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Last updated 6 September 2017
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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
SCREEN ECOLOGIES: Art, Media, and the Environment in the Asia-Pacific Region. Leonardo Book Series. By Larissa Hjorth, Sarah Pink, Kristen Sharp, and Linda Williams. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2016. ix, 210 pp. (Illustrations.) US$37.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-262-03456-2.
Screen Ecologies presents an overview of artworks and screen-based media in the Asia-Pacific region that engage with the environment (referring here either to spatial concerns more broadly or more specific issues like climate change and pollution). The book is valuable mainly as a catalogue of specific art projects and events in the region fitting within this broad rubric. Beyond this, the book’s unrealized theoretical agenda and the continually shifting focus of its chapters turns Screen Ecologies into a head-scratching assemblage that is often less than the sum of its disparate parts.
The book begins by arguing an eco-critical focus on the Asia-Pacific is warranted because the region is a prime contributor to environmental pollution and e-waste. The first few chapters then introduce an ecology-minded, process-oriented materialism very popular in recent work in human geography, anthropology, and media ecologies. The early alignment with this ecological turn sets up some high expectations for the book as a whole, promising a new perspective on art and digital media in this expanded region, focusing on the infrastructural and material energies traversing them all. The closest the book comes to fulfilling this promise comes in chapter 5, “Platforms for Public Engagement,” where the authors begin to trace out an Asia-Pacific “meshwork” (a term the authors adopt from Tim Ingold) of biennales and smaller regional art spaces. Unfortunately, despite recurrent gestures towards a more ecological analysis of how art world infrastructures and media technologies play a direct role in generating climate change and environmental pollution, the book insistently pivots back to a more restricted focus on how artists “help to provide alternative ways in which to understand and visualize” (3) these entanglements. Despite continuous reference to non-representational theories, the approach to art presented throughout the book is thoroughly representational, focusing on artists who take up environmental themes in their works and speculation on how this might intervene in the larger environmental imagination (whose environmental imagination this refers to is never made clear).
In recent years, artists taking a thematic approach to environmental issues like climate change or urban pollution have often been criticized for assuming that simply drawing attention to such issues can itself constitute a significant ecological intervention, particularly when the understanding of environmental science presented in such works often remains shallow. I was reminded of this criticism while reading Screen Ecologies, despite the authors’ attempts to argue the contrary. To give one of many examples in the book, Stephen Haley’s digital print showing thousands of plastic water bottles may indeed gesture towards an “excess of consumer culture” (55), but does this in itself constitute a “critical” approach to environmental issues, as the authors suggest? To reference the work of another artist introduced later (Young-Hae Chang’s Heavy Industries), does this work tell audiences anything they don’t already know?
A large part of the problem here is the decontextualized presentation of each work—a curious approach given the supposed ecological focus of the book. In the five sentences dedicated to Haley’s print, for example, we learn the artist is Australian and the lithograph comes from a series focusing on the global production of commodities like bottled water. But we are told nothing about the exhibition context, the audience response, or even the local discourse surrounding plastic waste in Australia. Many of the chapters largely consist of a string of similar brief introductions to different artworks (in the style of an exhibition catalogue), with each paragraph moving not only to a different artist and work but often to an entirely different national context. The effect is often dizzying. Thankfully the book contains many (black-and-white) reproductions throughout, so readers can seek out more details in the images themselves.
The overall structure of the book also suffers from a lack of context or cohesion. The individual chapters jump between a focus on mobile phones and other mobile devices to more formal art genres having little obvious connection to screens. Similarly, the definition of “environment” in some chapters refers to specific issues of environmental degradation like pollution and e-waste, while in other chapters, the environmental focus appears to simply refer to urban space more generally. This range of approaches is most likely due to the book having four authors, who each hail from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia but bring in various art and media/communications interests. Particular site-specific art projects from Larissa Hjorth and Linda Williams are among those receiving the most sustained (and positive) attention in the book, but the text gives no clues as to which author is writing at which point, and there is no explicit reflection on how these different disciplinary and methodological concerns may or may not fit together. The plural authorial voice is not inherently a problem, but the lack of reflection on disciplinary and geographical positioning feels like a missed opportunity here, especially given the questions surrounding the ethics of group projects and the “fly in/out” model of artist ethnography raised in chapter 5.
Finally, a note on the book’s approach to the “Asia-Pacific region.” This unusually broad framing is part of an ongoing project by Larissa Hjorth and others to go beyond traditional national or regional boundaries and define an expanded region (with Australia as the implicit pivot point). Unlike more explicitly trans-national projects, however, the book provides very little detail on how art or media practices in different parts of the region relate to or influence one another, or (equally crucially) how they are often unevenly distributed. Instead, the “Asia-Pacific” here largely emerges as nothing more than a long list of different countries where different artists might be working. While the book’s ability to bring together such a range of artists is exciting, and the desire to draw more attention to eco-critical work in the region is highly admirable, the radically flattened and decontextualized “Asia-Pacific” presented here never quite makes up for the loss in local—or, ironically, ecological—specificity.
Paul Roquet, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA
DIVERGENT MEMORIES: Opinion Leaders and the Asia-Pacific War. Studies of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. By Gi-Wook Shin and Daniel Sneider. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016. x, 356 pp. (Illustrations.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-9970-6.
This is the last book of a multi-year project on historical memory in East Asia carried out by Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Center. Its three previous publications were all comparative in nature. The same applies here. The authors contrast the views of opinion leaders in China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. They do so by conducting interviews (mainly from December 2009 through August 2010). Their transcripts serve as the main source for the book. Professor Shin and Sneider hold that this approach offers a “critical and fresh understanding” of wartime memories in the region. In my appraisal, however, the final product does not fully live up to this claim.
First, the work is descriptive more than analytical. In the first five chapters, the authors describe the background of twenty people (five for each country), and extensively quote their views on World War II and related issues. Knowing some of the interviewees personally, I enjoyed the biographical vignettes very much. But after having read two hundred pages of various life stories and truncated statements on a myriad of complex issues, I found it difficult to recall who said what. I was also not certain what conclusion to draw from this. Apart from the obvious one: the divisions over the past are deep. They are deep not only between but also within the nations these men represent. This also seems to be the book’s main message (ergo its title: divergent memories). There is nothing wrong with such a thesis. But it will hardly qualify as a fresh insight to those who know the region.
It is probably also not surprising that the scholars reached this verdict given the choice of their method. For one, Shin and Sneider selected individuals who embody a wide range of views: from the very nationalistic to the more progressive. Moreover, they spoke predominantly to intellectuals: mostly historians or other academics and in smaller numbers filmmakers, news editors, human rights activists, and politicians. In such a sample, nuance and diversity of views is naturally more pronounced. The public discourse especially in present-day China or South Korea, however, offers a much cruder picture. Despite this, the scholars hold that the interviewees’ positions reflect the sentiments of the larger civil society (278). But whose opinions? And to what degree? In the same vein, how do we know that their “elite opinion leaders” are the key memory makers in these countries? Is not, for instance, Hata Ikuhiko, Ōe Kenzaburō, or Ishihara Shintarō as influential in the forming of Japanese national memory as Tōgō Kazuhiko (featured in the book)? And can we really say that the impact of Mark Pettie’s scholarship or the activism of Lester Tenney on US public memory carries the same weight as the work of other American scholars, movie directors, or journalists? Simply put, why are certain individuals included in this publication, and amongst those selected, why do some receive substantially more coverage than others? We are never told what methodology lies behind these decisions.
My biggest concern, however, pertains to the limited analytical purchase gained from the interviews themselves. Shin and Sneider asked their subjects open-ended questions about thorny historical problems. But the answers that appear in the book tend to be superficial. To queries about the Nanjing Massacre, the atomic bombing of Japanese cities, the role of China in Japan’s defeat, and so forth, we typically get a few lines or less in response. This is understandably a product of constraints in time and space (applies both to the interview and the publishing process). But it is precisely because of these constraints that I question the usefulness of this method in this context. These doubts are further amplified by the fact that most of the respondents have already spoken or written about these topics in a much more sophisticated manner elsewhere. One feels the need to revisit these sources. And indeed, that is what Shin and Sneider do with some individuals. For instance, in the chapter featuring Mark Pettie, John Dower, and Iris Chang, they cite from previous publications more than they rely on the newly collected material. At times, the book therefore reads more like a review of already well-known literature.
The last hundred pages give likewise the impression that the interviews did not produce sufficient (or sufficiently interesting) material upon which an entire manuscript could be based. The Stanford scholars implicitly acknowledge this when they start reusing some of the older data from their project on high-school textbooks (Shin and Sneider, History textbooks and the wars in Asia: divided memories, London: Routledge, 2011). The concluding essay underscores this problem as well. Instead of providing a synthesis of the varied messages and ideas contained in the interviews, the authors skip them altogether. Nor do they attempt to theorize more deeply on the potential link between the biographical data and their respondents’ positions. Given how much energy was spent on these issues in the first two-thirds of the publication, this is rather surprising. And a necessary closure is missing.
Lastly, I would like to comment on the style in which the book is written. I am not certain how much the style reflects the publisher’s decisions, but throughout the text, we find explanations of some of the most basic terms and concepts. Repetition of arguments and information that is well known is not uncommon. As an extreme example, consider chapter 10. Here at the beginning, the authors go on to list all of the fifty-two attendees to the San Francisco treaty in the main body of the text. This listing in no way advances their argument. I believe that ridding the work of such passages, and writing it with an assumption of greater knowledge on the part of the readership, would have greatly improved the end product. It would have also forced the authors to offer more on the analytical side.
Professor Shin and Sneider are excellent scholars. They have contributed substantially to the studies of memory and reconciliation in Asia already. I am afraid, however, that this publication will not have the same impact in the academic community as their previous titles.
Ivo Plšek, University of California, Berkeley, 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
COMMODITIES, PORTS AND ASIAN MARITIME TRADE SINCE 1750. Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series. Edited by Ulbe Bosma and Anthony Webster. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. xv, 318 pp. (Illustrations.) US$100.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-46391-3.
Ulbe Bosma and Anthony Webster’s edited volume on maritime commodity trade in Asia since 1750 is the outcome of both a conference and an expert meeting on mercantile history, held at the Institute of Social History in Amsterdam between 2009 and 2012.
The authors have gathered a wide range of scholars to investigate the actors, agencies, and ports that played a role in a changing Asian maritime economy from 1750 up to the present. In this volume, they point out the need to review the earlier assumptions of Western historians and economists on the development of Asian economies, especially concerning the teleological sense of path development that presents the West as the harbinger of capitalism and industrialization, a notion still undergirding some debates on global history. They note that such preoccupations have been challenged from the 1980s onwards, as “reassessments of precolonial Asia showed wealthy and economically dynamic economies” (2). Summarizing the book’s purpose, the editors claim to focus on “key nodal points in the development of zones of commodity production in Asia” (4), which still lends the book a wide scope, involving multiple regions, commercial ties, and financial networks. The chapters on networks of credit, exchange banks, and transcontinental mercantile networks are especially useful in demonstrating financial capital’s historical tendency to transcend boundaries.
Kaoru Sugihara, a main contributor to the volume, offers a reinterpretation of Asia in the chapter titled “Asia in the Growth of World Trade: A Re-interpretation of the ‘Long Nineteenth Century,’” providing extensive statistical evidence and graphs on Asia’s significant role in world trade, especially in commodity transportation. Sugihara shows how Western imperialism stimulated nineteenth-century intra-Asian trade, in the creation of mercantile networks controlled by Asians as collaborative partners, who later supplanted Western interests.
Heather Sutherland considers a long chronology of East Indonesian maritime trade, while critically engaging with two models on South Asian maritime development: Reid’s model of an early modern age of commerce, built on a Braudelian analogy popular in the historiography on Indian Ocean Trade, and Jim Warren’s Sulu Zone as the portrayal of a more violent seascape focused on shipping and slave-workers. She argues that neither model does justice to an entangled economic and political world involving an extractive colonial economy. Gerrit Knaap focusses on Semarang, a colonial provincial capital and port city in eighteenth-century Java. Ghulam A. Nadri revisits the long-standing historical debate on the eighteenth-century “Decline of Surat,” with a convincing argument denying this decline, instead opting for complementarity between ports, which may move the debate on the early modern Indian economy forward. Ferry de Goey considers Western merchants in the Japanese Foreign Settlements during the latter half of the nineteenth century, when gunboat diplomacy ushered in a treaty port system in which European merchants received extraterritorial rights and became exempt from native jurisdiction. He shows how this helped found firms which in turn expanded to Europe and North America, some of which still operate today. G. Roger Knight investigates European mercantile houses in nineteenth-century Java which functioned relatively independently from overseas control, pointing to interpersonal networks beyond state enterprise. Anthony Webster addresses the specific case of John Palmer’s agency house, showing how transcontinental mercantile trust networks developed from intra-Asian institutions involving free merchants, who developed complex forms of business which combined banking, investment in shipping trade, shipbuilding, and transcontinental partnerships involving intermediaries from local communities. Pui-Tak Lee considers linked networks of credit, through the case of Ma Tsui Chiu’s financial operations in Hong Kong during the first half of the twentieth century. Lee provides a glance into Chinese bookkeeping practices, revealing how businesses relied on kinship networks, client relations, and expatriate communities, through which capital shifted between multiple interlinked firms. Also in the financial realm, Tomotaka Kawamure looks at British exchange banks in the international trade of Asia from 1850 to 1890. Colonial banks played a key role in risk management and financed commodity flows between Britain and Asia, and were involved in colonial plantations and mining throughout Asia and the Pacific. Christof Dejung focusses on Western merchant houses and local capital in the Indian cotton trade (1850-1930), showing the complex interactions between European traders, colonial bureaucrats, Indian capitalists, and peasants. Nicholas J. White and Catherine Evans investigate Liverpool shipping and gentlemanly capitalism in twentieth-century Asian trade, which faced increased Japanese industrialization from the 1970s onwards. J. Thomas Lindblad presents intriguing research into the pursuit of profit in the shadow of Indonesian decolonization in the 1950s, depicting the retreat of Dutch mining and plantation businesses from Indonesia in the movement of economic decolonization. Finally, Rajeswary Ampalavanar Brown compares the Chinese and Indian corporate economies as constructions of law, state, and corporations. He shows contrasts in legal traditions and differences in state versus private capitalism. For both contexts, Brown claims law often played a role in “providing a veil behind which to hide corruption” (278).
A common thread throughout the volume is how most authors point to a more complex, entangled approach in Asian maritime economies, involving both locally entrenched actors as well as the mobility of capital. Together, the essays constituting this volume offer fresh perspectives on Asian maritime trade, which may urge both current and historical debates forward. One of the most valuable contributions of the volume towards global and Asian economic history is its chronology: while mostly focusing on the nineteenth century, its contributors opt for a clear continuity with both earlier and later dynamics, transcending conventional demarcations such as the classic divide between modern and early-modern periods. This approach reveals long-standing continuities involving agencies and networks in the development of business. Although the presence of Western imperialism remains a crucial factor throughout the volume’s historical themes, it no longer serves as a hegemonic explanatory force, but opens the field for a wider study of multiple historical interactions that have helped form the Asian maritime economy up to the present day.
Wim De Winter, Gent University, Ghent, Belgium
THE BUSINESS OF CULTURE: Cultural Entrepreneurs in China and Southeast Asia, 1900–65. Contemporary Chinese Studies. Edited by Christopher Rea and Nicolai Volland; foreword by Wang Gungwu. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015. xiv, 329 pp. (Tables, B&W photos, illustrations.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 9780774827805.
This volume about cultural production contributes to the growing literature bridging the divide between Republican China (1912-1949) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) established in 1949, and brings together studies of south China and its “frontier enclaves”—to borrow a term from Philip Kuhn—in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. It also contributes to recent scholarship that has aspired to incorporate Chinese material into global theory and knowledge production. The volume aims to inspire an enquiry into the “global dimension” of cultural production by exploring Chinese “cultural entrepreneurship” (4). The concept of cultural entrepreneurship encompasses the customary labels of poet, writer, publisher, and businessperson, and represents a form of cultural agency that transforms the cultural sphere. That is, it represents the business of culture in China and Southeast Asia (3–4).
A theoretical analysis of entrepreneurship relies on non-Chinese conceptualizations as well—among others, on Joseph Schumpeter’s definition of entrepreneurship as a “new combination of means of production” (15) in a broader sense, including political actors. This conceptualization is applied to Mao’s China, too (261). The epilogue, by Christopher A. Reed and Nicolai Volland, explores how the papers in the volume shed light on cultural entrepreneurship in the PRC as well as on transformations in the reform era and parallel trajectories of cultural entrepreneurship in other temporal and geographical contexts. The goal of the book is “to enrich our understanding of historical and contemporary patterns of cultural agency” (278). The collection also seeks to redeem overseas Chinese from their popular image as “the race of entrepreneurial geniuses” (4) by offering a new categorization of Chinese entrepreneurs.
The essays are grouped according to three categories of entrepreneurs, or cultural agents, in the Chinese cultural marketplace that have emerged over the past twenty years, as explained in the epilogue. These entrepreneurs resemble those of the Republican period. The first category comprises cultural personality models, one of whom, Wang Shuo, re-emerged and was able to capitalize on market possibilities in the reform era (Reed and Volland, 270). Essays in this section cover the overseas experience of the Republican-era “new woman” (Grace Fong), the “Butterfly brand” built on the image of actress Hu Die (Eugenia Lean), and the role of self-improvement discourse and gramophone technology in the marketing strategies of new correspondence schools in the teaching of Mandarin (Michael Hill).
The second category comprises tycoon models and entrepreneurs of culture, ranging from the transregional pharmaceutical Tiger Balm mogul and philanthropist Aw Boon Haw (Sin Yee Theng and Volland) to Hong Kong émigré media moguls such as Jin Yong (Sai-Shing Yung and Christopher Rea).
The third category comprises collective enterprise models, less apparent in contemporary China, from non-profit, hometown-oriented journals reaching a Cantonese audience at home and in the diaspora in Republican China (Robert Culp), to the pre-1949 Singapore film industry (Chua Ai Lin), to the decline of cultural entrepreneurship in the PRC publishing industry (Nicolai Volland). Individual chapters offer contributions to ongoing debates, for example, regarding how print capitalism worked in China through social and cultural goals, not through profits (Culp, 200), and examine little-studied topics such as the economic side of the film industry and Anglophone Asian channels (Chua Ai Lin). They also suggest useful analytical tools for examining self-branding as a modern cultural technique possible only in the world of “new global regimes of law, transportation and communication” (Lean, 86), the role competition between small and large publishing companies played in bringing about the end of the professional association of Shanghai booksellers, and, ultimately, cultural entrepreneurship in the PRC (Volland, 254).
The epilogue explains how these three categories evolved in the command economy of the Mao era, in the reform period, and beyond. The account of painting production during the Mao era stresses the agency of artists and their artistic entrepreneurship before the Cultural Revolution. This history of art as a history of cultural entrepreneurship is productive in that it offers an account of the history of intellectual production in the PRC and contributes to the narrative of party-state relations in the Chinese cultural milieu. The volume contributes to, though does not engage with, a rich historiography of Chinese intellectuals. Its theoretical goal is the application of contemporary analytical categories, such as the business of culture, to China in the first half of the twentieth century. This collection of essays represents a new period in the historiography of China, and the vantage point, that of capitalist China revived and flourishing, fits well with the analyses presented in the volume. Indeed, as Rea’s theoretical chapter on the concept of cultural entrepreneurship notes, this offers a new approach to “pluralism and mobility in the cultural sphere” (27) beyond the categories imposed by a political analysis.
Anna Belogurova, Georg-August Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
THE POLITICS OF ISLAMIC LAW: Local Elites, Colonial Authority, and the Making of the Muslim State. By Iza R. Hussin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. viii, 351 pp. (Table, illustrations.) US$37.50, paper. ISBN 978-0-226-32334-3.
This historical study of the colonial and post-colonial evolution of Islamic law is driven by the following issues: the way in which contemporary institutions of Islamic law have been shaped by colonial antecedents; modern Muslim state reliance upon colonial-era frames; how institutional and theoretical frames shaped Islamic law; Islamic law as an arena of political contestation; and Islamic law as state-controlled and a powerful arsenal of the modern state.
Hussin succinctly highlights the importance of the historical study of Islamic law:
Given recent political and legal controversies in many Muslim states, the need for deeper understanding of the politics of Islamic law has rarely been greater; at a time when misunderstanding of the core dynamics of Muslim states and communities is prevalent, the need for the systematic study of the underpinnings of contemporary Islam has rarely been more pressing. Muslim societies today continue to struggle to define what is Islamic … a better understanding of past struggles may help inform future movements, whatever direction they take. (8–9)
Despite Islamic law being central to the book’s focus, the framing of Islamic law is less than precise. However, Hussin does make note of commonly understood (but truncated) notions of Islamic law, in particular, the conflation of Islamic law with sharia, the parsing of Islamic law as fiqh, and its conflation as personal status or family law (7). Islamic law is described as “multiple, slippery and contested” (7) and a “contingent and constructed political space, through which historical processes work” (9). The “multiple, slippery and contested” understanding of sharia in the contemporary political context is explored in the Malaysia case study.
The working definition of the post-colonial state is less than precise and as a result, discussion of the post-colonial secular (or quasi-secular) constitutional foundations of the Malaysian, Indian, and Egyptian post-colonial state is ambiguous. A rigorous discussion of Ahmed Kuru’s (2009), Abdullahi An Naim’s (2008), and Khaled Abou el Fadl’s (1997) comparative and political-legal analyses of the foundational dynamics of Muslim-majority states would have addressed this limitation.
A key strength of this largely historical study is the way in which Hussin ambitiously compares the making, unmaking, and remaking (10) of Islamic law in three former British colonies—Malaya (Southeast Asia), India (South Asia), and Egypt (Middle East)—by diligently excavating significant amounts of archival material in the Malay, Arabic, and English languages. She mines the archival material creatively, focusing on treaties, trials, and portraits of local male elites. These “creole pioneers” shrewdly used multiple modes of representation to different audiences to achieve goals that often diverged from the colonial project (164). An analysis of the shifting portraits and personas of elite women would have enriched the discussion.
The choice of Kathleen Thelen and James Mahoney’s (2010) historical institutionalist framework effectively highlights the way by which elites exploited institutional ambiguities to their advantage. The employment of James Scott’s (1998) framework of resistance via “hidden transcripts” is also particularly useful. That said, Hussin has relied too strongly on the frameworks of anthropologists and sociologists such as Wael Hallaq and Talal Asad. Their frameworks may not be particularly useful in understanding the complex political dynamics of non-Arab post-colonial states such as Malaysia and India. Asad’s framework potentially obfuscates the significance of Malaysia’s and India’s post-colonial secular democratic foundations and its relevance for nation-building and citizenship rights in multi-religious societies beyond the Middle East.
Hussin convincingly demonstrates that local elites played critical roles in the construction of Islamic law as a codified and state-centred system that is limited to areas of personal and family law. Transformations in local legal systems profoundly altered political systems (14). But this point is not altogether novel. What is rather novel, however, is the assertion that “the law was conceived, bargained over, and used by powerful men and women involved in the workings of the colonial state” (23). The inclusion of elite women as having contributed to the workings of the colonial state offers a potentially innovative spin to the book. But who are these vanguard elite women? Were they wives or daughters of elite men? Unfortunately, these questions are not elaborated on. Only fleeting references to the relationship between gender rights and Islamic law are found in chapter 7’s discussion of women who have renounced Islam. It was a little surprising that the Malaysian regime’s politicization of Islam coupled with the growing influence of salafi-wahbabi Islam within the sharia court system and Islamic bureaucracy were not discussed more systematically in this chapter.
By and large, The Politics of Islamic Law is an impressive comparative and historical study that has extended the boundaries of scholarly knowledge on a complex topic that continues to challenge the vast majority of Muslim-majority states.
Lily Zubaidah Rahim, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
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
FROM VILLAGE TO CITY: Social Transformation in a Chinese County Seat. By Andrew B. Kipnis. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016. xii, 263 pp. (Illustrations.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28971-0.
There are many theories associated with modernity and the roles urbanization and economic change play in the social and cultural transformation of places and spaces. As locations are constantly and continuously altered in both subtle and glaring/jarring ways, there comes a need to explain how this all happens, and simultaneously, to identify the impacts of these transformations on people—both as agents of these changes and recipients of these outcomes. Most theories of “modernization,” almost all controversial for one reason or another, are founded to greater or lesser extent on analyses of particular types of places over particular time periods. It is widely recognized there is no universal model. However, even the most ideographic of approaches still recognize the profound effects of certain transformative mainstays such as industrialization, urbanization, and globalization that interact with local political, historical, and cultural forces to foster change. In Andrew B. Kipnis’s 2016 volume, the over-arching goal is to contribute to theory construction related to urbanization and modernization based on his observations and studies during long-term fieldwork and repeated visits to Zouping, a “fourth tier” city in Shandong province, from 1988 to 2013.
Zouping is an excellent location for such an in-depth historical analysis. A small rural town of 8,000 residents in 1935, the county seat reported a population of 50,000 in the 2000 National Population Census. However, as importantly, in 2010 there were already 390,000 people residing in the county of the same name. Defining what is urban and rural has always been problematic in all nations; China is no different. Zouping’s story of town and county is a common one—legal and illegal land acquisitions, industrial expansion, sectoral labor shifts, rapid urbanization, loss of arable land, displacement of farm families, public conflicts, and greater prosperity and less poverty. Thousands of China’s rural county seats have undergone similar journeys, buffeted by, and responding to, similar stimuli. Conveniently, Zouping is also an important place in terms of previous international research on China, given that the town was the focus of significant early work in the 1980s and 1990s by such renowned scholars as Andrew Walder, Jean Oi, Judith Farquhar, Michael Oksenberg, and the author.
At the outset, to place his longitudinal study of Zouping in context, readers are provided with a summation of many of the enduring classical theories that Kipnis persuasively argues do not quite ring true for the Chinese experience. Nor, I imagine, would he argue they are appropriate for most places exposed to the forces associated with contemporary globalization, industrialization, and urbanization. In their place, Kipnis offers a more realistic and flexible argument which he terms “recombinant urbanization.” “Recombinant [urbanization] implies that simultaneous recycling of the old and absorption of the new in the process of social transformation” (225). Long-term China-focused researchers will find this idea appealing as it summarizes what we see commonly “on the ground” both in terms of form and function.
In part one of the volume, Kipnis promotes his idea of recombinant urbanization through historical reviews of urban planning, economic change (industrialization), consumption, and the use of Walter Benjamin’s term phantasmagoria (modern urban life and culture) as viewed through the lens of the historical interactions of related institutions and the people of Zouping. Countering those who would suggest a fair degree of government surrender to neoliberalism in China, Kipnis establishes the significant and enduring role of government at multiple levels for the on-going transformation of all places in China. “In Zouping, the importance of progress, planning and government is clear to many actors” (224). Yet, with excellent detail he recounts how individual actors ranging from billionaires to residents of absorbed villages (termed villages in the city) have countered and manipulated government planning in creating the landscapes of contemporary Zouping. As in many places in China and elsewhere, privatization and government agency in Zouping must seek common ground and compromise. The resulting landscape and culture is recombinant urbanization, manifest at present but originating in the past. Summaries of the rise of Zhang Shiping (said to be the richest man in Shandong province in 2011 ) and the Wei Mian Group (at time of writing the largest cloth producer in the world ), and other firms including the Xiwang Group, provide concrete examples of how large corporations in China may “drive” urbanization yet must still navigate complex relationships among local agency, political forces, and the capture and use of local and international capital.
The idea of recombinant urbanization is appealing and commendable, but from my perspective, the strength of this book, and its greatest contribution, is Kipnis’s attention to scale. The combination of parts one and two of the book illustrate how forces of economic and political change impact all of Zouping but result in different outcomes based on the scale of analysis, ranging from the city as a whole to neighborhoods and development districts to individuals. Capital and government planners work to transform the city and Zouping’s urban districts, shifting residents and their activities, but industry and government leadership must also negotiate and respond to individual and collective interests. Most effectively, readers experience the effects of policy and economic change at a very personal level through the well-documented and carefully organized interviews that constitute the bulk of part two of the book. In this fascinating second section, the author divides his informants into five representative groups (married migrant blue-collar workers from nearby locales, married migrant blue-collar workers from distant locales, villagers-in-the-city, middle-class families, and youth). Life stories of each type are provided as separate chapters. These life stories are powerful and provide insight into how the citizens of Zhouping have come to where they are now. Interviews of this high quality—of this resolution—are impossible to collect without the empathy and understanding that can only evolve from decades of familiarity and fieldwork. It is through the eyes of these people that we are able to see what has happened to Zouping, and by extension to many similar places in China. Further, it is a testimony to Kipnis’s careful work that we care what happens to these people in the future.
Gregory Veeck, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, USA
NGO GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT IN CHINA. Routledge Studies on China in Transition, 48. Edited by Reza Hasmath and Jennifer Y.J. Hsu. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. xiv, 202 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$155.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-90997-7.
China has witnessed a great increase in the number of NGOs over the last two decades in particular. These NGOs operate in a wide range of areas, from education and poverty alleviation, to community development and environmental issues, which provide some new elements in support of China’s social development and also suggests a possible turning point in China’s state-society paradigm and relations (1).
This book seeks to examine the evolution of China’s NGOs based on Chinese political and economic contexts, as well as to analyse cases from different perspectives. Briefly, the book has three main focuses: the conceptualizations and subsequent functions of NGOs; state-NGO engagement; and NGOs as mediators between state and society (6–7). Given the current political and economic situation in China, the success in resolving social issues will mostly depend on how well multiple-layer authorities treat the presence and innovations of NGOs. Thus, this book should be viewed also as part of a long-lasting and never-ending story of Chinese contemporary narratives of state-society relations and the subtle pro or con tensions in civil democratic development in China.
The first three chapters (by Hsu, Gao and Xia, and Shieh, respectively) focus on the emergence and evolution of NGOs in contemporary China, and explain the essence and categories of interactions between the local state and NGOs. In particular, through contextualizing the case of rural-urban labour migration, Jennifer Y.J. Hsu’s chapter frames the discussion on state-NGO relations by arguing the need to understand how local states influence the development of NGOs (10–26).
Next, Gao and Xia place the NGO sector within the broader framework of civil society. They theorize the NGO from the perspective of three social sectors and organizational processes (33). Their chapter highlights the utility of the civil society concept in China, and its application in understanding local state and NGO interactions (34). Shieh’s chapter looks at state-NGO relations through a modal analysis of trends in the NGO sector. He maps the dynamics of civil society in China. Affected by social movements, Shieh argues that the dominant mode in China’s NGO sector was moving away from regulation, contrary to the popular stereotype that state-NGO relations were best characterized by state corporatist arrangements and that China’s civil society is actually state-led (46), asserting that they do not offer a full understanding of the diversity of state-NGO interactions in China. In sum, this section provides a theoretical framework and base of analysis for the book’s subsequent discussions.
The following chapters (by Teets and Jagusztyn, and Heurlin) consider not only the current role of Chinese NGOs locally, but how perceptions and expectations of NGOs are changing domestically, beyond past perspectives (8). Teets and Jagusztyn’s chapter discusses a new collaborative model of governing NGOs—one that incorporates recent local state outsourcing of social services delivery to NGOs. Due to economic reforms, the governance model also changes (71), leading to more diverse organizational and NGOs forms. Heurlin asks us to pause and consider the development of the NGO sector from a trust perspective, mostly from the institutional perspective. He strongly suggests that not only the government but the general public has a huge role to play in determining the function and legitimacy of the modern NGO, and that authoritarian political culture has exerted a mixed influence, and changed over different periods (104).
The book’s final chapters (by Hasmath and Jennifer Y.J. Hsu, Hildebrandt, Thornton, and Carolyn L. Hsu) propose different possibilities and futures for NGOs in China. Hasmath and Jennifer Y. J. Hsu present a fantastic conceptual framework. They propose a survey and methodological design and explain a lack of local state and NGO engagements. As for the sensitive issue of state-society relations, it is imperative to examine and measure the extent to which strategic ignorance on the part of the local state is used as a deliberate tactic to allow and disallow collaboration with NGOs (119). Hildebrandt’s chapter provides an insight into what occurs once NGOs have achieved their aims, which touches at the root of society-NGO interaction. The final chapters, by Thornton and Carolyn L. Hsu, demonstrate the involvement of PONGOs (party-organized NGO) and GONGOs (government-organized NGO), respectively. Both authors ponder the future activities of PONGOs and GONGOs at the local state level and their impact on the development of NGOs. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) definitely plays the most important role in China’s social and political-economic contexts. Both authors believe that NGO development independent of the Party leads only to social fragmentation, and the splintering of society into myriad interest groups working at cross-purposes with each other (142), which in turn leads to new trends in the CCP absorbing social interests to develop into a learning party. All of this sheds light on our understanding of the tensions and dilemmas between the CCP and NGOs.
In sum, as China is increasingly integrated into the global system, the pressure to acknowledge and engage with NGOs will rise. And the authoritarian political and particular economic context makes this task more difficult. Despite this book’s numerous insights, it also has some limitations. For example, it is universally admitted that the CCP and party-state system are keys to understanding social and economic changes in China, so it is important to pay more attention to explaining the CCP’s policy changes and its organizational evolution. Without such an analysis, our understandings of NGOs in China will be incomplete. Also, a more detailed study of how domestic NGOs and international NGOs interact through concrete mechanisms should be added since China now plays an important role in globalization.
All in all, this book clearly provides readers a chance to learn about NGOs in China. Not only does it provide a detailed picture of the development and future trends of China’s NGOs, it shows in vivid detail the matrices and networks connected with NGOs. It also presents scholars with approaches and directions to pursue in future studies. In this way, this is a thought-provoking and intriguing study and as such should be read by any student of Chinese politics or NGOs.
Dingding Chen, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China
REINVENTING CHINESE TRADITION: The Cultural Politics of Late Socialism. Interpretations of Culture in the New Millennium. By Ka-ming Wu. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2015. xv, 186 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-252-08140-8.
In late January 2017, just as the whole Chinese nation was set to celebrate the Spring Festival, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council of the PRC jointly issued a set of guidelines on preserving and developing “excellent traditional culture,” with major achievements to be registered in traditional culture-related research, education, protection, inheritance, innovation, and exchange by the year of 2025. While nothing new, this document culminates the post-Mao late socialist Chinese state’s renewed emphasis on promoting Chinese traditional culture as it strives to consolidate a Chinese national identity at home and boost China’s soft power abroad.
But how does this statist agenda hit the ground, especially in a region such as today’s Yan’an in northern Shanxi Province, the heartland of Yellow River agrarian civilization and the cradle of the CCP’s communist revolution, where Maoist revolutionary culture had once prevailed over traditional or folk culture, part of which was rejected as feudal, superstitious, and backward? What are the relationships between Beijing-based urban intellectuals and national culture promoters on the one hand, and local government officials, local intellectuals, and above all, indigenous artisans and ordinary peasants in this process of tradition, cultural protection, and promotion? Furthermore, what is traditional Chinese culture anyway and who is to define it, protect it, and benefit from it? How do multiple actors, various political, economic, and social forces, and initiatives of different scales and purposes interact, intermingle, and interpenetrate each other in the processes of traditional culture making? These questions and many more have never been so important and pertinent in today’s China studies, especially Chinese cultural studies, and anybody who is interested in these questions would want to read Ka-Ming Wu’s brilliant, insightful, engaging, and extremely timely book, Reinventing Chinese Tradition: The Cultural Politics of Late Socialism, a volume in the University of Illinois Press series “Interpretations of Culture in New Millennium.”
Based on the author’s doctoral dissertation and drawing upon extensive ethnographic work in Yan’an, including a twelve-month residency and follow-up visits spanning from 2003 to 2012, the book embodies Chinese cultural studies at its best. It is historically informed and sociologically well contextualized, while fully and richly ethnographical. Its analysis and arguments are of general relevance to anybody who is interested in transformations in Chinese folk culture, state-society and urban-rural relationships. At the same time, the book is also highly specific both in the spatial and temporal senses: the lurid and engrossing tales it tells are uniquely Yan’an and specifically pertinent to the state of rural folk culture in the first decade of twenty-first-century “late socialist” China. Consisting of a weighty introduction, five main chapters, and an extremely short conclusion of merely one-and-a-half pages, the book centres on three folk cultural forms, their practitioners, promoters, sponsors, and, above all, their socio-historically embedded transformation in rural and increasingly urbanizing settings in the Yan’an region: paper-cutting (chapters 1 and 2), folk story-telling (chapters 3 and 4), and spirit cults (chapter 5).
While managing to tell complex, nuanced, vivid, fascinating, and highly personalized tales of heritage making, identity formation, and cultural transformation, the book did a superb job in locating its analysis and interpretations against the drawback of a wide range of historical, empirical, and theoretical literature in China studies and anthropological studies. This, along with its references to Chinese language sources, makes it an extremely rich and insightful text, as well as an invaluable scholarly guide to students of Chinese cultural politics. The author is particularly skillful in making informative uses of relevant theoretical concepts. Examples include describing the constitution of folk culture as a “public agrarian sphere” and characterizing villagers engaging in folk culture making as “reflective performers of modernity.” Along the way, she also made her own original conceptual contributions to the vocabulary of interpreting folk culture in late socialist China. For example, inspired by Jean Baudrillard’s concept of “hyperreality,” the notion of “hyper-folk” is posited as “a mechanism of representation and experience making that replaces and resignifies rural reality” or “rurality without origins” (20); whereas the phrase “surrogate rural subjectivity” is deployed to “highlight the subject of rural villagers as an unstable category in today’s Yan’an, when many migrate to work in cities, live in an urban environment, lose their farmlands, and engage in non-agricultural careers” (141). In this regard, Ann Anagnost, one of the book’s back cover endorsers, certainly has it right when she says that the book offers “[a] wonderful balance of ethnography and theoretical argument.”
The most important point, however, is that the author manages to offer an insightful and engaging interpretation of rural folk-culture making as an ongoing process of contestation, or in her own words, of heritage making in China as a critical process of “narrative battle” among various social forces. Along the way, the author challenges any simplistic and dichotomous state versus society assumptions of a hegemonic party-state and subjugated people, an authentic and essentialized realm of the folk (minjian) and a manufactured and contaminated field of late socialist culture. Instead, as the author puts it adeptly, the book “attends to subtle ways the party-state socialist legacy, capitalistic practices, and traditional cultural practices dance together” (xii). There is no question that she has accomplished her aim in splendid form.
As with any successful ethnographer, the author is highly self-reflective and not shy of describing in great detail her methodology, her variegated roles, and many unexpected, even awkward, encounters in the field. Her nuanced treatment of the Maoist cultural tradition, her attention to the agency and subjectivity of peasants who take up the opportunity of folk-culture revival projects initiated by outside sources to explore, learn, and understand their own everyday practices in a new light, as well as her strong and consistent gender perspective, all contribute to make this book an outstanding and invaluable contribution to contemporary Chinese culture studies. The insights and arguments about the complex processes of contestation over traditional Chinese culture offered by this book become all the more relevant and important in the aftermath of the CCP’s newly released guidelines and the intensified narrative battles that these guidelines will no doubt engender in the coming decades.
One last point of appreciation and caution: with a brilliant cover featuring a paper-cutting image of a soaring red phoenix over a striking scene of a vibrant waist drum performance by Ansai peasants on the yellow earth, and numerous well-chosen folk cultural illustrations and ethnographic photos, this book is aesthetically well designed and a pleasure not only to read, but also to look at. However, the reader is advised to handle the book with care, perhaps in the same way of handling a paper-cutting product: the binding is rather poor. In my case, the first fourteen pages of the book had already fallen off before I finished reading the introduction!
Yuezhi Zhao, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada
GHOST PROTOCOL: Development and Displacement in Global China. Carlos Rojas and Ralph A. Litzinger, editors. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. vii, 260 pp. (Tables, B&W photos.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6193-0.
According to the text on the jacket, contributors to this volume see China as “haunted by the promises of capitalism, the institutional legacy of the Maoist regime, and the spirit of Marxist resistance.” Although it is hard not to agree, the chapters that explore the tensions underlying contemporary Chinese society do not add up to a new conceptualisation of how it might embody, as Carlos Rojas suggests in the introduction, both global capitalism and its communist antithesis. The concept of contradictory “protocols” dictated by these conflicting impulses, featured in the title, suggests an ambitious conceptual agenda, but remains unexplored by most contributors and offers little to connect the chapters. It is through the empirical richness of the heterogeneous but generally high-quality case studies that the book ends up presenting something of a diagnosis of contemporary China’s contradictions, though some have been covered in earlier work by these and other authors.
Yomi Braester analyzes the imagery of billboards surrounding the rebuilding of Peking’s Qianmen district, suggesting that they combine the celebration of the past with conjuring up the future, making the realities of the present disappear in the eyes of passers-by. Robin Visser shows how the wave of “eco-city” construction does little more than rationalize land transfers and facilitate suburban sprawl. Alexander Des Forges’ chapter is essentially a critique of a collection of texts by Chinese intellectuals on how migration was shaping a putative new Shanghainese society in the 1990s, a discussion rather characteristic of that period and therefore somewhat out of place in this volume. Bryan Tilt examines conflicts over dam construction on the Nu River, arguing they represent competing moral visions. In one of the most interesting chapters and the only one that engages with the concept of “protocols,” Kabzung and Emily T. Yeh argue that the teachings of senior Tibetan Buddhist monks who oppose the sale of yaks for slaughter as sinful ultimately converge with the objectives of state officials who encourage it, since both emphasize the need for Tibetans to become more “modern” through education and integration into the nation’s capitalist economy.
In a highly original contribution, Xiang Biao argues that the resilience of China’s political system is due not only to coercion, nationalism, and developmentalism, but also to what he calls a structural chasm between citizens’ understanding of “the state” as a moral actor and the logic of economic self-interest that frames their interaction with local officials. Xiang insists that this duality is not the traditional belief in the good emperor, but rather a legacy of “socialism” that enables people to preserve a political subjectivity not folded into neoliberal economic subjecthood. Rachel Leng’s chapter analyzes online gay fiction to point out tensions between the conflicting “protocols” that view homosexuality as both urban “cool” and subordinate to the demands of heteronormative domesticity. Lisa Rofel describes the hopes and fantasies of migrant workers in garment factories that produce garments for export to Italy. In some ways, her emphasis on encounters and hope echoes Xiang Biao’s “ethnography of incidents” in China’s labour export industry; these chapters also come closest to addressing the theme of “global China” indicated in the book’s subtitle. Finally, the chapters by Ralph Litzinger and Carlos Rojas analyze films that deal with the generational tensions between the desires of migrant workers and their children.
The book makes no attempt to make sense of the considerable variance in emphasis across contributions. For example, the hopeful note Xiang ends on, that the preservation of political subjectivities outside the realm of the neoliberal economy should allow the envisioning of possible futures, goes against Kabzung and Yeh’s conclusions in the preceding chapter. It would be interesting to ask to what extent that difference is due to diverging methodological and conceptual apparatuses and to what extent it is affected by differences in the groups studied (Han urban middle class versus rural Tibetan poor). The absence of such questioning on the editors’ part is a missed opportunity, since the chapters provide glimpses (albeit of uneven depth) of some of the best scholarship on the issues they cover. An actual conversation between the authors could reflect on, rather than merely showcase, the state of the art in studying contemporary Chinese society.
Nyíri Pál, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
ELUSIVE REFUGE: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War. By Laura Madokoro. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016. x, 331 pp. (Illustrations.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-97151-6.
This important book on Chinese migrants and refugees in Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960 comes out at a time when the issues it discusses are front and centre: anti-migrant/refugee sentiment fanned by right-wing politicians; the line between “legal” and “illegal” migration; handling mass movements of refugees. The book’s publication also coincides with increasing anxiety in Hong Kong over pressure from Mainland China, still ruled by the Communist Party; many in Hong Kong are descendents of refugees from communism. At the same time, Beijing sees Hong Kong as a haven for opponents of Chinese governments since Sun Yat-sen.
From the late 1940s on there were huge movements of people from Mainland China in to tiny Hong Kong. These movements followed mass migrations at the end of the Japanese occupation of much of China (1931-1945). The largest was the “return east in victory 胜利东流” (1945-1946): millions of wartime exiles returned to eastern and northern China. Simultaneously, several million Japanese were repatriated from China and Taiwan. In 1947 and 1948 millions of peasants were resettled in the Yellow River Valley; they had been driven from their land in 1938 by the flood precipitated by the blowing of the river’s southern dike to stop the Japanese advance. The resettlement project was funded by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency, its largest single project worldwide. Then, as the civil war in China drew to a close in 1949 and the Communist victory was assured, came the flight of two to three million supporters of the losing Guomindang to Taiwan.
Hong Kong, still a British colony, was faced with constant threats from the Mainland. There was no possible military defense, the fresh water supply could be cut at any moment. The territory could be overwhelmed by influxes of people, if conditions on the Mainland worsened; the largest influx came during the famine years in the early 1960s. Still Hong Kong received huge numbers of people, some part of long-running patterns of family and economic migration, some fleeing from the convulsions of the communist revolution: class warfare, land reform, religious persecution, revenge against the Guomindang. The authoritarian government in Beijing did not permit emigration. Hong Kong, with its complex topography (a map would show this) became the only exit from Mainland China. Without official permission people could arrive by train, boat, or on foot; they could even swim through shark-infested waters.
The handling of the mass movements in to Hong Kong offers examples for receiving newcomers. Hong Kong settled the incomers, and found employment, housing, education, and medical care for them. At its highest a third of Hong Kong’s population was of refugee origin. These people, energetic and hard-working, helped fuel the economic boom that would not falter for decades. Through the long process of settlement the Hong Kong authorities had to deal, with greater or lesser grace, with issues that parallel refugee movements into Europe at the moment.
Another perennial issue, distinguishing between legal and illegal migration, was beyond a clear distinction in Hong Kong. People had been moving back and forth across a notional border for a century, usually without papers. The post-1949 migrations had a new aspect. Though all the people coming from the Mainland were referred to as “Chinese,” there were real distinctions between them. Cantonese were quite at home in Hong Kong. People from further north in China, from Shanghai or Beijing, were strangers in Hong Kong and could not settle easily.
Getting on to a third country was very difficult for refugees. All Western countries had immigration policies that were race-based, analyzed in considerable detail in the book. These countries took in postwar refugees from Europe but not from Asia. The few exceptions were the Chinese intellectuals and political figures who were allowed in to the USA. And there was “a difference between exclusionary legislation in theory and in practice” (109). The long practice of getting round immigration laws in North America by ingenious devices such as “paper sons,” or the “loan” of legal documents, continued.
Western governments were hostile to Asian refugees, but the refugees had Western sympathizers, in Hong Kong and in host countries. Missionaries and NGOs highlighted the plight of poverty-stricken refugees and called for government action. The sympathy covered Chinese refugees in the 1950s and 1960s, and reached its peak in the flight of Vietnamese in the 1970s and 1980s. The sympathy was particularly strong in churches, as it still is today with the resettlement of Syrians refugees in Canada.
The definition of “refugee” comes up frequently in this book, as it does to this day. The United Nations Refugee Convention (1951) provides a broad definition, that often clashes with the immigration policies of the signatories to the convention. There is no room in the definition for people who are moving for economic reasons. “Refugee” is also a problem, for the recipients of the designation: the negative connotations of desperate, helpless people. Migrants may want to distinguish themselves from “refugees.” Jim Chu, the former police chief of Vancouver, had difficulty seeing his family members, who left Shanghai for Canada in 1962, as refugees. Much of the problem is with the English term. The Chinese term is simpler; refugees are nanmin 难民 – people in flight from difficulty or adversity, economic, political, religious, or from a natural disaster.
There is an ironic afterword to the race-based policies of host countries that Madokoro describes so well. Many decades later Western race-based immigration policies have morphed in to policies that favour immigrants from Hong Kong and China. Madeleine Hsu’s recent book The Good Immigrant: How the Yellow Peril became the model minority (Princeton University Press, 2017) deals with this turnaround. I hope that Madokoro will continue her work to include more recent periods, to show what became of the Cold War refugees.
Diana Lary, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
MASCULINE COMPROMISE: Migration, Family, and Gender in China. By Susanne Y.P. Choi and Yinni Peng. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016. x, 179 pp. (Map, Illustrations.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28828-7.
Since the 1980s, China has experienced a massive rural to urban migration, during which time rural men and women have found jobs in the big cities, ranging from domestic helpers to factory workers, and from security guards to construction labourers. Masculine Compromise, written by two sociologists, Susanne Y. P. Choi and Yinni Peng, is a feminist examination of how this migration has changed gender dynamics in contemporary China, with a focus on the lives, subjectivities, and emotions of male migrants. Based on numerous interviews conducted by the authors and their research team between 2012 and 2015 in three major migrant destination cities of Guangdong Province (Shenzhen, Dongguan, and Guangzhou), the book is a welcome contribution to masculinity studies in the China field.
The book is divided into eight chapters. Chapter 1 serves as the introduction, and chapter 2 provides a clear history of government policies related to rural-urban migration. Between 1985 and 2003, the Chinese state required rural migrants to register and acquire a temporary-residence certificate from the police station at their urban residence, and did not expect their long-term stay. The public media referred to migrant workers negatively as the “floating population” and “blind drifters.” But in 2003, the state ended the temporary-residence certificate requirement for rural migrants, and began to call them “peasant workers” (nongmin gong) and introduced policies to protect their interests, especially their labour rights.
After providing the historical context, the authors begin to explore the changes that migrant men showed in their understanding of masculinity vis-à-vis conventional gender norms in China. Chapter 3 focuses on the perspective of male migrants as boyfriends. Leaving home enabled these young men to meet and date young women from different parts of the country and experiment with their romantic and sexual fancies, but their parents insisted that they marry women from the same area. Meanwhile, the urban environment also made evident their disadvantageous economic position when competing with better-off urban peers. Reconciliation with parental wishes, the authors argue, is the common solution for these young migrant men. Most of them later married local girls with their parents’ approval, and romantic love became less important than family obligations and practical arrangements.
Chapters 4 and 5 examine migrant men’s understanding of masculinity through their role as husbands. Conventional gender norms require that a woman moves into her husband’s family after marriage, and men work outside and women stay home to act as caretakers. But financial pressures forced husbands and wives to migrate together to look for salary jobs in the city, where they had to negotiate their roles within the conjugal relationship. Migrant men wanted to maintain their dominant position by making distinctions between big and small issues and insisting on making the final decisions on big issues, such as where the family should eventually settle. Most men avoided living with their wives’ families because they believed that a uxorilocal marriage would be a disgrace. On small issues such as the family’s day-to-day finances, men were willing to compromise and let their wives be in charge. The authors also found that men making less money than their wives were likely to resort to physical violence in conjugal disputes to compensate for their sense of inferior manhood. Migrant couples also had to negotiate their housework responsibilities since both of them worked outside the home. While some men still tried to avoid household chores, which they thought were women’s work, those who participated actively in domestic work and childcare legitimatized their unconventional role by “developing a discourse of masculinity that stresses men’s dedication to and care of the family, and their responsibility for maintaining family happiness and marital harmony” (103-104).
Chapter 6 looks at migrant men through their role as fathers and argues that emotionality is the most important component. Migrant fathers who left their children behind did not hide their pain, guilt, anguish, worry, or sorrow. Mobile phones also made it possible for them to stay connected with their sons and daughters. This image forms a sharp contrast with the stereotypical unemotional, commanding, and authoritarian father. Migrant men usually left their children to the care of their parents. Chapter 7 examines how migrant men understood their role as sons. They agreed that filial piety, which means being able to take care of aging parents, comprised the core of masculinity. But their migration status made it difficult for them to personally attend to their parents in times of need. The compromise they found was to obey their parents from afar.
In their conclusion (chapter 8), the authors provide a definition of the concept “masculinity compromise,” which is also the title of the book: “they [migrant men] strive to preserve the gender boundary and their symbolic dominance within the family by making concessions on marital power and domestic division of labor, and by redefining filial piety and fatherhood” (152).
The book is very well organized and clearly written. What I wish that the book could have explored further is the following question: What do these changing gender dynamics tell us about the contemporary Chinese state? As a historian, I also want to ask: Should we attribute the change in gender relations and understandings of masculinity entirely to the migration process beginning in the mid-1980s? What about the achievements in gender equality made during the Mao era, despite the pitfalls pointed out by feminist scholars? These questions aside, I recommend this book to students and scholars of gender studies and Chinese studies, and anyone interested in contemporary China.
Wenqing Kang, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA
TAIWAN’S IMPACT ON CHINA: Why Soft Power Matters More than Economic or Political Inputs. The Nottingham China Policy Institute Series. Editor, Steve Tsang. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. xix, 276 pp. US$129.00, cloth. ISBN 978-3-319-33749-4.
From the title, readers may be curious about what the editor and authors of this collection of papers had in mind. In 1949, the defeated remnants of the nationalist army of the Republic of China retreated to Taiwan, and today the relationship of forces vis-à-vis the People’s Republic of China appears more unequal than ever before.
Editor Steve Tsang sets the stage for the discussion by pointing to one aspect of the relationship that in fact is completely one-sided: as long as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintains its monopoly of power, there will never be even the consideration of the idea of Taiwan as separate from the PRC. To be clear, though the possibility is not imminent, invasion by the People’s Liberation Army would be, strictly speaking, from their point of view, occupation of its own sovereign territory. Also for clarity, the editor reminds us that since the late 1970s, China is post-Mao, not North Korea, and that it would be a mistake to not recognize this fact: dictatorship of a single party, yes, but no longer an all-encompassing totalitarian police state. Around the same time, Taiwan also began to traverse a democratization that today exercises a strong attracting force on the citizens of China (a theme of this book). The most important difference lies in the completeness of the transition in Taiwan, a result that the CCP cannot ignore, and one that will continue to set an important part of the agenda in cross-Strait relations. All of the above is cause for guarded optimism, as reflected in the chapters to follow.
Chapter 2, by Brady, follows up with a revealing panorama of the sensitivities of the CCP in the realm of addressing their Taiwan problem, how (even seemingly every day) discourse must be politically filtered. The extensive catalogue of “suggestions on correct terminology” by the Central Propaganda Department reflects the seriousness of the Party’s concern. A personal favourite of this reviewer is the strict prohibition on using the term “language” to refer to the language most people speak in Taiwan (it should always be called a “dialect”), or referring to the “indigenous people” of the nation (correct term “ethnic minorities”). “Nation” would be completely out of bounds, as would be the correct and proper title of Tsai Ing-wen. Interestingly, the powerful influence of how these boundaries are drawn reaches into the Taiwanese media itself, but then at the same time encounters pushback from Mainland journalists who need to preserve credibility.
Some of the chapters seem to have been written prior to the electoral victory of the Democratic Progressive Party in 2016, which may give the impression of being slightly outdated, but to the contrary, this actually lends a measure of objectivity to the analysis. In the case of chapter 3, by Lin, it allows the chapter to stand above, so to speak, the recent turn of relations and growing tension between the governments of Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.
Despite the implication of the subtitle, the chapters (5 and 6) on the impact on the economy of the PRC are important to study: how the Taiwanese free market economy participated in one of the most important transformations, and not just in terms of scale, of the late twentieth century. With China today on the verge of becoming the world’s leading economic power, it is easy to forget the role played by Taiwan, along with Japan and South Korea, in the infusion of investment capital. In particular, the Chinese-speaking entrepreneurs taught the Mainland enterprises modern business practices, models of efficiency (a bedrock of productivity), and how to transition to a market economy. China can thank Taiwan for a large part of its success with its emerging international supply chains. Applying the so-called “developmental state model” proved to be essential in avoiding the shock and disruption of overthrowing a state-owned economy. It is no coincidence that with the opening of the economy came a gradual reform of the totalitarian political system, despite the continued frustration with its pace and the violent relapses of repression, as in June 1989. For understandable reasons (the frustration, perhaps), many commentators deny this historical link, one that the editor and contributors, to their credit, do not.
Another example can be found in the realm of culture, how China opened the door toward the east, first to Taiwan. The compelling story of how Taiwanese writers and artists found an audience in China beginning with the period of opening under Deng Xiaoping is told in chapters 7 and 8. Parallel to the participation in the liberalization of the economy, they intervened in the literary renaissance, emerging from the dark ages of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. Simple novels and love poems, others sung by Deng Lijun, were a sensation because they weren’t about the model New Man and New Woman, but rather the decadent and ordinary relationship between two individuals. On a related note, see the interesting study by Michelle Yeh of the 1980s Mainland Misty Poets (in this case a minority genre, but not unconnected to the interest in popular literature): “Light a lamp in a rock” (Modern China, 1992 vol. 18).
The book leaves us with a contradiction. On the one hand, given impulse with the passing of the dictators (Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong in 1975 and 1976, respectively), the impact of democratic Taiwan now appears remarkable. The extent of material repercussions such influence might have on PRC society, leading to broad-based questioning of CCP authority, is very hard to gauge. It may turn out to be minimal considering the present conditions of the CCP’s lock on internal political discussion. As Tsang concludes, it’s the soft power, as limited as this turns out to be, that provides for some measure of leverage in cross-Strait interactions and exchanges, keeping these as open as possible.
Norbert Francis, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, USA
THE AGE OF IRREVERENCE: A New History of Laughter in China. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Christopher Rea. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015. xvi, 335 pp. (Illustrations.) US$70.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-28384-8.
Christopher Rea’s new book, The Age of Irreverence, is an extensively researched study of laughter in a modernizing China. While noting roots even further back in history, Rea focuses on the transition and development laughter underwent that he argues began in the late nineteenth century and continued into the first several decades of the twentieth century with the establishment and flourishing of a modern print industry and culture. Beginning with the late Qing and extending to the beginning of open warfare between China and Japan in 1937, Rea describes his notion of laughter as, “denot[ing] a broad spectrum of attitudes and behaviors ranging from amusement to buffoonery to derision” (4). He continues, “The comic cultures of this historical period, I argue, were too heterogeneous to be reducible to a cozy sense of humor defined by ethnicity or nationality. They crossed barriers between high and low, Chinese and foreign, and between genres and modes of production as well” (14). The body of Rea’s study is split into five expansive chapters titled “Jokes,” “Play,” “Mockery,” “Farce,” and “The Invention of Humor.” These chapter headings are also the main analytical categories Rea deploys in his work. Though there is a certain amount of unavoidable overlap between these categories, these distinctions, and perhaps more interesting, the tensions developed between and among them, prove quite useful in elaborating the fertile ground Rea has marked out for his New History of Laughter.
Given the scope and limits of this review, I think it impossible to give a full account of Rea’s achievement in this book, even in summary. Instead, I will provide a mere skeleton in order to leave space for assessment. In a day and age in which publishers and authors frequently produce slim volumes of 150–200 pages, Rea’s book clocks in at 335 pages. I am the last to suggest that length alone is a sign of achievement; however, the weight of the work lies in the extent of the research Rea conducted in order to write this book. Again and again, Rea’s notes cite original publication of works in journals or newspapers and contrast this to one or multiple full-volume editions of the particular work in question (I have to admit, I also burst out laughing when I encountered the “bonus endnote,” number 95 on page 251). Clearly he has devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy into locating and consulting these various sources. Indeed, Rea’s text proper ends on page 165. Fully one-half of the book is end matter, including two very informative appendixes, meticulous notes, glossary, and bibliography. In truth, this is both strength and weakness: Rea’s extensive research is simultaneously exhaustive and exhausting. Yet, the scale of the research displayed in this book will certainly make this the first source any scholar wishing to approach this subject, or one related to it, will reach for.
Likewise, Rea’s close attention to the ways that print media industrial practices influence and inform the cultural practices of laughter is particularly useful. The modality of short forms, such as jokes or anecdotes, match the need for “copy” in journals and newspapers that have a uniform size but inconsistent amounts of articles, advertisements, announcements and so forth, and Rea argues this led to a demand for these genres. This demand, in turn, led to the generic development of literary modes—humor, farce, and so on—which in one way or another were intended to induce laughter. Thus, the overall orientation of the study is towards a chronological development of laughter in modernizing China. He begins then in the late Qing with familiar names such as Wu Jianren and Liang Qichao and gradually proceeds to the 1920s and 1930s to other familiar names such as Lao She and Lin Yutang. Lu Xun, and to a lesser extent Zhou Zuoren, are touchstones throughout the book, constantly invoked as backdrop but rarely if ever the focus of Rea’s attention. Against and alongside these canonical names, Rea places the entertainment industrial complex, including for example the ha-ha mirror of Shanghai’s The Great World amusement park and the fiction of Xu Zhuodai. These groups, so often understood separately in terms of canonicity/non-canonicity, are interlocked in Rea’s discussion, both in terms of their practice of humorous writing and in their arguments concerning humor’s purpose. I have not even broached the subject of Chinese-English or English-Chinese translation of humor that Rea discusses in some detail. There are any number of such contrasts and reshuffling of the standard groupings in our understanding of modern China, and especially in modern Chinese literature, that Rea enacts in his book. And these are the study’s biggest contribution to our understanding of the dynamics involved in China’s modernization.
What Rea does not give his readers, however, is any significant theorizing of the consequences that stem from regrouping the players in China’s cultural modernization in the ways he does in this book. The Age of Irreverence clearly demonstrates that these discourses, in all their various forms, on laughter and humor existed in the period from the late Qing, through the early Republic, and on into the years leading up to the war. What conclusions to draw form the recognition of these discourses is largely left up to the reader. This begs an obvious question: how large or small was the impact of these discourses of humor and laughter on the trajectory of modern China’s development, culturally, politically, aesthetically or in any other way? This question (or others) will have to wait for further analysis before we can address it.
As a side note, as I read the book (in late 2016 and into early 2017) I was reminded over and over of parallels to contemporary American society. Whether it be the alt-right insults of cuck or libtard, or the mockery and farce of liberal comedians such as Jon Stewart, we can find precedents in Rea’s study. The dynamics of this contemporary discourse often seem to mirror that of China a century ago. A theorization of humor’s social and political effects could prove most useful in this regard, so that these tools may be taken up strategically rather than merely haphazardly.
Andrew Stuckey, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
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
SHAKAI KAGAKU TOSHITE NO NIHON GAIKŌ KENKYŪ [JAPANESE FOREIGN POLICY RESEARCH AS SOCIAL SCIENCE]: Riron to Rekishi no Tōgō o Mezashite [Integrating Theory and History]. By Tsuyoshi Kawasaki. Kyoto: Minerva Shobō, 2015. 353 pp. ISBN 978-4-623-07417-4.
This book attempts to reconcile the divide between diplomatic history and international relations (IR) theory in Japanese academia. In order to achieve this aim, the author, Tsuyoshi Kawasaki, provides a comprehensive guide to the study of Japan’s foreign policy that integrates historical analysis with recent advancements in the field of IR theory. Building on his repertoire of articles published in leading journals on Asia-Pacific affairs, Kawasaki’s book is guided by two core interests: first, to employ IR theory in assessing the relevance of Japan’s foreign policy in broader historical comparison; and secondly, to utilize Japan as a case study to contribute to the development of IR theory.
These two objectives shape the structure of this book, comprising nine chapters divided into three parts. Kawasaki launches his study with a detailed introduction of social science research methods, outlining the various qualitative methods available to the study of foreign policy. Rooted in the understanding of theory as critical for the production of abstract knowledge (as opposed to concrete knowledge based on historical analysis), the first part of this book offers a detailed template for the study of causal mechanisms in international relations. The second part of the book is devoted to the application of analytical concepts derived from various branches of IR theory to cases of Japan’s foreign policy. Each chapter is well structured, introducing the reader to the concepts and theories applied before engaging in the case study. The reader is also introduced to the secondary Japanese- and English-language literature on the subjects analyzed. Depending on the case being examined, this literature is accompanied by primary sources in the form of government documents and key strategy papers, oral history accounts, and autobiographies written by key bureaucrats and political elites.
This work is firmly based on qualitative social science research methods. The author employs, for example, operational code analysis in combination with the concept of multilateralism as developed by John Gerald Ruggie to explain Japan’s ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) diplomacy. In so doing, Kawasaki convincingly shows how the competition between three major strategic views (i.e., pacifist, balance-of-power, multilateralist) within Japan’s policy community has informed Tokyo’s approach to the ARF and concludes that Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has promoted ARF-multilateralism to avoid a security dilemma caused by distrust between China, the US, and Japan, while at the same time maintaining Tokyo’s commitment to the US-Japan security alliance. Kawasaki’s study of the Yoshida Line challenges conventional realist analysis of Japan’s postwar foreign policy. A process-tracing/counterfactual study of Japan’s alliance formation (i.e., the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902, the Tripartite Pact of 1940, and the US-Japan alliance of 1951) engages with realist theories of alliance behavior (e.g., bandwagoning and buck-passing). While confirming Stephan Walt’s “balance of threat” theory, which conceives alliances as military instruments, Kawasaki’s study, which is based on an extensive reading of historical diplomatic records, also illustrates how Japan’s alliances have formed out of concerns for political control. Kawasaki’s application of the congruence method to the analysis of the Yoshida Line (which the book distinguishes from the Yoshida Doctrine) as Tokyo’s grand strategy evolving in response to specific changes in Japan’s geostrategic environment (in contrast to domestic politics) confirms postclassical realism. Further expanding his analysis of postwar Japan’s defense strategy, Kawasaki offers a detailed case study of the 1976 National Defense Program Outline as postwar Japan’s first military doctrine. This analysis contributes to the structural realist/social constructivist debate in IR emphasising East Asia’s geostrategic environment and the impact of pacifist norms on national security practice, respectively. Challenging constructivist approaches, such as Elizabeth Kier’s cultural theory on the formation of military doctrine, Kawasaki builds an in-depth analysis of the policy views of leading Japanese defense planners such as Kubo Takuya and Sakata Michio to demonstrate the complex interplay between political leadership and policy ideas in the formation of postwar Japan’s defense posture.
Through his rigorous use of social science research methods, Kawasaki’s well-structured collection of case studies, written in a clear and comprehensible style, succeeds in bridging the divide between historical and theory-driven analysis of Japan’s foreign policy. It introduces Japan as a useful case study in the broader field of IR while at the same time facilitating dialogue between area studies, diplomatic history, and IR theory in Japanese academia. While IR theory is marked by entrenched divides between major theories associated with realism, liberalism, and post-structural approaches, case studies of alliance formation in the analysis of Japanese foreign policy offer an important contribution to the advancement of middle-range theory.
Yet some problems remain. Most importantly, a balanced selection of case studies which include Japan’s foreign economic or human security diplomacy would further our understanding of contemporary Japan’s foreign policy, especially since Tokyo’s formula of a “comprehensive security” has since the early 1980s linked security and economic interests in foreign affairs. Moreover, while a focus on Japan contributes to the realists/constructivists debate on the causes of change and stability in a state’s security practice, the book’s specific use of case studies in the context of this debate requires careful explanation in order to avoid claims of a selection bias. Finally, Kawasaki’s book emphasizes mainstream US-centered IR theory provided in journals such as International Security, which leaves untapped the many critical approaches developed in Europe, including securitization theory, peace and conflict studies, or English school approaches to international society in such journals as the European Journal of International Relations. Kawasaki also makes no mention of the vital debate on unique traditions in Japanese IR scholarship that has unfolded since the early 2000s.
Incorporating such perspectives would have produced a comprehensive guide to the study of Japan’s foreign and security affairs and enriched the dialogue between Japan experts and IR scholars. Nevertheless, offering a template for foreign policy research, this book should be recommended reading for students and scholars of Japan and IR alike. Kawasaki voices his concerns over a “marginalization” (p. 7) of Japan’s domestic foreign policy research community; this study will surely help forestall such trends by encouraging participation in international IR debate and the employment of new social science research methods in Japan.
Sebastian Maslow, Kobe University, Kobe, Japan
SINO-JAPANESE POWER POLITICS: Might, Money and Minds. By Giulio Pugliese, Aurelio Insisa. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. xiv, 146 pp. CAD$54.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-59553-9.
In a welcome trend, English-language scholarship on Sino-Japanese relations has grown quantitatively and qualitatively in recent years. This vital relationship raises all kinds of interesting questions for students of international relations. The Palgrave pivot book by Pugliese and Insisa contributes to this area of inquiry by focusing on the diplomatic relationship between Beijing and Tokyo since the September 2012 nationalization of the three isles of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.
The nationalization of the disputed isles by the Noda government in September 2012, as a pivotal event in a series of actions and reactions between the two governments, triggered a tense standoff with Beijing. Pugliese and Insisa conclude that since the nationalization move, the bilateral relationship has been at its lowest point since diplomatic normalization in 1972. I would argue that the current relationship is the worst it has been since 1952 because of the present danger of military clashes and the arms race. I agree with the authors that the bilateral relationship has stabilized at a new low since the end of 2014.
Pugliese and Insisa argue in the conclusion chapter that they have advanced a neo-classical realist argument. But they state early on in the book, “this study is open ended to the variety of Realism that best describes the Japanese and Chinese foreign policy” (50). They do not clarify why they choose neo-classical realism, rather than alternative realist theories, to explain Sino-Japanese relations at this stage. Indeed, the book does not define neo-classical realism for those who may not be as familiar with terminologies used by international relations scholars. Neo-classical realism is commonly associated with Gideon Rose’s October 1998 World Politics review article. It seeks to combine the “classical realism” represented by Hans Morgenthau in the 1950s and the “structural realism or neorealism” represented by Kenneth Waltz at the end of the 1970s, essentially calling for a broader realist perspective that incorporates systemic, psychological, and domestic variables.
This book treats neo-classical realism as a loose theoretical framework. To single out a particular realist approach, one would expect a sharper analysis. It would have been better to stick to the “power politics” in the book’s title. Pugliese and Insisa are correct in stating that power politics matter a great deal in current Sino-Japanese relations. But the book’s subtitle suggests possible alternative explanations. Pugliese attributes the book’s subtitle to David Lampton’s work on Chinese foreign policy (The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money, and Minds, University of California Press, 2008). Lampton has a far broader definition of might, money, and minds than what is presented in this book.
Pugliese and Insisa dismiss alternative arguments too quickly. About identity politics, they conclude that “identity formation is increasingly rooted on the instrumentalism proper of the Realpolitik of Sino-Japanese power politics over the Diaoyu/Senkaku standoff, but this is a reification of the underlying power shift to unbalanced multipolarity, contributing to the mix of insecurities and assertiveness on both sides” (30–31). Virtually no IR scholars dismiss the importance of power and power politics. But those scholars who focus on ideational factors want to know how the idea of power is constructed in the first place. Empirically, since 2012, identity politics and power politics have pointed in the same direction and have reinforced each other, but that does not mean that they have always been in sync.
On the economic front, Pugliese and Insisa use identity politics to dismiss commercial liberalism, stating that “both contemporary Sino-Japanese relations and fin de siècle European interstate relations share a major weakness, the destabilizing and parallel influences of irrational threat perceptions, usually fed by nationalistic sentiments” (81). Their focus is on economic statecraft and they use national capabilities to compete and potentially damage one’s adversaries. However, that is only part of the economic story between China and Japan, as indeed between any countries. The authors are surely right that economic ties have not helped as much as one would expect, but they are too quick to dismiss the impact of broad economic relations on how the two governments define their national interests and thus choose to behave.
This book makes a valuable contribution by discussing in great detail the two governments’ propaganda wars, in East Asia and the world. The book gets off to a strong start with a discussion of the competing narratives as symbolized in the national events around August and September 2015, victory day for China and end of war day for Japan. This aspect of Sino-Japanese interaction reveals a major departure from post-1972 relations. The book’s analysis of the top-down, state-led antagonistic narratives is refreshing and accurate. China’s propaganda institutions and campaigns are well known. But as Pugliese and Insisa recognize, a strong nationalistic current exists in Japan as well. The Japanese government also manipulates imagery to gain advantage. “State-crafted narratives may purposefully simplify, if not altogether bend, real-world complexity for the same aims … Tokyo’s repeated reference to the contested concept of the international rule of law is a case in point” (13). At the same time, we should recognize the existing, long-held public sentiment that the two governments use and manipulate to advance their national objectives.
Several chapters in the book appear to rely mainly on material from previous publications. Chapters 2 and 3 are repetitive because they are based on two previous annual survey articles published by Pugliese (“Japan 2014: Between a China Question and a China Obsession” and “Japan 2015: Confronting East Asia’s Geopolitical Game of Go”) listed in the acknowledgment of the book. There was little fundamental change between those two years. The title of chapter 2 mentions identity politics, but its core focus remains power politics, similar to that of chapter 3. Both chapters present a first section on the territorial dispute and power transition and start the following section with the term “neo-classical realism.” Then, to some extent chapter 4 on “might” repeats what was said in the previous two chapters. It would have been better to consolidate these three chapters.
Ming Wan, George Mason University, Arlington, USA
THE PROLETARIAN WAVE: Literature and Leftist Culture in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 374. By Sunyoung Park. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2015. xiv, 333 pp.,  pp. of plates. (Illustrations.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-41717-5.
Sunyoung Park’s The Proletarian Wave is a remarkably detailed history of leftist cultural movements in colonial Korea and a penetrating work of criticism that provides new ways to connect literary representation with the political and social problems of capitalism and colonialism. It is an impressive work of scholarship, bringing together the best of Korean-language archival and historical work on the Japanese colonial period (1910–1945), broader questions about anarchism, nationalism, and gender in Marxian cultural and intellectual history, and adept and illuminating readings of literary and critical texts of leftist writers in colonial Korea.
Park’s book is very steeped in the South Korean scholarship on colonial-period leftist writers that has blossomed in the last thirty years with democratization, including the many works by Kim Yoon-sik and his students. In taking up some of the insights of this work, but simultaneously connecting it to postcolonial theory, Third World cultural movements, and feminism, she deftly translates for an Anglophone readership the global cultural significance of works of “leftist” literature that were previously dismissed as naïve or simplistically nationalistic. She rightly criticizes previous characterizations by Michael Robinson, Brian Myers, and Tatiana Gabroussenko, all of whom argue that Korean intellectuals did not properly comprehend or apply Marxist, socialist, or communist ideology and were prone to nativist and antimodern perspectives. After reading Park’s comprehensive study, which traverses the aesthetic debates and literary texts from across the political spectrum of the left—from anarchism to Korea Artista Proleta Federatio (KAPF) to “fellow travellers”—it should be impossible to monolithically characterize or dismiss this literature in such a way, or to assume that writers such as Ch’oe Sŏhae, Yi Kiyŏng, Kang Kyŏngae, Kim Namch’ŏn, Kim Kijin, Im Hwa, and Yŏm Sangsŏp were not involved in serious and important debates about representation, proletarianization, uneven development, everyday life, gendered labour, migration, nationalism, and a host of other issues that still concern Marxian scholars. Rather than assuming that the differences or incongruent elements introduced in the translation of “orthodoxy” are an effect of a cultural or intellectual lack, Park shifts the focus to the underlying economic and social structure of Korea (an industrializing colony) and to the complexities of translating universalist models of history or politics into a politically complex and crisis-ridden socioeconomic situation.
Two of Park’s successful strategies are to expand our understanding of leftist literature beyond KAPF and to pay attention to the slipperiness of a term like “proletariat” in the context of colonial Korea. In part 1, “Backgrounds,” she provides a clear and useful synthesis of the historical works on the emergence of socialist and communist movements in colonial Korea, but also provides a convincing historical and theoretical account of how colonialism brought particular challenges to these movements and why culture then became the primary arena for leftist politics. If leftist literature in Korea was unorthodox, nationalist, and focused on the cultural realm, it was in part because the orthodoxy of the Comintern did not allow for autonomous communist parties in colonized countries. Part 2, “Landscapes,” continues this thread of argument on orthodoxy by convincingly making the case that we turn our attention to the centrality of anarchist ideas of mutual aid and anti-authoritarianism, as well as the variety of realist representations of modernity by feminists and “fellow travelers”—all of which have something significant to say about a still largely rural and nonindustrial colonial society. This part also provides a very detailed discussion of the complex history of the translation and iteration of concepts of the “proletariat.” It also connects the aesthetic approaches of leftist literatures to the broader context of literary publication, including naturalism and cultural nationalism, in order to bring out the precise contributions and critiques made by leftist writers at the level of representation and aesthetic experience. Part 3, “Portraits,” exhibits Park’s skillful close readings and provides fresh approaches to Yŏm Sangsŏp’s penetrating realism, Kang Kyŏngae’s representations of gendered labour and exploitation, and Kim Namch’ŏn’s ironic treatment of everyday life under totalitarian rule.
Park’s book addresses some of the same texts and problems that appear in my own monograph, and I was pleasantly surprised to find theoretical resonances, and even some similarly chosen passages from literary works, in two manuscripts written without any collaboration or exchange of drafts. Approached from my own concerns, two things I thought the book could have discussed in more detail are 1) the role of Japanese-language texts in the circulation of socialist and communist ideas and 2) the ways Marxists were able to reconcile their ideas about world history with Japanese imperialism, particularly in the early 1940s (the book title suggests that it covers the late colonial period). On the other hand, in shifting the focus from Japanese colonial and imperial discourse and the mediation of the Japanese colonial state to the rich history of Korean-language texts of the cultural left, the virtue of Park’s text and approach is that she is able to properly flesh out the breadth, depth, and intellectual complexity of the Korean-language archive like no other Anglophone monograph on colonial Korea has yet done, to my knowledge.
Travis Workman, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA
JAPAN’S SECURITY RENAISSANCE: New Policies and Politics for the Twenty-First Century. Contemporary Asia in the World. By Andrew L. Oros. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. xxii, 272 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-023-117260-8.
In his examination of recent developments in Japanese security thinking, Andrew Oros employs the metaphor of “renaissance,” harking back to the florescence of art, science, and philosophy which occurred between the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries in Europe. Drawing several parallels (3–7) between this transformative historical movement and the state of contemporary Japanese security discourse, he finds that “Japan’s security renaissance is evident in the broad discussions of contending approaches to security and in a new openness to acting upon different ideas about how Japan should best provide for its security” (2). Further, “[i]t represents an innovative melding of old and new ideas aimed at adapting Japan’s security practices to a changing domestic and international environment” (2). This metaphor thus serves as a loose overarching framework for the following exposition of the author’s thesis that a “security-identity” approach, anchored in the constructivist tradition of international relations, best captures the changes that are transpiring in Japanese policy.
The book is divided into five chapters and a conclusion. The first two chapters are by way of an extended introduction to the book’s argument for the primacy of a “security identity” approach in understanding how Japan’s security policies are debated and implemented. Chapter 1 outlines in detail the constituents of this security identity, in which, according to the author, three historical legacies play “an outsized role” in determining Japan’s security future (3). These include: “contested memories of the Pacific War and Japanese colonialism”; “postwar antimilitarist constraints on Japan’s defense establishment”; and “the security alliance with the United States” (24-32). Chapter 2 then tracks the evolution of Japanese security policy, from its postwar origins to its more recent attempts at moving toward a “normal” nation, in light of the three factors above. Chapter 3 provides a tour d’horizon of the current challenges faced by Japan’s strategic policy makers, amid the shifting geopolitical tectonics in Northeast Asia, including its own relative decline, and that of its principal ally: the US, measured against the rise of China, simmering North Korean belligerency, and fractious relations with the ROK. Chapters 4 and 5 then chart how successive governments have sought to adapt to these changed circumstances, from the periods 2006 to 2012, and 2012 to 2016. The book finishes by examining the implications of, and next steps in, Japan’s security renaissance. His conclusion is that “like the European renaissance, the past continues to deeply inform Japan’s security future—and to limit Japan’s strategic options” (169).
The renaissance metaphor is apt and well justified, but quickly gives way to the core thesis of the book. Oros explains that Japan’s security renaissance must be seen as a response to changes in the international environment, filtered through security identity, and this is refracted through a distinct set of policies, institutions, and practices (figure 1.1, 17). This constructivist (or “ideational”) approach, which Oros initiated in his previous book, now appears to have come of age as a convincing alternative to heretofore dominant realist (or “materialist”) accounts. As such, his argument and those of other notable constructivist scholars working on Japan, such as Peter Katzenstein and Yasuo Takao, is juxtaposed with notions of “Reluctant Realism” (Michael Green) and “Resentful Realism” (Christopher Hughes), and with the short-lived liberalist approach put forward by Thomas Berger and Mike Mochizuki some years ago. In this it echoes a paradigmatic shift in the international relations discipline: moving away from the “traditionalist” approaches of realism and liberalism toward “reflectivist” approaches, primarily constructivism. And with Japan as a case study, Oros makes a compelling argument for its explanatory power. Nevertheless, I would still stress the continued importance of the realist and liberalist approaches to providing a truly composite picture (so-called “analytical eclecticism”). Though readers may not subscribe to the primacy accorded to the constructivist approach employed by the author, the actual content of his analysis is largely in accord with mainstream understandings of what is occurring in the realm of Japanese security policy making. Chapters 3 and 4, on domestic politics, are especially valuable to readers seeking to acquire a collated picture of the intricate and sometimes perplexing array of political shifts that have occurred over the last decade or so: the frenetic pace of security legislation, alongside the emergence of new parties and splinter groups. Consequently this reader found little to critique, except that while Oros does briefly mention Tokyo’s acquisition of a range of new security partners (92-94, bundling them in with multilateral security architecture), he does not pursue this topic further. This is regrettable since these more-limited security relationships—so-called “strategic partnerships”—remain in comparative infancy in relation to the crucial US-alliance; however, they do in fact represent a major departure in Tokyo’s security practice, and should command greater attention as an integral part of the security renaissance.
Overall, the book is well written and argued throughout, and comprehensive in its coverage of both the empirical data and theoretical literature. Like his earlier work, this book is well supplied with useful appendices and is clearly the product of extensive in-field research in Japan. The book thus serves as a useful compendium for those looking to aggregate and make sense of both the prolific policy activity that has emanated from recent Japanese governments, and the mass of academic literature that has accompanied it. For those teaching Japanese foreign/security policy, this book will be a valuable addition to recommended readings, as it provides a welcome update on the earlier, seminal works of Kenneth Pyle and Richard Samuels, which appeared around a decade ago.
Thomas Wilkins, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
HOMECOMINGS: THE BELATED RETURN OF JAPAN’S LOST SOLDIERS. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Yoshikuni Igarashi. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. viii, 302 pp. (Illustrations.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-17770-2.
When the Great Japanese Empire ceased to exist in August 1945, its borders—stretching from New Guinea to Alaska—instantly shrank to the shores of the Japanese archipelago. The soldiers and civilians who had expanded and defended the empire, however, could hardly return home as swiftly as the imperial boundaries shifted. The majority of over six million Japanese subjects repatriated in the months after the war’s end, but for thousands of others the way home was long. As the nation slowly picked itself up from the ravages of war, there remained hundreds of thousands of Japanese stranded in the snowy plains of Siberia, the caves of the Pacific Islands, and the jungles of Southeast Asia.
Yoshikuni Igarashi’s Homecomings is a poignant investigation of the delayed repatriations of these “lost soldiers” from various outposts of the erstwhile empire, and what they meant for post-World War II Japanese society. The book presents a patchwork of soldiers’ stories woven together by the thread of their struggles to reintegrate into postwar community. Igarashi organizes this rich material around the lives of five former servicemen who found themselves trapped in the past. Their peregrinations were unique, yet also revealing about the travails of many thousands of Japanese and other soldiers in the Second World War. Igarashi’s analysis of the cultural milieu in which the straggling soldiers found themselves upon return to the “new Japan” is penetrating, and his accounts of these soldiers’ odysseys come alive in the diverse material he draws from. Homecomings will be an important addition to the recent wave of histories of imperial aftermath, the expanding literature documenting the “human flows” in the wake of the second global conflict in East Asia.
In seven core chapters, Homecomings follows the hardships endured by those Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) servicemen for whom the war did not end in August 1945, and the twisted paths along which they retraced their way back home. In chapter 1, Igarashi introduces the book’s analytical framework. He dissects seminal cinematic works that relate the repatriates’ struggles to reintegrate into postwar society, Kurosawa Akira’s Stray Dog and Gosho Heinosuke’s Yellow Crow. The remaining six chapters can then be split into two by an imaginary line on the empire’s map, dividing it into “north” and “south.” Thus chapters 2, 3, and 4 document the former imperial servicemen’s travails in and return from “the north”: the puppet kingdom of Manchukuo in northeastern China, and the cold brutal expanses of Soviet Siberia. Chapters 5, 6, and 7, in contrast, retell the stories of Yokoi Shōichi in Guam, Onoda Hiro’o in the Philippines, and Nakamura Teruo (a.k.a. Shiniyuwu/Li Guanghui) in Indonesia. All of these paths eventually come together in postwar Japan.
What warrants the inclusion of these seemingly opposite experiences in a single volume? What did the soldiers scattered across the face of the erstwhile empire have in common except the IJA uniforms they once wore (and continued to wear, as Onoda did)? It is true that before their return to postwar Japan, the soldiers’ experiences differed greatly. The captives in Siberian camps endured hardships in brutal conditions, breaking their backs at worksites with little equipment or nutrition, whereas the stragglers in the southern islands mainly lived as hermits, devising their own survival in isolation from the outside world.
It is Igarashi’s analysis of the returnees’ post-repatriation lives, his examination of how domestic media and society represented them, and the repatriates’ own attempts to influence these representations that bind the book together. Homecomings maps the repatriates’ journeys in a postwar cultural landscape, laying bare the contrast between the sanitized domestic views of the war and the raw experiences of the stragglers. Looking into a range of multi-layered cultural products and employing symbols that reflect Japanese society’s complicated relationship with its past, Igarashi obviates the gulf between the home society that has “moved on,” and the “lost soldiers” who simply cannot leave the past behind. Most poignantly, the book demonstrates how the returning soldiers often became passive instruments in this process of sanitizing the past: “Being a repatriated soldier is no longer an incurable or hard-to-treat illness but a condition that one can conquer through willpower” (27).
There are bound to be challenges when a single volume addresses a history that spans so many years as well as miles. The “northern” chapters contain some facts that are difficult to verify. Chapter 3 puts the number of Japanese captives and casualties in the USSR at “between 700,000 and 800,000 prisoners and more than 100,000 deaths” (81). The exact number of captives and deaths is notoriously difficult to pinpoint—even Soviet archival documents contradict each other—and often changes depending on how you count. Still, the consensus based on Soviet archives puts the number of prisoners between 594,000 and 640,000, and the deaths at around 60,000. Besides numbers, there are other minor inaccuracies; thus on page 55, Igarashi dates the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration at November 1954, whereas it was in fact signed on 19 October 1956. And while it is very difficult to accurately summarize such a complex event as the Siberian Internment in a single chapter, Igarashi’s otherwise balanced representation tends at times to favour the traditionally emotional depictions of “Siberia” as nothing but a realm of extreme suffering. For example, Igarashi cites Shimizu Ikutarōs’s simplistic idea about fear as the root of Japanese compromise vis-à-vis the USSR (105). This rules out the possibility that many Japanese—Siberian captives or domestic leftists—might in fact have been attracted to the Soviet ideology and way of life. Dozens of applications for Soviet citizenship written by Siberian internees, now kept in the State Archive of the Russian Federation, testify that there were in fact those who viewed the Soviet Union not as hell on earth, but as a “workers’ paradise.”
These issues cannot overshadow the importance of the book and its contribution to the growing body of work on the transnational entanglements in the wake of Japan’s imperial collapse and its remaking as the United States’ most important ally in East Asia during the Cold War and beyond. This eloquent volume will no doubt become a work to which diverse audiences—scholars, students, and general readers with an interest in the complex events of the past—will turn repeatedly to draw lessons about modern Japan’s pained relationship with the vestiges of its failed empire.
Sherzod Muminov, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
BURNT BY THE SUN: The Koreans of the Russian Far East. Perspectives on the Global Past. By Jon K. Chang. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. x, 273 pp. (Illustrations.) US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5678-6.
Burnt by the Sun depicts the fates of ethnic Koreans in the Russian Far East from the late nineteenth century until their deportation to Central Asia. The book is based on extensive archival research in Russia, Japan, and the US, as well as on interviews with some sixty surviving Korean deportees in Central Asia. The book makes an original contribution to the debate on the nature of Soviet nationality policies. The main objective of the book is to prove that the ethnic policies of the Soviet Union were not only based on ideology and security considerations, as previous research has maintained, but rather stemmed mainly from the “Tsarists continuities” that fed Russian chauvinism and colonial attitudes towards the border regions, and that regarded nationalities as primordial racial categories. At the same time, the book aims to convince the reader of the loyalty of local ethnic Koreans to the Soviet Union, and tries to rectify their unjust labelling as an enemy nation.
The book is chiefly organized in a chronological manner, stretching from 1863 until the early 1940s. After the introduction, the second chapter (1863–1917) serves to lay the ground for the argument about Tsarist continuities. It traces the shift from the label “Yellow labour” to “Yellow peril,” a term that came to denote not only the Japanese, but also the Chinese and the Koreans who lived in the Russian Far East. It also shows how the ethnicity of diasporic groups became equated with political allegiance during periods of crisis. The next chapter deals with the period of Japan’s intervention, and it describes vividly the different groups of Koreans who lived and worked in the Soviet Far East during that time: early agricultural settlers who had already developed a local identity and loyalty towards Soviet Russia, more recent waves of Korean immigrants inspired by the promises of the new Soviet Russia, Koreans who had fled from Japanese occupation, and those who were recruited from the Korean Peninsula and Japan to serve the local Japanese rulers. As the author shows, the Soviet leaders were unable to differentiate between these various groups, which led to the image of all Koreans having aided and abetted the Japanese occupation, although many of them had, for example, fought and died in the ranks of the Red Army.
The next two chapters deal with the Soviet indigenization or korenization policy, which allowed ethnic minorities to establish autonomous regions at various administrative levels, and invited them to participate in the society and administration to remake them as “Soviet people.” The policy was based on the principle of “national in form, socialist in content.” The author shows how the Koreans were able to excel in their educational pursuits, and describes their devoted contributions towards local affairs. Their success is mainly described as a result of the affirmative policies, but here, it would have been interesting to know to what extent the Korean Confucian traditions contributed to their laudatory performance. The successful integration of ethnic Koreans into Chinese society has been explained by their Confucian traditions that emphasize education and service in the government.
The sixth and seventh chapters focus on the policies and developments that led to the deportation of Koreans from the Soviet Far East to Central Asia. These chapters bring up the contradictory, if not schizophrenic, features of this period, when race-based deportations were planned and undertaken, and purges took place despite ethnically tolerant socialist korenization policies. In spite of being an exemplary minority, ethnic Koreans were regarded as a security threat because of their birth, and as aliens who could not possibly become loyal Soviet citizens. The Koreans were the first Soviet nationality to face total deportation. However, the author has found earlier undiscovered evidence of some two thousand Koreans who were able to stay on the Northern Sakhalin Island and work for Soviet-Japanese companies. According to the author, this proves that the nationality policies were not solely based on ideology, but also pure economic calculations, which affected the complex policy implementation process. The last chapter before the book’s conclusion provides a brief description of the author’s fieldwork in Central Asia.
While the author has produced valuable work in putting together the narrative of Soviet Koreans in the wider context of ethnic purges in the Soviet Union, the reader might still have appreciated better editorial efforts to make the text more fluent and its structure more cohesive. It is intermittently difficult to follow the story, and reading the first half of the book requires detailed knowledge of the history of the two World Wars. Moreover, additional maps and tables about the number of Koreans would have brought more clarity. Occasionally, the author’s aim to prove the loyalty of the Soviet Koreans results in repetitive content. Sometimes the author relies on generalizations which undermine the strength of the argument, in statements like, “all [Koreans] were acting out of loyalty to the state” (143).
To sum up, the book is a rich micro-history of the construction and purge of the Soviet Korean nationality in the multicultural, geopolitically complex Soviet Far East. In addition to an academic readership, this book will also fascinate readers with an interest in East Asian and Russian political and military history. With regard to the increasing xenophobia in the Russian Far East towards Chinese immigrants, the “Tsarist continuities” theory provides a useful framework for an analysis of contemporary developments in the region.
Outi Luova, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
THE JAPANESE EMPIRE: Grand Strategy from the Meiji Restoration to the Pacific War. By S.C.M. Paine. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017. xi, 210 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$24.99, paper. ISBN 978-0-107-67616-9.
S.C.M. Paine of the Naval War College builds on her well-regarded books on Imperial Russia and China to complete her tryptic on the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century grand strategies of Northeast Asia with this compelling short study of Imperial Japan. The overall thesis is not new—that Japan tragically shifted from a maritime strategy in the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars to an unwinnable continental strategy aimed at an elusive Chinese centre of gravity in the wars from 1931 to 1945. This misguided continentalism was identified by Masataka Kosaka in the 1960s and more recently by Makoto Iokibe, and it was anticipated as far back as the eighteenth century by Tokugawa scholar Shihei Hayashi. However, what Paine brings is a fresh comparative treatment at a time when echoes of past imperial rivalries are again shaping the international relations of East Asia.
The Japanese Empire captures the rise and fall of Japanese maritime strategy over time while applying a critical template to Japanese grand strategy in each of the separate wars between 1894 and 1941. One can imagine how this would suit the Naval War College curriculum perfectly, but professors of history and international relations will also find it useful in their own graduate and undergraduate courses on East Asia. For that reason, I will probably slot this in for my courses either as a supplement to, or in lieu of, W.G. Beasley’s authoritative 1987 volume on Japanese imperialism.
In Paine’s account of Japan’s imperial wars certain themes recur. Each of the conflicts began with a surprise attack before a formal declaration of war (something planners at the Naval War College warned about in the decades before Pearl Harbor). Each of the conflicts aimed at overturning the regional balance of power by replacing China, then Russia, and then the United States as the dominant regional power. Each conflict also produced a new enemy as imperial rivals were dispatched. And each conflict profoundly changed the balance of power within Japan.
Thus, Japan’s strategic approach shifted in the early- to mid-twentieth century from a focus on maritime control to a focus on continental control, where Japan steadily lost its competitive edge. The Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars were a narrow victory, but Japan prevailed through superior definition of objectives and unity of command. By the China wars of the 1930s, that unity of command was crumbling as competing army and navy priorities crippled Japan’s early advantages over her adversaries. War termination became impossible to define as Japan struggled after 1937 to knock China out by alternately capturing the capital of Nanjing, destroying the Nationalist Army, attacking the economy, and suppressing insurgencies. Each successive assault on China’s perceived centre-of-gravity met with a measure of tactical success, but never a strategic outcome. Meanwhile, Japan only made its own centre of gravity more vulnerable: the Japanese economy stalled, nationalism within China rose to levels previously unseen, and ultimately Japan found itself in a suicidal war with the United States that resulted in the complete collapse of Japan’s maritime security. Paine takes the reader through this evolution with a clarity and cadence that make the book hard to put down. One cannot help but think of the perils maritime powers have always faced in continental wars, from the invasion of Sicily by Athens to the Vietnam War.
The great strength of The Japanese Empire—situating the evolution of Japanese grand strategy in the geopolitics of Northeast Asia and applying a grand strategy test to each conflict—may also be the source of the few weaknesses in the volume. Paine describes the book as an effort to “turn inside out” her previous work on Imperial Russia and China, and a welcome contribution that is. But in certain places Paine takes shortcuts to describe Japan’s strategic culture that do not do justice to the contents of the book. On the first page, for example, Japan’s objectives in the wars from 1894 to 1945 are defined as containing “the march of Russian imperialism into Asia that became the march of Communist Imperialism post-1917”—a description belied by the twists and turns that follow. Chapter 4, on the transition from a maritime to a continental security paradigm, is the most important in the book and does an excellent job isolating factors such as the external environment and the loss of strategic cohesion caused by the death of the Meiji oligarchs. Yet this pivotal chapter also tosses in state Shintoism as an ideological driver without connecting it to the core theme of the demise of maritime strategy (Imperial Navy ships were also blessed by Shinto priests, for example). The Japanese Empire is on very strong footing when unpacking the structural and material drivers of Japanese grand strategy, but somewhat less so when trying to account for ideational factors.
I suspect, though, that Paine was not trying to write the definitive book on the domestic sources of Japanese strategic culture. In a tightly argued 187-page monograph, she has arguably done something more useful for the general student of global history and international relations, and that is to place an earlier and more tragic era of Japanese grand strategy into a context that has obvious if unspoken implications for East Asia today. As Paine notes in the final line of the conclusion, Japan and her neighbours have yet to overcome the consequences of the wars from 1894 to 1945. This is certainly true and we will likely live with the challenge for decades more. The more interesting contemporary application of Paine’s history is to the emerging maritime grand strategies of Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping. Abe is evoking a strategy in which Japan defends its maritime approaches while upholding a maritime-based neoliberal order, which Paine rightly notes has always been “positive-sum,” and which, for all its many flaws, “is the only world order that benefits all who join because its laws and institutions are designed to promote economic growth in order to create wealth” (178).
The maritime strategy relies on alliances, and the core of Japan’s modern approach is to deepen the alliance with the United States and like-minded maritime powers rather than break away in search of autarky again. It is this aspect of Japan’s emerging grand strategy that many of Abe’s critics have missed as they focus on the seeming links to Japan’s predatory prewar strategy. But, as Paine emphasizes, Japan’s prewar strategy was flawed precisely because it had shifted away from a maritime focus.
Meanwhile, Xi has articulated and programmed for a maritime strategy that looks in the South China Sea like it could be the antithesis of a positive-sum and rules-based vision of a maritime order. But then, Chinese strategists could learn from this book as well. For if maritime powers risk destroying their domestic democracy and stability by engaging in protracted wars on the continent, continental powers have also created the conditions for their own demise when seeking to dominate at sea: think of Imperial Germany’s contest with Britain or the Soviet Union’s failed attempt to challenge the Pacific at the end of the Cold War.
These questions are well beyond the scope of The Japanese Empire, but are precisely the kind of strategic thinking this highly readable volume will prompt.
Michael J. Green, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA
Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC, USA
RADIATION BRAIN MOMS AND CITIZEN SCIENTISTS: The Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima. By Aya Hirata Kimura. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. xiv, 210 pp. (Table, maps, illustration.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6199-2.
The triple disaster and especially the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plants on March 11, 2011 posed and still pose serious problems to food safety, the livelihoods of Tohoku farmers and citizen trust in government institutions and the nuclear industry. However, six years after the triple disaster, the Japanese government assures its citizens and the international community that the situation at the destroyed reactors, as well as radiation in air, soil, and food, is under control thanks to continued decontamination efforts and new food safety thresholds for radionuclides. Accordingly, there is nothing to worry about ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Aya Hirata Kimura’s book on the politics of food contamination in post-Fukushima Japan challenges this proposition. She subtly shows how the government, together with economic and civil society actors, worked hard to achieve a quick solution and to construct an endpoint for the radiation problem. This was achieved with a particular type of food policing that emerged from the interplay of neoliberalism, post-feminism, and scientism. The book focuses on how this food policing affected the everyday lives of concerned citizens and especially women and parents. Kimura discusses how their worries about possible radioactive contamination of school lunches and food in general were silenced by discrediting and ridiculing them as irrational “radiation brain moms” (hōshanō mama, a pun with the words for radiation and brain) who spread harmful rumors (fūhyō higai) and were suspected of questioning and undermining national solidarity, progress, and reconstruction. Drawing on the concept of food policing, which “refers to the censoring of people’s concerns about food safety in the name of science, risk analysis, and economy,” Kimura analyzes “the complicated relationship between citizen science and politics in post-Fukushima Japan” (5). She asks what happened to those citizens and citizen scientists who challenged the picture of normalcy, why they did not play a larger role in the antinuclear movement and why food did not become an effective rallying point for social movements in post-Fukushima Japan.
This timely and well-researched book is the second monograph by gender and food sociologist Aya Hirata Kimura. Based on the author’s deep knowledge of scholarship from science and technology studies (STS), food studies, and gender studies, this empirically saturated study is grounded in extensive fieldwork in Japan from 2011 to 2014. In five chapters, the author presents exciting and often disturbing insights into (1) gendered food policing in Japan; (2) women’s and civil society’s role in radiation risk communication; (3) the school lunch movement; (4) the emergence and activities of citizen radiation monitoring organizations (CRMOs); and (5) the temporality of CRMOs and radioactive contaminants. Drawing on interviews with activists from the school lunch movement, members of 65 CRMOs and (local) government officials, their perspectives, experiences, and realities are captured in this book and provide strong evidence for the author’s claims. Most importantly, Kimura argues that the understanding of post-Fukushima dynamics would be severely limited if it were simply seen as a case of effective government information control that silenced citizen scientists. Rather, it is the notion of the citizen itself that has changed and constrained citizen activism and citizen scientists due to a combination of the broader forces of neoliberalism, scientism, and post-feminism. This has led to collaborations between civil society and the government, the idea of individuals’ self-responsibility in coping with risks, and has reinforced notions of citizenship that largely excluded political activism as inappropriate, especially for women. Instead, they are “expected to act in accordance with dominant scientific knowledge and as rational economic beings and to eat foods despite safety concerns so as not to disturb economic prosperity” (5). CRMOs were founded against the backdrop of the government’s risk communication efforts that increasingly included local women, because of people’s distrust in the Japanese government’s claim that food on the market was safe. Although they claimed they were apolitical and only interested in testing food, Kimura calls their practices “survival politics” and stresses their subversive character. However, due to the temporality of contamination and financial difficulties, the number of CRMOs has been declining since 2013. Kimura argues not only that this is a great loss for a society not immune from radiation threats, but that CRMOs ought to be considered a feature of the normal governance of food safety.
Because of its interdisciplinary character, this book contributes to conversations in many scholarly fields, such as gender studies, food studies, STS, Japanese studies, and the study of social movements and civil societies. Unimpressed by disciplinary boundaries, Kimura gives a full account of the complexity of the issues she addresses by creating cross-disciplinary linkages that help readers to see the radioactive contamination of food in post-Fukushima Japan from new and multiple perspectives. And this is not only a book on Japan: Kimura situates and connects post-Fukushima Japan with previous nuclear disasters and the international radiation governance system. In a more general sense, this book stands out, because it reminds us that scholarship is never objective, that social science scholars have to position themselves and that the thin line between scholarship and activism is often blurred. The greatest achievement of this book, however, is to give the marginalized women and citizen scientists a voice outside of Japan.
In summary, this book is a must-read for everyone who is interested in the perspectives of concerned citizens in post-Fukushima Japan and their strategies to cope with the government’s and other actors’ pressure to return to normal, as well as for scholars and students of Japan and food safety and social movement researchers. For scholars of Japan’s civil society, the book illustrates the plurality but also limitations of citizen activism and challenges older and more conventional definitions of activism, social movements, and civil society.
Cornelia Reiher, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
ITALY AND JAPAN: HOW SIMILAR ARE THEY?: A Comparative Analysis of Politics, Economics, and International Relations. Perspectives in Business Culture. Editors, Silvio Beretta, Axel Berkofsky, Fabio Rugge. Milan: Springer, 2014. viii, 348 pp. US$179.00, cloth. ISBN 978-88-470-2567-7.
Despite being separated by thousands of kilometres and centuries of divergent social development, Italy and Japan share a number of characteristics, which makes them interesting candidates for comparative analysis. Sidney Tarrow and Richard J. Samuels have described them as an “odd couple” by virtue of their common national features and yet distinct national identities, while Andrea Boltho, Alessandro Vercelli, and Hiroshi Yoshikawa have depicted the two countries’ respective economic development as successfully different from the dominant Anglo-American model. Indeed, these countries share a number of geographic, economic, demographic, political, and military features, and, despite their many differences, both are former conventional great powers, whose status has been somewhat difficult to describe since the end of WWII. Still, comparative analyses of such nations are relatively rare.
Against such a background, this volume, edited by Beretta, Berkofsky, and Rugge, offers interesting insights. Methodologically, it presents a qualitative and quantitative comparative analysis of Italy and Japan, introduced through a set of topic-related chapters that show different viewpoints on a common theme. The book is divided into four sections, dealing with society and demography, politics, economics, and international relations, respectively. In part 1, three chapters effectively outline the two countries’ demographic and societal peculiarities, including the fact that the two national populations are amongst the oldest in the world and have already started declining. In part 2, the first two chapters present a historical account of Italy’s and Japan’s postwar constitutions, while the remaining chapters present in-depth investigations of the two countries’ almost unique political systems, underlining their strong similarities. The first half of this volume therefore offers the reader a solid guide to the path the two nations have followed from their defeat in WWII to the present day. Part 3 is entirely dedicated to a comparative analysis from an economic perspective, outlining comparable economic structures, past and current trends, as well as debt and growth crises, with Martin Schultz’s chapter being the highlight of this section. His contribution is an insightful and wide-ranging investigation of Italy’s and Japan’s ageing, debt, and growth crises, with the author providing a number of potential solutions of reasonable feasibility. Lastly, part 4 explores the two countries’ international relations, tracing their domestic constraints, post-WWII historical burdens, and peculiar relationships with the US. In sum, the second half of the book discusses with competence their economic characteristics and their trajectories in the international arena.
Parts 3 and 4, however, also reveal some of the volume’s shortcomings. Despite providing a useful account of the Italian economy’s structural weaknesses, Targetti Lenti’s chapter, in part 3, seems to depict an overly pessimistic scenario in which the author is doubtful about a foreseeable end to Italy’s recession (202), which ended a just a few months after the publication of this volume. Further, conceptual clarity is occasionally problematic in the last section. In Matteo Dian’s chapter, the author seems to contradict himself when describing Italy and Japan only as “junior partners of the US” during the Cold War (307), only to state shortly after that “both Japan and Italy were very fundamental elements and partners in the context [of] American containment and policies” (310). One is more perplexed, however, when reading Donatello Osti’s final chapter, where the author explicitly and often defines Italy and Japan as “middle powers,” while citing only one piece of relevant literature (340) throughout the chapter to support these statements.
The reader should note the fact that modern middle-power theory, built upon the works of Andrew F. Cooper, Richard A. Higgott, and Kim R. Nossal, among many others, does not include Italy or Japan. Further, although a few authors have sporadically applied this terminology to the former (Carlo M. Santoro, Nicola Chelotti, Marco Valigi) and the latter (Yoshihide Soeya, Richard J. Samuels) over the years, two countries that are among the ten largest global economies, with equally high hard-power indicators (see, for example, the National Power Index, the Military Strength Index, and the Military Presence Indicator), vast diplomatic networks, and global cultural influence, could more appropriately be described as “secondary” or “non-conventional” great powers. The difficulty of precisely tracing the two countries’ status in IR is further demonstrated by the fact that authors such as Giampiero Giacomello and Bertjan Verbeek detect for them a position which could be placed between middle and great power status, whereas Edward Rhodes, Milena Sterio, Philippe Lagassé and others have simply described Italy as a great power, and Douglas Lemke, Nicholas Eberstadt, Richard J. Ellings and others have applied the same status to Japan. Lastly, another group of scholars, including Bernhard Blumenau, John J. Kirton, Laurent Rucker and Risto E. J.Penttilä, links great power status to G7 membership, thus further weakening the argument that Italy and Japan are middle powers.
In conclusion, this volume is an interesting, comprehensive, and well-sourced comparative analysis of two countries that are often understudied with regards to their international status, and that share a wide set of important characteristics. Despite the aforementioned issues with the theoretical approach in one chapter and minor concerns in two others, along with a number of typographical errors, this edited volume is commendable for its overall quality and the diversity of its Italian and Japanese contributors, and, ultimately, for shedding light on an interesting but neglected topic.
Gabriele Abbondanza, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
IGNITING THE INTERNET: Youth and Activism in Postauthoritarian South Korea. By Jiyeon Kang. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. xi, 241 pp. US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5656-4.
Given the recent global attention directed at South Korea’s candlelight protesters in Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul, Jiyeon Kang’s monograph on South Korea’s Internet-born youth activism in the first decade of the twenty-first century is timely. Kang perceptively captures emerging modes of post-authoritarian youth activism through an effective triangulation of ethnography, discourse analysis, and historical analysis. In this book, Kang examines the sociocultural context of South Korean youth in the twenty-first century, the online discourses that emerged during candlelight vigils, and ways in which candlelight protests were remembered by the young participants.
Kang’s study comprises two chronologically divided yet thematically interwoven parts, along with introductory chapters and a conclusion. The two introductory chapters provide the theoretical and historical contexts in which the emergence of the Internet-born and candlelight-equipped protesters are situated. The author proposes the intriguing anthropological concept of “captivation” to explain why and how this new post-authoritarian mode of social activism emerged through the convergence of online and offline spaces. According to the author, young people captivated by images and news circulated on the Internet were involved in a larger process of “cultural ignition” that led to candlelight protests as a new form of activism. Following this introduction, the author engages with the historical analysis of South Korean youth activism in chapter 1, where authoritarian legacies are compared with changes of the post-authoritarian era.
After the two introductory chapters, part 1 focuses on an earlier phase of post-authoritarian activism by analyzing the 2002 candlelight protests. In chapter 2, the author examines the origin of the Internet youth protests with reference to the 2002 candlelight vigils that emerged following the accidental killing of two civilian Korean girls by US military troops during a military exercise on South Korean territory. In particular, the author explores how images and texts about the tragic incident were captivated and circulated through online forums and how feelings of injustice were expressed in response to the incident and the following acquittals of the two US soldiers responsible.
In chapter 3, the author discusses how candlelight protests converged with mainstream politics during the presidential election of December 2002, in which Roh Moo-hyun emerged as a metonym for a new democratic era. As described in this chapter, despite the post-election disenchantment among young Roh supporters, the election revealed how vernacular discourses on the Internet could influence and articulate with mainstream politics. Drawing on interviews with Korean youth conducted in 2006, chapter 4 introduces young people’s memories of their experiences during the 2002 candlelight protests. The young people’s retrospective narratives suggest heterogeneous interpretations and memories. In particular, the author illustrates how young people’s corporeal and affective experiences of the protests contributed to shaping their political orientations. The author also claims that the co-existence of various and even contradictory interpretations of the candlelight vigils implies an emerging repertoire for youth activism in the post-authoritarian era.
While part 1 focuses on the 2002 candlelight vigils, part 2 addresses the post-2002 period with reference to the 2008 protests against the Lee Myung-bak administration for its decision to resume the importation of US beef, which provoked public concern about the danger of mad cow disease. By analyzing online discourses, chapter 5 discusses how the 2008 protests differed from the earlier 2002 protests. Here the author finds further development of Internet-born youth activism, wherein the Internet played a significant role in reconfiguring young people’s process of “doing politics.” The same period is addressed in chapter 6 through the memories of young participants. In the 2011–2012 interviews, despite varied personal memories, the young people revealed how they developed their own political views through affective and corporeal experiences during the protests. The author argues that, regardless of their individual social situations, the young people proposed personally meaningful political activities beyond the established institutional discourse of politics. In the conclusion, the author discusses the consequences of Internet-born protests by looking at the Internet’s influence on youth and the connection between online and offline spaces. The author suggests that post-authoritarian youth politics is “evolving beyond the repertoire of candlelight protests” (161).
This study offers both compelling analysis and rich ethnographic data. Its insightful exploration of the Internet and activism moves beyond the binary opposition between criticism of Internet-mediated, low-risk protest and the celebratory acknowledgement of the Internet as the new driving force of activism. Moreover, Kang offers up a critical framework through which she analyzes the heterogeneity of social actors and the processes of social movements. She interweaves an analysis of South Korea’s socio-political landscape in the first decade of the twenty-first century with a comparative examination of the perspectives of the government, mainstream media, alternative media, and the actual protesters. Further, while maintaining its critical and analytical perspective, this study is written in a highly approachable style that will appeal to a wide range of readers. I highly recommend this book as one of the first English-language monographs on youth activism in post-authoritarian South Korea, one that paints a particularly insightful fresco of South Korean society and digital media activism in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Kyong Yoon, The University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada
THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF RAMEN: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze. California Studies in Food and Culture, 49. By George Solt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. xvii, 222 pp. (Illustrations.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28235-3.
What are the histories and social consequences of “conceiving of a working-class food in national terms?” (12). This is among the core questions George Solt seeks to answer in his rich and convincing study of the iconic Japanese everyman’s noodle soup, The Untold History of Ramen. Solt’s attention to class and work provides a counterpoint to the frequent role of “traditional” cuisine in defining national food cultures, including recent washoku heritage campaigns in Japan. In five chapters, Solt traces ramen’s “relationship to changing notions of labor and nation” from its origins in Chinese-style eateries of the early twentieth century through its ascension to the most prominent example of Japanese “B-class gourmet” (8). He divides the book into two sections, part 1 offering a social history of prewar Shina soba pushcarts fuelling mass urban labour (chapter 1), US wheat imports and ramen on the black market in the Occupation (chapter 2), and the industrialization of food and work during Japan’s postwar era of high-speed growth (chapter 3). Part 2 covers the nostalgic rebranding of ramen in the 1980s and 1990s into a symbol of artisanal entrepreneurship alongside the decline of the forms of labour that facilitated its rise (chapter 4) and the globalization of ramen as a product of trendy, transnational youth culture in the 2000s (chapter 5).
The Untold History of Ramen makes several important contributions to the study of Japanese food history. Despite the flavour of its final chapters, Solt’s account is more interested in the socio-political history of ramen than in questions of cultural identity formation or the conviviality of the table that have preoccupied so many academic studies of food culture. Instead of relying on the common wisdom of the “secret histories of ramen” from which he draws inspiration, Solt’s keen historical sensibility allows the book to interrogate how cultural associations between ramen and the working class came into being. His discussion of the role of American wheat imports on the postwar proliferation of ramen provides a valuable supplement to Katarzyna Cwiertka’s (Modern Japanese Cuisine: Food, Power, and National Identity, London: Reaktion, 2006) concept of the “Japanese-Western-Chinese culinary tripod” in the development of modern Japanese cuisine, demonstrating how US food aid spurred the resurgence of a dish culturally associated with China.
Solt’s is a rare example of a study equally rich on the production and consumption sides, combining concern for the motivations and livelihoods of vendors with close attention to the temporalities of ramen’s social meaning and the material flows of ingredients and working bodies. The Untold History of Ramen makes a persuasive case for a quotidian dish as a legitimate subject of historical inquiry, as well as a productive lens through which to view twentieth-century Japanese social transformation.
Ramen seems caught somewhere between artisanship and industry, both in its operations and its place in the cultural imaginary. Although ramen was born in part as fuel for the agents of modern manufacturing, Solt demonstrates that it also symbolized a form of (often glorified) escape, from black market ramen stands undermining Occupation provisioning to the dream of an independent ramen shop as a postindustrial alternative to corporate structures. The self-made vendor of the prewar yatai or the apprentice-entrepreneur of the post-salaryman era implicitly hark back to a style of individualized labour and training presumed to be non-modern, despite ramen’s deep roots in the global flows and industrial development of the twentieth century.
At times, Solt’s narrative might benefit from an even more thorough examination of the specific conjunction between historical forms of labour organization and the social and nutritional functions of ramen. Labour in the 1880s, one possible origin point for ramen, looked quite different from labour in 1910, when Rai-Rai Ken was founded, which in turn differed markedly from labour in the 1930s, 1950s, 1980s, and so on. The nostalgic associations of ramen with a narrow moment in time might say more about the durable, constantly reinvented imagery of ramen consumption than it does about any organic relationship between ramen and work. In this sense, The Untold History of Ramen is not so much a history of labour patterns as it is of class representation, as the type of anonymous heavy-industrial wage labour that Solt expects readers to associate with ramen consumption was, at least in terms of sheer chronology, outside the norm in the modern history of Japan.
How far can we push Solt’s contention that ramen has become a representative national food of Japan? Even to the extent that it has been assimilated as a sign of Japanese cultural capital in the contemporary global market, ramen remains rife with subtle markers of Chineseness at home, including the katakana loanword script featured on the book’s cover. Solt’s final chapter offers a more compelling argument that ramen became Japanese when domestic and international youth culture reconfigured the terms of historical engagement in the 2000s, “where sights, sounds, and tastes stood in for texts, events, and ideas” (164). Ramen’s history and origins came to rely on what millennial consumers saw in front of them, including the invented traditions of Japanese representation slowly accumulating since the 1980s.
Finally, for a food that became so ubiquitously of the people, or at least the working class, Solt’s account could feel a bit more human. The book tends to characterize the lives and motivations of ramen purveyors and consumers rather than letting them speak for themselves, with the notable exception of the vendor hagiographies he cites from the 1980s onward. One wonders whether Solt’s decision to focus on centralized economic and political planning, especially in the second and third chapters, may have foreclosed the opportunity to explore the rich texture of everyday experience that food studies as a field is so uniquely equipped to express.
The Untold History of Ramen is a welcome addition to the fields of both modern Japanese history and food studies. It is an eminently readable and informative text that will appeal to specialists and general readers alike, as well as a valuable resource for undergraduate teaching.
Joshua Evan Schlachet, Columbia University, New York, USA
BUILDING A HEAVEN ON EARTH: Religion, Activism, and Protest in Japanese-Occupied Korea. By Albert L. Park. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015. xi, 307 pp. US$56.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3965-9.
Since the late 1990s scholarly literature on colonial Korea has proliferated rather dramatically. One of the central and most contentious issues in such research has been the characterization of “modern” and modernization within the colonial paradigm, with “colonial modernity” emerging as a theorization attempting to reconcile the so-called “modernizing camp,” focusing on the modernizing characteristics of Japanese colonialism, and the “nationalist camp,” emphasizing the exploitative nature of the colonial regime. Through the lens of religion in the colonial era, a phenomenon similarly intersected by such conflicting historiographical narratives, Albert Park provides a welcome and skillfully crafted intervention into this important debate, offering fresh perspectives on the role of religious activism, theological thought, and their relationship to modernity within the post-1919 political milieu.
Building a Heaven on Earth focuses on three rural, faith-based agrarian movements—the YMCA (1925), the Presbyterian Church (1928), and Ch’ŏndogyo (1925) movements—that attempted to ameliorate the disruptive ruptures wrought by capitalistic modernity by embracing an agriculture-based economy that emphasized pastoral existence, communalism, and religious principles. For peasants caught between movements with a temporal orientation toward the future (leftists and bourgeois nationalists) and an idealized version of an idyllic past that rejected modern capitalism (agrarianists), these movements offered an alternative articulation of modernity that “sought to protect, enhance, and expand Korea’s agrarian heritage simultaneously through the adoption of contemporary ideas, practices, and institutions” (118). Park has thus challenged the dominant view of the 1920s as a period characterized only by the rise of secular critiques of religion and the retreat of religion into the otherworldly by illuminating the emergence of religious social engagement at the institutional level and the process by which such activism “rearticulated … religious languages and transformed religion into a vehicle to question the norms of modernity” (10).
Building a Heaven on Earth is divided into two parts, each of which consists of three chapters. In part 1, Park begins by tracing the origins of Tonghak/Ch’ŏndogyo and Christianity in nineteenth-century Korea, describing the process by which these religions furnished influential “languages, practices, and institutions” that came to be employed by followers to interpret the myriad social, cultural, and economic transformations that surrounded them. Park demonstrates that, although individual practitioners inspired by religious teachings engaged in various forms of social activism, up until 1919 these were conducted outside of the religious institutional purview. However, with the deepening of the capitalist economy and its transformation of the traditional socio-economic and cultural organization of rural society, coupled with the sharp religious critiques of the 1920s, Koreans witnessed the emergence of religion-based reconstruction campaigns that “seriously questioned the norms of modernity, addressed the extreme changes and problems caused by modernization, and set out to reform and stabilize the economic, social, and cultural lives of people” (79). Park then focuses his attention on theologies articulated by Yi Ton-hwa (Ch’ŏndogyo), Hong Pyŏng-sŏn (Protestant), and Pae Min-su (Presbyterian), all of which encouraged followers to engage with present social movements and experience religion in the quotidian rhythms of everyday life as a method to build a “heaven on earth” (chisang ch’ŏn’guk).
In part 2, Park characterizes rural Korea as a battleground where rival reform movements led by leftists, the colonial state, bourgeois nationalists, and agrarianists competed to “gain hegemonic control over peasants and achieve their ideal vision of the nation-state” (147). Within this crowded field, the YMCA, Presbyterian, and Ch’ŏndogyo movements distinguished themselves by promoting a modern capitalist economy centred on a reconstructed agrarian society with the potential to foster a durable, moral livelihood. Park then explores these agrarian theologies in action through analyses of rural economic cooperative movements carried out differentially by each organization but inspired in similar fashion by the Danish-style cooperative system. The book concludes with an account of each organization’s efforts to condition and discipline the minds of the rural population to the “truth” of rural capitalist modernity through literacy and education campaigns.
Park has produced a well-constructed, eloquently written work with a consistent argument solidly supported by thorough and diverse primary source research. Park’s utilization of theory is judicious and effective, demonstrating a firm command of a wide range of classic literature and social theory, as well as theology. Park’s book has the potential to break new ground in historiography on the Korean colonial period by highlighting the little researched but widely influential religion-based agrarian activism of the 1920s and 1930s. In this way, Park effectively problematizes the tendency of research on the colonial period to gloss over the relationship between religion and modernization while bringing to light significant faith-based responses to anti-religious attacks following the March First Movement, showing the durability of such discourse while simultaneously attempting to break down its hegemony.
Although the book does an excellent job of explicating the philosophical reasoning behind the agrarian movements and their implementation, what is less clear is the outcome of each movement. Moreover, Park’s assessments of the development and impact of the movements is almost uniformly positive, save for the perfunctory reminder to the reader here and there of the general difficulty of life on the farm. Due to this positive tone, the reader may be unsure at times whether the description of the movement is the position of Park or the movement leaders. Another aspect of the analysis that could have been more fully developed is the relationship between the colonial government and the agrarian movements. Park’s position is that the Japanese Government General quietly tolerated such religion-based activism because it diverted support from radical leftist movements, but without a close analysis of this relationship the Japanese presence appears more as the spectre of power and the potential arbiter of the movements’ ultimate fate rather than an interacting agent. Finally, the relationship between institutional leaders—many of them foreign missionaries—and those of the agrarian movements, although described to some extent, could have been explored in more depth to highlight the tension that existed between the conservative principles of leadership and the progressive tendencies of activists.
Despite these minor shortcomings, Building a Heaven on Earth succeeds in drawing scholarly attention to a major though overlooked aspect of the colonial landscape: religion-based agrarian activism. The book should be recommended reading for anyone interested in social movements and religion in colonial environments, in Korea and beyond.
Daniel Pieper, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
TOURIST DISTRACTIONS: Traveling and Feeling in Transnational Hallyu Cinema. By Youngmin Choe. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. xi, 252 pp. (Illustrations.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6130-5.
Tourist Distractions analyzes Hallyu cinema through concepts of travelling and movement as epitomes of the Korean Wave. Hallyu cinema has been a critical site where capital, commercial commodities and cultural products circulate under the umbrella of “Asianization,” which the author defines as the shared affective experience of building East Asian networks. Geopolitical representations in East Asia and their re-imaginations among global consumer cultures open critical possibilities of reinterpreting regionalism and transnationalism through Hallyu in post-Cold War East Asia.
Choe elaborates on how cinematic representations of Hallyu cinema and their connotations reach beyond their cinematic diegeses through travelling and movement under the rapidly changing landscapes and afterlives of Hallyu’s own materiality in East Asia. Hallyu cinema is therefore not merely an important site of transnational commerce where the film industry and tourism converge, but also presents a transformative milieu that shifts Korea’s position from the postcolonial to the transnational.
Within these critical frameworks, the book is divided into three parts: “Intimacy” (Korea and Japan), “Amity” (Korea and China), and “Remembrance” (South and North Korea)—each of which consists of two chapters. Choe eloquently illustrates the trajectory of Hallyu discourses by showing the shifting emotions, tensions, and gestures echoing from embryonic transnational self-reflections to reveal manifestations of what she calls “tourist distractions.” By looking at Hallyu as affective media circulating via cultural and virtual commodity, her framing of “tourist distraction” is less indicative of cinematic spectatorship than representations of travel and tourist movement related to images and sites themselves, as well as the collective affect that continuously intervenes, disrupts, and re-contextualizes modern Korean society and culture.
“Intimacy” traces the theme of reconciliation between Japan and Korea: “Feeling Together: Pornography and Travel in Kazoku Cinema and Asako in Ruby Shoes” (chapter 1) through pornography, and “Affective Sites: Hur Jin-ho’s April Snow and One Fine Spring Day” (chapter 2) through an affective tourism by which audiences are expected to mimic the emotional experiences aroused in both spectatorship and through visiting the actual film locations. “Intimacy” further interrogates the colonial history and remnants of collective memory between the two countries. Focusing on the quotidian banality of its postcolonial audiences by way of sexual voyeurism, Choe argues that Korean and Japanese audiences obtained alternative viewpoints on their history and perceptions of each other. By cinematic intermediation through the narrative of postcolonial reconciliation, the colonial past and its legacies are affectively reinterpreted by obliterating historical references to the past, allowing audiences to virtually experience another’s body and place. The critical point of affective tourism is that viewers are expected to mimic the emotional experiences of filmic characters by visiting on-site locations, since the film sets were made when Hallyu began to gain momentum after the success of the drama Winter Sonata. Revisiting these locations, audiences become aware of Hallyu’s emotional and physical impact, both culturally and economically. Choe argues that the theme of “reconciliation through intimacy” is first generated in the embryonic stage of Hallyu, as distinct from the consumption of subsequent Hallyu films, such as April Snow (starring Winter Sonata’s famed lead, Bae Yong Joon), since it was produced to satisfy transnational audiences of Korean cultural products.
The book’s second part, “Amity,” explores transnational cooperation in the making of the film Musa, coproduced by Korea and China (chapter 3). Choe analyzes amity between the two countries through a so-called “bond of compassion” (yŏchŏng). Focusing on the parallel between the film and the MOD (making of documentary), which portrayed the development of a camaraderie between the Korean and Chinese actors and crew that transcended their complex relationship after the Cold War, Choe highlights the need for “provisional unity in order to accomplish pressing tasks” (108) beyond issues of nationalism and xenophobia. Stressing the foundation of shared affect emergent through “travelling” and collaboration, the author questions the circulation of the very localized meaning of “affect”: What would happen if local affect were to travel in a different transnational context? By analyzing the sonagi (rain) trope in the film Daisy by Hong Kong director Wai-Keung Lau, Choe analyzes the concept of sunsu (“purity” and “innocence” in Korean) (chapter 4). The recognizable fragments of sonagi and narrative are brought into the context of Hong Kong new noir to create a hybridized trope, which produces the anachronistic dialogue of aesthetic possibilities and contestation within the logic of transnational exchange.
The final section, “Remembrance,” shifts focus to South and North Korea. Here Choe addresses the past in relation to the concept of “border crossing” (chapter 5). For example, the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), a site common to the films J.S.A.: Joint Security Area, Yesterday, and 2009: Lost Memories, embodies varying levels of engagement and signals a post-memory border crossing and discourse of unification and division that was never personally experienced but has come to feel vital or lived by future generations. Through these films’ references to the Korean War and the DMZ, a critical space opens in which to synchronously address historical redress and test reflections/reframing of history and subjectivity in the age of Hallyu. Thus, the DMZ has a performative quality as a site of contestation between states, individuals, emotions, and constitutions. Choe further questions to what extent these Hallyu film sites are considered as memorials (transient monuments), and how the film Taekgukgi becomes a virtual experience of actual history that becomes altered amid the slipperiness of memory and mobility of Hallyu cinema (chapter 6). The transient film set as tourist destination often loses its meaning after the vanishing of a film’s popularity. Choe thus problematizes the underlying problems of commemoration through commercial film sets as memorials, since the film’s representation of wartime trauma reflects a gap as each generational audience consumes different filmic texts of the same historical incident. The author warns that the will to repair and redress historical trauma through the “cooperative optimism” and the transnational appeal of Hallyu cinema comes at the cost of a “historical amnesia in potentially dangerous ways” (196).
Although an impressive amount of scholarship on Hallyu cinema has been published in the last decade, the transnational affect of Hallyu cinema through re-contextualizing it as audience emotions, tensions, and transnational self-reflections has not been the focus of critical attention. Tourist Distractions fills this void in Korean film studies with a persuasive voice by establishing the transnational linkages of Hallyu to Japan, China, and North Korea since the early inception of the Hallyu boom. The structure of this book is, in this sense, coherent and logical. The book embodies the extent of global distribution of Hallyu and its appropriation of South Korean cinema as cultural exports of soft power to show the logic of tourism and the transnational network of cultural exchange, and the bonds of commonality in Asia through modes of commodification. The book ends by posing a rhetorical question, appropriating Spivak: “Can the global commodity speak?” The answer may be affirmative, but only within the prison of the global commodity mantra.
Yongwoo Lee, New York University, New York, USA
DEVELOPMENTAL MINDSET: The Revival of Financial Activism in South Korea. Cornell Studies in Money. By Elizabeth Thurbon. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016. xii, 221 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-5017-0310-2.
There is a large amount of literature on the South Korean developmental state, which is widely acknowledged as the driving force behind Korea’s economic success story from the 1960s until the 1990s. While this period is relatively well researched, we still lack a good understanding about what happens to developmental states when countries like Korea advance into developed OECD economies. In particular, since the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998, it has often been argued that the developmental state is dead and has been replaced by a neoliberal regulatory state. This occurred either because the developmental state became dysfunctional or by imposition from a “Wall Street-Treasury-IMF complex.” In her book, Developmental Mindset Elizabeth Thurbon offers a powerful critique of such “declinist accounts” and shows that studying the developmental state remains not just important in order to draw lessons for countries in the Global South but also for our understanding of contemporary capitalism in East Asia.
She argues that declinist accounts that see Korea converging to a US-style market-oriented capitalism draw wrong conclusions because they focus on specific institutions and policies of the developmental state. From her perspective, the developmental mindset was contested in particular during the Kim Young-sam administration from 1992 to 1997 but was since then revitalized under the pressure of crisis, global competition, and financialization. While she probably overrates the weakening of the developmental mindset under Kim Young-sam, her investigation of the policies and institutions based on the developmental mindset since 1997 are an important contribution, lucid and well researched. She persuasively shows that the Korean state remains strongly interventionist and uses a state-owned developmental bank (“financial activism”) to achieve techno-industrial upgrading and to remain export competitive.
Her idea-centred investigation of the developmental state in Korea offers important new insights but her perspective also leaves some blind spots and open questions that I hope will provoke a revival of the debate on the developmental state. First, the strength of focusing on the developmental mindset of the political elite is that it allows us to identify continuity even when there are substantial changes in institutions, policies, and the political orientation of governments. This strength, however, comes at the expense of clarity regarding what the developmental state is about, and underestimates the dynamic of state-economy relations. Ideas and goals matter but they only become relevant if they are embedded in an enabling institutional framework and correspond with a political and economic reality. There were and are many leaders in the developing world with a developmental mindset but only a few countries, including Korea, have actually succeeded in advancing to the status of a developed country.
Second, what enabled the developmental mindset in Korea since the 1960s was the coalition of state and business, in particular the chaebol, at the expense of labour and democracy. In this coalition the state formulated five-year development plans, providing subsidized loans and protection from international competition. Since the 1980s, democratization and globalization have gradually but substantially undermined this old developmental state. I agree with Thurbon that this did not imply a declining role for the state and a transformation to a pure liberal regulatory state. On the contrary, government spending is ever-expanding, and the state remains strongly interventionist and pro-business. At the same time, changes have been substantial. Instead of providing long-term plans and strategies for industrial development that would force the large private companies to invest, the state has become largely reactive by playing a supporting role for the private sector. While in the past state-controlled banks financed big conglomerates’ expansions into new industries, now large amounts of funds by state-owned developmental banks go into struggling old industries such as shipbuilding or SMEs squeezed by the big conglomerates. Fiscal stimulus packages after 2008 were largely used for infrastructure and channelled towards construction companies struggling with over-capacity. One of the strongest parts of the book is Thurbon’s investigation of government initiative and support for new industries under the IT-839 initiative of President Roh Moo-hyun (2002-2007) and the green growth agenda of his successor Lee Myung-bak (2007-2012). It is true that the developmental mindset remains strong and the state remains central in economic and societal coordination. However, what Thurbon describes seems to be the emergence of a new form of a developed, non-liberal capitalism with a strong corporatist state and not the rebirth of the old developmental state. If the developmental state is really reborn, she leaves the question “reborn as what?” for future debate.
Third, Thurbon makes a conscious choice not to discuss the limits and the problems of a developmental mindset for a developed country such as Korea. I think this choice is problematic because many of the cases of state and financial activism she describes are today seen as failures in Korea. Recent governments have consistently promised and failed to deliver a return of the high economic growth rates of the past. The prevailing ideology that growth and industrial development can solve all economic and social problems has become a major handicap for Korea’s development into a more democratic, just, and environmentally sustainable society. Even during the discussed green-growth initiative the objective was primarily growth and not ecological sustainability.
In sum, Thurbon’s new book is a welcome revitalization of the important discussion on the developmental state and improves our understanding of a distinct and path-dependent model of state-led capitalism that is emerging in East Asia. Her focus on the developmental mindset of the political elite is an important contribution to this understanding while at the same time raising many new questions for future debates. She offers a very compact and readable analysis while providing a strong narrative that would not fit into a standard journal article. I strongly recommend this book for all scholars and students of development as well as those curious about Asian capitalism and its spirit.
Thomas Kalinowski, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea
THE LIFE WE LONGED FOR: Danchi Housing and the Middle Class Dream in Postwar Japan. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Laura Neitzel. Portland, ME: MerwinAsia; Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press [distributor], 2015. xxvi, 159 pp. (Illustrations.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-937385-86-6.
Laura Neitzel’s book The Life We Longed For is a model of concise, lucid, thoughtful scholarship equally suited for the graduate seminar table and the undergraduate classroom. Its focus is the rise of the danchi, or apartment complex, as a locus of social engineering, political attention, and cultural dreaming during the 1950s and 1960s. Neitzel’s book brings scholarly attention back to the middle class of Japan’s twentieth century, a significant area of inquiry increasingly marginalized by the field’s ongoing fascination with Japanese empire and transnational history. Neitzel explores the work of “journalists, architects, social scientists, novelists, and filmmakers” (89) as well as the state agency known as the Japan Housing Corporation (JHC) and analyzes their collective efforts to democratize home and family, to rationalize human living space via the latest technological gadgetry, and to grow a postwar middle class committed to serious consumption as much as to hard work.
Neitzel first chronicles how the JHC addressed the housing crisis of the 1950s by developing suburban land into bedroom towns and by promoting the suburban apartment complex as a place to lead a “prototype of middle-class life” (25). She next examines the public discourse on the people who moved into these new “concrete islands of urbanity” (45). Known as the danchizoku, or the social vanguard of the apartment complex, they grabbed public attention as the beneficiaries of everything that was newly desirable in a nation moving beyond the demands and deprivations of war: liberation from hierarchical social relations, the introduction of material plenty within daily life, and membership in the showcase social group known as the middle class. Yet the arrival of prosperity also brought tension and anxiety. The privacy of danchi life led to isolation, the democratization of luxury yielded sameness and standardization, and technological efficiency produced boredom. Aspiration gave birth to anomie, as documented in the films of Hani Susumu and the literature of the alienated father/salaryman and the sexually promiscuous housewife. Neitzel concludes by analyzing the decline of the danchi as an emblem of postwar affluence and the curious rise of the danchi as an early twenty-first-century repository of nostalgia for good times gone by.
This book is a welcome contribution to our understanding of middle-class formation during Japan’s twentieth century. Neitzel joins a group of historians dedicated to establishing the cumulative common sense on this topic: aspiration mattered more than achievement within middle-class identity; the middle-class home was never separated from the world outside its walls but, instead, functioned as “a cultural/social pressure chamber and laboratory for measuring the effects of modernization and change” (111); and the 1950s was one of the pivotal decades of definition and growth for the middle class. (The other two were the 1920s and the 1980s.) She does not place the middle class of the 1950s in a temporal bubble but, rather, accentuates the links between the middle class of the 1920s and the 1950s, including their never-ending struggles to disentangle themselves from “the feudal,” a catch-all term for any established custom that frustrated the individual’s ability to act in new ways, whether marrying for romantic love or living separated from in-laws. Yet historians also need to more sharply distinguish the differences among the 1920s, the 1950s, and the 1980s as moments of middle-class formation. For instance, while Neitzel, Louise Young, and other scholars have pointed to the centrality of consumerism to middle-class identity during the 1920s and the 1950s, those moments displayed drastically different views on the virtues of consumerism. During the 1920s, when the practice of consumerism was coloured by a darkening association with immoral excess, the public reputation of the middle class was only weakly linked to consumerism; by the 1950s, fuelled by the rise of Keynesian economics and the state’s commitment to promote postwar economic recovery, consumerism acquired a veneer of patriotic action, and the middle class became publicly defined and socially sanctioned as consumers par excellence. Historians must be more attuned to the nuances of the evolution of the middle class. It was a dynamic social group with significant shifts in identity, habit, and membership across the twentieth century.
My one disappointment with Neitzel’s book was the absence of a sustained analysis of middle-class Japanese and their experiences of daily life within the danchi. While Neitzel skillfully examines popular discourse, mirroring the methodological approach of other historians of the Japanese middle class, she leaves to future scholars the task of relating popular discourse to everyday experience. Across the twentieth century, nestled in the pages of newspapers or the mokuji of magazines, is evidence of Japanese individuals aspiring toward material comfort, spiritual fulfillment, and emotional satisfaction. Historians must look more regularly to these voices to explain the propulsive forces that birthed the middle class. Institutions, whether secondary schools, print media, department stores, or apartment complexes, certainly guided individuals toward pathways to the middle class, but institutional efflorescence relied upon the energies of a populace eager to realize the promises of modernity and to pursue a new version of daily life that came to be stamped with the middle-class idiom. Future work must calibrate the dynamic relationship between these individuals and the institutions associated with membership in the middle class.
Mark Jones, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, USA
SHADOW EDUCATION AND THE CURRICULUM AND CULTURE OF SCHOOLING IN SOUTH KOREA. Curriculum Studies Worldwide. By Young Chun Kim. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, c2016. xxv, 211 pp. (Illustrations.) US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-51323-6.
Pupils attend supplementary education institutions all over the world. While this experience is common, the intensity and prominence of “shadow education” in South Korea is noted in all comparisons and a reference point for the growing literature on this under-researched aspect of many education systems. There is a significant literature on South Korea that focuses on the economics of shadow education in particular, in part because the amount private households spend on this is so astounding when compared to public school expenditures.
Young Chun Kim adds to the general literature on supplementary education in South Korea. His primarily descriptive intentions show themselves in a book that is comprehensive in its coverage of aspects of shadow education, but that neglects to question or explain some of the characterizations of the curriculum of hakwon education that it makes along the way.
Kim opens the book with a discussion that places supplementary education in the context of comparative scores achieved by Korean students. He then proceeds with a history of shadow education in Korea. He offers a typology of the sector, and the three central empirical chapters detail hakwon as they cater to elementary, middle school, and high school students, respectively.
The book fails to properly define what is a hakwon. In the historical chapter, for example, any form of non-government-sponsored educational institution is included in the discussion. This leads to an intriguing mention of hakwon as an anti-colonial/anti-Japanese institution that is not explained further, but it also means that the specificity of shadow education as supplementing school education and following it in curriculum and content is lost. The historical chapter also does not really offer a discussion of how and why hakwon education first emerged and grew to such dominance.
The imprecision in defining hakwon continues in the typology set forth by Kim. While sports and hobby hakwon are not included here, they are mentioned repeatedly in the latter descriptions of students’ daily activities. But is the fact that piano classes are offered under the hakwon rubric enough to discuss this in the same context as the school subject instruction that seems to be the core of the hakwon industry? The typology is also odd in that it classifies hakwon by varying criteria, especially subjects and teaching methodology. Yes, hakwon do vary along those lines, but what are the curriculum studies questions that demand a classification by one criterion over another? This mixed typology then disappears in the substantive chapters, which offer different classifications that are based on government statistics.
The three chapters that offer a glimpse into Korean students’ daily schedule will be of some interest to comparative education scholars, though likely not to Korea, nor supplementary education specialists. These glimpses are marred by the absence of an explanation of how this fieldwork was conducted. There is a minimal explanation of methods in the conclusion, but the central chapters seem to offer these glimpses in merely anecdotal fashion.
It is curious that Kim leaves some of the most interesting features of Korean supplementary education virtually unquestioned. The South Korean context is unusual in that the government has declared war on supplementary education for many decades in a way that no other government has, including ones faced with a similar context, such as Brazil, Japan, or Turkey. But when Kim writes, for example, that “highly paid private tutoring for the wealthy was a problem in Korean society” (25), this is portrayed as a fact rather than an occasion to discuss what exactly is perceived as problematic and how that perception has come about.
A further curiosity is Kim’s overarching attempt to point to positive and negative features of hakwon education. While some of the negative factors seem more apparent (cost, burden on students, etc.), many of the positive aspects do not seem self-evident. “Unlike school teachers who have to follow the school curriculum schedule … hakwon instructors are kinder and gladly help the students” (37). Hakwon instructors are kinder? Can this be demonstrated? Is it a perception of kindness that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? What does that mean for the education system?
In this evaluative context, the academic achievement of Korean students is also not questioned. Is high achievement on standardized testing really the end-all goal of education?
Kim ends the book with some discussion of further questions that arise about Korean supplementary education in the context of curriculum studies. Some of these are clear in their importance. As the British Columbia provincial government, for example, is touting individualized learning plans, much could be learned about curricular matrices from the supplementary education experience outlined by Kim. He describes hakwon offerings that seem to both tailor learning to an individual’s needs, including personality, but also carry out this tailored learning. This book raises such fascinating questions, but does not offer many answers to them.
Julian Dierkes, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
DECENTERING CITIZENSHIP: Gender, Labor, and Migrant Rights in South Korea. By Hae Yeon Choo. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016. xi, 200 pp. US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-9966-9.
If the modernization of South Korea was predicated upon two major revolutions, namely economic industrialization and political democratization, it is clear today that a third social revolution is transforming the fundamental structures of Korean society. South Korea is an outlier on several indicators when compared to other member states of the OECD. Among OECD nations, South Korea currently boasts the highest suicide rate, the lowest fertility rate, and the third highest divorce rate. In addition, the number of immigrants residing in the country has dramatically increased in recent decades, now at over two million, or 4 percent of the population. For a nation that has long held to notions of “pure blood” and ethnic homogeneity, it is remarkable that the government is now touting “multicultural Korea” as the necessary future direction for Korean society.
As South Koreans wrestle with how to incorporate the growing numbers of foreign workers, marriage migrants, and biracial children, they have had to rethink automatic assumptions about citizenship, national belonging, and Korean identity. In Decentering Citizenship, Hae Yeon Choo tackles these important issues through the lens of Filipina migrants residing in South Korea. The larger narrative contextualizing this ethnographic study is the relationship between macro structural forces—in this case, varying government policies for different categories of migrants—and the reactionary patterns of adapting and navigating at the levels of community and family.
The within-group comparative methodological framework Choo utilizes is a great strength of the project. She identifies three groups of Filipina women who are defined by their differential access to the South Korean polity. Through tailored laws governing citizenship, residency visas, and work permits, the South Korean government dictates different possibilities for work and family for these women. Still, a fundamental goal of this book is to show that within the larger context of bureaucratic control of public and private lives, migrants actively adapt to and challenge the limitations placed on them. As Choo succinctly puts it, migrant lives “are not simply determined by structural forces and imposed exclusion; they are also full of vibrant contestation that shifts and remakes the borders of citizenship” (166).
Over six empirical chapters (excluding a helpful theoretical introduction and concluding thoughts), Choo takes us into the world of migrant communal life in South Korea. We learn about how Ramona, Michelle, and other hostesses working in the “Basetown” nightclubs actively try to increase their chances of fulfilling their financial and family goals. In “Factorytown,” we are introduced to Roselle and Florence, who are part of a migrant labour population that is now over a half million strong. Through poignant accounts of personal struggles—such as Virgie, an undocumented worker who was unable to circumvent the constant threat of deportation—we get a glimpse of the spirit driving migrant workers to make both bold and subtle claims on the rights to economic, political, and social inclusion. Choo’s ethnography also provides a window into the lives of Carrie, Gayun, and other marriage migrants who leave their own families and friends behind in the Philippines to marry Korean men, a trend that is at the heart of the solution for the “bridal shortage” facing rural and lower-class bachelors.
Because of the comparative framework structuring the analysis, Choo is able to go beyond the general narrative of migrant exclusion by showing the diverging consequences of government policies for varying groups of Filipina women. Notwithstanding the substantial material and cultural barriers marriage migrants continue to face, Filipina wives married to Korean men are able to capitalize on the legal pathway to citizenship allowed by the South Korean state—a policy very much driven by the government’s long-term demographic concerns. Eschewing efforts by various feminist and civil society groups to apply the “discourses of victimhood and trafficking” to them (147), marriage migrants instead claim the identity of “citizen-mothers” to make salient the legitimacy of their marriages and families, as well as their place in Korean society. Migrant workers, on the other hand, are not afforded the possibility of citizenship under the current Employment Permit System, a barrier that has led to an increase in the proportion of undocumented workers relative to their legal counterparts.
Although Choo details dramatic and harrowing run-ins with immigration officers during “crackdowns,” we also learn about the tangible and emotional support provided to migrant workers by a densely networked ethnic community in Factorytown, largely revolving around the Catholic Church. Unlike marriage migrants and workers, however, hostesses serving American military stationed in South Korea are unable to take advantage of this community. There are several reasons for their within-group exclusion, including moral sensibilities surrounding their occupation and the fractionalizing competition for American GI clients and boyfriends. In short, Choo successfully explicates the differential impact of heterogeneously structured opportunities for the three groups of Filipina migrant women and perhaps more importantly, documents how members of each group exercise their agency when navigating and challenging the unique barriers they face. This rich ethnography is the first to provide such comparative analysis of a fast-growing immigrant population that is reshaping who South Koreans are and what South Korea is. As such, this book should be on the reading list for anyone who wants to better understand the social revolution that is sweeping South Korea today.
Paul Y. Chang, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
IT’S MADNESS: The Politics of Mental Health in Colonial Korea. A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies. By Theodore Jun Yoo. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016. xii, 225 pp. (Illustrations.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-28930-7.
Theodore Jun Yoo offers some staggering statistics to introduce his history of mental illness in Korea: among Republic of Korea (ROK) citizens today, just over one in four (27.6 percent) experience multiple mental health problems over their lifetime. At 29.1 per 1000 people the ROK’s suicide rate tops the list of OECD countries (3). Despite this near-crisis situation, the topic has received minimal consideration in Korean academic literature. Yoo attempts to fill this void by tracing the history of mental illness, the care Korean practitioners have offered patients, and general attitudes that Korean society has harboured toward those afflicted with mental disabilities. His subtitle is modest. He covers ground beyond simply the “colonial period,” and presents a well-researched and carefully articulated review of his topic that crosses traditional time periods to consider pre-colonial Chosŏn history as well.
Korea’s baptism to modern psychiatry occurred soon after Japan’s Meiji government saddled the kingdom with the Kanghwa Treaty in 1876, and after Japanese medical practitioners armed with the latest research from Europe began crossing over to the peninsula primarily to care for Japanese military personnel (54). Mental illness had long been recognized as a problem in Korea, but its medical practitioners relied on more traditional treatment approaches. Among these were female shamans who, believing that “human problems [were] caused by [external] disturbances in the cosmic world,” performed the dramatic gut ceremony that incorporated “frenzied dancing, lively music, and food” to win over the spirit’s favour (21, 22). A second option was traditional Chinese medicine, which later in the Chosŏn period displayed a distinct Korean identity. This approach sought to balance the “complex network of internal and external forces” to return the patient to mental stability (27). Towards the latter half of the dynasty, as Neo-Confucianism dug its roots deeper into Korean society, the mental patient came to be ostracized, rather than treated, to hide family shame (42).
The transition to modern psychiatric practices received its biggest boost with the arrival of Western missionaries, and particularly Dr. Horace Allen, who received King Kojong’s blessing to open the Kwanghyewon (Royal) Hospital in 1885. In addition to attending to physical ailments, the hospital gained notoriety as a center for the care of “diseases of the nervous system” (51). The hospital eventually opened a medical school that trained Koreans in modern psychiatric practices. Materials documenting the approaches that doctors employed to treat patients at the newly opened Severance Hospital, however, are apparently scarce, if not non-existent. Yoo describes early Western practices as an intersection between medical treatment and missionary work. Similar to shamanist practices, they also saw the cause of the patient’s mental illness as external, the work of demons who needed to be exorcised before the patient could be properly healed (54). After annexation Korean psychiatric practices divided. Practitioners at the Severance Hospital, then under the directorship of Charles McLaren, adopted a more “humanistic” approach to mental care and Japanese practitioners at the government general hospital affiliated with Keijō Imperial University advanced a German-centred clinical approach.
Following the survey of Korea’s history of mental treatment during late Chosŏn and the colonial period, drawing primarily on print culture, Yoo offers interesting insights into societal changes in Korean perception of mental illness. Here his focus is on its “medicalization and criminalization” (111). Suicide provides one example. Perceptions on this act have gone through a most interesting transition from late Chosŏn to the period of colonial rule, as it had in Japan from Edo up through the Pacific War years. In the earlier period, Korean commoner suicide, when it received attention, was seen as indignation over failure or wrongful accusation, or as a means of preserving personal or family honour (122). It was only later that suicide came to be connected to mental illness, particularly as an “out” for those whose means of life were insufficient for paying the hefty costs that the Japanese administration levied on patients who required institutional care. While the Korean press treated rises in suicide rates as a “tragic by-product of colonialism and flawed modernity,” the colonial government likened it to a similar phenomenon experienced by Japanese, as an inevitable “price to pay to become ‘modern’” (140).
It’s Madness is a well-crafted, but disturbing, monograph that introduces a complex issue that has received insufficient treatment in contemporary colonial literature in general, much less in Korean historiography. Yoo’s time frame, from late Chosŏn through the colonial period, coincides with revolutionary changes in the way people viewed the mind. His description of this period in Korea suggests a trajectory of similarity between practices occurring at the forefront of psychiatry as to how the mind was to be studied, as well as how the mentally challenged patient was to be treated. Appending a brief introduction to the changes that were occurring primarily in Europe would have provided important contextualized background for Korean psychiatry history, while offering clues as to the influences that enlightened the thinking of such people as Horace Allen, who entered Korea just two years prior to when Sigmund Freud started his practice, and Charles McLaren, who commenced employment at Severance Hospital during the height of (Carl) Jungian psychology. (Yoo does offer a short footnote regarding this latter connection on page 167). That said, It’s Madness should gain consideration as an important read for students of colonial studies. It belongs on the bookshelf of all dedicated Korean studies scholars.
Mark Caprio, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan
ADVOCACY AND POLICYMAKING IN SOUTH KOREA: How the Legacy of State and Society Relationships Shapes Contemporary Public Policy. By Jiso Yoon. Albany, NY:SUNY Press, 2016. xi, 211 pp. US$85.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4384-6251-6.
A comparative study requires additional investment in collecting data and identifying a proper analytical framework. The cost might be higher when we compare political systems in different cultural areas. However, this book provides an efficient and effective strategy for this type of research; that is to apply a framework, previously established in the case of the United States, to the case of South Korea, which has been understudied in comparative works. Hence, the book spends much time explaining politics in South Korea in terms of three elements: the relation between state and society, actors across sectors, and the media. Then it compares the case of Korea with the case of United States, where the original framework was developed. Of course, this strategy has a trade-off between theoretical generalizability and specificity of case.
Few studies have been conducted to evaluate similarities and differences in elements of the policy process and its outcome between Western and non-Western countries. This book has intellectual merits because of its original way of comparing two culturally different political systems.
This book is guided by four questions, which attempt to discover the principal characteristics of politics surrounding policy outputs in South Korea. The first question is, who dominates the politics surrounding policy making in South Korea? The author draws conclusions by evaluating three stages of the policy process: agenda setting, providing policy alternatives, and policy decisions. The president and the legislature are the important actors in the first stage, agenda setting. For the second stage, however, legislators are less capable of offering policy alternatives to an established agenda than are bureaucratic agencies. For the third stage, the decision-making power converges in the state bureaucracy and the political party, which has control of each policy agenda.
The second question is, how does the legacy of the state-society relationship shape the mobilization and influence of nongovernmental interests in policymaking? The author concludes that a large portion of Korean civil society has evolved through a history of confrontation with military dictatorships; this leads to politically biased interactions between civil society and the governmental sector, narrow public support for civil society, and their limited ability to influence the policy process.
The third question is, how does news—the medium through which the public learns about the policy community—promote or hinder the degree to which policy actors inside and outside the government engage in public policy debates? The author reports that the media mainly pays attention to what governmental actors do. Consequently, this concentration is closely associated with the weak capacity of legislators and nongovernmental groups to influence the policy process.
The fourth question is, how do institutional differences between Korea and the United States shape policy advocacy patterns in the two countries? To answer this question, the author compared the relations between characteristics of the policy actor group and the policy outcomes of both countries. The author concludes that both countries have a common trend, which is summarized as the growing participation of nongovernmental actors in the policy process. While Korean policy actor groups who challenge the status quo are more likely to reflect their policy goals, policy change occurs less frequently in the United States.
Notwithstanding succinct comparison, this book faces challenges that are common in comparative public policy research. For example, one finding of this book is that policy actors of Korea and the United States differ by advocacy strategy, meaning a centralized advocacy strategy within a narrow range in Korea and diverse strategies in the United States. However, I question whether the typology of advocacy strategy in this book can be used for general concepts regarding advocacy across countries. The author classifies the advocacy strategy into three types of lobbying, but additional and careful in-depth discussion is required to see whether the concept of lobbying can extend to the policy process of Korea, where lobbying is less institutionalized and consequently less-developed than in the United States.
Additionally, this book faces challenges regarding data collection. This book specifies that its method of data collection is the same as in a previous study of the policy process of the United States. This approach has merits in clearly comparing the policy process of different political systems with a common framework. However, replicating a previous study risks losing specificity of contexts, especially if the theoretical framework was unilaterally developed from case studies of a specific side. In the predictive models of the advocacy success of policy advocacy groups, the model fit of the Korean case was too low to convince readers of the results. The possibilities of policy change by another source, which is external to each policy community side, implies that several important variables might be omitted to explain policy change by policy advocacies. Hence, this book should have discussed what specific drivers of policy change could be omitted when this comparative work resorts to conceptual straining.
Finally, the book could have escaped theoretical silo if it had attempted to connect its findings to more policy process theories. Although this book partially borrows its conceptualization and framework from policy process theories, such as the multiple stream approach and the punctuated equilibrium theory, there are more established and competitive theories of policy process that can explain policy change and could have been employed in this book. For example, the Advocacy Coalition Framework and the Narrative Policy Framework also focus on the strategies of policy actors. A plausible connection is what portion of the behavior of policy actors in this book can be explained by using the two theories.
Kyudong Park, University of Colorado, Denver, USA
CASTE IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA. By Surinder S. Jodhka. New Delhi: Routledge, 2015. xvii, 252 pp. (Tables.) US$120.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-13-882243-6.
Caste in Contemporary India gives a nuanced account of how caste practices involving Dalits have changed. The book opens with a discussion of different approaches to theorizing caste before showing how caste hierarchies have changed, but not disappeared, in recent decades. Jodhka reports on his survey work carried out in fifty-one villages in Punjab during 2000–2001, which shows Dalits have gained more autonomy for themselves by seeking new paid employment and escaping demeaning work. Discrimination has not disappeared but Dalits can avoid it by setting up their own places of worship, for example. Evidence of imbalances in social power are revealed by analysis of five cases in which Dalits were subject to social boycott or violent attacks. These events occurred between 2002 and 2005 in either Punjab or Haryana. Jodhka notes that many of the Dalits involved had removed themselves from old relations of dependence but still found themselves vulnerable in the face of upper-caste resistance or violence.
Jodhka points out that most scholarship on caste concentrates on rural experiences and he corrects this with two very interesting chapters on the urban economy. The first of these chapters reports on interviews carried out with over 300 self-employed Dalit entrepreneurs in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh during 2008. Almost all had established their own businesses, rather than inheriting them, and had done so in spite of unresponsive banks and local business networks favouring the dominant castes. Nevertheless, they had persisted and enjoyed the autonomy of running their own enterprise. The presence of caste in the corporate sector is approached through qualitative interviews with hiring managers in twenty-five companies, conducted in 2005–2006. The findings are fascinating. On an ideological level the managers ruled out caste as a basis for hiring, stated a clear preference for merit-based recruitment and thus, without exception, dismissed affirmative action in the private sector. Yet the notion of merit was understood capaciously and exhibited a social bias. Candidates were expected to possess soft skills (including English medium education), have a “good” family background, and demonstrate a fit with company culture. This adds up to a preference for hiring staff from upper caste/middle class backgrounds. Whether campus recruitment is “caste blind” is a moot point, as educational institutions often supply separate lists of reserved and non-reserved students to employers (130).
Religion intersects with caste in multiple ways. Caste distinctions in Punjab survived the reforming ideas of Sikhism, Christian missionaries, and the Arya Samaj. Jodhka gives a concise account of the Ad-Dharm movement among the Dalits and its reconfiguration in the 1940s around the veneration of Ravi Das, a Chamar saint who is recognized in Sikh holy literature. Several hundred Ravidasi deras and gurudwaras have been established since then. The deras are an important community focus for worship and charitable activity. Ravidasis value the independence and dignity that comes from following their own religious tradition.
The discussion of the politics of caste is framed in terms of the decline of old patterns of dominance and the rise of the backward castes and the increasing assertion of the Dalits. Jodhka notes that previously powerful groups have not disappeared completely and caste hierarchy continues to disadvantage lower-status groups. The caste politics of the Punjab illustrate this point. Party politics are dominated by the upper castes and all but one chief minister have come from Jat backgrounds. Congress has exploited the system of Scheduled Caste reservation in pursuit of Dalit votes, carving out separate sub-quotas for Mazhabi Sikhs and Balmikis in 1975.
This empirical material will be of interest to scholars of caste politics but it does not shed light on the trend towards caste-based parties, such as the PMK in Tamil Nadu, where political entrepreneurs have played up the supposed neglect of their own caste group (Andrew Wyatt, Party System Change in South India: Political Entrepreneurs, Patterns and Processes, Routledge, 2009, 97-115). The penultimate chapter of the book is devoted to a survey of eighty-one Dalit activists based in Delhi. Verbatim extracts from the interviews show what motivates the activists and how they are trying to advance the cause of equality. The role of parents in developing political awareness is mentioned and the influence of Ambedkar as a thinker and icon is frequently referenced. The issue of terminology is raised and it is interesting that only forty-two of the respondents identified themselves primarily as Dalits. A large minority preferred the term Buddhist, claiming it was a richer and more distinctive identity, and another large group opted for the more “secular” term Scheduled Castes.
Jodhka concludes the book by arguing for a view of caste analogous to treatments of race and ethnicity. He argues that the jajmani system has disappeared and the ideological basis of caste has been weakened yet caste identities are still associated with economic and social inequalities (as is amply illustrated in the case studies). Overall, he argues that the central feature of caste in contemporary India is that it creates and reproduces discrimination.
This is a very useful book that reflects on the general question of how caste might be theorized and makes available new empirical material on the experience of Dalits in north and northwest India. Those unfamiliar with the Punjab will be introduced to this important region. Chapter 6 stands out in this regard. A few omissions should be noted. Relatively little is said about marriage. Some upper-caste perspectives are reported, especially in the chapter on corporate recruitment, but more might have been said about change as it applies to the experience of the upper and backward castes. Caste in Contemporary India provides a thoughtful discussion of issues central to the lives of Dalits in India and the larger significance of this aspect of the caste system. It is a book well worth reading.
Andrew Wyatt, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
WARZONE TOURISM IN SRI LANKA: Tales from Darker Places in Paradise. By Sasanka Perera. New Delhi; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing, 2016. xvii, 231 pp. (Illustrations.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-93-515-0922-6.
In May 2009 the secessionist war that had pitted the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) against the security forces of the government of Sri Lanka since 1983 came to a brutal end. Prabhakaran, the ruthless leader of the LTTE, and countless other combatants lay dead around the Nandikadal Lagoon, a small coastal area in the Jaffna Peninsula in the north of the island. For nearly three decades, apart from the period of truce (2002-2005) between the LTTE and the government brokered by the Norwegians, the country had been at war, with devastating social and economic consequences, especially in the northern war zone. In the predominantly Sinhalese South, however, the end of the war was hailed as a triumphal victory of what the government had dubbed without any irony a “humanitarian operation” aimed at rescuing a captive population from the clutches of a “terrorist” group.
War Zone Tourism in Sri Lanka offers the reader a sharp and sensitive ethnography of war-zone travels undertaken by Sinhalese tourists at two particular moments in Sri Lanka’s recent past. Through a foray into this very specific social and cultural practice, the author gives insights into what motivates such travel, what politics it reveals, in short what the practice means. The central focus of the book is the gaze of these travellers, a gaze that is clearly not uniform. For some of them it is pleasure and leisure that guides them while for others it is curiosity, religiosity, or patriotism, or a combination of these. Sasanka Perera has followed these travellers along their trail, observing them in the various locations from the Buddhist temple in Naga Dipa to the Victory Monument in Puthukkudiyiruppu. The reader discovers, gradually, the way the landscape of Jaffna has been reshaped by the postwar government policy of reconciliation through development and through an erasure of the past. LTTE cemeteries and formal LTTE monuments are no longer there. Sasanka Perera’s eye is sharp but he rarely shows impatience as he points out to the reader what the tourist sees and also what he/she fails to see: the endless rows of blackened palm trees, bullet-damaged houses, and large destroyed swaths of land. One of the many strengths of this book is the thick ethnography that comes with a deep understanding of and empathy with those who suffered and the tourists he is writing about. The photographs capture beautifully the sadness of the site.
The book devotes one chapter to Southern travellers touring Jaffna when the ceasefire was in operation (2002-2005) and another to their travels to a vaster area including Jaffna and former war zones such as Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu in the postwar era after 2009 and the re-opening of the main road in 2010. The book is composed of an introductory chapter that sets the stage and locates the study within a body of work on places, landscapes, and travels. The next two chapters mentioned above form the kernel of the book. A shorter chapter follows, that looks at photography as a practice that authenticates travel and cartography in warzone tourism. The book ends with a conclusion that brings the argument together through a perceptive analysis of the family resemblances of the mobilities of war-zone tourism with ancient and modern forms of pilgrimage.
War Zone Tourism in Sri Lanka is a singular contribution to the growing field of the sociology of tourism, which has explored for instance the rescripting of Angkor in the context of postwar tourism and heritage making (Leakthina Chau-Pech Ollier and Tim Winter, eds., Expressions of Cambodia: the Politics of Tradition, Identity and Change, Routledge 2006). Sri Lankan tourism has not until now elicited any scholarly interest; it is virgin territory that Sasanka Perera is ploughing. The book also speaks to memory studies as landscapes dotted with monuments and remains which also function as “lieux de memoires.” It ends on a rather pessimistic appraisal of the consolidation of a hegemonic view of history by the state and the armed forces. There is a glimmer of hope in the book, however, when the author describes a younger generation of tourists more interested in taking pictures of themselves on their mobile phones to post on Facebook than in reading the official explanations or talking to the soldiers. The short attention span of today’s consumer-driven youth may be a boon rather than an object of despair. Possibly they will leave the warzone largely untouched by the state’s partial representation of the events that took place during the war years.
My first point of concern is that the book tends to look at places as the static recipients of visitors that come and go. It might have been helpful to use the language of performance rather than place to think about the motivations and desires of tourists (Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums and Heritage, University of California Press, 1998) and view the production and consumption of tourist spaces, the shift from location to destination, as contingent and mutually constitutive processes. The other issue is the author’s choice to focus only on Sinhalese tourists, which he explains, albeit briefly, by asserting that Tamil travels to the former warzone constitute “an entirely different category of travel and experience which requires a very different approach in analysis ” (2). If a separate literature on Tamil visitors is produced, is the creation of a polarized literature of grief and tourism appropriate?
These quibbles apart, this is an excellent book, theoretically informed, clearly written, and ethnographically grounded, that deserves to be read widely by scholars in many fields, especially in cultural politics and visual anthropology, and perhaps also made available in the vernacular languages of Sri Lanka.
Nira Wickramasinghe, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands
RECOVERING FROM A DISASTER: A Study of the Relief and Reconstruction Process in Sri Lanka after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Edited by Arne Olav Øyhus. Kristiansand, Norway: Portal Books; Portland, OR: International Specialized Book Services [exclusive distributor], 2016. 166 pp. (Maps, coloured illustrations.) US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-82-8314-095-8.
Arne Olav Øyhus’ edited volume provides insight on how four different constituencies in the far south of Sri Lanka are faring ten years after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004. The volume represents a collaboration between the University of Agder in Norway, the University of Ruhunu in Sri Lanka, and the Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce. Faculty and students in the International Master’s Programme in Development Management at the University of Agder wrote the bulk of the material, with local facilitation provided by Sri Lankan collaborators.
Professor Øyhus, a specialist in global development and planning, provides several chapters of background and introductory material as well as analysis and concluding remarks. These materials frame four chapters co-authored by students that deal with the status of recovery in the Hambantota area of a fishing community, a tourist town, a middle-class residential community, and an urban business community.
The first two chapters of the book introduce the “Ten Years After” study and provide background about the tsunami, including information on the natural hazard, the number of deaths and distribution of damage, and the relief and recovery operations that followed. These introductory chapters also quantify the funds received for recovery operations and outline both the general success of the endeavour and some of the difficulties and infelicities encountered.
The third chapter provides a theoretical framework for analyzing the data gathered in the study. After introducing the concept of vulnerability, it discusses community coping capacity in terms of social capital and agency, particularly focusing on internal community organization (called “bonds”) and external social connections (called “bridges”) that organize the flow of aid and disaster relief and recovery funds. The chapter then touches on governance issues and the importance of bringing disaster risk reduction strategies into mainstream development projects.
Chapter 4 introduces the case studies presented in chapters 5 through 8. These cases compile qualitative ethnographic material gathered in May and June 2014 by teams of master’s students from the University of Agder during a study tour in Hambantota District in Sri Lanka’s Southern Province.
Chapter 5 looks into the situation of the fishing community. Fishers complain that their resettlement housing is far from the ocean, making it difficult to look after their boats and get to the shore to fish. In addition, government caps on the price of fish, combined with the need to purchase expensive fuel, limit the fishermen’s ability to thrive.
Chapter 6 examines the “bonds and bridges” that facilitated recovery in the tsunami-affected village of Kirinda, where local leaders formed a coordinating committee that initially interacted with external organizations with good results for the village, but was later sidelined. Community members’ satisfaction with the recovery process depended on the idiosyncratic qualities of the NGOs that built homes for tsunami survivors.
Chapter 7 explores the recovery of the tourism industry in the town of Tangalle. The industry recovered quickly and has thrived, particularly since the end of Sri Lanka’s long-running civil war. Hoteliers relied on low-interest loans, and they chose to rebuild close to the ocean despite government regulations regarding a no-build buffer zone.
Chapter 8 considers small businesses in Hambantota. Displaced by the tsunami, many entrepreneurs were thereafter displaced two more times by large-scale development projects in the area that reorganized crucial infrastructure such as roads, harbours, and business complexes. The businesspeople suffered more from post-tsunami urban development schemes than from the tsunami itself.
In chapter 9, Professor Øyhus synthesizes and analyzes the data. A strong emphasis emerges in the ethnographic chapters on the lack of consultation with the local community. In addition, community suspicions about corruption in the distribution of relief materials come through clearly. The volume concludes with chapter 10, in which Øyhus and co-author Kim Øvland explore in a much more theoretical way the importance of integrating disaster risk reduction activities into sustainable development projects. The authors emphasize the importance of community involvement at all levels of planning and implementation.
The student researchers were able to spend only a relatively short period of time in their field sites. Data consists of roughly twenty interviews for each chapter. Scholars who have gathered in-depth qualitative information over a long period of time will recognize that deeper immersion in the community might have revealed additional nuances. In particular, interlocutors may strategically share memories and details to craft images of self and other through narrative. Relying only on short interviews, the University of Agder students lacked additional forms of data from which to evaluate the validity and reliability of their material.
The chapters of the book are relatively short and highly readable. The volume includes a great deal of material published in Sri Lanka in its bibliographic entries, which is a strength of the volume. Material published elsewhere is less well represented, and scholars versed in ethnographically based analyses of disasters will see holes in the bibliography. The volume would have been stronger if it set the situation in Sri Lanka within a wider global context, drawing on a broader range of sources and a larger set of comparable examples. In addition, the entire text would have benefitted from thorough copyediting.
I would recommend the volume to people who are curious to read a brief summary of post-tsunami recovery in the Hambantota area. The volume will appeal to disaster specialists, development practitioners, and people interested in the long-term effects of the Indian Ocean tsunami in Sri Lanka.
Michele Gamburd, Portland State University, Portland, USA
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
MAN OR MONSTER: The Trial of a Khmer Rouge Torturer. By Alexander Laban Hinton. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2016. viii, 350 pp. (B&W photos, illustrations.) US$22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6273-9.
Alexander Hinton, an ethnologist specializing in genocide studies at Rutgers, has produced a dense but remarkably accessible narrative of the trial of Kaing Guek Eav (“Duch”), the first of five “most responsible” Khmer Rouge figures to be convicted of crimes committed during the murderous Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge) regime between 1975 and 1979. The trial, which began in 2009 and was finally concluded in 2012 with a sentence of life imprisonment, has been covered extensively in the media and in some well-researched books and monographs. Rarely, however, has the process been analyzed with such passionate engagement. It follows Why Did They Kill (University of California Press, 2004), written a decade earlier, which was the first serious anthropological analysis of the Khmer Rouge regime.
The book presents a detailed analysis of Duch’s trial by the hybrid Cambodia/UN Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Duch was not among the top leadership of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, but he was trusted by the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) to play a major role in the purges of its inner circle from mid-1976 on. S-21, housed in a former high school located in Phnom Penh and converted in the 1980s into the Tuol Sleng “Museum of Genocide,” was only one of several “security” (santebal) centres. It was unique, however, in being the final destination of so many senior KR cadres. Duch was a skilled manager and interrogator, who, with his well-trained staff, extracted hundreds of damaging “confessions.” These in turn led to a massive roundup of CPK cadres, accused by the leadership (Angkar) of being collaborators with the erstwhile ally Vietnam, or even of being CIA or KGB agents. We are reminded that, of an estimated 17,000 souls who entered the gates of S-21, barely a half dozen left alive. Duch was alleged to have been a particularly loyal and zealous practitioner, who reported directly to Son Sen, the KR defence minister, and indirectly to the leader, Pol Pot. His defence could only argue that he was just one of many carrying out the orders of Angkar and was a “scapegoat.”
Before and during the trial, Hinton acquainted himself with a large number of court personnel, government officials, lawyers, victims and their families, and other witnesses. He was one of a dozen foreign observers of Cambodia’s painful history, including the journalist Elizabeth Becker, the historian David Chandler, and the author Craig Etcheson, who testified as expert witnesses. He had, himself, done original research in Cambodia for decades and was intimately familiar with the KR period. In his research, he worked closely with Youk Chhang, the respected director of the Cambodian Documentation Centre (DC-Cam), and drew heavily on its resources, largely material left behind at S-21 when the Khmer Rouge was expelled from Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese military in January 1980.
Hinton’s “ethnodrama” of the trial of Duch is largely a chronological account, interspersed with personal commentary and even some poetic interludes that make it anything but a dry academic tome—Hinton suggests it be read as “literature.” Before cracking its pages, the reader is confronted with the cover photo of Duch, a defaced image that hung for a time in the Tuol Sleng Museum, (what is left of S-21) and the provocative title “Man or Monster.” This sets the tone for an extended discussion, begun in the “foreground” chapter, and returned to several times throughout, about the nature of Duch’s crimes and the contradictory facets of his life and character. Duch is an “intellectual,” of the kind that was largely targeted by the regime for “smashing,” but he is also a loyal, even fervent, member of the party. As he sees more and more of his former CPK colleagues enter the institution under his authority, however, he begins to wonder when his own time will come. We can surmise that he was probably saved by the Vietnamese occupation of Phnom Penh in January 1980.
The book is divided into two main sections, “confession” and “reconstruction,” and quotes extensively from direct testimony by Duch himself, surviving staff of S-21 and, finally, some of the few surviving victims or their family members. There is also a huge trove of documentary and photographic material, mainly from the DC-Cam archives, some of which bears the notations and even the signature of Duch. Particularly damning are the testimonies of three surviving “trustees” of S-21, the artist Vann Nath, the author Bou Meng, and the mechanic Chum Mey. Vann Nath’s haunting paintings of scenes of torture from S-21, as well as sketches by Chum Mey, done long after their incarceration, have been displayed in the museum for thirty years and were entered into evidence at the trial.
Hinton, even in his concluding chapter, never definitively answers the paradoxical question of how this inoffensive mathematics teacher, an early convert to Khmer-style Communism, and, latterly, a born-again Christian, somehow found his way into the role of chief torturer at S-21. One clue lies in Duch’s previous role as director of Camp M-13 during the civil conflict that preceded the KR’s assumption of power, graphically described in the French ethnographer François Bizot’s memoir The Gate (Le Portail) (translation Harvill, 2002). It is here that he seems to have learned the fine art of interrogating “enemies.” Having heard all the evidence, an initial guilty plea, a late reversal by the defence to plead for his release, a conviction, and sentence (thirty-five years, changed on appeal to life), we are quite deliberately left to draw our own conclusions. To his credit, Hinton alludes only briefly to accusations of political meddling and/or judicial corruption, but passes no judgment. Man or Monster is unique in its appeal both to students of post-conflict socio-political issues and to the general reader, and is a major contribution to genocide studies.
D. Gordon Longmuir, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
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
VIỆT NAM: Tradition and Change. Research in International Studies. Southeast Asia Series, no. 128. By Hữu Ngọc; edited by Lady Borton and Elizabeth F. Collins. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press; Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2016. xxviii, 358 pp. (Illustrations.) US$26.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-89680-302-2.
Through his leadership in Hanoi’s Foreign Languages Publishing House (later Thế Giới Publishers), Hữu Ngọc crafted a long career of explaining Vietnam to foreign audiences. In Hanoi, he is an institution in his own right. Now nearly one hundred years old, he became famous in expatriate circles for his short columns in French and English newspapers on various aspects of Vietnamese culture. These were originally compiled into a 2004 book, Wandering Through Vietnamese Culture. Though this book is an accessible introduction to Vietnamese culture, it spans a cumbersome 1259 pages. Việt Nam: Tradition and Change edits and reorganizes the material in Wandering Through Vietnamese Culture into a shorter and more digestible form, with a new preface and introduction and several other new materials in an appendix.
This book is a series of short vignettes on the culture, society, literature, art, and history of Vietnam. It focuses heavily on the Red River Delta, and much of its content is specific to Hanoi and its immediate environs. Naturally, such a collection of short works does not lend itself to an overarching thesis. However, two almost contradictory themes rise to the surface more often than others. The first is the notion that the Vietnamese identity has been forged through a tradition of resistance to foreign aggression. This theme leads Hữu Ngọc to conclude that modern Vietnamese can be defined as “members of the Việt ethnic community who did not want to become Chinese” (29). The second is the idea that Vietnamese culture formed through the localization of foreign cultural influences from such places as China and France. “Cultural identity evolves with time and space,” he reminds us, and “a new tradition may be refashioned in the national mold from a foreign source” (46).
The editors have helpfully organized his explanation of these two themes into ten sections, which cover the nature of Vietnamese identity, aspects of cultural influence on Vietnam, Confucianism, Buddhism, biographies of important historical figures, Vietnamese literature, theatre and art, geography, Vietnamese women, and the cultural, social, and economic challenges posed by the 1986 adoption of the renovation (đổi mới) policy.
This book serves best as a guide for those travelling to Vietnam. It is particularly helpful as a broad-based introduction to a potpourri of subjects on Vietnamese culture for those with only a basic knowledge of the subject. Because Hữu Ngọc gives very specific geographical details for the sketches he provides, it would be possible to organize a quite exciting and comprehensive tour of northern Vietnam from the places he mentions. This book might also spark younger readers’ interest in Vietnam, and is well suited for the high school or lower-division undergraduate classroom. Hữu Ngọc is an engaging and brilliant writer, and the brevity of his vignettes are just enough to spark an interest in a topic for a reader unfamiliar with the material. Even scholars of Vietnam will find something to learn in this volume. Though the material covered is relatively basic, the author is clearly a renaissance man. His works span such a remarkable variety of topics that there is something for everyone to learn from this volume.
That being said, this work clearly represents the point of view of a Hanoi intellectual of a certain age. While the south is sometimes mentioned, there is a tendency in many of these vignettes to portray the culture of the Red River Delta as if it were Vietnamese culture in general. Hữu Ngọc sometimes romanticizes the culture of the rural northern Vietnamese village in a way that could only come from the pen of an urban intellectual. His assertions of the ancient origins of Vietnamese identity and of the centrality of “resistance to foreign aggression,” while typical of an intellectual of his era and political background, are largely contradicted by the recent scholarship of Katherine Churchman (The People Between the Rivers: The Rise and Fall of Bronze Drum Culture, 200-750 CE, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Erica Brindley (Ancient China and the Yue, Cambridge, 2015). These works show that to the extent that we can know anything for certain about the people living in the Red River Delta in ancient times, the notion that they possessed a Vietnamese identity comparable to modern-day Vietnamese is not sustainable. In fact, this point should lead us back to the contradiction between the two themes that seems to form the basis of Hữu Ngọc’s writing: if Vietnamese culture is only made coherent through a continual process of change resulting from the localization of layers of foreign influence, then it cannot simultaneously be possible that there is also an essence of Vietnamese culture that can be located through the study of exemplars from the Vietnamese past.
Despite these flaws, readers will enjoy this book. As an easily digestible introduction to a wide variety of aspects of Red River Delta culture for those travelling to Vietnam, or for those who are new to Vietnamese studies, the book is as good or better than any other material currently in print. From the morose words of Vietnam’s leper poet Hàn Mặc Tử to the bawdy lines of Vietnam’s great woman poet Hồ Xuân Hương to the images of water puppets in a rural village to the descriptions of divorce and single parenting in contemporary Hanoi, there is something in this collection for everyone. Its true value lies in the rich diversity of what it offers and the beauty of Hữu Ngọc’s simple descriptions of cultural practices he clearly loves.
Wynn Gadkar-Wilcox, Western Connecticut State University, Danbury, USA
THE IMPACT OF STATE RESTRUCTURING ON INDONESIA’S REGIONAL ECONOMIC CONVERGENCE. By Adiwan Fahlan Aritenang. Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, 2016. xix, 217 pp. (Illustrations.) US$29.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4620-37-6.
The author identifies and brings together in a creative way two key concepts: state restructuring and economic convergence. The main task he undertakes in the book is to show that there are linkages between Indonesia’s state restructuring and its national economic convergence, as well as with the broader economic convergence taking place among some Southeast Asia economies. Aritenang undertakes his task by analyzing the country’s restructuring activities at both the local and national levels. This is no easy feat because the factors responsible for restructuring are neither simple nor apparent. Despite the difficulty, Aritenang does identify the variables: the key one is Indonesia’s decision to move away from a centralized government regime towards one that exhibits more decentralization. He concludes that the result of such restructuring is a more logical set of institutions that permits both local and state actors to operate more efficiently and effectively, particularly when they design and implement policies and programs intended to enhance national and local economic growth and development.
The author clarifies the meaning of regional convergence by initially referencing neoclassical theory, where convergence among national economies takes place naturally when, over time, a gap in economic growth between advanced and less advanced economies declines due to slower growth in advanced economies coupled with more rapid growth in less advanced economies. In effect, while both sets of economies grow, growth rates for the developing economies exceed those that are taking place in more advanced states. In the less advanced states one reason for this is restructuring. The author recognizes this point and expands upon it by moving beyond simple neoclassical orthodoxy in order to examine an array of studies that “provide evidence that regions are uneven and that the determinants of economic growth range from land, interregional economy and other institutional factors” (7).
Aritenang’s expansion in emphasis sets the stage for a three-part analysis of the impact that state restructuring has on economic convergence. First, he explains the importance of state restructuring in terms of efficiency in resources allocation, income distribution, and macroeconomic stability. Second, he examines the differences between national and local governance restructuring efforts and their varying impact on policy making. Third, he discusses the nature of decentralized policy making and governance. He concludes that there are greater effects at local levels and this yields greater convergence.
Much of Aritenang’s research was conducted in two Indonesian locales familiar to him. One is the manufacturing and industrial city of Batam and the other is the largely intelligence-based economy of Bandung, a locale featuring creativity and innovation. He knows them well because of his experience at the Bandung Institute of Technology and Indonesia’s Agency of Assessment and Application of Technology. Shaped by his experience, the author’s work stresses the idea that localized specialization in production is able take advantage of local resources, knowledge, and familiarity with socio-economic settings.
The book’s core is a set of eight chapters supported by seven rich statistical appendices. The volume’s pages are loaded with institutional information, quantitative data, ideas and analyses, theoretical concepts, and a wide-ranging set of topics that are not always connected to the author’s main task—but they’re usually interesting. Collectively the volume’s contents defy summarization. In brief, the chapters deal with state restructuring generally; the dynamics of its linkages to economic convergence; the impact of ASEAN’s FTA on regional convergence; the institutions that are the bases for restructuring and convergence; and Indonesian restructuring at the local and state levels.
His final chapter lists five important research findings when it comes to promoting economic development: (a) local place-based initiatives take advantage of abundant local resource endowments and infrastructures that attract investment, thereby enhancing growth; (b) partly because they are removed from the above place-based settings, broader institutional changes at the national level often worsen internal economic disparities and slow growth; (c) both cyclical macroeconomic effects and matters of location influence how well restructuring efforts turn out; (d) poor technologies in national manufacturing industries, as well as a shortage of knowledge, often slow national-based growth; and (e) local-place-based initiatives take better advantage of useful institutions and knowledge, and consequently they tend to perform better than more broad-based efforts, particularly in nationwide manufacturing industries.
The author’s writing is compact: it requires a disciplined reading but the effort is worthwhile. The book is well researched and thoughtful. It will interest policy analysts, academics, and advanced students. Not only is the book creative and scholarly, it is also practical and timely. On the practical side, Aritenang’s findings about restructuring are in line with the ideas that form the basis for Thailand’s creative OTOP (One Tambon One Product), a restructuring of production to reflect local resources. Tambon refers to the village or township where the production of one or a few products takes place by combining human and physical resources within the context of local customs and knowledge. This practical restructuring of production affects a range of light manufacturing and agricultural products that are exchanged either nationwide or occasionally via cross-border trade, while some are consumed locally.
in a timely manner, the book’s publication coincides with the early days of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), an integrated economic territory of ten Southeast Asian nations where 625 million people live, work, and produce an aggregate economic output that is the third-largest in Asia and the eighth-largest in the world. The thinking underlying the AEC includes the idea that a set of locally based production centres can generate added output that can be exchanged through national and regional markets, financed by commercial centres, supported by infrastructure facilities, and driven by local resources.
Aritenang’s research conclusions offer a set of ideas that could aid policy makers. The ideas conform to the visions underlying both OTOP and the AEC: that is, it’s wise to take advantage of local human and physical resources, knowledge, and institutions, because doing so leads to long-run comparative advantages, lower market prices, a movement towards economic convergence, and, most of all, enhanced economic wellbeing.
Robert L. Curry Jr., California State University, Sacramento, USA
University of Hawai‘i Manoa, Honolulu, USA (retired)
BUDDHISM, POLITICS, AND POLITICAL THOUGHT IN MYANMAR. By Matthew J. Walton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xv, 226 pp. (Table.) US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-15569-5.
This is an important, fresh study of Buddhist political thought and influence in Myanmar. The book imparts a keen sense of Burmese history and culture, brought into perspective through the author’s extensive fieldwork in Myanmar over several years, where he had access to key members of the monastic order (sangha), local folk, scholars, politicians and students (though he was not permitted to work in Myanmar’s university libraries and generally does not identify his Myanmar contacts by name). An introduction provides an extensive literature review, important because the subject has been recently and comprehensively analyzed from several perspectives, such as those of Michael Aung-Thwin, Gustaaf Houtman, and Juliane Schober, to name but a few. Seven chapters unfold the central argument: what constitutes a tradition of Burmese Buddhist political thought and concepts. A first chapter provides a synoptic review of a few pre-colonial Burmese monarchs (e.g., Mindon Min, Thibaw) and their contributions to an emerging national identity based on a traditional Theravada world-view. Early post-independence (1948) figures and events, such as the political organization Dobama Asiayone, General Aung San, the Panglong Agreement, and the fourteen years of democracy mostly under Prime Minister U Nu, are put into focus. General Ne Win’s long military hegemony and his Burma Socialist Programme Party (1962–1988) also introduce the key subject of the place of Marxism and its relationship to Buddhist moral teachings in Burmese political thought. Most significant in this period was the 1988 mass political protest, with some sangha participation, and the emergence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as not only a key political figure, but as a national paradigm of Buddhist integrity and purpose. The chapter also introduces other themes later carefully unfolded, such as the 2007 “Saffron Revolution,” the 2010 and 2015 national elections, the quasi-civilian government of Thein Sein, and the emergence of problematic Burmese Buddhist nationalism (e.g., MaBaTha, Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion). Chapter two provides a fine synoptic review of central Buddhist principles, such as the traditional characteristics of existence (impermanency, painfulness, non-self), moral action, merit-making, various virtues, and, above all, how those in political power (no matter how odious) were seen to deserve it because of their past good karma (kan). Important as well is the Buddhist dichotomy between lawki (the everyday material world marked by human craving) and lawkouttara (a condition free of greed, anger, and ignorance). Buddhist monks (hpoungyi) are traditionally seen as able to share their karmic merit (hpoun) with those in need, giving monks important respect. The author acknowledges that Burmese Buddhism has a vast Little Tradition of spirits, wizards (weikza), and other-worldly powers that also influence the lives of many. Chapter three sets down the “framework of the Theravada universe” and how it has conditioned an understanding of politics. In the Burmese context, politics is initially seen as only the concern of the monarch and the elite, but in the twentieth century it became democratized with an emerging sense of national political identity (amyotha nain ngan ye). Two well-known, popular suttas from the Pali scriptures (Nikayas) provide an appropriate Buddhist philosophical and ethical background to this traditional political worldview. The Aggañña Sutta provides a treatise on human nature (inherently immoral, bound by craving) and the need for political authority in the figure of a great leader (Mahasammata). On the other hand, the Cakkavatti Sutta predicts the appearance of a righteous monarch (Sankha, Set Kya Min), and, among other things, emphasizes how a ruler is the result of a great store of merit from previous lives. These scriptures are in turn adapted to provide space and legitimacy for a politics of democracy. A fourth chapter reflects on the two very different notions of “order” and “freedom” in colonial and post-independence Burmese political history. Initial reactions to colonialism ranged from linking the prospect of political emancipation to spiritual development and order in society (“moral freedom”) on the one hand, to socialist and even Marxist “political and economic freedom,” on the other. Of particular interest is the author’s review of Marxism and its brief embrace by key Buddhist teachers and politicians, including U Nu, U Chit Hlaing (important author of “The Burmese Way to Socialism,” 1962) and Ne Win. With the political upheaval of 1988 against an entrenched military government and the emerging leadership of Daw Suu Kyi, a shift in emphasis from order in society to freedom in society promoted a new sense of liberation political theory. Democracy crucially meant, among other things, the opportunity to find freedom from fear and three other traditional corruptions (desire, anger, and ignorance). Chapter five asks what politics is in the Burmese context and what constitutes “participation.” “Space” for political participation has greatly widened since 2011, but a lingering sense of class entitlement and a traditional wariness about the “moral capacity” of some lesser-educated individuals to engage in democratic elections is apparent. Buddhist monastic involvement in politics is also controversial, but not uncommon. In the long era of military government (which technically ended in 2011), monastic political activity was discouraged. The role of the sangha in the 2007 so-called Saffron Revolution and thereafter has changed things dramatically, sometimes positively (e.g., active social work) and sometimes very negatively (pockets of racist ultra-nationalism). A sixth chapter reflects on three notions of democracy that have some influence in contemporary Myanmar, notably the “disciplined democracy” of the former military government (aspects of which are accepted by Daw Suu Kyi), a rights-based democracy, and a so-called moral democracy based on Buddhist principles. The key feature of the promotion of national unity (nyi nyut chin) is considered a prerequisite for all of these models. A conclusion reinforces the argument that Burmese political thought will require ongoing public involvement, and an acknowledgement that Buddhism will have an active role in this discourse.
Bruce Matthews, Acadia University, Wolfville, Canada
FROM WORLD CITY TO THE WORLD IN ONE CITY: Liverpool Through Malay Lives. Studies in Urban and Social Change. By Tim Bunnell. Chichester, West Sussex: WILEY Blackwell, 2016. xvii, 284 pp. (Illustrations.) US$37.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-118-82773-4.
The main title of this fascinating book comes from the fact that Liverpool was already known as a “world city” in the late 1880s, although, as author Tim Bunnell points out, it wasn’t to be found in academic debates on “world cities” taking place a century later. With “hundreds” of Malayan seamen said to be living in the city of Liverpool (or specific parts of it) in the 1950s, our attention is immediately drawn to the multi-ethnic nature of the UK population, contradicting those scholars who hold that Britain has become a multi-racial society only in recent years. While much has been written on the role of empire in shaping metropolitan spaces, “very little … of that work has focused on the agency of colonial peoples in imperial cities” (8). Bunnell intends to rectify this. The rest of the book’s title, “The world in one city,” has now been officially adopted by Liverpool city as a marketing device.
The book focuses on the Malay ex-seamen and others who met at Liverpool’s Malay Club for over half a century. In particular, it examines the maritime linkages that made the Malay Club possible and also provided the main informants for the author’s investigative interviews conducted at the club between 2004 and 2008. These were the men who were part of the long-distance social networks, sailing the sea lanes and oceans linking one-time imperial Liverpool to the world region of Southeast Asia. In the early years of the author’s research there were perhaps only twenty ex-seamen still remaining, mainly in their eighties and nineties, so that in most cases Bunnell had to rely on prompted memories for much of his information.
From them, we learn of the various shipping companies registered in Liverpool in colonial times: the Blue Tunnel Line headquartered in Singapore, the Straits Steamship Company, the Prince’s Line, and other British companies, including those of prominent Liverpool ship owner, Alfred Holt, playing a key role in world commerce.
Malay seamen working for these and other companies came from the villages behind Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and were generally Muslim. They filled the roles of cook, fireman, quartermaster, bosun, and others, in some cases with as many as thirty working on a ship, knowing the routes and the routine. Malays, Mahrattas, Burmese, Siamese, Cingalese, were lumped together as lascars and, when not at sea, with their families occupied the ethnically segregated areas of Britain’s ports: Glasgow, Liverpool, Cardiff. The younger men could be seeking adventure in Australia or a place where they could jump ship. One of the more lucrative journeys for the shipping companies was the carriage of haji passengers in Liverpool-registered ships to the port of Jeddah, passing through Singapore twice (both outward and return journeys), taking their once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimages. According to Bunnell, such journeys formed a significant portion of the shipping companies’ income.
From the 1970s, the number of seamen using the club declined, increasingly outnumbered by the grandchildren and families of ex-seamen (some without indigenous language skills). With its rapid economic growth and expanding economy, the Malaysian government looked to educate its professional class outside the country so that, with an increased number of government scholarships available to study in Liverpool, university and other students increasingly took over the club, outnumbering the old seafarers. For the new arrivals, the Malay Club then became a place where children learned to be Malay.
There are many interesting themes in this occasionally dense and theoretical text, some of them pursued more deeply than others. Social networks, linkages, webs and “worlds of connection” figure frequently. Bunnell is a geographer who moves easily through different social, spatial, and political spaces and different divisions of labour: local, national, transnational, imperial, postimperial, postnational, supranational, etc. The political processes of Merdeka (independence) and Malaysianization are not mentioned in my review, though reports of ex-seamen seeing vessels in Liverpool belonging to the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation left vivid memories and impressions on the memories of many of the Malay ex-seamen.
Fluent in his subjects’ language, the author is clearly conscious of his own place in the fieldwork process; he is equally aware of the way his gender position may be affecting his interviewing, or how his own knowledge of what he is investigating influences what he records.
Bunnell has valuable comments to make on the subject of comparative studies, illustrated here with reference to the symbolic functions of buildings and comparing Liverpool’s Manhattan-inspired Royal Liver Building—in 1911 the tallest building in Europe and known as “the first British skyscraper”—with the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur (1990s), the tallest twin towers building in the world. Or again, when comparing Shanghai’s Bund waterfront with Liverpool’s Pier Head. Both looked to New York City for their models of modernity.
Not the least impressive aspect of the book is the very comprehensive forty-page index. Yet surprisingly, this doesn’t refer to one of the most advanced institutions in modern
imperial governance, of critical importance in the long run to maritime service. I refer here to Liverpool’s School of Tropical Medicine, established a year before the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This is not to detract from what is an impressive, theoretically sophisticated, and methodologically challenging book which certainly succeeds in meeting the author’s intention of drawing attention to “yet another of (Liverpool’s) ethnocultural groups” (22). The study is based on an extensive bibliography, archives, and participant observation in Liverpool, Malaysia, and Singapore, and interviews with some twenty remaining Malay ex-seamen. It will be of interest, amongst others, to researchers in world/global cities, and relational geography.
Anthony D. King, Binghamton University SUNY, Vestal, USA
SHI‘ISM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: ‘Alid Piety and Sectarian Constructions. Chiara Formichi, R. Michael Feener (editors). New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. xvi, 397 pp. (Illustrations, portraits.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-026401-7.
A study of Shi’ism in Southeast Asia has been a long time coming. Readers dealing with the Muslim zone of Southeast Asia continually run into references about ‘Ali, Fatima, the family of the Prophet and other names and terms that suggest a Shi’a influence. This raises the question: Is there a real and prevalent Shi’a force or presence in Southeast Asia or are these merely invocations without deep meaning? The editors of this anthology have provided an answer, namely that there was considerable Shi’a presence in the Islam that first came to the region, but it later lost out to Sunni Islam. As a result, discussions of Shi’a exist in the literature, in some celebrations, and in historical references. As well, modern Shi’ism, reflecting an Iranian stance against Western and other ideological viewpoints, has gained a foothold in certain places, particularly in Indonesia.
There are fourteen essays in the book. The first is an introduction to the study while the second deals with overall trends in Shi’a Islam without regard to world areas. The remaining twelve essays present evidence of Shi’a influence in Southeast Asia. The organization is logical, by subject area, the essays are well structured and well written, and the overall text is well edited. The contributors represent a truly international scope, with scholars from Australia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States. All are specialists in their fields and they range from senior scholars to those just getting established in the academic world.
One of the chief areas of scholarship in this book is contained in part 2: Literary Legacies, where four essays have Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, as their focal point. Most of the material comes from an historical literature that may be classified as “Muslim Women’s Literature,” in which Fatima and several wives of the Prophet are pictured as role models for later Muslim women. Fatima is portrayed with various attributes depending on the views of writers of various manuscripts. Stories from the Middle East stress Fatima’s charity, devotion to her father and husband and, above all, her poverty and humility. Stories from Southeast Asia follow earlier Hindu tales wherein Fatima is a princess who certainly is charitable, but still wealthy, refined, and socially astute. All of the stories emphasize her life before the birth of her children and thereby avoid her presence in the pivotal historical beginning of Shi’ism, with the martyrdom of her son Husayn. Hence, note the writers of these essays, Fatima’s importance could either be a reflection of Sunni respect for a member of the Prophet’s family, or a manifestation of Shi’a identification. Inclusion of the wives of the Prophet as ideal women seems to have been a device for making the documents identify more closely with Sunni Islam at a time perhaps when de-emphasis of Shi’a forms and outlooks may have been occurring in Southeast Asia. One article, discussing the sexual act itself, uses ‘Ali and Fatima as the model for conducting such relations, particularly in the use of certain pious phrases that should be uttered throughout the action. It is unclear, however, whether it is Sufistic practice that is the driving factor or an identification with Shi’ism.
A second line of investigation, found in part 3: Modalities of ‘Alid Piety and Cultural Expression, yields two interesting studies on ‘Ashura celebrations in the Malay-Indonesian world. Both developed historically to reflect local mores and entertainment traditions that retained only a semblance of the content or even context of the very pietistic forms commemorating the death of Husayn in standard Shi’a Islam. The first, by one of the editors, Michael Feener, traces the development of the Tabot celebration in Bengkulu, Indonesia. Local dancing, parades, neighbourhood processions, band competitions, picnicking, and the honouring of local shrines allow the entire region to participate in the event. Family hierlooms of small dioramas of metal or carved wood, often depicting scenes from the Hindu Ramayana, such as the mythical Garuda (bird), are an important part of the parades. The festival begins on Muslim New Year and ends on ‘Ashura. In the second article another author traces the development of the Boria celebration in Penang, Malaysia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Boria were parades with floats accompanied by revellers acting foolishly while dressed in outlandish costumes, usually intended to twit rival Chinese or Malay gangs and British colonial authority. Neither festival celebration has much to do with Husayn or the commemoration of his martyrdom.
A third line of investigation is contained in part 4: Contemporary Developments, where one author traces the rise of Shi’ite socio-political activism in Indonesia over the past twenty years. That author concentrates, in particular, on the activist Jamaluddin Rahmat’s efforts to create a Shi’ism adaptive to the existing Indonesian Muslim community. There are other Shi’ite activists who prefer a more purist, less compromising brand of Shi’ism, and there are Sunnis who regard all these Shi’a efforts as belonging to a “deviant” sect of Islam. The second article by Chiara Formichi, the other volume editor, brings up the work of the Rausyan Fikr Foundation in Indonesia, which promotes study groups where Shi’ite philosophy and history, but never law, are emphasized. Most study group members are university-level students. Such study is certainly not in step with usual Islamic educational activity prevalent in Southeast Asia, as the Rausyan Fikr promotes open thinking about religious lessons, rather than mastering the standard formulas of Sunni or Shi’istic orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
One important point not covered in the book is whether the influence of Shi’ism is likely to expand or fade in the future. Is the legacy sufficient to continue to have an impact? Is the influence of Iranian importance in the central Islamic world likely to promote even greater interest in its brand of Islam in peripheral areas? The two editors, now having a thorough understanding of ‘Alid importance in Southeast Asia, are likely candidates for making such an assessment. Hopefully they will take up the challenge.
Howard M. Federspiel, Ohio State University (Emeritus), Columbus, USA
THAI POLITICS: Between Democracy and Its Discontents. By Daniel H. Unger, Chandra Mahakanjana. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2016. ix, 251 pp. US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-6263742-7-0.
The recent turbulence in Thailand’s politics has seen much ink spilled in an attempt to explain the root causes of conflict. Thai Politics: Between Democracy and Its Discontents does this and goes further by considering Thailand’s political future. Daniel Unger and Chandra Mahakanjana are negative about the nature of politics but are a little more optimistic regarding a more democratic politics following the current period of military rule.
Using modernization theory, the authors seek to understand why Thailand, as a middle-income economy, has been unable to embed a stable democratic form of government (1-5). In this effort, the authors are quick to dismiss notions that Thailand’s troubles are “a straightforward class conflict or the stubborn refusal of hidebound elites to relinquish power and privilege” (5). They also seek to dismiss any thought that the monarchy has contributed to political conflict (8-10). Neither dismissal is particularly convincingly handled. In fact, on class, the authors admit that material and structural factors and high inequality do motivate some of the political conflict. Their position seems to be to argue that “other factors”—intra-elite conflict, political culture—also need to be considered (5-8), a point few class analysts would disagree on. The authors also spend considerable space making a positive case for the monarchy, although their arguments are not new, being reflective of Thailand’s elite perspective.
The authors have structured their book to include seven chapters. Chapter 1 is the authors’ conceptual outline of the conditions that favour the emergence and consolidation of democracy and Thailand’s democratic failures. Chapter 2 provides the authors’ interpretation of recent events in Thai politics, providing a background for the following chapters. Chapters 3 to 6 follow the lines of enquiry set out in the first chapter, examining the history and structure of the Thai state, rule of law, political communication, and political mobilization. In chapter 7, the authors consider Thailand’s political future.
The authors’ approach to the analysis that they expand in chapters 3 through 6 emphasizes personalism, leaders’ morality (or lack of it), the strength of informal institutions, the role of the monarchy, and the hold of traditionalism. In addressing these themes, the approach is unsurprising for those familiar with the modernization approaches to Thailand that were dominant in the 1960s and 1970s. That said, the authors are eclectic, with references to Shakespeare, Hume, Nietzsche, J.S. Mill, Disraeli, Weber, Geertz, Bourdieu, and many more, often cited as quotations sourced from the works of others.
The authors are attracted by a culturalist approach. By quoting Ruth Benedict from 1943 and Thomas Kirsch from 1973, they resurrect—but do not name—a notion that Thailand is a “loosely-structured society,” resisting (appropriate) modernity and democratic governance.
Theoretical approach aside, most readers will find much to agree with in this book. It covers much ground, makes comparative references, and where it is available, the authors deploy survey data regarding political participation and attitudes. Some will be pleased to find that the authors, after considering a range of conflicts and repeated political failures, consider that Thailand can still manufacture a democratic future that adapts to “mass demands for political inclusion and rising levels of political participation” (212).
Yet getting to this agreeable conclusion is a complicated mix of methods and analysis that is less satisfying. In their comparative references, the authors are overwhelmingly struck by similarities between contemporary Thailand and Western countries of many decades ago. Thaksin Shinawatra’s politics is compared with Andrew Jackson’s populism (209-212), the Thai elite’s rejection of majoritarianism is compared with eighteenth-century British and American calls for limits on voting (23), rural-urban splits are compared with nineteenth-century Denmark (137), and Thailand’s “limited corporatist features” are said to resemble seventeenth-century Russia (165). These frequent comparative asides construct a narrative implying political backwardness.
Alongside these comparisons, the authors state that they “give much attention to Thai interpretations of social life, uses of information, patterns of participation in politics…” and more (23). Surprisingly, to do this, the authors rely almost entirely on resources in English. This means the Thai voices heard are those of an elite writing in English or those reported in English-language sources. The authors do not consider how this pattern might skew their results and the arguments they make.
While the authors identify that “weak institutions lie at the roots of Thailand’s democracy problem” (206), they make this a far more controversial argument when expressing support for a perspective that “too many Thais lack what it takes to sustain democratic institutions.” Acknowledging that this is a “decidedly politically incorrect stance” (206), chapter 5 presents an argument that forcefully makes this claim. Thais are said to debate with “low information content” and exhibit “poor quality public deliberations” (131). Further, they “employ crude stylized cognitive maps” (132), are overtaken by superstition (135), and are mostly “politically unsophisticated” (134). Data are mined to argue that Thailand’s children are poorly schooled by poor teachers, read little, and do badly on standardized tests (138-139). This has political outcomes as voters have limited knowledge, with poor, rural voters easily led astray (151). Given that a similar rhetoric stirred elitist and anti-election activism that led to a military coup in 2014, this assessment will certainly be contentious.
While the authors’ political perspectives are clear and, at times, they are somewhat uncritical of “yellow shirt” and royalist claims, they do seek to be even-handed. For example, they criticize Thaksin but also the generals who seized power in 2014. Likewise, while their numerous discussions of King Bhumibol are mostly uncritical, they do recognize that the monarchy must change and become a truly constitutional monarchy.
In the end, it seems the authors are liberals in search of democracy, recognizing the need for increased political inclusion but worried that this might be damaging for Thailand (and for its elite). In that context, Thai Politics will be applauded, criticized, and debated.
Kevin Hewison, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA
and Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
DYNAMICS OF DEMOCRACY IN TIMOR-LESTE: The Birth of a Democratic Nation, 1999–2012. Emerging Asia, 2. By Rui Graça Feijó. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2016. 335 pp. (Tables.) US$124.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-8964-804-4.
In June 2006, after the splintering of the young country’s security sector and the outbreak of communal violence in Dili, Timor-Leste’s President José Alexandre “Xanana” Gusmão delivered a long emotional speech in which he declared: “The President of the Republic is a sovereign organ. One single person, I myself am this Organ of Sovereignty.” For those unfamiliar with Portuguese and other Lusophone-country constitutions, the statement was bewildering; for others, it occasioned jokes. But there was no uncertainty about the ultimatum that followed: “Either ask your Comrade [Prime Minister] Mari Alkatiri to be responsible for this big crisis and the survival of the Democratic state ruled by law, or tomorrow I will submit my letter to the National Parliament to inform [it] that I have resigned as President of the Republic….” Faced with the choice, Alkatiri submitted his own letter of resignation, setting the stage for Gusmão to appoint José Ramos-Horta, a political independent and Gusmão-ally, as interim prime minister, and to request a new UN peacekeeping force. Even so, the political crisis, which included the displacement of more than 100,000 people, dragged on for a full year until new national elections could be held and Gusmão emerged as the country’s next prime minister.
Scholarship on Timor-Leste’s political development often employs the 2006–2007 crisis as a gauge either of all that was wrong or of all that has subsequently been achieved. For skeptics, the crisis was evidence of the failures of the UN mission that ushered the country from the 1999 referendum to the restoration of independence in 2002, of the deep-seated political cleavages emanating from the aborted process of decolonization in 1975, and even of the failure of East Timorese to fully embrace democracy. For others, the decade since the crisis charts the great successes of the Gusmão administrations and their continuation under Gusmão’s handpicked successor, Rui Maria de Araújo. It is into these muddy waters that Rui Feijó’s new book, Dynamics of Democracy in Timor-Leste, wades and shines an illuminating beam of light.
If the 1999 referendum signaled the promise of representative government, the constitution (ratified in 2001) was a blueprint for its operation. But the writing of the constitution was contentious, its interpretation contested and enabling legislation slow to see the light of day. Feijó’s first chapter provides a theoretical discussion of what democracy is and what it should be, highlighting the distinction between and intersection of horizontal and vertical accountability. The next chapter assesses a long list of Timor-Leste’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats at the time of the UN interregnum. Rejecting simplistic, one-size-fits-all formulas of international best practice, Feijó writes that, “a bumpy track on a dirt road in the beautiful mountains of Timor is a better illustration of the way ahead than a road on the Dili seafront recently paved to international standards” (127).
The chapters that follow address the critical issues of constitution writing under the UN, national elections, the semi-presidential system, and the promise of decentralization. Chapter 3 examines the difficult circumstances under which the first elections were held for a Constituent Assembly (CA) and the short-time frame set for it to write the constitution, revealing tensions between the terms “old” and “new” constitutionalists, which is shorthand for the Fretilin majority and those who opposed Fretilin. For Feijó, however, the fundamental problem was less the content of the constitution, which broadly followed a Lusophone model, than the decision to transform the CA into the country’s first parliament. “The result was that open political competition for elected posts prescribed in the constitution was delayed until 2007 and distorted by political choices” (151).
National elections are the focus in chapter 4. Feijó begins with a useful survey of electoral legislation, management, and levels of participation, before devoting separate sections to presidential elections (with a highlight on the success of “independent” candidates) and parliamentary elections. Drawing these strands together, the chapter ends with a discussion of regional variation in electoral results (which was particularly pronounced in 2007) and the role of personalities (with particular attention drawn to Gusmão’s “outstanding and charismatic persona”). In Feijó’s view, Timor-Leste’s performance has been overwhelmingly positive, though he does note that, “the 2012 elections reinforced the tendency for bipolarization around FRETILIN and [Gusmão’s] CNRT” (201). The reasons for this clearly go beyond institutional design, party loyalty or even personalities, and hinge in fundamental ways on the size, allocation, and even abuse of the state budget. Building on this, chapter 5 provides a close examination of semi-presidentialism in Timor-Leste, combining a sophisticated theoretical discussion with a highly positive appraisal of how the system has served the young country. In Feijó’s view, semi-presidentialism brought cleavages “inside the boundaries of constitutionally defined settings”, and hence imposed restraint (226). Gusmão, once again, is the hero of the story. The final chapter on “grassroots democracy” focuses largely on the still unfulfilled promise of decentralization.
This book will be of interest to a wide audience. For those concerned with questions of institutional design and the challenges of its implementation, the book provides a sophisticated account of semi-presidentialism and an encouraging perspective on democratic participation in newly independent states. For those familiar with Timor-Leste’s politics, the book calls into question many common assumptions and challenges the piecemeal approach to technical legal issues, the security sector, state administration, and a host of other sectors. For those in search of a primer on the first decade of independence, however, some companion reading is recommended to bring to life the major and lesser-known personalities and events, economic policies, and foibles involved in the building of this “common house” of democracy. While Feijó’s overall assessment of democracy in Timor-Leste is positive, he remains realistic: “Stability, which has marked Timor-Leste’s development in recent years, cannot therefore be equated with the consolidation of democracy” (290).
Douglas Kammen, National University of Singapore, Singapore
THE UPROOTED: Race, Children, and Imperialism in French Indochina, 1890–1980. Southeast Asia—Politics, Meaning, and Memory. By Christina Elizabeth Firpo. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. xi, 260 pp. (Illustrations.) US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-4757-9.
“Uprooted” refers to the métis (mixed race) children born out of wedlock from Indochinese mothers and foreign fathers, who were forcibly removed from their mothers by French colonial authorities with the intent of cultivating their loyalties to France and curtailing indigenous cultural influences. Christina Firpo has been working on this topic for more than a decade using data she gathered from various archives and protection society programs. The collected data enabled her to create a database of more than four thousand métis children, which, according to her estimate, constitute approximately 40 percent of all métis who were put in the care of protection societies. The Uprooted is based on her 2007 dissertation and later research; the book goes beyond her previous work, however, in that it is more comprehensive in detail and stretches the timeframe through the period of decolonization until 1980.
Firpo addresses two main ideas in the book. First, she examines why the colonial government and protection societies intensively searched for métis children and claimed their custody. Second, she investigates the development of the métis protection societies and the shifts in attitude by the French. Firpo suggests that colonial authorities were motivated by their fear that female métis might become prostitutes, as this would have led to degeneration in the prestige of the “white race” and the status of the European bourgeois class. Moreover, French authorities worried about the possibility of rebellion by métis adolescent males because they were denied recognition as French citizens. The book is structured chronologically, guiding the reader through the history of changes in policies and French attitudes towards métis children throughout the colonial regime.
Chapter 1 discusses the early years of French colonial rule when métis children, unrecognized by their fathers and abandoned by their mothers, were put in Catholic orphanages. From the 1880s, French permanent residents of Indochina began forming child protection societies as civilian-led organizations independent of Catholic orphanages. Intolerance toward mixed-race relationships and anxiety about métis children as potential rebels constantly remained in the minds of colonial rulers. However, there was a change in approach toward métis children during World War I and its aftermath, as discussed in chapter 2. Their biological connection to the French was recognized and highlighted because of the need for more soldiers to fight the war.
In 1936 the colonial government decided to end the activities of private welfare organizations and centralized the métis children protection system (73). As discussed in chapter 3, the Jules Brévié Foundation, a unified protection society, was established to provide complete state control of activities related to métis children. In chapter 4, Firpo shows that during World War II, métis were recognized for their French blood because the colonial government wanted to use them to solve some of the colony’s demographic problems. Protection society officials sought out métis who looked “white” to educate and train them to become members of the French elite in Indochina and to use them as the colony’s administrators (91).
During the French Indochina War (1946-1954), the colonial government returned the protection system back to civilian control. Chapter 5 discusses the creation of the Fédération des Oeuvres de l’Enfance Francaise d’Indochine (FOEFI) led by influential adult métis leaders, with the goal of forming citizens loyal to France who would support the French colonial regime in Indochina. The last chapter reveals a new finding: from the end of French colonial rule until 1980, French civilians working for FOEFI continued to remove métis children from Indochina and send them to France without parental consent.
In reading the mostly sad stories of métis children born from “prostitutes” and French soldiers, one wonders if there were any genuine feelings involved in the histories of such couples during colonial times. Firpo mentions in the introduction that the stories of fatherless métis children remained unknown to both French and indigenous audiences, yet she also states that “Vietnamese language women’s newspapers published extensively … on the subject of the colony’s new child-care institutions … perhaps a veiled reference to fatherless métis children” (63). This makes me wonder if indeed the existence of more than ten thousand métis children remained unnoticed. Furthermore, Firpo writes, “the phenomenon of father’s involvement in the removal process indicates a cultural change in the role of fathers who had abandoned métis children” (99). What I learned from this book is that the fathers never recognized or admitted their paternity throughout the colonial period; instead, the colonial authorities formally privileged “father power” to provide the protection societies with the right to remove the children from their mothers. This was therefore not “a cultural change in the role of fathers” but was rather a legal strategy to achieve the same goal.
Overall, the author portrays colonial rule as mostly stable throughout its history and as though the colonial administrators always knew what to do. The whole of colonial and postcolonial history is divided into six periods and discussed in six chapters, with each chapter emphasizing changes in policies and attitudes toward métis children. But was there always such a clear distinction between policies adopted in consecutive periods? The author seems to have assumed that the colonial administration almost from the beginning had the capacity to create efficient policies and laws related to métis children. One may conjecture, however, that there would have been rather complex negotiations between colonial authorities and the local society concerning a number of relevant matters. Firpo suggests that the colonial authorities and protection societies systematically removed métis children from their mothers, thus raising questions not only about the consistency of the colonial state but also about the relationship between colonial authorities and the protection societies. As Firpo illustrates, they did not always work together, and the protection societies did not always share information with one another. Thus one may wonder about the degree of continuity in the treatment of métis children from 1870 to 1980, as one would expect ruptures, conflicts, and negotiations over the course of this history.
In conclusion, The Uprooted is a well-researched and well-written book on an important historical phenomenon that has remained practically invisible for a long time. The history of métis children as a potential threat but also a potential asset during colonial times was convincingly presented by Firpo and should be of interest not only to readers of Indochinese colonial history but to those in gender studies, Asian history, and colonial studies more generally.
Mai Bui Dieu Linh, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada
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
MOTHERS’ DARLINGS OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC: The Children of Indigenous Women and U.S. Servicemen, World War II. Edited by Judith A. Bennett and Angela Wanhalla. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. xxiv, 379 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5152-1.
There are a lot of accounts of the Pacific War, but they are not concerned with topics such as the love relationships between indigenous women and wartime servicemen. No one has been interested enough to ask questions about the children born from those relationships. While these children and their mothers remain absent from the official military record, Judith A. Bennett and Angela Wanhalla have cared enough to ask the question: What happened to the children who were left behind by American servicemen based in the South Pacific between January 1942 and the end of the Pacific War?
Each chapter of this book provides an answer specific to the communities and families of one island where American military bases were established. By the end of 1941, the Unites States began to send servicemen to the South Pacific in order to stave off the Japanese offensive and organize a counter-offensive. Although allies from the Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand also served in the Pacific, this book only concerns the American servicemen, particularly those who never met their children, born after their departure. And it only focuses on the South Pacific, leaving the North, East, West, and Central command areas out of the scope.
The structure of the book reflects the chronology of the arrival of the US forces, with a few exceptions. It begins with the chapter about the children of American servicemen in Bora Bora, the second to be occupied, followed by the chapter on Western Samoa, although that was the fifth base to be established. The subsequent chapters follow the series of American occupations: New Caledonia, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), Wallis Island, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, and Gilbert Islands, totalling eleven chapters plus an introduction and epilogue.
The style oscillates constantly between the detached prose of historiography and the engaging voice of storytelling. For example, in the introduction, Bennett writes in the first person, telling an anecdote about a Fijian man searching for his American father, which gave her the original inspiration to research this book. On the other hand, the central question of this book is a genuinely historical one: Why have these histories been ignored? In answering this question, the book is not informed by archives only. Rather, long excerpts of interviews intersperse the narration; individual life stories intersect with the historical records; and much space is dedicated to the representation of emotions. For instance, recurrent reference is made to the sense of abandonment that Pacific families felt, and the healing that resulted from discovering that many fathers did not leave out of their own initiative, but rather were forced to do so by the military laws.
The index provides quantitative evidence of the prominence of the emotive theme. The most recurring words of the book are: children, fathers, marriage, women, and emotions. The reason for this insistence on emotions seems to be found, on the one hand, in the societal purpose of the research. Research participants have apparently gained in health as a consequence of “seeking and sometimes finding relatives” as well as from learning that “they were not the only ones with such wartime legacy” (xiii). On the other hand, emotions emerge from the historiographical salience of the theme of emotions. “Love,” Bennett writes, “is something historians rarely speak of” (23), presumably even less in the sub-field of military history. This book seeks to counter the tendency to portray intimate wartime relationships with indigenous women as essentially matters that involved no feelings. By representing the love of mothers, children, and fathers, this book succeeds in carving a space in the extant historiography for the forgotten subjects of the Pacific War.
Rodolfo Maggio, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
MAKING THE MODERN PRIMITIVE: Cultural Tourism in the Trobriand Islands. By Michelle MacCarthy. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. x, 270 pp. (Illustrations.) US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5560-4.
As its title flags, this volume is a study of cultural tourism in the Trobriand Islands based on fieldwork in 2009–2010. The research is focused on four groups: tourists, Trobriand Islanders, government officers involved in tourism, as well as tour operators and hotel owners. MacCarthy investigates how these groups interact in four contexts: formal performances, informal village visits, souvenir shopping, and tourist photography. Her work is based on lightly structured interviews as well as that old standby, participant observation, and she lived with a local family. The book is quite reliant on anecdotal material and her interviews are generated from only 186 tourists (for a minimum 3-night stay) who visited the islands during the author’s time there. The strength of this volume is in its detail about tourism in this particular place and time. The author writes fluently and exhibits a warm rapport with the many people she interviewed.
Although this study is of cultural tourism, MacCarthy sets herself a larger task:
“I merely use tourism as a means and the Trobriands as a place, through which I can access questions fundamental to anthropological theory” (5). Within this larger framework she is interested in the way in which anthropological concepts, culture, tradition, custom, authenticity, and primitivity are appropriated and manipulated by producers and consumers in this local-global interaction. At this level, the volume is not quite as successful. While making some acute observations, the author does not develop a sophisticated enough framework to draw out the implications of her material. She suggests that the experience of the travellers and the Trobriand Islanders is a constructed one, and that distortion, myth, and fabrication operate in the interactions between various parties. Individuals experience events as what the author calls “singularities,” a category of cultural commodity that downplays commodity status to generate an increased sense of the primitive and authentic, but these “singularities” are experienced according to non-uniform criteria, that is, an individual’s own background and expectations, using broad tropes about culture and the primitive.
What I took away from these observations was a sense that here strangers encounter each other in a kind of trance, mixed with some curiosity and exchange, the trance being a global ideology about culture and authenticity. Rather than following up the potential of this intriguing material, which surely points to a need for a critical idea of culture as based not simply on invention, but on misconception and illusion—that is, a notion of culture as that which separates, alienates, and blinds—the author instead explores that which is entirely expected in tourism: that all parties use a series of not very intriguing tropes about culture, the primitive etc. No surprises here. This lack of criticality is partly because of a pedestrian reliance on over-used standbys, such as Roy Wagner’s 1975 notion of culture as invented and relational. The concept, as used in this book, is rather bland—yet the history of the Trobriand Islands, where cultural tourism seems, on the author’s own evidence, a very precarious enterprise that has failed more than once, is ripe for a more critical analysis of cultural tourism, and of the notion of culture itself, which is the author’s overarching concern. Culture can be a site of isolation and blindness, but one would never know it from this volume, which presents a picture of a rather banal, vaguely commoditized kind of interaction.
The volume is thorough in its coverage of the complex history and anthropology of the Trobriand Islands and the author provides some interesting summaries of the many films and books about the area, but in her attempt at coverage she doesn’t really do much original analysis. In these sections the volume is like a very particular kind of tourism, the Cook’s Tour—rapidly stopping at many sites—exhaustive and exhausting. Rather than delving deeply into any one subject she skips through a multitude, lightly binding topics such as the gift, notions of art/artifact/commodity and the spectacle around her four themes: interactional notions of culture, authenticity, custom, and primitivity.
Despite this over-all coverage, certain subjects important to understanding the tourism in the Trobriands are lacking sufficient detail, for example, the history and background of the two lodges, Bukia and Kiriwina. I had nagging questions about these, which distracted from a focus on the author’s points. On whose land are these hotels built? Is there conflict over land on which the lodges are built? The volume provides so much evidence of failed or unrealized projects that investigations into potential conflicts between various parties on the Islands seems warranted, at least such questions should be addressed by the author. Some of these issues might add some grit to this presentation of culture as transaction between two individual parties in which a more or less “imagined” experience of “culture” or the “primitive” or the “authentic” occurs. Culture here is not contested, but simply glancing and vague.
The author also ignores other elephants in the room, one of which is the context of tourism itself, a context in which the interrelations between the individuals involved is fleeting and often superficial—people create “just so” stories on the spot, fictions to satisfy a customer, or to satisfy themselves or an anthropologist. This is a very particular type of “culture.” The author, while recognizing this fact, does not really take its implications into account. The ideas of Irving Goffman might have helped here, the sense in which we remain masked strangers to each other in the alienation of interaction. MacCarthy uses tired terms, such as the “other” and “difference,” to account for this alienation, yet this volume speaks to how we start strangers to each other, and remain so, quite happily; tourism as a kind of trance of commodity fetishism.
Diane Losche, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
MEMORIALIZING PEARL HARBOR: Unfinished Histories and the Work of Remembrance. By Geoffrey White. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. xi, 340 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$26.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6102-2.
This is a book with many stories to tell. Geoffrey White charts a constellation of intertwined issues surrounding perhaps the most iconic historical landmark on US soil, the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After the 1941 Japanese attack which saw a massive explosion and fire send the Arizona to the shallow bottom along “Battleship Row,” the ship was left as a grave for most of the 1177 sailors and marines who died aboard, and the iconic white memorial astride the wreck was dedicated in 1962. The first visitor center and museum, opened in 1980 to accommodate growing numbers of visitors and managed by the National Park Service, was expanded in 2010 as the centerpiece of the new “World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument” comprising a number of memorials and museums around Pearl Harbor.
White, emeritus professor of anthropology at University of Hawaii and longtime Honolulu resident with an abiding interest in Pacific history and memory, began fieldwork at Pearl Harbor in the early 1990s. This research grew into “multiple projects and collaborations” spanning two and a half decades, and here he has given himself space to draw out the many ensuing threads, interweaving military commemoration, nationalist narratives, evolving historical praxis, and touristic consumption, with the Arizona and its environs an ideal touchstone for such globalizing themes.
An insightful introduction lays out the background and theoretical framework for the rest of the book. While the memorial itself remains a sacred space for remembrance of war dead “in perpetual service to the nation” (21), the visitor center and museum have continued to evolve over the years. White shows that ethnographic methods involving long-term engagement with people at such a site can produce deeper understandings of the complex politics and practices there, as diverse “cultures of commemoration” rub up against each other and against changing historical analyses and portrayals. The central focus of this busy site fittingly remains honoring the fallen US military personnel (as White takes pains to point out), but over time more diverse “communities of remembrance” have also found space there, significant among them Japanese and Japanese-American visitors.
White reminds us how war memories and their sites are crucial for the historical/political linkages that build and maintain national imaginaries, and this continues to be the case at Pearl Harbor. The original narratives attached to the site focused upon the military attack and aftermath, coinciding well with the commemorative spirit of the memorial, but as the visitor center grew its historical and educational breadth widened, offending some critics who do not find broader historical education appropriate alongside a war grave, or that ritual practices should extend from US military remembrance into acknowledging foreigners and/or civilians, nor into themes of peace and reconciliation.
The first chapter focuses upon a constant and popular presence at the visitor center in the 1990s and early 2000s, Pearl Harbor survivors serving as volunteer docents. These witnesses provided a visceral link to the national history on display, and a means of personal validation for visitors. Outfitted in floral shirts and veterans’ caps, these men presented varied and highly personal interpretations of the site, requiring a bit of monitoring by the Park Service. As the 2000s saw their numbers dwindle to be replaced by park rangers, the focus of the museum has shifted from direct memory to interpretive history.
Chapter Two draws out the “entangled history of commemorative practices” (78) at the memorial. White argues that memorial sites are “fundamentally social in nature,” and that the activities and performances, both official and informal, taking place there continuously construct and reconstruct meaning for diverse visitors. White witnesses in depth the connections made and meanings drawn out as visitors interact (or do not) with the visitor center and its personnel, the memorial, and each other. He also points out some of the many disconnects at the site—foremost being the absence of local representation both in the history on display and sandals on the ground, as this former area of native fish ponds called Pu‘uloa has become a national and international focal point while somehow losing its identity as a local Hawaiian place. While the Pearl Harbor memorial complex and visitor center is the most visited tourist site in Hawaii, it is one of the least visited places for local residents, a fact that highlights the gap between national historical narratives and local subjectivities, with (until recently) no Hawaiian perspectives on display and little illustration of the distinctly colonial Pacific island society (which included indigenous Hawaiians, and “Mainlanders” [or Europeans], Filipinos and Japanese Americans, among others) in place in the islands on the eve of WWII.
Chapter Three takes on filmic representations of Pearl Harbor, especially the “mythopraxis,” or “complex of mythic narrative plus the [racialized] politics of image-making” (141), involved in producing and re-editing the orientation film nearly all visitors to the memorial view. Chapter Four takes up the thorny issue of tourism and the hazards of a “commodification and trivialization of memory” (161) at a site of remembrance which has become de rigueur for any and all holidaymakers displaying (or disregarding) varying levels of solemnity. Chapter Five recounts the complexities of designing and building the new visitors center opened in 2010, involving not just bricks and mortar but the architecture of historical representation.
Chapter Six dissects the sometimes-fraught politics surrounding pedagogy and historical interpretation, especially in contact with “patriotic” military commemorative practices, with Fox News kindly providing a touchstone when Sean Hannity attacked a teachers’ program White himself organized in 2010 as “a perceived insult to national values in national spaces” (247). White reminds us that even when in the minority, strident voices often drown out the chorus. Does inclusion in exhibits and educational programs of Hawaiian colonial history or Japanese American internment during WWII insult the memory of the war dead? Many (including Pearl Harbor veterans) say no, but others shout, YES!
Far from a static shrine to the fallen, White shows how the memorial complex has been in continuous transition from its inception. Even the memorial itself has seen changing practices, with such rituals as a tea ceremony taking place on board more recently. The fellowship of those entombed in the wreck changes as well, as some survivors have chosen to have their remains added to the memorial upon their passing. Returning to the now mostly departed veteran survivors manning the visitors center, White sees this disappearance as the foremost transition presently occurring, and characterizes the entire book as studying a period in the lifecycle of the memorial which is coming to an end—“a period characterized by personal witnessing” (266), being replaced by a period of transition from memory to history.
White’s writing is masterful; demonstrating a rare gift for rendering complex themes and complicating received categories in flowing, accessible prose. There’s a surfeit of riches here difficult to do justice to, with nearly every page holding some nugget worthy of quotation or comment. Students of history and memory, museology, World War II, film and race, tourism and other themes too numerous to list will find exploring this book time well spent.
Andrew J. Connelly, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
DECOLONISATION AND THE PACIFIC: Indigenous Globalisation and the Ends of Empire. Critical Perspectives on Empire. By Tracey Banivanua Mar. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xii, 265 pp. US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-03759-5.
Considerable scholarly attention has been devoted to the end of empire and decolonization, so it is timely that Tracey Banivanua Mar now draws attention to what she calls “a process” (6) that culminated in fourteen declarations of independence in the Pacific between 1962 and 1994. She positions decolonization as the result of two phenomena: assertions of rights by indigenous peoples and an international imperative enshrined in the famous United Nations Resolution 1514. The second position is well presented, with original and revealing research about Pacific Island submissions to international organizations and petitions to the League of Nations. Her third structural position is that decolonization should be studied holistically as a single sea-of-islands approach rather than through the nation state. She calls this an “unconventional framework” (4) but this is treated only briefly and instead selected case studies of indigenous self-determination in Australia and New Zealand, with examples from the islands, are presented to argue that assertions of indigenous identity go back a hundred years. The book is therefore mistitled and should have been called “Indigenous self-determination in Australia and New Zealand and the western Pacific,” a phrasing that better captures the author’s main focus and content. The framework throughout is contextualized by an “us-and-them” approach, with Mar, of Fijian descent, stating in the opening lines that she is on the “us” side.
The book’s introduction, “Sailing the winds of change—decolonisation and the Pacific,” sets out the key themes and offers a broad review of the literature, arguing that decolonization is best understood not as an event but through “spaces between nations, the interstices between colonial and national borders where people travelled and connected” (21). Unfortunately, there is little evidence historically of linkage as the fourteen sites of decolonization either fought their own campaign to force the colonizer out (for example, Samoa, Nauru, and Palau) or quickly adapted domestically as the colonizer walked away, as in PNG, Vanuatu, and the Solomons. Vanuatu, for example, did not engage diplomatically, share, or borrow from its neighbours, the Solomons and PNG, though these two countries had decolonized just five and two years earlier, respectively. Nor did Vanuatu engage with the Republic of the Marshall Islands or the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), which decolonized six years later. Although Fiji’s rapid transition, as Bob Norton’s research has shown, had close links to India, this is bypassed. Also not mentioned are Niue’s inclusion and then breakaway from the Cook Islands, Tongan pretense of autonomy (a “we were never colonized” attitude), or the long-term impact of gathering up disparate entities—the Gilberts, Ellice, Tokelau, and Banaba—to form the Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony (known as the GIEC).
Halfway through the book, at the end of chapter 3, Mar is still engrossed in the colonial era, looking for indigenous affirmations of identity. After interesting discussions about the saltwater principle, and events in the Solomons, Vanuatu, and Fiji, Mar makes the point that colonial powers ignored expressions of indigenous identity and potential governing mechanisms and instead imposed the nation state. Mar also states that colonial administrations had limited influence or “lightly touched” Island peoples (40). Mar argues that Diaspora and mobility were characteristics of the colonial period; however, the argument that decolonization has a hundred-year history becomes problematic as Mar focuses on Australia and New Zealand, and the arguments are heavily reliant on the archive rather than the promised islander-based narrative. Personal vignettes serve as a façade for each chapter. The term “centrifugal forces” then enters the dialogue, suggesting that often-militant, sometimes radical, indigenous resistance and concepts of governance were pushing against the nation state. This is not convincingly presented and the particular goals of the Santo rebellion, the New Britain Mataungan Association, Bougainville, Western Province in the Solomons, and half-hearted Rotuman expressions of self-determination are all ignored. Mar does bring in some telling factors for connected islander resistance such as the South Pacific Commission conference in 1965, delegations to the UN in 1970, and the 1978 Pohnpei Charter, but it is not enough to challenge the conventional nation-state pathway to independence. Mar excitedly claims that by 1970, stemming from indigenous movements, islanders were on the “cusp of a decolonizing revolution” (204) but this ignores the fact that Fijians hardly knew they were being forced to decolonize, and that only a small elite among Vanuatuans, Solomon Islanders, and Papua New Guineans understood that within a few years the colonizers would be gone.
The conclusion claims the two key decolonizing powers were Britain and Australia, but New Zealand and the US were also key players; indeed, nations that raised their new flag subsequently between 1970 and 1994 are overlooked. New Caledonia, French Polynesia, West Papua, Rapanui, Guam, and Hawaii are all continuing sites of resistance and self-determination and Mar could have addressed these more fully. The identity politics of the US and the Congress of Micronesia and the long struggles by the Marshalls, FSM, and Palau, and the role of churches, are not mentioned. The conclusion raises gender as a factor but this is treated briefly and deserves a longer discussion. Despite claiming that islander narratives and voices would be at the forefront, there is little for readers looking for outspoken islanders. Who wrote the constitutions or national anthems? Who danced at Independence Day? How did remote villages celebrate their new nation? Did dissenting islanders express their opposition in dance-drama and poetry in the run-down to raising the flag? I agree with the concluding statement that decolonization in the Pacific Islands was unique, but readers will probably question the claim that it was an “internal, often spatial, postcolonial project … an identity, a belief system and a thought process” (224). Mar notes she did not set out to write the definitive history of decolonization, and while this is an argumentative foray, the history of decolonization as suggested in the book’s title remains to be written.
There are some claims that careful checking could have avoided, such as confusing Phyllis Corowa for Patsy Corowa as founder of the Australian Pacific Islander Association, and conflating events in 1848 and 1859 to suggest that Ben Boyd’s labourers returned home via the North Pacific after a series of tragic events. Ratu Seru Cakobau is twice identified as the King of Fiji (22, 64), despite being given that title by European settlers even though he was only one of thirteen powerful chiefs who ruled domains within Fiji. There are omissions in the literature such as Robert Nicole’s Disputed Histories and Brij Lal’s histories of Fiji as it decolonized, told through biographies of A.D. Patel, sadly passing away on the eve of independence, and Jai Ram Reddy, a key figure in the political arena post-1970. More could have been made of David Chappell’s Double Ghosts and The Kanak Awakening and of Ian Campbell’s work on the Mau movement in Samoa. This is a well-written, deeply researched, and strident argument, but it is not convincing. As a study of “autonomy, cultural pride, survival and revival, custom and identity” (224), it offers a useful survey of the hundred years leading up to the 1960s and 1970s, but the Pacific experience of decolonization remains open for a scholar who will focus on the fourteen islands, and those still waiting, and their particular experiences leading up to flags being raised.
Max Quanchi, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
WEAVING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY POLICY IN SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES. By Miranda Forsyth, Sue Farran. Cambridge, UK: Intersentia, 2015. xiii, 279 pp. €62.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-78068-225-9.
The protection of intellectual property has become an important yet contentious issue since the liberalization of world trade policies. Smaller developing countries, including those in the Pacific region, argue that intellectual property regimes are necessary to protect traditional knowledge, expressions of culture, and associated genetic resources from misappropriation by foreign companies such as pharmaceutical multinationals and, for example, the Walt Disney Company, which released the movie Moana (2016) based on sacred stories from the Pacific (see Facebook page: Mana Moana: We are Moana We are Maui). Existing intellectual property legislation, however, is not suitable to protect traditional knowledge mainly because indigenous expressions of knowledge cannot be ascribed to one identifiable inventor and also because indigenous heritage is usually much older than is allowed within the scope of intellectual property legislation.
At the same time, it is crucial to point out that the main motivation of international institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to introduce intellectual property regimes in small island developing states is at right angles with indigenous goals. Intellectual property is promoted internationally as a development tool, with development understood as the transfer of western expertise and knowledge to the global South. The underlying assumption of this unilinear perspective on development is that the transfer of intellectual property leads to innovation. This view, however, is based on a conception of creativity that is inapplicable in many countries in the global South, where creativity is much more a collective phenomenon embedded within social networks and where the market economy is not such a pronounced regulating mechanism.
The authors of this book therefore depart from an extensive and detailed critique of dominant intellectual property regimes that are entrenched in a particular neo-liberal development paradigm. Through a range of case studies based on Pacific Island countries, they demonstrate the extent to which the political economy of development and its associated discourse of intellectual property have expanded into some of the world’s smallest, undeveloped countries. Rather than focusing on the extent to which intellectual property regimes either further or undermine the objectives of development, this book examines the normative and epistemological assumptions underlying a neo-liberal approach to development. Needless to say, this also has far-reaching implications for the design of alternatives.
After the authors have set out in a lengthy introduction and an opening chapter how they problematize the current development of intellectual property regimes in small island developing states, they exemplify their critique by identifying how imported global intellectual property regimes have impacted on health and education in Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Vanuatu. In chapter 2, they demonstrate the adverse impact of the law of patents on access to non-traditional medicines. In chapter 3, they show how existing regulations of copyright in Pacific Islands make many concessions to the global North agenda and thus frustrate the free flow of educational materials in small islands that are consequently unable to raise the educational standard of their young people. In chapter 4, the problems with the implementation of intellectual property regimes in the region are discussed through a comparison with the regulation of land tenure in the Pacific. A compelling argument is made that the introduction of an ideology of ownership, based on fixed rights rather that flexible rights associated with customary norms, leads to confusion as it disrupts traditional understandings of law.
The second part of the book turns away from a deconstruction of western regimes of intellectual property and aims at constructing an alternative approach. Here the authors draw on critical development theory and decolonization literature in order to show that both the concepts of development and intellectual property should be considered in a wider perspective with more attention for different cultural conceptions of knowledge and ownership. In order to oppose the commodification of knowledge and the dominant market-driven approach to the current regulation of intangible valuables, they outline a more pluralistic and culture-centered approach that weaves together a variety of state and non-state regulatory mechanisms and that is overall more strongly grounded in the social and cultural realities of the Pacific region. The theoretical foundation for this alternative view is elaborated in chapter 5, while it is further explored in the following three chapters presenting three in-depth case studies of the development of sustainable sea transport in the Pacific Islands, of conflicting intellectual property-related claims made over Fijian paper bark cloth (masi), and of the regulation of traditional medicinal knowledge in the Cook Islands. From these examples it becomes clear that there is plenty of dynamic innovation in the Pacific, with many innovators circumventing intellectual property regimes from the global North and relying instead on customary ways of doing things, which are themselves constantly evolving as they respond to new circumstances.
The main argument of this book is that intellectual property policies in small island developing states should be based on existing cultural understandings of rights over and access to intangible heritage. Placing culture at the heart of intellectual property also draws attention to the fact that western intellectual property regimes are a blunt instrument to advance development. Since intellectual property rules are ultimately concerned with creativity, innovation, and knowledge, which are all culturally contextual, any approach of intellectual property legislation should also be culturally located and geographically distinct in order to make it socially and economically relevant.
The authors demonstrate compellingly that intellectual property legislation should always be embedded within the socio-cultural context in which it is implemented in order to achieve development goals. They do so by weaving together policy debates, development discourses, postcolonial theory, and a range of detailed ethnographic case studies from the Pacific but with wider relevance for other developing countries. The only comment to be made is that neither a bibliography nor an index has been included, which makes it impracticable to search for references. Apart from that, this book provides not only a powerful critique of current intellectual property regimes, but also an attractive alternative of how small countries may implement intellectual property legislation without compromising customary practices.
Toon van Meijl, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
CHRISTIANITY, CONFLICT, AND RENEWAL IN AUSTRALIA AND THE PACIFIC. International Studies in Religion and Society, 26. Edited by Fiona Magowan, Carolyn Schwarz. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. xi, 299 pp. (Figures.) US$142.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-21723-2.
This ambitious, timely volume brings together thirteen leading and emerging scholars of the anthropology of Christianity in the Australia-Pacific region. Contributors’ discussions focus on expressions of renewal that, irrespective of their transformative, revival, or restorative successes, “have lasting and deep implications for experiences of self and society” (15), and reach beyond “charismatic formulations” to include “cultural, physical, and political dimensions” (2). Geographically based in northern Australia, Samoa, French Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, chapters are both firmly situated in their ethnographic contexts and integrated into an overarching comparative framework. Following the editors’ introduction, the volume is divided into three parts, each accompanied by a commentary. Commentaries identify common (and diverging) themes addressed in individual chapters, position chapters in broader theoretical debates, and speak to the contemporaneous, local, national, regional, and global influences and shapes of Christianity.
Part 1, “Christian Transcendence and the Politics of Renewal,” touches on familiar themes in the Australia-Pacific religion: Christianity’s historical and ongoing entanglement with political aspirations and imaginations and, closely related, uncertainties surrounding the shifting roles of indigenous cosmologies, rituals, aesthetics, values, and practices. The four chapters successfully avoid the trap of (more) dialectic discussions of continuity and rupture, and the roles played by mainstream and new Christian movements therein. Instead, they paint a picture that emphasizes the complex negotiations and, as suggested in John Barker’s commentary, “unexpected points of convergence” (26) that define contemporary projects of renewal rooted in the broader historical, political-economic contexts of which these projects are part. In this vein, chapters by Gwendoline Malogne-Fer, Yannick Fer, and Fiona Magowan compellingly explore conflicts surrounding aesthetic and performative practices of renewal as expressions of spiritual and political beliefs, linking these practices to neo-liberal policies, desires for “authenticity” in cultural tourism industries, and broader transnational debates and movements. As (partial) counterpoint, Rodolfo Maggio traces the rise of Pentecostal churches and charismatic worship in the Solomon Islands with reference to debates and frictions within the Anglican Church of Melanesia, rather than as primarily a response to external influences.
In her commentary to part 2, “Christian Renewal and the Transformation of Persons,” Diane Austin-Broos re-emphasizes the significance of anthropological analysis and ethnographic particularities for understanding continuity and change as “made, not simply given” (136), as ambiguous, not definite. Moving beyond a focus on ritual, liturgical experiences, the three chapters in this section elaborate on the daily significance of Christian renewal, specifically its intersections with bodily experiences and expressions of well-being and security. John Taylor discusses the innate connections between sorcery and Christianity in Vanuatu. Carolyn Schwarz and Jessica Hardin explore Yolngu (Northern Territory, Australia) and Samoan Christian narratives and practices surrounding health, healing, and wellness. Particularly intriguing is Hardin’s chapter on Samoan, evangelical Christian quests for healing solutions to lifestyle diseases, accompanying social anxieties, and changing reciprocity practices. Hardin shows how evangelical healing narratives emphasize personal relationships with God. Spirituality is related to the cultivation of a healthy body, a healthy self, and a nuclear family, while broader reciprocity-centered economic practices and developments are deemed to be at the core of metabolic disorders.
Part 3, “Christian Renewal and Change in Regional Development,” brings together a somewhat eclectic set of chapters. Kirsty Gillespie analyses ruptures and continuities in music creation and performance in the Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. Alison Dundon examines the relationship between Christianity and the construction of modern personhood among indigenous Gogodala missionaries who, between the 1950s and 1980s, were recruited by the Australia-based Unevangelised Fields Mission to spread Christianity to other parts of PNG. Lastly, Debra McDougall discusses the complexities of Christianity’s role in post-conflict, externally sponsored statebuilding in the Solomon Islands. In their diversity the three chapters highlight the scope of Christianity’s historical and ongoing significance in shaping practices and narratives in the Australia-Pacific region. Their complexities also underscore what Joel Robbins, in his commentary to part 3, identifies as core challenge faced by anthropological inquiries into cultural change: It remains to be seen if and how analyses of “discontinuity projects” (208), such as those discussed by Gillespie, Dundon, and McDougall, allow for developing a sufficient understanding of processes of change and continuity to identify broader theoretical themes. McDougall’s chapter illustrates some of the explicit shortcomings of other contributions. She adds an otherwise largely ignored transnational dimension by acknowledging the intersections between Christianity and the continuing and significant presence of foreign development workers, state-builders, missionaries, and the (global) development discourses to which, in various ways, they belong.
The volume’s strengths—the diversity of its contributions, the framing by means of commentaries and the broader comparative aspirations—are also its primary weakness. Individual chapters offer intriguing ethnographic case studies that convincingly demonstrate the significance of placing any debates on renewal projects in broader, local, regional, global, religious, social, economic, and political developments, practices and narratives. Yet, taken together, they leave the reader wanting more. In their introduction, Magowan and Schwarz emphasize the collection intends to contribute to anthropological studies of Christianity beyond the geographical confines of the Australia-Pacific. However, with notable exceptions, Joel Robbins and Debra McDougall in particular, chapters and commentaries only speak briefly or indirectly to non-Pacific anthropologies of Christianity and the wider-reaching theories of cultural change. This said, this volume makes a noteworthy contribution to analyses of renewal and conflict surrounding Christianity in Oceania in their ethnographic particularities and from a comparative perspective by explicitly bringing together Australia and the Pacific.
Stephanie Hobbis, The University of British Columbia, Kelowna, Canada