Book Reviews – Vol 85, No 1

March 2012

Please note that this represents a sample of reviews published in this issue, to see all 40+ reviews please visit our electronic subscription provider Ingenta

Page:  177 182 188 201 207 209 214 227 231 237 241

Asia General

REMAKING AREA STUDIES: Teaching and Learning Across Asia
and the Pacific. Edited by Terence Wesley-Smith and Jon Goss. Honolulu:
University of Hawai’i Press, 2010. xxvii, 243 pp. (Tables.) US$45.00, cloth.
ISBN 978-0-8248-3321-3.

This book asks all the right questions and makes a sound contribution
to the ongoing debate about what is “area studies” and what should it
provide to policy makers, practitioners, teachers and students. Based on
a 2002 University of Hawai’i project and conference, in collaboration
with other partners across the Asia-Pacific, this timely volume seeks to
make its primary contribution in the teaching application of theoretical
reconsiderations and institutional appreciation of Asia- and Pacific based
area studies.

This book can serve three audiences: academics interested in
theoretical explorations, practitioners needing to know the institutional
order and orientation of area studies in Japan, Singapore or the Pacific
Islands, and classroom teachers concerned how best to use and teach
area studies. The editors, who have clearly put considerable effort into
bringing together this wide-ranging collaborative effort, nicely remind us
of the “essential mission” of area studies: “the systematic production of
knowledge about other places and peoples” (xv). Whether or not one finds
congenial the postmodern mood or social constructivist approach of most
of the chapters in this volume, their point stands. Area studies remains a
useful and much-used form of knowledge, but it is, as the introduction
succinctly recounts, in crisis, especially since the shift of American military
and financial attention from Asia to the Middle East from 2001.

Each section of this book serves a different audience most directly,
but together they make a worthwhile contribution to the study of how
we make knowledge about “areas” in general and the Asia Pacific in
particular. This first section, featuring Arif Dirlik, Neal Smith and Martin
W. Lewis, articulates the grounds and pitfalls in our making sense of area
studies. The second gives the needed institutional context of area studies
in Asia and the Pacific (particularly Japan’s Ritsumeikan University and
the National University of Singapore, as well as, more generally, Pacific
Island studies) that forms the playing field on which the pedagogical
experiments in part 3 have been undertaken. Part 3, on “Asia Pacific
Learning Communities,” constitutes the unique contribution of this
book and will be a valuable handbook of lessons and tips for college
and university teachers and administrators undertaking collaborative
teaching, including trans-Pacific distance courses, with counterparts in
Asia or the Pacific. The project in these four case studies of joint course
modules was to test the implications of the critical theory represented in
part 1 in the context of understanding institutional realities in different
locales, per part 2. In short, these experimental courses sought to find
out what happens when those we have studied can speak, and even
better, converse with our students. The results are believably mixed and
so the lessons drawn are that much more persuasive.

Ricardo Trimillos provides a summary of those lessons in an epilogue
to the volume, three of which stand out. Area studies is amoebic and
socially constructed, the “areas” covered expand or contract as different
interests, groupings of societies, or imagined heritages take the public
stage—there is no single or essential definition of area studies. Second,
interinstitutional interdependence is the only practical way to produce
useful area studies now or in the future and this will involve collaborative
scholarship and shared classrooms across the Pacific. Third, cyber
technology offers both challenges and rewards in this effort (and the
pedagogical reports in part 3 neatly document these); we must make use
of this technology, but it is not a panacea.

This volume reflects the challenges, as well as the successes, of a
critical approach to area studies. It was eight years after the conference
that the book was finally published, suggesting the considerable effort
the project directors’ commitment to collaborative work has entailed.
Doing area studies in this collaborative model is clearly no easy task.
The theory section of the book is strongly postmodernist in orientation,
with a vigorous strain of neo-Marxist political economy represented in
Dirlik’s chapter. Lewis, as well, rehearses the valuable challenge of his
and Kären Wigen’s notable redaction of new geography in The Myth
of Continents. And, Neil Smith invites us to separate “area knowledge”
from the politically funded, nation-state-oriented “area studies” of our
current universities. All sound warnings and offer tools for overcoming
essentialist or colonial assumptions. However, in the process the theorist
nearly completely ignores culture and identity. However “constructed” or
subject to power-politics these may be they do, after all, play a significant
role in area studies. Finally, the difficulties in giving due attention to
localities in Asia and the Pacific are reflected in the institutional section
of the book which could only really focus on two (Japan and Singapore)
in any specificity. This volume alone may not have changed the field,
but it provides the stimulus and useful suggestions to empower others to
carry on the experiment.

Timothy Cheek
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

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China and Inner Asia

THE CHINESE PEOPLE AT WAR: Human Suffering and Social
Transformation, 1937-1945. New Approaches to Asian History. By
Diana Lary. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
xiv, 231 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos., illus.) US$29.99, paper. ISBN
978-0-521-14410-0.

Books about the European front in World War II continue to pour from
the presses. Even the Pacific War, particularly the American struggle with
Japan, has been well covered. But the English-language scholarship on
the China Theatre has been much scantier, particularly for social history.
This situation has begun to change in the last two decades, as a result of
historiographical revisionism by a group of scholars in East Asia as well
as the West. Diana Lary has become one of the best-known historians
in this field with her writings on previously little-analyzed events during
the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45, including the savage battle of Xuzhou
in 1938 and the blasting of the Yellow River Dykes by the Nationalist
government in the same year. Her new book brings together various
aspects of her groundbreaking research as part of the appropriately named
Cambridge series on New Approaches to Asian History.

The book uses a chronological structure to examine some of the
most wrenching events in the social history of the war against Japan.
It concentrates largely on the areas controlled by the Nationalist
(Guomindang) government, although the parts of China under the
control of the Communists and collaborationist governments are also
covered. Lary uses a highly creative range of primary sources to illustrate
the wrenching effect that the outbreak of war with Japan had on China
in July 1937, including newspaper reports, memoirs and even songs and
jokes. The picture of wartime China that emerges is a grim one. One by
one, Lary illustrates the themes that made the war years so destructive
to the fabric of Chinese society. For those who fled to the western part
of China, the prospect of constant terror bombing, particularly in the
temporary capital at Chongqing, made it hard to create a stable society
in exile. From 1942 onward, the cavalier use of the printing press
along with the growing scarcity of goods led to massive hyperinflation,
ruining the finances of all those, including government officials and
teachers, who were dependent on money keeping its value to make their
household accounts add up. And in the occupied areas of rural China,
the possibility of Japanese revenge attacks against Communist guerrillas
made aiding the resistance a dangerous game indeed. Particularly
original are the sections dealing with the “natural” disasters that affected
China because of the war, in particular the flooding of large areas of
farmland after the deliberate breach of the Yellow River dykes in 1938
(done to stop the Japanese advance in central China), and the massive
famine in Henan province, where a combination of economic hardship
and short-sighted official policy led to the deaths by starvation of some
two to four million Chinese. Overall, one of the most disturbing aspects
of the book is the extent to which Chinese, not just Japanese, decisions
led to the impoverishment and atomization of the population, although
the ultimate responsibility of the Japanese in invading China is never
forgotten.

The book is written in a fluid and accessible style, and among the
highlights are the thoughtfully chosen extracts from literary works of the
period. As one of the primary aims of the book is to educate university
students not familiar with the war and its consequences (perhaps as
part of a wider course on global World War II), this makes it a valuable
teaching tool.

There are some areas where other scholars may interpret events
differently from the author. Early on, it is argued (20) that the outbreak
of war in China evinced “little interest or sympathy” in the rest of the
world. This is perhaps a little harsh on the global community of the time.
It is certainly true that China was left to fight in 1937 with very little formal
assistance (bar an agreement with the USSR for some limited support).
However, the outbreak of war did give rise to a wave of popular support
across the West. The China Campaign Committee in Britain was just one
example of that sympathy; and major cultural figures including Robert
Capa, W.H. Auden, and Henri Cartier-Bresson all brought their talents
with words and pictures to bear, transmitting the horror of the invasion
to a shocked global public. This helped pave the way for the eventual
acceptance of China as a wartime ally after Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Overall, readers will find in this book a powerful and moving portrait
of events that have for too long been forgotten by Western historiography.
It admirably achieves its aim of demonstrating that the war against Japan
was one of the “pivotal events of modern Chinese history” and not merely
a staging-post toward an eventual Communist victory.

Rana Mitter
University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

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PASSAGE TO MANHOOD: Youth Migration, Heroin, and AIDS in
Southwest China. By Shao-hua Liu. Stanford, CA: Stanford University
Press, 2011. xiv, 232 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-
8047-7025-5.

With Passage to Manhood, Shao-hua Liu has produced an engaging and
innovative contribution to several fields of study. Readers concerned with
more specialized branches of China studies, such as rural development,
ethnic minorities or social change, will find this book a very significant
addition to the field, but also those looking for a singular perspective
from China on modernity and globalization or on issues in the discipline
of medical anthropology should read Passage to Manhood.

As an anthropologist who has worked for the last fifteen years in
the same prefecture as the author, i.e., Liangshan in Sichuan Province
in Southwest China, albeit on a different ethnic group, I would first
emphasize the value of this book as a carefully researched and well-written
ethnography. Numbering around two million, the Nuosu people are a
relatively large ethnic group living in a mountainous area on the border
of ethnic Tibet, in other words, in the periphery of modernizing China.
In the official ethnic classification scheme in the People’s Republic of
China they have been lumped together with other groups with whom
they share certain linguistic affinities into the larger Yi national minority.
Until the communist take-over, the clan-based Nuosu communities had
only limited contact with the Han Chinese and their institutions. In
the beginning of the nineteenth century, things changed when opium
growing was introduced in Liangshan and Nuosu; Han interactions
gradually increased. In the name of scientific development and in an
effort to direct Nuosu loyalty towards the Communist Party, in 1956 the
new regime embarked on a prolonged effort to destroy the traditional clan
fabric of Nuosu society while providing, through the commune system,
access to basic but free medical care to even the most remote villages.
With the new market-oriented reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping in
1978, the Nuosu were presented with new opportunities, including the
option to find jobs in the cities to improve their standard of living. The
downside was that they lost the social security services provided by the
commune. They were left to their own devices to confront the challenges
of Chinese capitalist modernity and were quick to realize that the party
state was not concerned with interfering in a partial restoration of their
traditional clan-based social organization.

This is the backdrop for Liu’s analysis of the increasingly widespread
use of heroin among young Nuosu in Liangshan. Based on the
fieldwork she conducted in a remote Nuosu community in the first
decade of the new millennium, she explores the possible reasons for
such a development while she also addresses the impact of the HIV/
AIDS epidemic that has hit the Nuosu as a result of the intravenous
drug use. Tempted by the lures of making money and having a good
time, young Nuosu travel to the big cities of China. While many return
home again after only a couple of months, they take with them their new
habits, such as the use of heroin. Inspired by the theories of Ulrich Beck,
Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim and Yunxiang Yan, Liu sees this risk-taking
behaviour in the light of the increasing individualization of Chinese
society brought about by capitalist modernity. For young Nuosu men,
the stints in the city, with its enticements and dangers, have become
important ingredients in establishing masculine identity and as such
they constitute a new “rite of passage.” Unfortunately for many of the
men, after this transitory phase of liminality spent in the socio-economic
margins of the Chinese urban modernity, their lives and that of their
families are thoroughly devastated by heroin addiction, AIDS or prison,
or any combination of these three calamities.

Liu further shows how the partially restored clan structures are not
up to the task of solving the challenges to the individuals or the local
community. Neither can the international HIV/AIDS NGO community
contribute with any successful intervention. The main reason for this,
according to Liu, is the refusal by representatives of the Chinese party
state to acquire the necessary cultural competence. In the present setting
it is simply politically inconceivable that central or local bureaucrats
would be able to work with communities, taking into account and
respecting their particularities.

Passage to Manhood
is a distressing illustration of how the forces of
globalization can wreak havoc, even in the more isolated corners of
the globe. While Liu first of all has produced a solid piece of academic
writing that adds a wealth of new knowledge and insights, she allows
her book also to play an activist role in that it both directs attention
to the predicament of a marginal group in China’s breath-taking socioeconomic
rise and delivers some lessons that can be drawn from the
unsuccessful attempts at getting rid of the twin scourges of heroin use
and HIV/AIDS.

While Liu does not shy away from engaging theory relevant for her
argument, the final result is a well-balanced and well-written book that is
enjoyable to read.

Koen Wellens
University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

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Northeast Asia

OVER THERE: Living with the U.S. Military Empire from World
War Two to the Present. Edited by Maria Höhn and Seungsook Moon.
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. xviii, 453 pp. (Tables, figures,
maps, B&W photos.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-4827-6.

Since 1945 the United States has maintained history’s largest military
empire, presiding over a vast network of overseas military bases.
American personnel are currently deployed in more than 150 countries
around the world. Yet only in the past decade or so have historians and
other scholars in the United States begun exploring the everyday social,
political and economic effects of these bases, which, to those living
on or near them, have stood at the centre of the American military
empire, rather than defining its outer limits. Historian Maria Höhn and
sociologist Seungsook Moon, co-editors of this important new collection,
have brought together some of the most current scholarship on the
postwar American base system, with an emphasis on South Korea, Japan
and West Germany, where the majority of America’s overseas bases and
troops have been concentrated. They seek to provide a comparative
and multidisciplinary exploration of “recurring patterns … in the social
costs of maintaining the empire, paying special attention to the hybrid
spaces in and around U.S. military bases” (4), without losing sight of
“the complexities of the encounters between American soldiers and
local civilians” (3). On the whole, they have succeeded quite admirably.

The editors, both of whom grew up in countries with a substantial
American military presence, have authored half of the collection’s
chapters, with the remaining essays written by scholars from a range of
disciplines, among them anthropology, religious studies and women’s
and gender studies. The volume is organized into four parts, the first
of which contains three very good essays examining how and why the
American military sought to regulate sexual and romantic relations
between its personnel and local women in Asia and Europe during the
Cold War, when hundreds of thousands of soldiers, members of their
families, and civilian employees were stationed overseas each year. Part
2 contains three essays of uneven quality focusing on how American and
foreign women have navigated the social spaces created by this military
empire abroad and at home (one essay examines the views of women
employed in the defense industry in upstate New York). Part 3, “Talking
Back to the Empire,” highlights local challenges to hierarchical social
relations on and around American bases, including an essay on the
neglected topic of foreign troops that have served alongside American
forces, in this case Korean Augmentation to the United States Army
(KATUSA) soldiers. The volume’s final part explores the social disorder
and interpersonal violence that have been and continue to be facts of
everyday life for those living with the military empire, one maintained
in the name of global order and stability. A pithy conclusion by the coeditors
nicely rounds out the collection, while sketching a program for
future research.

The volume is, of course, not without flaws. Due presumably to the
multidisciplinary authorship, the editors and publisher opted for a hybrid
system of citation, with each contribution containing both endnotes
(oddly placed at the end of each chapter) and in-text parenthetical
references, which can make for frustrating reading for those interested
in the source material. More problematic is the approach the authors
take to American military personnel. Strangely for a collection with the
subtitle “Living with the U.S. Military Empire from World War Two to
the Present,” American servicemen and servicewomen—the boots-on-the-
ground labourers of this imperial project, described by the editors at
one point as “agents of the empire” (402)—remain a shadowy presence
throughout. They are rarely given voice and, when they do make
an appearance on the page, are often reduced to caricature. By this
reviewer’s count, the entire volume quotes a mere half dozen soldiers
and veterans (mostly in a chapter by Jeff Bennett), while the views of only
a handful more are simply paraphrased or summarized.

The selectively top-down approach to American military personnel
leads to obvious difficulties. Historian Michiko Takeuchi writes in
her chapter on prostitution in occupied Japan that “GIs did not care
whether the Geisha Girls were real geishas or not, because their
enthusiasm for Geisha Girls represented the American male masters’
colonial fantasy of fetishized, exoticized little brown women. … Their
attitude toward Japanese women … represented the characteristic
colonial attitude because native Japanese women were regarded as ‘little
more than available sexual objects’” (99-100). In a subsequent chapter,
Seungsook Moon describes American military policies toward camptown
prostitution in South Korea as a successful way “to keep male soldiers
docile and useful” (350). (One wonders if she would find the use of such
terms to describe other social groups acceptable.) As a result of these
policies, “individual GIs believe they are entitled to have a good time …
because they do the strenuous and traumatizing work of maintaining
and expanding the U.S. military empire,” an attitude that further
“expose[s] an insidious Orientalist view among these GIs of Asian
women as submissive” (357). These sweeping claims may or may not
accurately reflect the beliefs and attitudes of most GIs in occupied Japan
and contemporary South Korea—I suspect they largely did and do—but
the evidence in these instances and elsewhere cannot be weighed since
none is provided. Giving greater attention to the voices of American
personnel overseas would afford a much richer understanding of the
workings and social costs and consequences of American military empire.
(A notable and welcome exception to the volume’s general approach in
this regard is provided by veteran and anthropologist Bennet, in a lively
and provocative chapter on Abu Ghraib.)

Despite these shortcomings, this is a tremendously valuable book,
brimming with new information and unique insights. All students of
the global American military presence from World War II through the
present will want to consult its essays. One hopes the authors will continue
and expand upon their work in this burgeoning and interdisciplinary friendly
field, and inspire others to follow their lead.

Michael Cullen Green
The Aspen Institute, Washington, DC, USA

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LOST IN TRANSITION: Youth, Work, and Instability in Postindustrial
Japan. By Mary C. Brinton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
xxi, 203 pp. (Tables, graphs, figures.) US$27.99, paper. ISBN 978-0-521-
12600-7.

This book describes how and why a disproportionate share of Japan’s
non-elite young men have been lost in the transition from school into the
workplace. Through a careful analysis of Japan’s school to work system,
Mary Brinton demonstrates how the bursting of Japan’s financial and real
estate bubble in the early 1990s, economic recession and employment
restructuring have unevenly altered the employment opportunities
for the younger generation. She suggests that the experience of this
“lost generation” mirrors the nation’s broader transition to a mature
postindustrial economy with a labour market characterized by insecure
employment that contrasts markedly with what workers faced in the
high-growth period of the 1960s to the 1980s.

Brinton employs a comparative sociological perspective and set of
methodologies from both the labour economist who argues from numerical
data and the ethnographer who does intensive fieldwork. Drawing on both
quantitative and qualitative data, she analyzes how Japanese schools and
firms have become disconnected from one another and the consequences
of this for young people trying to move from school into the workforce.
The result produces a powerful and persuasive argument that is as
profoundly penetrating as it is methodologically rigorous.
Brinton is a researcher interested in how institutions structure
individuals’ opportunities and constraints and lead to patterns of
inequality across social groups. As such, she carefully examines the
process of how Japan’s school to work system is unraveling and suggests
that its breakdown reflects a deeper transformation in Japanese society
away from the pivotal role social institutions played in transitioning
individuals from one life stage to another. These life stages are deeply
rooted in Japan to “social location” or “ba” that provides individuals with
security and a sense of identity.

Brinton adds her voice to the plethora of opinions on the causes of
economic uncertainty facing Japanese youth by honing in on the crucial
role played by institutions. While she acknowledges that young peoples’
work and lifestyle preferences are changing, she emphasizes that the
most significant changes are occurring in the institutions in Japan that
once supported the move from school to work, and from youth into
adulthood. Today, young people face a labour market that has changed
through significant structural transformations that make their choices
and opportunities fundamentally different from those faced by their
parents. The breakdown in the school-work institutions, in combination
with a considerable reduction in employers’ capacity to guarantee
secure employment to large numbers of new graduates, has produced
a generation in which many youth are unable to begin their adult lives
from a stable economic base.

For youth moving into the labour market, the possibilities of
entering an economically secure ba are disappearing. This reflects a
major realignment and reorganization in the way institutions develop
the skills and abilities of individuals in Japan. This shift is altering the
implicit assumption that even the least educationally elite who graduate
from school and move into the workforce can earn a spot in the Japanese
middle class. The consequences of these changes include both economic
and employment problems for youth, in addition to psychological
problems related to identity and young people’s ability to trust society.
These problems extend beyond youth, as they become difficulties for
Japanese society.

However, Brinton does suggest that Japan’s “lost generation” is not
entirely lost. Despite the increasing inability of the school-work system to
move non-elite men from the secure ba of school into the secure ba of
work, these youth have had to develop greater initiative and different types
of skills in searching out employment in comparison to their parents’
generation. In the process, more Japanese young people are learning
how to maintain a sense of identity and self-reliance as they move across
workplaces. The development of such flexibility is significant since Japan
is a society that has been based on an individual’s secure attachment to a
ba. As such, it requires people to have a different interpersonal orientation
than a society where people move across multiple settings throughout
their lives, carrying their skill-set with them. The challenge, Brinton
suggests, is for Japanese society and employers to figure out ways to utilize
and nurture the skills and capabilities of young people, including those in
the lost generation—since they are, after all, Japan’s future.

Brinton’s research on youth, work and instability in postindustrial
Japan is a thoughtful and sensitive treatment of the subject. For anyone
seeking to gain a deeper perspective on the challenges facing Japanese
youth—such as kakusa (economic inequality), NEET (young people not
in education, employment or training), furītā (youth who drift from
job to job), parasaito shinguru (young people who remain financially
supported by their parents), hikikomori (social isolates), wākingu puā
(working poor), net-café refugees (homeless people who live in Internet
cafés) and shōshika (declining birthrate)—this book is a must-read.

Robin O’Day
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

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SHAMANS, NOSTALGIAS, AND THE IMF: South Korean Popular
Religion in Motion. By Laurel Kendall. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i
Press, 2009. xxviii, 251 pp. (B&W Photos.) US$49.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-
8248-3343-5.

Shamans, Nostalgias and the IMF is a tour-de-force of cultural specificity,
narrative sophistication and historical insight which Pacific Affairs readers,
as well as folk religion specialists, will find timely and even prophetic, if we
pay close attention. Kendall’s account is most remarkable for capturing
the last quarter century of Korean development history, while relying
almost solely on the prognostications and performances of a handful of
spirit mediums. They are her interlocutors and it is they who tell of the
rise of Korean capitalism and the pains of the IMF. Their story of the
Asian Financial Crisis, or the “IMF Crisis,” as Koreans like to think of it,
foretells a deep uncertainty, much like that which unnerved much of the
rest of the world ten years later in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Tracing the evolution of Korean shamanist practices over the past
three decades through her own first-hand ethnographic fieldwork,
each subsequent chapter brings us closer to the present. She begins this
account in the late 1970s when shamanism was disparaged as superstitious
in South Korea and then moves forward to the late 1980s when it came
to be praised for its authenticity and was embraced as a “religion” and a
fundamental part of Korean culture. This shift came about as the result
of Korea’s democratization and Minjung movements, which sought
to strengthen Korean tradition and give voice to the downtrodden.
These movements spawned a cultural revival which gave new life and
meaning to shaman practices, which gained respectability and prestige
precisely because these practices represented the downtrodden, while
the financing of them relied increasingly on the upwardly mobile, rather
than the downtrodden.

Beginning in the 1990s, Korean shaman practices, which earlier had
been focused on curing illness and appeasing restless spirits, then aimed
at calming market volatility and ensuring business prosperity among
those whose difficulties had become enmeshed in a national and global
economy. Shaman deities and practices, like almost everything else in
South Korea, were reshaped by commoditization and capitalization.
Korean sprits began demanding imported whiskey and chocolates and
kut performances became costly endeavours that became out of reach
for most ordinary Koreans. Through this transition, shaman practices
became much “narrower,” mainly due to the high cost of sponsoring kut.

Kendall adamantly resists representing Korean shamanism, per se, but
nevertheless, has a great deal to say about its current state. She mainly
seeks to speak for the shamans who are her informants and friends.
Hers is an intimate and empathetic account of shaman rites, practices
and logics, without any sensationalism or sentimentalism—no doubt,
a result of her decades-long associations with them. Her subjects bear
no resemblance to caricatures or composite characters; they are women
who use raw emotion to convey spiritual insight. In capturing them and
their condition, she brings out their humanity, and the humanity of lived
ritual tradition.

Her central concern is the confluence of the forces of modernity,
political economy and Korean shamanist practice, as they have
converged, elided and eluded each other. Kendall presents Korea as a
place where modernity and “magicality” coexist in creative tension—not
in opposition, as Max Weber and many of our contemporaries would
have it. It is a context where changes in one give rise to new possibilities
for the other. Kendall makes clear that the political economy is not
acting unilaterally on shaman practices, nor are these practices merely
responding defensively to forces that threaten them. She thus gives
agency to shamans and their practices. Shamans are active agents, who
make the most of change as it unfolds, and are not helpless or passive
victims of modernity or capitalism. As Kendall puts it,

“religion,” “spirit possession” and “shamanism” are not
dead or fixed categories but mobile instruments of popular
consciousness that respond to the “particular realities” of politics
and economics, sometimes on a global scale (152).

This is not to say that there is no tension within Korean ritual tradition.
Chini’s case is sadly quite telling—mostly because the difficulties she has
performing her initiation kut. She has all of the requisite credentials to
be a shaman initiate (a troubled background, a history of psychological
illness, and close encounters with restless spirits), but she struggles to
channel the spirits. She is meek, timid and always unsure of herself.
She loses composure and goes out of character. To be one with the
spirits, there is no room for self-doubt or circumspection. Mostly, she
lacks gravitas, which is so evident in all of the seasoned professionals
who coach her. We are given to suspect that Chini is not alone in this—
that her difficulties (doubt, lack of confidence, childishness) may be
symptoms of her generation. She is clearly having trouble measuring up
to the high demands of their calling and, I might add, so are others. In
any case, the practice is clearly in trouble if we are relying on Chini for
what’s to come.

Even the older time-tested practitioners express urgency over their
practices, because the ever-shifting social landscape perpetually threatens
the moorings of social and cosmological order. The surplus of shaman
practitioners has been met with charges that many of them are “phony”
or “insufficiently inspired or badly trained” (110) and “are only in it
for the money” (111). Kendall notes that incompetence poses a threat
to both shamans and clients. For some, the mountains just don’t have
the same power to give inspiration anymore. Yet, as Kendall puts it, “if
urban development has reduced sacred terrain, cars and good highways
have expanded the shamans’ access to sacred sites within South Korea”
(xxviii). In Korea, powerful cosmological forces hang in the balance.
The stakes are high, and high drama is the business of these shamans.

Most notable perhaps is Kendall’s seamless integration of 30 years of
fieldwork and research into a meaningful, and almost timeless, narrative. Her
book will be an invaluable source for students and scholars of globalization
and folk religion in Korea and throughout the greater Pacific.

James Thomas
McGill University, Montreal, Canada

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INTO THE LIGHT: An Anthology of Literature by Koreans in Japan.
Edited by Melissa L. Wender. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010.
ix, 226 pp. US$22.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3490-6.

Melissa Wender’s welcome volume of Japanese-language fiction and
poetry written by Koreans and Japanese of Korean descent between 1939
and 1996 addresses an ongoing problem: Anglophone scholarship on
Japanese literature frequently gets ahead of itself, in the sense that the
primary texts it wants to dissect are not available in English translation,
and so we have proliferating essays on works that monolingual readers
cannot access. There are several reasons for this, including the fact
that translations are hard to publish nowadays and ambitious assistant
professors don’t want to do them. It is also true that contemporary
academic criticism, seldom concerned with aesthetic merit, frequently
writes about fiction that will never be translated because, frankly, it is not
very good.

This is the situation of Japanese zainichi, or “Resident Korean”
literature, a genre that came into being in modern times because of the
forced or voluntary migration of Koreans to Japan in the first half of
the twentieth century. With the Empire’s defeat in 1945, most of the
Koreans in Japan were rendered stateless, and thus joined the ranks of
what, in hindsight, was the most intractable problem of the twentieth
century, the massive rise in refugees worldwide. These “Koreans” and
their progeny write: in fact, Japan’s Resident Koreans, who number
approximately a million in number (depending upon how one counts),
are over-represented in the intelligentsia and so are prominent in literary
circles. That, combined with the eagerness of foreign academics to apply
to Japan the same strategy of extending the historical life of serious
literary fiction by turning to “ethnic” writers as have critics of American
literature, means we have a growing body of secondary material on zainichi
writing. Wender’s useful bibliography at the end of her book lists 25 such
examples, including her earlier book, Lamentation as History: Narratives
by Koreans in Japan, 1965-2000 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press,
2005); but only three works of zainichi fiction in English translation.
(There are, actually, considerably more, some of which are too recent
to have been included in Wender’s list—for example, Cindi Textor’s
English translation of Kim Sŏk-pŏm’s The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost,
New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).

The zainichi writers represented in this anthology are both expected
and not. It begins with one of the most celebrated works of Resident
Korean literature, Kim Sa-ryang’s 1939 Akutagawa Prize-nominated
short story “Into the Light,” which I consider (along with Yi Kwang-su’s
1909 “Maybe Love”) the best writing by any Korean in Japanese before
1945; and it ends with “Full House” by Yū Miri, now a famous (notorious)
“celebrity of sorts,” as Wender gingerly puts it (172). In between are
writers admittedly “obscure,” such as Chong Ch’u-wŏl and Kim Ch’angsaeng,
but we also have Kim Tal-su, “the man usually identified as the
father or founder of Zainichi Korean literature” (5) and the much
mourned, gifted Yi Yang-ji, who died at age forty-seven not so much “of
a sudden illness” (132) as from, in the words of a friend Yi and I shared,
“a determination to drink herself to death”—a biographical detail I give
you because it is much in keeping with the overall tragic tone of this
anthology and the genre as a whole. Readers will find, abundantly, the
domestic violence, sexual abuse and personal abjection long associated
with narratives of zainichi society, and, apart from Yū Miri’s wonderful
trademark sardonicism, little levity.

There are two stories I draw your attention to. The first, “Foreign
Husband” (1958), is by Noguchi Kakuchū, né Chang Hyōkchu (1905-
1997), who began his long life at the start of Japan’s assumption of
control over his native peninsula, became the first Korean writer
celebrity in Tokyo literary circles in the early 1930s, grew sycophantic
during the war years, eventually naturalized as a Japanese, and died in
bitter obscurity in the Saitama town of Hidaka not far from the Koma
Shrine dedicated to ancient Korean immigrants to the Japanese islands.
Noguchi’s writings (in three languages, including English late in his life)
combine to tell the story of a man neither at home in Korea nor Japan,
and whose frustrations resulted in hurting the people—fellow Korea
writers, and family members—closest to him. (In 1996 I attempted to
find Noguchi’s home in Hidaka, hoping to meet him, but failed. Years
later, Kawamura Minato told me he would have surely refused to see
me, suggesting his rancour with the world precluded encounters with
American enthusiasts.) “Foreign Husband” captures in miniature its
author’s lifelong struggle to reconcile his Korean roots with his Japanese
conversion via the hurt wrought by jealousy, not only between husband
and wife but between Korea and Japan.

“Frozen Mouth” (1966) is an excerpt from the autobiographical
novel by Kim Hak-yŏng (1938-86). The protagonist, like the author, is an
alcoholic chemist with a stutter and suicide on his mind. (Kim would kill
himself twenty years later.) Elise Foxworth’s translation sent me running
to the entire novel: as a stutterer myself, I was overwhelmed by Kim’s
perspicuous insight into the inner life of people with unpredictable
speech impairments, “the inability to say necessary things at necessary
times” (101). Literature typically treats the stutterer with derision, mirth
or pity, but “Frozen Mouth” does none of that. For Kim’s Choi, stuttering
is an existential challenge, not unlike being a Korean in Japan, because
as Marc Shell pointed out in Stutter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 2005), historically the “barbarian” is one who does not speak our
language, and the “stutterer” is one who does not speak our language
our way (73). To their credit, Melissa Wender and her fellow Into the
Light translators have rendered the variously cloven tongues of some of
Japan’s best Resident Korean writers into eloquent, but purposefully not
quite our, English.

John Whittier Treat
Yale University, New Haven, USA

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South Asia

MOHAJIR MILITANCY IN PAKISTAN: Violence and Transformation
in the Karachi Conflict. Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series, 29.
By Nichola Khan. London; New York: Routledge, 2010. xi, 187 pp. (B&W
photos.) US$135.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-55490-9.

Pakistan is familiar territory for those with an interest in the study of
modern militant politics. Scholars have devoted considerable attention
to religious militancy in Pakistan, but Nichola Khan departs from this
trend. She focuses on a particular form of ethnic militancy—namely,
militancy associated with those who migrated from India to Pakistan
in 1947 (a.k.a., Pakistan’s mohajirs or “migrants”)—and, then, with this
group in mind, she combines an account of the economic and political
challenges these migrants face with a nuanced account of the psychological
patterns that drive individual militants on the ground.

Whereas political scientists familiar with ethnic rivalries in urban
settings like Bombay and Belfast might ask what led the mohajirs living
in an urban Karachi to take up arms against ethnic “others” (e.g., Sindhis,
Punjabis and Pashtuns), focusing on basic structural or elite-led political
drivers, Khan launches her analysis as an anthropologist with a special
interest in psychoanalysis. She does not discount the importance of
conventional structural factors like urban poverty, ethnic ghettoization,
the so-called “youth bulge,” or the proximate importance of exclusionary
access to scarce state resources (including state-based employment).
Instead, she begins by sketching out an environment in which these
factors figure prominently, and then, after noting how these factors affect
millions of mohajirs simultaneously, she focuses in on the experiences
of just a few militants—those who killed not once, but often—in an
effort to explore the factors that pushed these few mohajirs into a life of
“extraordinary” ethnic violence. What makes these militants tick?

Drawing on extensive ethnographic evidence gathered in the
neighbourhood where her sample lived (namely Liaquatabad), as well
as a rich digest of detailed life history interviews, she pieces together the
structural and, most importantly, the idiosyncratic biographical factors that
led each militant to become an unusually prolific killer. In some cases
she stresses the psychological imprint of an abusive father; in others,
she stresses a bitter job search culminating in a humiliating loss to some
under-qualified Punjabi with superior informal connections; and so on
and so forth.

Focusing on the construction of what might be called the “motivational
meanings” that frame mohajir militancy in Karachi, Khan asks: What led
this particular individual to kill so prolifically in the name of mohajirs
in general and, more specifically, on behalf of the Mohajir Qaumi
(National) Movement founded by Altaf Hussain in 1978?

Richly historicized, Khan’s book unfolds across four main chapters:
one concerning the life histories of particular militants; one concerning
the role of “migrants” in pressing for the initial formation of Pakistan
(only to claim that, after partition, they were shunted aside by an
exclusionary Punjabi state and, within Karachi, by some combination of
“native” Sindhi and “immigrant” Pashtun demands); one concerning the
role of mohajir women in supporting militant framings of male honour;
and, finally, one comparing ethnic mohajir militancy with the religious
activism of Pakistan’s notorious Jama’at-e-Islami (Party of Islam).

Throughout, key historical events are woven together with a
careful reading of the ways in which these events were experienced
and interpreted by individual militants on the ground. What was their
understanding of these events? Which terms did they use to describe
them? How should we understand their specific emotional response?
Indeed, what role did violence play in activating new forms of emotional
autonomy on the part of individual militants (notwithstanding enduring
forms of social and economic constraint)?

Just as Thomas Blom Hansen drew upon the work of Jacques
Lacan to elucidate the meaning of violence perpetrated by Shiv Sena in
postcolonial Bombay (Violence in Urban India: Identity Politics, ‘Mumbai’,
and the Postcolonial City, Princeton, 2001), so too Khan mines the
psychoanalytical tradition for inspiration with references to the likes of
Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein. In fact she clearly seeks to expand
upon the work of those with an interest in cross-cultural psychology more
generally (for example, Ashis Nandy and Katherine Ewing).

Even as she calls for a greater appreciation of psychoanalysis,
however, Khan concedes that her psychoanalytical conclusions are
rather “speculative” (146). This is particularly true in light of her failure
to construct a careful psychological comparison of militants and nonmilitants
within the MQM. How did the configuration of social, political
and psychological factors surrounding militants differ from those affecting
non-militants? To what extent might experiences of ethnic exclusion,
childhood trauma and masculine insecurity be combined with feelings
of victimization or resentment without, in turn, generating unusually
high levels of violence?

This is, alas, not a question that Khan seeks to answer—although, in
many ways, this is precisely the sort of mixed-methods question that lies at
the heart of her analysis. Indeed, as Roger Petersen explains in his book
Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-
Century Eastern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2002), the most
pressing question is not merely: How are social structures interpreted
and converted into the emotional underpinnings of political action?
The most important question is: What is the specific mechanism that
makes psychology or emotion decisive in the production of particular
acts—including acts of prolific political violence?

Khan succeeds in bringing the terms of psychoanalysis back into
the ethnographic study of political violence in Pakistan. In doing so,
she does not argue against any particular feature (or prevailing theory)
within the existing literature; she simply notes that the existing literature
suffers from a persistent psychoanalytical gap.

Her efforts to highlight the study of individual militants over and
above the presumed importance of enduring demographic or ideological
groups will be greatly appreciated by those with an interest in fine-grained
analyses of modern militancy. Her failure to show, more systematically,
how the individualized psychology of militants differs from that of nonmilitants
will frustrate those with an interest in defining, more carefully,
as Khan herself seeks to define, “what makes militants tick.”

Matthew J. Nelson
University of London, London, United Kingdom

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Southeast Asia

TRADITION, REVOLUTION, AND MARKET ECONOMY IN A
NORTH VIETNAMESE VILLAGE, 1925-2006. By Hy V. Luong. Rev.
and expanded ed. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010. xiii, 333
pp. (Tables, figures, maps, B&W photos.) US$28.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-
8248-3423-4.

It is indeed a remarkable research project that lies behind this book, which
is a revised and expanded edition of Revolution in the Village: Tradition
and Transformation in North Vietnam, 1925-1988 (Honolulu: University of
Hawai’i Press, 1992). The book builds on numerous visits by the author
to the village of Son-Duong in North Vietnam throughout the period
1987 to 2006, where interviews and detailed quantitative household
surveys were conducted, supplemented with written historical sources
from archives in Paris and Hanoi. Although some of the material in the
book is covered in the earlier volume, this book is clearly warranted, not
least because it covers the period from early 1990s to 2006. A period of
immense transformation for most lives, even on the scale of Vietnam’s
turbulent history.

The book centres on the village of Son Duong, located close to
the Red River and examines in detail the cultural, socio-economic and
political changes that have taken place in the eight decades covered by
the book. It is divided into three parts. The first part covers the colonial
years from 1883 to 1930, particularly anti-colonial resistance and the
structure of village life. The second part analyzes the transformations
in the village as a consequence of the rise of communist power and,
subsequently, the collectivization of farm land. The third part details the
impact of the reform process put in motion in the early 1990s in terms
of both economic development—drawing heavily on collected primary
household data—and social life.

The main idea, which is well articulated throughout the book, is
that local traditions were, if not instrumental, then of major importance
to how the villagers of Son Duong were responding to the three main
transformations covered by the author: anti-colonialism, the rise of
communism and the market reform period. As an example: Dr. Luong
documents the local unrest that erupted in 1997-1998 in Son Duong as
a response to corruption among civil servants and a perception that not
enough was done to punish the perpetrators. This led to a refusal to pay
for commune-based services (such as irrigation) among villagers and a
crisis of legitimacy for the local Communist Party. While corruption and
the level of fees demanded for commune services played a role in stoking
the unrest in Son Duong (and other locations in the Red River delta), the
book argues that the villagers in Son Duong did not face higher commune
service fees and were not more adversely affected by corruption than in
many other communes where unrest did not erupt. Instead, “the local
socio-cultural framework in the northern lowlands was characterized by
a strong discursive emphasis on relative equality” (259), and this was an
important force behind the eruption of unrest in Son Duong.

Throughout the three parts, the book teems with details, enhancing
the reader’s understanding of Vietnamese society, both in the past and the
present. The author also documents how meticulously the Communist
Party sought to implement their egalitarian land reform program. In 1954
a land reform team arrived in Son Duong. It specifically did not include
a “village member so as to minimize the impact of the extensive village
network on the reform process” (166). The inclusion of the “regulations
on cultured life” (appendix 1, 279), which details among other things
how ceremonies such as weddings and funerals should be conducted in
a cultured manner, shows how omnipresent the Communist Party is in
present-day Vietnam. However, the author also emphasizes that these
regulations are often adapted to local traditions and customs, and that
the Communist Party receives important feedback from local levels for
use in the process of governing.

The author makes a point of also discussing related or contrasting
events outside the primary village of the study. This highlights how
regionally diverse the country Vietnam is and that researchers should be
careful when making statements about Vietnam as a whole. However, a
reader unfamiliar with recent Vietnamese history and the transformation
the Vietnamese society has gone through would likely benefit from a
short overview chapter at the beginning of the book which could create
the macro context for the rich details provided in the book.

Given the author’s extensive knowledge of Vietnam’s political past
and present and the political-economy forces at play in the country, it
would have been valuable to hear what he had to say about the future of
the Vietnamese nation-state. That said, this is a valuable book, not only
from a social science perspective, but for everyone with an interest in
past and present Vietnamese society.

Mikkel Barslund
Centre for European Policy Studies, Leuven, Belgium

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Australasia and the Pacific Region

INDIGENOUS IDENTITY AND RESISTANCE: Researching the
Diversity of Knowledge. Edited by Brendan Hokowhitu et al. Dunedin,
NZ: Otago University Press; Portland, OR: Distributed by International
Specialized Book Services, 2010. 255 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$49.95,
paper. ISBN 978-1-877372-83-4.

This collection of essays by mostly indigenous scholars from New Zealand
and Canada aims at conceiving and formulating “the underpinning
tenets of a ‘universal’ Indigenous Studies” (10). In order to transcend
the significance of local contexts, languages and cultural values, they
organized two international colloquia to discuss the transcultural
principles of Indigenous Studies. This volume contains the results of
their comparative debates and advocates an epistemic challenge to socalled
universalizing discourses that emerged under a colonial gaze. At
the same time, it promotes recognition of a transcultural space in which
indigenous situatedness is emphasized, and a multiplicity of truths is
acknowledged and appreciated.

The book is divided in two sections. In the first part, papers focus on
identity issues, mainly related to land, language and “lore,” while in the
second part, papers address a range of issues that come up in research
into indigenous societies and that evoke indigenous resistance. After a
theoretical introduction into the aims and objectives of this collective
enterprise, the book opens with a chapter on the problematic conflation
of mixed ancestry and Métis as a category of indigeneity in Canada. The
second chapter argues that telling, singing and writing are important
practices through which indigenous peoples reassert their relation to
land. The following essay addresses the transformation taking place
in cultural practices, more specifically in whaikōrero, Maori ceremonial
speechmaking. Hana O’Regan contributes a moving piece about her
personal struggle to learn the Maori language at a later age, and the
problems this entails when bringing up children in a “second” language
for cultural and ideological reasons. Her personal account is followed by
a rather basic reflection on the advantages and disadvantages of an emic
approach versus an etic approach, advocating so-called “etmic” studies,
but without taking into account any of the very influential books that
have been published about this subject in recent years. Michael Reilly’s
paper aims at rediscovering and reconstructing the indigenous meaning
behind a story told by a Mangaian chief to a Protestant missionary who
translated the narrative for publication in 1876.

The second part of the volume on resistance opens with a comparative
analysis of political representation in Canada and New Zealand, followed
by a case-study of a local project of community governance, the Bent
Arrow Traditional Healing Society. The topic of research and resistance
is also covered in two essays on the representation of indigenous voices
in women’s art and the medium of fiction. The penultimate chapter
argues that gender differences and uneven access to property rights and
power are generally analyzed within a global perspective on governance,
including a neo-liberal ideology and a discourse of human rights.
However, these continue to disqualify Aboriginal women as subjects,
as a consequence of which the discrimination against them is usually
considered a cultural problem.

The first and what appears to be the main editor of this collection, the
Maori scholar Brendan Hokowhitu, not only contributes the introduction,
but also a reflexive epilogue, in which he presents a “genealogy of
indigenous resistance.” The weakness of his final statement in this volume
is that it is exclusively based on the history of New Zealand Maori, while
it also fails to provide a lead to an answer to the very important question
of the meaning of indigeneity for contemporary generations, especially
for those who feel alienated from the cultural traditions that continue to
be crucial in the political and ideological representations of indigeneity.
Howowhitu describes the widespread separation of the meaning of
indigeneity from the present as an “ontological blunder,” restricting
the conception of indigenous culture purely to traditional terms, and
therefore he seeks an alternative understanding of contemporary
indigeneity. In this context, it is also a little surprising that he does not
draw on postcolonial theory, for example the subaltern studies school
inspired by the work of the eminent historian Ranajit Guha, which has
published a series of groundbreaking volumes addressing exactly this
dilemma in sophisticated theoretical debates. Although these reflections
do not immediately resolve the problems that indigenous adolescents
experience in shaping their contemporary identities, they could have
uplifted the reflections in this volume. However, it should also be realized
that the sheer fact of raising the question of contemporary indigeneity,
which implies an indirect critique of a focus on indigenous traditions,
is a giant step forward in Indigenous Studies. The personal account of
the struggle of achieving fluency in the “mother tongue” in which an
indigenous person was not brought up, for example, is a moving piece
since until recently indigenous peoples were reluctant to address these
issues openly. For that reason, there can be no doubt that this volume
will inspire the next generation of indigenous scholars.

Toon van Meijl
University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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CLIMATE CHANGE AND SMALL ISLAND STATES: Power,
Knowledge and the South Pacific. By Jon Barnett and John Campbell.
London; Washington, DC: Earthscan, 2010. xiii, 218 pp. (Tables, figures.)
US$79.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-84407-494-5.

Authors Jon Barnett and John Campbell deftly navigate the ocean of
research, policy and practice addressing climate change in the Pacific
Islands. Their critical work is timely and important as the impacts of
climate change begin to directly influence the landscape of opportunities
available for people living on small islands. The authors successfully
bring social and physical processes into the same frame of analysis to
demonstrate how they are mutually constitutive and to problematize
facile designations of vulnerability. Drawing on their own wealth of
experience in the Pacific Islands, the authors convey a well-organized,
historically situated and readily accessible yet nuanced understanding
of the science, tropes and power relations that are shaping responses
to climate change. The book highlights barriers to adaptation in Pacific
Island communities and is equally relevant to other peoples and places
also experiencing the influences of a changing climate as well as the
mitigation and adaptation policies designed to address climate change.

The authors have structured the book around their principal
argument that “the presentation of climate change in small islands
states is a discursive formation that limits understanding and action to
address the interests of people living in islands” (1). The book opens in
chapter 1 with a discussion of the discursive framing of climate change
as a product of unequal power relations in three senses: 1) knowledge
is created and institutionalized by NGOs and other power asymmetric
structures; 2) the discursive framing is a recent version of an older
stereotype of islands as backward; and 3) the power and knowledge
involved in the discursive framing of climate change is multidirectional,
flowing dynamically between different sites and actors and carrying
the potential to transform how climate change is conceptualized and
addressed in the Pacific Islands.

Chapters 2 to 5 elaborate on the architecture of climate change
science, policy and practice in the Pacific Islands, focusing in particular
on issues of the environment, development, climate science and climate
policy. Chapter 6 focuses specifically on climate adaptation in the Pacific.
It provides as comprehensive a review as possible of those projects that
are documented. The chapter highlights the greater rates of success of
those projects that are to some degree locally managed and reflect local
priorities as opposed to more exclusively “top-down” structured projects
run by non-locals and representing non-local interests. In chapter 7 the
authors delve more deeply into two highly controversial climate-change
related projects. The South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring
project and the Environmental Vulnerability Index both demonstrate how
“often science is not explicitly political but reflects the power relations
and dominant discourse that exist within the political economy of the
various societies” (145). The authors critique the monitoring project as
an effort on the part of the Australian government to increase rather
than reduce uncertainty, thus paralyzing adaptation efforts. The index
is critiqued as a poor implementation of a methodology that produces
questionable data which could be more harmful than beneficial if used
as the basis for funding decisions.

Chapter 8 exposes the problematic representation of islands as
vulnerable, a designation which, on one hand, has been helpful in
leveraging international attention, but on the other, has not yielded
substantive action in terms of either mitigation of climate change or
adaptation to its impacts. Island communities that are portrayed as
isolated, small and vulnerable can as accurately be described as connected,
resilient and tenacious. Importantly, the authors draw a distinction
between unhelpful characterizations of the islands as vulnerable used to
sell magazines and the empowered appeals of community leaders who
may also conjure an imagery of fragile islands. However, the distinction
is not fully unpacked and deserves more attention to uncover the power
relations evident in discourses of vulnerability. The book concludes with
the authors’ challenge to the region to take proactive adaptation steps
and to the global community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the
extent that adaptation in the Pacific Islands can be effective.

The authors do not fully resolve the tension evident throughout the
book between their attempt to convey scientific knowledge of climate
change while simultaneously critiquing the creation and application
of that knowledge. Another criticism of the book, also noted by other
reviewers (see Farbotko and Kelman, both in Island Studies Journal,
vol. 5, no. 2, 2010, 261-265), is that while local agency is championed,
there is very little attention given to what this looks like and what is
being accomplished through local initiatives. Additionally, the authors
do not satisfactorily address the lack of documentation of local agency,
empowerment and activity, thereby to some degree replicating the very
structures of knowledge and power in the region that they seek to critique.

Ultimately, the success of the book is that it demonstrates, through
detailed examination, the ways in which climate change is primarily a
problem of knowledge, power and justice. It critiques the many wellintentioned
but dangerously ineffectual efforts to date, and offers
guidance on ways forward for a sustainable future for Pacific Islanders.

Heather Lazrus
National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, USA

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