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Book Reviews – Vol 85, No 3

September 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: 607 619 645 649 653 664 672 678 686 690

Asia General

PAN-ASIANISM: A Documentary History. Volume 1: 1850-1920. Edited by Sven Saaler and Christopher W.A. Szpilman. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. xiv, 358 pp. US$125.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4422-0596-3.

PAN-ASIANISM: A Documentary History. Volume 2: 1920-Present. Edited by Sven Saaler and Christopher W.A. Szpilman. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. xiv, 422 pp. US$125.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4422-0599-4.

Pan-Asianism is making a comeback. After the Asia-Pacific War, historians dismissed Pan-Asianist ideas and organizations as the flimsy justifications of Japanese imperialism. In the realm of international relations, the rhetoric of Asian solidarity was initially appropriated by the anti-colonial movement, but under the pressure of the Cold War bifurcation of the international arena, regionalism was eclipsed by superpower bilateralism as the dominant organizing principle. But after the fall of the Soviet Union and the long rise of China, Pan-Asianism re-emerged in both historical scholarship and diplomacy. By the start of the twenty-first century, as Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichirō’s promotion of an East Asian Community met with an enthusiastic regional reception that seemed to ignore echoes of wartime rhetoric, scholars were looking back at those prewar and wartime ideas from a new perspective. In the last decade, several books and articles have explored various aspects of Pan-Asianism from different angles. In this context, the publication of Pan-Asianism: A Documentary History is a welcome addition to an on-going conversation and a substantial resource for both scholars and students.

Edited by Sven Saaler and Christopher W.A. Szpilman, this two-volume collection of documents brings together prominent visions of Asia from across the region and over nearly two centuries, all carefully placed in historical and intellectual context by thoughtful introductions from a long list of contributing scholars. The editors’ introduction, which appears at the beginning of both volumes, traces the history and terminology of Pan-Asianism and explores connections to other ideas about Asian order and supra-national identity. The editors’ discussion of terminology makes sense of a variegated concept used for many purposes by numerous groups and individuals at different times and places. One of their important accomplishments is to place the evolution of the concept in a global context, considering the influence of world events and relations with the Western powers alongside regional developments. The introduction sets the tone for the work as a whole by emphasizing the variety of forms and geographical definitions that fall under the broad heading of Pan-Asianism.

The 74 contributions contained in the two volumes follow a roughly chronological path to present the dominant themes of Pan-Asianist thought as they evolved over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first volume, divided into four sections, covers the period from the beginnings of Japan’s confrontation with Western hegemony to the end of World War I and the critiques of the international order that emerged. The first two sections trace the development of Pan-Asian ideas in Japan over the course of about a century. This begins with the efforts of late Tokugawa intellectuals to grapple with the Western notion of international order and define their own place within and against it, a process that would shape the evolution of Pan-Asianism for decades to come. The third section ventures outside of Japan for “Asian responses” to both Western imperialism and Japanese Pan-Asianism. The editors explain that Japanese actions ultimately undermined the possibility for strong Korean or Chinese support for Pan-Asianism, but these documents show that the idea did have some appeal early on and among peoples who were not directly threatened by Japanese power and in fact hoped to appropriate it for their own independence movements, such as Indians and pan-Islamists. The final section examines the impact of World War I on Pan-Asianist thought among Japanese and other advocates, such as Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen and Indian independence advocate Taraknath Das. The inclusion in this section of two documents expressing solidarity with Germany as a fellow “oppressed people” struggling against “the status quo powers” demonstrates the historical flexibility of Pan-Asianism as a structural framework for international relations.

The second volume begins in the interwar period and examines the evolution of Pan-Asianism through the war and up to the present day. The contributions are mainly Japanese, though almost all of the six sections contain at least one non-Japanese voice. The first four sections show that in the context of the radicalization of political discourse as a whole in Japan during the years before and into the Asia-Pacific War, Japanese Pan-Asianism followed suit. Contributions dealing with imperialism and war present the well-known slogans supporting Japanese expansion—the New Order in East Asia, the East Asian Community, and of course the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere—as well as less prominent but equally fascinating efforts toward regional integration, such as the Japan Culture League and the Greater East Asia Writers Conference. The last two sections examine two postwar peaks of Pan-Asian rhetoric. In the early postwar period, Pan-Asianism contributed to both the anti-colonial movement and a Japanese rethinking of the legacy of Pan-Asianism. And in recent years, an upsurge of Pan-Asianism has centred on the potential benefits of closer economic integration.

This collection is remarkable in part for its breadth: geographical, chronological and ideological. This follows the works of scholars such as Cemil Aydin and Eri Hotta (both contributors to this volume) in providing a context for and comparison to wartime Japanese imperialism. With the inclusion of various countries, time periods and political viewpoints, the books add complexity to our understanding of Pan-Asianism, building on works that focus solely on Japan (including Saaler’s earlier collection of essays, which involved several of the contributors to these volumes). In their preface, the editors point out that the wartime history of Pan-Asianism had impeded objective analysis (xi). By chipping away at Japanese hegemony of the concept, these volumes help to correct the possibly skewed vision of hindsight which, distorted by the rearview mirror of historical memory, risks painting all Pan-Asianist ideas as being connected to the endpoint of Japanese imperialism.

Along with its wide geographical representation, the long time frame of this collection facilitates a broader view. It is a particular strength of this collection that it extends strongly into the postwar period and right up to the first decade of the twenty-first century, underlining the long-term significance of Pan-Asianism. Though this line of thinking was certainly tainted by its connection to Japan’s wartime empire (a connection that is thoroughly explored here), the collection highlights the existence of Pan-Asianist ideas that were not directly linked to the war and, indeed, that explicitly grappled with Japanese imperialism in the wake of the empire’s collapse (as in Takeuchi Yoshimi’s “Japan’s Asianism”) or consciously used wartime rhetoric as a counterpoint to advocate a more equitable vision of Pan-Asian cooperation (as in Ishihara Shintarō’s remarks to Mahathir Mohamad).

The collection also benefits from a broad variety of perspectives represented in the different types of materials translated. The sources include excerpts from philosophical texts and statements of principle, policy proposals and political declarations, words of warning and pleas for understanding, hortatory speeches and polemical journal articles, newspaper editorials and official statements from government leaders, scholarly analyses of international relations and the founding charters or official histories of regional organizations. Authors range from late-nineteenth-century adventurers and idealists to early-twentieth-century revolutionaries; and from wartime imperialists to postwar anti-colonialist leaders. They come from many backgrounds, and their goals overlap, complement or contradict each other. The inclusion of intellectuals and activists from across the political spectrum supports a more nuanced understanding of Pan-Asianism as not simply the empty rhetoric of Japanese imperialism but rather an important feature of the international mind in modern Asia.

The structure of the volumes makes them very useful for the classroom. In addition to the editors’ introduction to the collection as a whole, each of the ten sections begins with a brief introduction explaining even the most basic relevant historical context, while another layer of scholarly commentary introduces each “chapter” or set of documents. These layers of explanation make the books potentially useful for students of varying backgrounds with a broad range of interests. And yet, the classroom was not the main target envisioned by the editors. The goal of this project, as stated in the introduction, was to help scholars look beyond their own areas of specialty and encourage cooperation across national borders (4). While short excerpts from specific documents are perfect for students with a short attention span, especially when they are couched in the helpful analysis of a specialist in the field, they are of only limited usefulness as a research tool, as they can provide only a glimpse of even a particular individual’s ideas, not to mention an entire zeitgeist. Nevertheless, this is no doubt a helpful corrective to a narrow focus on a single nation or historical moment, as it can point the researcher in potentially fruitful directions.

The potential contribution in this respect is somewhat limited by the fact that the preponderance of texts and authors represented are Japanese. (About two-thirds of the chapters deal with Japanese writers or organizations, with a handful each from Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Southeast Asians and pan-Islamists.) This distribution is probably a reflection of a significant reality of the history of Pan-Asian thought: that it was primarily an idea developed and promoted by Japanese thinkers and activists to pursue their particular national and international goals. This fact itself raises some interesting questions that are touched on by some of the contributors and would merit further consideration: Why did the idea of Pan-Asianism, which on its surface implied benefits to all Asians, gain the most widespread support in Japan? What does that suggest about the “other Asians” who advocated similar ideas? How does the appeal of regionalism related to configurations of power within the region? In the final contribution to the second volume, Torsten Weber suggests a strong connection between regional position and advocacy of Pan-Asianism in his discussion of Wang Yi’s “New Asianism.” This is just one of many potentially interesting avenues of exploration suggested by the contributions to this collection.

I have only two minute criticisms of this phenomenal collective effort. First, the reliance on the work of numerous scholars almost inevitably means some unevenness. Some contributors chose snippets from several texts, while others presented fewer but more complete examples. Of course, both styles can be useful in different ways. One odd result of this approach is the use of a single excerpt twice in the space of ten pages: two separate contributions discussing Okakura Tenshin include the opening pages of his 1903 work Ideals of the East. While one excerpt is more complete than the other, and Okakura’s famous assertion that “Asia is one” is an essential part of any discussion of Asianism, this seems an odd choice, especially considering that this English-language text is easily accessible at libraries around the world, as well as online. Second, the editors at times oversell the novelty of their undertaking. For instance, to support the claim that other document collections do not include Pan-Asianist texts, the editors cite the original edition of Sources of Japanese Tradition, instead of the 2005 edition, which in fact has a section on Pan-Asianism and includes several of the texts reproduced in these volumes. This is a minor quibble that does not detract from the overall value of the collection. The importance of this collection is not that all of its contents are unattainable elsewhere (in fact, a number of the documents are readily available in English), but rather in the assembly of all of these diverse approaches to the idea of Asia along with commentary by a wide range of scholars.

Saaler and Szpilman end their introduction with a nod to the future: “While Asia will certainly never be ‘one,’ progress will continue to be made in the areas of regional cooperation and integration, and there is no doubt that such developments will contribute to the stability and the prosperity of the region” (38). It seems the editors themselves are Pan-Asianists. (I agree with the sentiment and suspect they are correct.) This, along with the persistence of Pan-Asianist theories, structures and rhetoric toward often opposing ends in vastly different circumstances, speaks to the compelling power of Pan-Asianist ideas, in spite of the potential for harmful and dangerous appropriations of the rhetoric of regional cooperation, mutual assistance and co-prosperity.

Jessamyn R. Abel, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, USA


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China and Inner Asia

CHINA’S REFORM IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE. Series on Contemporary China, vol. 24. Edited by John Wong, Bo Zhiyue. Singapore; Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific, 2010. xx, 416 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$96.00, cloth. ISBN 978-981-4289-24-5.

Most accounts of China’s extraordinary economic reform process since 1978 are written as it were from the inside: they take China as an isolated polity, and treat its reforms as a purely endogenous process. This volume, mainly written from the outside in, performs the useful service of reminding us that China’s reforms took place in a wider context. The ideas and practices of Chinese reformers were influenced not only by direct investment from more advanced economies, but by the prior experiences of East Asian developmental states; the contemporaneous reform experience of the Soviet Union and other communist states; and by the example of the world’s most successful economies in North America and Western Europe. In their rhetoric, the nation’s leaders have tended to emphasize Chinese exceptionalism, with slogans such as “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” In practice, they have hungrily devoured ideas, technology and institutional models provided by their Asian neighbours and the advanced countries of the West.

Five chapters address the various ways in which China’s economic reform process was affected by its neighbours Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. They vary in quality; the chapters by Chien Shiuh-Shen and Zhao Litao on Taiwanese investment, and by Young-Rok Cheong on the influence of Korea’s development experience in the 1960s and 70s, are strong. Lim Tin Seng’s chapter on Hong Kong is disappointing, as it focuses narrowly on Hong Kong’s role as an entrepot and an early investor in light manufacturing, and ignores the far more profound impact identified by Yasheng Huang in his 2008 book Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics about the way in which China exploited Hong Kong’s modern legal and financial infrastructure to capture the efficiencies of a modern capitalist economy without having to face the political consequences that building such sophisticated social software normally entails.

Taken together, however, these chapters illuminate the crucial point that China’s reforms were aided by China’s location in an exceptionally dynamic economic region, where investment capital, pre-existing production chains, and decades of accumulated experience of the development process stood ready to flow in. This accident of economic geography—the local availability of such a deep pool of developmental know-how—is surely one reason why China has been able to sustain such high growth rates for so long.

Another section offers highly relevant comparative perspectives from the United States, the European Union and the Soviet Union. Wang Yong’s chapter on US-China economic relations rightly stresses that China has benefited enormously from the global system of trade and investment presided over by the US since the end of World War II, and that despite occasionally obnoxious rhetoric on both sides, China’s long-term economic and strategic interests are served by further integration in this system.

Thomas P. Bernstein’s comparison of the 1980s reform experiences of Deng Xiaoping’s China and Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union is sensitive, astute and fair. Bernstein stresses the rather well-worn point that China’s reforms succeeded because they were gradual and incremental, whereas the Soviet Union crumbled under the simultaneous assault of large-scale reforms in many areas. But he also demonstrates that, in important ways, Gorbachev did not have the luxury of the incrementalist option. The utter destruction of Russia’s entrepreneurial peasant class in the 1930s, the extreme centralization of the Soviet economic planning apparatus, and the deeply entrenched conservative bureaucracy meant Gorbachev had little choice but to gamble on dramatic simultaneous political and economic reforms. By contrast, Deng enjoyed two advantages which made an incremental strategy possible. First, he inherited such a catastrophic situation that any reforms producing material benefit would quickly be welcomed by wide swathes of both the ordinary population and officialdom. And second, the entrepreneurial energies of the rural population had not been smashed, as in the Soviet Union, but merely suppressed. This meant that even small moves to get the state out of the way produced spectacular results. Deng shrewdly capitalized on this by encouraging local officials to act as entrepreneurs, effectively giving them a stake in supporting sustained market-oriented growth.
The volume concludes with an interesting essay by co-editor Bo Zhiyue on the prospects for political reform. After a careful parsing of several generations of Chinese leaders’ statements on democracy, and an analysis of political reforms such as village elections, Bo concludes that “the Chinese leadership’s attitude toward democracy has changed from complete dismissal to affirmation in theory and dismissal in practice” (389). He therefore foresees that China’s political system will continue to evolve in the direction of greater institutionalization and more effective governance, but that substantive democracy in a Western sense remains decades away at best. As the Communist Party of China (CPC) prepares for a well-orchestrated transfer of power to a new and carefully groomed set of leaders in October 2012, this judgment appears sound.

But the CPC’s affirmation of democracy in theory and denial of it in practice begs a further question which Bo could perhaps address in future work. Since it clearly has no interest in substantive democracy, and has proved over the past three decades that an absence of democracy is no impediment to rapid, sustained and broad-based economic growth, why must the CPC bother to affirm democracy even in principle? Why not proudly assert that in China, at any rate, authoritarian bureaucratic rule is simply a superior system? The Party’s anxious insistence that its policies are democratic, when they plainly are not, betrays a cultural hollowness at the core of China’s otherwise impressive developmental achievement—a reliance on concepts imported from the West to define and legitimate the political system. Until the Party can find a more confident basis for its rule, the sustainability of China’s economic miracle will always be tinged with doubt.

Arthur R. Kroeber, Brookings-Tsinghua Center, Beijing, China


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Northeast Asia

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN POSTWAR JAPAN: The Revival of a Defeated Society. By Rieko Kage. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. xv, 195 pp. (Tables, graphs.) US$91.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-521-19257-6.

As United States military personnel complete their withdrawal from extended engagements in Iraq and continue the draw-down in Afghanistan, many observers hope to see civil society organizations in these countries bolstering the rule of law, serving as watchdogs over government activity, and increasing their participation in decision-making processes. Rieko Kage’s slim new book offers a sober and nuanced view of postwar civic engagement which may reset unrealistic expectations for such war-torn societies. Using a rich array of data, including large-N datasets on the over-time recovery of Japanese prefectures, paired-case comparisons of voluntary organizations before, during and after World War II in Japan, and cross-national surveys, Kage underscores that wartime devastation in Japan and elsewhere did not damage the core social fabric which undergirds all societies.

Rather, she convincingly argues, forced mobilization during wartime in coordination with the legacies of prewar associational activities set the stage for postwar civic engagement. In areas where pre-conflict civil society organizations were most active and the state required more from its citizens—both as soldiers and civilian “volunteers”—postwar civil society was strongest. This counter-intuitive claim about the tandem expansion of state and societal capacities (cf. 9, 166) rejects standard civic engagement theories based on democratization, US occupation policy, disaster or conflict and baby booms.

How does forced mobilization increase civic skills? During war, citizens on the battlefield and the home front take on new, larger responsibilities and interact with a broader array of people than during peace time. They acquire communication abilities, political and social awareness and organizational savvy, overall growing their “civic skills” and priming them for further activities once the war is over. Hence US-based Vietnam War veterans have sought public office, participated in political life, and voted in elections more often than their non-drafted counterparts. Similarly, individuals in the US, Germany and elsewhere who were mobilized during World War II (that is, those born between 1921 and 1930) joined more voluntary associations than non-war-mobilized counterparts (those born between 1911 and 1920). These data (which Kage skillfully extracts from a number of international surveys) shed much light on the “Greatest Generation” in the US and abroad along with providing a possible explanation for the phenomenon observed in Robert Putnam’s well-known work Bowling Alone (NY: Simon and Schuster). That is, the spike in volunteering, voting and civic engagement post-World War II may be due to the widespread draft in the United States, and the gradual decline in these areas has resulted from new generations of Americans who, on the whole, were never pressed into military service.

Kage uses the wide variation in reconstruction rates among Japan’s 47 prefectures to reject explanations for post-crisis recovery based on economic or state-centric hypotheses which posit that higher levels of economic resources or the presence of a cohesive and autonomous state are sufficient conditions for better recovery (143). Tracking the restoration of jobs, hospitals, schools and library books, she demonstrates that one proxy for extensive communications and hence civil society connections—mail volume—is the best predictor of trends in rehabilitation. Areas with stronger civil society transmit information about pressing needs and coordinate group activities to overcome collective action problems which can otherwise stymie the recovery process, as I similarly argue in my book Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Through side-by-side process tracing of YMCAs in Kobe and Sapporo, along with cases of judo clubs in Fukuoka and Yokohama, Kage shows how some areas in prewar Japan had greater citizen enthusiasm for and involvement in voluntary activities while others withered, especially as war time conditions deteriorated and top-down, government coercion intensified. Bottom-up membership in the YMCA in Kobe, for example, surged, while the initial elitist environment of Sapporo’s YMCA led to its early postwar demise. Various organizations in Fukuoka promoted judo, sending teachers to other localities and working to form regional and national associations for the sport, while, in contrast, there was little enthusiasm among Yokohama youth for judo. Through virtuous and deleterious cycles of path dependence (explained well by Paul Pierson’s 2004 book Politics in Time, published by Princeton University Press), initial conditions for voluntary organizations had a long-lasting impact on their postwar success.

The book’s clearly argued and well-supported position raises two questions and sets out a new research agenda for scholars interested in questions of civil society and the state. First, Japan stands out in early twenty-first-century affairs as a relatively homogeneous nation, especially in comparison to other advanced, industrial democracies with their multiethnic societies, such as France, Germany and the US. Given these relatively unique demographic conditions, do any of Kage’s claims need to be modified, especially with Robert Putnam’s recent arguments about ethnic heterogeneity reducing political participation and civic engagement (which was published in 2007 in Scandinavian Political Studies (30(2))?

Next, Kage’s book illuminates the need for policy makers in post-conflict societies, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, to think about what government-led activities they can undertake to seek to develop their own civil societies. One conceivable approach would be for societies to press more youth to participate in national service activities, as the governments of Israel, South Korea and Switzerland already do; these nations have compulsory military or national service for their young adults. Are there any other feasible policy options for decision makers hoping to jump out of path-dependent ruts and invigorate civil society organizations?

Kage has produced an excellent monograph quite useful for undergraduate classes focused on Japan, World War II, or disaster recovery, which will change our understanding of civic engagement and spark new discussions about the benefits of military public service, whether in wartime or peacetime.

Daniel P. Aldrich, Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA


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AIRBORNE DREAMS: “Nisei” Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways. By Christine Yano. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2011. xv. 228pp. (B&W photos.) US$22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-4850-4.

Airborne Dreams is a title that tells many more stories than those of the stewardesses who worked for Pan American World Airways in the period from 1955 to 1972, the main historical window covered by this book. True, the main focus is on the so-called “Nisei” or second-generation Japanese who worked for the airline, but through the lens of their stories, Yano weaves a complex narrative of American imperialism in the technologically empowered jet-age that gathered momentum as the years unfolded. The tale is limited to that period because the plan of the airline was essentially motivated by preferences of a racial and gendered nature that eventually became unacceptable to the society which it represented, but while it lasted, a lot of people had a lot of fun, and the airline’s architect, Juan Trippe, achieved most of his own dreams as well.

It was only ten years after the end of the Second World War when Pan Am had the bold idea of employing second-generation Japanese, mostly from Hawaii, who would be able to speak the language, while still being patriotic Americans. Trippe’s idea for airborne travel was to carry curious Americans out to see the world in a spirit of friendship and understanding, and his stewardesses were to offer the best service they could muster. In fact many of the girls he employed had little Japanese language, and they weren’t all Nisei, but if they looked the part, he would send them for training, and they would soon learn the basic requirements for the flights. They turned out to be employees beyond his expectations, and the scheme was a success both for the airline and for the girls. Often from rural backgrounds, with little prior sophistication, these stewardesses were introduced to all the niceties of the lives of the rich and famous, and they travelled to and enjoyed exotic locations around the world.

At the same time, they made an important contribution to the claim of the company’s logo that it was the “World’s Most Experienced Airline,” a claim that also symbolized the gathering postwar dominance of America in the world. Another of the airline’s dreams was to embody the old frontier ideology, but this time across the oceans, and the Nisei girls nicely did that, also highlighting the “aggressively competitive, masculinist business culture that constantly emphasised its primacy,” (3) expressed as a sense of creating an American-style empire. Yano sees the endeavours of Pan Am as successfully leading the way in the “emergent sense of globalism,” and her book provides ample evidence of her argument, demonstrating ways in which all kinds of other diplomatic, commercial and even political practices followed in its wake.

The ethnography for this volume was gathered from former employees who still meet regularly, and who still talk happily about the wonderful experience it was for them, for America and for the world, working for the airline. Through the personal stories of the women—not only the “Nisei,” but focussed primarily on them—the volume has an intimate quality that brings it alive with detail, and that truly recounts dreams realized. Yano says it matters little that the airline eventually failed (in 1991) but her book makes so real the links with the American imperialist venture that the two attacks on the airline—a hijack in Pakistan in 1986 and the bomb that brought down Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988—would actually seem to bear out her argument. In my view, this is a book that looks at first to be an interesting and fairly innocuous account of the glamorous lives of a few young Japanese-American women who demonstrated an exemplary citizenship in the rebuilding of postwar international relations, but it actually opens up a much more crucially important period in recent American history.

For a non-American reviewer, the book contains a lot of references that may not be familiar, but it certainly paints a fascinating picture of the background to the American gender and racial issues that still fill the big screens of the world, and it broadens out the stereotypical anti-communist image that preceded America’s entry into Vietnam. Yano does briefly consider the roles of other airlines, including European ones like BOAC and Air France, which also flew jets around their actual imperial provinces, offering stewardesses of various backgrounds, but she just as quickly dismisses them. This is an American story, through and through, and I think it is definitely worth the telling. The storytellers were not only a wonderful asset to the airline as it built up its global image. They also do a great job of telling the story, and in case anyone is wondering how much agency they had in changing their image over the years, I can only encourage you to take a look! Definitely an anthropology book worth taking out into the big wide world!

Joy Hendry, Oxford Brookes University (emerita) and St. Antony’s College, Oxford , United Kingdom


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RECONSTRUCTING KOBE: The Geography of Crisis and Opportunity. By David W. Edgington. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010. xxii, 301 pp. (Tables, graphs, figures, maps, B&W photos.) C$95.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-7748-1756-1; C$45.00, paper, ISBN 978-0-7748-1757-8.

There are not many studies of long-term disaster recovery available. This book helps bridge the gap and provides us with a detailed view of what happened in Kobe, Japan over a ten-year recovery period from 1995 to 2005. The impact of the earthquake, and the way recovery happened, changed the way Japan does disaster recovery. Edgington provides a useful four-part framework for organizing and understanding the research. The framework consists of: the pre-existing condition in the disaster area; characteristics of the disaster; efforts made by governments and non-state organizations; and local community attitudes and relationships with government. This is an important tool because it demonstrates his thought process and a desire to go beyond describing the event to an analytical level to understand how the local people, and the government people (at the local, prefecture and national levels) responded, and created recovery. He wants the reader to understand the Japanese model of recovery. This book delivers on all counts and will become part of the commonly referenced literature on disaster recovery.

The reader is taken down to the level of two neighbourhoods in Kobe (Shin Nagata and Moriminami) where detailed recovery histories in demographic, physical and economic terms are presented. Some neighborhoods did better than others in recovery and part of the reason for this is the level of pre-event community organizing and planning in place. The findings, at the city-wide level, on the struggle to regain economic status after 10 years, supports the work of other scholars, and demonstrates that while having substantial resources and funding helps recovery, it may not be not enough to rebuild lives and economies, at least from a 10-year viewpoint.

The reader will learn a good deal about the Japanese urban planning system from this book, down to the detailed method of “land adjustment” that allows for reforming lot (parcel) sizes to accommodate modern needs (such as fire-truck access), and the local planning association process (machizukari kyōgikai). In the case of Kobe the access to national government funding gives rise to attempts to distort the recovery process as local planners seek to take advantage of these funds to accomplish other needed development schemes along with recovery. This finding is in line with recent long-term studies of recovery in New Orleans (Olshansky and Johnson 2010) and New York City (Mammen 2011). As recovery is not a linear process some “warping” of the outcomes are the norm because the stakeholder mix changes over time and so does the form of financial support. The lesson here is that the recovery process is dynamic rather than static.

The organization of chapters follows the research framework. The chapter on neighbourhood case studies is quite valuable in establishing who gets what and why, and the detailed maps are helpful if you ever get to Kobe and wish to walk the streets and do your own follow-up research. There is a chapter on the 15 symbolic projects where the “big bang” approach is presented, and such efforts as the airport, Hat-Kobe, Port Island convention centre, and the special tax incentive packages are examined, and most found wanting.

The author has been quite meticulous on using research done by others to tell this story and to get into the intricate parts of the inherent conflicts between what city-level decisions makers want, what national government wants, and what the victims want at the neighbourhood level. The Japanese recovery response system during this period consisted of the national government, which provided large infrastructure projects quickly and allocated funds to the prefecture (provincial or state level). The City of Kobe held special status at the time and could receive funds directly, making the top-down flow more complex.

Edgington reinforces the point made by other disaster researchers that having plans in place (be they for future development or post-disaster recovery) is an important tool for successful recovery. Kobe had just completed updating its comprehensive plan just before the quake. Thus, city leaders knew their vision, and the recovery process proved a vehicle to help get the vision in place, especially with lots of national government funds that became available. Such plans for physical development, Edgington concludes, are not enough for recovery, as they have no social and economic goals. These goals needed to be invented as the process unfolded.

There are three important appendices provided: chronology of the 10-year period; national government relied and recovery measures; and major reconstruction actions taken by local government. The appendices alone are worth getting this book. Few studies ever provide this much detail to the reader.

The book shows us that there are winners and losers in recovery, and those in authority do make mistakes as they rush to make decisions. This book is a mix of political geography, institutional analysis and urban planning. The combination works well. For those seeking a deeper anthropological approach they will be disappointed as there are no in-depth personal descriptions of individual recovery struggles. Also omitted is a discussion of an important social movement: that of student volunteers who flooded the city and created a need to address their desire to help.

The victims of such large disasters always pay a price of enduring the loss and stress and being the objects of the “life recovery” process. Edgington wisely cites the work of Maki and Hayashi (2006) in explaining that in Japan the term for recovery (fukkyū) refers to bringing back the devastated area to pre-disaster state, while the term reconstruction (fukkū) suggests long-term recovery. In every disaster the government is faced with the choice of which term to apply. It appears in the case of Kobe the national government changed its view over the 10 years. Recovery, after all, is about inventing the future, while remembering the past. This book is very well written and deepens the reader’s understanding of Japan’s way of making recovery happen.

William J. Siembieda, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, USA


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South Asia

RETHINKING RELIGION IN INDIA: The Colonial Construction of Hinduism. Routledge South Asian Religion Series, 4. Edited by Esther Bloch, Marianne Keppens and Rajaram Hegde. London and New York: Routledge, 2011. xv, 192 pp. US$42.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-415-50002-9.

This book is the product of a conference in 2008 at which members of the Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap of Ghent University played a leading role. Keppens and Bloch wrote the introduction, de Roover and Claerhout wrote one chapter, and Balagangadhara, the Centre’s director, wrote another. The other chapters are by scholars based elsewhere, several of them leading authorities on Hinduism. Many edited volumes are uneven in content and quality, but they are rarely as uneven as Rethinking Religion in India, in which some chapters fall below the standard expected in books from academic publishers.

The book’s purpose is to include “some of the most important voices in the debate on the construction of Hinduism” and to “provide the reader with the required historical data, arguments and conceptual tools to come to a well-grounded position on its central questions” (2). This purpose is partly achieved inasmuch as chapters by Lorenzen, Oddie, Zavos and King clearly set out their arguments about the “colonial construction of Hinduism,” although almost everything they say, as far as I can see, has already been said by them or others many times before. There is certainly a difference in emphasis, if not plain disagreement, between the four authors. For Lorenzen, for instance, the concept of Hinduism is not “an artificial concept invented by European orientalists” and we can seriously and fruitfully compare the Hindu religion with other world religions; for King, on the other hand, “Hinduism” is a colonial and modern construct, and its use in the study of pre-colonial Indian civilizational history is anachronistic and often highly misleading. But both authors, like Oddie and Zavos, set out their arguments cogently and the reader can compare them to reach his or her own conclusion about the extent and significance of Hinduism’s “construction” as a distinct “religion” in the colonial and post-colonial eras. For students new to the topic, these four chapters (and possibly the introduction) should be enlightening, and this book might find a place on reading lists for introductory courses on Hinduism and India.

Patton’s chapter on women and Sanskrit in Maharashtra, which is based on empirical research, is an interesting discussion of how Sanskrit has come to be associated with women and the home, while men opt for careers in science and technology. This chapter, however, is an abridged reprint of a previous publication and has next to nothing in common with the rest of the volume.

The rest of the book engages in polemics about the definition of religion, which is seen as fatally flawed by its Christian ancestry so that it cannot be applied to Hinduism or other “Indic” religions. Fitzgerald’s chapter is at least coherently written, but Sugirtharajah’s is not, de Roover and Claerhout’s is simplistic, and Balagangadhara’s prolix theorizing mixes politically tendentious assertions that Hinduism is a religion of India whereas Islam is not, with spurious arguments that there neither is nor was “religion” in India, because the very concept is a Western, Christian import and therefore cannot have any valid cross-cultural meaning. But all competent scholars in social science, history or religious studies have known for a long time that, first, modern scholarship on religion primarily developed within a Judaeo-Christian milieu, whose far-reaching consequences must be and have been critically examined; secondly, all our significant concepts come encumbered with social and cultural connotations that have to be recognized and deconstructed; and, thirdly, exact analytical definitions like those in the natural sciences cannot be formulated for “religion” (or politics, economics, god, government, market, etc., etc.), because only polythetic definitions relying on “family resemblances” among significant characteristics can be employed cross-culturally.

As it would be tedious to itemize all my criticisms of these polemical authors, let me cite just one illustration of what has gone wrong. De Roover and Claerhout argue that Indians who learned English accepted that “worship” translates as “puja” without understanding the former term’s Christian connotations (though whether they refer to Catholic mass, Methodist prayer and preaching, or something else is unclear, since like other authors in this book they overlook Christianity’s enormous diversity). Hence when Indians talk about worship, there is misunderstanding and distortion, and to understand what has occurred we need to examine the difference between Indians’ use of such words and European-Christian understandings of them, so as to “reveal how the two groups were talking about completely different things” (176). In practice, though, when a competent researcher into Hinduism—Indian or foreign, Hindu or non-Hindu—observes puja rituals and talks to Hindus about them, examines relevant archival evidence or reads texts pertaining to puja, the principal object of the research is to “understand the native’s point of view,” to coin a famous anthropological phrase. Hence every attempt is made to grasp the meaning of what the Hindu actors do or did and say or said—whether expressed in English, an Indian language, a mixture of both, or any other language—so that the two parties are precisely not talking about different things. Moreover, a large scholarly literature on puja, and Hinduism more generally, overwhelmingly demonstrates both that these efforts to understand have paid off (though never of course perfectly), and that neither the researchers nor their Hindu interlocutors, past or present, are victims of the misunderstandings presumed by de Roover and Claerhout’s naïve reasoning, let alone Balagangadhara’s sophistries. Hinduism’s colonial construction is an important subject for research, but to suppose that it has misled everyone along a false trail laid by Christian notions of “religion” is nonsense, as anyone who reads a few good books about Hinduism, instead of indulging in outdated logic chopping, can easily find out.

C.J. Fuller, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK


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Southeast Asia

THE CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM OF THAILAND: A Contextual Analysis. Constitutional Systems of the World. By Andrew Harding and Peter Leyland. Oxford; Portland, OR: Hart Publishing, 2011. xxxv, 273 pp. £18.99, paper. ISBN 978-1-8411-3972-2.

There is a story, apocryphal but revealing nevertheless, that a researcher once went to a library in Thailand looking for a copy of the constitution. After a long and fruitless search he approached the enquiries desk for help. “Where have you been looking?” the librarian asked. “In the legal section,” the frustrated researcher responded. “Oh, I’m sorry,” said the librarian, “but in Thailand the constitution is kept in the serials section.”

With eighteen different constitutions, in the space of only eighty years, writing a book about the constitutional system of Thailand is a daunting task. This volume rises to the challenge effectively, providing a comprehensive analysis of Thailand’s governing system, including both specific constitutional provisions and the broader parliamentary, administrative and judicial context. Legal discussion is nicely integrated with even-handed political analysis. This is an invaluable resource for scholars of Thai politics, administration and law. Wisely, most of the detailed constitutional discussion focuses on the 1997 “people’s” constitution and the current 2007 constitution, which was put in place after the military coup that ousted controversial Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. There is plenty of constitutional detail and comparison of different approaches in various charters, but not so much that the reader is swamped. Detailed tables of legal cases, statues, constitutional sections, treaties and decrees at the beginning of the book enhance its accessibility and usefulness as a reference volume.

The volume opens with a history of legal and constitutional development in Thailand, from pre-modern times to the present. Some readers will baulk at the rather clichéd royalism of the pre-modern section—with the formulaic invocations of King Mongkut and King Chulalongkorn as great reformers and modernizers—but it is useful in placing Thailand’s ongoing grappling with royal power at the centre of constitutional analysis. The decades following the revolution of 1932, which brought about a constitutional monarchy, are handled deftly, mapping out Thailand’s distinctive pattern of constitution-coup-constitution alongside important social and political developments. Two main types of constitution are evident in this period: “administrative charters” that are brief, short-term documents typically used by the military to formalize their grip on power; and full “democratic constitutions” that provide for government by an elected parliament (33). Post-coup charters have typically granted coup makers immunity from prosecution and “courts have also rebuffed attempts to have a coup … ruled unconstitutional” (27), thus embedding disposability within Thailand’s legal system. However, the authors argue that this pattern may be changing, with an increasing public sentiment that only full democratic constitutions can provide a legitimate basis for government. You can never say never when it comes to a coup in Thailand, but I think the authors are correct to argue that any future coup makers will move quickly to put in place a constitution that, despite plenty of self-serving clauses, has most of the trappings of liberal democracy.

Having traced out this history the book examines Thailand’s constitutional system in a series of thematic chapters covering parliament, the executive, local government, the courts and human rights. This is a

comprehensive discussion of the development and current shape of Thailand’s governing systems and, importantly, includes ample consideration of the palace and the military, “extremely powerful forces … which fall outside current constitutional oversight mechanisms altogether” (111). I found the discussion of emergency powers a particularly useful account of the limits of constitutionalism in Thailand, especially the Internal Security Act of 2008, which “moves Thailand further than before down the path of making the rule of law an exception, clothing the Executive and the military with legal immunity, and arming them to the teeth with a veritable panoply of security laws” (118). The summaries of high-profile cases considered by the Constitution Court and the administrative courts are also highlights, especially as so many of these cases have played a part in Thailand’s tumultuous politics over the past decade. Nevertheless, some of the discussion in these core chapters is rather detailed and dry; rather than reading them in their entirety, many readers will find them more useful for extracting specific pieces of information.

There is one issue that comes up regularly on which I found myself questioning the authors’ approach. They point out, quite rightly, that the elimination of corruption, in its many forms, has been a constitutional preoccupation in Thailand. The 1997 constitution established a series of independent watchdog bodies and the 2007 constitution contains a “litany of virtues for civil servants, State officials and politicians” (109). However, the authors seem a little too uncritical in accepting the dominant discourse of corruption. In particular, the book makes regular reference to the “pervasive and taken for granted” (49) scourge of vote buying in Thailand. Their conclusion is pessimistic: “it seems apparent that attempts to regulate electoral malpractice out of existence are doomed to failure” (82). This is not the place to go into a detailed discussion of the extent to which the widespread distribution of cash before elections amounts to vote buying; however, I would have welcomed a somewhat more critical perspective on the discourse of electoral corruption itself, especially given that the discourse has been such a useful tool for both constitution drafters and coup makers. Disparaging electoral democracy—and casting doubts on the fitness of voters to make informed decisions— has been an important component of Thailand’s constitution-coup-constitution cycle. Rather than taking electoral corruption as a given, it may have been more productive to explore how politically produced images of corrupt politicians and easily manipulated voters have helped to destabilize Thailand’s constitutional order.

Andrew Walker, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


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CHINESE INDONESIANS AND REGIME CHANGE. Chinese Overseas, v. 4. Edited by Marleen Dieleman, Juliette Koning, and Peter Post. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2011. xv, 232 pp. (Illus.) US$137.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-19121-1.

This edited volume is the latest scholarly, comprehensive work that deals with Chinese Indonesians, in English. It stems from a series of monthly seminars held at the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) as well as an international workshop jointly organized by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS, Kyoto University), NIOD, ASiA (University of Amsterdam) and Leiden University.

This collection of articles on Chinese Indonesians is a very welcome addition to scholarship on the subject matter. It is also a challenging volume for scholars and those who are interested in studying the Chinese Indonesians. The volume is broadly divided into four sections. The first section is the introductory chapter of the volume. The second section deals with issues of assimilation, identity and belonging of Chinese Indonesians from different perspectives (chapters 2 to 4). The third section focuses on how Chinese Indonesians dealt with issues of identity and civil rights during the colonial period (chapters 5 and 6). The fourth section presents cases of Chinese Indonesian business firms and how they responded to periods of crisis and political regime change (chapters 7 to 9).

As the editors point out in the introductory chapter, the current Chinese Indonesian studies have been dominated by the state-centred and essentialist overseas Chinese perspectives that treat Chinese Indonesians as passive bystanders and powerless victims in Indonesian history. This collection aims to go beyond these perspectives to show how Chinese Indonesians played an important role in shaping their destinies and important social trends in the country during times of crisis and regime change. In other words, the editors argue that the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia were not merely passive bystanders or victims of historical events, but rather were active agents of change during periods of crisis.

In the second chapter, Juliette Koning explores the conversion to Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity of a group of Chinese Indonesian owner-managers of small- and medium-scale enterprises in Yogyakarta during political regime change in the late 1990s. It is an important contribution to research on religious conversion among Chinese Indonesians, which is still under-studied. Nobuhiro Aizawa in the third chapter analyzes the reasons why the assimilation policies that aimed to completely integrate ethnic Chinese in Indonesian society did not produce the expected results despite the active advocacy of the Institute for the Promotion of National Unity (LPKB) and the Communication Body of Organizing National Unity (BAKOM PKB), two important organizations led by Kristoforus Sindhunata, a Chinese Indonesian political activist who is a key figure of the assimilation movement. The fourth chapter features Andreas Susanto’s examination of the strategies adopted by the Chinese in Yogyakarta in response to the pressures for assimilation.

The fifth chapter by Nobuto Yamamoto explores the role of peranakan Chinese (Chinese who are culturally Indonesian) journalists in the nationalist movement during the late colonial era. His contribution deserves special attention as the subject matter is still under-researched. The story of a simple Chinese shopkeeper in Batavia, Loa Joe Djin, who triggered a legal regime reform during the colonial period, is the central theme of the contribution of Patricia Tjiook-Liem in the sixth chapter.

In the seventh chapter, Alexander Claver discusses the business experience and survival strategy of Margo-Redjo, a Chinese-owned coffee firm in Semarang, during the economic crisis of the 1930s. Peter Post in the following chapter focuses on how the Oei Tiong Ham Concern, the largest ethnic Chinese-owned conglomerate in Asia before the World Wars, adapted and adjusted itself constantly during the late Dutch colonial era, the Japanese occupation period, and the Sukarno period in order to sustain its businesses. The ninth and final chapter, by Marleen Dieleman, analyzes how the importance of ethnic Chinese network ties, political connections and foreign (non-Chinese and non-Indonesian) partners to the Salim Group, the largest ethnic Chinese-owned conglomerate in Indonesia during Suharto’s era, changed as the group grew and experienced the Asian financial crisis in 1997-1998 as well as the subsequent political regime change in the country.

Overall, the collection succeeds in a couple of respects. First, the contributors have shifted away from the state-centred and essentialist overseas Chinese paradigms that ascribe a passive and powerless role to Chinese Indonesians in history. They have made a compelling case that Chinese Indonesians demonstrated active agency in shaping their destinies and that of the country during periods of crises, war and revolution. Second, the footnotes and bibliography included in each chapter are rich sources and will be of greatest use to those who are keen in studying the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia.

However, some chapters only partially deal with the issue of regime change, which is part of the title of the volume. This shortcoming indicates that much more significant efforts are needed in researching the impact of regime changes on Chinese Indonesians and how the latter respond to the changes and subsequently shape their own destinies as well as that of the country. Having said that, Chinese Indonesians and Regime Change is still an important contribution to the studies of Chinese Indonesians, and would be of benefit to students and scholars with an interest in this area of study.

Wu-Ling Chong, National University of Singapore, Singapore


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Australasia and the Pacific Region

IMPERIAL ARCHIPELAGO: Representation and Rule in the Insular Territories Under U.S. Dominion After 1898. Writing Past Colonialism. By Lanny Thompson. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010. xi, 282 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$28.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3488-3.

Despite repeated protestations to the contrary, expressed over the course of several different historical periods, the United States has had a long history of colonial expansion, and has proceeded either to incorporate the conquered peoples of other lands into its body politic or to establish some more obviously imperial form of rule over them. This book closely examines one of those expansionist bursts, the conquest and/or acquisition of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawai’i, the Philippines and Guam in 1898, and provides a careful comparison of how the United States then set about establishing its dominion over them. Thompson’s goal here is to examine the ways in which various writers, photographers and functionaries represented the peoples and cultures of these islands to the American government and populace in words and photographs, and to then consider the relationships between the specific discursive strategies and the kinds of administrative and legal solutions ultimately applied to the political status of each. He concludes that “the operative principle of this imperial discourse was that the multiple imperial subjects were to be ruled differently, according to their level of civilization and capacity for self-government” (246).

He employs two overarching approaches. In the first, he focuses particularly on gender, race and class, and on the ways in which each region’s potential for political development and eventual self-government or incorporation into the union is gauged as a consequence of imagined masculine, white and elite virtues, or the absence of them. In the second, he demonstrates, with notable success, the attention given to ethnic, racial, religious and geographic differences within and between the different island possessions. Perspectives drawn from understandings of Darwinian evolution popular at the time loom large, but even more prominent are the social evolutionary categories that were being formulated by thinkers such as L.H. Morgan and E.B. Tylor, with their sociocultural hierarchies leading through stages characterized as “savage,” barbarian” and “civilized.” We can see here an early example of the ways in which the social sciences were put to use serving government policy.

At the time, enormous attention was paid to the intersecting questions of where exactly these peoples were located on an evolutionary scale and just how feasible it would be for outsiders—American administrators—to advance them along the scale. Thompson captures this well: “[T]he theory of social evolution deployed both a trope of classification and a narrative of progress. On the one hand, peoples were classified, ranging on a scale from the most backward to the most advanced. On the other hand, the narrative of progress held out the hope that backward peoples could advance, especially under the tutelage of superior civilizations” (90). To my mind, however, he falls a bit short when it comes to evaluating the contradictory perspectives that lay behind these positions. In the same way that expansionists were conflicted about whether and how to bring “inferior” peoples into the fold, anti-imperialists, it should be remembered, also struggled with their own doubts about the right thing to do: should the United States simply walk away or should Americans help the peoples they subdued and, if they did, how would the US ever be able to walk away from these commitments? Such questions continue to plague Americans today as they contemplate their country’s involvements in Afghanistan, Iraq and a dozen other situations.

There is also a thoughtful chapter dealing with the legal wrangles entangled in establishing the new patterns of government in each of the territories. In the “insular cases” the Supreme Court had to decide islands’ status within constitutional bounds, and questions about who had ultimate authority over them. Its majority opinion defended the country’s right to conquer territory and to subjugate the inhabitants; it further held that “We are also of the opinion that the power to acquire territory by treaty implies not only the power to govern such territory, but to prescribe upon what terms the United States will receive its inhabitants, and what their status shall be in … the ‘American Empire’” (207). While rendered well over a century ago, these rulings continue to inform American control over Puerto Rico and Guam, and remain relevant to issues in Hawai’i and elsewhere.

I would point briefly to two drawbacks in what is an otherwise excellent work. First, Thompson has an unfortunate tendency to repeat, in slightly paraphrased terms, almost every quote he employs; I suspect that most individuals likely to read this would be able to glean the meanings without this redundancy. Second, because the book focuses so much on representations, it relies extensively on period photographs. Unfortunately, the University of Hawai’i Press, which is otherwise to be praised for its willingness to produce work of this sort, has for some time now failed to provide much in the way of support for its authors, who are charged with nearly all the tasks ancillary to publication. This undoubtedly accounts for the rather mediocre quality of the reproductions here. When we are being asked to carefully consider details in photo after photo, it is frustrating to gaze at images that do not enable us to see the details.

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


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INTIMATE STRANGERS: Friendship, Exchange and Pacific Encounters. Critical Perspectives on Empire. By Vanessa Smith. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. xii, 323 pp. (B&W photos.) US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-521-43751-6.

This is an interdisciplinary study of friendship as it was manifest in encounters between Pacific Islanders and Europeans. Written primarily within the discipline of literary studies, it scrutinizes eighteenth-century European texts and analyzes the ways that their authors represent friendship between people during the period of imperial expansion. It is exploratory, speculative and interpretive of the emotions and motivations of both parties in contacts characterized by cultural difference and, usually, good intentions.

The central problematic is supplied by the Tahitian concept of taio, a formal bond of friendship or alliance between two specific people that is ceremonially enacted and entails reciprocal rights and obligations. The custom of establishing cross-cultural taio relationships was attested to by numerous Europeans during the period and has been examined by the anthropologists Douglas Oliver and Ben Finney as an extension of traditions that previously cemented alliances between people of unrelated groups. Although the term is now archaic, it appears to be very similar to customs of friendship pertaining in many cultures across the Pacific. People who were taio exchanged names, gained status from each other, gave gifts and treated each other with amity and generosity. It appears to have been an entirely masculine institution.

Smith explores the meanings and implications of such ritualized friendship, raising questions about the emotional content, moral assumptions and calculation of benefit that Europeans and Pacific Islanders invested in it. As she draws on the descriptions contained in the texts written by European maritime explorers, travelers and observers, these investigations concentrate much more on their experiences of friendship than on those of their Pacific friends. Her interrogation of the prevailing European understandings of friendship and its implications is both literary and philosophical, often leading her far away from the Pacific. The chapter that probes issues of authenticity of emotional expression and sincerity in the display of grief, for example, presents these with reference to prevailing theories of the universality of sentiment, empathy, emotive performance and the distinction between inherent or natural behaviour and social or cultural elaboration of emotional states. Here, as elsewhere, the question of commensurability and cross-cultural intelligibility is crucial.

Smith analyzes ambiguity of friendship within European social and cultural traditions from the Greek customs of xenia, friendship with strangers, to the forms of camaraderie associated with sailors, where issues of rank and hierarchy obtain. Given that taio entailed the offer/gift of the Tahitian partner’s wife as a temporary sexual companion as well as the exchange of hospitality and items desired by one’s friend, the various notions of indebtedness and obligation to receive required that both parties compromise in the interest of maintaining the relationship. The vexing question of mutual comprehension permeates the book. Both friends appear to be wary of ulterior motives, yet each is also capable of cynical instrumentalism. Clearly some of the doubts were communicable, as a European can discern his friend’s discomfort when he refuses sex with the Tahitian’s wife. Equally, islanders can opportunistically claim items in spite of their comprehension of European displeasure.

The book contributes to a now vast literature on the meaning of gifts in the formation and maintenance of social relations within societies and between people from disparate cultures. It raises questions about language and the communication of emotional states that have particular pertinence in anthropological debates. But it is also a historical study of the range and variations in cross-cultural contacts that can be attributed to individual characters, dispositions and personalities. In her chapters on the ‘ruinous friendships’ that emerged in the Bounty mutiny and the friendly relationships that the sailor Robarts was able to establish with Marquesans, Smith makes a strong case for the role of individual personality in the development of mutuality and friendship.

Her own literary sensibility leads her into forms of textual scrutiny which at times seemed to me to be anachronistic and even fanciful, but are nonetheless interesting to reflect upon. Cynicism, fear, preconceptions about cultural difference and the desires for material gain were demonstrably present in some friendships, but often these can only be speculated upon. Smith’s attention to nuances in language and text, the mark of a literary scholar, sometimes seems contrived, as if striving to find calculation or misunderstanding. The spontaneity and curiosity that characterized many encounters is sometimes dissipated in elaborate attribution of motive and interpretation.

That said, the book is stimulating and readable. It engages with the existing ethnographic and historical arguments about colonial encounters in ways that are original and challenging. It offers new insights into the ways that friendships were both formed and shattered in cross-cultural contacts. The claims of friendship that appear so regularly in the writings of Europeans raise questions about the imperial political relationships that developed subsequently. Smith’s study is a significant contribution to postcolonial studies of the Pacific region and an invaluable reflection on the meanings of friendship.

Martha Macintyre, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia


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