is a cause for women starving themselves to the point of developing mental illness. Advertisements, magazines, and websites frequently promote advice on losing weight and weight-loss products, which sends women a clear message that their worth hinges upon their thinness. This book offers new insight into and understanding of the relationship between contemporary Japanese femininity and eating disorders and self-harm. Hansen argues that “contradictive femininity,” contemporary normative femininity in Japan, demands that women navigate multiple subject positions, which often conflict with each other, and as a result, it is responsible for an increase in eating disorders and self-harm among women. She makes her argument by exposing the common cultural messages about normative femininity in storylines and female character constructions in a variety of narratives and visual cultures.
In this book, Hansen uses contradictive femininity to characterize contemporary normative Japanese femininity. Thanks to expanding legal rights and opportunities, Japanese women can explore and enjoy full participation in the social world and take on multiple roles and social identities beyond the domestic sphere. However, traditional gender expectations that tie women to the domestic sphere as mothers and homemakers and the obligation to serve men’s desires and needs remain strong. By adopting Judith Butler’s concept of gender performance, Hansen argues that to gain social acceptance and approval Japanese women must navigate and balance multiple subjectivities, all while continuously living up to the dominant cultural meaning of desirable femininity. Contradictive femininity, the fragmentation of one’s self, affects Japanese women more than their Western counterparts because of the failure of Japanese feminism to liberate women from domesticity and the continued celebration of their contribution to the private sphere. For Japanese women, this gender performance is challenging precisely because they must move back and forth between subjectivity and non-subjectivity.
Hansen uses the doppelgänger motif—a “classic literary element that is characterized by its ability to destabilize the unified self and counter oneself as another” (41)—in her analysis of female character constructions and storylines to show the fragmented nature of the contemporary self and the gender performance of contradictive femininity, including self-directed violence, in dealing with this fragmentation. In Japanese narratives and visual cultures, contradictory femininity is performed either by multiple characters, each of whom assumes a distinctive social position, or by a single character with an inhuman ability that can exist only in a fantasy world. However, real women cannot split themselves into multiple selves or acquire inhuman abilities to navigate multiple social roles and identities. Thus, real women face the challenge of performing contradictive femininity. Moving back and forth between an identity that highly values one’s subjectivity and an identity that requires the suppression of one’s agency causes psychological and emotional stress for contemporary Japanese women.
In the second half of the book, Hansen argues that self-directed violence, such as eating disorders and self-harm, is a nonnormative strategy for dealing with the challenge of performing contradictive femininity. In contemporary and classic literary works and visual culture, “appetite control and thinness” and “self-reproach and pain tolerance” (119) are described as expected normative feminine competences for social acceptance. In particular, eating insatiably is considered a monstrous quality, whereas refusing to eat is associated with being a good woman and vomiting with purifying the self. These feminine competences are closely tied to eating disorders and self-harm. Developing and exercising these feminine competences are necessary for societal acceptance and validation, but embracing them to the extreme would cross the line and receive a negative societal response. In other words, the line between what is desirable and what is pathological becomes blurred. For women who are struggling with navigating multiple subject positions, exercising these feminine competences is a strategy to resolve their fragmented self because these competences will always bring societal acceptance to women regardless of their positions/identities at the moment. Moreover, becoming simultaneously a victim and a victimizer allows women to move easily between two opposing selves. Hansen shows that self-directed violence often appears in Japanese narratives and visual culture as a result of women’s inability to navigate contradictory social positions, with their body symbolizing the entrapment in gender expectations that they over-conform to or can never escape. With the abundance of literary works, manga, and images in contemporary Japan that have a theme of self-directed violence, Hansen warns that self-directed violence has become a lifestyle some women adopt as a kind of gender performance. Japanese media’s increasing use of self-directed violence as a topic/theme for consumption and entertainment promotes women’s identification with and normalization of this lifestyle.
This book shows the pervasiveness of the fragmented self of contemporary Japanese women and its consequence, contradictory femininity, by examining not only literary narratives and entertainment forms such as manga and films but also TV dramas and commercials, print advertisement, and artwork. The gender performance of contradictory femininity described in this work provides valuable insights into the struggles of contemporary Japanese women who seek to advance socially and escape the entrapment of being a social category. Hansen’s analysis of eating disorders and self-harm as contradictive femininity performance to cope with the fragmentation of the self has serious implications for the mental health of Japanese women today. If this is a form of gender performance, then their self-directed violence will persist and increase because it is closely tied to their gender identity. Though fictional characters and storylines can reflect real social conditions and experiences of women, the analysis remains theoretical. To truly understand how contemporary Japanese women navigate between dominant cultural messages of desirable femininity and opportunities that allow them to expand their social roles, we need to listen to real women.
Akiko Yasuike, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, USA
RETHINKING JAPAN: The Politics of Contested Nationalism. New Studies in Modern Japan. By Arthur Stockwin and Kweku Ampiah. Lanham; Boulder; New York; London: Lexington Books, 2017. xi, 297 pp. US$110.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-3792-6.
Stockwin and Ampiah begin this study of politics in contemporary Japan with a brief survey of the re-emergence of both right wing populism and authoritarianism around the world, which leads them to their central claim: “the election and continued incumbency of the Abe government signals a fundamental change in the politics, political economy, and conduct of foreign policy on the part of Japan” (2). According to Stockwin and Ampiah, Prime Minister Abe Shinzō’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is much less ideologically diverse than previous versions of that party, and the LDP aims “to assert the primacy of national identity, to revise the constitution, roll back crucial elements of the occupation settlement, bear down on human rights guarantees and important elements of democratic process, remove restrictions of freedom of action of the Self-Defense Force and establish Japan as what it called a ‘Normal State’” (9).
The first four chapters lay out the overall argument and paint a broad picture of changes in Japanese politics between the end of the occupation and today. The next five chapters outline and place in context recent changes in four different policy areas: political economy, constitutional revision, the Designated Secrets Law of 2013, the politics of World War II apologies in Japan, and the issue of collective self-defence. The final three chapters include an examination of Japan in relation to its neighbours, an examination of Japan’s relationship with the rest of the world, and a reassessment and critique of the idea of Japan as a reactive state.
Stockwin and Ampiah do an excellent job providing historical and political context to several of the debates currently animating Japanese politics. The strongest chapter in this book is chapter 6, which carefully analyzes the LDP’s 2012 proposed revisions to the constitution. In doing so, they effectively discuss both the history of the drafting of the constitution and the historical context behind many of the LDP’s proposed revisions.
In chapter 7, where they analyze the 2013 Designated Secrets Law, Stockwin and Ampiah make an unusual but ultimately very good decision. Although they are quite critical of the Designated Secrets Law and the damage that they fear it will do to freedom of the press in Japan, they also decide to include extensive reference to thoughtful correspondence from Kimura Sōta, a specialist in Japanese constitutional law and supporter of the law. This effort to present readers with both sides of a contentious issue further enriches the analysis in this book.
Stockwin and Ampiah also do a nice job discussing the history of party politics in Japan. They effectively address the conventional wisdom that in the post electoral reform years the LDP’s factions were non-ideological (24–25). They also shed light on the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)’s difficulty in governing Japan between 2009 and 2012 with an interesting and novel comparison—they compare the DPJ taking over the Japanese government after a long period of LDP rule with the Australian Labour Party taking over in Australia after defeating the conservative coalition that governed Australia between 1949 and 1972 (56–57). Their brief summary of the collapse of the Japan Socialist Party after its coalition government with the LDP is also well done (187).
As is perhaps unavoidable in a shared authoring project, Stockwin and Ampiah claim primary responsibility for different chapters (although they also gave one another input and, in some cases, made additions to chapters that the other was primarily responsible for) (viii). Thus, at times this book is unnecessarily repetitive. A few examples will illustrate this point. The LDP’s factions are effectively introduced on pages 24–25, and then are again explained from pages 77–79. The comfort women issue is explained on pages 166–173 and then again on pages 206–209. The issue of constitutional revision is the topic of chapter 6, but it is also introduced and discussed on pages 180–184. In none of these cases does the latter discussion make reference to the earlier one.
More substantially, although “contested nationalism” is in the title, Stockwin and Ampiah do not discuss that provocative phrase in the text of the book. At times their own interpretation seems to overstate the importance of nationalism to the current climate in Japan. For example, the concluding paragraph to their chapter on Abenomics begins with the observation that “[t]o Abe, the problem of China is just as important as Japan’s chronically ailing economy,” and they go on to suggest that concern with Japan’s position vis-à-vis China “might well be the primary factor compelling Abe to transform Japan’s economic fortunes” (113). This conclusion goes a bit beyond what the carefully and thoughtfully presented evidence in that chapter illustrates.
Finally, this book would have benefitted from a bit more attention to public opinion in Japan. Especially given that the elections won by Abe’s LDP have had historically low voter turnout, what does the Japanese public think about the direction that Abe’s LDP is taking Japan? This is an important question because, if the public is, by and large, not pleased with the LDP, then it is premature to talk about a new and more nationalist “2012 political system” (16).
Despite these relatively modest concerns, this is a book that outlines and provides historical context to many of the most important issues facing Japan today. It would be useful as a textbook in courses on the politics of Japan, politics in East Asia, and/or the comparative politics of advanced industrialized states, and would also be useful to those wanting thoughtful background on the challenges currently facing Japanese democracy.
Michael Strausz, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, USA
A MOST ENTERPRISING COUNTRY: North Korea in the Global Economy. By Justin V. Hastings. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2016. xviii, 216 pp. (Graphs, figures.) US$29.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-5017-0490-1.
The Bank of Korea (BOK) estimated that North Korea’s annual growth rate was -1.1% in 2015, and 3.9% in 2016. (Note that the credibility of BOK statistics on North Korea is still a matter of debate). For the same period, the Hyundai Research Institute estimated North Korea’s per capita GDP to have increased by 8.9%.
Recent statistics show that the North Korean economy is improving despite strong international sanctions. For a long time, people thought of North Korea as enigmatic. Now yet another puzzle presents itself: that of North Korea’s survival and development. Here, we ask a simple question: How is North Korea able to survive, and even achieve economic growth, in the middle of an alleged domestic economic collapse and a hostile international environment?
A Most Enterprising Country provides an answer to this latest puzzle. The book’s title is full of irony. Can North Korea, the last Stalinist state, which still maintains a socialist planned economic system, be “enterprising?” By analyzing changes in the North Korean economy from the 1990s to around 2015, the author argues that North Korea is not a socialist state (as conventionally understood) and that it does not have a socialist planned system. Hastings, a senior lecturer in international relations and comparative politics at the University of Sydney with an interest in East Asian political economy, including trade and smuggling activities, traces North Korean trade since the 1990s. He argues that North Korea has survived through foreign trade. North Korea’s private, state, and hybrid enterprises have constructed global foreign trade networks. There exists a hierarchical network in the domestic economy, a food chain that blurs the licit and illicit, the formal and informal. State and private enterprises in this global foreign trade network are surviving despite the hostile international environment. Hastings points to this creativity and adaptability of the North Korean economic system. At the same time, since state elites—from the Kim family, high-ranking and local elites, to trade agents—are intertwined in this hierarchical bribe chain, they have no incentive to challenge the system. Private agents, i.e. traders, can access state resources through these networks, and take advantage of them. Another keyword he suggests for understanding North Korea is the market. The market is where North Korean elites make, share, and distribute their profits. The idea leading the market is pragmatism.
Thus, Hastings depicts North Korea as most enterprising. However, he predicts that this system faces inevitable change, though not necessarily collapse. He has stated as much to the South China Morning Post (September 24, 2017), arguing that harsh economic sanctions have little impact on North Korea’s foreign policy.
Hasting’s research is based on literature as well as interviews with North Korean defectors and Chinese businesspeople who trade with North Korea. His arguments are interesting enough. However, three points are worth mentioning. The first is the relation between foreign trade and economic growth. Until recently, many researchers have suggested that the market drives the entire North Korean economy. However, whether the market can explain current North Korean economic growth is debatable. Currently, statistics indicate North Korean economic growth to be far beyond simply surviving and muddling through. As Hasting shows, we can find the answer to this puzzle in both trade and the market. Trade alone cannot explain North Korea’s recent economic growth since trade alone does not include domestic North Korean economic structures.
Second, the author describes North Korean trade networks at the global level beyond China and their hub-and-spokes structure. This approach is simultaneously both fresh and stale. Stale since, as seen in the text, the global networks of North Korea were established a long time ago and there management has been blurring political and economic boundaries ever since. (See also, Daniel Tudor and James Pearson, North Korea Confidential [Tuttle, 2015]). Of course, recent global networks are different from the old in that they are dominated by economic motives, not by ideological and political ones, and in that they’ve been expanded to include capitalist countries. But what is new in terms of the structure itself? In Hastings, it is hard to discern a critical difference or change between the old and new networks.
Third, what is the impact of policy changes in North Korea? During the Seventh Party Congress in 2016, North Korea emphasized the need to diversify its trading partners. North Korea fears dependence on China, which accounts for 90 percent of its foreign trade, and would like to find new trading partners to reduce that dependency. This could encourage North Korean traders’ creativity and adaptability in a various ways. What will change and what will not is an important question to be answered in the future.
Currently, North Korea confronts a series of UN sanctions, the US’s special sanctions, and China’s accommodation of international sanctions. As Hastings comments, “a complete Chinese shutdown of trade and barricading of the border would probably bring the country to its knees” (South China Morning Post, September 24, 2017). But will China take that path? Even now, at the peak of international sanctions, trucks are stuck in traffic jams in Dandong, the most important nexus of Sino-North Korean trade, as they cross to Shinuiju on the North Korean side of the border.
The real value of this book’s insights will be tested as we see whether such a situation is sustainable into the future. Although, as the author says, we should not “mistake to think” that economic sanctions will cause the collapse of North Korea.
This book provides one answer to the question of North Korea’s survival and economic growth in circumstances of the most severe sanctions against it (a total of 12 sanctions since the 1990s). Policy-makers, scholars, students, and anyone interested in North Korea’s future should read this book. It delivers insights and valuable lessons on North Korea’s economy and foreign trade.
YoungChul Chung, Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea
CARE COMMUNICATION: Making a Home in a Japanese Eldercare Facility. Routledge Studies in Sociolinguistics, no. 14. By Peter Backhaus. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. xiii, 187 pp. (Tables, graphs.) US$149.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-22984-6.
Backhaus’s Care Communication is a sociolinguistic analysis of verbal interactions between the residents and care workers of an eldercare institution in Tokyo. The main motivation propelling the analysis is to better understand the nature of communication in a Japanese institutional eldercare setting (24). The book has a double aim: to account for the “basic characteristics of resident-staff interaction during morning care activities” (24); and to contribute to the understanding of “how little things can make a difference in the various ways people care for each other as they try to make a home in an unlikely place” (152). These are worthy goals, particularly in Japan, where institutionalized eldercare has long remained a publicly debated topic. With the proportion of elderly in Japanese society still due to rise, waiting lists to be admitted to care institutions invariably long, continuously high turnover of care staff, and the delegation of eldercare to non-Japanese workers and robots, it is important that we have a clear understanding of how these institutions operate not only on a large managerial level, but also how “micro-level human interactions” (152) and “micro-level orderliness” (24) shape (but also reflect) the experiences of those for whom these institutions are a workplace as well as those for whom they have become new homes.
To achieve his goals, Backhaus analyzes 46 transcripts of 107 voice-recorded interactions that occurred in an institution nicknamed Edogawa Care over 18 working days. He focuses solely on early morning encounters when the elderly residents are woken up and get ready for breakfast assisted by the care workers. The analysis (following a short introduction, a somewhat longer contextualization of his own study within the existing literature on communication and institutionalized care, and a methodological chapter), focuses on four aspects of the verbal exchanges that Backhaus recorded: occurrence of honorifics (a particularly marked element in the Japanese language); openings and closings; task- and non-task-related talk; and the tempo of the exchanges. Four analytical chapters discuss several characteristics of each of these aspects.
We learn, for example, that care workers and the elderly use honorifics not according to grammar-book rules, but according to how they understand a situation on a “turn-by-turn basis” (44–45). By pointing to this dynamism Backhaus questions the direct link between honorifics and politeness. In relation to how and by whom verbal interactions are initiated and how they come to an end, Backhaus shows that these are dominated by care workers. However, the elderly too are able to take it upon themselves to, for example, confirm the end of a task and thus exercise more control over the flow of the situation.
What is of interest in Backhaus’s discussion of task and non-task talk, are not just the subjects raised, but also how the non-task talk is incorporated within the task-focused utterances. Both the elderly and the care workers need to multitask to get their non-task conversations going. While non-task exchanges are an important part of care that extends beyond the physical and attends to the emotional needs of the elderly, allowing for the institutional roles to recede into the background, there is a thin line between “talking while working” and “working while talking” (121). Should one appear as doing the latter, they run the risk of being cast as unprofessional (121). Just how easy it is to move from one form of interaction to the other is illustrated by Backhaus through the words of an elderly person who has to bring a care worker back to the care task at hand when the latter, engrossed in a non-task talk, temporarily delays his actions. How exactly to balance the task and non-task-related conversations and actions is an issue at the heart of the definition of what good care is.
In the penultimate chapter Backhaus directs our attention to the tempo of the exchanges. The main gist we get from the analysis here is that the elderly favour a somewhat slower pace than that at which the care workers operate. This has arguably to do with the drive of the care workers to perform a task quickly. However, Backhaus points out that such “interactional hurriedness” (140) can actually have the opposite effect.
Concluding his book, Backhaus summarizes the main characteristics of the analyzed interactions: care communication during morning exchanges in Edogawa Care is task-focused and asymmetrical, with care givers typically having the upper hand, and done in a hurry. This is indeed what transpires through the examples presented in the book. However, what I was left in want of was Backhaus’s suggestion as for how to make a home in an “unlikely place” (152) such as a care institution. Despite the subtitle suggesting that the reader will learn about how the “making of a home” is enacted in a Japanese eldercare facility, the closest we get to finding out how Backhaus sees it happen is when we read that “institutional asymmetry is no pre-given state, but an interactional product that the participants can refuse to deliver” (144) and that institutions can be “talked into and—at times—out of being” (143). Yes, throughout the book we do see how the elderly are subverting the overall asymmetrical relationship they find themselves in in relation to the care workers, but how exactly is it related to making a care institution a home? To answer this second topic of his book, Backhaus could have offered a more sustained analysis of the two “noisy background topics” (148) that he only marginally attends to throughout the book and then shortly returns to in the conclusion: What constitutes politeness or its opposite and how does gender shape interactions between care workers and the elderly residents? And then, how does this relate to an idea of home. Two sections of the conclusion are devoted to putting together dispersed moments from the book that speak to these questions, but both of these large topics together are covered within just five pages and do not offer an answer.
Overall, the book meets its goal to describe the basic characteristics of staff-resident interaction during morning care activities as they manifest themselves in the Japanese language. The book will therefore be of interest to linguists interested in this area who, for example, may be working on care-related study books for non-Japanese workers and/or designing software to be mounted on robots attending to the Japanese elderly in the future. The other goal of the book, that is, understanding how to make a home in an eldercare institution, however, could perhaps be delegated to a sequel to Care Communication, which I would also read with great interest.
Beata Świtek, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany
EMPEROR HIROHITO AND THE PACIFIC WAR. By Noriko Kawamura. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015. vii, 238 pp. (Map, illustrations.) US$34.94, cloth. ISBN 978-0-295-99517-5.
This book, Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War, is a well-balanced analysis of the controversial role Emperor Hirohito played during the Pacific War, drawing on previously unavailable primary sources. Noriko Kawamura sets herself a twofold task: first, to situate controversies surrounding Emperor Hirohito into appropriate historical contexts; second, to shed a new light on the work by past researchers on Emperor Hirohito’s wartime deeds and responsibilities. Kawamura, in fact, is right in arguing that “even if the power of the throne was symbolic, not actual, the emperor could have taken symbolic responsibility for the war, although there would still be a need to clarify what would constitute symbolic war responsibility” (7). In the first three of the six chapters, Kawamura accomplishes the first task by a careful description of the chronology of imperialist Japan. In the remaining three chapters, Kawamura explores the possibilities for striking a balance between orthodox and leftist historians’ interpretations. For example, Kawamura mentions that there is a tendency on the part of Western scholars to support a Tokyo Trial view of the emperor’s role in war decisions, and that they have generally been more sympathetic to the dilemmas faced by the emperor than Japanese leftist historians. Wherever necessary, Kawamura provides theoretical and practical explanations for their judgments, which makes this book accessible even to elementary readers in the field of wartime history. For example, Kawamura states that these Western scholars all reflected Maruyama Masao’s argument of the pluralistic consensus-oriented system.
The introduction sets forth the objective of this book: “to reexamine and reevaluate Emperor Hirohito’s role in the Pacific War and to offer a realistic reappraisal of two highly politicized and exaggerated interpretations of history” (7, emphasis added): one depicting the emperor as a pacifist constitutional monarch and the other as an absolute monarch and commander in chief.
Chapter 1 provides the background of the period from 1910 to 1933, as to how two divergent visions of Japan’s role in the world emerged: “one held by those who believed in international accommodation; the other held by those who wanted to build a self-sustaining Japanese empire in Asia” (19). Chapter 2 describes how the emperor’s perception of his country’s troubled internal conditions deeply affected his attitude concerning Japan’s policy toward China and the Western world. Chapter 3 analyzes Japan’s critical decision-making process in the early years of the Pacific War. The author sets out Emperor Hirohito’s dilemma, which is an ironic contradiction for leftist historians: “the emperor who wanted to act like a constitutional monarch had to exercise his authority like an absolute monarch if he was to avoid war with the United States” (95).
Chapter 4 explains the continued and increasing gap between the emperor’s personal concerns about Japan’s situation and the military leadership’s view of the war (115). Chapter 5 centres around Robert Butow’s claim that “[t]he atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet Union’s declaration of war did not produce Japan’s decision to surrender, for that decision—in embryo—had long been taking shape. What these events did do was to create that unusual atmosphere in which the theretofore static factor of the Emperor could be made active in such an extraordinary way as to work what was virtually a political miracle” (135–136). Chapter 6 sets the right question as a framework to examine Emperor Hirohito’s role toward the end of war: “if the emperor could not stop Japan from going to war in the first place, how and why was he able to play a critical role in ending the war through his seidan (sacred imperial decision)?” (151), instead of the wrong question (“if the emperor possessed the power to stop the war in August 1945, why did he permit the war to start in the first place?”) which is obvious to the reader who understands the emperor’s seemingly contradictory two positions mentioned above.
Throughout this book, Kawamura tries to be fair and careful to both sides, that is, to orthodox and to leftist historians, in citing and evaluating their use of evidence, positions, and arguments. For example, in the third chapter, Kawamura criticizes Herbert Bix’s argument that Hirohito could have changed the outcome of the imperial conference on September 6, 1941, faulting his reliance on selective evidence. Also, Kawamura is not afraid to challenge an existing historical view: “There is no doubt that the emperor’s ‘Monologue’ was prepared in anticipation of the Tokyo war crimes trial, but this does not automatically diminish the reliability of the emperor’s testimony, as some of his critics have suggested” (15).
Reading through the final chapters, one is bound to ask: how successful is Kawamura’s work in accomplishing the twofold task mentioned above? I believe that Kawamura does a fine job of describing Emperor Hirohito’s complex positions and his historical situation (and, I might add, conveying the emperor’s personality). I would be remiss, however, if I closed without a final comment on the timing of this publication. Not only are we in a post-truth society of the twenty-first century, but we are also entering into the post-witness society of World War II. Over seventy years have passed since the war’s end; soon, we will no longer be able to depend on the people who lived wartime Japan in person for evidence. Besides, their memories could be coloured, selected, and even distorted by their emotions, ideological positions, and experiences. Hence in the years to come, we need to analyze such rhetorical notions as “myths” (136), “collective memories” (136), “his words” (154) and “hard reality” (183), in addition to official documentation. Kawamura is correct to close the discussion in the epilogue with this statement: “Regardless of his intentions, [Emperor Hirohito] has become a controversial historical figure whose silence and inaction will continue to have divergent and far-reaching impacts, both negative and positive, for generations to come” (192). The controversy continues. Reconciliation between historical and rhetorical studies of wartime Japan is posed as a challenging agenda for contemporary scholars.
Takeshi Suzuki, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan and University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
CURSE ON THIS COUNTRY: The Rebellious Army of Imperial Japan. By Danny Orbach. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2017. x, 367 pp. (Figures.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-5017-0528-1.
Reading Danny Orbach’s new monograph, I often thought of that old quip about Prussia: “not a state with an army but an army with a state.” The same too could be said about Imperial Japan, where, as Orbach persuasively shows, the tail so often wagged the dog in setting both domestic and foreign policy.
Orbach’s book pulls off the difficult trick of talking to two audiences at once. Those only casually familiar with Japanese history will appreciate how thoroughly Orbach demolishes the hoary orientalist trope that Japanese soldiers were insect-like drones, mindlessly obedient to state propaganda. Specialists will be more interested in Orbach’s answer to what is still for many the great question of modern Japanese history: why did the country embark on a disastrous war of aggression in the mid-twentieth century?
Orbach’s answer in some ways echoes earlier explanations advanced during and immediately after that war. At the time many Japanese intellectuals, not to mention the US Occupation authorities, agreed that the country’s militarism was a remnant of the “feudal” Tokugawa era (1603–1868): an unreformed samurai ethos combined with a stunted modern subjectivity that prevented the people from mobilizing to curb the recklessness of their leaders. Later generations of scholars have largely jettisoned this view, attributing the Pacific War to modern phenomena such as capitalism, imperialism, fascism, or autarkic planning.
But for Orbach the seeds of the Japanese militarism do indeed lie in the Tokugawa period, in particular its closing years after the arrival of Commodore Perry’s Black Ships. During this period rebellious young “warriors of high aspiration” (shishi) undermined the ruling Shogunate by engaging in assassination, brigandage, and even urban guerrilla warfare. Though their actions were purportedly patriotic—they aimed to restore the emperor, who would protect the nation from foreign incursion—Orbach doesn’t shy away from calling them terrorists. Moreover the shishi, he argues, set a precedent for later generations of military men to meddle in Japanese politics, disobeying the chain of command in the name of a higher patriotism.
From here, Orbach traces the thread of military insubordination across the Meiji Restoration and through Japan’s imperial expansion up to the 1937 invasion of China. In the process he covers well-known incidents like the 1873 debate over whether to invade Korea, the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion, and the machinations to assassinate leaders in Korea (Queen Min, 1895) and Northeast China (Zhang Zuolin, 1928) as a prelude to eventual annexation.
He also shows how military officers interfered in domestic politics as well, not just in two coup attempts during the 1930s, but also during the Taishō political crisis of 1912–1913, when the Army Ministry toppled a cabinet in order to secure budget appropriations for itself. This, Orbach argues, “amounted almost to a bloodless coup d’etat” (130). It not only cemented the army’s “independence from civilian rule,” but triggered a “dangerous democratization of military disobedience” (130). From this point on, not only generals but also lower-ranking officers would assert the right to disobey orders in the name of the emperor.
To make his case Orbach has mastered a variety of materials in five languages, including newspaper articles, diaries of soldiers and politicians, and diplomatic and military archives located in Japan, the US, Britain, Russia, and Switzerland. He also deftly intertwines approaches from cultural and institutional history. On the one hand he shows how feats of insubordination became valourized in public memory, thereby serving to legitimize future disobedience. On the other he delves confidently into the institutional nitty-gritty: arcane constitutional disputes, chains of command, and the nuanced factional politics that shaped military and civilian affairs alike.
To frame his argument, Orbach deploys the metaphor of a “software bug,” referring not just to the flaws inherent in the Meiji political settlement, but also to an extra-juridical malady: a culture that tolerated and even admired brazen acts of military insubordination. My students, many of whom might have found jargon unpalatable, found this analogy easy to grasp. Computation, after all, is one of the master metaphors of our age. It also opens up a host of questions. If a polity is a computer program, what is it designed to do exactly? Who wrote it, and for what purpose? If the program has multiple authors, then how, where, when, and why are different chunks of code grafted onto one another?
For me, the most interesting section of Orbach’s book was his comparison of Japan and Germany, two nations which are, for obvious reasons, often lumped together as following a deviant path into modernity. Orbach argues that Japanese militarism stemmed not from choosing the “wrong [i.e. German] model,” but because in copying Prussian institutions “some of the crucial components were lost in translation” (95). While in Prussia distinctions between military and civilian elites were well entrenched, the leaders of Japan’s Meiji Restoration were from the outset both politicians and soldiers, creating a blurred line between the two spheres. The irony here is that Japanese soldiers disobeyed their cautious civilian leaders, whereas their German counterparts followed the (reckless) orders that were given to them.
Still, Germany aside, I found myself wondering how Japanese military insubordination compared to that of other modern armies. In his introduction, Orbach makes brief comparisons to military insubordination in other polities such as Tsarist Russia and even the US during its Annexation of Hawaii. I also thought of Clive of India and Gordon of the Khartoum, two adventurists who were later canonized in the British military pantheon. Indeed, the phenomenon of military insubordination makes for an excellent jumping-off point for a broader analysis of nineteenth-century state making. The Japanese state was hardly alone in undergoing profound transformations during this period. Apart from Germany there was also the Ottoman Tanzimat (1839–1876), Mexico’s La Reforma (1857–1860), Italian Unification (1860), China’s Tongzhi Restoration (1860–1874), Russia’s Emancipation of the Serfs (1861), and the US Civil War and Reconstruction (1861–1877). Charles Meier describes the political model that emerged from this process of global convergence as “Leviathan 2.0” (another software metaphor).
Orbach recognizes that Japan’s “bugs” also occurred in other polities, but ultimately concludes that “while Japan was not unique in general terms…the challenges [it] faced were also different, as were the responses of policymakers to that challenge. The distinct legacy of the Japanese past, especially the shishi and their ideology, played a particularly important role” (7). A devil’s advocate might argue that the challenges facing Japan were not atypical, and that the shishi are comparable to nationalist revolutionaries such as Mazzini or Atatürk. Either way, Orbach’s book is not just an important contribution to the historiography of Japan; it adds a key piece to the puzzle of understanding state-military relations across the global nineteenth century.
Paul Kreitman, Columbia University, New York, USA
BASE ENCOUNTERS: The US Armed Forces in South Korea. Anthropology, Culture and Society. By Elisabeth Schober. London: Pluto Press, 2016. xv, 214 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$34.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-7453-3605-3.
In July 2007, I travelled with a group of Korean Americans to Pyeongtaek, South Korea to meet with a group of elderly farmers that had been displaced by the expansion of Camp Humphreys, a nearby US military base. Prior to the meeting, one of the activists who had fought alongside the elders to protest the seizure of their ancestral lands gave us her perspective of the problems of US militarism: not only was South Korean sovereignty foreclosed by the permanence of troops on the peninsula and the consolidation of bases, but American soldiers were no longer confined to the areas around the bases. Thanks to the extension of Seoul’s mass transit, these rowdy Americans were territorializing Korean land in new ways, bringing crime and delinquency with them.
This activist’s statement captures the political backdrop against which Elisabeth Schober sets her anthropological exploration of the frictions between the American military and South Korean civilians since the 1990s. Drawing on the work of scholars who study the US military empire, such as Katharine Moon, Cynthia Enloe, Catherine Lutz, and Seungsook Moon, Schober provides an excellent overview of the ways in which the neocolonial relationship between the US and South Korea has affected local women, as well as the history of South Korea as a quintessentially militarized capitalist society. Through the concept of “violent imaginaries” she shows that South Korea’s subordination to the US is at once real and imagined.
Framing her analysis through Marshall Sahlins’ notion of “structural amplification,” the metamorphosis of an individual act into the symbol of a structural problem, she focuses on several high-profile incidents involving US troops, such as the infamous 1992 murder of a sex worker named Yun Kum-i by one of her soldier-clients, the 2002 vehicular killing of two schoolgirls by an American military tank, and the 2007 rape of a 67-year-old woman by an American soldier carousing in the Seoul neighbourhood of Hongdae. In each case, the images of the crimes were heavily mediated and deployed by the “nationalist left” in an attempt to reclaim Korean territory. Schober argues that these images then took on a collective psychic life beyond the incidents themselves, and violent imaginaries became an everyday social practice among South Koreans. In one particularly memorable example, Schober shares an anecdote of a school teacher recounting the gruesome details of Yun’s murder to a class of ten-year-old students. The result of this social practice has been that “the contentious figure of the violent U.S. soldier will not go away” (9).
At the centre of this “violent imaginary” is a triad that involves a criminal soldier, a female victim, and a place of ill repute. Schober looks at three such places: the camptown, or “ville,” surrounding the US base, the entertainment district of Itaewon (previously the only neighbourhood in Seoul that drew American soldiers), and Hongdae, an artsy, left-leaning college neighbourhood that has been undergoing rapid commercialization and is now a popular destination for Americans. In each locale, Schober exposes the tensions not only between Koreans and Americans, but also between the simple narrative of the predatory American soldier versus the hapless female victim and the more complex dynamic in which the actors are, in some ways, similarly situated. The soldiers and camptown women are both workers in a militarized global labour market; American soldiers and Korean women are both seeking a good time when partying together in Hongdae.
The chapter on Hongdae was the most illuminating one for me. It shows how the expansion of Seoul’s subway system, combined with Hongdae as a party destination, has provoked old anxieties about foreign contamination and the need to control and contain it. While conservative Koreans had always blamed the liberal climate of Hongdae on corrupting foreign influences, the arrival of American soldiers on the scene raised public concerns to a new and hysterical level. The derogatory term “yanggongju” (Western princess), which had previously referred to camptown sex workers, began to be used against the women who partied with Americans outside the context of either commercial sex or the military base. In this chapter, as well as in the chapter on Itaewon, we also see multiplicity in spaces that attract foreigners, and therefore, the possibility for unlikely alliances.
One area of Schober’s analysis that is under-researched, however, is the relationship between different South Korean protest movements. Schober assumes that anti-American base activists do not also critique the South Korean government, as she characterizes Hongdae punks as “exceptional in that they are strongly concerned with how to circumvent, contest, and subvert both home-grown and foreign forms of militarism” (169). The anti-base movement has had a strong alliance with the labour movement, which was actively involved in the struggle against Camp Humphreys’ expansion. Although the brutal and tragic deaths of Korean civilians at the hands of US soldiers sparked anti-American protests, as Schober correctly noted, there is a deeper protest culture among South Koreans that is often directed at their own government, as evidenced by the massive and sustained protests leading up to the ouster of Park Geun-hye in 2017.
Also, rather than characterize the perception of Americans as having suddenly shifted in the 1990s, it’s more accurate to say that South Korean sentiments towards the US military presence are, and always have been, ambivalent. While 1992 was a watershed moment, the image of the murderous American soldier has been part of the Korean imaginary since the Korean War, albeit far less mediated, and the disdain for American foreignness dates back to the inception of the South Korean nation, when Syngman Rhee created social policies designed to exclude half-American children and their Korean mothers from civil society.
Base Encounters is an important addition to the literature on US military bases in Korea in that it significantly updates the previous research to include issues of transnational labour in South Korea’s militarized sex industry, and it looks at new “place-making projects” in urban entertainment districts, in which American soldiers are just one set of many actors.
Grace M. Cho, College of Staten Island, New York, USA
JAPANESE FEMINIST DEBATES: A Century of Contention on Sex, Love, and Labor. By Ayako Kano. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. ix, 320 pp. US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5580-2.
Ayako Kano begins Japanese Feminist Debates with a simple question: “Can a girl be happy in Japan?” (1). The question came to her when she was asked to testify as an expert witness in a custody battle between an American father and a Japanese mother. The attorney wanted her to argue that the child would have a better life as a female in the United States. Kano wisely declined to testify, but this unanswerable question captures many of the contradictions of contemporary Japan, which has a high standard of living but ranks low in many measures of gender equality. True to the topic of the book, Kano does not ever attempt to answer this question definitively. Rather, she points to the multiple voices which have described, critiqued, protested, or projected hopeful future visions of the lives of women in modern Japan.
The scope of the book covers feminist intellectual debate (ronsō) or discussion (rondan) from the Meiji period to the present day. The decision to focus the book on debate rather than on a history of feminism in Japan is ingenious, and distinguishes it from previous writing in English (for example, Vera Mackie, Feminism in Modern Japan: Citizenship, Embodiment and Sexuality, Cambridge University Press, 2003; Sharon L. Sievers, Flowers in Salt: The Beginning of Feminist Consciousness in Japan, Stanford University Press, 1983). Japan’s rapid modernization and high literacy rate made public intellectual debate an important part of establishing national identity and public policy, particularly in the Meiji period and in the early postwar years when the role of women was being renegotiated. As with feminism in the West, there has never been a single feminist discourse, but constant contestation or multiple, sometimes competing feminisms. By presenting these issues as debates, Kano does not attempt to reconcile or rank them, but shows where opinion falls on major issues, and why.
The book is organized thematically, with chapters on sex, reproduction, work, and public policy. Debates within each chapter are presented more or less chronologically, with some focus on the Seitō (Bluestocking) writers of the Meiji period and the women’s lib movement of the 1960s. This approach allows for a nuanced and detailed picture not only of the debates themselves, but of the various positions taken by major names in Japanese feminism.
The chapter on sexuality focuses largely on debates surrounding prostitution and pornography. Although sexual mores have changed dramatically since the Meiji period, Kano finds issues of control of sexuality versus self-determination are still current. She writes, “The feminist conundrum identified earlier [in the Meiji period] thus turns out to be alive even today: the argument against commodification risks supporting a call for greater state control of sexuality, whereas the argument for individual control of sexuality risks condoning the expansion of the sex industry. Thus, when feminists want to criticize the sex industry, they find it difficult to avoid the logic of state control, and when they want to stress individual control of sexuality, they find it difficult to avoid the logic of commodification” (62).
The next chapter concerns debate around abortion and birth control, with concomitant issues of eugenics and disability rights activism. Japan is unusual among industrialized nations in that it was one of the first to decriminalize abortion (in 1948) but late to legalize hormonal birth control. Kano argues that the debate in Japan has not been “a woman’s choice” versus “fetal life” as in the United States, but rather about issues relating to economic viability, eugenics, the complexity of women’s lives, and “nature” (101). While Kano finds that the appeal to what is “natural” is similar to the religious opposition to abortion in other countries, other aspects of the debate in Japan are more nuanced than the rather calcified positions in the US. Since responsibility for a child’s well-being as well as a woman’s own extends for a lifetime (as Kano points out, a lifetime that is unprecedentedly long), the economic and social burden is indeed substantial and in many cases overwhelming, and goes beyond issues of individual choice.
The chapter on work looks at the motherhood protection debate (bosei hogo ronsō) of the 1910s, the housewife debates of the 1950s, and the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL) of 1985, all moments in which the debate centred around the valourization of motherhood and other unpaid domestic labour versus advocates of economic independence via paid work. The following chapter delves into more detail on the EEOL and other contentious sites of what Kano calls state feminism, or efforts to institute public policy to eliminate gender discrimination. This chapter also documents the conservative backlash against gains in gender equality, and various feminist responses to that backlash, including debates around so-called “gender-free” policies. An important point Kano makes is that the term usually translated in government documents as “gender equal” is in fact “male-female joint planning” (danjo kyōdō sankaku, 142) which belies the ultimately conservative ideology of politicians such as Abe Shinzō, who loudly proclaim the economic potential of women’s labour while at best promoting restrictive roles for women as wives and mothers and at worst actively undermining the work of feminist politicians.
Kano writes in a lucid and engaging style, meticulously researched and leavened with sharp-eyed reflections on her own experiences in Japan as a working mother while researching the book. Her vivid description of the elaborate daily preparation she was expected to perform for her elementary-school child rivals Anne Allison’s screed against the bentō box and Japanese preschool expectations (Anne Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics and Censorship in Japan, Westview Press, 1996). Japanese Feminist Debates is a cogent and illuminating overview of women’s issues in modern Japan, and should be of interest to any scholar of modern Japan, and of gender studies more generally. The clear prose style and inclusion of many sources not available in English also make it accessible for undergraduate teaching and appealing to non-specialist academics.
Deborah Shamoon, National University of Singapore, Singapore
MEDIA THEORY IN JAPAN. Edited by Marc Steinberg and Alexander Zahlten. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. xv, 423 pp. (Illustrations.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6326-2.
As Marc Steinberg and Alexander Zahlten point out in their introductory essay to this groundbreaking collection, the robust history of media theorization in Japan is wholly invisible to existing Euro-American media studies discourses, despite having one of the most developed and influential media industries in the world. In this sense, the collection can be read as a demonstration of the simple fact that media theory exists in Japan. Yet, it goes much further than this by selecting essays that together illuminate the dynamic historical conditions and intellectual horizons of media theory in Japan. Instead of a chronological survey of the historical development of Japanese media theory, it seeks to provide an overview of the manifold contexts and modes of thought as part of—rather than apart from—the history of Japan’s media industries and cultures. As such, the collection’s integrative approach to the study of media theory in Japan sheds new light on how media contextualizes thought—and vice versa—in ways that are both informed by, and in transversal of, discrete historical and discursive contexts.
Not only do the collected essays vividly chart key instances of media theorization born of the specificities of local and regional media histories and cultures in Japan, but the editors situate the collection as part of ongoing reassessments of the locatedness of media theory. Thus oriented by a keen focus on the contextual and situational conditions of media theorization, the novel perspectives and specificities revealed by the collected essays greatly expand the location of media theory beyond the seemingly habituated spatial and temporal contours of European and North American media studies. By inviting new questions as well as expanding the given scope of theoretical inquiry into media forms, this important collection seeks to open up a number of discursive contexts to deeper modes of fruitful exchange.
A crucial part of what makes this volume so successful in these efforts is the interplay among the essays and the layered organization of the collection as a whole. Following Akira Lippit’s evocative preface and the editors’ introduction, the collected essays are divided into three parts, organized by the diverse approaches and subjects of the texts themselves. While unable to fully describe the entirety of the collection’s contributions, a brief outline of the major highlights to be found within each section will illustrate the indispensable value of the collection. In part 1, “Communication Technologies,” the essays explore instances in which the theorization of media captured profound media-technological and societal change in Japan, resulting in a nuanced portrait of the critical resonances among diverse historical and discursive contexts. Aaron Gerow reminds us of the forgetful nature of “new” media in a comparative look at the emphasis on the “everyday” shared by theorizations of TV in the 1950s and film in the 1910s. Yuriko Furuhata complicates the cybernetic vision of urban environments in 1960s architectural discourse by overlaying it with the prior moment of colonial urban planning to critically recast the “newness” of a biopolitical model of the city. Takeshi Kadobayashi deftly unpacks the shifting media strategies that influential critic Azuma Hiroki deployed across rapid changes in the technological and discursive contexts of the 1990s and early 2000s. Working within the same transformative moment, Marilyn Ivy excavates the multi-media horizons of the print journal InterCommunication to retrieve a different vision for media theory from Japan’s “lost decades.”
Part 2’s simple thematic title of “Practical Theory” belies a complex set of essays that undertake a much-needed inquiry into media practices as critical modes of thought, including those engaged in diverse acts of making and thinking media. Steinberg traces the role played by Japanese translations of McLuhan’s work during the 1960s in shaping the practice of media theory within the advertising industries. Miryam Sas illuminates the contours of a radical practice of media theory found in the writings of critics Matsuda Masao, Nakahira Takuma, and Tsumura Takashi, and crystallized by a 1973 symposium with German critic Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Contrasting advertising strategies and leftist critiques of image media in the early 1970s, Tomiko Yoda’s essay examines how the national railway’s Discover Japan campaign envisioned new forms of mobility and captivity for young female consumers. Zahlten introduces the performative nature of 1980s media theorizations, and offers a useful survey of the influential thinkers that exemplified this highly commodified modality of critique, such as Asada Akira and Hasumi Shigehiko. Likewise, Ryoko Misono showcases the TV criticism of Nancy Seki, and illustrates how her weekly columns during the 1990s, including portraits of TV personalities etched into erasers, were a potent form of critique of network media structures. With a nuanced reflection on the legacies of the woman’s liberation movement of the 1970s, Anne McKnight rigorously delineates the expanded media ecologies traversed by Rokudenashiko’s “manko” (or, “vulva”) art-activism in the contemporary moment.
Part 3, “Mediation and Media Theory,” traces the diverse ways in which major Japanese thinkers have produced novel vocabularies of media, mediation, and medium, with essays by Akihiro Kitada on Nakai Masakazu, Fabian Schafer on Nishida Kitarō and Kyōto School philosophy, and Keisuke Kitano on Kobayashi Hideo. Following these engagements with celebrated historical figures, Tom Looser’s essay on Azuma Hiroki’s recursive orientation after the Fukushima nuclear disaster offers a fitting call for a different kind of media studies today. The articulately conceptualized editorial vision of this volume not only answers to this call, but the diverse range of rigorous and engaging essays make the collection as a whole essential reading for an extensive range of audiences in media studies, Japan studies, and humanities-based area studies more broadly.
Franz Prichard, Princeton University, Princeton, USA
POLITICAL SURVIVAL AND YASUKUNI IN JAPAN’S RELATIONS WITH CHINA. Politics in Asia Series. By Mong Cheung. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. xii,165 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$123.25, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-94570-8.
Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto establishment which emerged almost hand-in-hand with the rise of the modern Japanese state in the second half of the nineteenth century, has become a focus of both international disputes in Asia and scholarly attention among historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and news commentators. In this well-composed book, political scientist Mong Cheung presents a sharply focused analysis of Japanese prime ministerial visits to the controversial shrine. Drawing upon contemporary sources ranging from newspaper reports to writings by politicians and interviews with them, Cheung raises an intriguing question: Why did the more hawkish prime ministers, known for their assertive nationalism, often refrain from visiting the shrine, while a less ideologically inclined prime minister, once in power, took a more provocative posture by repeatedly visiting the shrine, despite the vehement protests by neighbouring countries that had been subjected to Japan’s past military aggression?
In seven chapters, Cheung approaches this question through a micro-analytical concept of “political survival,” which views retaining the loyalty of a winning coalition of supporters as the primary goal of any office-seeking politician. Following an introduction that defines the Yasukuni problem in international and domestic debates, chapter 2, “Political Survival and Japan’s Policy toward China on Yasukuni,” identifies three current approaches and explains Cheung’s own take on the prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Cheung shows that an explanation for the incongruity between the hawkish statements and reconciliatory actions of a politician, or vice versa, cannot be found by focusing on an individual politician’s political or ideological preference, emphasizing the broad ideological and cultural changes from one generation of politicians to another, or by stressing the imperative of foreign strategy in response to international pressure. The paradox, he argues, has its inner logic when seen from the perspective of the “political survival” of office-seeking politicians, who need to maintain strong domestic support. Chapter 3, “Understanding Yasukuni,” narrates a general history of the Yasukuni Shrine, its association with and legal separation from the Japanese state, and the rise of the Yasukuni problem between China and Japan.
The following three chapters provide case analyses that form the evidential base of this book. Chapter 4, “Refraining from the Yasukuni Visit,” pairs two Japan-China controversies over prime ministerial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine during the administrations of Nakasone Yasuhiro (1985-1986) and Hashimoto Ryutaro (1996-1997). While both were assertive nationalists seeking Japan’s “normal” status in the international arena, Nakasone was arguably more important and influential in initiating major attempts to raise Japan’s international profile. He stands out as an important case as well for being the prime minister whose official visit to the Yasukuni Shrine provoked the first salvo of official protests from China. In the years that followed, Nakasone stopped visiting the shrine while in office. Ten years later, Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro repeated a similar pattern of behaviour. He visited the shrine as Japan’s prime minister in 1996, but refrained from doing so while in office after Chinese protests. Cheung rejects the view that these decisions were made as a response to international pressure from China. Instead, he argues that both politicians were motivated by domestic political calculation. Nakasone stopped visiting the shrine from his strengthened political position in 1986, as he no longer needed it to rally support from his target political factions. Hashimoto stopped his Yasukuni visits, on the other hand, because of his weak political position. He needed to avoid antagonizing the Social Democratic Party, a longstanding opponent to prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine and an important partner within his Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition government. Despite the different political strengths of these two prime ministers, each made a decision on Yasukuni visits based on a similar rationale: a focus on its potential to increase or sustain domestic political support.
By and large, chapters 5 and 6, “Differing Responses” and “Policy Variations,” present two more cases that follow the same pattern: prime ministers Koizumi Junichiro (2001–2006) and Abe Shinzo (2006–2007, 2012–2015). Cheung shows that, in spite of Chinese protests, Koizumi made repeated visits to the shrine and did so from his relatively weak position within the Liberal Democratic Party. Even though Koizumi did not demonstrate any enthusiasm about the Yasukuni question before seeking office, he used Yasukuni visits to invigorate intraparty support while in office. On the contrary, Abe Shinzo had been a strong advocate for Japan’s “normalcy” and adopted a hawkish position over the Yasukuni question before taking office. Yet he responded to Chinese protests and stopped Yasukuni visits in person during his first term. Cheung argues that Abe did not cave in to Chinese pressure but was able to put aside the Yasukuni problem when he had a secure political base of majority support. Likewise, Abe refrained from making a public gesture of visiting the controversial shrine during much of his second term as prime minister. This time, however, he did so mainly to improve relations with China, which he viewed as important for achieving higher approval ratings at home.
Political Survival and Yasukuni in Japan’s Relations with China presents a convincing argument on the relationship between political gestures on Yasukuni by Japanese prime ministers and their domestic political reckoning. Within a well-defined frame of an individual politician’s action, Cheung’s study takes into consideration a range of important issues, from domestic policy goals to management of Japan’s international relations with China and the role of personal ideology, while discussing the relative weight of each in prime ministerial deliberations on Yasukuni Cheung has made a valuable contribution to the expanding scholarship on the Yasukuni problem from the perspective of a political scientist. Nonetheless, readers interested in the Yasukuni problem must be aware that this is not a book on the problem of Yasukuni per se, but on short-term political decisions. The fact that politicians in Japan could use Yasukuni as a political instrument itself raises questions about the shrine’s existence and evolution, its relationship with Japan’s modern state, and its electrifying power in contemporary Japanese society. The task of this book is not to provide answers to these questions, which have to be found in other studies using a more comprehensive framework.
Lu Yan, University of New Hampshire , Durham, USA
THE AFTERMATH OF THE 2011 EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI: Living among the Rubble. By Shoichiro Takezawa; Translated by Polly Barton. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016. xxi, 197 pp. (Illustrations.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-4251-7.
The earthquake and tsunami that struck East Japan on March 11, 2011 was a catastrophe with far-reaching political, social, and personal implications. As a volunteer working in the town of Ōtsuchi in Iwate prefecture, the author collected the personal accounts of survivors, while observing and engaging in help and reconstruction efforts. The result is a book that retells in detail and with empathy the experiences of surviving the immediate catastrophe, living in and running evacuation shelters, and finally planning the reconstruction of local communities. The author connects these stories with his personal thoughts and interpretations.
The book develops two main narratives: one tells the events as a human-made catastrophe and highlights institutional and personal failures; the other focuses on spontaneous and practical solidarity and highlights individual initiatives in rescuing others and rebuilding communities. It is to the book’s credit that it emphasizes both of these aspects equally.
The book is structured as three main chapters that evolve on a timeline from the events of March 11, 2011 until mid-2012, titled “escaping the wave,” “evading danger, running the evacuation centres,” and “the reconstruction process along the Sanriku coast,” and are followed by a conclusion. These main chapters are divided into 18 sub-chapters with 62 sections in total. This reflects that data was collected in several locations and covers a huge variety of social aspects. Given the fine-grained structure of the book a more detailed table of contents (only the three main chapters are featured) would have been advisable.
Each chapter presents one or more stories of success and failure. As an example of successful disaster management, the author presents the heavily destroyed fishing village Kirikiri, where self-help and solidarity sprung up quickly, and encouraged a high level of autonomy. Kirikiri was the first community to have its roads cleared and install a helipad for disaster relief, by relying on self-organization within the community. A successful evacuation shelter was run in Usuzawa, a settlement that lay further inland and was thus not directly affected by the tsunami. Here a local dance association was largely responsible for communicating and organizing relief operations. As an example for successful reconstruction planning, the author names the village of Kerobe, where the administration and the residents agreed not to build a seawall.
On the other hand, the book does not hold back on its criticism of public administration. In several instances, it stresses that the huge loss in human life was partially attributable to tsunami warnings that indicated a wave height that was far too low, resulting in many residents feeling no need to escape. The author prominently highlights the administrative decisions that led to a high number of casualties among the public employees of Ōtsuchi. After the earthquake, the town hall staff were ordered to keep working while a crisis meeting was scheduled to be held in the parking lot, out of concern for the building’s structural integrity. When all the chairs and tables were placed outside, the tsunami struck and killed many of the personnel in the parking lot or still in the building. Another major target of the author’s criticism is the public reconstruction planning. Especially the prefecture of Iwate is criticized for inflexibly connecting reconstruction funds to a specific seawall height and placement. The author then quite convincingly presents his own alternative plans for reconstruction and disaster prevention, which were cheaper and had the support of the local communities.
The book’s weakness, however, is its pretence to be a collection of survivors’ testimonies. It therefore lacks an interpretative framework; also, it does not place its observations into context using the current literature on disaster anthropology. Moreover, the author does not refrain from offering convenient interpretations of his observations, leading him to venture into scientific fields beyond his own expertise, which results in naïve generalizations about national cultures, such as when he reflects on a conflict between Japanese residents and Chinese migrant workers in an evacuation shelter. The local residents wanted the migrant workers to leave the shelter, because they felt disturbed by their singing and smoking. Similarly, the author makes assumptions about the causes and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in disaster victims, solely by relying on one report by police staff and what local people told him. The author also displays a positivist attitude when it comes to social norms and gender roles. For example, a section that deals with preparing meals for the survivors in the evacuation shelters is titled “the role of the women,” without discussing this division of labour or contrasting it with “the role of men.”
As most of the book deals with personal narratives and commentary by the author, references to research literature are mostly featured in footnotes. Often, rather than relativizing or contextualizing specific arguments, the author makes value-laden and generalizing judgements about other authors’ intentions. A prominent example of this method is a section positively referring to Naomi Klein’s concepts of “shock doctrine” and “disaster capitalism” that without further introduction begins on page 168. There, the author uses Klein’s models to bolster his criticism of how the public administration handled reconstruction. The shock resulting from the destruction of their homes and shops, the author argues, led to a paralysis of the local community, which was then used by the local administration and external investors to push through the construction of a strip mall in the former centre of the tsunami-struck fishing town. Overall, references to previous research are placed in the text in a rather haphazard manner, and without conceptual engagement with the argument being cited. It seems the referenced literature thus merely serves the purpose of decorating and legitimizing the author’s interpretations.
The detailed and personal records that the author has compiled in this book are precious and insightful, and his critique of institutional and individual failure is likewise poignant and important. To appreciate these qualities, however, the reader is forced to overlook many half-baked conclusions and the author’s convenient and at times judgemental use of scientific literature.
Daniel Kremers, German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ), Tokyo, Japan
THE SUBLIME PERVERSION OF CAPITAL: Marxist Theory and the Politics of History in Modern Japan. Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society. By Gavin Walker. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. xvi, 245 pp. US$24.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8223-6160-2.
In this original and erudite book, Gavin Walker develops a wide-ranging and densely argued Marxist theoretical account of capital and its (il)logics. The heart of his inquiry is what he calls capital’s “sublime perversion”: its ability to overcome, without resolving, its own contradictions, its “constant and relentless transformation of limits into thresholds” (11). Walker’s theorization of this perversion interweaves a set of concepts and approaches derived from Marx and from Walker’s extensive reading (in, by my count, seven languages) of the works of two sets of twentieth- and early twenty-first-century thinkers. The first is a large group of mostly post-World War II European theorists, including Louis Althusser, Alain Badiou, Étienne Balibar, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Sandro Mezzadra, and Carl Schmitt. The second is comprised of Japanese Marxists writing between the 1920s and the 2010s, and gives pride of place to Uno Kōzō, the most influential and well-known of the group. Walker does not take up the “debate on Japanese capitalism” primarily for what it can tell us about Japan (though he does of course cover this), but as “a debate on the most central theoretical and historical questions of Marxist analysis itself” (6) and “a point of departure for diverse theoretical discussions” (15). He highlights three themes in the Japanese debate: the analysis of “the national question”; arguments about the impossibility (muri) of the commodification of labour made by Uno and thinkers who have followed him; and Uno’s “theory of three levels of analysis” of capitalism in terms of the pure logic of capital, stages of capitalist development, and conjunctural analysis. By bringing together these concerns with more recent analyses of primitive accumulation and other key processes, Walker seeks to uncover the “demented” process through which capital makes a world for itself.
The Sublime Perversion of Capital is far too multifaceted and complex for quick summary. Rather than try to encapsulate it, I would like to give my sense of the overarching characteristics of Walker’s approach to capital and to comment on his engagement with the Japanese Marxists. Walker presents capital as a social relation that has not just an expansionary drive but, implicitly, a kind of consciousness. Capital posits things to itself, tells itself things, acknowledges and attempts to do things; it dreams and coquets. In tracing capital’s logic and its relationship to life, labour, primitive accumulation, and the nation, Walker emphasizes necessity (words like “must,” “requires,” “never,” “always,” and “only” are common) and paradox (infinite regresses, relationships that posit themselves, capital’s unavoidable reliance on the impossible commodification of labour). While Walker is deeply interested in the relationship between capital’s perverse logic and history’s particularities (the actual development of capitalism), and gives a lucid account of the treatment of the pre-World War II Japanese experience in the Japanese Marxist debates, his own arguments proceed largely at the level of theory rather than historical investigation. Those arguments also rely heavily on numerous unexplained and/or seemingly metaphorical terms (gradient, planar surface, spectral body, torus, fold/folding, torsion, logical topology, politicality, etc.); readers who are not accustomed to this kind of language may find parts of the book difficult to parse.
It is within an overall approach of this kind that The Sublime Perversion of Capital puts the debate on Japanese capitalism into conversation with what might be called contemporary Theory. While the results are often stimulating, Walker also often attributes to the Japanese Marxists concerns, arguments, and conceptual vocabularies that he does not demonstrate were actually theirs. The most serious example is the great emphasis Walker puts on what he sees as the early and highly sophisticated contribution of the Japanese Marxists to the study of “the national question.” Walker argues that “throughout the debate on Japanese capitalism and particularly in Uno’s attempt to both critically sublate as well as transcend its limitations, the national question—that is, the question of the function of the nation as a mechanism within the social relation of capital—remained always at the debate’s center” (183). He thus seeks “a return to a specific set of thinkers in Marxism who attempted most concretely to rethink the theoretical place of the nation in Marxian analysis” (11, see also 6). Walker’s survey of this debate in chapter 2, however, provides no instance of any Japanese Marxist even using, let alone theorizing, the term “nation.” Walker’s exegesis, rather, attributes a concern with the “nation-state” or “the form of the nation” to participants in the debate despite the absence of those terms in the quoted texts. Uno is the only prewar Japanese Marxist who is shown in the book to have theorized the nation, but his thoughts are not directly engaged with until quite late (157, 159) and very little detail on them is given. I also found no instance in the book of any Japanese thinker using the phrase “the national question.” I do not mean to claim here that theorization of “the form of the nation” or “the national question” played no role in the debate on Japanese capitalism (I do not know whether it did or not); the point rather is that Walker provides virtually no textual warrant to think that it played such a role.
The engagement with Uno’s understanding of the impossibility (muri) of the commodification of labour in chapter 4 presents a related set of problems. Walker’s account of Uno’s theorization of this core problem is fascinating, and he uses it as a jumping-off point for extended connections to the work of Western theorists like Foucault and Schmitt. (Surprisingly, he does not compare Uno’s formulations with Karl Polanyi’s hugely influential conceptualization of land, labour, and money as “fictitious commodities.”) This approach may, however, be a double-edged sword. It allows Walker to develop intriguing and fruitful lines of thought, but runs the risk of submerging Uno’s own conceptual vocabulary by translating it into the contemporary lexicon. For instance, Walker frequently explicates Uno’s ideas by using the concept of “folds” or “folding” in a way that implicitly suggests that Uno himself used those concepts, but I saw no evidence that he did so. This importing of contemporary concepts back into the Japanese Marxists and reformulating of their insights in terms that (on the textual evidence) they seem not to have used occurs throughout the book, and seems to me to undermine the remarkable work of research, synthesis, and original development that Walker otherwise brings to the Japanese debates.
Derek Hall, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada
MANGA VISION: Cultural and Communicative Perspectives. Cultural Studies. Edited by Sarah Pasfield-Neotifou and Cathy Sell, with manga artist Queenie Chan. Clayton, Australia: Monash University Publishing, 2016. vii, 293 pp. (Illustrations, music.) AUD$49.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-925377-06-4.
Manga Vision: Cultural and Communicative Perspectives, edited by Sarah Pasfield-Neotifou and Cathy Sell, joins an increasing number of academic books examining the overlapping Japanese popular media forms manga and anime (comics and animation). As its title indicates, the volume is mainly concerned with manga, though some chapters inevitably move well beyond the page. Not unsurprisingly, all of its contributors have research interests in Japanese popular culture. However, the volume is unusual in its particular assemblage of scholars whose primary area of expertise is Japan alongside scholars working in other fields, and in its consequent examination of these media, both in and outside Japan. In fact, most of the chapters do not focus on Japanese popular culture or on its (re)production and consumption in other cultures; rather, the authors address various aspects of interplay between the two. As the distinction between Japanese popular culture within Japan and its manifestations abroad grows increasingly blurry, this is a welcome approach.
In addition to the many illustrations, including excerpts of manga, charts, graphs, and figures supplementing some chapters, the book’s cover, introduction, conclusion, and section heads are adorned with manga drawn specifically for the volume by original English-language (OEL) manga artist Queenie Chan, visually exemplifying the blurred cultural boundaries that the book as a whole illustrates. The volume also provides supplemental multimedia materials online for four of the chapters accessible via both URLs and QR codes, the latter of which might tempt readers, including students, with a smart phone at hand to quickly check out the collections of photos, music files, teaching materials, and an impressive bilingual glossary of onomatopoeia and mimetic terms.
Manga Vision is divided into two thematic sections. The first is “Appropriation and Expansion: Cultural Expressions,” which “explores manga as an expressive medium through which personal identities and group cultures are expressed and developed” (9). Three of the chapters in this section could find a home in a typical Japanese studies volume: Renato Rivera Rusca’s study of manga and anime magazines and their role in the broader industry; Thomas Baudinette’s examination of the representation of masculinity in manga appearing in Japanese gay magazines; and Corey Bell’s analysis of Ohba Tsugumi and Obata Takeshi’s highly popular narrative Death Note.
Conversely, another three chapters could all readily fit within a collection on foreign fandom of Japanese popular culture: Claire Langsford’s exploration of the role of manga in the Australian cosplay (costume play) scene, supplemented by an online photo gallery; Angela Moreno Acosta’s interrogation of how OEL manga relates to Japaneseness; and Simon Turner’s investigation of engagement with Japanese culture among an online English-speaking community of fans of the male homoerotic yaoi, or boys love (BL), genre.
The final chapter in this section features composer Paul Smith’s reflections on Falling Leaves, a solo piece for piano that he composed “in response to the dominant gestures, tropes and overall design of … yaoi” (126). The chapter is available for readers to listen to online. While Smith’s chapter offers an approach to manga, and to BL specifically, unlike any I have seen—or heard—before, it is the chapters in the second section that collectively I find to offer the most interesting and valuable contribution to the field of manga studies.
This section, “Communication and Engagement: Language Exchange,” addresses the potential of manga to serve as a resource for teaching and research, language use in manga, and difficulties entailed in translating manga. In their chapter, Tomoko Aoyama and Belinda Kennett look at how Ninomiya Tomoko’s manga narrative Nodame Cantabile represents language learning, German and French specifically, while in a practical chapter supplemented online by sample teaching materials, Lara Promnitz-Hayashi makes the case that manga can function as an effective tool in the English as a foreign language (EFL) classroom, drawing from her experiences teaching in Japan. James F. Lee and William S. Armour’s chapter exposes the difficulties non-native readers have understanding how manga panels are sequenced on the page. While they are responding to the use of manga to teach Japanese, their findings have implications for the EFL use suggested by Promnitz-Hayashi. In a related chapter, Wes Robertson calls attention to how the language use of non-native speakers of Japanese is represented visually in manga via non-standard orthography, in part via an analysis of Hebizō and Umino Nakiko’s depiction of a Japanese as a Second Language (JSL) classroom in Japan in their Nihonjin no shiranai Nihongo (Japanese that Japanese people don’t know). Also looking at language use, Lidia Tanaka’s chapter on the use of impolite language by manga characters demonstrates how manga, with the multifaceted ways it expresses interpersonal relationships and communicative interactions, can serve as a resource for scholars of Japanese communication.
While Robertson does not explore the difficulties that particular ways of representing foreign speech may represent for translators, Cathy Sell and Sarah Pasfield-Neotifou address challenges of a similar sort, namely how to translate onomatopoeia and what they call “mimesis,” the particular ways the Japanese language expresses states, motion, and feelings, including “The Sound of Silence,” their chapter’s title. These words present great challenges to translators given both the abundance of such words in Japanese which have no English equivalent (an extensive bilingual glossary of which can be found in an online supplement), and the way they are generally stylized graphically on the page (somewhat akin to the way “pow” and other words appear across the screen during fights in the Batman TV series). In his own chapter on translation, Adam Antoni Zulawnik asserts the importance of translating controversial texts, specifically nationalist texts attacking the rise in popularity of Korean popular culture in Japan and vice versa, and at the same time makes clear the value of such texts to examine issues such as the tensions between Korea and Japan, again illustrating the value of manga to scholars.
By way of a conclusion, Cathy Sell drives home the point that Sarah Pasfield-Neotifou suggests in her introduction and which is carried throughout the book, that “the multimodal nature of the image-text” (271) combination that is manga is important not just to educators and translators but to researchers, including both those with an interest in Japan and those who wish to better understand Japanese popular culture as a globally significant phenomenon.
James Welker, Kanagawa University, Yokohama, Japan
WOMEN AND POLITICS IN CONTEMPORARY JAPAN. ASAA Women in Asia Series. By Emma Dalton. Abingdon, England; New York: Routledge, 2015. xiv, 157 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$155.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-82738-6.
The chronic under-representation of women in Japanese politics is a fascinating area of inquiry for political scientists, democratic theorists, and gender scholars interested in how supposedly “neutral” democratic institutions get coopted by vested interests. As Emma Dalton’s research shows, male-dominated political parties such as Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) often explicitly reproduce legacies of political exclusion long after the formal laws excluding women from electoral participation are overturned. Combining institutionalism, discourse analysis, and experiential accounts of women parliamentarians, Dalton’s book should be required reading for students interested in democratic institutions and citizenship in contemporary Japan.
The author first outlines the gendered exclusion generated by the institutions and ideologies of the “1955 system” of LDP dominance. The multi-member electoral system privileged personalistic politics channelled through candidate support networks (koenkai), incestuous relationships of power-brokering, and status-based politics. Expected to serve the nation as mothers and housewives, women were largely perceived as “outsiders” to this kind of self-interested game. Dalton writes that “support for the post-war salaryman/housewife family model was on the political agenda for the LPD at least until the 1990s” (27). Public policies channelled the masculinized values of the governing LDP and were part of its economic strategy to ensure the rapid development of Japan by relying on informal and uncompensated female labour rather than raising taxes to support a welfare state.
Chapter 2 then turns the reader’s attention to the evolution of gendered political structures following the electoral reform of 1994. The LDP lost control of the House of Representatives to a governing coalition that created a mixed electoral system combining a majority of single-member district (SMD) seats with a modicum of proportional representation (PR). While the PR tier was heralded as a window of opportunity for women, parliamentary representation by women barely increased, rising from 2.7 percent in 1993 to 7.3 percent in 2000, and then quickly plateauing. A provision allowing dual candidacies across the two electoral segments (the “zombie” clause) further weakened the impact of the proportional tier and thus limited opportunities for women. Campaign financing reform curtailed the impact of money politics and introduced a system of public funding to parties, but failed to contribute to significant increases in female parliamentarians. While “gender equality” policy, or at least, the appearance of supporting equality, came to be seen by the LDP as “good business” in terms of Japan’s international reputation, Dalton argues that few of the public policies have transformed traditional gendered norms in practice.
Dalton then takes a step back from the way state-level institutional structures and policies construct gender norms in contemporary Japan, to examine individual female politicians. Using qualitative interviews, she explores the views of elected women, and how they articulate their political ambitions within the boundaries of gender-acceptable frames and terms. In chapter 3, we learn that most of the interviewees avoid asserting any evidence of political ambition. Women run, they say, because they are asked to and because they feel a sense of civic duty. Many join the LDP so as to be on the governing side, and often explain their political career choices in relation to a significant man, such as a father or husband.
In chapter 4, Dalton brings her qualitative interview material into productive dialogue with a leading theory of women’s representation, “The Politics of Presence,” articulated by Anne Philips. This theory asserts the need for gender balance as a matter of democratic justice and efficiency. Against this backdrop, Dalton traces the dominant discourses in Japan used to explain the importance of having women in politics. Traditionally, female participation is seen as derived from women’s roles as mothers, housewives, and household consumers. An alternative interpretation observes that women often strategically deploy their gender and mothering roles to discredit their male opponents in an era where corruption scandals are prevalent and childcare policy is of increasing public salience. Conveying the author’s main message, chapter 4 exposes the highly masculinized culture and norms of the LDP. Most LDP women, she suggests, internalize these pervasive norms and convey them in their own accounts, downplaying the prevalence and meaning of sexism, and denying that it might be a systemic effect of a patriarchal party culture.
The text alternates between the narratives that the women choose to put on the public record, softening their gendered transgressions, and Dalton’s interpretation of their discourses. From experiences in Canada and Japan, I would suggest that elite qualitative interviewing is a two-way street of posturing and expectation management. When trying to measure misogyny (and racism), it is exceptionally hard to delineate the personal beliefs (honne) from the “traditionally gendered” personae that may strategically be adopted by interviewees, particularly those from conservative parties. Dalton does a fine job of exploring nuances and admitting of alternative interpretations of the interviews that differ from her own proposed readings. A systematic methodological antidote might be to conduct interviews with elected men. For the discussion of ambition in particular, by documenting how both groups may tactically hide ambition and modestly justify why they run, a dataset covering both groups of politicians would allow robust assessments of the “gendering” discourses at play and the degree to which they disproportionately manifest among female politicians.
Dalton’s conclusion offers a timely discussion of ways to increase women’s representation by introducing a gender quota. After reviewing the dominant discourses about equality, feminist activism, and party responses to the demand for quotas, Dalton closes with a rather depressing assessment that little progress can be expected of Japan in the near future. In fact, since the book’s publication, the LDP has repeatedly watered down, and then thwarted adoption of a multi-partisan bill that would have merely “encouraged” parties to “aim for” equal numbers of men and women candidates, without providing any actual sanctions for non-compliance. In short, Dalton’s assessment of the pernicious influence of LDP hegemony upon the election of women remains damningly accurate in 2017.
Jackie F. Steele, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
NORTH KOREA’S HIDDEN REVOLUTION: How the Information Underground Is Transforming a Closed Society. By Jieun Baek. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2016. xxvi, 282 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$30.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-300-21781-0.
An influx of outside information coming in via USB sticks, radio broadcasts, DVDs, and more is changing the way many North Koreans see themselves and the world. Jieun Baek, a PhD candidate in public policy at the University of Oxford and a former research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (Harvard University), draws on ten in-depth interviews with resettled defectors in South Korea to describe a network of smugglers, defectors, border guards, and information bootleggers working to get information into North Korea.
The book is organized into six chapters. Chapter 1 explores what makes North Korea’s political system so durable, namely the regime’s ability to control information. Chapters 2 through 4 are devoted to explaining the “information underground,” or how information bound for North Korea is curated, packaged, transmitted, and received. Chapter 5 considers the significance of the spread of information in the post-famine era and chapter 6 concludes the book with a summary and call to action.
The central concern of the book is timely and relevant: What are the social and political effects of media flows in a politically unfree society where information is tightly controlled? For those seeking regime change, flooding North Korea with information that runs contrary to the state-crafted message is seen as a viable alternative to military action. Even those less interested in regime change will find the consequences of media flows in an information-scarce environment worth consideration.
The answer to the central question comes directly from the defectors interviewed for the book. In fact, the narrative of the book is driven more or less entirely by Baek’s interviewees. This is one of the book’s main strengths. Too often, North Korean defectors are portrayed as passive victims of an authoritarian regime trying to get by in a new, competitive environment. In Hidden Revolution, defectors play active roles. They are smart, discerning, and driven individuals who want to send information into North Korea, raise awareness of North Korean human rights, or promote a more favourable public image of resettled defectors in South Korean society.
Baek is clear that information is changing North Korea, but she is cautious not to overstate its effects. “Outside information alone will not create breakthrough changes in the country, but it is absolutely necessary for North Koreans to change their thinking as a perquisite to any positive change in the future” (131–132). This is confirmed by her interviewees. Gwang-Seong, a political science student, is quoted as saying: “Not a lot of people defect solely because of outside information. One could say that movies lack credibility. They’re fun, they push people to think and ask questions, but that’s it” (197).
Arguably, the most interesting information comes in chapter 5, “A New Generation Rising.” In this chapter, Baek describes how the material and social conditions in North Korea changed after the Great Famine (1994–1998), giving rise to a new generation. “North Koreans who were born during or after the Great Famine and have been exposed to widespread street markets have grown up in a society where complete dependence on the state for people’s livelihood was just not the case” (188). The Jangmadang Generation, named after the street markets that appeared during the famine, is a new cohort of North Koreans. Their behaviour and attitudes more closely resemble that of youths elsewhere in the world: savvy, intelligent, and eager to learn. More specifically, North Koreans from this generation are likely to watch South Korean dramas, care about fashion, understand how capitalism works, and criticize the government (if they care at all about politics). Recounting a conversation with an interviewee from the Jangmadang generation,
Baek writes: “She was adamant that people like her had no interest in ideology or politics; they were just interested in making money, making a living, being entertained, and getting by” (189).
Despite being a brisk and timely read, there are a few shortcomings. First, while the narrative-driven style of the book makes for easy and enlightening reading, there is a discernable lack of critical engagement with the broader questions addressed in the book. Baek is clearly aware of existing studies on life in North Korea and the impact of information penetration in authoritarian political systems, but there is little effort made to situate the work within an existing body of theoretical or empirical literature or engage more substantively with the central research question. As a book published by a university press, it should clearly engage a scholarly literature in some way. That it does not will leave some readers wanting more.
For example, how has the North Korean government responded to changing conditions, especially the availability of new information communication technologies (ICT)? Studies that measure the impact of information flows in North Korea find advances in ICT cut both ways. It is unclear whether North Koreans are or will become more free, or whether the North Korean government simply has new tools it can use to oppress and control people (see Nat Kretchun, Catherine Lee, and Seamus Tuohy, “Compromising Connectivity: Information Dynamics Between the State and Society in a Digitizing North Korea,” InterMedia, 2017). Baek is honest about the limitations of information inflows, but she does not consider at any significant depth or length the effects that an influx of information and the introduction of new technologies have on state capacity and everyday life in North Korea.
Overall, this is a book meant to inform a general audience about changes taking place in North Korea and promote interest in North Korean human rights. These are laudable goals that Baek, by publishing this book, has accomplished.
Steven Denney, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
THE STRATEGY FOR KOREA’S ECONOMIC SUCCESS. By Hwy-Chang Moon. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. xviii, 281 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-022879-8.
Korea has achieved compressed growth, going over the past six decades from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the world’s top 15 countries in terms of GDP. Although many studies have attempted to explain the driving forces behind Korea’s economic success, this book deals with the topic comprehensively and systematically.
The book interests by its twin approach to analyzing Korea’s economy. In part I, the author takes a traditional approach to describe the fundamental elements in the foundation of Korea’s economic development (e.g., human resources, capital resources, and total factor productivity). From part II, the author introduces a new framework for examining the past, present, and future of the Korean economy, the so-called ABCD model (agility, benchmarking, convergence, dedication). This innovative model consists of four factors and eight subfactors. The first factor in the model, agility, refers to speed (or pali pali in Korean) and precision and is cited by many observers as the most defining characteristic of Korean culture. A culture of agility provides a valuable contribution to consumers and a nation’s economic development.
The second factor, benchmarking, consists of learning and best practice. Here the author suggests that by benchmarking advanced companies’ technologies, Korean firms could increase their own competitiveness with smaller investments in time and money than is required to invent independent technologies.
The third factor, convergence, refers to mixing and synergy creation through related-industry diversification, which helps Korea sustain prosperity. And the final factor, dedication, is a laudable cultural element of the Korean people, who work diligently and in a goal-oriented manner. Simply speaking, Korean firms and employees work very long and hard to accomplish their goals.
The adoption of the ABCD model makes it possible to chronologically analyze, from a time series perspective, Korea’s past, present, and future. The author looks at Korea’s economy from a bird’s eye view, taking a holistic approach to the Korean economic landscape. Yet he also includes a microscopic perspective, allowing him to scrutinize Korea’s cases horizontally and vertically. The model also analyzes many cases by comparison across different groups of countries (such as developed and developing countries) and firms (for example, newly emerging companies and their matured counterparts), which makes the book comprehensive as well as systematic.
In explaining the factors of economic development at a national level, the existing approaches deal with tangible factors such as capital, labour, technology, and natural resources. The ABCD model, on the other hand, focuses on intangible factors and subfactors. In particular, although a country lacks competitiveness in tangible factors, the author emphasizes how to gain intangible competitive advantages through an ABCD strategy. This is one of the positive messages in the book. In addition, when inspecting the implementation of ABCD strategies toward internationalization, this book offers multiple real-world examples as well as facts about Korea relative to international cases at both the national and firm levels. This approach makes the book theoretical as well as practical and can provide insight into other developing countries.
After reviewing the past strengths of Korea through the ABCD approach, in part III, the author addresses three significant challenges (e.g., an unproductive service sector, underdeveloped sociopolitical system, and aging population) facing present-day Korea. The author seems to consider these challenges as byproducts or side effects (or anti-products) of Korea’s rapid economic growth; by using the ABCD approach, he also suggests strategic guidelines to solve these problems and upgrade Korea’s competitive advantage. His suggestions are reasonable and agreeable.
Regarding the unproductive service sector, I propose that more attention should be paid to the fact that Korea’s recent economic slowdowns stem from structural problems, not only limited to the service sector, but in the labour market, small and medium-sized enterprises, and other areas. In order to solve these problems, the study recommends broad structural reforms. The second challenge, an underdeveloped sociopolitical system, is related to a lack of social cohesion that stems from factors such as high inequality, restrictions in upward social mobility, high levels of corruption, among others. While many challenges are addressed, environmental issues are noticeably absent: the greenhouse gas emissions rate in Korea, for example, is relatively high in comparison to other OECD countries. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals of 2015 also identify these environmental issues as high priority items that need to be addressed going forward.
I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to policy-makers in developing and developed countries interested in learning about Korea’s economic successes, as well as to the general public. It is encouraging that Korea has transitioned from aid recipient to aid donor, as signaled by its joining the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee in 2009. This book can be a knowledge-sharing work to aid developing countries. The ABCD model is a novel approach for investigating an economy at the macro and micro levels, as in the author’s study of Korea’s miraculous growth. This study may also prove useful for researchers or businesspeople seeking to enhance national and corporate competitiveness, as it is rich in content and practical lessons.
Wankeun Oh, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, South Korea
MADE IN KOREA: Studies in Popular Music. Routledge Global Popular Music Series. Edited by Hyunjoon Shin and Seung-Ah Lee. New York; London: Routledge, 2017. xiii, 247 pp. (Illustrations.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-79303-3.
South Korean (hereafter “Korea”) popular music, a range of genres often stuffed under the rubric of “K-pop,” has been an ubiquitous global presence in the 2010s. Aside from diffusion in established markets for Korean popular culture such as China and Japan, K-pop has increased its reach from Antofagasta in Chile to Zanzibar in Tanzania, and secured its foothold in global cities such as New York, London, and Paris, through dissemination via Youtube, SNS, and precisely choreographed live concerts. Nonetheless, analyses that move beyond clichés and display a solid command of the history and the specifics of the Korean popular music scene have not grown with commensurate rapidity, at least in English.
Made in Korea, part of a Routledge series of edited volumes with similar titles and formats, such as Made in Japan, Made in Brazil, and Made in Italy, addresses this relative lacuna. With contributors from various social sciences and humanities disciplines, the book is an assemblage of seventeen essays organized into four sections: history, genres, artists, and issues. Preceding these are a preface by one of the editors, Hyounjoon Shin, which explains the core questions and the background of the book, and an introduction by both co-editors that provides definitions of key concepts, a brief description of the historical contexts of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Korea, and some anecdotal comments on the state of Korean popular music studies.
The four chapters in the Histories section focus on live performances (Hyounjoon Shin); recorded music (Keewoong Lee); broadcasting of music on radio and television (Jung-Yup Lee); and digital forms of music distribution focused on the ubiquitous 2012 song by Psy, “Gangnam Style” (Sun Jung). The Genres chapters analyze trot and ballad (Yu-Jeong Chang); rock (Pil Ho Kim); folk (Aekyung Park); and soul and hip-hop (Jaeyoung Yang). The Artists section features four studies by Junhee Lee, Dohee Kwon, Okon Hwang, and Eun-Young Jung, each focused on an individual musician/composer: Kim Hae-song (b. 1910); Shin Joong Hyun (b. 1938); Kim Min-ki (b. 1951); and Seo Taiji (b. 1972). These musicians each had major impacts on the evolution of jazz, rock, folk, and rap respectively in Korea. The third section, Issues, is a potpourri, with chapters describing the use of “traditional” Korean musical elements (Hyunseok Kwon); the affective labour of Korean idol groups (Dong-Yeun Lee); government cultural policies towards censoring and supporting music (Soojin Kim); and vocal techniques in trot, ballad, rock, dance, and rap songs (Haekyung Um). A fifth and last section, Coda, features two chapters. The first of these briefly describes the histories of diffusion of Korean popular music in modern China and Japan before the 1980s, then Taiwan of the 1990s and 2000s, and Austria and Europe of the 2010s (Sunhee Koo and Sang-Yeon Loise Sung). The second and last chapter, as is the case with all the titles in the series, is an interview of a prominent musician—in this case a translated and abridged 2013 interview with the late Shin Hae-chul (Sin Hae-ch’ŏl) (1968–2014), who was most prominent during the 1990s as the leader of the rock band N.EX.T. (Hyounjoon Shin and Ch’oe Chi-sŏn).
The lead editor, Hyounjoon Shin, is a pioneering figure in the interdisciplinary study of Korean popular music, having published a variety of articles in English and Korean on various aspects of the music industry. The depth and breadth of his research is reflected not just in his own chapter, but also through compact strokes and deft touches evident in the brief editor’s notes that introduce each of the four sections. Most of the individual chapters make laudably consistent use of the large and diverse body of academic studies of popular music published in Korean, something which bizarrely is rarely found in other English-language academic works on K-pop. In addition, several of the chapters engage with studies published in English and Japanese (plus one in French). The chapters that are more focused on 1910 to 1980, especially for jazz, folksongs, trot, and rock, provide useful empirical details on musicians and institutional structures relatively understudied in English.
Although the book discusses an array of genres, individuals, and issues, it should not come as a surprise given length limits that not all potentially significant points are covered. If detailed analyses of lyrics are evident in Eun-Young Jung’s chapter on Seo Taiji (146–152), mentions of specific songs or their musical, choreographic, or lyrical elements are elided in others. If Yi Mi-cha, a famous trot singer who had her biggest hit banned in the 1960s, turns up in several chapters (even if oddly referenced just once in the index), none of the individual artists who have chapters devoted to them are women, indirectly reflecting the absence of discussion of gender at any depth. If the electronic dance music duo Clon’s success during the 1990s in Taiwan is discussed by Koo and Sung (208–209), examinations of the specific fluctuations and dynamics of K-pop’s recent popularity in major markets such as China and Japan are notable only for their absence. If some key artists such as Cho Yong-p’il make frequent appearances, the roles of diasporic Koreans, for example Korean Americans as producers, sound engineers, songwriters, and performers or as disseminators of music in overseas markets, are either entirely ignored or mentioned only in passing. The conglomerate nature of song production, such as contracting Swedish songwriters or employing Japanese choreographers, and specific mechanisms of government censorship in the 2000s and 2010s, are among other salient points left unaddressed. If the writing is usually clear, the regular appearances of grammatically odd constructions and syntactical malapropisms indicate that the manuscript would have benefitted from another round of copyediting and proofreading prior to publication.
These and other minor issues do not detract from the fact that taken together, the essays in this edited volume provide a very useful introduction for readers unfamiliar with Korean popular music, and also serve as a foundation for academic researchers seeking to strengthen their knowledge across several antecedents, genres, and artists of contemporary Korean popular music.
Hyung-Gu Lynn, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
WOMEN IN JAPANESE CINEMA: Alternate Perspectives. By Tamae K. Prindle. Portland, ME: MerwinAsia; Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press [distributor], 2016. viii, 497 pp. (Illustrations.) US$35.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-9832991-4-1.
Although the subtitle of Women in Japanese Cinema promises the reader “alternate perspectives,” it should be noted at the outset that this lengthy monograph focuses on how male directors portray female characters in their work. Every filmmaker discussed is male, and the creative agency of actual women, such as actresses and screenwriters, is not taken into consideration. The “women” in Japanese cinema who are discussed are all fictional, and the perspective from which they are viewed is primarily male. Accordingly, each of the book’s chapters focuses on an archetypal feminine role defined by a woman’s relationship to men in what the author describes as the “pre-feminist era.”
After a brief introduction establishing the study’s positionality within the framework of postmodern cultural studies scholarship, Women in Japanese Cinema explores the roles of “Mothers,” “Wives,” “Prostitutes,” “Girls,” and “Women” (specifically working women in male-dominated environments) in its five chapters. Each chapter contains extended discussions of three live-action films, which were selected for their representation of female characters existing within the diegetic settings of premodern Japan, Japan during the Pacific War, and postwar Japan. The films themselves were released between 1946 and 1997, with a slight emphasis on titles from the 1980s. The directors, such as Kurosawa Akira, Ichikawa Jun, and Itami Jūzō, are all relatively well known within the field of cinema studies.
What makes Women in Japanese Cinema unique is its emphasis on films that have been adapted from literary works. For example, the fourth chapter, “Girls,” is a study of titles based on Kawabata Yasunari’s The Izu Dancer (Izu no odoriko), Akagawa Jirō’s The Sisters (Futari), and Yoshimoto Banana’s Goodbye Tsugumi (Tsugumi). In her treatment of these short novels and their adaptations, Prindle is especially interested in the construction of the shōjo, the adolescent girl who symbolizes a “stand-by state [that] appeals to Japanese minds as precious” (257). Prindle begins the chapter by outlining the major visual themes in Kawabata’s novella The Izu Dancer and runs through five early cinematic adaptations, pointing out the differences between them before focusing her attention on Nishikawa Katsumi’s celebrated 1974 film of the same name. The author then moves to The Sisters, explaining why it is “a shōjo novel,” namely, because it “rejects patriarchal common sense and opens up a space for dreams” (296). She then describes how this liminal space is portrayed in Ōbayashi Nobuhiko’s 1991 adaptation of the story. The final film of the chapter is Ichikawa Jun’s 1997 interpretation of Goodbye Tsugumi, one of the only literary source texts not written by a man and, refreshingly, one of the few films appearing in Women in Japanese Cinema in which the main female characters are not seen primarily through the eyes of a male protagonist. Throughout the chapter, the author returns to the themes of transition, liminality, and the illusory nature of female adolescent selfhood. These observations and arguments are illustrated and summarized with the author’s own drawings and diagrams.
One of the more fascinating sections of the book is its discussion of Itami Jūzō’s popular 1985 film Tanpopo. In her reading of the film, the author is interested in how the postmodernism of the film “sheds light on women’s liberation” (377). A major element of this postmodernism is the range of foods celebrated within the film, “whose homelands are France, the Netherlands, Japan, and Mother Nature” (379). Prindle explains that the director’s focus on extended depictions of cooking and eating is distinctly postmodern: “Itami dwells on these details because he believes that big stories are bad and little stories are good, as do the postmodernists” (380). Prindle also describes how the director portrays class differences as a source of amusement, which she explains with supplementary aids such as a seating arrangement chart and a table of expressions used by the characters according to linguistic registers of formality. In order to highlight the postmodern disconnect between the events in the film, Prindle also includes a numbered list of its scenes and a diagram of their complicated relation to one another. At the end of the section, she connects Tanpopo to her broader study of feminism with a count of how few of these scenes the female protagonist actually appears in.
The strength of Women in Japanese Cinema lies in its thorough and vivid plot descriptions of each film under discussion. As not all of these films are readily available in North America and Europe, the text serves as a convenient reference. Although Prindle draws on a wide range of scholarship, she does not embark on lengthy theoretical reflections, which makes her writing accessible to non-specialists, including undergraduates. In fact, certain relevant sections of the chapters could easily act as supplementary reading to ensure full comprehension of certain films that often appear on the syllabi of college classes. The lists of major characters, their roles, and the performers that portray them at the beginning of each section are quite useful as well.
For specialists in Japanese cinema, the appendices of this monograph are one of its most useful aspects. Each of these nine short essays details one of the Japanese terms or concepts only lightly touched on in the main text, such as ryōsai kenbo (a late nineteenth-century ideological expression meaning “good wife, wise mother”) and Japanese ecofeminism. Prindle provides both detailed historical context for these ideas and concise summaries of relevant Japanese-language scholarship on the topic.
Women in Japanese Cinema is an ambitious examination of gender roles in twentieth-century Japan and a welcome addition to the body of work on both Japanese cinema and Japanese literature. The range of the texts the author references extends into lesser-known titles while highlighting “alternate perspectives” on cinematic masterpieces. Prindle’s monograph is a valuable resource for experienced scholars and students of Japanese culture alike, and it can easily serve as an engaging introduction to Japanese film and fiction.
Kathryn Hemmann, George Mason University, Fairfax, USA
OSAKA MODERN: The City in the Japanese Imaginary. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 403. By Michael P. Cronin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2017. xiii, 232 pp. US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-97518-7.
In Osaka Modern, Michael Cronin has provided a timely addition to the field of Japanese literary urban studies. Cronin provocatively argues that Osaka’s “recalcitrant” local identity constitutes a “treasonous” challenge to the homogenizing discourses of modern nationality that have emanated from, and concentrated on, Tokyo since the 1868 Meiji Restoration (7, 9). Weaving historical detail and literary theory into rich readings of cultural production set in the city during the 1920 to the 1950s, Cronin charts how writers and filmmakers “imagined Osaka as a distinctly local order—of space, language, everyday life, gender, and more—alternative to the national order” (3). Osaka’s fierce cultural independence, then, informs much more than humorous anecdotes about the differences between Osakans and Tokyoites. In the 1930 and 1940s, it inspired resistance to Tokyo’s imperialist and statist dogmas, and thereafter it animated local antipathy towards economic centralization.
Cronin builds his argument over five chapters, drawing case studies from the works of three writers who “fit awkwardly” into the Tokyo-based Japanese literary canon: Tanizaki Jun’ichiro, who famously relocated to Osaka following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that devastated the capital region; and two household names in Osaka, Oda Sakunosuke and Yamasaki Toyoko (14).
Chapter 1 sets the stage for Osaka as treasonous through an extended reading of Tanizaki’s serial novel Manji (1928–1930), highlighting the concepts of narration and authenticity. As in each of the five chapters, Cronin provides a rich historical description to illustrate how Tanizaki’s work transgressed mainstream discourses. In this case, Cronin places Manji in the context of the genbunitchi movement that sought to standardize Japanese national language along with Tanizaki’s personal concerns about the movement’s negative impact on Japanese language. As Cronin argues, the strategic juxtaposition of local Osaka dialect and Tokyo-based national standard language (hyōjungo) subverted homogenizing discourses of modernity. The contest between Osaka dialect and the national standard, then, amounts to “a contest over the authority to narrate the local” (45).
Chapter 2 expands on the potential of locality to counter the national by introducing Oda Sakunosuke’s Meoto Zenzai (1940), read through themes of expenditure, gourmandise, and everyday life. Writing in the gloomy atmosphere of imperialist discourses demanding rational consumption, propriety, and increased productivity, Oda instead penned a story that follows a “bonbon” spendthrift heir who burns through his inheritance by indulging in vices, all the while undermining, with his ineptitude, his wife’s dogged efforts to make the family business succeed. Not only does the protagonist’s “alternative local masculinity” defy state demands for male physical discipline, the couple’s lack of children violates the state’s calls for sexual reproduction in the service of the empire. Oda uses the bonbon character, Cronin argues, to “reclaim an Osaka … resistant to the homogenization and centralization of culture under national imperialism” (78).
Chapter 3 articulates how imaginations of Osaka’s locality transgressed Japan’s imperial expansion through discussion of a second wartime story by Oda, Waga Machi (1942). At a time “when the nation had already subordinated localities and the empire was pursuing the subordination of nations” under the universalism of the Great East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, Cronin writes, Oda emphasized the inexorable locality of Osaka to map a “distinctive cosmopolitanism that links city, nation, and empire” (81, 105). Identifying a number of flows between Osaka and the Philippines—two places transcended by the empire—Cronin argues that Oda crafted a protagonist who embodies an Osakan “local cosmopolitanism” in conflict with the universalism of imperialism (97).
Chapter 4 offers an innovative reading of Tanizaki’s Sasameyuki (published serially between 1943 and 1948), placing into juxtaposition Osaka and Tokyo, nostalgia and futurity. In the context of imperialist ideologies of production and reproduction, Tanizaki presented the characteristic Osaka bonbon figure as the embodiment of an “anachronistic masculinity” that obstructs the Makioka family’s attempts to adjust to imperial demands (108). In the end, Tanizaki once again juxtaposes Osaka and Tokyo. But this time, Cronin notes, Osaka fills the role of an “outmoded economic model” that steadfastly embraces its traditions in the face of the economic centralization and cultural homogenization of capitalist modernity (140).
Chapter 5 undertakes an extended deliberation of film adaptations of Osaka literature with analysis of several works set in the city, most notably Yamasaki Toyoko’s Noren (1957). Alterations between original literary source materials and their on-screen adaptations, Cronin points out, reveal how popular perceptions of Osaka changed in the national consciousness over time. Kawashima Yuzo’s 1958 adaptation of Noren, for example, updated the prewar temporal setting of the novel to the postwar, and refocused the narrative arc from one of Osaka’s economic subordination to Tokyo to one of romantic drama. Osaka’s submission to Tokyo’s prominence is taken for granted as a result. “The cumulative effect of these changes,” Cronin argues, “is to turn Yamasaki’s story into a narrative of national progress.”
Finally, the conclusion brings the analysis to the more recent present by introducing the 2011 film Purinsesu Toyotomi about a hidden cabal that has secretly ruled Japan from beneath the ruins of Osaka Castle since 1868. As Cronin writes, the success of the film “demonstrates both the persistent resonance and the shifting relevance of Osaka as ‘treason’” (182).
Each chapter is constructed around sections entwining synopses of the works in question, historical contextualization, textual analysis, and theoretical meditations. Sophisticated engagement with critical theorists Georges Bataille, Mikhail Bakhtin, Paul de Man, Gilles Deleuze, and Felix Guattari will appeal to literary scholars. At the same time, those in urban studies will find two noteworthy contributions in Osaka Modern. First, Cronin adds his voice to a number of others calling for scholars to look outside Tokyo to decentre narratives of Japanese urbanism and urban culture. Second, Cronin usefully carries his analysis beyond the end of the war in 1945, proving the benefits of transcending a date that has all-too-often been treated as a breaking point in Japanese history.
With its blending of deep textual analysis, rich historical detail, and rigorous conceptual engagement, Osaka Modern is a model study for employing literary sources and cultural products to add texture to our understanding of urban culture and modern life in the city.
Tristan R. Grunow, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
CURATIVE VIOLENCE: Rehabilitating Disability, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Korea. By Eunjung Kim. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2017. 312 pp. (Illustrations.) US$94.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8223-6277-7.
Eunjung Kim’s richly textured and important book, aptly titled Curative Violence, draws attention to the “uncertainty of gains” from trying to treat or cure disability or illness and “the possibility of harms” (10). Kim interrogates the intersections of disability, illness, gender, sexuality, and cure by analyzing Korean cultural representations of disability from the past century. She makes a compelling case for understanding cure as “based on complicated social and familial negotiations that occur beyond an individual’s desire or volition” (233).
The evidence comes from “cure discourses and imagery” (7) in Korean literature, film, folktales, media, and activism. The introduction’s succinct and focused historical overview offers crucial context for such representations of disability and illness, which were often metaphors for Japan’s colonial rule over Korea and national division (27–34). Koreans’ longing to be made whole enables Kim to link disability and nationhood as themes. She joins other scholars in documenting how the push for modernization and government control in Korea obscured much violence and certain categories of victims. Korean interviewees have similarly told me that there are “more important victims in Korea” when I asked about, for instance, survivors of Hansen’s disease or hepatitis C-tainted blood products.
The book’s evidence is thematically organized across five chapters. The cultural representations Kim analyzes are sweeping in their scope, and she narrates them with sensitivity and a theoretical rigour that lays bare societal divisions and power hierarchies. A recurring theme is “folded time,” which is most clearly articulated in the conclusion. With this innovative concept, Kim conveys the “difficulty of inhabiting the present” for people with disabilities or illnesses. Hope for a better future or recollections of a better past may exist for many people, but the book’s chapters suggest that this sensibility is more acute for persons with disabilities.
Chapter 1 explores reproduction and efforts to prevent disability via eugenics and modern genetic screening. Though the chapter evinces well the disproportionate burden women bear, it could have also placed disability-related eugenics in the context of 1970s state policies to curb population growth generally, including through financial incentives for men to be surgically sterilized (especially p. 65 ff). Women also feature prominently in chapter 2 as it investigates the notion of cure by proxy, which refers to a non-disabled person’s sacrifices to help cure or the imposition of some remedy to aid the non-disabled caregiver (85). In chapter 3, Kim delves into the disturbing subject of how violence is sometimes justified as a cure or overlooked by society or in the criminal justice system. Together, these chapters uncover the Janus-faced and gendered nature of the cure itself and of societal and familial negotiations about cure.
The final two empirical chapters are less persuasive. Chapter 4 focuses on Koreans with Hansen’s disease (leprosy), who suffered mass killings, forced vasectomies and abortions, institutionalization, and ostracism due to official policies and prejudice. While Kim’s analyses are illuminating, her bibliography contains omissions. Most importantly, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea’s 2005 report on such abuses in the name of curing prejudice deserves Kim’s astute analysis. Kim also rapidly passes over the historic statute known as the Hansenin Special Law, which is short for the Special Law on the Investigation of Violent Incidents against People Affected by Hansen’s Disease and Livelihood Assistance for Victims Etc. (law no. 8644, 2007). The law’s incomplete implementation spawned six collective lawsuits—which Kim only alludes to—filed starting in 2011 by nearly 550 leprosy survivors who endured forced vasectomies and abortions until around 1990. These lawsuits are quite relevant to Kim’s themes. For example, the plaintiffs’ lawyers requested more compensation for forced abortions than for vasectomies and found women reluctant to join the lawsuits. Also, though it happened too late for inclusion in the book, in February 2017, the Korean Supreme Court ordered the state to compensate the plaintiffs. The landmark ruling noted, “Even if the plaintiffs gave a prior consent, they were forced to make such a decision based on prejudice, discrimination and poor social, educational and economic conditions without being fully informed of whether the disease was hereditary or if it can be cured” (Yonhap News, Feb. 15, 2017). Chapter 5 likewise suffers from omissions when scrutinizing the nexus between disability and sex. Kim’s credible argument against monolithic assumptions (e.g., disabled persons as asexual) or solutions (199–202) would have been stronger with citations or quotes.
There is much that is laudable in this book, but some questions remain. First, how distinctive is Korea on the topic of curative violence? Some themes seem relevant elsewhere, as Kim hints in the conclusion. For example, intersectionality and the uneven burden women bear in issues related to reproduction and sexual pleasure are hardly unique to Korea. The most distinctively Korean dynamics emerge in chapter 2, when Kim discusses hyo (filial piety). She convincingly shows how this value and legal clauses based on it (i.e., families’ legal obligation to care for disabled relatives) “exempt the state from its duty to provide social assistance” (118–119). The discussion is relevant and troubling in light of current social issues, such as poverty and suicide among the elderly in Korea.
Second, how did Kim select the works she so deftly analyzes? Are they meant to be comprehensive or illustrative? Can the book’s findings be generalized to all of Korean society? A brief anecdote in the concluding chapter drove home this conundrum for me. Kim recounts how one activist in the disabled women’s movement was proud about refusing surgery on her leg while her co-worker had no regrets about the surgery she had had on her leg (225–226). The book rightly warns against monolithic assumptions, but one wonders how representative or pervasive each of these perspectives is.
The strengths of Curative Violence lie in its nuanced and at times arresting contributions to studies of Korea, disability, and gender. It would work well in graduate or perhaps advanced undergraduate courses related to Korea, disability, sexuality, and state-society relations in East Asia.
Celeste L. Arrington, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
DOWNWARDLY GLOBAL: Women, Work, and Citizenship in the Pakistani Diaspora. By Lalaie Ameeriar. Durham, NC; London, UK: Duke University Press, 2017. xi, 207 pp. US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6316-3.
This radically subversive, superbly written ethnographic analysis of de-skilling among recent Pakistani female immigrants to Canada highlights some of the unintended contradictions and consequences of Canadian immigration and ethnic minority policies. The central contradiction lies in the points system, which targets highly skilled and educated immigrants, “inviting” them to immigrate to Canada because they are supposedly able to “fit” into Canadian society and its workforce. Except they don’t. First, because even the most qualified, experienced professionals in their country of origin must pass extensive—and very expensive—examinations to qualify to work in Canada as pharmacists, doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers and the like. The bureaucratic maze is itself formidable. This means that even when there are shortages in some occupations, there is no guarantee that immigrants qualified elsewhere are available to fill the vacancies. A second unintended consequence of the point system is that, in actual fact there is no “fit” between educational qualifications and the job market, and particularly so for immigrants wishing to settle in places like Toronto where most Pakistani professionals want to live. The result is that an army of qualified Pakistani women—doctors, pharmacists and the like—work in unskilled jobs in supermarkets and department stores, with little hope of earning enough to pay for the required qualifying courses, and even less time to study. The book provides a sense of the humiliation and hopelessness experienced by the women as the realisation dawns that their chances of finding jobs appropriate to their qualifications recede into the distance.
They don’t easily give up, however. They repeatedly attend courses that are intended to help them find suitable work. This is where contradictions of another progressive Canadian state policy, that of multiculturalism, surface. There is of course a difference in Canada between multicultural policies relating to native Canadian peoples and those targeting ethnic minorities in cities. Historically, both kinds of minorities suffered racism but of a different variety. Amit-Talai and Knowles have shown some of the implicit racism still contained in present-day Canadian multicultural ethnic policies (Vered Amit-Talai and Caroline Knowles, Re-Situating Identities: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, University of Toronto Press, 1996). In the present book, the author found that courses intended to help highly qualified professional women find jobs operate by promoting a “sanitised sensorium.” Anyone who has ever attended such a course, as I once did, will know that it utilises strict formulas of acceptability—in dress, accent, style, etiquette—that reject absolutely any semblance of cultural difference. The imaginary employer in these courses is thought to seek an idealised female helper who, the instructors stress, should not “smell” of exotic food and certainly should not wear a dangerous veil. Rather than guiding women towards finding jobs in their appropriate professions, the courses assume that such occupations are beyond their reach. So, while the Canadian state or the city of Toronto encourage multicultural festivals displaying ethnic food, colourful dress, and folk dances and songs, these exotica are relegated to enclaved places and times. They are not supposed to intrude into the world of (masculine) work.
Thus far the argument is persuasive, and is backed up with statistics and nicely nuanced descriptions. Ameeriar spent over a year attending courses and interviewing various activists and policy makers. She herself is the Canadian daughter of a de-skilled mother who grew up in a poor neighbourhood of Toronto. But the issue of de-skilling is, of course, not limited to Canada. In Britain, I observed an early generation of educated Pakistani male migrants move into self-employment from dead-end jobs into self-employment in the face of discrimination at work. Most recently, highly experienced and qualified Zimbabwean refugees and asylum seekers working as unskilled caregivers label themselves sardonically “the BBC” (British Bottom Cleaners), conveying their sense of humiliation, as Joann McGregor documents (“‘Joining the BBC’ (British Bottom Cleaners): Zimbabwean Migrants and the UK Care Industry,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 33, no. 5 ). What makes the Canadian example exceptional is the anomalous fact that these de-skilled immigrants are notionally welcomed into Canadian society.
Despite the richness of documentation in the book I remained a little sceptical of the author’s conclusions. First, because as I and others have argued elsewhere, multiculturalism is not the same as anti-racism, as she seems to assume. Confronting racism requires a range of different sorts of activism and legislation beyond multiculturalism. Secondly, we know little about the lives of Pakistani professionals who have “made it” in Canada, which does have, in places like Toronto, a long established, thriving Pakistani ethnic community. Focusing exclusively on “problem” cases makes it hard to understand her subjects’ insistence on remaining in Canada despite being unsuccessful, socially downward, or the grounds for their future hopes.
This is in many ways an excellent book: it has a good range of scholarly references on migration, diaspora, Pakistanis, current feminism, and Canadian society. As a provocative study that raises important questions, it makes a salient contribution to the anthropology of new migration from Pakistan to North America.
Pnina Werbner, Keele University, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
RELIGION, SECULARISM, AND ETHNICITY IN CONTEMPORARY NEPAL. Edited by David N. Gellner, Sondra L. Hausner, and Chiara Letizia. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016. xiii, 491 pp. (Illustrations.) US$55.48, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-946772-3.
In 2007, following the ten-year People’s Movement that led to Nepal’s king relinquishing power, the former Hindu kingdom of Nepal became a secular republic. It was not clear, however, what this meant for its ethnic and religious minorities, its Hindu majority, and the state. To what degree would religion remain at the core of the state apparatus and identity? Would Nepalis become less religious? What would be the future of Nepal’s religious communities and traditions both inside and outside the dominant high-caste Hindu fold?
Religion, Secularism, and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal, an edited volume by David N. Gellner, Sondra L. Hausner, and Chiara Letizia, developed out of a 2012 workshop at the University of Oxford to “reflect on the trajectories Nepal would take in a state divested of its officially religious status” (xi). The resulting volume is a collection of methodologically and topically varied yet consistently superb case studies by scholars with extensive field experience and/or textual expertise in Nepal. Together, the essays demonstrate the continued salience, malleability, and pervasiveness of religion in Nepal, whether at the textual, ritual, symbolic, or real politik level. The volume provides rich examples, across contexts, of how religion is front and center in processes and problems involved in navigating the challenges of contemporary life and the forces of modernity. The essays here illustrate that religion remains indisputably central to people’s adaptations to pressures and changes wrought in the aftermath of civil war, migration, and urbanization. The essays also reveal a fascinating disconnect between state-level and other official discourses surrounding secularism and the lived religious lives of Nepali communities and individuals.
The book’s introductory essay by Gellner and Letizia discusses theories and models of secularization and the historical developments from the Panchayat era onwards that led to the state’s adoption of secularism in 2007. Nepal’s politicians appear not to have known enough about what they were endorsing when they supported secularism and soon found themselves surprised, even rudely awakened, to this fact by their constituents. Does being secular mean the state should de-fund long-standing cultural festivals that the public expects, or instead sponsor religio-cultural festivals for each community? The 2015 constitution, which finally provided the state’s definition of secularism, offered little clarity. So far in Nepal, as in India, “secularism has not entailed secularization” (15), but what is observable, Gellner and Letizia note, is an increase in individualism and middle-class values (16), a continued increased production of new identities in the public sphere (18), and the transformation and reform of ritual traditions (23).
Following the introduction, the volume is organized into two sections, “Contrasting Urban and Rural Views: Secularism, Individualism, and Blood Sacrifice” and “Ethnic Traditions Confront a Changing State and Society,” comprising six essays each. Letizia’s essay discusses varying communities’ conceptions of secularism in the Kathmandu Valley and Tarai, including Maoists, lawyers, Muslims, cow-protection agitators, and Hindus. Despite the wide semantic and symbolic range of the term secular (dharma-nirapeksa), Letizia shows that across communities the general sense of its meaning is an increase of public religiosity (festivals, for example) and increased state support for religious activities.
Religion is always in flux, but certain historical periods and social events generate more significant degrees of accommodation and adaptation than others. This volume makes clear that the People’s Movement and its aftermath is one such period. Some of the most compelling discussions in this volume are of cases in which people have transformed aspects of religious practice and/or belief to achieve certain ends, including the preservation of religion itself. Ina Zharkevich documents the impact of the People’s War and Maoist wartime policies on religious beliefs and practices in Thabang, mid-western Nepal, where the Maoist “people’s government” ran as a parallel state from 1997. There were unexpected consequences to “the ambiguous nature of Maoist (anti-)religious policies during the war” (79) for religious practice: the gods were understood to have fled the place and people gave up following the ways of their ancestors. However, the ritual practice of desamar was transformed as puja was shifted to the family home so that families could avoid attack from the Maoists. Gerard Toffin maps new religious movements (NRMs) in the Kathmandu Valley, which center around guru figures and tend to offer members means for pursuing happiness and expressing individualism, without requiring a break with their ties with traditional religion. Pustak Gimire’s essay provides further evidence of religious adaptation as Rai non-high-caste women achieve gains in social status through possession by the goddess Bhagavati, who is perceived as of higher status than Rai ancestors, specialists, deities, and local spirits (183). Axel Michaels’s essay on transformations and criticisms of blood sacrifice in Nepal, Astrid Zotter’s essay on replacing the king in the state’s performance of the (formerly) royal ritual of the Pacali Bhairav sword procession, and Gellner and Krishna Adhikari’s essay on ancestor worship and sacrifice in the central and western hills together offer rich documentation of the complexities at work in maintaining the practice and legitimacy of long-standing religious rituals that assert status hierarchies and forms of authority now contested.
Other essays document processes of homogeneity and heterogeneity in religious performance, ritual, and affiliation among ethnic groups, such as the Tamang Lhocchar festival, discussed by David Holmberg, and in varying attempts to redefine Kiranti religion, discussed by Martin Gaenszle. At stake is the production of identity and pursuit of recognition. Tamang are the focus of Brigitte Steinmann’s essay on confrontations between Maoists and Buddhists and of Ben Campbell’s essay on Christianity in Tamang social life. Both essays document fluidity of beliefs, values, and religious (and non-religious, or quasi-religious) affiliations. In Tamang songs, Campbell explains, Christianity “is presented not as a great rupture with the past, but as the next generation’s suitably modern mark of difference” (404). The afterward, by Rajeev Bhargava, offers a theoretical discussion of secularism and considers Nepal’s commitment to secularism in a global era when other states are becoming increasingly anti-secular.
Though no volume can cover everything, some readers may wish that the religious traditions and cultures of the Tarai had received more proportionate attention in this volume. And though a minor quibble, the volume could have benefitted from its thirteen long essays being organized into smaller and thematically focused sections, instead of two large sections. But none of this detracts from the superb quality of each essay, the value of having them all together in one volume, and the critical importance of the volume as a whole for documenting and interrogating religion in contemporary Nepal. Religion, Secularism, and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal is a tremendous resource for scholars and students of religion in Nepal and South Asia.
Megan Adamson Sijapati, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, USA
WHEN CRIME PAYS: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics. By Milan Vaishnav. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. xxiii, 410 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-300-21620-2.
This book concerns one of the central puzzles of Indian democracy: the election of a significant number of representatives at the national and state levels with criminal records. It is worth remembering that after the 2014 national elections, 34 percent of India’s members in the directly-elected lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha) faced criminal cases, with 21 percent of them facing serious charges. Between 2004 and 2014, of the two national Indian political parties, 14 percent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s MPs faced serious cases, compared to 12 percent for the Indian National Congress party.
Vaishnav analyzes this puzzle of Indian democracy by asking three questions. First, what are the incentives of those with criminal records to contest elections? Second, why do political parties select such candidates? Third, do voters have good reasons for electing such people? He attempts to answer these questions using a market analogy where the buyers are voters and the sellers are political parties and politicians. The environment in which this market operates is one where institutions are weak and there is a high incidence of corruption.
While Vaishnav points out that criminality has been associated with politics in India since the early days of the republic, he argues that it became entrenched from the late 1960s after the demise of the Congress system and the “deinstitutionalized democracy” ushered in by Indira Gandhi. Vaishnav uses the concept of “vertical integration” to explain why criminals, who previously backed politicians, themselves entered politics. As Vaishnav notes, “By directly contesting elections, criminals could reduce the uncertainty associated with negotiating (and renegotiating) contracts with politicians, all the while retaining the benefits they had previously depended on Congress to deliver” (103).
Vaishnav’s explanation for why parties nominate criminals is simply because of their winnability. In the last three national elections, candidates with a criminal record have had a nearly 18 percent chance of winning, compared to clean candidates who have had a 6 percent chance. And the reason criminals are winnable candidates comes down to money. “In a context of costly elections, weakly institutionalized parties, and an ineffectual election finance regime,” writes Vaishnav, “parties are likely to prioritize self-financing candidates who do not represent a drain on finite party coffers but can instead contribute ‘rents’ to the party” (121). Vaishnav draws on the affidavits, which became mandatory thanks to a Supreme Court ruling, of nearly 70,000 candidates between 2003 and 2014 to substantiate his claim about the close link between money and muscle. Self-financing becomes critical in the context of the astronomical costs of contesting elections, which far exceed the official cap on spending.
Moving from the supply to the demand for criminal politicians, Vaishnav’s big claim is that it is rational for well-informed voters to support politicians with criminal antecedents. In a context where social divisions run deep and rule of law is weak, a candidate’s criminality can signal credibility on four counts: redistribution, coercion, social insurance, and dispute resolution. Vaishnav illustrates this with the example of Anant Singh of Mokama in Bihar, a feared criminal and self-styled Robin Hood who has won state elections. There are several politicians like Anant Singh, and not just from Bihar, whom Vaishnav writes about.
Indeed, besides the data and analysis of criminal politicians, one of the notable features of this book is Vaishnav’s description of and conversations with figures such as Anant Singh. Anthropologists might feel that these descriptions are not deep or “thick” enough to qualify as ethnography, but his reportage is a welcome relief in the discipline of political science that nowadays tends to produce dry-as-dust analysis, often devoid of insights into the ground reality.
The solutions that Vaishnav offer for cleaning up politics are, however, fairly standard. One way to do this, he posits, would be to let India’s powerful Election Commission regulate both political finance as well as the internal functioning of parties. But as Vaishnav points out, such regulations “risk perpetuating the worst tendencies of the mai-baap sarkar (nanny state) in India” (274). The other way is to prohibit candidates with criminal records from contesting elections. But criminal cases, as opposed to convictions, cannot be a legal basis for prohibiting candidates from contesting. Besides, given the backlog of cases in Indian courts, convictions of politicians can take several years. However, there are laws now in place to disqualify elected representatives who have been convicted by a court of a serious crime.
Vaishnav presents a grim picture of Indian elections, where candidates with criminal records and deep pockets enjoy a significant advantage. However, he injects a note of optimism about the prospects of Indian democracy, noting that politicians with criminal backgrounds “have not successfully captured the electoral system as a whole” (23). The fact remains though that the flaws Vaishnav points out and so acutely analyzes are serious blots on India’s otherwise admirable record of democracy.
Ronojoy Sen, National University of Singapore, Singapore
OF GARDENS AND GRAVES: Kashmir, Poetry, Politics. By Suvir Kaul, photographs: Javed Dar. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2017. xxvi, 227 pp. (B&W photos.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6289-0.
In the preface to this fine book Suvir Kaul traces its origin to his “disquiet with what I, an Indian and Kashmiri Pandit, saw on the streets of Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley” (xvi). He writes how frustrating it has been for him to witness that the documented evidence produced on the suffering of the Kashmir population appears to have had little or no impact at the decision-making level in India or Pakistan. The policy makers are locked into the prevailing nationalist discourse and guided by geopolitical considerations. Kaul’s frustration resonates with me and no doubt with other scholars whose analyses of the Kashmir conflict have, at least in the policy community, fallen on deaf ears. Suvir Kaul’s impressive volume, bringing poems and photographs along with interpretative essays on the politics and history of Kashmir, tells us what has gone wrong (and is still going wrong) in Kashmir and how the security concerns of the state take precedence over the daily suffering and trauma of ordinary people.
The book consists of four essays written at different intervals of Kaul’s observation of the events in the Valley, each accompanied by photographs and poems in the Kashmiri vernacular (with English translation) by Muslim and Hindu poets, expressing their divergent experiences and sometimes talking to each other. Javed Mir’s black-and-white photographs of ordinary people living within a militarized framework, protesting, and trying to recapture the streets which have become sites of contestation between the security forces and the public at large, are as poignant as they are revealing. The poems and photographs are intended to help us develop, as Kaul suggests, “an intellectual and critical position demanded by our times” (xxii). In this regard it might be better for the uninitiated reader on Kashmir to start with essay 2, “My Paradise is burning,” as it provides a brief historical background on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and then proceed to read the book as it is laid out.
For Kaul, the Kashmir conflict must be viewed within the larger context of inherited legacies of the empire, how “the logic and history of the colonial state inform the structures of postcolonial governance” (189). He argues that postcolonial states typically retain their inherited territorial and military legacies, using precisely the policing and administrative arrangements that the colonial state had employed against them during anticolonial movements. The postcolonial state’s cartographic anxieties about preserving territorial integrity result in constant and pervasive surveillance of both its borders and the citizens who inhabit the state, particularly its periphery. The militarized control of dissenting voices which challenge the territorial integrity of the state becomes the norm in the name of maintenance of law and order and the security of the nation. Kaul tells us that all this is being played out in Kashmir. While Kashmiris employ the same anticolonial language which the Indian nationalists had used against the British, the “Indian state has confirmed and enhanced the doctrines and methods it had inherited from the British colonial law and policy” (179). Kaul expands on this theme in essay 4, “Indian Empire (and the Case of Kashmir),” a particularly insightful presentation of current Indian practices as a postcolonial state in dealing with the people of Kashmir.
The predominantly Muslim Kashmir Valley has been in turmoil since the late 1980s. The beginnings of its troubles can be traced to the integration of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian state by virtue of the Treaty of Accession (and a promise of plebiscite) signed by the Hindu ruler in late October 1947 in direct response to a tribal invasion emanating from the North Western province and aided by the newly formed Muslim state of Pakistan. Much water has since flowed under the proverbial bridge: a de facto partition of the state into two parts, two-thirds with India and one-third with Pakistan, with China controlling a small Northern territory; four wars between India and Pakistan reflecting irreconcilable positions on Kashmir (for India, Kashmir is an integral part of India whereas for Pakistan, it is a disputed territory and Kashmiris should be allowed to exercise the right of self-determination as mandated by the Security Council); an electoral-based regional government with rigged elections, a denial of space for dissent politics and the final eruption of a mass-based nationalist/secessionist movement accompanied by political insurgency in 1989 (most of the militant groups involved were trained in Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir); the exodus of the minority Hindu community from the Valley and a constant presence of the Indian security forces, an insistent daily reminder to the Kashmiris that they live in a militarized zone.
In the wake of these developments during the past sixty years, Kashmiri public discourse has incrementally progressed from the demand for autonomy to that for aazadi (freedom). Aazadi carries within it multiple meanings: the right to self-determination; the protection of the special status granting internal autonomy to the state; and the protection of Kashmiri identity. In this battle, each subsequent generation introduces new motives and intentions to the discourse, and reinterprets it based on multiple sets of memories, with multiple layers of experiences. In the changing contexts of the Kashmir conflict, collective memories of subjugation have come to be reconfirmed as well as redefined during India’s association with the state.
In essay 3, “The Witness of Poetry,” Kaul brings to us two poems, one by Muslim poet Mohiuddin Massarat and the other by Pandit Brij Nath Betaab, each linking trauma, history (particularly the loss of home and displacement) and politics through a textured and intricate analysis. We are reminded that the human tragedy in Kashmir is indeed vast: some 15,000 civilians killed since the early 1990s (estimates by human rights groups are much higher), the disappearance of 10,000 young men, the discovery of 5,000 unmarked graves (2,900 in 2009 and another 2,080 in 2017). The displaced minority Hindu community is still trying to come to terms with the loss of their ancestral homes, lands, and their lived history. Kaul’s text is dramatically highlighted as we witness firsthand this human tragedy through the poems and photographs of this magnificent book.
Reeta C. Tremblay, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
NATION AT PLAY: A History of Sport in India. Contemporary Asia in the World. By Ronojoy Sen. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. xi, 382 pp. (Illustrations.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-16490-0.
At first glance, picking up a book about the history of sports in India seemed to me, as a scholar of East Asian sport, like studying the ice cream of Iceland. Sure, there must be some kind of history about the topic, I thought to myself, but what is the point? After all, India is hardly known as a global sporting power. At the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio, for example, India tallied just two total medals, which is even more remarkable when you compare that total to India’s substantial population (approx. 1.3 billion). But then I began reading Nation at Play: A History of Sport in India, by Ronojoy Sen, and I was pleasantly surprised by its bold narrative blend of anthropological analysis, primary historical sources, and modern journalism.
Western sports like soccer, tennis, baseball, and cricket spread from Europe and North America to Asia in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century during the period of colonization. Many (such as rugby, soccer, cricket, golf) had origins in the United Kingdom, were incubated in that nation’s public schools, and were played and taught throughout the British Empire. Others (such as baseball, basketball, volleyball) were American inventions brought to Asia by teachers and missionaries living abroad.
Throughout the modern period, sports have at once been seen as symbols of colonialism and also used as tools of national self-assertion. Today they often reflect a global consumer culture that has developed during our most recent surge of increased contact and economic interdependency, what many call “globalization.” Nation at Play makes a significant contribution to that conversation regarding globalization and sport.
Sen follows a chronological path of sports from “elite, kingly pastimes and their encounter in successive stages with colonialism, nationalism, the state and globalization,” but he also “dwells on … two issues: first, the intensely political nature of sports in both colonial and postcolonial India, and, second, the patterns of patronage, clientage, and institutionalization of sports” (5).
No event was more significant in shaping those politics than the arrival of the British in the seventeenth century. With the British came all sorts of cultural institutions, including sports like cricket. Indian elites of the day used cricket to curry favour with the British, thereby helping to spread the sport across the subcontinent and also to spread the value of using the sport to climb the social ladder. Many Indians travelled to the UK to learn British ways, too, and upon their return further spread this particular sport and its “elite” values. Cricket would ultimately become almost synonymous with India itself; in fact, like many die-hard sports junkies, I had known about India’s national obsession with cricket, and Sen did not disappoint in documenting the details of that sport’s history. But before reading Nation at Play, I did not know, for example, that the sport was just once included in the Summer Olympics (in 1900). I imagine that even knowledgeable cricket fans will find new information here.
Meanwhile, I was also surprised to learn that the British adopted the Indian “sport” of polo and sent it back to the motherland, where it was used not only as an entertaining diversion but also as a way of maintaining social classes; junior British polo players were required to buy and care for their “mounts.” Thus the history of sport was not simply one of Indians adopting British games; as Sen notes, it was not “one-way traffic” (34).
In addition, when Indian cricketers had success against British teams, the victories were hailed as national moments marking the Asian nation’s ascent to modernity, just as sporting prowess was said to indicate national power throughout Asia. For example, Japanese victories over Americans in baseball were hailed as an indicator of Japan’s modern strength in the Meiji Period (1868–1912) (Allen Guttmann and Lee Thompson, Japanese Sports: A History, University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001, 89–90).
Sen, who holds a PhD from the University of Chicago and is a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, spent many years as a journalist and editor for The Times of India, among other publications; his prose is clear and highly readable.
While Sen dismisses the claim, made by Ian McDonald (“India,” in Handbook of Sports Studies, eds. J. Coakley and E. Dunning, Sage, 2000), that the “sociological study of sport in India essentially remains virgin territory” (9), he does agree with Dipesh Chakrabarty that “social historians of India have paid more attention to riots than to sports, to street-battles with the police than to rivalries on the soccer field” (10; see also, “Introduction” in Sport in South Asian Society: Past and Present, eds. B. Majumdar and J.A. Mangan, Routledge, 2005). In that sense, Sen’s history is indeed a welcome contribution to a field of study that has been unduly dismissed, in some cases as a result of the same biases I myself had before this review. It turns out there is actually a great deal to learn from a book about Indian sports. Ice cream in Iceland? Of that I am not so sure.
Aaron Miller, California State University, East Bay, Hayward, USA
HYDRAULIC CITY: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai. By Nikhil Anand. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. xiv, 296 pp. (Illustrations.) US$26.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6269-2.
A quick history of twentieth-century rights jurisprudence would show a generational transition from the state as a guarantor of civil and political rights (as laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) to the state as provider of basic material benefits that enable the effective exercise of rights and freedoms. This means economic and social rights, which are essentially guarantees for provision voiced by the welfare state (as encoded, for instance, in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). Nikhil Anand provides a granular view of urban life in regards to water supply through the exercise of the infrastructural powers of the state. All the while, he alerts us to the micropolitics of living in and with this second generation of rights—rights essentially voiced by the citizen-subject along the lines of “yeh dil maange more” (“my heart wants more”). Anand shows a spectrum of citizenship organized around the series of speech acts that either request or demand. This mode of politics is distinctly different from the mode of politics adopted by, for example, the Narmada Bachao Andolan that has been protesting the state’s ecological and economic judgment in building large dams and questioning the sovereign exercise of eminent domain (see, Amita Baviskar, In the Belly of the River: Tribal Conflicts over Development in the Narmada Valley, Oxford University Press, 1995).
Nikhil Anand is not pointing at the conscientious objector or civil libertarian as a form of argumentative liberal subject. He is pointing us to a mode of citizenship that grows out of a keen, indeed clever, apparatus of everyday negotiation and bargaining with the technopolitical wing of the state on the pivot of incremental demand that expresses the mundane experience of water scarcity. I want to highlight the implicit correspondence Anand is undertaking with Aihwa Ong’s idea of “graduated sovereignty” that helps explain the global neighbourhood of nation-states positioned differentially on the developmental ladder (Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality, Duke University Press, 1999). Anand highlights a potential extension of Ong’s argument of seeing power as calibrated, graduated into the realm of citizenship where patronage—a quelling of need/want—is essentially sought in calibrated means, sometimes more, sometimes less, just like the trickle of time-bound tap water. To access more water, better water, one has to tap into multiple points of infrastructural as well as political access.
While Anand provides us with a larger history of hydraulic infrastructure, ecological life, and the associated peripheralization of urban hinterlands that surround the city, I wish to focus on the picture of argumentative, water-claim-making citizenship that emerges in his ethnography. Mirroring Nancy Fraser’s early qualification of Habermas’s “deliberative rationality” (“Rethinking Recognition,” New Left Review 3 [May-June 2000]) to reflect the proliferation of such rationality in making claims on the state, Anand draws up a comment on the everyday life of distributive politics. Distribution takes on the direct class-based perspective of the state, as Anand points to acts of silence on the differential allocation to different forms of built environment in the city—essentially settlements (Anand avoids the word “slum”) and high-rises. Distribution, in Foucaldian terms, becomes a clean technocratic exercise of matching perceived need with allocation of a scarce resource. In this mathematical discrimination of the technocratic state, Anand points to the life of worry, anxiety, cajoling, bargaining, and argument. Essentially, the book gives us a picture of participatory urban politics, and also “infrapolitics” (James Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, Yale University Press, 1990). But such politics are enacted not as much by attacking the ethical and juridical judgment of the state, but by arguing with the mathematical rationality and calibrative exercises undertaken by the technocratic distributive state.
This mode of mundane argumentative and bargaining citizenship is a qualification of the “infrapolitics” of Scott and Chatterjee’s (2004) invocation of Gramsci’s civil/political society. Chatterjee famously suggests that in postcolonial nations, the life of organized civic action and engagement with state (civil society) exists separate from unorganized, spontaneous acts of collective resistance that often straddle the divide between legality and illegality. Anand moves away from Chatterjee’s dualist treatment of urban political methods (65–66) and provides a detailed account of how marginal citizens invoke both sides of the civil/political society divide in their struggle for survival (76–78). Anand provides an account of how these marginal communities come to make use of the power of big men like Yusufbhai, even as he avoids the analytic of patron-client relations. Anand speaks of the power of “unsettled friendships” (78) across class, through which “incremental” resource access and survival is made possible. As Anand points to the oscillation of the water-demanding citizen between legal and illegal networks of support and patronage, I noticed a powerful exposition of how the citizen negotiates the bodily need for water in the political strategy of incrementality and simultaneous use of multiple points of access. This is a desperate yet entrepreneurial citizen—a citizen who engages directly in the calculative, calibrative rationality internal to the logic of operation of the technocratic state. This mode of everyday politics seems akin to the precarity and cleverness of the stock-market broker who plays on an incremental modality, always keeping an eye on the health of the market while making astute decisions, and operating between the ups and downs of today and tomorrow.
Let me move on to a final comment about the public performance of bodily need, a realm of study usually concerned with health, medicine and sexuality—all realms that have given way to biopolitical regulatory intervention. In the case of urban delivery mechanisms of water, I see Anand showing us a series of mundane stories arising out of settler life in Mumbai, where citizens bring out the truth of thirst and perform it in the political field. In this case, thirst and bodily need emerge as a register of truth that citizens draw up into a public, argumentative shape of liberal subjectivity. The state is shaped in this particular iteration as the rationing agent that measures particular scarcities with particular perceptions of localized demand. And the subject rises to match the battlefield that features this particular face of the state with an appropriate face of bargaining, cajoling, and most importantly, playing the calculative technopolitical field with his/her own judgment on such calibrative rationality.
To conclude, Nikhil Anand makes a most significant contribution to the anthropology of the state. Additionally, I see Hydraulic City as a book that participates productively in the debate over whether or not, and to what extent, one can apply public sphere theory to the context of postcolonial nations. In his future scholarship, I would urge Anand to move forward his attention on mundane citizen-state arguments on the lines of incrementality and calibrative rationality to an argument with Marxist rationalities about how, why, and under what conditions, a social or bodily state is identified as need. Given the burgeoning interest in anthropology and cognate disciplines, on the aggrandizing stance of neoliberal state-capital combinations, and the associated rollback of welfare mechanisms the world over, I would urge Anand to comment on the proliferation of citizen-rationalities—ones that struggle to keep up with the changing priorities of the state as opposed to taking directly oppositional stances—sometimes on the lines of incrementality that he so vividly describes in this book.
Atreyee Majumder, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
DEMOCRATIZATION FROM ABOVE: The Logic of Local Democracy in the Developing World. By Anjali Thomas Bohlken. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xvii, 288 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-12887-3.
The objective of this book is to explain variations in the adoption and implementation of local democracy across developing countries. It disputes what it characterizes as two common views on the subject: the first, that local democratization is simply an extension of national democratization; and the second, that it is one form of decentralization or the transfer of power from higher to lower tiers of governance. Adopting a minimalist definition of democracy—as competitive elections—the author argues that government elites, and especially chief executives, are more likely to adopt or implement local democratization when they either lack access to party organizational networks or face internal party competition for control over such networks. This suggests that the key variable influencing the implementation of local democratization is the relationship between governmental elites and party organization.
This thesis is advanced for a dataset of 68 developing countries with a population of over 10 million, across three continents: Asia, Africa, and Central and Southern America. However, the substantive focus of the book (chapters 3 through 7) is on India. It is the empirical account of the introduction of local democracy in India, and the analysis of intra-party competition in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, that provides the substantive basis of the book’s argument. The author uses a mixed-methods approach that blends the qualitative and the quantitative.
The author’s focus rightly encompasses both the introduction and implementation of local democratization. The analytical distinction between these two is sometimes blurred though it is clear that the same explanation is offered both for the adoption of institutions of local democracy by the national government and their varied implementation by state governments. On the issue of adopting local democracy, Bohlken explains Rajiv Gandhi’s motivation to revitalize panchayat raj in terms of his attempt to reduce his reliance on the competing power centres within the Congress Party by establishing an “effective base of local intermediaries” for himself. This is very much in line with the then opposition’s rejection of the proposed amendments as “from the PM to the DM without the CM.” It is true that Gandhi felt frustrated in his attempts to reform and modernize the Congress by curbing the influence of entrenched “power brokers.” However, as K.C. Sivaramakrishnan shows in Power to the People? (Konark, 2000), a first-hand account of the process by which the amendments came to be formulated and eventually passed, Rajiv also keenly desired to more effectively channel public resources for development. Why Narasimha Rao’s minority government managed to get these bills through in 1993, while Gandhi’s majority government did not in 1989, remains a puzzle. The fact that Rao was compelled, exactly a year later, to introduce the lavishly funded Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme as a sop to MPs who felt they were losing control over the local, is significant.
The introduction of local democracy in 1993, along with provisions for affirmative action (for women and members of historically disadvantaged groups), was certainly a watershed moment that marked a departure from even the most well-intentioned earlier attempts at democratic decentralization in states like Karnataka or West Bengal. Frequently, however, the specific characteristics of panchayat institutions before and after 1993 are elided. The assumption of continuity—as in citing scholars from the 1960s to the 1980s—is troubling not just because it suggests that the role played by local representatives has remained unchanged over time, but also because it diminishes the importance of the very processes of local democratization that are the subject of this book. With all its imperfections and challenges, it is indeed democratization that is the pre-eminent feature of the new architecture of local governance.
The difference between the period before and after 1993 is arguably not just in the quality of local democracy introduced, but also in its twinning with decentralization for development. The stated purpose of the constitutional amendment was to give the people, through their elected panchayats, a voice in the preparation of plans and implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice. Local democracy was not democracy for its own sake; it was necessary because devolution by itself would not be effective unless people’s participation was ensured.
There is no doubt that, once in place, these institutions would be used to distribute rewards and offer incentives to suit the interests of leaders at higher levels of governance. This is where the explanation for the adoption of democratic decentralization could differ from that of its actual implementation. The implementation box can be checked through the routine holding of elections. But, starving the panchayats of funds or propping up parallel bodies (not just caste panchayats, but also water and forest management committees), can render them substantively irrelevant. Once again, the relationship of democratization with decentralization is important.
The author wisely acknowledges that local democratization may and does occur without genuine decentralization. However, she stops short of asking the normative question of the value of such democratization. In India, varying degrees of inadequacy in the devolution of functions and resources often render elected representatives powerless. In circumstances of voice without valence, indeed of the hollowing out of democracy, should we not interrogate the worth of the concept of “local democratization” even if defined in a minimalist way, as the holding of competitive elections? In the final analysis, it does seem to be relevant whether initiatives for local democratization are seen as enjoying primacy (for whatever instrumental political reasons) or whether they are seen as necessary complements to the task of decentralized development. Bohlken’s argument supports the first of these views; many of the champions of local democratic decentralization—whether governmental elites or civil society activists—are likely to take the latter view. The disagreement, then, zeroes in on the question: what is local democratization for?
Niraja Gopal Jayal, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
SPACE, PLANNING AND EVERYDAY CONTESTATIONS IN DELHI. Exploring Urban Change in South Asia. Edited by Surajit Chakravarty, Rohit Negi. New Delhi: Springer India, 2015. xi, 233 pp. (Illustrations.) US$129.00, cloth. ISBN 978-81-322-2153-1.
Surajit Chakravarty and Rohit Negi have put together empirical essays that examine how neo-liberal policies are materialized in specific contexts to highlight “the complex of ideologies, institutions, and political practices” that interact with the weight of global capital (5) in transforming Delhi. The editors focus on what they label “interstitial spaces,” defined as “the ordinary spaces that exist alongside centers of consumption, megaprojects, special economic zones, gated communities, high-end apartment complexes and large infrastructure installations” (6). Thus, they include “markets, resettlement colonies, industrial areas, urban villages, public transportation” as interstitial spaces against what they call the “winners-and losers” of urban transformation. Including the editors’ introduction, the book has eleven chapters, which I discuss below.
Seth Schindler explores how street hawkers negotiate with a fragmented state at various sites, thereby making a case for the state as amenable in multiple ways beyond a framework of benevolence and malevolence. He also delineates the arrangements the street hawkers have established with a range of non-state actors to avert raids and disciplining protocols encoded in zoning laws. In a meticulously documented history of land claims in the formation of heterogeneous communities, Shruti Dubey examines the contentious issue of “participation” in the various designs for in-situ resettlement of the puppeteers of Kathputli colony under the public-private-partnership policy currently in vogue. The unsettled contention between the communities of artists, non-artists, and lepers in the 1980s and 1990s was aided by what can be argued as the politics of preferential endorsement of artists on behalf of the civil society that largely invoked a neo-traditionalist argument. However, as Dubey argues, recently the unity of artists and non-artists in resisting the might of state and capital has influenced the claims over land in the city.
Kavita Ramakrishnan examines everyday corruption through patronage and brokerage networks on the part of the residents of Bawana resettlement colony in procuring rations and infrastructure. Tracking a particular case of “corruption” over time could have served her purpose better in providing nuanced arguments about various actors, arrangements, and tactics.
Ursula Rao explores how the residents of Savda Ghevra resettlement colony maneuver their environment by turning barren land into aesthetically and sensually pleasing gardens/landscapes in efforts to restore moral and salubrious physical order. While I am not absolutely sure if these efforts constitute “small-scale urban gentrification,” there is merit in treating gardens as “serendipitous spaces that permit different values, desires, and needs to coexist” (84).
Rolee Aranya and Vilde Ulset explore “incipient informality” and “insurgent space making” in Savda Ghevra to underline the processes of entrepreneurship and service provisioning. While they allude to the underside of these acts of survival practices primarily in innovations with respect to physical mobility, mobilizing social networks, entrepreneurial initiatives, and livelihood flexibility, one could have learnt more if the authors had provided analysis of varied forms of exclusion, relative advantages of communities, and difficulties with the host population. Surajit Chakravarty, in an insightful analysis of the transformation of Mahipalpur village, explores the tensions between “bureaucratic categorization,” state interventions, and “opportunistic entrepreneurship” (113). He gives a much-needed account of the evolution of the policies that defined the inhabited areas (abadi) and the agricultural farmland in the colonial and postcolonial periods. Thus, while the colonial state demarcated farmland from abadi areas for taxation purposes, the postcolonial statecraft of land acquisition created a rent gap between the villages and the newly acquired land, thereby propelling opportunistic entrepreneurship, involvement of developers and elected representatives, and also the establishment of unauthorized colonies. In the specific case of Mahipalpur village, this led to the mushrooming of budget hotels and logistics firms, warehouses, mixed-use commercial spaces, and professionalized housing services. The author has provided a nuanced analysis of state informality and indecision, though it would have been useful if he had delved into the dynamics of local politics in the transformation of the village.
Shahana Sheikh and Subhadra Banda, in their analysis of legal and policy protocols for the regularization of unauthorized colonies in Delhi, provide a historically rich description, which forms a significant backdrop for anyone researching the subject. In masterfully documenting the case of Sangam Vihar, they analyze the transfer of agricultural land to low-income residents via various intermediaries, the ambiguity of the Delhi Development Authority in laying out policies, the contentious struggles of Resident Welfare Associations, and the disputable role of police and political parties in regularizing the colonies and implementing the gradual provision of services.
Sumangala Damodaran explores the expectations and experiences of migrant workers and the shaping of industrial landscapes in Delhi. She provides an analysis of shifts in industrial policies, migration networks, and the preference for industrial work as compared to farm work, as well as living conditions and the changing landscape and lifestyle of the host communities. However, the chapter could have gained traction if she had dwelled more on the aspirations and identity constructions of industrial workers along regional origins and community lines. In analyzing the “rules and relationships” that underpinned the development of Metro Rail, Bérénice Bon points out that the “real estate component” (182) became grounds for conflict among various state, parastatal, and non-state bodies. Thus, the excluded institutions vie for power over legal and planning precepts by further excluding the local stakeholders who primarily remain the most affected people in these projects. In addressing the case of the Shastri Park project, Bon explores the residents’ recourse to local political structures in order to thwart imminent risks and effects and the consequent responses and politicking.
Sonal Sharma’s research on women domestic workers highlights a range of vulnerabilities that women experience, including the lack of safety in their places of residence, crumbling of social networks, dismal transport upon eviction and resettlement, and lack of toilets and the implications for paid domestic work. She explores how women navigate issues of “shame” and “responsibility” and how they evaluate the relative benefits of living in “servant quarters” while coping with forms of dependency and exploitation. One can also add the vulnerabilities they experience from state authorities and police officials, especially in the areas of South Delhi where Sharma has carried out fieldwork. Finally, Tara Atluri describes the sequence of events concerning the infamous Delhi gang rape case by interspersing it with quotes from philosophers. She takes up many issues, including capitalist individualism, neoliberalism, Rosa Parks and public parks, Occupy struggles, labour struggles in Los Angeles, the Pink Chaddi (panties) Campaign, and so forth, to analyze the production of postcolonial gendered subjects and the right to public space/streets. Some of her analogies are not entirely convincing, as she discusses many issues including the failure of governance, the right to the city, new social movements, and the parallels between the political and artistic events in the same breath.
The editors insinuate that the middle-ness of interstitial spaces can be mapped in a continuum, though they do not adequately explain how the concept of “interstitial spaces” has more analytical purchase. The concept is deficiently theorized and not directly engaged with in most of the chapters. The book could have gained in its logical consistency if the editors had laid out the primary features of interstitial spaces in order to test them out for empirical validation. However, the achievement of the book is in collating a range of interesting empirical essays that could serve as valuable backdrop research material for scholars working on Delhi.
Sanjeev Routray, Northeastern University, Boston, USA
UNCONDITIONAL EQUALITY: Gandhi’s Religion of Resistance. Cultural Critique Books. By Ajay Skaria. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. xvi, 390 pp. US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8166-9866-0.
Unconditional Equality is a challenging read, but it was arguably more challenging to write. The book is a deep engagement with M.K. Gandhi’s political thought by someone who claims to be uncomfortable with its religious character. The author, Ajay Skaria, is a well-known historian who contributed to the Subaltern Studies Collective in its later years. Skaria’s intellectual world of postcolonial studies is wholly ensconced within modern secular European thought, whether of liberal, Marxist, or postmodernist strains. To read Gandhi from such a vantage point is a challenge, as Skaria himself admits, because it is so far apart from Gandhi’s own ideas and politics.
The central claim of the book may be stated thus: against modern liberalism’s promise of formal equality that denies liberty to many, Gandhi proposes satyagraha or surrender to the mystical experience of Truth (satya) as an alternative based on the absolute equality of all beings, human and non-human. Gandhi’s political religion (dharma) is, strictly speaking, godless. The sovereignty of God (or gods), distant or personal, would demand subordination, and hence, make the quest for equality impossible. For Gandhi, by contrast, mystical experience enables individuals to seek themselves via immersion in an ocean of groundless faith in satya. Mysticism or the religion immanent in all religions, Skaria suggests, implies a kind of resistance to self and society because it does not subordinate individuals to God or its secular liberal avatar, the modern state. Mystical experience also produces what Skaria calls “unconditional equality” for all living beings to the extent that all partake of Truth and no seeker of satya can be ontologically superior or inferior to others. This is why satya enjoins its seekers to love their neighbours as themselves.
Gandhi himself, of course, never described his quest for Truth in these words. This book is Skaria’s attempt to think through the tensions in Gandhi’s writings, speeches, and acts without dismissing them as hopeless contradictions. But there are two problems here. First, Gandhi as a mystical thinker or guru is not particularly impressive. Indeed, he is now a guru without any followers among major political parties and ideological groupings in contemporary India, and his political religion was sadly stillborn because it lacked popular appeal of the kind enjoyed by longstanding bhakti sects or more recently, by Ambedkarite Buddhism. Worse still, even during his lifetime, anyone could project their fears and fantasies onto him and satyagraha could mean, in Raj Chandavarkar’s words, all things to all people. Second, Gandhi’s dharma does not fare well as radical political thought either. As Skaria recognizes, ontological equality among all beings could coexist happily for Gandhi with the hierarchies of gender, caste, and race that define everyday life. Despite its radical rethinking of the relationship between religion and politics, Gandhi’s dharma is, in fact, resolutely conservative in its social outlook. Even as Skaria acknowledges this, he does not see that Gandhian satyagraha fails as a meaningful alternative to modern liberalism and its rivals because mystical surrender and social subordination are two sides of the same coin.
Political mysticism can, however, be a potent challenge to the social status quo. Gandhi’s critique of the modern state and Western liberalism can, for instance, be grounded in a radical politics rooted in religious mysticism. As Faisal Devji has shown, Gandhi’s mysticism may be linked inextricably to his fascination with violence (The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptation of Violence, Harvard University Press, 2012), and it is the same relationship between religious mysticism and violence that has inspired Islamic radicals from Syed Maududi to Osama bin Laden. Political mysticism in postcolonial societies has, in other words, provoked a profound challenge to state and society alike. Skaria’s inability to recognize this challenge circumscribes the scope of his argument even as it leaves open possibilities for future scholarship.
More generally, however, we must ask what religion even means in a book so bereft of theological discourse. Does the author’s turn to religion simply emerge out of a queasiness with secular liberalism? After all, Skaria’s turn to contemporary Continental philosophers such as Derrida and Levinas is hardly what Gandhi had in mind when he wrote of mystical religious experience as the religion present in all religions. Contemporary Catholic theologians might have done just as well, if not better. Nonetheless, by positioning himself at the rear end of the behemoth of Western philosophy, the postcolonial critic in Skaria unfortunately cannot enter the terms of Gandhi’s world, shaped as it was by the Indic religious traditions that he grew up with and the esoteric forms of Christianity that attracted him abroad. The mystical quest for the self that Gandhi described was, ultimately, a kind of spiritual experience that placed him at odds with the organized religions of his day. The conceits of liberalism or Marxism were far from Gandhi’s concerns in pursuing satyagraha. Those concerns were deeply personal, and their only political manifestation was a kind of quietism. But the pursuit of a quietist politics in the maelstrom of late colonial India could only be, as Joseph Lelyveld’s recent biography of Gandhi (Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, Alfred A Knopf, 2011) shows, tragic.
In sum, if we set aside its inadequacies and its contorted prose, Unconditional Equality must be commended for paving the way for future scholars to examine Gandhi’s understanding of religion and politics more closely. It lays out clearly enough the pitfalls of postcolonial scholarship when it attempts to take Gandhi seriously. In the years to come, we may await a deeper engagement with the religious mysticism that undergirded his political thought.
Uday Chandra, Georgetown University, Qatar
THE ASEAN MIRACLE: A Catalyst for Peace. By Kishore Mahbubani and Jeffery Sng. Singapore: Ridge Books [an imprint of NUS Press]; The University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2017. xvi, 264 pp. (Figures, maps, illustration.) US$20.00, cloth. ISBN 978-981-4722-49-0.
In August 1967 the representatives of the original five members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand—signed the Bangkok Declaration. Many commentators at the time thought that ASEAN would be yet another short-lived regional organization. Indeed, ASEAN has always had its share of sceptics, especially after it expanded to include Brunei, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and finally Cambodia. Naysayers have called it a “talk shop,” preoccupied by process and thus ineffective, producing very few concrete results. Yet at the same time ASEAN is often viewed as the most successful regional organization after the European Union (EU). The competition is not too stiff but nonetheless it suggests that this more positive view of ASEAN should be better understood. This book, by two eminent scholar-practitioners of the region, celebrates ASEAN’s fiftieth anniversary by making a detailed, thoughtful, readable, and in many ways provocative case for seeing the association in a very positive light.
At the heart of the argument set out by Mahbubani and Sng is that ASEAN, as a regional organization, has brought enduring peace and considerable prosperity to a large, diverse, and formerly very troubled region. They start out by showing how Southeast Asia’s already immensely varied geography and vast variety of languages and cultures were influenced by the arrival of four very different external civilizations: Indian, Chinese, Muslim, and Western. They then ask why and how ASEAN brought about an “ecosystem of peace” in this exceptionally diverse region. They suggest five factors. First, they see the fear of communism as keeping the original members focussed on cooperation and later maintaining peace in the region by admitting their former communist adversaries into ASEAN. Second, the authors single out strong ASEAN leaders, who were in power over many of the early years of ASEAN, as crucial to maintaining a sense of regional cooperation and peace. Third, they see geopolitical luck in terms of being on the winning side in the Cold War as helping to promote regional peace. Fourth, they view the adoption of a market-oriented approach to economic development as helping to promote regional prosperity and peace. Finally, they argue that ASEAN-based regional networks have helped to integrate the ASEAN region and link ASEAN members to the wider East Asian region.
The middle chapters of the book provide a brief history and analysis of ASEAN’s relations with the great powers—America, China, the European Union, India, and Japan—as well as a series of “pen sketches” of the ten ASEAN members and an assessment of ASEAN’s strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps inevitably ASEAN’s relationships with the US and China get the most space, but for all the different relationships it is fascinating to get a decidedly ASEAN perspective on the way they have unfolded over the years. The “pen sketches” are idiosyncratic but essentially very positive. Mahbubani and Sng see ASEAN’s main strengths as the array of institutions that have been developed to support the strong sense of regional community and the fact that many of the great powers are willing to promote and support the association. They identify ASEAN’s weaknesses as the lack of a clear “owner” of the association and the fact that it is viewed as a governmental organization with little or no input from the region’s general public. They also see the secretariat as too small and weak for the tasks that need to be done. These weaknesses, they quite reasonably suggest, could in the future leave ASEAN overwhelmed by great power rivalries in the region or undone by domestic instability within member states. But overall, the authors are very positive about ASEAN and its future.
The culmination of the book is the final chapter, which sets out the authors’ argument for awarding ASEAN the Nobel Peace Prize. By providing long-term peace and prosperity, as well as “civilizing” the big powers in their dealings with Southeast Asia, Mahbubani and Sng see ASEAN as every bit as deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize as the EU, which won it in 2012. However, ASEAN’s Achilles heel is clearly its poor track record on democratization and safe-guarding human rights, neither of which the authors discuss in any detail. It is unlikely, given recent controversies over previous Nobel Peace Prize recipients, that the Norwegian-based prize committee will give the award to an organization which includes some member states that have backed-tracked on democratization and others that have flagrantly abused the human rights of their citizens. However, the authors have won a prize of sorts in that their book is scheduled to be translated into all the major ASEAN languages so that it can be read by a wider audience in the hope of instilling greater pride in ASEAN among its citizens. Certainly, students of Southeast Asia and regionalism—whether ASEAN sceptics or proponents—can learn a good deal from reading this spirited and informed defence of the organization.
Richard Stubbs, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
THE BRITISH AND THE VIETNAM WAR: Their Way with LBJ. By Nicholas Tarling. Singapore: NUS Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2017. x, 451 pp. (Maps.) US$42.00, paper. ISBN 978-981-4722-23-0.
The British and the Vietnam War focuses mainly on the period from November 1963, when Lyndon Johnson became president of the United States, up to March of 1967.
The British wanted to avert a massive, bloody war in Vietnam, but they did not feel they could afford to offend the United States by seeming too negative. Their position became more difficult as the United States committed itself publicly to the use of large-scale military force to avert a Communist victory in South Vietnam. Some feared that if they were openly critical, they might become scapegoats for an American failure (57, 58, 88, 91). British diplomats warned in 1961 and again in 1964 that there were Americans who claimed that it had been British negativity that had prevented the United States from winning the Korean War (26, 54).
British officials held widely divergent views on basic issues. Many operated very much within a Cold War mindset. They often assumed that the primary threat in Vietnam was Chinese aggression. Up to 1965, suggestions that the Americans negotiate an end to the conflict referred as often to negotiations with Beijing as with Hanoi. Arthur de la Mare suggested in 1967 that Hanoi had been wanting for some time to abandon the war, but had not dared defy Chinese wishes by doing so. Gordon Etherington-Smith, the British ambassador in Saigon, was especially supportive of the American view of the situation in Vietnam and its broader implications, arguing that a defeat there would have serious consequences “for the whole balance of power in Asia and indeed in the world” (230). But many others doubted that South Vietnam was the best place to hold a line against Communist expansionism, and some questioned Chinese aggressiveness. Not until 1966 was there even a coherent debate about such issues; it failed to achieve consensus.
In 1964 and into early 1965, the British tended to pessimism about Vietnam; they expected a Communist victory. This was partly because they neither wanted nor expected a major commitment of American combat forces. As Lyndon Johnson escalated American involvement, they became much more hopeful about the outcome of the war. But this was partly because they did not expect that the North Vietnamese would step up their own involvement in the struggle in the South. Indeed the British did not understand the extent to which North Vietnamese troops were already arriving in South Vietnam in the first half of 1965. By the end of 1965 British officials were recognizing and indeed exaggerating the extent to which Hanoi was matching American escalation (255), and their optimism subsided.
Early fears that if the war escalated it might run completely out of control, possibly even triggering world war, were subsiding by 1965 and did not revive. The Americans were showing they could use large-scale military force without spreading the war beyond Indochina.
The British wanted a negotiated end to the conflict. Some hoped that negotiations would lead to the neutralization of South Vietnam or of some wider area including South Vietnam. Seldom did they explain what neutralization would actually mean, or even acknowledge that the question needed to be asked. Some recognized that no such nice compromise was available. James Cable, head of the South East Asia Division at the Foreign Office, wrote a very perceptive paper in August 1965, pointing out that someone—Communist or anti-Communist—was going to end up in control of South Vietnam, so any negotiated settlement of the war would necessarily be a more or less disguised surrender by one side or the other (233–236). But this did not dim his enthusiasm for negotiations. He seemed to think there was a real chance that the United States would in the near future become willing to do what it actually did more than seven years later: sign a very unfavourable peace agreement.
Cable later suggested that British efforts to get peace talks started should not be based on any particular conception of what sort of settlement might actually be acceptable to both sides. The biggest British effort to get negotiations started, through Soviet intermediaries in February 1967, was indeed not based on any particular hopes about the shape of a possible peace.
Nicholas Tarling, a historian whose broad interests centre on Southeast Asia and British policy toward Asia, is well qualified to write about British policy regarding the Vietnam War. He has done a great deal of research, in British government files and to some extent in other sources. But The British and the Vietnam War is mostly an account of what British (and sometimes American and other nations’) officials said to one another month by month. Tarling seldom intrudes his own interpretation or analyses. Only rarely does he judge a statement, as when he brands “unrealistic” a 1964 proposal by Lord Walton, undersecretary at the Foreign Office, that if the Americans made a major military effort for two or three months, creating a momentarily strong position, they could then withdraw from Vietnam, allowing a Communist takeover, without loss of face (94).
The British and the Vietnam War will be valuable as a reference, and serious libraries should acquire it, but only specialists and advanced students are likely to read it straight through.
Edwin E. Moise, Clemson University, Clemson, USA
THE NEW WAY: Protestantism and the Hmong in Vietnam. Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies. By Tâm T.T. Ngô. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016. xi, 211 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$50.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-295-99827-5.
This book on the conversion of the Vietnamese Hmong is important because, to an extent, the history of modern Vietnam is a history of contending with Christianity. French missionaries helped Gia Long, the Nguyen Dynasty founder, consolidate rule in 1802, for which he accorded them land in Tourane (Da Nang), but subsequent persecutory acts against Christians by his successors became the pretext for colonial rule. Da Nang was a gateway for American incursion in 1965, leading to another war between Communist Ho Chi Minh and American-backed Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic. Combine Christianity with the Hmong, a group that longs for ethnic sovereignty, and you get a volatile situation. Conversion is also a controversial topic in Hmong studies. Taking on the issue, Tam T.T. Ngo argues that beginning in the 1980s the Vietnamese Hmong, disillusioned by broken promises and oppressive developmental policies, have seized Protestantism as a route to empowerment and modernity—one which is “not connected to the Party-State and do[es] not seek the subjugation of personal interests to those of the state” (9).
Fascinatingly, Christianity came to the Hmong in their language via radio waves, almost a literal dictate from the divine. One day, a low-ranking Hmong Communist cadre was tuning the dials of his radio. To his surprise the charismatic Pastor Vam Txoov Lis (aka John Lee) was preaching the word of God in Hmong (41). Over the next decade, many Hmong began gathering in houses that possessed the rare commodity of a radio to hear John Lee, a refugee of the secret war of Laos who lived in California, “indigenize” the stories of God and Jesus Christ by employing Hmong-style story-telling techniques. The program also catered to the agrarian life cycle by broadcasting when families sat down for breakfast and dinner (57). The pastor closed by answering questions from around the globe, and he prayed, creating a sense of community across space. The news reports drew curious non-believers to tune in as well. Soon, listeners were instructed to connect with lowland Kinh churches. Hmong American “tourists” also began appearing in Vietnam by the 1990s, smuggling in copies of the translated Bible. By the turn of the twenty-first century, there were over 200,000 converts, one-third of the Hmong population in Vietnam. The mass conversion occurred without missionaries or the leadership of a trained clergy.
There were other reasons for conversion; foremost among them is a history of communist oppression. Many Hmong aided in the victory against the French only to see the Party retract its promise of ethnic equality and target them for persecution because their co-ethnics, the “Vang Pao Hmong,” had fought on the side of the Americans in Laos. Mass arrests of the Vietnamese Hmong in Lao Cai occurred between 1958 and 1978, driving many into Laos and forcing Hmong officials to quit their posts (28–29). The Strengthening the Highland initiative legalized land seizures that resulted in one million Kinh in the Hmong highlands by 1966 (30). Other imposed programs also forbade the Hmong from practicing shifting cultivation (32). Conversion provided access to the power of the US, where the “Vang Pao Hmong” sought shelter after 1975. Against the Party narrative that they were more primitive in the Marxist historical timeline, the Hmong could now fire back that “their Hmong brethren in the United States…are…more advanced than the Vietnamese Kinh,” an argument “that allow[s] the [Vietnamese] Hmong to cross borders and jump over stages of historical development” (14–15).
Beneath the surface of conversion was a threatening agency at work that neither the Hmong American radio missionaries nor the Vietnamese government could anticipate. Many Hmong embraced Christianity as a means of forming transnational unity beyond traditional divisions in an attempt to achieve a larger political aspiration. The radio inspired the dream to reconsolidate the ancient Hmong kingdom, resulting in the government crackdowns by 2000, and forcing Hmong Americans to defend the converts. Today, Hmong Christians scramble to disassociate themselves from the millennial dreamers.
For others, Christianity offers more secular pragmatics. Different clans could now gather as family members who could die in the same house (i.e., the church). Converts also rejoiced at abandoning expensive ancestor rituals, and embraced changes like ending polygyny, the bride price, and adopting new forms of morality. Ngo argues that Christianity has eroded traditional forms of gender inequality, but she does not interrogate how Christian patriarchy has bound women in new ways. Furthermore, the argument about curtailing expensive rituals needs more critical examination. World religions like Christianity demand churches and a paid clergy—the reason for the requisite tithe. There may be financial reasons behind deconversion and why Hmong Americans are finding it harder to gain new converts.
While the Hmong hoped Christianity would be a unifying ideology and the government feared it, Ngo’s study reveals a different truth. Protestantism, despite providing a transnational connection, has caused family rifts and exacerbated preexisting divisions. Traditionalists denounce converts as ancestral apostates; converts claim themselves to be more modern and disparage the traditionalists as demon worshippers. The state exploits these tensions by exalting the beauty of Hmong traditional culture while making conversion illegal. There is no unity even among the Christians. Hmong Leng resent the Hmong Daw for dominating broadcasting services, while Hmong Americans are pretentious upstarts who perceive themselves as bringing civilization to their primitive counterparts (81).
Overall, I appreciate Ngo’s insights, but am left wondering what is her definition of modernity. Also, are there denominational interplays at work with the lowland Kinh being Catholics and the highland Hmong being Protestants? Finally, while it is evident that Ngo empathizes with the Hmong, she ignores the recent scholarships of native researchers, including Pao Ze Thao’s Keebkwm Hmoob Ntseeg Yexus (Thornton, 2000) and Nao Xiong’s and Yang Sao Xiong’s “A Critique of Timothy Vang’s Hmong Religious Conversion and Resistance Study” (Hmong Studies Journal 9 ). An awareness of how the Hmong conceptualize their history and internalize conversion from the inside-out would add depth and prevent a top-down, West-East analysis. Still, Ngo is to be applauded for her courage in taking on such a divisive topic.
Mai Na M. Lee, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, USA
THE POLITICS OF SHARI’A LAW: Islamist Activists and the State in Democratizing Indonesia. By Michael Buehler. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xiv, 270 pp. (Tables.) US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-13022-7.
Indonesia is neither a secular state, nor an Islamic one. Both terms have negative connotations in Indonesian society, and therefore have been avoided in legal and political areas. By the 1945 Constitution, Indonesia has been relegated to a “middle position.” It compromises between secularism, where no single religion predominates, and religiosity, where religion (especially Islam) becomes one of the central pillars of the state.
The Indonesian experience demonstrates that Islamic political parties assign religious meaning to national institutions and tend to more readily endorse the state’s policies and practices. Internal secularizers, on the other hand, do not sacralize but challenge the authority of the state by offering religious alternatives. This process shows that in their ideology and practices, religious political parties are more likely to transform religious ideas from within, and even accommodate some of the premises of a pluralistic democracy. Two processes walk hand in hand: the “secularization” of religious content and giving a “secular” political system substantive religious meaning.
By participating in elections and constitutional reform, Islamic political parties in Indonesia have demonstrated that they are willing to work within the parameters of parliamentary democracy and constitutionalism and abide by the principle of popular sovereignty rather than divine sovereignty. Islamic political parties wishing to propose legislation inspired by Islamic principles must ensure that the legislation is consistent with the dictates of the rule of law and public reason rather than holy texts. For instance, a law on a pilgrimage does not impact on the rituals associated with the hajj (as the obligation to go hajj comes not from the law, but from God) but only affects the technical aspects of regulating 16,000 Indonesians who make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. This involves dealing with the Saudi government, in terms of providing accommodation, transportation, and health and safety measures to Indonesian Muslims performing the hajj. In this regard, secular considerations mix with religious obligations.
Michael Buehler’s book, The Politics of Shari’a Law: Islamist Activists and the State in Democratizing Indonesia, goes further. It examines the relationship between law and an Islamic agenda at provincial and district levels. At least 443 shari’a regulations were issued at those provincial and district levels between 1998 and 2013. Buehler found that 67 percent of these regulations were enforced in six out of thirty-four provinces, which encompass half of the country’s population. His conclusion was that many shari’a regulations were adopted in the areas ruled by Indonesian secular parties rather than regions controlled by Indonesian Islamist parties. Therefore, he argues that the Islamist parties are not necessarily the key drivers of the politicization of shari’a.
His findings are not novel if we understand the characteristics of Indonesia’s “middle position,” as is explained at the outset. But for those who think that shari’a and Islamic political parties are not the legitimate children of democracy, Buehler’s findings might be surprising. Still, it begs the question of why secular political parties proposed to insert shari’a into legislation at sub-national levels? In his book, Buehler shows that the move towards the establishment of shari’a is the work of what he calls “opportunist Islamisers,” attached to secularist parties. “In other words, the adoption of these shari’a regulations is driven by political expediency rather than ideological shifts within the Indonesian polity” (3).
Buehler provides an interesting fact: shari’a regulations were mostly adopted within two years (before and after) of the election of local government heads, but the number significantly decreased during the elite’s second (and final) term in office. Interestingly, in some cases, the issuing of shari’a regulations was aimed at camouflaging or distracting attention away from ongoing and pervasive corruption conducted by the mayor or governor.
On a final note, it seems that shari’a regulation at sub-national levels are problematic. Prostitution, gambling, alcohol consumption are prohibited, but these are already prohibited at the national level through the penal code, so prohibiting them under shari’a regulation at the local level is not really necessary. Reading the Qur’an and paying the zakat (alms or religious tax) are compulsory; and the wearing of Muslim clothing is encouraged. Paying zakat has been regulated under the national law, while reading the Qur’an is not compulsory under Islamic law, but the shari’a regulation at sub-national levels has made it an obligation. This is considered as beyond the requirements of Islamic law. Wearing a veil is regulated in the Qur’an but Islamic law has not established a punishment for those who do not wear a veil—something that shari’a regulation has created, an act considered stricter than Qur’anic requirements. The good thing is that the shari’a regulations here are not concerned with cutting off the hands of thieves, an eye for an eye, or stoning to death. But what concerns me is that the idea of having shari’a regulations is not to improve local government performance. Rather, the institution of shari’a regulations is political and lacks substantive meaning.
Buehler’s book, published in 2016, was based on research conducted between 1998 and 2013. His findings highlight the intersection of religion and politics in Indonesia. Indonesia’s political situation in 2017 has also confirmed his argument that shari’a regulations at sub-national levels are no longer the main issue. Perhaps, “the opportunist Islamisers” have different games to play, rejecting the non-Muslim candidates, as in the case of the 2017 election for Jakarta governor.
Nadirsyah Hosen, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
GHOSTLY DESIRES: Queer Sexuality and Vernacular Buddhism in Contemporary Thai Cinema. By Arnika Fuhrmann. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. xii, 255 pp. (Illustrations.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6155-8.
The moving image’s affinity with the spectral is at least as old as cinema, and just as global. In Asia, the strength of that bond—as evident in constant innovation in the horror genre—has not escaped notice. Introducing a recent edited volume, Ghost Movies in Southeast Asia and Beyond (Brill, 2016), Peter Bräunlein’s survey of the expanding literature gives a sense of its breadth, of Southeast Asia’s prominence in it, and of Thailand’s preponderance within that. However, at this busy academic intersection, efforts from the direction of film studies tend to still be contained by the horizon of “national cinema,” seldom straying beyond industrial-style productions; while those from the social sciences put films to illustrative purposes, describing sociological shifts whose proofs will always lie outside the frame. In neither strand is it common to find arguments that begin and end in reckonings with the aesthetic strategies of the most challenging artists.
Arnika Fuhrmann’s Ghostly Desires breaks those moulds, without forgetting the lessons they offer. Her book offers focused case studies, but includes a wide variety of genres—from mainstream transnational movies, through smaller art-house productions, to non-narrative video art and experimental documentary—providing a range that is likely to push film studies readers beyond their comfort zones. Exemplary works are examined on their own terms; each points to mindsets operative in contemporary Thai society and expressed in bourgeois institutional norms, without necessarily standing for general cultural or artistic trends. They are sequenced so as to open, and progressively mine, interpretive shafts revealing the cultural-historical underpinnings of a fairly recent, illiberal turn in Thailand’s public culture. Focusing on the period since the Asian financial crisis (1997–1998), Fuhrmann mobilizes works made with transnational markets and diverse audiences in mind, yet manages to define a contemporaneity utterly specific to the dysfunctional Thai polity in those two decades.
Fuhrmann is unafraid of abstraction, but explains herself thoroughly. Her prose rewards patient reading. Passing between formal analysis, nuanced contextualization, and confident interpretation, her argument is anything but linear, composed of loops and refrains that sustain and deepen the book’s central claims. She is most compelling when arguing through close treatments. The first, devoted to Nonzee Nimibutr’s romantic horror movie Nang Nak (1999), consolidates the historical backdrop for the study: the confluence of official discourses of moderation, national solidarity, and cultural recovery in the wake of the crisis, and the resulting inflections of gender norms (57–58). Thus, an exorcism scene, for all its appeals to a purportedly timeless but clearly “invented traditional femininity” (47), is shown to be the product of very contemporary struggles, in which such “truisms of Thainess” have come to gain “ascendancy over pluralist and egalitarian values” (71). Anachronism turns out to be fertile ground for filmmakers, but also for the critic.
At its philosophical crux, this is a study of how highly localized discourses of negativity, such as (old and new) “rhetorics of loss and injury,” have been on one hand deployed by conservative institutions devising illiberal new “modes of sexual regulation” (123), and at the same time hijacked or reclaimed, to critical and liberating ends, by artists. This contest locates the limits of Western liberalism—not just its geo-cultural thresholds, but its interplay with other ideals that absorb or prevail over it. Fuhrmann traces liberalism’s layered reflections in non-Western practices, whilst remaining alert to its mutations outside the legislative and political discourses tended by the state and mooted by activists. She likewise gives amplitude to “traditional” religious norms anchored outside Buddhism’s doctrinal mainstream, but which thrive in vernacular and popular cultures. A liberal might like to think, for instance, that we are all equal in death, but in the karmic economy of Thai Buddhism this is far from true. Death may be a mere way-station on the path to a more (or less) enlightened state of being; and even the hapless departed are fair game for moralists, as when the clergy prescribes meditation on female corpses to demonstrate the law of impermanence and the futility of desire. But as Fuhrmann argues, the discursive spaces engendered by such practices accommodate more than just preaching and negativity. The “deferral of detachment” also “provides a space of possibility, and the belatedness of desire … creates a domain for fantasy” (69). With a theoretical agility uncommon in Southeast Asian cultural studies, she shows how artists and filmmakers exploit this ambivalence.
Aside from burgeoning anthropological interest in media and mediumship, spectrality has also reared up as a more general, historiological condition, with the apparent demise of communism, and in attempts to reanimate internationalist ideals in the face of an unjust globalization. Again, Southeast Asia seems haunted by Cold War spectres, but it has largely fallen to artists and filmmakers to engage them in places where critical history, and historically informed criticism, remain dangerous pursuits. Their engagements range from cryptic allegory (such as the video installations of Singapore’s Ho Tzu Nyen) to documentary experiments in theatre and film (such as the reeanactments of Rithy Pan in Cambodia, or Joshua Oppenheimer in Indonesia). Thailand has been ably represented by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the region’s most celebrated auteur, whose roundly “hauntological” oeuvre has inspired social scientists and historically minded artists alike. His displacements of national history, by turns transnational and local, mobilize the everyday oral and folk idioms of Thailand’s Northeast, cultures less bound by national norms and imperatives than those of the capital. Fuhrmann follows Apichatpong into this dilated theatre—he is a key protagonist of the book—devoting subsequent chapters to the experiments of Araya Rasdjamrearnsook and Thunska Pansittivorakul, both pivotal artists working outside the capital who have received precious little scholarly attention.
Notwithstanding its compact subtitle, Ghostly Desires is about much more than Thai cinema. Fuhrmann pursues these diverse moving image-makers far beyond the nation’s moral-institutional architecture; and their “queering” of that architecture takes her far beyond the critical conventions of gender studies. This adventure confirms what any observer of contemporary Thailand, however engrossed in mainstream evidence, should know: that a genuinely progressive cultural politics, one that refuses to breathe the stifling atmosphere of bourgeois nationalism, has for years been practised there under the mantle of vanguard art. Meanwhile, the parochial culture industry lumbers on like a zombie, in thrall to self-serving elites and their now unashamedly despotic status quo.
David Teh, National University of Singapore, Singapore
SIEGE OF THE SPIRITS: Community and Polity in Bangkok. By Michael Herzfeld. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 2016. xii, 267 pp. (Map, illustrations.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-226-33161-4.
In July 2003 on one of my many professional trips to Thailand, Professor Michael Herzfeld, an anthropologist from Harvard, invited me to visit the community at the base of Pom Mahakan, an eighteenth-century fort in the middle of the old city of Bangkok. Herzfeld had recently begun fieldwork research in this community in part because he found it to be comparable to heritage sites in Greece and Italy where he had carried out previous research.
The community at Pom Mahakan was begun in the late eighteenth century when the first kings of the current Chakri dynasty built a number of forts to protect the palace and government buildings in Bangkok, the then new capital of Siam. The members of the original community who had been given land at the base of the fort worked for the monarch or were the family members of these courtiers. Those living in the community today are primarily descendants of the original inhabitants.
Because Pom Mahakan is located near the Buddhist shrine known as the Golden Mount, which is in the centre of the old city known as Ratanakosin Island, it has long been of interest to Thai government officials and especially to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), which seeks to promote historic preservation. Beginning in 1959 the BMA sought to buy out the modern-day inhabitants to preserve the fort and some of the houses and make the fort and houses into a government-designated cultural heritage site. While some inhabitants of the community accepted payment for their houses, others did not, seeing themselves as the most appropriate conservators of the heritage of the fort and the old houses located in the community. In 1992 the BMA “declared eminent domain over the private land behind the old fort near Ratchadamnoen Road and Wat Saket, saying it would build a park there,” to quote an article that appeared in Khaosod English in March 2016. Protests against the decree began in 1992 and continued until 2017. At the suggestion of a Thai classmate he had been close to in England, Herzfeld was drawn to this place because the protests centred on the question of who could claim ownership of the heritage of a historic site. As this was closely related to research he had undertaken previously in Europe, he decided to make the Pom Mahakan community the focus of new research in Thailand.
Even in my brief visit to the community in 2003, it became clear to me that the question of who has the obligation and responsibility for preserving heritage was highly contested; this was evident in my conversations with the very articulate residents introduced to me by Herzfeld, and even more through Herzfeld’s writings. The Pom Mahakan community was (and is) very small, numbering several hundred people. Despite the fact that the Thai Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration had the legal right to evict people from the area, it was not until 2017, after a military dictatorship had assumed power, that demolition commenced on homes whose owners had accepted compensation.
Herzfeld’s book details the long struggle of the community to be allowed to preserve the heritage at that site. In 2017, after the book had been published and widely praised—including by many in Thailand—Herzfeld returned to the community only to witness the dismantling of several residences in the community. In an interview published in Khaosod English on March 15, 2017 he described the experience as “sickening.” Instead of allowing the community to continue to serve as a mirror for the nation, it has become a casualty of the BMA’s imposition of its own view of cultural heritage. Some of the houses will be allowed to remain as a museum, but the residents—even though a few may be hired to work as guides—must move elsewhere. “If they are … forced to leave the site, a last lingering trace of the old Siamese polity—the polity of the ghosts venerated in the community’s shrines—will vanish, a barely perceptible wisp trailing the fast-fading echoes of memory into the greedy smog of modern Bangkok” (204).
Herzfeld found the story of the Pom Mahakan community intriguing because residents view it “as a microcosm of the entire [Thai] polity” (203). Herzfeld, on the basis of his long engagement with members of the community, argues that the community is not “so much a microcosm as a mirror, a mirror that reflects many of the tensions and brittle balances that plague Thai politics and governance today” (203). It is for this reason that his book is especially relevant for those seeking to understand cultural politics in contemporary Thai society as well as the politics of cultural heritage more generally.
Despite the apparent outcome for this particular community, the book will remain as a powerful tribute to the long-suffering residents of Pom Mahakan and it can and will still be read as a unique and relevant perspective on cultural politics in Thailand.
Charles Keyes, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
THE RISE OF CHINA AND THE CHINESE OVERSEAS: A Study of Beijing’s Changing Policy in Southeast Asia and Beyond. By Leo Suryadinata. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, 2017. xi, 278 pp. (Tables, maps.) US$39.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4762-64-9.
Suryadinata’s work offers readers an interesting look at Chinese overseas, and at how China views these communities in light of their growing economic and global clout. The book begins by detailing the structural and policy changes within China towards Chinese living abroad. China’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO) has expanded its activities and influence since the 1990s to help promote investment from the Chinese diaspora in China; to advocate for Chinese soft power by helping to fund and staff Confucius Institutes overseas to teach Mandarin Chinese and promote Chinese cultural activities; and to connect China’s larger foreign policy goals to the state’s treatment of Chinese overseas.
Suryadinata aims to show how China’s policies towards Chinese overseas have changed and how this reflects China’s larger foreign policy goals and ambitions. In 1998, violence rocked Indonesia; Chinese Indonesians were targets of riots, arson, looting, and rape. China’s response was minimal. Beijing framed the tragedy as an Indonesian internal affair and offered little assistance or condemnation of events. This is in sharp contrast to more recent examples of violence against Chinese in the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, where China evacuated nationals and recent Chinese migrants to safety.
There are significant differences in the circumstances surrounding these examples and China’s responses. In the case of the 1998 Indonesian riots, the Chinese targeted were Indonesian citizens. Chinese have lived in Indonesia for many generations and as Suryadinata explains, have become Indonesian citizens, taken Indonesian names, and become part of the multi-ethnic fabric of Indonesian society. China’s lack of response stemmed from the understanding that their intervention could make things more complicated for Chinese in Indonesia, and (not mentioned by Suryadinata) that for many Chinese in Indonesia their ties to mainland China are tenuous or non-existent. Yes, some Indonesian Chinese businessmen have reconnected with their Chinese roots and have invested in China and rediscovered ancestral villages. For many Chinese in Indonesia this sense of connectedness did not and does not exist. Thus, there were very few reasons for China to evacuate or offer to intervene in the violence of 1998. Suryadinata claims that if similar violence was to occur in Indonesia today, that China would intervene more forcefully. I disagree. In the 2017 Jakarta mayoral election there was extensive mobilization against the Christian and Chinese sitting mayor, Ahok; China was largely silent. Chinese living in the Solomon Islands and Tonga were much more recent migrants and they still had ties to China. It is worth noting that these Pacific islands are small states, less important economically and strategically to China than Indonesia. It would have been a larger diplomatic issue to act forcefully in Indonesia in 1998 than it was to evacuate Chinese from the Pacific islands in 2006. Likewise, given the level of chaos during the upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring, and noting the Chinese affected were Chinese nationals visiting or working overseas, it is completely understandable that China would go to greater lengths to protect and evacuate their citizens from violent situations.
Suryadinata also looks at a number of diplomatic scuffles where anti-Chinese actions have triggered various responses from Chinese officials. From a restrained Chinese response to Burmese actions against the Kokang Chinese, to an ambassador’s outspoken speech in Malaysia (including Malaysia Chinese in the category of haiwai qiaobao, Chinese compatriots overseas), to a measured response to anti-Chinese violence in Vietnam, we see China making subtle distinctions among Chinese living outside of China and how Beijing views and relates to them. Vietnam is a perfect example: when riots broke out in response to Beijing’s aggression in contested waters of the South China Seas, China repatriated Chinese workers on the affected oil exploration projects, but there was little Chinese action in response to anti-Chinese violence within Vietnam. China did not withdraw investments, nor do anything to protect ethnic Chinese who have been living in Vietnam for generations and who are integrated into Vietnamese society. Suryadinata argues that China intervenes to protect Chinese overseas if doing so does not conflict with higher priorities in China’s national interest (territorial integrity and protecting strategic foreign relations). Thus, we would be even more likely to see intervention if doing so coincided with higher foreign policy priorities.
This book contributes to two fields of inquiry: understanding China’s foreign policy, and understanding the varied position of Chinese overseas. These fields are rarely linked together and that’s where Suryadinata’s book offers a valuable contribution. There are some shortcomings. There should be more acknowledgment of the differences between Chinese communities overseas and their attitudes toward China. It is not enough to note that communities in Southeast Asia have been there for generations and are fairly densely connected to host societies. The reader also wants to know how communities view mainland China and their connection to it. Would these citizens expect or want China to intervene on behalf of co-ethnic solidarity? Unclear. Second, no mention is made of the fact that as China’s role in global affairs increases, it is normal to think that they would do more to protect Chinese citizens living, working, or travelling overseas. It is not surprising that China is now able to do what other developed countries do when their citizens are stuck in conflict zones. This reflects a greater global presence and improved capabilities rather than a shift in policies towards co-ethnics per se. It might have been a fruitful approach to link Chinese foreign policy to the Chinese diaspora and focus more on extensive economic ties that China has worked to develop between ethnic Chinese outside of China and the booming mainland Chinese economy. This could have been done through a discussion about the meaning of “greater China” in an economic and soft power sense, or through business case studies linking overseas Chinese to Chinese economic opportunities. Although this was a missed opportunity, the book should still be read and valued by scholars and students interested in Chinese foreign policy and overseas Chinese.
Amy Freedman, C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, Brookville, USA
OF BEGGARS AND BUDDHAS: The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand. New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies. By Katherine A. Bowie. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2017. xvi, 357 pp. (Illustrations.) US$64.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-299-30950-3.
Attending a ritual at a Buddhist temple in Thailand, one is tempted to assume the text being chanted has been determined by tradition and is performed the same way each time. A further assumption is that the motivation behind the chanting and the chosen text is strictly religious, aiming to further the spiritual status of ritual participants. Yet as Katherine A. Bowie shows, the choice and style of the chanting matters greatly: the language used, who is chanting, who sponsored the recitation, even whether it is humorous, all provide insights into political relations and motivations, as well as regional identities. To demonstrate these broader contexts and meanings, Of Beggars and Buddhas thoroughly examines the diverse tellings of the stories of Jujaka, the old beggar in the Vessantara Jataka, the Buddhist story of the last life of the historical Buddha before he was born as Gautama. Jujaka is an excellent character to follow because of the intricacies and variations surrounding how he is portrayed in central, northeastern, and northern Thailand, with each different approach shedding light on the forms of Buddhism in each region and the degrees to which Bangkok extended its control and influence—and the resistance to such control and influence—in each region. Bowie’s book is at once the story of a classic Buddhist text and a political, anthropological history of how Buddhism and the ways in which it is practiced illuminate political attitudes across social statuses and regions.
The range of characters—the people on the ground rather than the players in the Vessantara Jataka—that Bowie deals with is the true gift of this book. She moves deftly across the categories of what she refers to as the monarchs, the monks, and the masses, highlighting the motivations and pressures on each group in each of the three regions of Thailand. (Bowie is upfront about not including the south, as she does not have the history and connections in that region she has in the other three.) Using these three regions enables Bowie to develop her argument that the manner in which Jujaka is portrayed in each location reflects the degree of influence coming from Bangkok’s elite as well as how local people (the masses) respond to this influence. She integrates historical context, regional variation, and social perspectives as people across the social and geographic spectrum use the text to their own ends. Part 1 of the book defines how the Vessantara Jataka, and the character of Jujaka in particular, is portrayed and performed in each region. These three chapters provide the geographical grid on which Bowie’s more nuanced analysis is laid out in part 2.
Part 2, also in three chapters, focuses more on the historico-political processes of the different regional interpretations of the story and how they played off of each other over time, up to the present. Bowie uses the motifs of Jujaka as Trickster, as Threat, and as Deity in consecutive chapters as she develops her main argument—and theoretical contribution—of the politics of humour. Throughout the telling, Bowie shows Jujaka as a foil of different political, social agents, from the court elite stifling his role to control how the court is portrayed to the raucous, cunning, and hilarious figure in which resistance to Bangkok is embedded in the north. In addition to the historico-political grid of part 2, Bowie incorporates a dynamic dimension, revealing the changes to the story and the portrayals of Jujaka and other characters in the jataka over time, resulting from evolving power relations across the regions.
Bowie’s encyclopedic knowledge of the literature about Buddhism and the political history and ethnography of Thailand allows her to show the interplay between humour, morality, narrative, and politics from different perspectives. Although someone unfamiliar with at least a basic understanding of Thai society, history, and Buddhism may at times feel lost in her descriptions, it is worth working through the details to unpack the complexities and depth of the evidence underlying her argument.
In building her argument about the politics of humour, Bowie taps into a wide range of theoretical literature. She draws extensively from anthropological, historical, philosophical, and literary theories to provide a complex yet solid framework for her approach to understanding Jujaka in all his manifestations. Ideas of scholars from Mikhail Bakhtin to James Scott to Charles Hallisey, and numerous others, all contribute to the development of Bowie’s original analysis as she frames her argument in response to prior theories of Buddhist literature and Thai history and society, culminating in an original analysis of the power of humour in religious and political practice.
Most impressive is the depth of Bowie’s ethnographic experiences that inform her analysis. She has undertaken extensive ethnographic, political, and historical research in Thailand over several decades. Although most of her work has focused on the north, Bowie availed herself of every opportunity to reveal the histories and perspectives of other regions—from travelling to numerous temples across the kingdom to interviewing and chatting with every taxi driver and shop keeper she encountered. She brings in the perspectives of many monks, including the few remaining who still tell the humorous versions of Jujaka in northern Thailand, villagers across all three regions, scholars, and urban folks. She conducted hundreds of oral histories (mostly in the 1980s) that enable her to highlight the views and understandings she presents through the voices of people involved. Performances of the jataka that she attended emerge through rich and engaging ethnographic details. The result is a vivid and nuanced analysis that is at once entertaining (how could it not be given the emphasis on humour?), compelling, and provocative.
Susan M. Darlington, Hampshire College, Amherst, USA
MOTHERLESS TONGUES: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation. By Vicente L. Rafael. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2016. xii, 255 pp. (B&W photos.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6074-2.
In Motherless Tongues, Vicente Rafael relies upon the historical method to address questions deeply related to the field of translation studies: How do translators function? What is the purpose of translation? Why do we translate languages? And, what are the political implications of translation? The project has broad appeal to historians, political scientists, linguistics experts, and individuals in the field of translation and literary studies. Among the most notable aspects of the author’s approach in Motherless Tongues is that it is scholarly, theoretically vivid, and, at the same time, deeply personal. In Rafael’s own family, the parents spoke Ilonggo and Kapampangan (but the mother spoke only broken Ilonggo), which the children understood, but could not speak. And so, they would reply to the parents in English and Tagalog (3). Meanwhile, the languages of the Philippines referenced throughout the study include Taglish, English, Tagalog, Conyo-speak, collegiala talk, Arneo accents, Spanish, Hokkien, Hakka, German, and French—even as English, Tagalog, dialects, and Spanish became the “big four,” historically (4). Nevertheless, rather than portraying a blend of happy hybridity and multiculturalism that inevitably emerges out of cosmopolitan settings, the book focuses on conflict, on language wars.
The organization of the book is divided into three parts: Vernacularizing the Political, Weaponizing Babel, and Translating Lives. In part 1, the first three chapters deal with Spanish as a counterrevolutionary force during the movement toward Philippine independence in 1898; Filipino vernaculars politicized in the fight against colonial education systems; and texting as a means of circumvention in Manila, particularly in the EDSA II uprising, which sought to oust a corrupt president at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Throughout the chapters, there are also distinct themes that emerge, such as telecommunication and translation as a function of everyday life for the Philippine middle class.
By contrast, the second part of the book, Weaponizing Babel, is a commentary on American empire. Chapter 4 is an in-depth discussion of the origins of American area studies programs, featuring the intimate connection between area studies and the American empire. This chapter additionally functions to connect the earlier discussion on the Philippines to a broader, regional, Southeast Asian context, while bridging the discussion to the topics of the following chapter, which focuses on automatic translation and personal translation in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in the context of the post-9/11 American military. The latter third of the book, then, uses translation as more of a metaphor, from Rafael’s perspective (15–17). It focuses on the discussion of “accidents” in the field of area studies, the notion of “nostalgia,” and the concepts of “language, history, and autobiography,” and how these concepts translate across different historical settings. The final chapter is a publication of the tape-script of an interview with Siri Nergaard, editor of Translation: A Transdisciplinary Journal, which took place in 2013 (189ff). Scholars seeking a traditional historical narrative that unfolds entirely in a chronological fashion will not find it here. Instead, the reader is offered a series of interlocking essays, organized innovatively, based predominantly on theoretical and conceptual connections.
There are a few facets of the author’s argument that are particularly important to highlight. First and foremost, the dynamics of language, vernacular, and colonial education do not unfold in a particularly surprising fashion. As elsewhere, school systems created a linguistic hierarchy, relegating local languages to the background, forcing students to translate every day (54). What is surprising, however, is the degree to which English-language education penetrated the Philippines, as, by the 1930s, 35 percent of the population was literate in English, making the citizenry of the Philippines the most literate in a Western language of any Southeast Asian society at the time (45). Early successes spreading English contrast wildly with the almost comically tragic attempts to fund polyglotism by the American military, as depicted in several of the book’s chapters. Indeed, since WWII, language has been weaponized as a skill taught to soldiers. Between at least 2007 and 2009, Fort Lewis Foreign Language Training Center has taught ten-month courses in Arabic. The model operates somewhere between the adage that “language is power,” and the idea that language is a type of equipment you can add on to a standard pack of military gear (124). Language training takes longer than the process of invading and occupying. Therefore, “the language-enabled solider thus becomes obsolete even as he or she is being trained” (126). Even more tragic, however, is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Babylon Program, aiming to develop live translation interface software. “This mechanical model conceptualizes the surge in language capabilities as the complement to the surge of combat forces” (127). But the inputs are constrained to DARPA-identified tactical scenarios, and the early model “Phraselator” is only capable of translating English to an output language (129).
But this book isn’t just about the imperialists. Rather it is also about the translators: the “traitors” who act as cultural spirit mediums (135). Hence, situated within this entire discussion, it seems that the central innovative argument to the text is that, in the words of Rafael, “If translation is like war, is it possible that war is also like translation? It is possible, I think, if we consider that the time of war is like the movement of translation. There is a sense that both lead not to the privileging of order and meaning but to the emergence of what I have been calling the untranslatable” (118). This central argument, coupled with the notion that translation is ultimately a compulsion (201), has grave implications for the human condition: if contestation is such a compulsion, then, so is the desire for understanding. Hence, the world of Motherless Tongues is encouraging to a degree that is, perhaps, even beyond the author’s intentions stated at the outset.
William B. Noseworthy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, USA
RELIGION AND NATIONALISM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA. By Joseph Chinyong Liow. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xix, 261 pp. US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-16772-8.
It is a sign of how much the field of social sciences has changed that a new book interrogating the linkages and relationships between religion and nationalism sits in a crowded field. A couple of decades ago, scholars like Peter van der Veer and Mark Jeurgensmeyer had the religious part of the field to themselves, even as historians and other area studies scholars shook their heads, wondering at this blind spot in international relations scholarship. Even more recently it was still fashionable to look forward to the death of nations and nationalism at the hands of regionalism, globalization, and cosmopolitanism.
That was then. Now contributions such as this one by Joseph Chinyong Liow are accepted as mainstream. They are not yet quite so commonplace that authors can overlook providing an apologia for talking about the religious element. They also feel obliged to provide a history of the social sciences’ rejection and belated acceptance of religion as a legitimate field of enquiry, but the topic is mainstream nonetheless. Liow’s book opens with just such an apologia and history, along with an exposition of the conceptual framework of his study. Its introduction of the key concepts used in the book—religion and religious nationalism, the state, nation and nationalism, legitimacy, colonialism, the narrative—is useful, but I found his account of the marginalization and the rehabilitation of religion in Western elite thinking thin and contestable, and I wonder if it really added any value.
Liow takes a solidly constructivist approach to his subject matter. Eschewing both the extremes of primordialist and instrumentalist approaches, he studies the contingent narratives that have formed local religious identities in four Southeast Asian countries and identifies how they have been imbued with political significance that in turn has placed them in a relationship with the local national identity. This analysis applies to both dominant religious/national identities and to subordinate and/or contested ones. Hence, in the case of Indonesia, for instance, he has sections on Christianity and marginalized Muslims like the Ahmadhiyah sect and the Shi’a community, as well as on the dominant Sunni Muslim community.
The substance of the book is found in the four chapters that present Southeast Asian national case studies: a chapter each on the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, in that order. In the case of the first two—chapter 2 on Catholic Philippines and chapter 3 on Buddhist Thailand—the focus is not so much on the country as a whole but on the rebellious southern provinces where Islamic identity plays a role in secessionist/rebellious disputes. This focus is explicitly recognized in the chapter headings. These two chapters are clearly the highlight of the book. In contrast with the chapters on Malaysia and Indonesia, the footnotes in chapters 2 and 3 are replete with evidence of valuable fieldwork, most notably interviews with elites in both the respective national capitals and in the sites of contestation: Mindanao and the old kingdom of Patani (now divided into the three Thai provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat).
In each case Liow has painstakingly tracked and problematized the development of the national and local ethnic identities, seeking to place the religious element in the broader context of nationalist discourses. (In this review, I follow Liow’s lead by treating both the dominant, state-linked national identity and the separatist/rebellious local ethnic identities as “nationalist” identities of equal standing, at least for the purposes of analysis.) The study of the Moro nation (Bangsamoro) in Mindanao is particularly robust, and it provides the reference point for the next chapter’s study of Patani identity (Anak Patani or Patani Darussalam), to the point where chapter 3 is replete with comparative references to chapter 2.
The “problem” peoples in each case are Muslims, but in neither case is Islam the point of the local resistance. Liow makes this crystal clear. Even in the case of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which split from the secular Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) explicitly to pursue an Islamic agenda, the author presents a convincing case that the end game is national, not religious.
I may be slightly overstating Liow’s case, but it seems to me that the underlying argument permeating this book can be expressed thus: that religious nationalism necessarily embraces tensions between the religious and the national elements, but ultimately the religious always serves the national and is subsumed into the national, rather than vice versa. The broader backdrop for this argument is Liow’s contention that religion and nationalism are the two most powerful and enduring forms of politicized identity; with the demise of ideology as a transnational force, this strikes me as a reasonable proposition.
Chapters 4 and 5 are competent and valuable histories of religious-cum-national identities in Malaysia and Indonesia respectively and are useful additions to the literature, but they are fairly conventional in their approaches and modest in their ambition compared to the chapters on the Philippines and Thailand.
Michael D. Barr, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
TROPICAL RENDITIONS: Making Musical Scenes in Filipino America. Refiguring American Music. By Christine Bacareza Balance. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. xviii, 230 pp. (Illustrations.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6001-8.
A key motif of Christine Bacareza Balance’s excellent new book, Tropical Renditions: Popular Music and Performance in Filipino America, is a practice she generatively calls “disobedient listening.” To set up this theme, she takes us to the cold open of Marlon Fuentes’s experimental film, Bontoc Eulogy (1995). In the scene, Fuentes sits on the floor in a spare room facing a Victrola, presumably listening to music and voice recordings made of Filipinos at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Bontoc Eulogy plays on and with familiar tropes of the documentary genre, dramatizing Fuentes’s investigation to find traces of his exhibited grandfather Markod. Balance’s analysis helps us to appreciate how Fuentes can be appreciated as a kind of DJ who, as Balance puts it, “flips the beat … to revise, rework, and adapt it” (28). In that opening image, what Fuentes is doing is uncannily akin to what DJs might call digging, or searching through archives of recordings to find anything that could help them DJ that much better. But instead of garage sales and record store basements, Fuentes is digging through World’s Fair archives and anthropology museums. What DJs and Fuentes share is their capacity to make musical scenes in Filipino America. And with such a parallel established, Balance’s notions of “disobedient listening” and “renditions” can link agency and affect for appreciating legacies of colonialism, resistance, and diaspora, from 1898 to today. As Balance writes, “into the familiar sound tracks of historical violence, there are breaks in the record, imaginative spaces that provide room to improvise new movements and gestures across the seemingly smooth surfaces of historical time” (23). And with such a framework and its “phonographic approach,” Tropical Renditions examines cultural practices ranging from DJing and karaoke to performance art and indie rock, not only to account for the making of musical scenes in Filipino America, but also the making of Filipino America through musical scenes.
Balance’s book is a major contribution to a flowering of contemporary scholarship on the Filipino diaspora and musical performance written and/or edited by such scholars and artists as Roderick Labrador, DJ Kuttin’ Kandy, Mark Villegas, Antonio Tiongson, Theo Gonzalves, Lucy Burns, Sarita See, Jeff Chang, Michael Viola, Lorenzo Perillo, and others.
In her discussion, Balance usefully situates DJing in the history of musical performance in Filipino America. Balance’s notion of “renditions” functions as a way of connecting dots so that when DJ QBert and other champions of the form do what they do with recordings, technology, and performance, they can be seen as participating in and extending critical engagements that have marked the dynamic relationship between Filipinos and the US empire. DJs are then understood as giving form to affirming manifestations of difference that are both alien and musical. As Balance writes, “Through our disobedient listening to the ‘weirdest sounds’ and styles of DJ QBert and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, we can and should take seriously the political and aesthetic alliances made possible by the identity category of alien, as both recuperation of previous histories and a signaling toward other forms of extraterrestrial intelligence” (42). Turntablist-DJing, rather than being a maligned substitute for traditional instrumental virtuosity, is then a medium of transformative creative expression precisely because of its remixing capacities for disobedient listening and renditions.
Balance fittingly then turns next to the “serious” significance of karaoke for Filipino America. She writes, “Where in other contexts karaoke is merely seen as entertainment or diversion, in Filipino America, musical voices regard karaoke as something more serious” (77). With an extended focus on the case of the rise of Charice Pempengco, Balance explores the formative and critical role of karaoke technology in the development of talent for Filipinos and the diaspora. Balance examines karaoke singing as a form of “secondary orality,” drawing on Walter Ong’s concept. As with DJing, she takes what might potentially be seen as a devalued practice of musical performance and shows how that devaluation creates conditions for creative agency in Filipino America.
Her third chapter is an extended consideration of the musical performance work of multi-disciplinary artist Jessica Hagedorn. Balance provides welcome and needed attention to a figure who has mostly been appreciated for her brilliant literary and dramatic work. By focusing the analysis on Hagedorn’s collaborations with her Gangster Choirs, Balance compellingly asserts a relationship between the creative strategies of the Gangster Choir musical collectives and those of Hagedorn’s poetry, prose, and drama. Importantly, Balance provides useful reframing of Hagedorn’s life and career, not merely as a form of literary biography, but as a way of critically rethinking the relationship between authenticity and intelligibility, between the “disobedient listening” and “renditions” that made and remade Filipino America through Hagedorn’s diverse work in literature, performance, and indeed music. Balance writes, “Filled with scenes of concert-going and radio listening in cities like Manila, San Francisco, and New York, [Hagedorn’s] early poems, today, serve as a soundtrack for the ‘counter-assimilationist immigrant narrative’ in her work and acknowledges U.S. pop culture and music’s influence as beginning in the Philippines” (99-100).
Balance’s book culminates by focusing on what may be its most pathbreaking research: indie Pinoise rock and its infrastructures of production and consumption for Filipino America. Balance shows how the convergence of “indie” and of “translocal” is a site where the meaning of the global can, and perhaps must, be critically understood. In characterizing how these underappreciated performers demand wider recognition, scholarly and otherwise, Balance writes, “accounts of analog media forms, and the ways in which they helped original Pilipino musical (OPM) forms such as classic, punk, and indie rock flourish, fly in the face of the cultural imperialist view that non-Western cultures passively consume U.S. and European popular music. Instead,” Balance goes on to note, in an observation that could characterize all of the cultural practices she illuminates, “these stories show how Filipino rock musicians have flipped the beat on Western pop musical objects and media in the service of developing local scenes and sounds” (154). From DJing and karaoke to performance art and indie Pinoise rock, Balance’s book draws out the rich implications of such musical scenes, and in doing so, shows how Filipino America has been made, and made uniquely meaningful, through music.
Victor Bascara, University of California, Los Angeles , USA
HAMKA’S GREAT STORY: A Master Writer’s Vision of Islam for Modern Indonesia. New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies. By James R. Rush. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2016. xix, 286 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$79.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-299-30840-7.
James Rush’s Hamka could not be more timely. A series of arrests against minorities in the name of protecting citizens’ morality is taking place in Indonesia today. The governor of Jakarta, a Chinese Christian, was just put in jail through an accusation of humiliating the Qu’ran; under Sharia law, a gay couple in Aceh was punished on stage in a public square with eighty-five strokes of the cane; meanwhile 141 men at a gay party in Jakarta were arrested for allegedly violating what is known as the Pornography Law. Such recent events, associated with the Islamic turn in Indonesia, are inseparable from the process of “democratic” transition, which (especially since the time of President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono) has been marked by the withdrawal of the state from taking action on discrimination and violence against religious and sexual minorities. This development, along with the rise of Islamists and their aspiration to increase the influence of Islamic nationhood in the socio-political life of Indonesia, has worried not only Indonesia’s minorities but also the majority of moderate Muslims. While I was reading James Rush’s book, a masterful biography of Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah (Hamka) (1908-1981), a prominent Muslim Indonesian who lived through different regimes of power, I could not stop wondering what Hamka would have thought about the goings on in his Indonesia today.
Hamka’s story, in Rush’s words, is Islam’s story, which is also Indonesia’s story. It is a story about conflicts and conciliations between Islam and Pancasila (the five principles of the Indonesian state) as they were experienced by Hamka. Hamka lived during a time when the state was actively involved in making sure that society was shaped not by Islam but by the state. The era he last lived in was that of the New Order, which demanded that citizens be loyal to the state by not bringing religion into political life. As a member of that social order, Hamka always opposed theocracy and he cared about the national society above religion. However, and this is what makes Rush’s account of Hamka so interesting, Hamka also always wondered why Pancasila, and not Islam, was the basis of the nation; why in a country where Muslims were the majority, there was such reluctance to allow Muslims to apply Muslim law (159)?
The main theme of Hamka’s Great Story is captured in a question that Hamka posed for himself: “What does it mean to be a Muslim, to be Indonesian?” (xiv). In Hamka, Rush presents us with a Muslim who took Islam as his living compass. He saw every happening, small or big, individual or historical, as an unfolding of the Greater Story of Islam, where “there is no God but God,” but such totality in turn moved him and his Indonesia forward from one era to the next without becoming an Islamic state. He was a “modernist” (associated with Muhammadiyah) who rejected the Javanized Hinduism of pre-Muslim civilization as part of Indonesian Islamic culture. Yet, he was occasionally invited to speak at the gathering of the “traditionalist” Nahdlatul Ulama, the rival organization of Muhamadiyah. Hamka seems to have transcended both the modernist and the traditionalist. This explains how he was appointed chair of the state’s Ulama Council, but the position never turned him into a state apparatus. Instead, he was perceived by his fellow Muslims all the way to the end of his life as an independent individual who, when stepping down from his post as the chairman of the Ulama Council, was “in a blaze of glory for standing up to the government” (176). In relation to the state, Hamka was celebrated as “a symbol of freedom and resistance,” as if Islamic value gained meaning not by occupying the state, but by forming a critical relationship with it.
I have focused on the book’s coverage of the theme of religion and the state, but there are many other interesting stories in Hamka’s Great Story. As a kid in Medan, I read Tenggelamnya kapal van de Wijck at school and we knew the author’s name, Hamka, by heart. We knew nothing however about the fact that the great novel was an adaptation of the work of an Egyptian writer. How Hamka defended himself was profoundly interesting and it was superbly documented and discussed as part of a larger cultural wars of the 1960s and the power struggles between the army, the Islamic group, the left literary circles, and the Indonesian Communist Party. It is this moving in and out of Hamka’s great story to address the larger historical dynamic within which Hamka is embedded that makes the book valuable. Rush presents absorbing accounts of Hamka’s own life, often through a detailed account of the everyday in order to breache the great historical themes of religion and nationhood.
Those who have read Rush’s earlier masterpiece on opium farming and the Chinese of Java will recognize the shift in Rush’s approach to Indonesian history. Opium to Java (published in 1990) portrayed the micro view of the colonial state, but Hamka’s Great Story sees Indonesian history from the inside through the perspective of an Islamic nationalist. Hamka died in 1981, and today, his fellow Muslim Indonesians are also posing questions about Islam and the state, issues with which Hamka himself wrestled. In the conclusion, Rush offers the opinion that Hamka’s Great Story cannot be seen as giving rise or contributing to the radical Islamism of today’s Indonesia. There are many more stories today about “Islam for Indonesia” but few are presented in ways that acknowledge the diversity of Islam and that any definition of “what is Islam” is spatially and temporally bounded. Hamka’s Great Story presents Islam and the state relations contextually so that new problems and challenges could be understood historically.
Abidin Kusno, York University, Toronto, Canada
FOOD AND POWER IN HAWAI‘I: Visions of Food Democracy. Food in Asia and the Pacific. Edited by Aya Hirata Kimura and Krisnawati Suryanata. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. vii, 225 pp. (Illustrations.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5853-7.
As a scholar of Samoa who explores foodways, and in a university on the mainland with a strong student community from Hawai‘i, I was interested in reviewing this book from its title to learn more about the complex context of food politics in Hawai‘i. I teach courses about food identity and labor, to which discussion often turns to the often recited fact that 90 percent of food in Hawai‘i is imported (17). This statistic is toothsome. Toothsome in that it invites thinking, providing an additional layer to Levi-Strauss’ famous turn of phrase, that food (and its statistics) is good to think. The volume successfully invites the reader to consider new perspectives—trans-disciplinary perspectives—that move the conversation of food security and rights to food democracy.
The organizing concept—food democracy—is a fresh way of bringing together scholars from diverse backgrounds to create something new. The term “food democracy” is meant to engage food issues with attention to power, shifting food politics conversations from increasing local food production to issues around “social justice, ecological sustainability, and economic viability” (1). This approach complicates discourses that are often morally laden, calling for an increase in local food production with the assumption that this will automatically create equitable food systems. The authors challenge the reader to value local production not because it can solve the problems of food insecurity, or in the case of Hawai‘i, state-wide dependence on imported foods, but because local production and engagement with local farmers can create forms of citizenship that are valuable for other reasons. Food democracy brings these other values to the fore, showing how critical conversations about food need to move beyond production to politics.
The pace of the volume situates the reader in a conceptual arc, beginning with a primer on food production in Hawai‘i, providing a critical analysis moving through theoretical frameworks to chapters that highlight the lived experiences of food democracy. The arc narrates the political economy of food in Hawai‘i, beginning with the Māhele—a series of policy changes that drastically changed land tenure from Native Hawaiians to white colonists. This transformation of the landscape made possible plantation business, shaping the economy around exports. As plantations dissipated due to increasing labor costs and foreign competition in the 1970s, scholars and activists hoped to fill this vacuum by developing local production to support the population. This volume is about the complications surrounding this transformation given the islands’ enduring political, racial, and gendered histories, particularly as they are articulated through commonly deployed dichotomies.
The first dichotomy that the volume aims to disrupt is the opposition between local/global food, that posits a moral rendering of local foods as good for community, farmers, and the environment and global food commodities as detrimental. However, this neat dichotomy evaporates when applied to farmers markets in Hawai‘i, which Monique Mironesco finds are contradictory spaces. Participants face dilemmas between choosing between improving farmer income while serving low-income communities and developing inroads to the tourist market. Though farmers are limited in their ability to transform food inequalities, Mironesco contends, they are a place to start to develop food democracy. Another common moralized dichotomy is between GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and commonly used agricultural varieties. Hawai‘i is an illustrative place for understanding the politics of GMOs as the University of Hawai‘i, in collaboration with Cornell University, has developed a genetically modified papaya to counter disease that threatened the industry in the 1980s. The story of papaya is enlivened by activist efforts in the early 2000s to challenge the large-scale planting of genetically modified papaya—farms on O‘ahu were vandalized, destroying hundreds of trees—as a method of GMO control. Once these transgenic papaya are planted, they enter the environment in ways that are unpredictable, which anti-GMO activists argue is a form of “contamination” (124). Neal K. Adolph Akatsuka takes this concern with contagion as a critical opening for questioning the seemingly impossible role of biotechnology in food democracy. He highlights the moral fashioning of GMOs as essentially good (from scientific and industrial voices where GMOS can “save” agricultural industries), or essentially bad (from activists, who see them as ecologically, socially, and economically dangerous). This moral positioning reveals an ideal of purity that animates these discourses, and which obscures the possible role of biotechnology in food democracy.
Another way this volume contributes to scholarship on food politics is by attending to the issues of gender, race, and class across its chapters. The first chapter to provide this kind of context, written by Lilikalā K. Kame‘eleihiwa, begins with the provocative point that food activists tend to situate their critique within the twentieth century. This limited focus obscures what might be learned from indigenous foodways, especially given the fact that at the time of contact Native Hawaiians supported a population of nearly a million with their Ahupua‘a (water surface management system). This is particularly significantly given that the current population of the state of Hawai‘i is not much larger than this. Another chapter to foreground power dynamics, written by Aya Hirata Kimura, focuses on the marginalization of women organic farmers. The gendered dichotomy that separates women as gardeners from farmers, or as emotional when compared to men, makes women’s political engagement with food politics difficult. While organic farming provides a space for validation and acceptance, when compared to commercial agriculture, this position on the margins reinforces stereotypes of “hobby” farming and presumed radicalism.
One detail that did stand out to me was the focus on the effects of isolation. This reification of isolation seems to work against the goals of the authors—of changing discourses and creating citizens—as Epeli Hau‘ofa so elegantly argued, smallness, and I would add, isolation, are states of mind (“Our Sea of Islands,” The Contemporary Pacific 6, no. 1 : 7).
Overall, the volume provides a much-needed interdisciplinary perspective on a set of interlocking issues around land sovereignty, corporate farming, inequalities, and food security. In fact, the most innovative part of this book is the inclusion of narratives and interviews from practitioners and farmers themselves. This first-person experiential reading moves this book from straightforward knowledge production to engaged scholarship.
Jessica Hardin, Pacific University, Forest Grove, USA
BECOMING LANDOWNERS: Entanglements of Custom and Modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. Topics in the Contemporary Pacific. By Victoria C. Stead. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017. xii, 216 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5666-3.
This unique new book is a comparative study of customary land owners in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Timor-Leste. It is composed of eight chapters, including an introduction and a conclusion. Timor-Leste is the focus of chapters 2, 6, and 7. Chapter 2 discusses rural farming and its meaning to local people. Chapter 6 examines how Timorese create and maintain connections to kin and land in the city, and how these practices interact with land-titling projects in urban areas. Chapter 7 covers the case of urban migrants who use the language of citizenship in the state to resist being evicted from land they do not have formal title to.
Chapters 3, 4, and 5 focus on Papua New Guinea. Chapter 3 focuses on villagers on the Rai coast of Papua New Guinea fighting to end the disposal of mine waste into the sea. Chapter 4 describes the complex court case which has developed over customary ownership of the land on which the PMIZ, a tuna cannery and processing facility, is located. Chapter 5 examines how concepts of development and subsistence have been changed by the presence of the cannery.
Stead claims that the same underlying political dynamic exists in Timor-Leste and PNG: a conflict between the customary ways of life (farmers) and modernity (the state and capitalism). Customary people have rich and organic relationships rooted in the land while modern people live in abstract and disembodied institutions. As customary life ways become entangled in modern institutions, the “cartography of power” shifts, in that legitimacy once rooted in customary ways of life is devalued and modern regimes of recognition (such as maps and census books) gain an increasing hold on the imagination. This “entanglement” of custom and modernity opens up new possibilities for customary people, in that they can pursue claims against modernist institutions using the language of citizenship and rights, or draw legitimacy as indigenous people or landowners. But ultimately this shift in power and legitimacy makes customary people more vulnerable, because the new tools they gain to pursue political ends are ultimately weaker than those employed by modernist institutions.
The clash of customary people and modernity features widely in centuries of social thought. In the past thirty years many thinkers have resisted seeing indigenous peoples and settler institutions as ontologically distinct (to use one of Stead’s phrases), insisting instead on their long history of interconnection and interaction. Why, then, does Stead revitalize a binary that most experts now consider empirically inadequate and theoretically flawed? I found it most helpful to read this book through the lens of sociological theory, such as that of Jurgen Habermas. Stead’s “custom” is not a romantic ecoprimitivism. Rather, it seems similar to Habermas’s account of lifeworld means of reproduction, while Stead’s “modernity” seems similar to a systemic organization of action guided by steering media. Her goal here, it seems, is to shed new light on state-landowner dynamics by interrogating the modalities in which these interactions occur. This analytic could be used to examine how landowners relate to each other in “modern” (i.e., abstract bureaucratized) ways, as in the court case described in chapter 4. We could also theoretically examine how people in “modern” institutions such as the state have lifeworld/customary modes of interaction, although Stead never describes this. We might say, however, that much of the literature in the anthropology of the corporation is precisely of this sort. As a result her theoretical focus offers intriguing possibilities.
The greatest contribution of Stead’s book is the new emphasis it puts on state-landowner relations. Experts of PNG land politics tend to be rather cynical, skeptical of what John Burton called “avatar narratives” of virtuous, helpless indigenes and evil, omnipotent corporations. Instead, they point to the agency and sometimes-malevolence of landowners, as evinced in the Bougainville conflict or the benefits package received by landowners at the Lihir gold mine. But these successes were quite some time ago and Stead points out, rightly, that landowners in PNG today are increasingly powerless in the face of the state and developers. Stead’s clear-eyed analysis is a breath of fresh air in this regard.
That said, the book does have some weaknesses. Because it is spread so widely over two countries and many case studies, the substantive chapters were a bit thin. For instance, although Stead often asserts that farmers live lives deeply connected to kin and land, there are only a few descriptions of farming or gardening in the book, and not very much in terms of kinship, births, deaths, exchange, and the other sorts of things that anthropologists such as myself would like to see to get a more in-depth sense of the specifics of how embodiment and custom work in practice. Also, given the long history of terms like custom and modernity I think the book might have benefitted slightly from a deeper and more sympathetic engagement with previous literature. In this way, we might have been able to understand a bit more how Stead’s framework relates to those of past authors.
But overall these minor quibbles are not meant to detract from the book’s value and originality. It is a fresh take on the many forms of dispossession and inequality occurring in the Asia Pacific today. It is clearly written, theoretically ambitious, and empirically wide-ranging. I recommend the book to others and hope to see more writing by this author soon.
Alex Golub, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, USA
ARTEFACTS OF ENCOUNTER: Cook’s Voyages, Colonial Collecting and Museum Histories. Edited by Nicholas Thomas, Julie Adams, Billie Lythberg, Maia Nuku & Amiria Salmond; photography by Gwil Owen. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. 348 pp. (Illustrations.) US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5935-0.
At first glance, this might be taken for a coffee-table book. It is large (294 x 258 x 27 mm), with a simple, handsome dustcover. The design is elegant and uncluttered: stout glossy paper, readable type, and excellent (beautifully reproduced) photographs. However, it quickly reveals itself as primarily a vehicle for scholarship, not just for visual gratification, with chapters contributed by the five editors and twenty other specialists. The images serve as counterpoint to, and underpin, the discussions in the text, in a powerful synergy in which the reader is led both visually and conceptually around the objects and ideas discussed.
The initiative for the book, as explained in the introduction, was two Cambridge University research projects, one of them eponymous. Both were undertaken in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) collections and subsequently in other museums in Europe and the Pacific. Their focus, as in this book, was on “stages of exploration, encounter, evangelism and collecting in the Pacific, [primarily] between 1769 and the 1860s” (26). All have been about the encounters of Westerners with Others, whose artefacts they collected, and inversely, our encounter with those artefacts today.
The sub-title of the book reads like three separate book titles, which highlights the key decisions to take when embarking on a book about artefacts: what to cover, and how to structure it. The traditional approach has been overwhelmingly taxonomic, while here historical and sociological approaches predominate—though detailed taxonomic analysis informs these. The introduction outlines the different strategies adopted for the different sections of the book.
The first part of the book sets the stage. It “outlines the various collections’ histories—their route to the museum … current theory around artefacts; and … the other side of the encounter.” The “other side” includes the agency of the owners/makers, and the residual significance the objects carry for their descendants. Also discussed are “the instruments carried on board the European ships, particularly those engaged in voyages of discovery.” Both old and new technologies “are constituted through and are constitutive of social relations” (27).
Chapter 1 discusses the formation of Cambridge’s collections. It traces acquisitions of material collected by Dampier in the seventeenth century, through the collections made on Cook’s three voyages. These were critically important in establishing ethnographic museology. The wealthy Banks sponsored the first comprehensive scientific team for observing, documenting, and collecting, the product of which first captured the Western gaze with the material culture of other societies. Subsequent gifts to Cambridge, particularly of artefacts collected in Fiji by the first British administrators, and the appointment of Baron von Hügel (also active in Fiji) as the first curator of the university’s fledgling Antiquities and Ethnology Museum, further confirmed the Pacific as a major focus of collecting and scholarship. As this book testifies, that focus persists to this day.
Chapter 2 considers indigenous agency in those early exchanges, and notes that their descendants regard the objects in a manner very different from the historical and archival approach Westerners adopt. For them, the objects reveal “alternative ways of being” (55). They are not mere historical curiosities, but vehicles through which the ancestors speak to them still, providing artistic, moral, and social indicators for the ongoing development of the current generation.
Chapter 3 discusses the state-of-the-art instruments on which the “explorers” relied, and their preoccupation with them and their maintenance (sometimes repairing them after ill-handling by unskilled crew), as well as preserving them from theft and destruction by the people they met. Finally, it notes the manner in which from very early on, these instruments came to be displayed alongside the artefacts brought back from Polynesia (67), a juxtaposition still found in many museums today.
“The second part of the book features key objects … organized chronologically … [from] artefacts collected on Cook’s … voyages, on Vancouver’s voyage and by missionaries and their contemporaries.… [Then] in the book’s final section we include a fuller listing of the relevant collections, with further notes on some objects” (27). Here is surveyed a selection of artefacts collected during that early, largely pre-missionary and pre-colonial period. This provides an artist and material-culture student such as myself with not necessarily the most information, but undoubtedly the most pure enjoyment—visually saturated with beautiful images of wonderful objects, and intellectually stimulated to think about each in great detail. Its very diversity makes it impossible to provide a brief review. The artefacts range from personal adornment such as necklaces and breastplates, to headrests, decorative wood-carving, weapons, fans, flywhisks, fish-hooks and samples of barkcloth (tapa). Of course, even in the country-based catalogue of the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the end of the book, it makes no attempt to be comprehensive. But it still covers an intriguing array of objects from a large segment of the Pacific.
The authors take the now well-established position that artefacts can themselves be seen as social actors. As such, they should be not merely gazed at but also interrogated in terms of their utilitarian, social, and spiritual functions, and whatever symbolism they carry, intentionally or incidentally. In order to do this it is necessary to intricately study the objects themselves to understand “what do artefacts want?” (20). They cite the advice of the pioneering Te Rangi Hiroa that “to understand them [the objects] we must learn their language as expressed through the minute details of technique” (21). This approach yields a particularly valuable aspect of the book, where each object is considered in great detail, and those details are in turn historically and anthropologically contextualized. The picture that emerges is subtle and nuanced.
This book is that too-rare thing, a beautiful object that is also a truly thought-provoking work of scholarship. It deserves a place in every major institutional library, and on the bookshelves of all serious students of Pacific material culture.
Roderick Ewins, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
DOMINATION AND RESISTANCE: The United States and the Marshall Islands during the Cold War. By Martha Smith-Norris. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. x, 249 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$62.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-4762-3.
Martha Smith-Norris opens with a dedication to Tony deBrum, the minister of foreign affairs who presented before the UN Trusteeship Council in 1981 and “all of the others who fought, and continue to fight for justice in the Marshall Islands,” demonstrating her argument expands beyond the discipline of history (v). She provides a valuable text to realize the contemporary and ongoing implications of the US nuclear and missile defense programs in the Marshall Islands and beyond.
In July 2017, 130 nation-states gathered at the United Nations (UN) for the “conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination” (United Nations, Report A/CONF.229/2017/L.3/Rev.1, 2016). The United States (US), along with all other nuclear-armed states, boycotted the negotiations and refused to participate. Despite this public defiance and denial of nuclear norms and dangers, 122 nation-states signed the treaty banning nuclear weapons on July 7, 2017.
This important event and the continuing refusal of the US to consider disarmament is tied to the history of the US nuclear weapons testing program, which culminated in sixty-seven nuclear explosions and hundreds of missile and other chemical weapons testing in the Republic of the Marshall Islands during the Cold War. Today, Washington continues to fail to “provide adequate compensation to the people of the Marshall Islands for the extensive health and environmental damages caused by the US testing program” by not fully funding the Nuclear Claims Tribunal (1).
As part of her site-specific case study, Smith-Norris combines historical government documents, previously classified information, maps, and photographs, with testimonies presented before international institutions and legal bodies of the first-hand accounts of nuclear weapons experiments and missile defense testing. She limits her analysis to five themes: the power and authority of the US in the Marshall Islands; key aspects of Washington’s Cold War research agenda, including weapons systems and human radiation studies; the health and environmental damage caused by the American testing programs; the acts of protest and resistance by the islanders and specific communities; and the US response to the plight of the Marshallese (6).
Based on the realist theory of international relations and focusing on indigenous resistance strategies (11), she presents two sides of the nuclear program story. She begins with the US justification to test “a vast array of nuclear bombs and missiles … while conducting research on the effects of human exposure to radioactive fallout” (1) for the “benefit of all mankind and to end all world wars” (44). Smith-Norris successfully exposes how the openly racist and often contradictory US governmental programs of the past continue to inform US policies and the enduring resistance by the Marshallese people.
The book is divided geographically by atoll, with the first three chapters providing the historical setting and reasons for the US nuclear testing program on each atoll. Enewetak Atoll was used for forty-three nuclear tests between 1948 and 1958 as well as the lesser known chemical warfare testing of the early 1970s (13). Twenty-three nuclear weapons tests on Bikini Atoll occurred between 1946 and 1958, with the 1954 Bravo explosion memorialized as the largest test ever conducted, devastating both Rongelap and Utirik atolls. Smith-Norris clearly demonstrates how, without their consent, the atoll communities became the subjects of human radiation experiments by scientists and doctors from the Brookhaven National Laboratory from 1954 into the 1980s, and were used as a data source for the benefit of the US government.
In each chapter, Smith-Norris emphasizes the human and ecological consequences, and through residents’ statements and Navy and activists’ photographs, she features a “variety of political and legal tactics—including petitions, lawsuits, demonstrations, and negotiations” of nonviolent direct action indigenous resistance by the Marshallese (1). Chapter 4 includes a brief mention of Marshallese “sail-ins” protesting the missile-testing range on Kwajalein Atoll, currently known as the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, where the US currently tests intercontinental ballistic missiles and antiballistic missile systems (14).
The geopolitical, environmental, and ethical complications of this case study cannot be underestimated, with the fifth chapter discussing the political climate when the US and the Republic of the Marshall Islands signed the Compact of Free Association. The epilogue stresses the 2012 UN rapporteur’s report, which demands compensation from Washington for the extensive health and environmental damages caused by the American nuclear testing program (15). The Marshallese continue to fight for health justice and proper medical care, environmental justice and the clean up of their toxic home, and financial justice to fully fund the Nuclear Claims Tribunal’s decisions. However, progress has not been able to match the pace of damage on the island of Runit, where the radioactive waste site is currently “leaking 111,000 cubic yards of radioactive debris,” as reported by Collen Jose, Kim Wall, and Jan Hendrik Hinzel of The Guardian in 2015 (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/03/runit-dome-pacific-radioactive-waste).
Smith-Norris presents a complex and uncomfortable chapter in Cold War history which most Americans, even students of history, are unaware of. She provides an accessible and investigative overview of US government and military “domination” during the Cold War years. Through her analysis of the steadfast, resilient “resistance” by the Marshallese, she offers a valuable context for understanding contemporary US nuclear policies and global missile defense systems. Her work contributes to the field of not only history, but international and domestic law, particularly in relation to health, environmental, and financial justice. The relevance of this book within international relations and peace and conflict studies offers a needed critical discussion of contemporary and historical US militarization. This significant work should be required reading for both students and policy makers alike.
As an academic activist involved with indigenous resistance movements to US militarization across Oceania, I appreciate her approach to the complexities and challenges within the Marshallese resistance and would have liked to learn more of the strategies of and issues surrounding the scholarly solidarity expressed by US anthropologists, academics, and lawyers.
Sylvia C. Frain, University of Guam, Mangilao, Guam
RESILIENCE AND GROWTH IN THE SMALL STATES OF THE PACIFIC. Editors: Hoe Ee Khor, Roger P. Kronenberg, and Patrizia Tumbarello. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2016. xix, 440 pp. (Illustrations.) US$35.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-51350-752-1.
This book discusses the low economic growth of Pacific Island member states of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) compared to other developing regions. The states are the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, as well as Timor-Leste (included due to its perceived similarities in prospects and challenges). Most of the eighteen chapters and four hundred graph-studded pages are based on papers presented at high-level IMF meetings held in the Pacific between 2012 and 2015.
In the ten years before the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 these countries averaged growth of only 2 percent per year, compared to significantly higher rates in the Caribbean and low-income countries in Asia, and with markedly lower growth in average real incomes per capita than the Caribbean countries and the “emerging” Asian nations. Why is this so? The contributors agree that Pacific Island states have common characteristics (small sizes, populations, and markets, geographic isolation, vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change, and unsustainable depletion of natural resources) which are all explanatory factors, but are insufficient to explain the weaknesses of their economic performances. Additional reasons for low growth can also be explained by weak macroeconomic frameworks, lack of capacity to implement reforms, and other factors such as “laws and customs that limit the flexibility of product and factor markets, particularly the real estate market” (x).
The book is organized into four thematic areas with chapters by different authors. The first section, “Setting the Stage: The Quest of Resilience and Growth in the Pacific Islands,” has five chapters on this topic. The second, “Managing External Spillovers, Shock and Vulnerabilities,” has four papers on this theme, the third, “Tailoring Macroeconomic Policies to the Small states of the Pacific,” has five chapters on aspects of fiscal and monetary policy, and the fourth and final section, “Removing Structural Impediments to Growth,” has four chapters addressing financial management reforms, global trade integration, and banking. The book has appendices briefly describing the economies of each of the countries under discussion, with financial data from the period 1991–2015.
The contributors proposing policy solutions acknowledge a “severe shortage of expertise and implementation capacity” (xii) in many of the countries and propose careful prioritization to address the most pressing constraints to growth, with measures for institution building, confidence-inspiring fiscal and monetary policies, debt sustainability, and openness to global opportunities. However, it seems to this reviewer that it is not just lack of competence that is the challenge, but the political realities arising from the varied historical circumstances of these countries. Among the key policy elements identified by Koneneberg and Khor (6, 18) is “the structural rigidities in land tenure systems” in reference to customary tenure as obstacle to the commercial commodification of land and use of land to secure bank loans, which forces up interest rates in response to risk. All is not doom and gloom, however. In an overview of bank profitability Davies, Vaught, and Cabezon (331–356) note that overall bank income from interest is higher than most other emerging markets, and that profits from fees, charges, and foreign exchange activities are also higher. Another important issue identified in several of the chapters is the need for regional arrangements to improve trade and other beneficial connections. This has certainly been seen as a desirable goal by all the countries concerned for the past fifty years or more, but is challenged by their different colonial histories that shaped their existing connectivities.
Haque, Bontjer, Betley, and Hackett (275–288) propose that better practices in public financial management will be part of the solution to overcome poor economic performance. Good practice emphasizes political context, as well as resource allocation, government leadership, extensive consultation, a medium-term focus, and flexibility. Their proposed road map prioritizes reforms in the management of public finance. Prevailing weaknesses to be overcome are associated with budgets which do not reflect government priorities, leading to unsustainable deficits and inconsistent allocation, and thus undermining service delivery. Technical support for the road map that they advocate is offered by the Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre (PFTAC) established in 1993 to promote macro-financial stability in the Pacific Island countries, headquartered in Fiji and currently supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australia, the European Union (EU), Korea, and New Zealand.
The enquiring reader may wonder whether meaningful generalizations can be made about the economic situation and management of countries as different as Tuvalu, with 11,000 inhabitants on nine tiny coral atolls, and Papua New Guinea, with a population of over 7 million in a land rich with gold, copper, timber, and natural gas, along with eleven other very differently circumstanced countries. One may ask whether it is useful to offer detailed comparisons of the economic circumstances of Pacific Island countries, whose unique circumstances are reiterated in every chapter, with small states, large states, “other island” states, resource-rich and resource-poor states, and states in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. However, macroeconomists may find such comparisons useful and interesting.
Penelope Schoeffel, National University of Samoa, Apia, Samoa
WAVES OF KNOWING: A Seascape Epistemology. By Karin Amimoto Ingersoll. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. 204 pp. (Illustrations.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6234-0.
Karin Amimoto Ingersoll is a scholar and a surfer who argues that the ocean can fundamentally shape identities and influence contemporary realities. She invites the reader to explore the possibilities inherent in seascape epistemology: to consider the ocean’s potential as a means of reclaiming and revitalizing cultural identities for Oceanic peoples, with a particular emphasis on Native Hawaiian communities, Kanaka Maoli. Forms of knowledge and ideas about spirituality, identity, place, and belonging do not end at the water’s edge, but extend powerfully into the ever moving ocean. Reclaiming and re-exploring seascape epistemology is a tool for decolonizing minds and bodies which “splashes alternatives onto the Western-dominant and linear mind-set that has led the world toward realities of mass industrialization and cultural and individual assimilation” (15).
The seascape is reconceptualized as a “living classroom” (180) for learning about indigenous Hawaiian ways of knowledge and practices, both past and present. Students can learn from the ocean’s tides, currents, and swells, and from the life that it contains; but also from its constant fluidity, complexity, and adaptation. Seascape epistemology resists and provides alternatives to the simplistic and binary understandings that are a legacy of colonialism. The voices and experiences of Kanaka Maoli, whose knowledge of the ocean is both philosophical and embodied, are given significant space in this book. Amimoto Ingersoll consciously details the practices and understandings of “[n]ative Hawaiian surfers, fishers, navigators, paddlers, divers, hula dancers, musicians and artisans” (35).
This work extends Epeli Hau’ofa’s decolonizing vision of Oceanic identities. The seascape is conceptualized as an epistemological tool that connects rather than separates Oceanic peoples. The ocean contains boundless possibilities. It is a connecting pathway through which people can (re)claim a sense of ancestral connection and kinship across colonially imposed national boundaries. “The symbol of water offers flexibility as well as mobility as new routes are sailed within an ‘ocean’ of possibility” (19). Whilst this book explicitly builds on the work of indigenous Pacific scholars, Ingersoll Amimoto also draws from Western epistemologies, to “re-inflect the Western philosophical tradition in order to frame the Hawaiian issue of an ocean based epistemology” (27).
Waves of Knowing analyzes how surfing as a cultural practice for Kanaka Maoli has been affected by the “success” of surf tourism in Hawaii. Due to Hawaii’s status as the premier brand within the global surf tourism industry, colonization has not been limited to interactions on land; the sea has also been a place of dominance and conquest. Indigenous connections to the seascape have been damaged by neo-colonialist practices such as renaming places to fit tourist imaginations, and the division of land and sea into zones that suit tourist demands, reducing the ocean to a “recreational and consumable space” (76).
Amimoto Ingersoll argues that the recognition of neocolonial aspects in the surf tourism industry is necessary and purposeful. “Recognition enables the deconstruction of dominant narratives and structures that prevail, illuminating how Kanaka Maoli can and do sit inside, outside, and between them” (75). Amimoto Ingersoll argues that there is a need to make surf instruction more connected to the ocean, to teach not just technical skills, but also to instil “an awareness of the critical relationship between the surfer-to-be and the ocean” (76).
For Kanaka Maoli, surfing is a physical and a reflective act, which involves reclaiming and reconnecting with indigenous ways of knowing and being. Surfing is an indigenous cultural practice which has survived cultural colonization in Hawaii. The continued enactment of this knowledge involves “a Kanaka epistemology, an oceanic knowledge that privileges an alternative political and ethical relationship with the surrounding physical and spiritual world” (5). Oceanic literacy emerges from an active engagement with the Ocean. Amimoto Ingersoll explains, “when surfing, I have the inherent ability to reflect on knowledge production as a hegemonic language because my oceanic literacy sits outside of dominant literacies, contrasting established structures by displacing them with my body’s gestures and defiance of gravity as it glides vertical, diagonal, fast and smooth … My literacy is a valuable way of moving through the ocean (and life) by anchoring myself within its fluctuations” (22–23).
The book explores the potential applications of seascape epistemology as a tool for formal and informal education. Amimoto Ingersoll envisions young people immersing themselves in the ocean and learning through their interactions, engaging in both “practice-based” and “place-based” education (161). She proposes creating a dedicated learning environment on the shoreline of the protected Koloko region of Oahu. It would offer space in which Kanaka Maoli could (re)connect with the ocean, including a large meeting house, and several smaller houses for gathering and teaching. Restoring historical fishponds and replanting native plants would be part of this project, as would teaching about sailing, surfing, and diving. Storytelling and using Hawaiian words and phrases as teaching tools are an important part of gaining access to the knowledge of the ocean and the environment which is embedded in language, and reveals Kanaka ways of knowing. Elders (kūpuna) from local Kanaka Maoli communities would be important mentors, teachers, and historians.
This beautifully written book makes a valuable contribution to articulating indigenous epistemologies, and offers concrete suggestions for how Kanaka Maoli ways of knowing can be translated into practices which empower indigenous and local knowledge and skills, affirm cultural identity, and care for both the land and seascapes. Through place-based education based on seascape epistemology, young people can gain a greater sense of ownership of their environment, and can become custodians of both land and sea for future generations. “[A]rticulating documenting and analysing Kanaka culture and literacies is not just about retrieving something of the past; it is also about teaching contemporary students how to observe and act creatively and ethically. The cultural hope of ka hālu [the ocean gathering house] is to create sensitive, well-rounded, moral and interested individuals. The political ambition is accepting, relearning, and honouring indigenous and alternative ways of interacting with the world” (181).
Tui Nicola Clery, Independent Scholar, Ryde, United Kingdom
GENDER VIOLENCE & HUMAN RIGHTS: Seeking Justice in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. Edited by Aletta Biersack, Margaret Jolly, Martha Macintyre. Canberra: ANU Press, 2016. xiii, 384 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) Free, eBook: https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/gender-violence-human-rights. ISBN 978-1-760460-71-6.
TRANSFORMATIONS OF GENDER IN MELANESIA. Pacific Series. Edited by Martha Macintyre, Ceridwen Spark. Acton, ACT: ANU Press, 2017. xii, 189 pp. Free, eBook: https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/series/pacific-series/transformations-gender-melanesia. ISBN 978-1-760460-89-1.
These two edited volumes share a publisher, a co-editor, and many theoretical and political concerns. Both include some excellent contributions. However, the first, Gender Violence & Human Rights: Seeking Justice in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, stands out: tightly and brilliantly organized around Sally Engel Merry’s “vernacularization” thesis, it engages deeply with the question of how “global” human rights discourses are translated and incorporated into “local” contexts. The second, Transformations of Gender in Melanesia, is less cohesive as a volume, but can be productively viewed as an exploration of how gender norms intersect with class, regional, and racial identities in PNG, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, and West Papua. I will discuss each book in turn.
Merry’s thesis, advanced most prominently in her 2006 book Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice, is that because the institutions and discourses of human rights are culturally grounded in Euro-American secular liberalism, they must be “translated” into local cultural frameworks to make them “intelligible and palatable to those living outside a Euro-American cultural and historical milieu” (33). Central to Merry’s vision of how this happens is the role of “middle figures”—those who live between worlds and can help do the difficult work of vernacularization. In Melanesia, these individuals are often—though not always, as the volume shows—cosmopolitan elites who have been educated overseas and have a personal interest in allying themselves with global institutions. One problem with this arrangement is, of course, that as the cultural divide between elites and the “grassroots” grows, so too does the salience of the argument that concepts of human rights and gender violence are foreign, neocolonial impositions that insult indigenous cultural values and threaten male leaders’ control over community justice.
Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Fiji are culturally diverse independent nations whose constitutions guarantee gender equality. All three countries have ratified the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Despite formal equality, these countries (most notoriously, Papua New Guinea) have high rates of gendered violence, including wife-beating, sexual assault, and child abuse. The gap between formal equality of the genders and people’s actual experiences has long been attributed to the persistence of “traditional culture” (kastom in Vanuatu and PNG) and its reification through institutions such as village courts. While they are not supposed to hear cases involving rape, assault, and child abuse, in practice they frequently do. Gender-based violence, because it is so often linked to marriage, bridewealth, and relations between families or clans, may be treated as a private or local matter that should be dealt with through community structures and in a customary idiom. Thus the involvement of “outside” institutions, discourses, and actors may be seen as an imposition and a denial of local (male) authority. This is a key dynamic that recurs throughout the book.
Linda Newland’s chapter argues that in iTaukei (indigenous Fijian) villages, both customary and church-based forms of mediation endanger women and girls because their objective is to preserve relations between men and to buttress chiefly authority—not to provide justice for individuals. The bulubulu (whale’s tooth) reconciliation ceremony was one of Merry’s primary examples of how an indigenous social practice can be used to smuggle in concepts of human rights and social justice. Newland strongly disputes this, arguing that village and family “harmony” are seen as dependent on male authority.
The legitimacy of certain forms of male violence within Melanesian communities is a second theme that runs through many of the chapters. Men’s discipline of women and children is seen, by perpetrators and often by the wider community, as a moral imperative—a way of preserving a social and symbolic order being ripped apart by change. Recasting male violence as deviant and antisocial can be difficult. Contemporary political and economic realities must be understood as well. Nicole George’s chapter describes how, in post-coup Fiji, “the lines that define military and civilian aspects of social and cultural life become more comprehensively blurred [and] violent expressions of masculine authority have become normalized with devastating effects” (208). The apparent increase in violence against women must be understood in the context of women’s diminished economic capacity. Increased military spending and structural adjustment diverted public funds from social welfare institutions, and political instability discouraged international investment in manufacturing and tourism.
The book includes two chapters examining changing masculine identities. The first, by Phillip Gibbs, discusses church-run men’s groups in Western Province, PNG, and how many men see their roles as leaders, protectors, and peacemakers slipping away. Growing inequality between men is discussed by John Taylor and Natalie Arujo in their chapter on sorcery in Vanuatu. As sorcery techniques become “democratized”—decoupled from chiefly power and secret societies, and available on a more or less open market—disempowered young men use sorcery to gain sexual access to women, subvert the powers of the state and chiefly authority, and compete with other men for status.
While community-based justice, indigenous values, and customary practices are often cast as “part of the problem,” Katherine Lepani’s chapter on HIV and gender violence argues that connections to place and indigenous social forms do not necessarily reinforce male dominance and female disempowerment. Discussing the matrilineal Trobriand Islands, Lepani provides an important rebuttal to discourses that equate the local with patriarchy and violence against women.
While the first five chapters present case studies grounded in individual countries, the contributions by Jean Zorn and Aletta Biersack take a comparative perspective. Zorn’s chapter describes how judges throughout the Pacific have translated and integrated CEDAW (the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women) into domestic law. She identifies specific ways that judges employ CEDAW in their decisions—as precedent, as authority to change common law, and as if it were domestic statute. While the cases she cites are inspiring, she notes that “[t]he effect of judicial decisions implementing CEDAW has not gone much beyond the legal system itself” (523). Biersack’s chapter also looks at the limits of legislative remedies, arguing that legal recognition of human rights and sanction of violence against women are ineffectual without institution building and transformation of norms.
Margaret Jolly’s concluding essay is thoughtful, and includes some important criticisms of the vernacularization thesis. The absence, from the volume, of a comment from Merry herself is disappointing, since the authors’ and editors’ engagement with her work is so thorough.
Transformations of Gender in Melanesia is more eclectic. Its focus is more on cultural constructions of gender and how modernity and development do—or do not—create new forms of masculinity and femininity. The book starts promisingly with an excellent chapter by Stephanie Lusby analyzing how securitization and security discourse work to legitimate violence against the socially marginal in Papua New Guinea. This chapter, in and of itself, is worth the price of the book: drawing on interviews with low-paid guards in the private security industry, Lusby explores how the imperative of “maintaining law and order” is used to justify everything from punitive rape and wife-beating to abuse of asylum seekers in the Manus detention center. Lusby shows how porous the boundaries are between domestic, political, state, and communal violence, and reminds us that men in PNG, too, are victims of violence. Poor and working-class men in PNG are, like women, presented with diverse options for constructing a masculine identity, but are seriously constrained in their ability to live up to social ideals.
Jenny Munro presents the case of educated Dani men in Papua, Indonesia and their struggles to embody a more positive, nonviolent form of masculinity. Despite their intellectual commitment to more egalitarian marital relationships, these men struggle to put their values into practice due to the structural violence they face as racialized subjects in a politically repressive settler colony. John Cox discusses education as a force for gendered transformation through discussion of a grassroots kindergarten in the rural Solomon Islands. Based on a very brief period of fieldwork, this chapter presents largely speculative musings on social change, but includes some interesting thoughts on the (over-?) valuation of formal education in Melanesia. He also critiques the common assumption that progressive transformation must be mediated by urban elites.
Several contributions share a concern with “exceptional” women and the structural barriers they face due to gender: female political candidates (Soaki); educated urban women (Spark); young women leaders and activists (Brimacombe). All capture important contemporary trends toward greater independence for women in the region, mapping some of the opportunities for and barriers to solidarity between women.
The volume concludes with “Lewa Was Mama (Beloved Guardian Mother),” a beautiful auto-ethnographic poem in Tok Pisin (with English translation) by Michelle Nayahamui Rooney. Written in the aftermath of the public lynching of Kepari Leniata, a PNG woman accused of sorcery, the poem’s protagonist is offered love magic by an old woman who sees she is being mistreated by her partner. The poem describes magical transactions between women as a form of female relationality and care, and women’s indigenous spirituality as a shield against male domination.
The figure of the downtrodden, self-sacrificing “mama” is ubiquitous in PNG fiction, song, poetry, and journalism. Upwardly mobile women often seek to distinguish themselves from their grandmothers who, while they may be loved and appreciated, are also frequently cast as backward and oppressed. In her commentary on the poem, Rooney notes “how narratives of ‘women’s empowerment’ potentially can work to diminish the relationships that women draw on for mutual support” (183). In discourse, the “modern woman” is contrasted with the “rural mama.” In reality, Rooney suggests, they work to constitute one another.
Put together, these two volumes evince a tempered optimism about the struggle to create a more equal future in Melanesia. As Jean Zorn writes in her chapter, “One wishes that the future would not take so long to arrive” (263).
Barbara Andersen, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
TREES, KNOTS, AND OUTRIGGERS: Environmental Knowledge in the Northeast Kula Ring. Studies in Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology, Volume 21. By Frederick H. Damon. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2017. xiv, 375 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-78533-320-0.-320-0.
This book builds on almost half a century of familiarity with the northern kula region of southeastern Papua New Guinea. Based on intensive and repeated fieldwork since the 1970s, mostly on Woodlark Island (Muyuw), the author presents a fascinating collection of rich data. This publication will certainly be appreciated by anyone who is interested in the use of trees, the construction of canoes, and the ecology of this island region. The monograph combines insights of natural and social science, demonstrating the complexities and benefits of crossing academic boundaries. Its illustrations are online at https://pages.shanti.virginia.edu/Trees_Knots__Outriggers/introduction/.
For over twenty years, the author has studied the flora through the islanders’ concepts, comparing their principles with botanists’ views and his own perspectives and experiences. Without the trusting expertise of his long-time friends and informants, frequently acknowledged throughout this book, such a wealth of information would have been impossible to accumulate. A canoe journey in which the author participated in 2002 fittingly opens this book.
Chapter 1 demonstrates how trees and gardens are connected, trees being “a property of a category of land, the land in turn understood by its trees” (39). The author identifies how certain trees contribute either “sweet” or “bitter” additives to the soil. According to the islanders, these substances affect the growth of root crops and the chapter examines the variation across the region from Kiriwina to Nasikwabu Islands and attempts to find definite answers with the help of biochemistry. Fallow regimes and the use of various trees and other plants to improve harvests are practiced differently, so the author is sceptical, wondering if he is being taught principles of magic rather than horticultural experience (55). The section on biochemical evidence (62–73) seems to indicate that variants are too complex (e.g. soil, water, fallow type, trees, crops, and weather) to allow for generalizing conclusions. This agrees with his informants’ experiences and local principles.
Chapter 2 sets out to highlight certain trees that are significant for the islanders. Building on a large collection of samples that must have required an incredible amount of hiking and tracking, the ecological patches and other local classifications are identified with the help of informants while at the same time scientific methods are tested. The latter causes some dissonance with local guides who, for example, “found it ludicrous asking for identification by a single leaf” (87). The bulk of this chapter describes the habitats and botanic characteristics of a number of trees clustered by local principles, and their variation within the region, building on data of ca 500 generic taxa (108). Some of the trees’ medical properties, gender analogies, and other uses are briefly mentioned (e.g., 97, 104, 105) but these are likely only a small portion of the local knowledge on these plants. In sum, Muyuw Islanders “operate with models about what specific plants are,” and these models are built on “ideas about forms” and their “experiences with given parts” (107). Rather than striving for “hierarchized relations seen in the Western analytical system,” they focus on the “singularities of specific forms” (109). The form of a tree, with its base and top, structures reality as in other Austronesian societies (113), including the geographical interpretation of the island of Muyuw itself (as shown on map 2.1, p. 116).
Chapter 3 presents various landscapes and their typical trees, the variety of soils and irrigation, human effects through logging, mining, gardening, and burning, and how distinctive patches are linked to the past. Trees shape the “social structures” (124) by being linked to the Creator’s orders (125) and are metaphorically connected to the spatial history of clans (128). Due to the cultural and geographical complexities, variation in practice and principles is significant, but some guiding structures include the emergency supply of food from Muyuw to the West (131) based on—as well as motivating—affinal and kula exchange relationships (132). Sago orchards are described as a “dense network of social facts realized in biological form” (139–153) in which the “form of this tree is an experience of time” (153).
Chapter 4 highlights the interdisciplinary method in which the anthropologist acts as a mediator between local and scientific knowledge. The genus Calophyllum is used as an example, showing how it is used as a marker of time, for building canoes, as part of the ecosystem, as provider of protein, and as an element of transition. While the botanist specialist sometimes disagreed with his evidence (213), the locals often found it boring to prove what they already knew (221), the author nevertheless persevered
Chapter 5 describes vines and knots as the processes of intertwining strings and attaching objects. The botany and potential underlying principles of gender (e.g. 257, 261) of forty-four locally used tying materials is enriched by detailed analysis of how the strings are used for canoe building, fishing nets, sails, and string figures. “Movement is the point” for string figures, and this section describes beautifully how the figures are a way to perform stories in motion (283-291), a “kind of magical geometry” (292).
Chapter 6 explores the “mathematical expression” of large canoes and how trees are part of the shaping of cultural and technological variation. It argues that this form of canoe is the “formula, the organized reasoning” (298). The data presented in this chapter is very detailed and dense, reaching the conclusion that boats, places, people, and kula valuables are “bundled together in the structures these boats entail and realize” (342), “as motion is built into the boats to facilitate contradictory dynamics, so are social relationships coordinated with respect to complementary divergences” (343).
To me, the book’s key value is its deep ethnography, as I am not trained to understand the biochemical analyses or the full meaning of fractals. I am weary of its structuralist equations, but others may find them enlightening. To a reader with no knowledge of the vernacular, the large amount of Muyuw words (for plants, places, patches, persons, stars, and categories) complicates the understanding at times. A glossary would have been an easy fix since the index does not cover all the terms and provides only page numbers. Omission to italicize all vernacular caused me to pause and wonder, and others may be confused by the inconsistent spelling of Gawa Island (the Muyuw term Gaw appears a few times). Apart from these minor issues, this book is a major contribution to the regional, ecological, and material culture literature.
Susanne Kuehling, University of Regina, Regina, Canada
TIDES OF INNOVATION IN OCEANIA: Value, materiality and place. Monographs in Anthropology. Edited by Elisabetta Gnecchi-Ruscone, Anna Paini. Acton, A.C.T.: ANU Press, 2017. xv, 347 pp. (Illustrations.) Free, eBook: https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/series/monographs-anthropology/tides-innovation-oceania. ISBN 978-1-760460-93-8.
The values of people, places, and material objects is unpredictable and, thus, cannot be conveyed as easy and pithy definitions. Ethnography, however, can provide stark illustrations of the creative processes of continuity and change that characterize the formation and transformation of values. In recent years there has been considerable growth in anthropological research focused on these themes. In this volume, Elisabetta Gnecchi-Ruscone and Anna Paini seek to illustrate the dynamic processes of valuing through ethnographic cases studied by anthropologists working with different Oceanic societies.
The polysemic nature of valuing clearly emerges as a common feature of different societies in Oceania. It appears to result from the interactions between societies and between humans, objects, and places. Valuing, however, cannot be reduced to a series of isolated features. Valuing is best understood as an open-ended interconnection of stories of the unexpected. Rather than comparisons, thus, Paini and Gnecchi-Ruscone establish interconnections between Pacific cultures, elaborating on the image of sea tides as a constant dynamic of innovation.
The volume structures these interconnections into two parts. First, “Mapping Materiality in Time and Place” examines how objects, persons, and ideas circulate in Oceania and, in the process, create their own meanings through these interactions. Second, “Value and Agency: Local Experiences in Expanded Narratives” illustrates the complexities arising from ethnographic accounts of the agency of local actors who seek to accommodate old and new, and the diversity of possible outcomes. The prologue opens the book, presenting the notion of Putting People First, a vision that “emphasizes the pivotal role of intersubjective relations at all levels of sociality for contemporary islanders” (23). The epilogue wraps the nine chapters up, insisting, again, on this notion of Putting People First as the pivotal contribution of anthropology to the study of value.
The study of value has notable antecedents in the works of, among others, Branisław Malinowski, Marcel Mauss, Karl Polanyi, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Sahlins. Gnecchi-Ruscone and Paini recall this anthropological genealogy in the introduction, and ask, “How can anthropology contribute to an overarching theory while maintaining its habitual peripheral position, from which stems its capacity of bringing into the picture the experience of other world views and thus offering alternative viewpoints?” (11). This volume provides an answer to this question that contemporary anthropologists interested in idiographic and nomothetic approaches to the study of value will appreciate.
For example, Marshall Sahlins’ chapter ‘puts people first’ in analysing the values associated to alterity and autochthony. Sahlins connects the specificity of Oceanic societies such as Raymond Firth’s Tikopia with the broader Austronesian context, and beyond, by means of an emphasis on contacts between different cultures. He writes: “If Tikopians were almost obsessively concerned with autochthony, they were equally interested in entering into relations with the vital forces, beings and things in the celestial realms beyond the horizon. For as Firth observed, the European presence greatly expanded this cosmography of the marvellous…” (40) ‘Cosmography of the marvellous’ as a concept, can be used to connect anthropological studies of value while maintaining anthropology’s peripheral position as indicated by Gnecchi-Ruscone.
In contrast, Margaret Jolly’s chapter focuses on objects moving in Oceanic collections, rather than people. However, as she notes, objects incorporate values by means of their connections with people, embodiment of supernatural forces, and ancestors. In following the trajectories of Pacific objects moving between museums and galleries within and beyond Oceania, Jolly emphasizes the multiple dimensions in which these objects elicit their relationships with people. She focuses, then, on the differences established by two exhibitions in Honolulu and Canberra. Although the objects displayed were almost identical, they were framed differently according to different curatorial agendas. Rather than an overarching theory, Jolly offers an interpretive narrative of these movements that focuses particularly on the political and affective dimension.
The volume originates in the panel ‘‘‘Putting People First’: Intercultural Dialogue and Imagining the Future in Oceania” at the 2008 European Society of Oceanists conference in Verona. The panel addressed the lack of a comparative theory of value, and the possibility of studying values by fleshing out of interconnections and thematic similarities. “Without aiming at grand theory, [Gnecchi-Ruscone and Paini] maintain the importance of comparative work for its ability to bring to the fore both unique histories and commonalities” (11).
This kind of comparative work enables the identification of entanglements between the things that Oceanic societies value, the signs they use to indicate them, the moral standards by which they evaluate them, and the material worth that they attribute to them. Roberta Colombo Dougoud, for example, establishes this kind of connections in her chapter about Kanak engraved bamboos, where the stories expressed in the manufacture intersect with the anthropologist’s own “assumptions, hypotheses and interpretations” (125) and the framework of the exhibition where the bamboos were displayed.
This kind of analyses constitute instances of the polysemy that characterizes value as a concept and interpretive category. As such, it can be used to interrogate, analyze, and interpret aspects of society and culture, such as the relationship between people and things. But, for Gnecchi-Ruscone and Paini, the interpretation should always remain grounded in ethnographic accounts of a particular time and place. In the volume, place emerges as the third major theme along with objects and values. For example, Paini writes about the robe mission that Kanak women consider “as an expression of a deep-rooted sense of place, but at the same time also an expression of routedness, of a mobile interplay with other times, places and people” (172). As the effects of contemporary social phenomena influence Oceanic societies, this threefold set of thematic concepts turns out to be particularly useful.
Anthropologists looking for theoretical tools to interrogate and interpret these phenomena from a mid-level analytical perspective will find inspiration in the pages of this book. The fact that Tides of Innovation does not propose a new theory of value should not be considered a drawback. While such theories are yet to come, Gnecchi-Ruscone and Paini remind us that the conundrums of epistemology should not prevent us from theorizing value and, more, specifically, navigating the “tides of innovation” of contemporary Oceania.
Rodolfo Maggio, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
TOURING PACIFIC CULTURES. Edited by Kalissa Alexeyeff, John Taylor. Acton, ACT: ANU Press, 2016. xix, 457 pp. (Illustrations.) Free, eBook: https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/touring-pacific-cultures. ISBN 978-1-922144-26-3.
Tourism is as old as Empire. The wealthy and privileged ventured from cities in Greece and Rome to country and seaside retreats, seeking escape from the “modern” ills of city life and looking for the chance to experience how “common” folk lived. However, as empires collapsed, so too did tourism, temporarily. Later a new kind of tourism emerged as pilgrims set off on religious jaunts to renowned sites, with organizers ensuring the pilgrims were well housed and fed along the way. The rise of empires again set off a new flush of tourists seeking health and education. Spas and health clinics sprang up to cater to the wealthy in search of tonics to cure eighteenth-century ailments. The English privileged classes embarked upon “The Grand Tour” so as to improve their education abroad and to alleviate boredom at home. But it was in the wake of the Industrial Revolution that leisure tourism, as we know it today, enabled middle-class adventurers to travel beyond home shores. This movement has only recently beckoned the curious gaze of academics.
Touring Pacific Cultures is a welcome contribution to the growing discourse(s) commenting on the relative value of a tourist industry heavily dominated by a travelling Western population arriving at the home shores of underprivileged, colonial survivors. In the case of this ebook, the author’s gaze is trained upon the Pacific and its population’s long-suffering relations with “invaders,” both as colonizers and now as tourists.
The contributions in this volume range from poetic engagements to nostalgic recollections and investigative encounters. However, that tells one little of the depth of textural enquiry and reflection presented in this compilation. The editors begin with an exploration of the many issues that cause us, as social scientists, to cringe at the very thought of tourism and its impact upon Pacific Islanders: “colonialism and tourism have intersected to both undermine and appropriate indigenous forms of cultural identity … the analysis of such violent appropriations and erasures comprises a key feature of this volume” (15–16). Although there are a few benefits, it is suggested, that may accompany touristic encounters, these are inevitably swamped by the ferocious onslaught of mass tourism and its associated evils. The editors recognize the vastly complex subject matter, with its many threads of discourse and intricate array of interactions; however, it is difficult to escape the overall message that visitors are aggressors and those visited their victims.
There are far too many excellent contributions (31!) to realistically deal with them individually. However, identifying a few relevant themes may help to engender a sense of the breadth of “encounters” told. One recurring topic is imagery creation. Designed to lure tourists with promised encounters in “paradise” and a primitive past that includes cannibals on the one hand and alluring maidens on the other, imagery construction is like the evil queen’s magic mirror, reflecting what tourists desire while failing to reveal the realities of an underprivileged population living in a poverty-stricken Pacific “paradise.” Promotional imagery suggests opportunities for interactions with the exotic “other,” beaming welcoming smiles under azure-blue skies, creating fantasies it is ultimately unable to fulfil (Lindstrom, Tamaira, Taylor, Banivanua Mar, Alexeyeff, Connell). Related to image construction is the voice of agency. Whose are the voices engaged in image construction (Lindstrom, Amoamo, Treagus, Tamaira, Jolly, Phipps, Banivanua Mar, Taylor) and, how do these colour the expectations of tourists on their Pacific voyages (Steel, Amoamo, Banivana Mar, MacCarthy, Cox, Lee, Alexeyeff, Connell)? In the contributions for this volume these questions are too often skewed towards a subliminal cringe. More overtly, the current of criticism demonizes the industry and its participants. Although the promises implied may be illusory and the deleterious effects of tourism cannot be denied, there is room to think in new ways and suggest a different form of image construction.
The commodification of culture is another overwhelming theme. While not a new one, it continues to draw intellectual scrutiny here (Taylor and Alexeyeff, Treagus, Jolly, Phipps, Taylor). What is more interesting, however, is the agency demonstrated by locals and their desire to both attract tourists as well as manage the interactions and representations in their own terms (Amoamo, Tamaira, Jolly, Banivanua Mar, MacCarthy, Cox, Lee). Performing culture is likewise a potent motif, laden with questions of agency, authenticity, and the tourist and local gaze (Treagus, Jolly, Phipps, Teaiwa and Vile, Cox).
There is so much to recommend this ebook to readers interested in tourism studies. However, the issues raised, while real, are not new. What can we learn about tourism and its impact that moves us beyond what is depicted in these pages? Is there another lens to look through, beyond the one focussing on the ills of tourism? Rather than continuing what is in many ways a nostalgic gaze upon the loss of culture, cultural autonomy, and agency, which is argued to be under assault by mass tourism, consideration of the benefits of tourism may lead to a new way of thinking about and, ultimately, managing tourism. Perhaps the best contribution for me in this volume is that provided by Jane Desmond. While the author recognizes the well-documented downfalls associated with mass tourism, she suggests alternative ways to manage and view tourism in the Pacific. We are all too familiar with the trope that casts tourism as an exploitative operation, but there are experiences that suggest other considerations as well. It is to these possibilities that I hope future enquiry turns.
Shirley Campbell, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia