China and Inner Asia
Australasia and the Pacific Islands
DOCUMENTARY FILMS REVIEWED
MIGRATION AND DIVERSITY IN ASIAN CONTEXTS. Edited by Lai Ah Eng, Francis L. Collins and Brenda S.A. Yeoh. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2012. xii, 293 pp. US$34.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4380-47-8.
In recent years, East Asian countries have been experiencing another boon in population mobility and increasing diversity. In this edited volume, Lai Ah Eng, Francis L. Collins and Brenda S.A. Yeoh provide a comprehensive understanding of this recent trend by exploring developments in communities and cities in heterogeneous societies of Southeast Asia and homogeneous societies of Northeast Asia. They observe that growing diversity in homogeneous societies has led to greater demarcation between “temporary” and “permanent” residents. The marriage migration of women and an emerging generation of children with multi-ethnic identities further problematize state-centered citizenship models in these countries. However, advocacy by civil society groups and alternative modes of incorporation at local governments play an important role in restructuring a country’s inclusion policy as it becomes more diversified.
This volume brings together a combination of well-established and upcoming migration scholars, who are mostly based in Asia Pacific countries. It is divided into three parts: “migration, multiculturalism and governance in Asia” (5 chapters), “identities” (2 chapters) and “practices” (3 chapters). In the first part, Maruja M.B. Asis and Graziano Batistella review the meaning of citizenship and how migration has redefined citizenship in Asian countries. They provocatively claim that “migration has had a modest impact in modifying the legal framework of citizenship in countries of destination…” (36). Because Asia lacks a strong human rights tradition, this has led to widespread abuses against labor migrants and has promoted civil society groups to advocate for the protection of migrants’ rights rather than the larger issue of citizenship.
Stephen Robert Nagy then looks at the ways in which certain municipal governments and ethnic communities in Tokyo have contributed to the formation of local integration practices. Nagy finds that an effective multicultural coexistence in these local communities is defined in terms of minimizing the burden on the municipal government and Japanese residents. Japanese residents see foreign residents as “a separate group…that exists with the local community” (76). In the following chapter, Fred C.M. Ong and Brenda S.A. Yeoh discuss the concept of “cosmopolitanism” and how the notion has been appropriated by the Singapore state. They argue that natives in Singapore do not negotiate differences but navigate away from differences. In the next chapter, Nora Hui-Jung Kim examines Korea’s efforts at the incorporation of ethnic communities, including potential immigrants, guestworkers, ethnic Chinese settlers, and mixed race Koreans and marriage migrants. She finds: “Marriage migrants and mixed race Koreans are incorporated into the sphere of reproduction, while ethnic Chinese residents are incorporated into the economic sphere and partially into the political sphere. Guestworkers are incorporated into only the economic sphere” (124).
Hsia Hsiao-Chuan’s chapter on multiculturalism in Taiwan, which combines theoretical thinking with her own activism at the Alliance for Human Rights Legislation for Immigrants and Migrants (AHRLIM), is my favorite in the book. She examines a highly contested concept of multicultural citizenship from a perspective of social movements. She argues that “multiculturalism can…be co-opted without changing the substantive rights or even formal rights of citizenship for the immigrants” (154). She traces the emergence of the concept of multiculturalism in Taiwan to the country’s nation-building experiences and processes during the late 1980s and 1990s, when the original concept was limited to indigenous peoples and excluded immigrants and migrants. Activism by the AHRLIM, an organization she co-founded, has contributed much to broaden the concept to include marriage migrants and migrant workers and to the changes in major immigration laws and policies. For example, the AHRLIM spearheaded the amendments of the Immigration Act in 2007 that allowed marriage migrants who have been the victims of domestic violence to remain in Taiwan even if they are divorced and ensuring rights to assemble and rally for im/migrants.
In the second part, which focuses on “identities,” Kayoko Ishii finds that Japanese mixed-children with a Western parent prefer to identify themselves as Western while those without a Western parent as Japanese. Only Japanese mixed-children who are raised by foreign (e.g. Thai) single mothers in Japan chose a multi-ethnic identity. Jozon A. Lorenzana then explores what being an Indian in Manila means and the role of media as agents of inclusion and exclusion. Class, gender, and race matter in Manila’s ethnic identities.
In the third part, which looks at “practices,” Lai Ah Eng offers a fun examination on the evolution of Singapore’s multiculturalism through the kopitiam (coffee shops). Kopitiam, Lai explains, is a place where individuals, groups and families eat, socialize, and idle; thereby, providing a sense of social intimacy and community. She describes the people who run and visit the place and keenly observes that “clientele and community in the kopitiam…display multicultural dimensions and dynamics of the migration-diversity narrative in Singapore” (227). Doyoung Song follows with a chapter on Islamic food in Seoul. He notes that Koreans tend to link taste and image of foods with certain concepts of their cultural identity. Robbie B.H. Goh ends the volume with an examination of foreign-born athletes in Singapore (such as China-born table tennis players who have been winning gold medals for Singapore in Southeast Asian Games) and how they provide flexibility on the construction of national and community identities.
Although the book is a welcoming addition to comparative migration studies, it is not intended as a systematic and disciplined comparison and does not make much theoretical advancement. Instead, it is a thematic exploration of what happens to diversity in local communities and cities of Asia with increasing migration.
Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA Apichai W. Shipper
WIND OVER WATER: Migration in an East Asian Context. Foundations in Asia Pacific Studies, v. 2. Edited by David W. Haines, Keiko Yamanaka, Shinji Yamashita. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2012. xiii, 270 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$95.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-85745-740-0.
This collection of essays is a significant publication on migration and ethnicity, with a particular focus on East Asian context. This volume has five sections. The first section, the introduction, offers background information about contemporary East Asian migration and provides the book’s organization. The second section (chapters 1 to 6), focuses on the regional, state and city level, in which cross-border migration takes place. The third section (chapters 7 to 12), deals with immigrants in both the traditional and the modern sense. The fourth section (chapters 13 to 16) explores the intersection of ethnicity and nationality with work. The conclusion summarizes the four cross-cutting themes in this volume.
The objective of this book is to shed light on East Asian migration, and to examine whether migration theory and findings based on the industrialized West can be applied to this particular context. In essence, this book demonstrates ‘”East Asian immigration exceptionalism” (Wong and Rigg, Asian Cities, Migrant Labor and Contested Spaces, New York: Routledge, 2011), namely, the distinctiveness of migration phenomena in East Asia, which treats the global economy as a force affecting migration in a comprehensive yet local way.
There are three valuable points made in this book. First, unlike conventional migration studies that draw on dichotomous categories, this book attempts to use a dynamic perspective to overcome two extremes. For example, in discussing the direction of migration, the authors assert that there is more than one, which is against what traditional research defines as “unilinear.” As global cities develop and their geographical spread widens, migration has no long followed developing-to-developed routes only, and instead, it may occur in the opposite direction, or between multiple locations. As for the status of immigrants, definitions such as permanent or temporary resident, and legal or illegal all constitute changeable identities. Instead, their statuses vary, depending on many temporal and spatial factors. Considering changes with time and space advocates a perspective which emphasizes the process through which migration occurs, and treats migration or immigrants as a dynamic rather than predetermined/static concept. This dynamic perspective not only represents an actual picture of complicated and various migratory experiences, but also allows an observation of its continuity and change.
Second, contributors not only adopt a relational perspective that focuses on the importance of connecting immigrants and origin/destination places, but also borrow concepts, such as contact zones, time-space compression, and agglomeration to emphasize the existence of a “field” for encounters between individuals who previously lived in different locations, and for communications of information and capital across borders. Many East Asian cities can be deemed as such contact zones, because of “extensive and complicated intersections of national and international forces and connections” (7). This effort suggests the “intermediary agent status” of migrants to create, sustain, affect and in turn be shaped by the association between origin and destination places (Wong and Rigg, Asian Cities, Migrant Labor and Contested Spaces, New York: Routledge, 2011). More importantly, it also helps us understand migrants’ circumstances of social inclusion/exclusion in host cities and the reasons for this, for instance, unequal relations embedded in the migratory process (Yeoh and Willis, “Singaporean and British transmigrates in China and the cultural politics of ‘contact zones,’” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 31 (2), 2005: 269–285).
Third, this volume pays attention to a close association between social structures and migration flows. In chapter 13, by exploring the unique temporal and spatial agglomerations of a Korean business community in Japan, a sharp contrast is found regarding labour market participation between legal immigrants, who take the first-shift in clubs and bars, and illegal ones, who have disadvantaged attributes (e.g., precarious visa status) and dominate the second shift. This dual-shift employment model represents illegal migrants’ lack of agency, their reliance on informal institutions as survival strategies to avoid intense control and frequent expulsion. In addition, it indicates the existence of an underground economy consisting of undocumented migrants in destination countries. The notion of “foggy social structure,” in contrast to a “transparent society,” is used to indicate the ambiguities and complexities of social settings that emerge from irregular migration and which allow the migrants to integrate. Irregular migration, in this sense, is seen as “a structural feature of modern society, rooted in the internal structural tension” and “between shared legitimate goals and available means” (Bommes and Sciortino, Foggy social structures: irregular migration, European labor markets and the welfare state, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012, 17). Obviously, they are inbetweeners, living in a world of double societies, consisting of the secret society (i.e., informal institutions) and manifest society (i.e., public worlds).
There are two points this volume could have made more successfully. First, contributors to chapter 15 downplay the importance of married Singaporean women during the migration process and overstate patriarchal oppression against them. Transnational migration with their husbands means they have to end their own careers in Singapore and take the role of non-working spouses while migrating to China. According to the contributors, this undoubtedly reinforces their vulnerability to patriarchy. However, this argument, in essence, makes domestic division of labour more like a contradiction between two genders. In response to migration, whether a couple makes changes with respect to work patterns within the household depends on several factors. A changed division of labour in Singaporean migrants’ families must be a family strategy, which reflects a negotiation between diverse factors and involves these women’s power in decision making, and absolutely not a “reproduction of patriarchy beyond national shores” (224). Moreover, considering that full-time housewife is an occupation pursued at home, though its value cannot be evaluated by standard economic output, women’s contribution to the whole family cannot be ignored. So the contributors’ perspective that migration perpetuates patriarchy because these married Singaporean women are being valorized for domestic skills rather than for economic skills reveals stereotypes and stigmatization about full-time housewives. Meanwhile, it indicates the contributors’ arbitrary judgment: women migrants normally migrate for social and familial rather than economic reasons, and they play a less important role than male counterparts.
The second concerns insufficient exploration of contrast and comparison regarding nationality and ethnicity between different East Asian countries. For instance, having observed that both China and Japan are “homogeneous nation” countries where “minorities are either assimilated, ignored, or given marginal recognition” (6), no further contrast or comparison is done between them. Authors pay attention to the similarities and differences in manifestations of nationality and ethnicity between two countries only, leaving the nature of and reasons for these similarities and differences unknown. However, it is easy to see the uniqueness of the hukou system in China, namely, its discriminatory and oppressed implications and subsequent social exclusion suffered by officially designated minorities (i.e., migrant workers) in terms of a comparison with registration policies in other countries (e.g., Japan). This is why some scholars (Han, “Policing and racialization of rural migrant workers in Chinese cities,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 33(4), 2010: 593–610) advocate locating racism and emphasize a process of racialization in the context of contemporary urban China.
In sum, despite some limitations, this book should be a welcomed by a broad audience, such as academics and practitioners interested in migration and ethnicity. Given its timely content and tight writing style, the editors should be commended for their enterprising entry into the important field of international migration studies, and for compiling an insightful and engaging book.
Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China Yixuan Wang
This impressive small book brings a recipe of 80 percent strategic thought and 20 percent “civil nuclear” thought together to address the large and uncertain China and India relationship now looming on the horizon. Given the importance of the strategic issues, it is understandable (but unfortunate) that the nuclear power and energy issues are subordinated, in part because these two capabilities ride together in both countries. While allowing full scope for expert expression of doubts about the other (these states continue to disagree about the border between them) and skepticism about their own mutual assurances like “no first strike,” a clearer picture emerges that their strategic and energy uses of nuclear power have a number of important similarities, and that these constitute a realistic basis for cooperation and conflict management.
This is a diplomatic and publishing phenomenon, connecting doctoral candidates with serving and retired senior military officers and academic experts during five dialogues in June 2011 in Beijing, all around classic nuclear issues facing these two states. The mix alone is impressive, and includes some very senior people like V.S. Arunachalam who was from the 1970s India’s scientific advisor to the defence minister and secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organization; also Pan Zhenqiang and Yang Yi, very senior retired officers and both former directors of the Institute of Strategic Studies of the National Defense University. Many of the authors are extrapolating from their recent experience.
Under the guidance of George Perkovich, who wrote a classic study of India’s nuclear history, and with the insight of Lora Saalman, this “global think tank” is backed by the Carnegie Endowment, with cooperating nodes in Beirut, Brussels, Beijing, Moscow and Washington. The Carnegie effort is intended to help these key people and their supporters find common platforms (such as relations between scientists in the two countries, or improving joint-maritime studies) on which more dialogues can be staged in an ongoing, “built-in” way. The heightened tension in April 2013 around North Korea’s missile test and nuclear weapons proves the importance of such dialogue in the immediate neighbourhood.
This is a carefully edited book that achieves a balance of detail and tone among many contributors, using admirably plain and clear writing in English. It is a comprehensive introduction to all the issues, but also has enough detail to satisfy experts. There is no attempt to suffocate interesting disagreements among the voices. But is there something particular that readers of this journal, Pacific Affairs, could draw from this book about Asia? Is there something distinct here which is not a repeat of the discourse and negotiations found among two “peripheral” nuclear states in the 1980s, like France and the United Kingdom, which also both tested weapons? Certainly the strategic language is very familiar to those who study (or studied) those earlier “crossroads” relationships in Europe, terms like mating and non-mating of missiles with warheads, or the “survivability” of a first nuclear attack. How much nuanced understanding does one need about these countries to read the list of possible cooperation-points intelligently? Would this book satisfy researchers of and in Asia, and not just nuclear specialists?
To satisfy such people, one could start by reading the recent study by Andrew Bingham Kennedy comparing China’s and India’s earlier leaders and their nuclear potential, The International Ambitions of Mao and Nehru: national efficacy beliefs and the making of foreign policy (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2012). Perhaps to address the delicacy of the 2012 leadership change in China, the Saalman-Carnegie book does not refer to specific living leaders. To deepen this comparison we would need works like Karthika Sasikumar’s “The Role of Culture in Understanding Nuclear Organizations,” in a special issue on “Organizational Cultures and the Management of Nuclear Technology” (Political and Military Sociology: an annual review, vol. 39: 27–42). Such people also need something comparable about China, a study for which we have long been waiting; however, unlike Sasikumar, people with a grasp of organizational culture often have not mastered the jargon of nuclear doctrine, which is evident yet carefully managed in these Beijing dialogues.
In a masterful concluding summary Lora Saalman focuses on points of common interest between the two countries and advises that they could and should work up their bilateral relations, sometimes at least beyond the sight of media; she also concludes that “third party issues must not be allowed to hijack the conversation,” (185) by which is meant the China-Pakistan relationship, or the US-China relationship. The Carnegie Endowment has long been a protagonist for multilateral approaches (and one plan is indeed to have China-India dialogues about the India-Pakistan and China-US relationships), and there is mention of the useful role of the IAEA in Vienna. But I do agree that quality time involving these two states alone would be very well spent. Drawn from participants’ statements, the list of common interests includes specialized subjects like civil nuclear energy programs, anti-satellite programs, ballistic missile modernization, and the vast (and often amorphous) subjects of strategic stability, deterrence and disarmament.
One quote from Saalman explains perfectly why these dialogues and this book are so necessary; she says that China’s “dogged preoccupation with the United States” and India’s “fixation” on China “create a nuclear chain in which any shock radiates through the links.” This shock would occur, she says, because India “finds everything China does to contain a signal while the other actor, China, misses all the signals” (185). This book does much to loosen that chain and reduce that shock.
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada Robert S. Anderson
CREATIVITY AND ACADEMIC ACTIVISM: Instituting Cultural Studies. Edited by Meaghan Morris and Mette Hjort. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012. xiii, 297 pp. (Tables, B&W photos.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-932643-02-2.
Meaghan Morris and Mette Hjort, based inside the creative and cultural studies ferment that is Lingnan University in Hong Kong, have coedited a timely, reflective, hopeful and capaciously situated collection, Creativity and Academic Activism: Instituting Cultural Studies. While many have called attention to the anti-disciplinary and bureaucratic-refusing energies of “the desire that is cultural studies,” this study tracks instead the multi-faceted triumph of “instituting cultural studies,” particularly in universities, degree programs, research centres, journals, activist networks, museums and coalitions built up during the past two decades within and across the Asia-Pacific region.
As the co-editors affirm, this is “a volume of stories in which internationally well-known scholars in the humanities and social sciences look back on what they now consider to be key moments of their trajectories as institution-builders, in the process reflecting in often personal terms on the art of the possible in academic life” (1). These stories of “academic activism” are variously based in Australia, mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. Institutions do not so much constrain as help to produce, shape, inform and tolerate the myriad achievements recounted.
This hopefulness towards moving institutions is also framed by an against-the-grain satire of departmental and bureaucratic corporatization by Morris and Hjort called “Institutional Culture: A Manifesto with Rules,” issuing mock-academic provocations such as “Any head of department who ceases to be able to talk to colleagues without using such terms as ‘quality assurance,’ ‘inputs,’ ‘outputs,’ ‘deliverables,’ performance indicators,’ ‘alignment,’ ‘graduate profile,’ ‘stakeholder,’ and ‘evidence-based’ shall be required to atone for the pain inflicted on others by performing thirty hours of community art work” (23). As this deadly economistic language become norm suggests, the rise and triumph of cultural studies within academic culture has been surrounded by the rise of marketized norms, management modes and corporate values—“the globalization of dubious ideas and dismal policies” (79)—as if to suggest we may have won the battle but lost the war for the humanities and social sciences as institutional forces.
The twelve essays included in the collection are case studies of local institutional creativity, but are framed (and at times overtly interlinked) to larger problematics, social movements and pragmatic tactics that should prove of relevance to other sites and struggles animating “the art of the possible in academic life today” (15). But, as John Nguyet Erni asks, how can we “recharacterize Cultural Studies after the exuberant proliferation of its own spaces” (178)? How can this amorphous anti-discipline stay tied not just to self-ratifying academic activism but to social movements and transformations?
Josephine Ho’s study of “institutionally embedded activism” (61) around gender at the Center for the Study of Sexualities at National Central University in Taiwan complements Tejaswini Niranjana’s consequential testimony of disciplinary change as tied to anti-colonial, issue-oriented and cultural-national struggles in India: thus “thematizing culture as a possible field of inquiry” (34) emergent in Bangalore “as the critical space in the interstices of the humanities and the social sciences” (38). Recalling “the tension between academic and activist work,” Kuan-Hsing Chen’s work is tied to tracking the rise of Cultural Studies in Asia as emanating from “engagements in social and political movements” (41), as reflected in the trans-local journal project that is Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. As Chen observes working across this site, “the regional is the global; the global without the regional and the local is simply a form of empty imagination” (49). Mette Hjort recounts the liberal success story of creativity-within-constraints at Lingnan University, as focalized by the brilliant leadership of Edward Chen. Stephen Chan’s deeply Hong Kong-affiliated projects and works in cultural studies all the more so remain tied to social critique and an evolving pedagogy of “Hong Kong cultural identity.”
Wang Xiaoming, based at a thickly conjunctural program in Shanghai, tracks the forces, forms and activities that have led to the rise of a “cultural studies fever” in China during the past decade, as a way to critically enframe the rise of “glocal” capitalist culture and to create a relevant inter-disciplinary and urban-rural pedagogy. Dai Jinhua, tracking the same spread of cultural studies across consumerist China, is more cautionary, arguing that such studies “started to flourish just when the structural basis of critical or leftist cultural practices disintegrated” (125). But Dai still leaves open the possibility, or hope, for the “repoliticization” of cultural studies in China as one “not only about critique but reconstruction” (138). Koichi Iwabuchi, holding on to the political, historical, as well as the media-critique force of cultural studies, takes on the recent development of “brand nationalism” and institutionalized cultural cool as policy in Japan. Douglas Crimp offers an amusing, oddly performative foray into the institutional politics of an art museum, New York’s Guggenheim, excluding and censoring forms of art-critique and institutional transformation it would later (without any bad conscience) centralize and promote. Audrey Yue elaborates how, within the pragmatism of Singapore, governing and contesting “the business of culture” has opened up “conditions for the self-fashioning of new sexual subjectivities” (193), with various cultural institutions becoming gateways rather than gatekeepers in this social change.
Cultural studies has become by now, as Tony Bennet argues in his concluding essay on linkages of such work to social conduct, “a form of metaculture, one that has been shaped by the longer history of the culture/institution/conduct plexus that, in turn, it has sought to reshape” (213). This collection offers twelve richly conjunctural, theoretically reflective and deftly situated essays on the forces, frames, issues and social energies that affect cultural studies as it has been applied, politicized, interlinked, mobilized and institutionalized in diverse sites across the Asia-Pacific. It looks back as a way to move cultural studies forward and out into the world, and mines resources and tactics of hope much needed in an academic culture becoming managerial and banal.
University of California, Santa Cruz, USA Rob Wilson
ASIAN RELIGIONS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA. Asian Religions and Society Series. Edited by Larry De Vries, Don Baker, and Dan Overmyer. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010. x, 310 pp. (Figures.) C$32.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7748-1663-2.
This newest edited volume on rich Asian religious traditions in British Columbia is a welcome addition to the expanding collected works on religions of Asian origin in Canada, and in the US. This volume is however the first one to attempt to survey comprehensively Asian religions in all their variety, focusing on British Columbia, one of the most ethnically diverse areas in Canada and home to one of the most densely populated Asian Canadian communities.
This book is a result of a research project organized by the editors, in which local scholars were recruited to focus on a particular religious tradition, review its history, and to conduct firsthand research that included interviews and observation. The volume is divided into three major sections: part 1, “Traditions from South Asia”; part 2, “Traditions from Southeast Asia”; and part 3, “Traditions from East and Central Asia.” Part 1 includes chapters on the Hindu and Other South Asian Religious Groups, the Sikhs, Asian Muslims and Zoroastrians. Part 2 contains chapters on Thai and Lao Buddhism, Sri Lankan and Myanmar Buddhism, and Vietnamese Buddhism. Part 3 comprises chapters that focus on Korean religions (especially Korean Christianity), Tibetan religions, Japanese religions, Chinese Christianity and Chinese religions.
The obvious strength of this volume is its comprehensiveness; it is a “go to” book for those who desire a general introduction to the diverse Asian religious landscape of Canada. All the chapters are organized well in a synchronized manner; each chapter introduces the religion, conducts an overview of its historical background both in the countries of origin and the religion’s transformation and transplantation as an immigrant religion, describes the religious landscape in detail as it exists in British Columbia, and relates the religion to Canadian society, particularly to Canada’s well-known official policy of multiculturalism established in 1971.
Regarding this national policy of multiculturalism, one of the central guiding questions for the volume, then, is how well this policy has worked for Canada by exploring the complexity and diversity of religious life brought over by immigrants. The editors ask, by investigating how these religions have developed, are being changed, and functioning in British Columbia, whether the Asian religious organizations assist the individuals of Asian ethnicity become a part of the Canadian community, or reinforce divisions of Canadian society into separate ethnic communities. And if the latter is true, is it a problem that Canada should “worry about, or is it a positive phenomenon that contributes to the multicultural mosaic” of Canada? Thus, this is a book as much about the successes as failures of the multiculturalist path Canada has chosen as a nation by investigating one part of its religious landscape.
The answers individual authors provide vary, revealing similarities as well as differences among the different religious groups and how they are adapting to Canadian society as institutions, and how they are helping their members adjust to Canadian society. Each group faces a different set of challenges as well as successes in adjusting to the new social and immigrant context in British Canada. The basic functions most of these religions serve for their ethnic/immigrant communities are not vastly different from what we have observed for ethnic/immigrant churches in the US. Most serve to assist members in coping with a new and unfamiliar environment, functioning for example as community service centres, a “refuge” for the “downtrodden,” as the author of Pujabi Sikhs describes it, places where ethnic culture is preserved and passed down, mutual economic and emotional assistance is offered, and even where the battle for social justice is waged and political power is mobilized. Although the various religious groups appear quite successful in these regards, one major challenge faced by many of the groups, not surprisingly, seems to be the issue of recruiting and retaining the second generation and beyond within the religious and ethnic fold. This seems to be as true for the Sikh Gurdwaras as it is for Japanese Buddhist religious organizations.
One interesting difference worthy of note among the organizations pivots around the question as to what extent these religions display a “conservative” function of encouraging separation of the ethnic communities from the larger society as “cultural sanctuaries,” and to what extent they help the immigrants integrate into Canadian life. For the Korean as well as the Japanese communities studied in this book in particular, the authors underscore the role these religions serve in reinforcing the cultural separateness of the immigrants. The authors however are quick to point out that although these religions may hinder national social cohesion, offering a “cultural oasis” is not necessarily bad for Canadian society overall, as the benefits these functions provide in helping immigrants adjust may outweigh the “costs.” In other words, “religious ethnic enclaves make Canadian society more flexible” (181). For groups like Tibetan Buddhists, on the other hand, such problems do not arise as issues since the vast majority of members are Canadian- or American-born or new non-Tibetan converts to Buddhism. These groups face, to the contrary, challenges of internal divisions, as the religions become divided along language lines (for example, between Mandarin-speaking Chinese adherents and English-speaking Canadian converts), and along the adherents to different gurus, as the Tibetan religious traditions emphasize the primacy of the guru. Another interesting case is that of the Asian Muslims in British Columbia, who, although the vast majority are South Asian in ethnicity, eschew dividing Islam along ethnic lines, seeking to create “new Muslim identities,” and a version of a universal ummah, within the context of the rituals and processes of Canadian multiculturalism.
All articles in this volume make informative contributions to the general portrait of British Columbian Asian religions. One shortcoming of the articles, of course, has been the necessity to sacrifice depth for breadth, but the volume is envisioned as a launching pad for further research. It would have been useful, for example, to hear more about gender dynamics within each of these communities as well, which almost always constitute a central issue in religions. Such quibbles aside, this is a well-crafted and readable addition to the growing literature on religions of Asian origins in North America.
University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA Kelly H. Chong
CHINA IN AND BEYOND THE HEADLINES. Edited by Timothy B. Weston and Lionel M. Jensen. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. xxv, 354 pp. (Maps, figures, tables.) US$39.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-4422-0905-3.
This is the third volume in the popular series China beyond the Headlines by Rowman & Littlefield. The first volume, China beyond the Headlines, was published in 2000, and the second volume, China’s Transformations: The Stories beyond the Headlines, in 2007.
The series has made contributions in two dimensions. First, academically, it helps our understanding of contemporary China. China is not fixed. Ever since the reform and open door policy in the late 1970s, it has experienced rapid changes. Despite the fact that the country has now become the world’s second largest economy, there is no sign that the speed of change is slowing down. In this sense, contemporary China is a moving thing, and it has to be continously redefined. This series has enabled readers to capture the main aspects of a changing China. Second, there is a policy dimension, namely, China’s relations with the West, particularly with the United States. The editors have a specific target, namely, to influence the general public. Therefore, the volume is not only for academic circles, but also for ordinary people who are interested in international affairs. All the chapters in these volumes are easy to read without difficult academic jargon. The continuous publication of the series points to its success. Readers appreciate their great efforts.
This third volume has 15 chapters with an introduction by the two editors and an afterword by John Kamm on China’s human rights dialogues with the West. Like the first two volumes, this volume also covers a wide range of important topics, including civil society, consumerism, environmental adversity, ethnic tension, the internet, legal reform, new media and social networking, nationalist tourism, sex and popular culture, the cost of urbanization and so on. While it is not necessary for everyone to agree with individual contributors’ analyses, they will all be impressed by this volume’s demostration of how complex contemporary China is.
Indeed, most contributors have not only provided us with vivid descriptions of changes in different fields of China they seek to look deeply into the dynamics of all the changes. For instance, in the chapter on Chinese journalists, David Bandurski shows how political power, commercial interest, and journalist professionalism have interplayed, and created a great dynamism in journalism; in the chapter on youth culture, Jonathan Noble demonstrates how the rise of materialism has changed Chinese youth’s attitudes on sex; in the chapter on urbanization, Timothy Weston tells us how rapid urbanization has changed the urban landscape and created enormous problems. The volume is also full of insights and new perspectives. For instance, in the chapter on civil society, Jessica Teets provides readers with a new perspective on interpreting civil society: the dismantling of the socialist welfare state has lead to the rise of civil society; and in the chapter on Chinese intellectuals, Timothy Cheek shows how diverse Chinese intellectuals are. He discusses different intellectual groups and their concerns for the country.
Overall, the volume is structured into three levels. At the first level, the editors want to show what changes have happened in China and how they happened. At the second level, they attempt to demonstrate how limited these changes are for China politically, particularly in regards to democratization and human rights progress. The case of Liu Xiaobo, who received a Nobel Prize, is a good example of how limited these changes are. At the third level, they seek to spell out how such limited changes will affect China’s relations with the outside world, particularly the United States. Apparently, rapid economic and social changes without democracy and human rights are not in accordance with the expectations of the United States (or the West).
To a great degree, at all these levels, this volume has achieved its goal. But there is still room for future improvement. In choosing topics, all the editors (or contributors) have focused on hot issues which often appear in the media. Therefore, most topics are about changes at the societal level. However, though social changes are important, they cannot dictate the direction China is moving. Which direction China is moving is decided by the interaction between the state and society. Particularly in the Chinese context, the communist state continues to play an important role. Readers may like to know how the state has responded to all the changes at the societal level. In this volume, while several chapters are about the Chinese state (e.g., the chapter on the evolution of China’s authoritarianism by Orion Lewis and the chapter on the legal reform by Benjamin Liebman), their focus is still on the social dynamics of these changes. The state has been portrayed as only reacting to social changes, and not as an actor that has proactively initiated changes from the top.
Furthermore, today China and the United States are so interdependent. As Andrew Erickson shows in his chapter, it is a relationship of mutually assured destruction. For a stable relationship, each side must have a realistic perception and expectation towards the other side. Otherwise, a situation will arise of “same bed, different dreams,” as Kamm discusses in his afterword, in terms of human rights dialogue between China and the West. At the policy level, to provide such a realistic perception is a responsibility of our scholarly community. Therefore, in framing our research agenda, we must not only consider topics that are of interest to a Western audience, but also that are important inside China. Many factors, such as the Chinese Communist Party and China’s deeply rooted traditional culture, are important determinants in China’s development, but are understudied in the West.
Also, to help readers to understand what is happening inside China, scholars can also place China in a comparative perspective. Many problems China faces today are developmental. Historically speaking, China is not unique despite its communist system. Many problems that China is confronting today also appeared in many Western countries in their early days of industrialization and urbanization. Indeed, the way the Chinese state has responded to social changes often reminds us of how the states in the West responded a century ago. A comparative perspective will certainly help readers to reach a fair judgment on what direction China is moving.
National University of Singapore, Singapore Yang Lijun
LIU XIAOBO, CHARTER 08, AND THE CHALLENGES OF POLITICAL REFORM IN CHINA. Edited by Jean-Philippe Béja, Fu Hualing and Eva Pils. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press; New York: Columbia University Press [distributor], 2012. xi, 381 pp. (Figures.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-988-8139-07-1.
Edited by three specialists in Chinese studies from Paris and Hong Kong, this volume provides an excellent and wide-ranging analysis of the Charter 08 initiative for the gradual and peaceful democratization of China, and events swirling around the intellectual who became the PRC Party-state’s main scapegoat in its heavy-handed crackdown on this initiative, the professor and activist Liu Xiaobo. The book consists of thirteen chapters, many interspersed Chinese characters, detailed endnotes, an index, notes on contributors, and appendices containing documents such as the entirety of Charter 08 (except for its list of the original 303 PRC signatories). These signatories hail from all walks of life, including farmers and workers, though most of them belong to the intelligentsia.
Because the editors’ jointly authored introduction succinctly summarizes the content of each of the thirteen chapters, this review will focus instead on some of the overarching themes of the book. One such theme is the issue of overseas influences akin to Vaclav Havel’s call to “live in truth” even under one-party authoritarian rule, an infectious idea that Jean-Philippe Béja’s chapter explores in the context of Liu Xiaobo’s life and thought. Charter 08 owes its title and part of its reformist spirit to the Czechoslovakian Charta 77, in which Vaclav Havel and other late-1970s public-spirited Czechs similarly petitioned their single-party Leninist authoritarian regime leaders to correct severe shortcomings in implementing internationally recognized protections of human rights and the rule of law: in the Czech case, the 1975 Helsinki Accords. As Michaela Kotyzova’s chapter points out in comparing Charter 08 with Charta 77, the two authoritarian regimes’ crackdowns were similarly ferocious in striking hard at selected ringleaders, though the PRC chartists have received less support from international media than did their Czech forebears, as well as having had to grapple with a more economically and geopolitically formidable regime. However, the Chinese regime is dogged by internet blogging, as well as burdened with a much higher Gini coefficient of socio-economic inequality than its old Czechoslovakian counterpart. Therefore, an ever-larger share of PRC governmental resources have to be poured into police-state “stability maintenance,” which has even exceeded rapidly rising military outlays in recent years.
Whatever inspiration the Charter 08 signatories gained from overseas sources such as Charta 77 and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, their initiative was mainly a response to growing domestic frustrations resulting from the Party-state’s stalling of political and legal reforms while pushing single-mindedly for rapid economic growth at the expense of the deteriorating environment and worsening political corruption. This has occurred in the context of an appalling lack of accountability to China’s populace stemming from the Communist Party’s monopolistic control or manipulation of the government, military, police, courts, educational system and media. Eva Pils’ chapter discusses how heavy-handed PRC police-state repression of homegrown populist human-rights groups such as the Rights Defending (weiquan) Movement has tended to drive some beleaguered activists of these movements toward responding with violence in kind, quite to the contrary of Liu Xiaobo’s non-violent ideals and Charter 08’s call for peaceful change in the spirit of constitutionalism. The human-rights lawyer and activist Teng Biao’s chapter instead focuses on the Maoist totalitarian legacy of the post-totalitarian 1997 statute against “Inciting Subversion of State Power”; Teng explores the Party-state’s use of this law to silence dissent and intimidate well-meaning reformers such as Liu Xiaobo, noting that much of the theoretical critique of such repressive statutes comes not from the West but from home-grown scholar-activists such as Hu Ping and Ben Xu.
By aggregating data on PRC dissidents convicted of “inciting subversion” and presenting it in the form of graphs, Joshua Rosenzweig’s chapter demonstrates why Liu Xiaobo’s eleven-year jail sentence was unusually shocking, especially to the intelligentsia: it was the lengthiest known sentence for this specific “crime” of incitement for several years running, amounting to over twice the length of the median sentence in this category. Moreover, Liu’s eleven-year sentence seemed to buck the trend of a decreasing number of convictions in Hu Jintao’s reign as compared to the last few years under Jiang Zemin around the turn of the century, thereby signaling a move backward towards increasing intolerance and repression of liberal and democratic thought by the Party-state. Film professor Cui Weiping’s chapter details her bold response to Liu’s shocking eleven-year sentence, which was to solicit short paragraph-length comments on Liu’s sentence from 148 veteran Chinese intellectuals and post them as “tweets” on Twitter, which although banned in the PRC is accessible through a VPN that can leap over the “Great Firewall of China.” Over twenty of these tweets have been appended in full to this chapter, providing a fascinating sample of the Chinese intelligentsia’s reactions to the draconian sentence of 25 December 2009. As for how PRC human-rights lawyers have approached Liu Xiaobo’s trial and similar cases, the chapters by Mo Shaoping et al. and Fu Hualing analyze some key strategies that such defense lawyers have used to criticize prosecutorial abuses of legal procedure and question the soundness of the prosecutor’s argument alleging criminal wrongdoing.
While the concept of human dignity is of Western origin, Man Yee Karen Lee’s chapter on its growing importance in post-Mao China and particularly in Charter 08 reveals how this concept resonates with some ancient Confucian ideals and has become so domesticated within the PRC as to have commonly appeared in former Premier Wen Jiabao’s public statements in favour of political reform. However, the chapter by Pitman B. Potter and Sophia Woodman reminds us that the PRC’s hierarchically “segmented” politics typically attaches more importance to the status of the speaker than to the content of the message. Because of this, similar appeals to the importance of dignity and political reform would be tolerated from the premier and yet punished when uttered by a dissident like Liu Xiaobo.
Though this book would have benefited from more stringent copy-editing in some of the chapters, its careful documentation of source materials and high standard of argumentation throughout make it an invaluable guide to the major political and legal issues swirling around Charter 08 and Liu Xiaobo. One might take issue with a given contributor on this or that issue, but each of the volume’s thirteen chapters makes for a riveting read while interweaving and amplifying ideas addressed in proximate chapters.
Montana State University, Bozeman, USA Philip F. Williams
While we have seen numerous books on rural China, this one is by far one of the easiest to follow. This is not to say that the subject the book attempts to deal with is easy, absolutely on the contrary. It tackles a difficult task that interests all of us in the field of China study: how, why, and for what rural China has transformed. Using numerous empirical cases investigated through a lengthy period of field work, the book tells a two-sided story about the nature of development in China by linking various forms of development to the everyday lives of rural peasants in various localities where they happen to live with a long history of subsistence farming. It also explains how powerful forces of market production or capitalist production are altering the mode of traditional subsistence agriculture that has been embedded in historical China for centuries.
Chapter 2 is about the relations between urban dairy corporations and two systems of producing milk: independent commodity producers and capitalist farms in Beidaolaban near Hohhot in Inner Mongolia. These emerging production systems are competing in the same market. He argues that little separates corporatized state owned enterprises and private/foreign companies in the city. Webber emphasizes the role of governments in promoting dairy production to meet rising urban consumption. Policy settings interact with local social and environmental conditions to produce different models of rural development. Milk production in Inner Mongolia demonstrates a particular regional model of commodity production: this is a case where capitalist production is emerging through state subsidies.
Chapter 3 analyzes the reasons why the control of enterprises and land has changed and assesses the effects of such change on rural peasants who are increasingly participating as wage labour in capitalist production. He argues that economic development in Sunan creates a new elite class and alters the distribution of power. As he indicates, “the group of managers and cadres … who had guided the communal enterprises saw an opportunity and were sufficiently confident to take advantage of the new ideas about private enterprise” (62). It is this new elite class who led the process of Township and Village Enterprises (TVE) privatization. He challenges the mainstream explanation that TVEs became less efficient with declining profit in the middle of the 1990s, and he disagrees that TVEs’ collective ownership was the cause of them lacking economic efficiency.
In chapter 4, Webber discusses in detail the dispossession and capital formation in the process of Three Gorges Dam development. While the construction of the dam has structural as well as happenstance reasons, its effects on the structure of political power are significant. His case study demonstrates that development brings the dispossession that deteriorates villagers’ life: increasing poverty and debt, reducing income, land, and work opportunities. At the same time, the state-led Three Gorges Dam project stimulates the expansion of some capitalist corporations in the construction and power generation sectors. Development becomes a process of introducing capitalist forms of production, not the improvement of the material well-being of rural peasants.
In chapter 5, Webber discusses how the relationship between environmental management and ecological displacement shapes people’s lives in Inner Mongolia. He argues the “Chinese state’s model of sustainable development on the grasslands has apparently been designed to expand capitalist methods of production; improvement in people’s lives is secondary”(126). The policy of forced ecological migration may be in line with government attempts to constrain the mobility of pastoralists and intensifies market production on the grasslands. In particular, he argues that it is not Mongol pastoralists who should be responsible for the deterioration of grasslands, but the migration of Han Chinese and subsequent intensive cultivation that have aggravated the environmental degradation of the steppe. Webber points out that the unified implementation of the household production responsibility system also contributes to grassland degradation as it works against the ecology of grazing on the grasslands. In rural China, development appears always first in its material form, disregarding cultural and historical elements. It is more about the process of creating a capitalist mode of production rather than focusing on improved development outcome.
Water use extraction rates are unsustainable in northern China, and a rapidly rising economy is exacerbating the water scarcity problem. While the market-based approach is often favored by many neo-liberal international agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, Webber in chapter 6 attempts to argue the adverse implications of water pricing for peasants and explain why such a proposal does not fit the circumstances of contemporary northern China. In China, water rights are not clear, not legally defined. If the rights are defined, water may be used more efficiently and a market to transfer water rights is unnecessary. He argues that the inefficiencies in water use are largely rooted in water-administration bureaucracies. Increasing water price may drive more peasants out of agriculture to become wage labor in the cities as city users pay way more for water than peasants. The consequences for increasing the price for water is the diversion of water to urban and industrial uses.
Chapter 7 demonstrates how tourism picks out places for development and remakes them in particular ways. The geometry of tourist activities is fractal-like: the pattern of tourist activities is replicated at each scale of observation. Importantly, the places are selectively represented as well. Such a process of representation and place-making is channeled from the state government using various networks. It is invested by the state (SOEs) and FDI. New demands for tourism from increasing urban wealth has prompted the remaking of places: selected places, selected people in an ordered and hierarchical way. It creates uneven development.
In chapter 8, Webber indicates that economic change has social consequences that extend beyond the economy and development of capitalist forms of production. Webber argues that rural-urban migration drives inter-regional differences wider and perpetuates uneven development. His case study of Urumqi generates important insights into how ethnicity plays out in urban migrant labor markets. In particular, how ethnic segregation contributes to a sector-based labor market segmentation: leading to the persistence of social distance between Uyghur and Han in Urumqi, which contributes to their resentment to and conflicts with the Han, and is potentially responsible for social unrest. This has to do with relative poverty in the capitalist forms of labor allocation. In a sense, the political struggles in minority region need an economic solution.
In conclusion, Webber argues that capitalist organizations in rural China are strengthening, while not determining, but exerting more and more influence over social life. This indeterminacy, however, allows different trajectories of social changes in China’s regions. This surely means that capitalist forms of production in rural China become consistent with local forms of social life. He refutes the notion of transition. By this, he also negates the idea of varieties of capitalism: “this is not a matter of varieties of capitalism, but of capitalism in varieties of society” (266).
University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada Wei Xu
In Double Paradox: Rapid Growth and Rising Corruption in China, political scientist Andrew Wedeman explains the double paradox of how rapid economic growth and widespread corruption have coexisted in China since the beginning of the economic reform era (1978 to the present). Wedeman argues that petty corruption existed in pre-reform China, increased significantly after the beginning of economic reforms in the 1980s, and intensified in the 1990s when China deepened its transition from a command to market economy. With escalating corruption, however, the Communist Party and state initiated an anticorruption program that successfully prevented the increasing corruption from running out of control. Thus, rapid economic growth coexisted with rising corruption in post-Mao China.
Wedeman’s book includes seven chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the double paradox of rapid economic growth and rising corruption. Chapters 2 and 3 put the double paradox in comparative contexts by examining developmental corruption in South Korea and Taiwan, and the predatory corruption in developing countries, respectively. In these two chapters, Wedeman argues that China’s corruption is neither structural, as existed in developmental corruption, nor systematic plunder, as found in Equatorial Guinea and Zaire, although China’s corruption is by nature predatory. Thus, Wedeman claims that he solved the first paradox, the “worsening corruption and sustained rapid economic growth” (197), because corruption did coexist with rapid economic growth elsewhere, as in the case of developmental corruption. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 seek to solve the second paradox, a “worsening of predatory corruption and sustained rapid economic growth” (197).
Chapter 4 describes the origins and evolution of corruption in post-1949 China. By presenting quantitative data in graphs and tables, Wedeman argues that in the 1980s and early 1990s, newly increased corruption was limited and thus not a prior barrier to growth. In addition, he argues that corruption was concentrated at low levels. The purpose of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms was to secure the party’s political legitimacy and thus policies that would stimulate economic growth rather than serve private gains were designed and implemented at the higher levels. Furthermore, corruption only intensified after the acceleration of privatization of state assets, such as state enterprises and land, in the 1990s. This intensification of corruption has involved more and more high-level officials, who did not prevent growth but grasped the opportunities to feed on market reforms.
Chapter 5 argues that China’s corruption shifted from predatory (direct thefts of state assets) to transactive corruption (official-business exchanges) after the deepening of reforms in the 1990s. Contrary to the literature, Wedeman argues for the transitional nature of China’s corruption. He contends that corruption will decrease as the process of privatizing state assets gradually concludes. He, however, admits that this is subject to “three crucial caveats,” which I will discuss at the end of this essay. Otherwise, Wedeman warns that marketization will create crony capitalism.
Chapter 6 evaluates China’s ongoing war on corruption. Wedeman argues that China’s anticorruption effort is successful in the sense that it has prevented corruption from spiraling out of control. Wedeman first points out that the goal of an effective anticorruption effort is both to punish and convince people of the risk involved in corruption. Wedeman then argues that Chinese officials convicted of corruption either received criminal prosecution or administrative penalties that often devastated their careers. Then, he uses four officially published cases to argue that the risk is real, although it may be low, as these individual cases show the authorities’ willingness to attack high-level corruption. Chapter 7 concludes the book, partly by likening China’s corruption to American corruption during the Gilded Age. Wedeman argues that like historical American machine politics, China’s corruption is disorganized, fragmentary, and individual based, because the Chinese “regime as a whole, as an institution, has not, thus far, degenerated into an instrument of plunder” (190–191).
Wedeman does briefly point out the limitations of his major arguments. He mentions that the transitional nature of China’s corruption is conditioned on three caveats: markets should function in a competitive manner, property rights should be established, and political and economic powers should be separated (119). He also states that corruption may create extreme negative consequences on economic growth, as some of the scholars have argued (196). He continues to discuss three factors that have contributed to corruption: lack of property rights, problems in the regulatory and legal system, and China’s urban-rural divide. However, all the caveats and factors Wedeman names have long been discussed in both official and academic circles since the opening of China’s reform era.
A reader who is familiar with Chinese official statements on China’s corruption will easily see the parallels between his arguments and the official ones. I think this is perhaps due to Wedeman’s deep immersion in his sources, all published and mostly official, which may well have influenced his viewpoint and arguments. This is very understandable and not uncommon in scholarly work. Also, I was sometimes frustrated by the repetitiveness of some of his arguments. Finally, Wedeman’s comparison of China’s current corruption to American corruption in the Gilded Age ignores the fundamental differences between American and Chinese institutions. Overall, Wedeman provides an excellent description of the evolution and shape of China’s corruption but stops short of a deep analysis.
Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, USA Aiqun Hu
COMING TO TERMS WITH THE NATION: Ethnic Classification in Modern China. Asia: Local Studies/Global Themes, 18. By Thomas S. Mullaney; with a foreword by Benedict Anderson. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. xxiv, 232 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-27274-3.
In China, ethnicity structures citizens’ lives, yet tells us nearly nothing about them. On the one hand, the Chinese state rigidly defines the ethnic identities contained within its borders, and citizens are classified according to a list of 56 official ethnicities. On the other, these labels say little about the people they describe; members of a single group may speak different languages, engage in different cultural practices, and otherwise share little in common. Thanks to Louisa Schein, Stevan Harrell and others, we know a great deal about the subjects these categories have produced. We know substantially less, however, about the classification process that created these groups in the first place. Coming to Terms with the Nation represents an ambitious and fascinating attempt to fill this gap. Drawing on archives and interviews with the ethnologists who conducted the classification, Thomas Mullaney provides a rich description of the 1954 Ethnic Classification Project (minzu shibie) in Yunnan Province. Mullaney challenges common understandings of the classification process as rushed and arbitrary, instead locating the minzu shibie within such diverse intellectual traditions as British imperial ethnology, Republican-era social science, and Maoist field research.
Long before the Communist victory in 1949, a central concern of the CCP leadership was integrating diverse ethnic and linguistic groups into the unified Chinese nation it hoped to build. The political solution to this problem lay in creating “minority autonomous regions,” which would (in theory if not in practice) give minority areas limited self-government rights within a unified Chinese state. But this solution presumed that basic facts about the ethnic groups residing within China’s borders—who these groups were and where they lived—were already known. In reality, CCP leaders knew little about the diverse groups they hoped to integrate into the “new China.”
As Mullaney documents, the CCP’s earliest systematic attempt to acquire this knowledge—the 1953–1954 national census—only made this problem more intractable. To the surprise of state authorities, an open-ended question asking census-takers to specify their ethnicity produced a “chaotic body of data” consisting of over 400 distinct identities (34). Several groups had only one member. Granting this vast number of groups the political representation that the constitution promised to ethnic minorities would have been an impossible task for a fledgling government. By determining which of the hundreds of self-reported ethnicities fit the definition of an ethnic group, the Ethnic Classification Project sought simultaneously to establish the “true” list of Chinese nationalities and to simplify the task of incorporating these groups into the polity.
Chapter 1 confirms what scholars have long assumed to be true: that the Ethnic Classification Project recognized only a small fraction of the ethnic labels that Yunnan’s residents applied to themselves. The book’s bolder claims—and ultimately its greatest contributions—appear in the detailed discussion of the ethnic classification process itself. The conventional wisdom holds that researchers attempted, under extreme time pressure, to redefine a large and diverse set of ethnic groups into a smaller set of accepted categories. These decisions were largely the product of expedience; their only principled justification came from a desire to fit China’s ethnic makeup into the Stalinist model of nationality. Mullaney’s narrative complicates this picture considerably. While Stalin’s conception of natsia was nominally an important component of the classification—it provided the official standard against which groups were to be judged before they could be classified as official ethnic groups—the social scientists who led the classification effort actively reinterpreted this standard in a manner that was at once principled and self-serving.
Chinese ethnologists hoped to make their discipline indispensible to the new Communist leadership, as they had tried and failed to do under Nationalist rule. Doing so required classification researchers to reinterpret Stalin’s typology to include the notion of “ethnic potential,” since few groups possessed the qualities that would justify classifying them as nationalities according to an orthodox interpretation of Stalin’s definition. By turning the Ethnic Classification Project into a search for “precapitalist nationalities,” which their own expert knowledge could identify, classification researchers made their linguistic taxonomy of ethnic groups central to the classification process without challenging the authority of the Communist officials who oversaw it. That the ethnic groups the state ultimately recognized largely reflected the ethnolinguistic taxonomy these scholars had developed years earlier demonstrates their success.
Their reliance on a linguistic definition of ethnicity meant that these social scientists were more indebted to British colonial practice than they were to Soviet theories of nationality. The linguistic taxonomy that researchers used to classify groups according to their “ethnic potential” was already widely accepted as the basis for ethnic classification by Republican-era ethnologists, many of whom remained central to the discipline after the Communist victory. These scholars’ schemas were themselves deeply indebted to the work of H.R. Davies, a British military officer who travelled through Yunnan beginning in 1893 and created a linguistic taxonomy of the ethnic groups he encountered there.
Mullaney’s focus on the colonial roots of China’s ethnic categories poses a bold and convincing challenge to those who see China’s ethnicity policies as a faithful application of a Soviet formula. But as chapter 4 shows, the Communist influence on the ethnic classification process was pronounced. This influence lay less in ideology than in method. As classification researchers and local Communist officials traveled through Yunnan, they used a research method that was part information gathering, part persuasion. Using the group investigation meetings that Mao had pioneered in his research among the Hunan peasantry, the classification teams conducted a “mode of field research … in which the boundary between information and transformation was porous by design” (99). By doing so, they hoped to persuade communities who had long seen themselves as distinct to accept the new ethnic identities that were being thrust upon them by the state.
At the time of the classification, researchers framed these identities only in terms of their “ethnic potential”; the task of bringing these groups into being would be left to the state. As Mullaney’s final chapter documents, sixty years of state-led efforts to reinforce the taxonomy that the classification created—revisionist histories of the 56 recognized ethnic groups, widely available sets of 56 ethnic dolls, and the like—have created a closed set of ethnic categories and forced the many identities that were not recognized by the classification to largely disappear. Although this result is familiar to many students of China, the process by which these categories were generated is not. While Mullaney’s excellent book teaches us a great deal about the genesis of multiethnic China, it also reveals a more general lesson about, in James Scott’s words, “seeing like a state”: before it can rule its subjects, the state must first define them.
Harvard University, Cambridge, USA Sara A. Newland
Under Mao Zedong, China endured much turmoil, but the year 1976 witnessed the end of this era and became a fresh new start for Chinese leaders and ordinary people. The changes since 1976 have created a stronger and wealthier China in the twenty-first century, but not without exacting a heavy toll. If we were to believe in superstition or myth, such momentous political, economic and social change should be preceded by a good omen or a chilling portent by the gods. The British historian and travel writer, James Palmer, in his new book, Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes, masterfully weaves China’s story in 1976 from multiple perspectives in people’s lives. Revolving around the two biggest incidents in that year, the Tangshan Earthquake and the death of Mao, the historical events and the lives of people—elites at the top, cadres in the middle, and ordinary citizens at the bottom—are described with plenty of literary analogies from the East and West.
The book starts with a summary of the diverse background to the year 1976, focusing on the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s through to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, with special attention paid to political affairs. It successfully details the power struggles at the top in Zhongnanhai, the residential compound of the Chinese Communist Party leaders, as well as the starving and agonizing everyday life at the grassroots level, especially in Tangshan, where over one million people lived and engaged in various industrial activities. The death of Mao, the subsequent arrest of the Gang of Four, the resurgence of Deng Xiaoping, as well as a lively young Tangshan woman named Yang Jianguo, who travelled all the way to Tianjin to buy a gold fish to detect the signs of a massive earthquake and which she named “little red,” are all equally important in the year 1976.
The exhaustive description of events before and after the Tangshan Earthquake, which probably cost more than half a million lives, as well as destroying 97 percent of commercial and residential structures in the city, helps us not just to absorb dry factual information about victims and survivors, but also to embrace their emotional and personal experiences. A virtue of this book stems from the author’s painstaking fieldwork to collect all these personal memories and stories of the Tangshan people. Unlike the detailed but somewhat redundant sketch of elite politics surrounding Mao, which can be found in many other books, the earthquake-related stories of a barber, a printing plant worker, a nurse; of a miner who was the sole survivor of his entire family; and many other stories about ordinary citizens nearly overwhelm the reader. The efforts and struggles of the seismologist officials and workers are vividly described, too. At the end of the book, the author, who was moved by the memorial wall for the Tangshan Earthquake victims, concludes the book with an astute and significant remark: “Tangshan’s [historical memory] is the first to recognize individual loss, rather than collective sacrifice [in modern China]” (247).
The book is not completely free of weaknesses, however, particularly the disjuncture between the description of elite politics revolving around Mao’s death and that of the Tangshan Earthquake. It is understandable because the original intention of the author seems to encompass a wide range of historical events in 1976. But suggesting that the tragic lives of the victims of the Tangshan Earthquake were distant from elite politics is not entirely accurate. The Tangshan Earthquake might have been a god-sent sign of the end of the Mandate of Heaven for Mao and his radicals (but, obviously not for the Chinese Communist Party as a whole!), but its political impact on the city of Tangshan and its citizens was not very well described except for the ceremonial visit of Hua Guofeng, the immediate and ultimately ineffective successor of Mao, and the military rescue missions.
In this regard, the connection between high and low politics is relatively weak. Within minutes of natural disasters such as an earthquake, the events become political. Rather than allocating many pages to describing the elite politics, the author could spend more time finding these links, such as the outrageous diminution of the tragedy of the earthquake by the Gang of Four (189) and the reason why China’s leaders rejected foreign humanitarian aid, which could have saved tens of thousands of lives and dramatically improved the survivors’ living conditions. Indeed, Palmer notes that a former military officer bemoaned the “stupid thing we’d done” (160). Perhaps comparing Tangshan with the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008 and Japan’s Sendai Earthquake in 2011 would help readers understand this type of link better (240), as well as demonstrate similarities and differences between then and now. Even though this is a missing piece of the book, this type of work might be more suited for social scientists.
Without any scholarly jargon or pedantic expressions, Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes is highly readable for the informed and general public who are interested in how China, which was recently elevated to the status of G-2 with the US, started its miraculous surge over the last three decades and a half. To be sure, serious students of the history and politics of disaster should also find this book a good start for further study.
Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, South Korea Wooyeal Paik
PORTRAITS OF 2IST CENTURY CHINESE UNIVERSITIES: In the Move to Mass Higher Education. CERC Studies in Comparative Education, 30. By Ruth Hayhoe et al. Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre, University of Hong Kong; New York: Springer Publishing, 2011. xv, 483 pp. (Figures, tables, photos.) US$45.00, paper. ISBN 978-988-1785-23-7.
This volume is the result of a multi-year research project on the state of Chinese higher education in the first decade of the twenty-first century. It presents case studies of 12 universities in four categories: public comprehensive universities, education-related universities, science and technology universities, and private universities. The institutional portraits, when combined, provide a good picture of the state of higher education in China today.
The foreword by Robert Arnove suggests that the book is a study of the dialectical relationship between globalization and local realities, the tradeoffs between quantity and quality, access and equitable outcomes. As such, it should be of interest to scholars of contemporary China with interests far beyond the specifics of higher education.
The authors began this project with three research questions:
1) What kinds of cultural resources are Chinese universities drawing from their own civilization and how do these inform their activities, as they move onto a global stage?
2) How has the move to mass higher education stimulated civil society and the emergence of forms of democracy shaped by Chinese civilization?
3) How has the move to mass higher education affected the diversity of the system and what have been the consequences for equity of access and provision? (1)
The case studies were chosen with several principles in mind. Although provincial and local institutions have carried the major burden of massification over the last 20 years, the book emphasizes elite institutions that have potential for a global role, either now or in the future. The case studies also reflect the geographic diversity of China, ranging from Jilin province to Shaanxi and Fujian provinces. Also, as the introduction suggests, the case studies reflect the diversification of institutional types in modern Chinese higher education. For many readers, the portraits of the three private universities may be the most interesting as an institutional type only recently developed in China.
Two introductory chapters provide an overview of broad themes: a policy perspective on China’s move to mass higher education, and the student experience in recent decades with special attention to equity, institutional change and civil society.
The general reader will probably be especially interested in the introduction and the concluding chapter. Here the influence of Ruth Hayhoe, the lead scholar on the project, is most evident, with the emphasis on Chinese academic traditions of both the formal examination system as well as a set of private academies (shuyuan). In the introduction, Hayhoe describes the subtle tensions in understanding such concepts as “autonomy” and “academic freedom.” She states that the Chinese term for autonomy is “self-mastery” rather than the Western definition as “self-governance” with the connotation of legal or political independence. Similarly the understanding of academic freedom differs in the two cultures, with Chinese scholars having greater “intellectual authority” than Western peers because of the close link between Chinese universities and major state projects. Similarly, the Confucian tradition suggests “intellectual freedom” in which knowledge should be demonstrated through the public good and criticisms demonstrated in action and social responsibility (17).
The concluding chapter continues the theme of tensions between Western and Chinese understandings of higher education. Qiang Zha emphasizes the influence of shuyuan as a liberal tradition of tolerance of different schools of thought. Character development was also a hallmark of the shuyuan, expressed in contemporary universities as humanistic studies and general education. The historic link between scholars and the state is clear in the role that Chinese universities play as the government’s education and research arm for national development. Zha writes, “The State promotes decentralization of steering and management in exchange for institutional performance and accountability on the one hand, and tightens control over normative criteria for knowledge production on the other…. Put explicitly, knowledge production no longer arises from scholars’ individual interest, but has become an integral part of national efforts to fulfill the century-long dream of China’s resurgence” (462). Zha further contrasts Western and Chinese traditions of academic freedom: “Westerners focus on restrictions to freedom of choice, whereas Chinese scholars looking at the same situation focus on the responsibility of the persons in authority to use their power wisely in the collective interest” (464).
Is there an emerging Chinese model of the university? Zha believes it is a hybrid model of strong centralization (as found in many European systems) and general education (drawn from the American experience), mirroring the tensions between the examination system and the shuyuan tradition of Chinese academic culture. He cites the shortcomings of the current academic situation, including H.S. Tsien’s famous question, “Why can’t Chinese universities nurture great creative minds?” (469).
Academic corruption is another serious problem. Political authoritarianism provides economic efficiency and social stability as well as huge financial benefits to higher education, yet Zha believes it cannot go on indefinitely. “The trend towards greater accountability and participation [in local and national affairs] is unavoidable, with an increasingly vocal civil society and a rapidly growing middle class. In some sense, academic excellence will only come with increasing degrees of China’s unique form of intellectual freedom, one that integrates values from the shuyuan tradition into the concept of academic freedom associated with Western universities” (470).
The volume concludes that, if higher education can reconcile its indigenous roots with aspects of the Western model, the Chinese university should be able to make a unique contribution to the world community.
Arizona State University, Phoenix, USA Kathryn Mohrman
REPOSITIONING THE HONG KONG GOVERNMENT: Social Foundations and Political Challenges. Hong Kong Culture and Society. Edited by Stephen Wing-kai Chiu and Siu-lun Wong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012. xiii, 266 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-988-8083-50-3.
Post-1997 Hong Kong governance faced a huge challenge. The governability of the newly established Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People’s Republic of China was severely crippled by various incidents, such as the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Many Hong Kong scholars and observers explained the governance problem of post-handover Hong Kong using a socio-political approach in which the cultural and identity clashes between Hong Kong and the mainland inspired the central-HKSAR dispute and confrontation for local autonomy. Contrary to these studies, this collaborative volume takes a political economy perspective to explain the governance of HKSAR, and argues that the neo-liberal approach for the economic success of colonial Hong Kong is no longer effective in the post-handover era because of changing state-capitalist-society relationships. This book advocates the need for a political deliberative process to be established as a pillar for the HKSAR governance problem by reshuffling the state-capitalist-society relationships through incorporating public input into the government institution.
This volume begins with Peter B. Evans’s chapter reviewing the economic success of developmental states due to state-capitalist cooperation. However, a robust economy brings social conflict and tension. The exclusion of society from the policy process leads to governance gridlock, whereas the inclusion of it through the exercise of political deliberation is essential for the sustainability of developmental states. In the chapter by Alvin Y. So and Stephen Wing-kai Chiu, the authors use South Korea as an example to demonstrate the growing path of developmental states as defined by Evans. At the same time, they indicate the Korean dilemma, which involved balancing the influence of chaebol (the big corporations), and question whether the Korean case has proven that the political inclusion of society through deliberation exercises can resolve social conflict.
Following the revisiting of development theories by Evans, the chapters by Ma Ngok, Tai-lok Liu and Stephen Wing-kai Chiu shed light on the evolution of state-capitalist relationships from the colonial era to the establishment of the HKSAR, delineating the displacement of British capitalists by local Chinese capitalists. James Kin-ching Lee’s chapter further argues for the presence of collusion between the Hong Kong government and the real estate developers, who are dominated by local Chinese capitalists. The laissez-faire and positive non-interventionism of the Hong Kong government creates opportunities for the local Chinese business elite to dominate the market. However, the state-local Chinese link is fragile and, as argued by Ma, appears in the form of “organizational feudalism.”
Is the emergence of local Chinese capitalists a result of the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty? As discussed in Peter Tsan-yin Cheung’s chapter, Hong Kong has been heavily dependent on the mainland market. Will Hong Kong’s further economic integration into the mainland market lead to the state-mainland capitalist collaboration in the HKSAR? Particularly, the new chief executive, C.Y. Leung, hinted at a tendency to reshuffle the state-local capitalist relationships when running the election, as the domination of local Chinese big businessmen is regarded as the major source of social tension. He may shift to political support from the mainland elite for the sake of the economic development of Hong Kong and, hence, reconfigure the central-HKSAR relationships because the mainland capitalists will most likely serve the central interests instead of that of the locals. Importantly, since his relationships with some local tycoons are in doubt, he may seek external aid from the mainland. The dynamics between HKSAR, the local Chinese, and mainland capitalists will have to be a future chapter in the study of state-capitalist cooperation in Hong Kong.
The chapters by Agnes Shuk-mei Ku and Eliza Wing-yee Lee focus on state-society relationships. Ku argues that the state-capitalist governance approach leads to social inequality, and that while democracy through universal suffrage is not a solution, the rearticulation of political citizenship through deliberative processes may be. Echoing Ku’s argument, Lee proves the synergy of state-society cooperation for local governance with a case study of the H15 Redevelopment Project through which the success of political deliberation is demonstrated.
The impact of the success of the H15 Redevelopment Project on district administration may not entirely prove the capability of the political deliberation model in Hong Kong governance. Activists for the project campaigned very hard using demonstrations, protests and hunger strikes. Plus, due to the relatively weak HKSAR government following the resignation of Tung Chee-Hwa, the Hong Kong government may have to step backward to avoid political confrontation. This could further hurt its legitimacy as the real-estate developers may shift to other projects rather than sticking to this one. As noted in the case of South Korea, discussed by So and Chiu in this volume, the South Korean government initiated political deliberation with the inclusion of public input in making policy after the 2008 financial tsunami partly because of its legitimacy. When the South Korean economy became revitalized, the state-capitalist ruling alliance was re-established. Is political deliberation a contingency to the legitimacy problem of the state; can it be sustainable in the regime once introduced? Surely, the H15 Redevelopment Project is a step forward in the possible success of political deliberation; however, more case studies are needed to prove its sustainability in the HKSAR regime. Yet, this book is a good starting point for understanding HKSAR governance through a state-capitalist-society relationship, whereas further research works are needed to prove the political deliberation model.
Overall, this volume uses a new perspective to explain the governance problem of HKSAR and gives a theoretical contribution for the understanding of the evolution of developmental states. Not only Hong Kong observers but also researchers of developmental states will find it useful and inspiring for the theorization of state-capitalist-society relationships in developmental states.
University of Macau, Taipa, China Eilo Wing-yat Yu
BEYOND SHANGRI-LA: America and Tibet’s Move into the Twenty-First Century. American Encounters/Global Interactions. By John Kenneth Knaus. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012. xvii, 355 pp. (B&W illus.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5234-1.
In June 1908 the 13th Dalai Lama met with William Rockhill, the American ambassador to China. Rockhill was impressed with the lama and wrote an extraordinary letter to President Theodore Roosevelt. In the letter, Rockhill couldn’t contain his excitement about being the first American to meet with the Tibetan pontiff. Rockhill’s letter was almost mystical in its wording and sentiment. This meeting is the starting point of John Kenneth Knaus’s Beyond Shangri-la: America and Tibet’s Move into the Twenty-First Century. This book not only traces the history of American interest in Tibet but it is also a book that seeks to place Tibet as possessing a special significance to America and the American public. The author is not a disinterested observer; in the preface he makes it clear that he is writing the book as an insider. The author’s previous book recounts his role as a CIA officer who guided the late 1950s CIA involvement with Tibet. The author writes that during a meeting between President Ford and Deng Xiaoping in 1975, the Chinese leader commented that the Tibet issue “is like chicken feather and onion skin” (210), meaning it is a light issue of no importance. Despite the fact that Tibet will never be a core interest of the United States policy makers, the Tibet issue has high visibility at both the governmental and popular level in America. The author feels that in the late 1950s, America made a promise to Tibet but it was never fulfilled.
The book is divided into four themes; chapters 1 to 6 describe the American discovery of Tibet at the beginning of the twentieth century. During this period the American interest is described as “on the sidelines.” The main player in the region was the British. The second theme is America’s active engagement (chapters 7–16) in the second half of the twentieth century during the height of the Cold War. This was a period during which the US not only sponsored clandestine missions inside Tibet but also engaged in active diplomatic campaigns in international forums. The information provided in this book is not new, however, it does supplement existing knowledge through greater details of events and personalities. The third section of the book deals with what the author calls America’s “disengagement” (192) and “disavowal” (208) of Tibet. The author points out that American disengagement with Tibet began in the late 1960s before Kissinger and Nixon’s rapprochement with Beijing (chapters 17–19). The final section of the book deals with America’s re-engagement with the Tibet issue in the mid-1980s. This section of the book is most revealing. The author has done an excellent task of interviewing key US officials and what the author termed the “Tibet mafia” (238), composed of members of Congress and their staffers and influential business figures who make up the Tibet lobby in Washington, DC.
The conventional assumption is that Tibet is used as leverage by the US in its dealings with China. One of the book’s main strengths, and what would be of interest to scholars and the general public, is the author’s showing in great detail how the Tibet issue was forged in the United States. Apart from a brief period in the late 1950s, Tibet remained on the periphery of larger US concerns. The author shows that American interest in Tibet is not governed by strategic interest nor does the issue provide leverage in dealings with China. A few influential politicians in Congress and businessmen are the exponents of the Tibetan issue in the United States, who for personal reasons share a strong sentiment, that Tibet is a unique culture worth defending. The book highlights the role played by people such as Joel McCleary, who became the Democratic Party’s youngest national treasurer (217). McCleary was a Tibetan Buddhist and student of Geshe Wangyal, a Tibetan Buddhist Lama, and used his position to invite the Dalai Lama to the US in 1979. This was the first time the Americans had issued a visa for the Dalai Lama. In the 1990s, Senator Dianne Feinstein and her banker husband Richard Blum, who was consulted by the Chinese government in the setting up of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, took on the task not only of promoting the Tibet issue in Congress, but of using their personal connections with the Chinese leaders to act as “special couriers, delivering six messages from the Dalai Lama to Beijing” (275). The Tibetans make effective use of their allies in Washington, DC by the charm of the Dalai Lama and Tibet’s soft power.
The title of the books implies that the Tibet issue needs to move beyond the sentimentality of a few influential figures and the author sees the Tibetans’ right to self-determination as self-evident. The twenty-first century is very different from the twentieth century, when the US was the dominant power; today China calls “the shots on the international scene” (298). The Tibet issue will never be of core interest to the US, as Tibet lacks economic and strategic interest to US policy makers, yet Tibet will continue to exercise a deep fascination on America.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada Tsering Shakya
LIJIANG STORIES: Shamans, Taxi Drivers, and Runaway Brides in Reform-Era China. Studies on Ethnic Groups in China. By Emily Chao. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012. xiii, 248 pp. (Figures.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99223-5.
Lijiang Stories is a collection of essays analyzing myths, urban legends, rumours and other tales of and about Lijiang, a town and region in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan, and the Naxi ethnic minority for whom Lijiang is home. Each chapter is organized around a story or set of stories the author, Emily Chao, encountered while conducting field work at various times between 1990 and 2011. In that period Lijiang was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, devastated by an earthquake, and transformed by post-quake reconstruction, tourism and the expansion of China’s market economy. Though not a typical ethnography, Lijiang Stories is informed by a good deal of ethnographic research. Chao’s interpretations of her stories illuminate the shifting meanings of ethnicity, gender, class and national identity in an era of profound social change. Her focus on stories is apropos given the subject matter of Lijiang and the Naxi. Tales, myths and rumours—of matriarchy, love suicide and bride abduction—have fueled Lijiang’s mystique and its development as a tourist destination, and have gained a reality and fixedness that at times obscure the actual lived experiences of the Lijiang Naxi.
The stories in this volume are a disparate lot, and several fit the definition of “story” only loosely. The first chapter relates an account of a “failed” shamanic ritual Chao witnessed in a rural Naxi village in 1991, and situates that failure in the shift from Maoist to post-Mao norms of collective social obligation and personal responsibility. In chapter 2, Chao details how the somewhat obscure dongba religion was transformed from a regional set of rural religious practices into the exclusively Naxi dongba “culture.” This transformation was effected by Naxi intellectuals employed at state-run cultural institutes, who were influenced by Han-centric understandings of modernity, civilization and religion. Similarly, chapter 3 analyzes a folk tale of bride abduction that has come to be seen as the origin myth of the Naxi, again largely through the endeavours of these Naxi intellectuals. As Chao makes clear, historically bride abduction was rooted in poverty, marginality and the “Han prestige system” (119), not Naxi “ethnic” tradition. These two chapters convincingly demonstrate how state-led promotion of minority culture has homogenized cultural practices, obscured intra-ethnic differences of gender, class and place, and essentialized as exclusively Naxi traditions long shared among the many ethnic groups of northwestern Yunnan.
Subsequent chapters explore intra- and inter-ethnic boundary maintenance in light of what Chao describes as “cataclysmic changes in the organization of labour and the transformation of Lijiang by global, national, and local forces” (155). Chapter 4 deconstructs an urban legend circulated among town dwellers about the poor personal hygiene (the “fox stench”) of female taxi drivers, many of them Naxi migrants from rural Lijiang. In Chao’s interpretation, these tales reflect the status anxieties of “downwardly mobile town dwellers [who] saw or smelled in female taxi drivers … the embodiment of danger, the crossing of gender boundaries, and the power of artifice, all tied to the workings of capitalism” (149). Chapter 5 plumbs a defamation lawsuit, brought by a notoriously self-promoting promoter of traditional Naxi music, for what it illustrates about Naxi-Han relations, cultural entrepreneurship and neoliberal transformation.
One strength of Chao’s approach is that it foregrounds the role of narrative in identity construction; it underscores that who we are is largely the result of the stories we tell ourselves and what others tell about us (and we about them). The Chinese state emerges as a principal teller of stories about Lijiang and the Naxi, and about other minorities and the Han majority. Lijiang Stories illuminates the ironies of the state’s discursive efforts to codify minority culture in ways amenable to socialist market expansion.
Less successful is Chao’s attempt to tie the chapters together into a cohesive whole. The book is largely a collection of previously published, stand-alone journal articles and book chapters. Different scholarly publications possess different audiences and expectations regarding the presentation of empirical evidence and the use of disciplinary jargon, and consequently the book is uneven. Certain chapters, like the one on bride abduction, contain extensive quotes from legends and interviews on which Chao bases her arguments. In other chapters Chao presents little in the way of material or “texts” to support her claims, and the analysis meanders into digression and conjecture. Particularly frustrating is the lack of empirical evidence in the chapter on rumours of female taxi drivers’ poor hygiene, as it includes no quotes or perspectives from the taxi drivers themselves. Given the extent to which other chapters incorporate diverse perspectives, the absence of these Naxi migrant women’s voices—and stories—is a curious and disappointing omission.
One way Chao tries to tie her stories together is by situating them within the context of neoliberalism. However, the concept as she employs it is muddled, overly broad. Both the growing emphasis on individual personal responsibility and the assertion of Party-defined collective interests are presented as indicators of neoliberal hegemony. Neoliberal imperatives drive phenomena ranging from “imaginings of bodily abnormality” (122) to the local Communist Party’s aggressive moves to quash a lawsuit and compel the parties to undergo “ideological work” (180). Certain trends Chao attributes to neoliberalism, such as the state-promoted homogenization and essentialization of cultural practices, began in the 1950s long before China embraced market reforms (as she herself shows).
Despite these weaknesses, Lijiang Stories is a valuable addition to the growing scholarship on Chinese minorities in the post-socialist era. The book will be of particular value to anthropologists, sociologists and folklorists interested in how market- and state-driven projects of identity construction obscure and transform inter- and intra-ethnic difference, and how groups generate their own narratives to challenge and defend boundaries of hierarchy and status.
Providence College, Providence, USA Susan K. McCarthy
NO ENEMIES, NO HATRED: Selected Essays and Poems. By Liu Xiaobo; edited by Perry Link, Tienchi Martin-Liao, and Liu Xia. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012. xxii, 366 pp. US$29.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-06147-7.
In his 1989 “Epilogue” to Chinese Politics and China’s Modern Intellectuals, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo refers to himself as a common person who stands out in China because he speaks up, but as “no great mind” on the world stage. This statement touches themes that run through the writings collected in this important volume: Liu Xiaobo’s constant introspection and effort to remain humble; China’s need for truth tellers; and his sharp awareness of the features of Chinese society relative to the rest of the world, especially the West.
One discovers in these writings a man whose battle with China’s authoritarian system has all along also been a spiritual struggle with himself, a self-conscious effort to confront his own limitations, to interrogate his motivations, and to will himself forward. It is the combination of insights into the man himself conveyed by these writings and the trenchant quality of the political and social critiques that they contain that makes No Enemies, No Hatred such powerful reading. Liu comes across as a tortured soul, at once disgusted by the Communist Party’s pervasive corruption and cold-heartedness, distraught by the numbed and apathetic quality of Chinese society, and heavily burdened by his sense of personal responsibility.
But Liu also radiates much light. If it is possible to summarize the greater thrust of his writings, one might say he is striving always to stand up to power based on unwavering fidelity to truth as he understands it. Liu writes often of his desire to live with dignity, and of how that requires that he refuse to deny, to hide, to become apathetic, to hedge, to grow cynical, to lie, to collude, or to be beaten down by the system. As he is aware, the cumulative effect of this approach bursts the bubble of triumphalist nationalism that has seduced the Chinese people and much of the world into the belief that history is witnessing in China the “rise of a great nation” (108). If one throws off such feel-good nonsense and speaks honestly, what one sees clearly, says Liu, are the overwhelming number of gross injustices that disease Chinese society.
Liu is as focused on the Chinese people themselves as he is on the Communist Party. The people are not evil, certainly no more so than any other, but the system itself, he maintains, leads them to do evil things to one another. Communist authoritarianism has created a sick and spiritually bankrupt society. The Party’s power—exercised through its monopolies over the right to appoint officials, the media, and the judicial process, all backed up by its ability to wield violence—is out of touch with the currents of the modern world, immoral in its denial of legally protected rights to the people, and indisputably responsible for the out-of-control corruption and systematic human rights abuses that blight Chinese society.
Liu is at his best when discussing the kinds of concrete social problems that cause very real human suffering in China. Examples include his essays on land confiscation, child slavery and the cover-up of egregious crimes by officials; in these pieces Liu masterfully traces the roots of particular local scandals to the logic of the authoritarian political system. He does not hold back: “when it comes to preserving its grip on power, pursuing its privileges, suppressing people’s civil rights, monitoring dissent, controlling the media, converting public property into its own property, or smoothly pulling off corruption, the government and its officials are not just competent but supercompetent” (97). Liu observes multiple times that the Communist Party is unsupervised by any legally constituted independent entity, and that it will always seek to protect its own power at the expense of all other just causes. As a result, it has become an unconstrained mafia-like organization: “criminal elements have become officialized,” he writes, “as officials have become criminalized” (102). In the face of this reality, the Chinese people have grown cynical and been spiritually brutalized, and in the face of judgments such as these, it is little wonder that the Communist Party feels threatened by Liu Xiaobo.
In spite of his personal suffering and the despair he feels over the state of Chinese society, Liu Xiaobo is buoyed by optimism that fundamental change is inevitable. Communist authoritarianism is based on bluster and lies and is bound to collapse, he believes. At a tactical level, Liu’s faith is rooted in the conviction that the Internet—which he calls “God’s gift to the Chinese people” (103)—enables transmission of information untainted by Party propaganda, and serves as a tool for the organization of public opinion that frequently manifests itself in activism on the ground. In his view, the advantage provided by the Internet, combined with consciousness of rights on the part of an ever-larger number of Chinese people, has spawned a multi-faceted “popular rights-defense movement” that is, step by step, challenging the Party’s claim to total power.
Although Liu Xiaobo traverses the ways, means and ugly consequences of unbridled authoritarian power at the national level, his prescription for change focuses on individuals and the power of choice they have in their daily lives. Sounding a theme common to enlightenment-oriented intellectuals throughout modern Chinese history, Liu holds that China’s regime will give way only when society itself changes. The ultimate responsibility lies with the people themselves. Individuals will be able to fulfill their responsibility if they develop their own spiritual resources, which will give them the strength to stand, rooted in dignity, against the howling winds of deceit and cynicism unleashed by the corrupt society in which they live. People cannot wait for the regime to change from within. That will not happen. They must make change themselves, gradually and peacefully, based on the “moral intuition that is native to human beings” (7). When they realize their full human dignity, standing for truth, love and tolerance even when it requires extreme personal sacrifice, then, and only then, will the regime have lost.
University of Colorado, Boulder, USA Timothy Weston
DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE AND INEQUALITY IN JAPAN. Japanese Society Series. Edited by Sawako Shirahase. Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press; Portland, OR: Distributed by International Specialized Book Services, 2011. xiii, 239 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-92090-163-9.
Demographic Change and Inequality in Japan was published in Japanese by Tokyo University Press in 2006 under the title Henka suru Shakai no Fubyōdō [Inequality in a Changing Society]. The title of the English edition reviewed here emphasizes demography’s role in Japan’s destiny, with aging of the population figuring more prominently than actual population decline, although the latter has certainly begun.
The passage of time since the Japanese edition appeared has only increased the value of the analyses, which connect measurable disparities in wealth, income, health and status with how people feel about the fairness of a society organized around such differentials. Editor Shirahase, who authored the chapter on inequality’s implications for households and gender, as well as the introduction and conclusion, says the book aims at “clarifying mechanisms” of inequality and unfairness (206) as an aid to policy reform. Shirahase and her co-authors ask, “What degree of equality should be the ultimate goal of society?” (48). In so doing, they draw attention to political and cultural concerns about care and welfare that are relevant to all mature, post-industrial economies: How idealistic can we afford to be? Which generation’s ideals will hold political sway? What range of family and life course diversity will be supported by welfare systems?
The overall argument is that changes in population structure due to aging and fewer births lurk as hidden threats to the stability of Japan’s social order. Where the labour of large cohorts of young people once supported a small cohort of elderly, smaller cohorts of young workers, many of whom find it very difficult to gain decent work, marry or start their own families, are being asked to contribute to the welfare of a growing population of wealthier retirees. Making young citizens sacrifice to protect elderly voters raises resentment and depresses the birth rate.
Perceived inability to meet typical life course norms is a major factor in what Toshiki Satō’s chapter terms an “explosion of inequality consciousness.” In the past, traditional beliefs about family continuity papered over dissatisfaction about inequality. Parents tolerated social differentials because they could hope that life would be better for their children. Today, however, younger people facing difficulties in employment and family formation see dimmer prospects for future generations, making them more aware of inequality, even though on some measures differentials have not significantly worsened.
A tight labour market and harsh working conditions are also seen to unfairly thwart the achievement of a normal life. Yūji Genda’s chapter on the NEET phenomenon (Not in Employment Education or Training), argues that long-term unemployed, youngish (primarily male) workers, often portrayed in the media as feckless or irresponsible freeloaders, are better characterized as ill and in need of care and welfare support. Many members of this vulnerable minority group want to work, but the longer they remain unemployed, the more likely they are to lose that desire, creating the specter of a despised cohort of permanently unemployed, who will become more problematic as they age.
Another gem in this collection is Takehiko Kariya’s expose of hidden inequalities in education. Japan’s egalitarian education has been hailed for ensuring fair access to opportunities for social mobility. Kariya’s analysis reveals how intense competition to acquire educational credentials and the social status they confer magnifies the advantages of those who are better positioned by birth to succeed in a conformist system in which small deviations from the mean are the basis of distinctions. The emergence of this system was paralleled by the spread of equal opportunity discourse and associated avoidance of meritocratic discrimination, which obscured both the unfairness of the growing competition in education and the pathologies it spawned. Ironically, recent countermeasures have only widened the gaps.
Japan’s health care system has also won plaudits internationally for both high quality and equality of care. Hiroshi Ishida’s chapter argues that apparent health equality may actually be due to what he terms a “healthy worker effect,” in which surveys omit the sick and fail to query health inequalities in sufficient detail. When measures for assessing quality of life are added, grounds for questioning health equality in older people emerge. These differentials correlate with occupational careers. Despite statistically significant differentials in chronic health problems lurking among the elderly by occupational status, health equality in Japan still seems to be an area of policy success, though for how much longer it is difficult to say.
Two chapters, by Katsumi Matsuura and Naomi Miyazato respectively, round out the collection. Together they point to a future of increased and increasingly irreversible inequality, as well as fewer children, resulting from purposeful distortions buried in the pension system and intergenerational transfers of wealth through inheritance. A trend toward American-style neoliberal fiscal policies in Japan is evident. Inadequate redistribution means that families who raise more children will ultimately subsidize those who have fewer or none. As this latent inequality becomes obvious, it is likely to give rise to strong feelings of unfairness that may further depress childbirth and undermine the principle of respect for age upon which so much of Japan’s social stability has rested.
In sum, Demographic Change and Inequality in Japan is a cogent and nuanced tour of some of Japan’s hidden inequalities. The well-documented power of survey averages to define social norms of inequality and deviance is prominent in the chapters on education and health. Self-reflexive awareness of the role of social research in creating the “mechanisms” of inequality addressed by this volume is less evident in the other chapters. Nevertheless, all of the chapters pay careful attention to historical context as they tease out statistical correlations between demographic trends, social policies and citizens’ feelings. Translator Tom Gill’s sensitive and skillful English renderings ensure that these important studies will be available to the international audience they deserve.
Osaka University, Osaka, Japan Scott North
INEQUALITY, DISCRIMINATION AND CONFLICT IN JAPAN: Ways to Social Justice and Cooperation. Stratification and Inequality Series, v. 12. Edited by Ken-ichi Ohbuchi and Nobuko Asai. Balwyn North, Vic.: Trans Pacific Press; Portland, OR: distributed by International Specialized Book Services, 2011. xii, 217 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-920901-15-8.
This edited volume by Ken-ichi Ohbuchi and Nobuko Asai grapples with the thorny issues of inequality, discrimination and conflict in Japan. There are ten chapters that approach these problems from cross-cultural perspectives on fairness, economic inequalities, social class, occupational prestige, welfarism, patriotism and nationalism, sexism, coping strategies, communities, and pro-social behaviours. The first section of the volume organizes the papers under the theme of “social stratification and the sense of justice,” while the second part addresses the theme of “conflict and cooperation in social relations.” The book showcases the latest theoretical and empirical studies by Japanese researchers on conflict resolution. The common thread linking all the chapters is the notion of social justice.
In chapter 1, E. Allan Lind explores inequality, discrimination and conflict in Japan through the theoretical literature on the psychology of fairness. Lind provides a discussion of how fairness and justice-linked phenomenon are seen cross-culturally, but explains that there are important differences in how members of particular cultures interpret and respond to these principles. In chapter 2, Nobuyoshi Kawashima investigates how rising economic inequalities are influencing people’s sense of fairness. Kawashima divides fairness into “micro” and “macro” levels. A micro sense of fairness corresponds to feelings of being treated fairly as an individual, while a macro sense of fairness corresponds to thoughts that society is fair in general. Through survey research the author argues that growing economic inequality is decreasing people’s sense of fairness on both levels. However, the higher an individual’s social and economic status, the greater the chance they see society as generally fair. In chapter 3, Ken-ichi Ohbuchi investigates how social class is influenced by attitudes on social fairness, collectivism and traditional values. The author tests the hypothesis that Japanese favour an equal distribution of resources. However, his survey findings suggest that while Japanese generally support distribution according to need, there are class differences. Lower classes tend to prefer equality where resources are more evenly distributed. Conversely, higher classes tend to favour equity, where people are rewarded according to ability. Ohbuchi also looks at attitudes towards collective behaviour and beliefs in “tradition” values. Here too he was able to demonstrate that the lower classes identify with values considered more “traditional.” In chapter 4, Yoshiya Shiotani examines how people’s occupational prestige translates into a form of invisible inequality. Through a literature review, Shiotani approaches the significance of occupations through the perspective of social stratification research that emphasizes occupations as an important indicator of social status. In chapter 5, Jun Matsuyama provides a theoretical discussion of how welfarism and distributive justice operate in Japan. The author suggests that contemporary theories of disparity and poverty must better account for the diversity of individuals and the role of individual responsibility.
In chapter 6, Tomohiro Kumagai examines how group identification influences perspectives on fair treatment between different groups. Through survey research, the author discusses how patriotism and nationalism influence intergroup conflict differently. In chapter 7, Takehiro Yamamoto and Ken-ichi Ohbuchi explore how “benevolent sexism” contributes to maintaining the gender gap. The chapter examines behaviours that on the surface seem to be beneficial to women, but are ultimately undermining. In chapter 8, Nobuko Asai addresses how people cope with discrimination. Through an empirical study the author investigates the strategies people use for dealing with discrimination at the cognitive level. She argues that in order to maintain their mental health, disadvantaged group members may avoid acknowledging personal experiences of discrimination, or recognize its existence for other members of their group, but downplay their own experiences of discriminations. In chapter 9, Hiroyuki Hikichi examines the relationship between local communities and social inequalities. The author investigates the breakdown of intra-community cooperation and commitment. With an orientation towards reviving local communities as spaces of support, the chapter examines some of the economic and socio-psychological factors that both hinder and contribute to effective community building. In chapter 10, Toshiaki Aoki discusses how to encourage pro-social behaviour that builds better social environments. The author identifies some of the mechanisms that contribute to cooperative behaviour that extend beyond rewards, to morals, norms, group identity and notions of fairness.
Publishing this volume in English represents an important effort by Japanese researchers to communicate their latest findings with a broader academic audience. Their effort should be applauded and encouraged. The opportunity to have access to some of the latest Japanese research in English makes this volume a valuable contribution in and of itself. The book will be of most interest to social psychologists with an interest in cross-cultural perspectives on fairness, those looking to understand how Japanese researchers investigate inequality, discrimination and conflict, and for those interested in empirical studies on Japanese attitudes towards the aforementioned issues. The papers in this volume provide theoretically sophisticated discussions and empirically grounded survey research.
However, qualitative researchers like anthropologists, sociologists, geographers and others will likely be unsatisfied with the lack of voices or concrete examples showing how discrimination is experienced by marginalized groups. There is a sizable English-language literature on the experiences of minority groups in Japan including the Ainu, Burakumin, Okinawans, resident Koreans, foreign populations, immigrants, the disabled and those stigmatized because of particular illnesses. This volume gives scant attention to these minorities. These are the groups who arguably face the brunt of discrimination in Japan. Nor is it clear whether some of the papers even considered these minorities in designing their studies. There is a chapter devoted to gender discrimination, but the narrow focus on “benevolent sexism” will likely also leave gender specialists wanting a more robust treatment of the innumerable obstacle facing women. The key weakness of the volume is that it focuses almost exclusively on theoretical discussions and the results of survey research without delving into how people experience inequality, discrimination and conflict in Japan. Theoretical discussions and survey research are, of course, important and necessary. However, over-emphasizing theory and the results of survey research elevates the discussion to an unnecessarily abstract level for issues that are, unfortunately, experienced all too regularly for minorities in Japan.
University of Hawai‘i, Honolulu, USA Robin O’Day
WELFARE THROUGH WORK: Conservative Ideas, Partisan Dynamics, and Social Protection in Japan. By Mari Miura. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012. xiii, 206 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5105-8.
The Japanese model of development in the postwar period, represented as rapid growth with equitable distribution, has been weakened by political and economic challenges since the 1990s, a period during which Japan has confronted protracted economic recession and experienced the end of the one-party-dominated political system. In particular, rising economic inequality (or kakusa) has provoked intense political and social debates in Japan over the past two decades, casting doubt on the egalitarianism of Japanese society. Miura raises the very timely and important question of the establishment and decline of Japan’s postwar social protection system. Welfare through Work is an excellent addition to our understanding of Japan’s postwar social protection system through a lens of labour market reform, which has caused important changes in the welfare-through-work system during the 1990s and 2000s.
In this book, Miura makes several important claims about the politics of Japan’s social protection system. First, she argues that Japan’s social protection system, based on the principle of “welfare through work,” where employment maintenance has functionally replaced income maintenance, allowed Japan to maintain high employment and high equality with a relatively small amount of public spending on social protection, compared with other advanced industrialized countries. Yet she also points out that the stability of Japan’s social protection system was sustained by a “gendered dual system” in the labour market, composed of male regular workers under the privileges of strong employment protection and female non-regular workers with job insecurity and low wages. Second, she claims that the value and role of the ruling party’s ideas shaped Japan’s social protection system in the postwar period. In particular, the three ideological pillars of Japan’s conservatism—statism, productivism, and cooperatism—contributed to the distinct characteristics of Japan’s welfare-through-work system in the 1950s and 1960s, while the replacement of productivism and cooperatism with neoliberalism in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively, led to the decline of its social system over the past two decades.
While Welfare through Work sheds light on Japan’s social protection system, this book is less persuasive on several points. First, while Miura elaborates the ways in which the conservative LDP formulated its vision of the social protection system through the linkage of statism, productivism and cooperatism in the 1950s and 1960s, the question of how neoliberalism became the alternative value and vision of the LDP, which replaced productivism and cooperatism in the 1980s and 1990s, is not fully examined. The author points out that party competition is one part of the mechanism of policy changes, leading to the promotion of one vision over another (e.g., neoliberalism), and the rise of neoliberalism during the 1990s is attributed to the collapse of the LDP-dominated party system. The Hashimoto cabinet (1996–1998) and the Koizumi cabinet (2001–2006), both of which advocated neoliberalism, implemented a series of market-oriented reforms, including labour market and social protection reforms. Yet the LDP government following the Koizumi cabinet in the second half of the 2000s chose not to pursue neoliberalism as its primary political vision and value, especially with respect to labour market reforms and the social protection system, without offering a clear alternative to replace it. The author might have clarified the mechanism of competition for different visions and ideas, not only among different parties (based on party competition) but also within the ruling party itself, as the driving force shaping Japan’s social protection system. As Miura suggests, a political party does not converge to a single coherent set of ideas and values, but the ways in which certain political values and ideas dominated others within the ruling party are not clearly addressed. In addition, while Miura defines neoliberalism as welfare retrenchment and the transfer of responsibility for social protection from the state to individuals, neoliberalism as the political vision and value of the ruling party needs to be further clarified in the context of labour market reform and its consequences on changes in the social protection system.
Second, related to the first point, while Miura identifies the political party as the agent of change, it is not clear whether she refers to the ruling party (in particular, the LDP) as a unit of analysis (e.g., organizations) or to the top political leadership, such as the prime minister, as a unit of analysis (e.g., individuals). In some parts of the book, she emphasizes the personal convictions and strategic calculations of political leaders as the key variable in the establishment of and changes in Japan’s social protection system, while at other moments, she indicates the ruling LDP as a unit of analysis.
Lastly, while this book provides an excellent account of the role of ideas in explaining the social protection system, it remains unclear whether this analytical framework is transferrable to other contexts. This book situates Japan’s social protection system in a comparative context, illustrating the characteristics of the welfare-through-work social protection system, but the ways in which the role of ideas shaped the social protection system in other advanced industrialized countries are not fully analyzed.
Mari Miura’s book presents an in-depth and detailed approach to the politics of social protection in times of political and economic challenges. This book turns our attention to controversial but important social and political tasks not only in Japan but also in many advanced industrialized countries, most of which have confronted rising inequality over the past few decades. It will be required reading for years as a valuable addition to the study of Japanese politics, of social protection in advanced industrialized countries, and of the role of ideas in explaining policy changes.
University of Oklahoma, Norman, USA Jiyeoun Song
THE ART OF CENSORSHIP IN POSTWAR JAPAN. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. By Kirsten Cather. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012. x, 334 pp. (Figures.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3587-3.
The practice of censorship is a divisive issue that is often justified on moral reasons rather than aesthetic or legalistic ones. It is perhaps because of the claims to morality rather than to the law that it is relatively rare for censorship (or more accurately in Japan’s case, obscenity) to be the subject of criminal trials. Yet, in Japan, from the occupation years through to the present day, there has been on average one high profile censorship trial per decade. In The Art of Censorship in Postwar Japan, Kirsten Cather considers seven such censorship trials held between the 1950s and 2007 to highlight the “complexity of the interaction between censor and artist” (1) in the practice of censorship. More specifically, Cather shows how Japan’s postwar censorship trials—at the lower court and High Court level—have largely not been about the legal aspects of whether a work is obscene or not and therefore should be subject to the censor, but have often involved the prosecution and the defense justifying their positions largely on other factors. These factors include its advertising and the reputation of the translator (Lady Chatterley’s Lover), the self-regulator (Eiga Rinri Kitei Kanri Iinkai or Eirin), the publishing house (Lady Chatterley’s Lover) and the film studio (Nikkatsu). In short, Cather shows how the trials were often fought on critical and political grounds more than on legal ones. To illustrate her argument, Cather uses a mix of examples of censorship trials from a number of different genres including local film (Black Snow), translated books (Lady Chatterley’s Lover) as well as manga (Honey Room). However, whilst the wide range of genres covered clearly shows that the censorship trials have targeted a variety of genres, it also means that the book lacks coherence and leads to an unevenness in the coverage of some trials. To her credit, Cather has recognized the coherence issue and has tried to circumvent it by dividing the book into four parts, each with an introduction outlining the background to the censorship of the works covered. However, because these introductions refer back to earlier chapters, the division of the book into parts adds to the lack of coherence. The pure ambitiousness of a study of trials over such a long period of time means that it is almost inevitable that there will be some unevenness to the analysis of the trials. This could have been avoided by focusing on fewer trials but this too would have raised questions about the balance in the analysis.
Despite the above criticisms, there is a lot to recommend the book and here I would like to focus on its two main strengths. The first strength lies in the diversity of sources used: in the majority of cases, Cather refers to the trial records and where these are not available, the verdicts. In all cases, she has consulted an array of secondary sources, and in some cases, interviewed participants. Yet, direct quotes are used sparingly, perhaps too sparingly, and the quotes add to the argument. The mix of sources clearly places the censorship trials in their historical and political context as well as part of the story about the application of censorship over the past six or so decades.
The second strength lies in the story that Cather tells about the application of censorship to art since the occupation, and more broadly, the impact of the United States-imposed constitution on the operations of the Japanese legal system. Specifically, Cather highlights how in all postwar censorship trials, the prosecution and the defence appeal to two different legal codes to construct their arguments: the prosecution to Article 175 of the Criminal Code and the defence to the Constitution’s ban on censorship (Article 21) (3-14). This legal dichotomy is further complicated by the differences in the timing of when works of art become subject to proceedings. The Black Snow trial, for instance, was focussed on a preview version of the film, which had been substantially changed before release and therefore was no longer available (chapter 3). Such arbitrariness clearly shows the politics behind the application of censorship if not the law in general.
The Art of Censorship is difficult to classify: it is not a legalistic text, nor does it constitute literary criticism or pure history or politics. Despite my reservations over the ambitiousness of Cather’s aims and the coherence in argument in places, it is a valuable addition to the growing volume of work that considers the importance of the historical context to the application of Japanese law. As such, the book would interest scholars interested in the politics of the Japanese court process as well as changes to the application of censorship law since 1945. Some chapters, in particular those on Lady Chatterley’s Lover, would be suitable for undergraduates looking at the impact of the constitution on the mechanics of legal process or the cultural politics surrounding translated texts.
University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia Rowena Ward
RUSSO-JAPANESE RELATIONS, 1905-1917: From Enemies to Allies. Routledge Studies in Modern History of Asia, 72. By Peter Berton. London; New York: Routledge, 2012. xix, 203 pp. (Map.) US$155.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-59899-6.
This monograph by the distinguished scholar and veteran-specialist in the field of international relations, Peter Berton, is the outcome of his lengthy studies that had already begun in the early 1950s. The book is the recently revised version of his well-known dissertation thesis The Secret Russo-Japanese Alliance of 1916 (Columbia University, 1956).
First of all, it should be noted that the title of the monograph seems to be somewhat inadequate, because only seven pages of the monograph are devoted to bilateral relations in the pre-war period, and the military, economic and cultural contacts between the countries are mostly omitted from the study. As a result, this monograph should be treated generally as a scrupulous and elaborate examination of the history of Russo-Japanese diplomatic relations during the First World War. In the book the author analyzes in detail the Russo-Japanese diplomatic negotiations concerning new political alignments during the First World War, and examines the reaction of the powers—Britain and France, the United States and China—to the Russo-Japanese alliance treaty.
The historical setting of Berton’s initial research seems to influence its character and approach. The 1950s were the decade when the Cold War in the Far East was in high gear and the US re-evaluated its relations with Japan greatly. Naturally, the study of the history of Russo-Japanese relations, especially in the political and military fields, appeared to be crucial to the US at that time. It is not curious that Berton has been using as an antithesis for his study the assertion, circulated for decades both in the Bolshevik press and in the US State Department, that the Russo-Japanese alliance of 1916 had been directed against the American presence in East Asia (presumably Manchuria) and the Pacific. Berton believes that he had managed to demonstrate that that assertion was false, and his examination “proves the case of Germany, not the United States, as the target of the secret treaty”(i). In actuality, from the “juridico-historical” approach that Berton has taken, this conclusion looks quite persuasive; however it seems to be only one side of the coin, because the character and essence of Russo-Japanese rapprochement during these years (1905–1917) cannot be reduced to the formal meaning of this treaty.
In the present reviewer’s opinion, the key question is not whether the alliance treaty was directed against the US, but whether the Russo-Japanese rapprochement posed a potential threat to American interests. From this perspective, it is necessary to state that Russo-Japanese alignment greatly strengthened Japan’s position not only in the Far East but also in world affairs, and endangered the interests of the US and Britain in East Asia. The author himself also seems to recognize the fact that Japan strove to become a predominant power in China and was prepared to confront any American efforts in the promotion of the “Open Door” policies. Certainly, at that time the Japanese elite had no intentions of initiating military conflict with the US, but was ready to defend Japan’s special rights in China by any means, for example, through reliance on Russia (because Britain would not help Japan in any potential conflict with the US). Similarly, the Russo-Japanese agreement did not include any conspiracy against the US, but it had to show to all other world powers that Japan would not allow any country to weaken its position in East Asia. In fact, Japan’s game was a kind of bluff, with Tokyo attempting to demonstrate—by the use of some semi-official channels and newspapers as means of disinformation—the visibility of Russo-Japanese unity in Far Eastern affairs. In this sense, the rumours concerning the Russo-Japanese secret agreement, leaked intentionally by Japan’s political elite to the press, were much more important than the agreement itself.
Berton reasonably argues that, from the Russian point of view, rapprochement with Japan was nothing more than an attempt to include Japan and China in an anti-German military block. It was also an attempt to weaken Japan’s pressure in Far Eastern affairs. Russian diplomats did not wish to strengthen Russia’s dependence on Japan’s expansionist policy, and managed to make the alliance treaty’s conditions toothless. However, Berton tends to overestimate Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov’s role in the preparation and conclusion of the Russo-Japanese alliance, because historical archival sources and recent studies on this subject unambiguously show that this policy trajectory toward the alliance was orchestrated by Japanese elder statesmen, headed by Prince Yamagata. Eventually, Japan managed to exploit Russia’s need for weapons and other strategic products, and thus paved the way to bilateral negotiations for the conclusion of a new political agreement. It should also be noted here that Berton’s monograph is based mostly on Japanese archival sources, while the Russian political strategy, unfortunately, is traced only in general terms. Similarly, although France as Russia’s nearest ally played a critical role in inducing Japan’s cooperation with the Triple Entente, its diplomatic stategy is not well analysed.
Berton’s monograph takes little account of new studies on this problem that have appeared in Russia and Japan, as well as in the United Kingdom and the United States, in the last decades. In this sense, the monograph lacks novelty for researchers of Russo-Japanese relations. However, despite the above-mentioned shortcomings and questionable arguments, the monograph gives us a skilful analysis of international diplomacy during the First World War and even now should be recognized as the best research on Russo-Japanese alliance in English historiography.
University of Shimane, Hamada, Japan Eduard Baryshev
CELEBRITY GODS: New Religions, Media, and Authority in Occupied Japan. Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture. By Benjamin Dorman. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012. viii, 269 pp. (B&W photos.) US$42.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3621-4.
Celebrity Gods is a well-researched, neatly written manuscript on the often conflicting relationship between religious freedom, print media and the state in modern Japan. Dorman’s research tries to answer what is the state of religious freedom in contemporary Japan in the wake of the “most serious case of domestic terror” by leaders of Aum Shinrikō when they coordinated a lethal sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in March 1995. How can one explain the universal media portrayal of Asahara Shōkō as the “personification of evil” and “fraudster” of the innocent and naïve (12)? Why have all new religions, such as Pana Wave, which have little-to-no similarities with Aum Shinrikō, come to bear the same characterization: crazy, morally suspect and dangerous? To answer these questions, Dorman turns to history and sociology to explain “why certain (negative) representations of new religions developed” and how these representations were produced, perpetuated and evolved in the print media (3, 21). The originality of Dorman’s research is his conjecture that since mid-Meiji the Japanese mass media has been unwavering in its criticism of new religious movements.
Dorman begins his narrative with the secularization of religious belief under the authority of the state from the middle of the Meiji era (chapters 1 and 2). Well-established religions were happy to collude with Japanese bureaucrats in return for recognition and funding associated with social work cum philanthropy. New religious movements organized around charismatic leaders, such as Shimamura Mitsu of Renmonkyō and Deguchi Onisaburō of Ōmotokyō, however, were problematic to Japanese authorities. The beliefs of these two religious movements challenged the carefully constructed charisma and monopoly of the Emperor as living god, gender hierarchies (Simamura and Deguchi Nao, the founders of Ōmotokyō, were women), and the raison d’être of the state as a force of progress and development based on expert knowledge. The popular press, heavily invested in the ideals of the pre-war state and in their role as watchdog of public interest, coupled with an eye to increase circulation, emphasized the scandalous sexual practices, dubious mystical powers, and even more dubious financial practices of Renmonkyō and Ōmotokyō. In collusion with established Shinto and Buddhist institutions and experts of the new science of psychology (54), the popular press was able to shape public opinion in sensational exposés that revealed how new religious movements were remnants of irrational superstition among the uneducated masses (Renmonkyō), or immoral “cults” that targeted the gullible (Ōmotokyō). Shimamura Mitsu and Deguchi Onisaburō, argues Dorman, became the archetypes by which the popular press came to evaluate all other new religious movements led by charismatic leaders.
Chapter 3 introduces the main subjects of his study; Jikōson (born Nagaoka Nagako) and Jiu, and Kitamura Sayo and Tenshō Kōtai Jingū. Both of these new religious movements were established in pre-war Japan, grew in size during the US occupation, and were led by women. Both women and the organizations they founded were the target of strong criticism by journalists such as Ōya Sōichi, intellectuals and psychologists in the print media. Dorman narrates the road to “celebrity god” travelled by Jikōson and Kitamura Sayo, emphasizing the ambiguous relationship they developed with the authorities and media, and the pivotal role the media played in concocting their notoriety or repute. The contrasting fate of Jikōson and Kitamura Sayo as post-war “celebrity gods” is covered in detail in chapters 5 and 6.
Chapter 4 covers the major changes introduced by the US occupation in the way officials and the media criticize and intervene in the workings of new religious movements. Utilizing Supreme Command for the Allied Powers (SCAP) documents, and the memoirs of the main Japanese and American protagonists involved in expanding religious freedom in Japan, Dorman narrates the challenges SCAP and Japanese officials faced in implementing the rule of separation of church and state. Celebrity Gods describes in detail the tension between the occupation authorities and the existing Religions Division with regard to the proper function of the Religious Corporations Ordinance and Religious Corporations Law. The major issue was over how to administer the escalating number of new religious movements, and what contingencies had to be in place before action could be taken against shady religious leaders suspected of bilking.
The strengths of Celebrity Gods are Dorman’s painstaking research in identifying the complex relationship between media and religion and SCAP’s role in establishing the conditions that allowed new religious movements to emerge and grow without repression after 1945. However, there is also a major shortcoming. Celebrity Gods falls frustratingly between two stools. It is neither a study in the historical contingencies that allows the formation of new religious beliefs, nor does it offer any original insights into the sociology of modern media. In his narrative Dorman is aware of the major role Japanese media played in the secularization of religious belief via its championing of freedom whilst simultaneously being heavily invested in the project of nation building and the promotion of a secular modernity. However, he has little to say about how belief both challenges and is challenged by the secular developmental agenda immanent in modernity. What happens to religion in modern societies when belief is gradually and constantly being replaced by models of knowledge and expertise interested in the conditions under which true knowledge is possible? Why does power of affirmation and new forms of subjective investment crystallized around religious belief pose a danger to the secular modern? How do religions, both established and new, have to adapt and evolve if they are to continue to have relevance? What is lost or gained in the act of compromise?
Hopefully Dorman will take up some of these questions in his future contributions to the study of new religious movements in post-war Japan.
University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia Bill Mihalopoulos
THE IMPOSSIBLE STATE: North Korea, Past and Future. By Victor Cha. New York: Ecco (imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), 2012. xii, 530 pp. (Figures, graphs, tables, photos.) US$29.99, cloth. ISBN 978-0-06-199850-8.
The key message of the book is reflected in statements like: “By any metric, this poor, backward, and isolated place should have been relegated to history’s graveyard. It is a hermetically sealed Cold War anachronism” (7). The author, a professor at Georgetown University who spent the years 2004–2007 as director for Asian Affairs in the National Security Council under George W. Bush, sets out to explain why North Korea nevertheless exists.
The book is organized into ten chapters. It starts with a personal account of Cha’s impressions during his only visit to North Korea in 2006. He repeats a few stereotypes, such as empty roads and inferior facilities. High-tech must be imported from China by circumventing sanctions; remarks made by North Koreans about peace and friendship with the USA must be a sign of secret opposition against the regime. North Korean fears are unfounded: “I have said to North Korean interlocutors, that this [a US invasion of North Korea] is about the craziest assertion they could make” (11). Concerning the state of affairs on the peninsula, Cha argues that “the problem is not the United States, stupid” (275). In a table that stretches from page 307 to page 314, Cha lists US security assurances to North Korea from 1989 to the end of 2010.
Chapter 2 shows convincingly that the legacy of the Cold War is still alive on the Korean peninsula. Cha reminds the reader that a few decades ago, North Korea was a prosperous country, although I would not take some of the details such as an average calorie intake per day of 3,000 at face value. Cha is critical of South Korea under Syngman Rhee and Park Chung-hee, and outspoken about nationalism in both Koreas. He is among the few Western writers who seem to have grasped the meaning of chuch’e, including its non-Marxist nature, the close connection to nationalism, and the fact that it manipulates but nevertheless allows cooperation with the outside world.
In particular in chapter 3, Cha ridicules the Kim dynasty, which makes the book more entertaining but affects its credibility as a product of serious scholarship. The section on the top leadership nicely summarizes what is thought to be known about this field of Pyongyangology. In chapter 4, the North Korean economy is explained through five historical “bad choices” made by the mafia-like leadership. Cha has little sympathy for “high-minded scholars” who naively point at positive aspects of life in North Korea which is, beyond the capital, “the worst place on earth” and a “dark kingdom.” The reader learns that many buildings have no windows and even in Pyongyang, taxis are “orange, rusted, and with no windows” (163f).
Chapter 6 starts with the scenario of a military attack by North Korea. No nuclear weapons are included, but 5,000 metric tons of chemical agents are repeatedly mentioned. The nuclear program does receive its fair share of attention, in particular in chapter 7, which is devoted to its complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement. Cha skeptically concludes that North Korea wants an “India deal,” i.e., to be accepted as a nuclear weapons state, in order to prolong the current regime forever. He hits the nail on the head when he asks: “Would they be sharing toasts with these icons of US foreign policy if they were just from a poor country without nukes?” (428). The North Korea policy of China, Russia and Japan is covered in chapter 8. Chapter 9 is devoted to inter-Korean relations, focusing on unification, which is regarded as a major but inevitable challenge.
The final chapter is titled “The end is near.” Pointing at the Arab Spring, the end of North Korea is predicted although “signs of a modernizing consumer-oriented society are just not present” (438). Cha identifies the urban poor as the most likely source of discontent and concludes with five policy principles that the US government should follow until “the fateful day [of North Korea’s implosion] comes” (455): patience, sanctions, negotiation, preparation for unification, and a focus on the people.
As with any book on current affairs, it is natural that some information is outdated. There are factual errors such as the allegation that “the only monument to the late leader [Kim Jong Il]… sits in front of the Yongbyon nuclear complex” (11). For a book published in 2012, it is odd to read that North Koreans “still line up on the street thirty-deep to use a public phone” (12). It is questionable to assume that in 1972 “Moscow believed that such grandeur … [a large Kim Il Sung statue] should only be reserved for Stalin” (79); Lenin at that time would have been the only appropriate choice. Cha’s readiness to repeat stories about a single 120-calorie Choco Pie selling on North Korea’s unofficial markets for US$9.50 a piece (155) is striking, in particular if we consider that one kilogram of white rice costs less than a dollar. This would point at an unrealistically high level of affluence and the absence of any food shortage.
On many points, Cha is very much in line with the thinking of other experts. What I called “socialist neoconservativism” is described as “neojuche revivalism.” But while I agree that most North Koreans have never heard of Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson, I am not sure whether that is a major deficiency. How many Americans, despite the Internet, know Russia’s star singer-songwriter Vladimir Vyssotsky?
The book is well written and easily readable. It targets a general market and is thus not too obviously based on a rigorous theoretical framework. This limits the utility as a course book, but makes it well suited as supplementary reading, especially for those who are interested in understanding the mindset underlying the North Korea policy of the George W. Bush administration and the conservative spectrum of policy makers and their advisors in Washington. The latter is the major strength of the book.
University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria Rudiger Frank
CUISINE, COLONIALISM AND COLD WAR: Food in Twentieth-Century Korea. By Katarzyna J. Cwiertka. London: Reaktion Books; Chicago: Distributed by the University of Chicago Press, 2013. 237 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-78023-025-2.
Food, in this book, is a lens through which the author aims to “demonstrate that the lives of contemporary Koreans, both in the North and in the South, have been largely shaped by colonialism and the Cold War” (12). Through this focus the work largely succeeds in tracing connections across 1945, particularly in echoes and continuities of wartime food management.
Chapter 1 situates the development of agriculture and food industries of the colonial period in the context of Japanese imperial policy. The relatively well-known story of the chapter is of rice. By the 1930s, Korea and Taiwan together supplied almost all of Japanese rice imports, with attendant stresses on their own internal consumption. This flow of staple grain was part of a policy of “food autarky,” launched with the historical example of food’s role in Germany’s 1918 wartime collapse firmly in mind (20). Yet the sharpest focus of chapter 1 is on Korea not only as a “breadbasket” of the colonial metropole, but also as a “stockroom” for Japanese military expansion in Asia (17). By the 1930s, this had spurred the rise of processed and preserved food industries on the peninsula, producing beer, bread, confections, and canned beef, fish and crab—with the last a leading Korean export to the world as a whole in the prewar years. Chapter 2 then examines the colonial modern practice of dining out in Seoul. Cwiertka surveys the restaurant scene, but fixes on the department store as a key site at which the colonial culture of consumption, including of food, was produced and debated. Contrary to some received wisdom, she notes that Seoul’s department stores were “60–70 percent dependent on their Korean clientele” (51). In particular, department store restaurants were patronized by female diners in a way that other establishments were not, and as a result were also a recurrent topic of discourses of moral panic about women’s consumption and public behaviour.
Industrial soy sauce, the central focus of chapter 3, presents the first occasion for the book to look directly at the “multiple connections between the colonial period and the post-1945 dietary developments on the peninsula” (58). Yet precisely because of the complexity of these connections, the account of causality that it sets out is not fully satisfying. It is initially clear that, in parallel with the development of processed foods, the industrial production of synthetic soy sauce utilizing hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) accelerated in the late 1930s in response to wartime supply needs, somewhat supplanting traditional production through fermentation. Nonetheless, Cwiertka estimates that only 15 percent of Korean civilians consumed HVP soy sauce in 1942 (69). The displacements of the Korean War provided another spur to the market for the industrial product, but it was still consumed out of “necessity rather than choice” (72). How, then, did soy sauce containing HVP come to constitute 97 percent of Korean consumption in 1993 (64)? Cwiertka assigns considerable importance to embodied memory produced by the “colonization of … Korean taste” by monosodium glutamate—a co-product of synthetic soy, with similar flavour effects—during the colonial era (73). Yet the delay with which this factor acted seems to ask for further explanation, as does the simultaneous move of Japanese producers away from synthetic soy.
Chapter 4 builds more successfully on the same theme in focusing on “structural continuities” (80) linking Japanese imperial food management and rationing with management as practiced in the post-1945 occupations and during the Korean War. Food governmentality thus emerges as a crucial site of continuity across 1945, but also an important locus of distinction between emerging regimes. While in the North, “swift reintroduction” of the rationing system led to food stability and helped contribute to “popular support” for the new authorities (102), in the South rationing was reintroduced in 1946 only after a disastrous failed experiment with deregulation of food markets, spurring a general decline in nutrition. Cwiertka touches also in this chapter on other significant elements and legacies of the post-Liberation food situation: on hunger as a pervasive social memory of the era, and on the Japanese processed food industry as central to the system of combat rations developed for US and ROK militaries in the Korean War.
The final two chapters examine the development of contemporary cuisine in the South and North, respectively, with continual attention to wartime legacies and political economy. In the South, for instance, ramyŏn and other wheat noodle dishes rose to popularity conditioned by government controls over rice consumption and cheap US wheat exports. Chapter 5 also offers an overview of the development of the contemporary restaurant scene, as well as the “commodification of tradition” (135) that has brought kimch’i, makkŏlli, and other foods to new national and international prominence, sometimes with attendant conflicts. Chapter 6 begins with a glance at P’yŏngyang’s new fast food restaurants and other recent culinary fads—indexes of North Korea’s partial embrace of a market economy. Their counterpoint, however, is the North Korean famine of the 1990s, of which Cwiertka offers an admirably balanced view. Although sometimes blamed for exacerbating the famine’s effects, it is also plausible that the North Korean Public Distribution System for food alleviated some of its impact (148, 152). Yet it is likewise clear that centralization of collective agriculture in the 1970s, and a concomitant increased reliance on monocropping and chemical inputs, made North Korean food production “increasingly vulnerable to external shocks” (156) and helped set the stage for the tragedy.
There are other books, written and to be written, about Korean food. Cwiertka devotes little attention to the long-term historical sedimentation of Korean dietary practice, and the contemporary cultural politics of food, while touched on, warrants further examination. Yet the focus of this work on twentieth-century political economy is basic for understanding the present, and underscores the considerable importance of this book. With its brevity and host of engaging examples, it is likely also to see classroom use—it does indeed make the mobilization economies of modern Korea, not the friendliest of topics for many students, more palatable.
University of Texas, Austin, USA Robert Oppenheim
LIBERALIZATION, HINDU NATIONALISM AND THE STATE: A Biography of Gujarat. By Nikita Sud. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012. xvi, 249 pp. (Tables, figures, map.) US$47.00, cloth. ISBN 0-19-807693-2.
Nikita Sud’s Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and the State uses a mix of ethnographic and documentary data to give a distinctive account of politics in modern Gujarat. In particular the book shows how the state in Gujarat is implicated in the process of economic liberalization and how the same state was involved in the rise to political prominence of the Hindu nationalist movement in Gujarat.
Sud reflects on the historical antecedents of economic liberalization and Hindu nationalism in Gujarat. Economic development in the region was given a spur by the circumstances in which the state of Gujarat was formed. The state of Bombay was divided in 1960 after much rancour, so that linguistic states could be formed, with Maharashtra keeping the prosperous city of Bombay. The new state of Gujarat promoted industrial and agricultural development to compensate for this loss. A range of cooperatives thrived, among other things providing support for dairy farmers and creating a base from which a number of entrepreneurs made their way into politics. Sud also identifies a conservative trend in state politics which is reflected in longstanding interest in Hindu nationalist causes. This conservatism is encouraged by the economic strength of the land-owning Patidar caste group and the largely unchallenged social privileges of the upper castes. Congress attempted, but ultimately failed, to assemble a coalition from among a majority comprised of backward castes, Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims. A key moment that confirmed the political strength of the privileged was the 1985 riots against the reservation policies of the state government. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) became prominent in the 1990s after it opposed reservations and promoted Hindu causes that appeared to transcend caste divisions. The BJP won both the 1995 and 1998 state assembly elections but it was troubled by internal divisions. It was only after Narendra Modi was appointed Chief Minister in 2001 that the party settled into power. Modi’s position was strengthened in 2002 by the “vitriolic backlash against the Godhra train carnage that left 59 Hindu activists burnt to death and triggered mass violence against Muslims” (35). The account of the 2002 violence given later in the book is placed in historical context and shows how the ability of the state in Gujarat to mediate between religious groups has been severely degraded as the governing party has used public institutions for its own purposes.
The political economy analysis contained in Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and the State uses the case of land policy to illustrate how the state in Gujarat has positioned itself in relation to economic liberalisation. A number of measures introduced since the early 1990s are examined that show how land policy has come to reflect the interests of the powerful, and in particular the corporate sector. The picture is a complex one, and the struggles to achieve a liberalized land policy are narrated in some detail. The central government, for example, has not endorsed all of the policies preferred by the state government. What becomes clear is that the Government of Gujarat has been guided by the preferences of favoured businesses as much as by neo-liberal ideology. The commitment to economic liberalism is shown to be selective, with large companies fixing electricity prices in their favour (at the expense of the public purse) and land given to large businesses at throw-away prices. The partiality to individual businesses is shown by the lengthy case in chapter 4 detailing how the Government of Gujarat acted as a partisan advocate, helping one company acquire land in an environmentally protected area. In the final chapter the conventional wisdom, which predicts the state will recede as liberal economic ideology becomes more influential, is challenged. Instead Sud argues that a relatively effective state has made both economic liberalization and political illiberalism possible. The state has thus been reinvented from a formation that was committed, even if unevenly, to statist development and secularism to an ensemble of institutions that lean heavily towards business and the ideology of Hindutva. Sud makes clear that the transformation has not been absolute, and that national institutions and some actors within Gujarat have resisted the ambitions of the governing regime.
In addition to the theoretical analysis of the contemporary state the book includes much of empirical interest. Sud shows the modern Indian state did inculcate normative assumptions among at least some of its citizens. One interviewee admitted guiltily to having evaded land ceiling regulations. Another commented that in the 1970s a secular ban on displaying religious images in government offices would be quite normal, whereas it would now be termed an “anti-Hindu Act” (156). The commentary on Narendra Modi’s leadership is very informative, revealing that he does not have solid support within the state unit of his own party (35–42). With growing interest in the study of state politics in India this is a timely volume. This book will also inform debates about the politics of Hindu nationalism more generally, as well as speaking to wider literature on the economic role of the state.
University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom Andrew Wyatt
INDIA’S LATE, LATE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: Democratizing Entrepreneurship. By Sumit K. Majumdar. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. xxv, 426 pp. (Figures, tables.) C$30.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-62286-9.
This book is a bold manifesto on the imperatives of India’s modernization and industrialization. The plan for action deserves debate. First, India needs to build on its significant entrepreneurial resources. The revolutionary reforms of 1991 will aid this process. Second, the services-led growth story is portrayed as a mirage and manufacturing is considered the essence of industrial development. India should emulate Britain, the United States, Germany, China and South Korea in this regard. Third, India needs to move away from customized and low-end software services to software products, especially embedded software products that function in airplanes and advanced automobiles, and in almost every modern industrial process.
India’s entrepreneurial resources are substantial. The book traces the entrepreneurship story since the Indus Valley civilization to present times and notes that India was producing 25 percent of the world’s manufactured goods in 1750 when the same figure for Britain was 2 percent. British rule played a largely debilitating role in draining India’s wealth. The book traces the precipitous decline of Indian manufacturing after Lord Clive. It also notes some elements of modern commerce introduced by the British: Dwarkanath Tagore was a partner in India’s first holding company; company laws are a British legacy; modern education made a positive impact on entrepreneurship; nationalism, especially after the partition of Bengal, propelled industrialization; and, events like the Crimean War and World War II created demand that spurred Indian entrepreneurs. It was under these circumstances that Jamshetji Tata and Dorab Tata created a steel plant in the mineral-rich Sakchi village (now Jamshedpur) in Bihar—an achievement the British authorities thought was unbelievable.
The not so well-known cases on contemporary entrepreneurship are discussed as well. Poor women have become empowered by donating their reproductive capacity and more enterprising women who supply donors to in-vitro clinics can even earn the salary of a university professor. There is the fascinating story of Jagdish Khattar, a senior Indian Administrative Services officer turned chief executive officer of Maruti Suzuki Corporation, who founded Carnation Automobiles after retirement. Carnation services automobiles comprehensively after they land with a consumer and may well transform the servicing landscape in India. This transformation could be as significant as the advent of the Maruti Suzuki car in India, which has taken customer satisfaction to a significantly higher level since the mid-1980s. The post-1991 landscape has many first-generation professional entrepreneurs, like Sunil Mittal of Airtel, R.K. Dhoot of Videocon International, Desh Bandhu Gupta of Lupin Laboratories, and Krishna M. Ella of Bharat Biotech International, among others. Many of these entrepreneurs constitute a reverse brain drain from the US to India. It is significant that software tycoons such as Azim Premji and N.R. Narayanmurthy do not find a mention in the book.
Entrepreneurship, the reforms of 1991, and a positive spurt in Indian manufacturing, notwithstanding, India needs to pay greater heed to promoting manufacturing, like the other countries that participated in the Industrial Revolution. The author posits a robust relationship between improvements in manufacturing productivity and economic growth. India is urged to emulate countries like China and South Korea. Samsung’s tryst with microwave manufacturing is held out as a role model in business strategy. It is efficient production with technological progression rather than low wages that produces industrialization. This progression is impossible in India’s unorganized sector, comprised of a multitude of small commercial operations employing the bulk of Indian workers. This sector therefore needs to be better organized with manufacturing processes to harness it productively. Defense-commercial spinoffs, which led to the evolution of the Boeing aircraft and the Internet, are applauded. Guns do not necessarily come at the cost of butter and deploying defense technology for commercial purposes is considered essential. And, India’s manufacturing-driven growth story will consume much more energy, at a time when China’s energy consumption is three times that of India’s. The country will therefore need to provision for energy consumption.
The book is largely critical of the role of the service sector in India’s development. Not one Indian company is among the top hundred revenue earners in the information technology sector, when Chinese and South Korean firms are to be found in this category. The reason is India’s dependence on customized software rather than software products that enjoy superior revenue-generating potential. This business depends on lower wages rather than higher productivity—a factor that will cease to be a cost advantage for India. India therefore needs to develop software products, especially embedded software products that are part of airplanes and expensive cars. Though these are very important arguments, one wonders whether some high value-added embedded software is developed when Indian firms provide software for airplanes like Airbus or the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA). That story is altogether missing from this book.
This fine, well-researched book deploys economic history and economic analysis to lay out what it considers the elements of India’s industrial revolution. This exercise draws lessons from comparative industrialization. The author is acutely aware of the importance of politics but does not discuss it. But India’s services-driven rather than manufacturing-inspired growth may be more the result of infrastructural capabilities such as a decent financial and communications infrastructure but dismal roads, ports and electricity provision. Recent scholarship has revealed that the varied nature of infrastructure provision has more to do with Indian politics than entrepreneurship. This book should inspire future scholarship to integrate the story of entrepreneurship with the political economy of regulation.
National University of Singapore, Singapore Rahul Mukherji
ECONOMIC LIBERALISATION AND INDIAN AGRICULTURE: A District-Level Study. By G.S. Bhalla, Gurmail Singh. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2012. xxx, pp. 360 (Figures, tables, maps.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-81-321-0858-0.
The economic liberalization of 1991 was a watershed in Indian economic history. It launched India on a faster growth path and made the country into the toast of the whole world. We celebrate growth because it helps reduce poverty. The rate of poverty decline in India, however, was not commensurate with the rate of per capita GDP growth. In other words, “the poverty elasticity of growth” in India has been much lower than in other less developed countries. Why this might be so is a very interesting and important question, and there is every reason to believe that the answer lies in the pace of development in Indian agriculture. A large proportion of India’s poor subsist in agriculture, and an improvement in agricultural productivity would have a direct impact on India’s poverty. We cannot hope to understand the slow progress on the poverty front without understanding what has been happening in Indian agriculture. For any researcher who wants to understand the ebb and flow of development in Indian agriculture, this book is like manna from heaven.
This is not a book for light reading. In fact, half the pages are full of tables with numbers and flipping through it may be quite intimidating. It is an outcome of extremely painstaking work for which those of us who are looking for answers to questions on Indian development can only feel grateful. Using the data compiled by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics (DES) of the Ministry of Agriculture (Government of India), the authors trace the patterns and sources of growth in agricultural output and labour productivity across different regions of India and also across different time periods through a district-wide analysis. The analysis draws a detailed picture of how the extent as well as the sources of growth were different across three clearly identifiable time periods: 1962–65 to 1980–83, 1980–83 to 1990–93 and 1990–93 to 2005–08. The first period saw the early fruits of the Green Revolution in the well-irrigated areas of the northwest and the second its diffusion across the relatively less developed areas of east and central India. Most interestingly, in the third period (i.e., post-liberalization period), growth in agriculture decelerated; a surprising outcome as one expected that the sector would do much better than in the earlier period, as the official discrimination against it through adverse terms of trade would end. But several factors countered the favourable movement of the terms of trade. The high-yielding technology of the Green Revolution started experiencing diminishing returns while at the same time public investment in agriculture declined. Whatever growth took place in the post-liberalization era was largely the result of switching from food grains to high value added crops (e.g., Bt cotton).
The methodology used throughout the book is easy to understand. Output is measured in terms of Rupees per hectare at 1990–93 prices. A Cobb-Douglas production function is estimated with land, labour, fertilizer, tractors and infrastructure as inputs for each of the four time periods across all districts. Thus, diversification of a food grain area into higher value-added crops would have the same effect as an improvement in total factor productivity, and so it should. A comparison of coefficients across four regression equations corresponding to the four time periods gives us an idea of the changes taking place over time. For example, the marginal product of land (the coefficient of land in the regression equation) increases while that of labour decreases steadily from 1970–73 to 2005–08, indicating that the land to labour ratio declined during that period. This result brings out the alarming aspect of the Indian growth pattern: the rate of employment creation in non-farm sectors is unsatisfactory, unlike that in East and Southeast Asia. The fast-growing sectors in India did not absorb labour from agriculture fast enough and as a result the population pressure on land increased.
In the most recent period (2005–08), “labour” becomes statistically insignificant as a variable to explain the variation in the value of output per hectare across districts. This is very interesting in the context of all the complaints of the farmers about the shortage of labour they are facing today. Of course, the authors’ analysis does not go beyond 2008 and it would be fair to ask whether the picture has changed so drastically since 2008.
Another useful exercise that the authors undertake is the estimation of labour productivity (output per worker). This is important because output per worker is likely to be correlated to wages, and an increase in agricultural wages is a good indicator of a decline in poverty. Sadly, even the elasticity of labour absorption with respect to the value of output shows a clear and steady decline from the 1960s to 2005–8. Thus, during the post-liberalization period, neither farm nor non-farm sectors generated employment at a satisfactory rate. The authors could have done more to probe why this is so even in the farm sector. For example, the methodology treats fertilizer and tractors symmetrically as just two inputs. There is no attempt here to look for the labour-saving bias of tractors. Is it the type of crops or labour-saving machinery that was responsible for the low rate of employment creation?
What would be most interesting to the readers is an answer to the question: what should we do now? The last chapter sums up all the findings and offers sensible recommendations. The liberalized regime has certainly opened up the possibilities for exports and hence facilitated crop diversification. However, it has also increased the volatility through the fluctuations of international prices. An important recommendation therefore is to develop some institutional mechanisms to enable small farmers to take on such risks: crop and income insurance as well as a Price Stabilization Fund for small growers. Irrigation is also a key in lowering the risk and instability associated with new technologies that offer higher expected incomes. Typically, low productivity districts are also the dry land districts lacking in irrigation. The authors also remind us that though agriculture is an important factor in determining the rate of poverty decline, it is equally important that non-farm sectors raise their rate of labour absorption, thereby reducing the population stress on land.
On the whole, the book will be very rewarding to researchers working on Indian developmental issues.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada Ashok Kotwal
NATIONALISM AND ETHNIC CONFLICT IN NEPAL: Identities and Mobilization after 1990. Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series, 58. Edited by Mahendra Lawoti and Susan Hangen. London; New York: Routledge, 2012. xvii, 265 pp. (Figures, tables, maps.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-78097-1.
In May 2012 Nepal’s Constituent Assembly (CA) was dissolved without writing the new constitution for which it had been elected four years earlier. The CA had granted itself one one-year extension, two three-month extensions, and a six-month extension in succession; now the Supreme Court stipulated that further extensions were inadmissible. The CA had not been inactive in the four years of its existence. In addition to acting as the national parliament, it had abolished the monarchy and declared Nepal a republic, chosen a president and vice-president, and declared Nepal both secular (i.e., removing the special position that Hinduism had enjoyed previously) and federal. All these momentous, indeed revolutionary, changes were supposed to be embedded in the new constitution.
In the final six months, a specially appointed parliamentary committee worked hard to bring the different sides together and to broker compromises. But in the end the major political parties could not accept a federal Nepal where the basis of the federal units was ethnicity, and where the names of the units would in most cases refer to a particular ethnic group. In other words, the key issue, on which the whole future stability of the country foundered, was that of ethnicity and national identity. In this momentous context the present volume is especially welcome and is likely to become a key reference in the field.
The book is shaped by the approaches of its two editors, Mahendra Lawoti and Susan Hangen. Lawoti is a political scientist, who has published prolifically on ethnic politics in Nepal since 1990 and has advocated for ethnic federalism. Hangen, an anthropologist, has conducted groundbreaking ethnographic research in the far east of the country on the Mongol National Organization (MNO) and the movement for Janajati (ethnic minority) rights more generally. The editors decided, justifiably in my opinion, to include in the book two highly relevant but previously published papers: Krishna Bhattachan’s prescient article “Ethnopolitics and Ethnodevelopment: An Emerging Paradigm in Nepal” (originally published in 1995) and Hangen’s “Boycotting Dasain: History, Memory and Ethnic Politics in Nepal” (originally published 2005), which describes a key movement in the identity politics of post-1990 Nepal. In his new postscript Bhattachan quite rightly points out that Nepal’s adhesion to ILO 169 and to the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights has created a new situation, with legal rights in principle claimable by those categorized as indigenous (there are currently 59 such groups within Nepal). He also rightly points out that most of the political elite of Nepal have completely failed to understand the implications of these new international instruments, a failure of political imagination that has had tragic consequences for the country.
The new contributions to the book cover the role of ethnicity in business (Mallika Shakya); Hill Dalits (Steven Folmar); Muslims (Megan Adamson Sijapati, Mollica Dastider); and the Madhesi movement (Bandita Sijapati). In addition there is a substantial introduction by Hangen and Lawoti, and two comparative concluding chapters by Lawoti: the first comparing the Dalit, Janajati, and Madhesi movements, and the final one usefully surveying the history of violence in ethnic movements in the country (and concluding, as most ethnic activists do, that it is only lack of accommodation to ethnic demands that leads to violence and separatism).
Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nepal provides much valuable new material, not accessible in English before, on Dalits, Muslims and Madhesis, all significant populations who have suffered scholarly neglect in Nepali studies. Dalits and Muslims are the two most economically and socially disadvantaged groups in the country and have the weakest political representation. They are also two of the groups which cannot claim to be indigenous. Adamson Sijapati provides a careful and very valuable analysis of the speeches and discourses of the National Muslim Forum in the period 2005–06, as it sought to develop an identity for all Muslim Nepalis that was patriotic, non-ethnic, and non-threatening to the Hindu majority. Folmar brings out how vulnerable Dalits are—spread out throughout the country, with no territory to call their own, and defined by their place at the bottom of the caste system—to a new politics that prioritizes indigeneity and geographical belonging (a point also made forcibly by Lawoti).
The Madhesis, in contrast to Muslims and Dalits, do indeed have a place to call their own, but it is not always clear who is and who is not a Madhesi (as Sijapati describes). The Madhesi territory is the strategically crucial strip of Gangetic plain, or Tarai, mostly no more than twenty miles wide, that runs from east to west across the country and shares a long, hard-to-police border with India. This border is “open” for citizens of the two countries but supposed to be controlled so far as goods are concerned. “Madhesi,” the name for Nepalis of Indian ethnicity, is the newest “macro category” recognized in the country, newer even than “Dalit” and “Janajati.” Whether Tharus are to be included in the macro category is a highly controversial question, answered very differently in the west of the country from the way it is answered in the east. Thus, Madhesis are an ethnic category still very much in the making.
The penultimate chapter by Lawoti stands out in that it attempts a systematic analysis of four different movements: Madhesi, Limbu, Janajati as a whole, and Dalit. He shows that a high ability to hold bandhs (general strikes), the presence of armed groups supporting the aims of the movement, the ability to mobilize votes, representation in government institutions, high levels of education, cultural cohesiveness and distinctiveness, territorial integrity, and the ability to extract concessions from government are all features that tend to be correlated with each other. His analysis goes a considerable way to explaining the relative weakness of the Dalit movement, which scores low on all these counts.
Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nepal cannot be said to provide a full and rounded picture of nationalism and ethnicity in the country today. For that, there would need to have been more consideration of the ethnography of everyday life, of the continuing relevance of Nepali nationalism, of the range of Janajati movements, and of the appeal of the new Bahun and Chhetri ethnic movements that, as Lawoti notes, have arisen in response to the situation the book describes. None the less, the book will be an important reference for anyone concerned with understanding Nepal’s present and future.
University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom David N. Gellner
THE MAKING OF SOUTHEAST ASIA: International Relations of a Region. Cornell Studies in Political Economy. By Amitav Acharya. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, 2013. xviii, 350 pp. (Tables, B&W illus., maps.) US$26.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8014-7736-2.
Second editions, like film sequels, rarely equal their predecessors. The Making of Southeast Asia is a significant exception. Acharya’s 2000 book, The Quest for Identity: International Relations of Southeast Asia was regarded as a landmark by many of the leading figures in Southeast Asian studies, not all of whom agreed with its argument or perspective. This second edition is almost twice its length and updates the narrative through 2011. It covers a wider swathe of issues and writers and elaborates a more refined theoretical framework. This time it will attract attention among scholars and practitioners of international relations as well as area studies experts.
Elegantly written in accessible prose, Making is a compelling cross-over volume at a moment when inter-disciplinary, theoretically innovative, imaginatively researched, and policy relevant scholarship is proliferating. Intellectually challenging and politically important, it is a double-spanned bridge across rivers that separate international relations from Southeast Asia area studies and, in addition, that separate the study of international relations from its practice. Part historical and ideational narrative, part summary and reflexive assessment of the academic interpreters of the developments he analyzes, the main argument remains the radically simple one that Southeast Asia can only be understood as something greater than the sum of its national parts. It is anything but a term of convenience or an empty slogan like “unity in diversity.” Acharya takes the ideas of region, regionalism, regional interactions and regional identity seriously and with precision. Simultaneously a region-in-being and a region-in-the-making, Southeast Asia is the product of a centuries-long, conscious and unfinished effort to create a regional identity that in Acharya’s words must be understood from a “holistic regional perspective” (29).
The empirical chapters start with the pre-colonial period and ideas like mandala, galactic polity, solar polity and theatre state that differentiate the state systems and norms of interaction in Europe and Southeast Asia. His story continues through the periods of colonialism then postwar nationalism, decolonization, the Cold War and great power rivalry, the failure of multiple regional and extra-regional institutions, the birth and evolution of ASEAN, the Vietnam and Indo-China wars, a changing regional production system and political economy, the reemergence of the idea of “One Southeast Asia as a matter of faith” (215), and the multi-pronged effort to move beyond collaboration to community building.
The sections on ASEAN focus on its origins and evolution, its successes and failures, the recurring problems of difference and internal tensions, and the new challenges it faces in the rise of China and India, other regional formations, and new transnational challenges related to pandemics, haze, climate change and democratization and the need for “post-sovereignty” norms. Portions of the story are well known but what distinguishes this account is the singularity of focus, the pattern he sees, and the nuanced treatment of ideas, material conditions, key individuals and their dreams, institutional and normative flux, and the interaction of internal and external forces.
As both an observer and player in much of the recent ASEAN and ASEAN-centred diplomacy and debate, Acharya has had the benefit of a front row seat and multiple intellectual homes in think tanks and universities in Australia, Singapore, Canada, the UK and the United States. The sparkle in the book is not only the originality of the argument; it is the creative use and synthesis of the best scholarship by writers inside and outside Southeast Asia, historians, anthropologists, geographers, political economists, political scientists, and international relations specialists among them. As synopsis, Making is of similar character to the multiple editions of John Fairbank’s The United States and China.
Acharya is a measured advocate for a Southeast Asian identity and institutions even as he sees their fragile and evolving nature and the recurrent possibility of their unraveling. While much of his account focuses on state-centred actors, only a few of them enlightened democrats, this is more than billiard-ball realism. Recognizing that ASEAN is largely an elite-driven process, his heart and hope lies equally with the new forces of civil society and democratization—the foundations of what he calls “participatory regionalism”—and an agenda that includes collaborative efforts to deal with traditional and human security concerns in the face of rising trans-national pressures.
Acharya is also passionate about the twin processes of indigenization. First, over the broad haul, Southeast Asian regionalism is “indigenously constructed rather than exogenously determined” through socialization processes distinctive to the region (294). Second, he emphasizes the indigenization of knowledge, taking seriously ideas and experience that have developed within the region and how they connect with policy makers and scholars outside it, all in the attempt “to remedy the essentially Euro- and Americanocentric nature of contemporary international relations theories and concepts” (52).
The debates that the book will engender promise to be fierce and constructive. Making is quickly becoming required reading for graduate courses around the Pacific. It can also be used in undergraduate teaching, especially chapters 3 through 8. The photographs are superb and bring to mind the next pedagogical frontier: connecting text and video archives as an integrated whole. And it is just the libretto that often-puzzled Western diplomats and political leaders need for understanding the history, players, and motives they encounter in a frenetic world of ASEAN diplomacy, of which they are a welcome but peripheral part.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada Paul Evans
In a series of interrelated discussions of the state of development in Southeast Asia, Jonathan Rigg interweaves ideas of development and social political indicators. His aim is modest even though he seeks to challenge powerful ideas that have continued to shape the development trajectory of the region. In the first place, Rigg seeks to show the limits of planning, of grand theories and model makings in achieving their developmental goals; in the second, to situate development within the contingency of time and space specific to the region; and in the third, to place the prospect of development within the spectrum of ordinary life where people, in their diverse environments and practices, develop their own plans. Rigg calls these kinds of local practices “unplanned development.” It refers to the fact that people develop but not necessarily along the lines of development plans issued by policy makers. The result is a useful overview of the limits of a grand developmental plan and insightful suggestions about the capacity of people and their ordinary life in generating their own version of development.
A substantial portion of Unplanned Development is concerned with the fate of grand ideas. After a concise introduction to the book in chapter 1, Rigg begins with chapter 2 by attempting to map the problematic assumptions of development planning by the state, the business sectors and the international agencies in different places in Southeast Asia (with some references to China and India). He argues that while planning seeks to justify itself as an objective social technology, it is basically a political project subjected to power relations. Planning is also standing on shaky ground even though it claims a totality of knowledge. It has never been effective. If it has, it is by chance thanks to extra forces at work. Rigg, however, acknowledges the ideological power of planning for it maintains the desires of members of a society for a better life. The notion of desire is appropriate for it connotes an aspiration that can never become reality, especially in the Global South. Rigg starts his story with post-World War II as if planning is a postcolonial phenomenon. Planning indeed could be seen as a symbol of decolonization and an attempt to construct a new time, but this aspiration is skewed by the limited capacities of the government and the strength of power’s matrices in manipulating development to serve interest groups. The postcolonial state thus has largely failed to deliver the promise of development, but the way out is also not as simple as to let the market do the job.
The third chapter makes just precisely this point. It undertakes the assessment of how neoliberal market ideology, which influenced the region in the 1990s, has ended up in disaster as exemplified by the financial crisis in Asia. Rigg, however, is careful in providing an explanation for the crisis, for one of the main purposes of this chapter is to criticize the causal explanations favoured by policy analysts. Central to this chapter is the relationship between the state and the market and how this relationship produced a dominant top-down developmental plan often outside the contexts of the social environment it seeks to develop. This chapter is carefully constructed to show the temporal conjuncture of the regional division of labor as Southeast Asia became part of the international division of labour as a result of pursuing export-oriented industrial policy. It prepares the ground for the following chapter, which provides a historical context for the region’s incorporation into the developmentalist paradigm.
Chapter 4 is the turning point of the book. Rigg begins by mapping the social and political life of developmental discourses in Southeast Asia from the 1960s (marginalizing thus the period of colonial planning) to the present. He assesses the fate of one major discourse which continues to operate in a variety of forms: modernization theory, and compare it to micro-inventions that took place at the same time in the realm of everyday life in the Mekong Delta. Rigg contends that the “ordinary” invention of the shrimp-tail water pump is as crucial as the much promoted Green Revolution in the “agricultural transformation” of Southeast Asia. The “unplanned development” of the shrimp-tail water pump effectively shows that the teleology of modernization theory is only one among many narratives of development. The local innovation of the shrimp-tail pump connotes multiple practices of development. This chapter thus marks the shift from problematizing planning to showing the importance of daily practices in developing livelihood.
Chapters 5 and 6 are the core of the book. They are about the power of the ordinary people in coming to terms with their life circumstances and how they generate the unplanned development for themselves. To represent the innovative life of the ordinary, Rigg first exposes the limit of knowledge constructed by institutions of development to create a profile of the poor for the satisfaction of quantitative measurement. The connection he makes about poverty alleviation and fertility decline in Southeast Asia is interesting for it raises the question of agency, of how the rural poor survives and how they seek continuity with their social life (in the village) while coming to terms with the mobility demanded by government’s industrial policies. Centering on what people do, the linkage between the rural and the urban is less a government strategy than people’s reworking of established practices of family, migrancy and place-making as well as dealing with the nature of farming. The practice of linking the rural and the urban survive several generations, but over time it has also contributed to the decline of fertility. In this chapter, Rigg manages to show the interplay of structure and agency. It provides a platform for the last chapter to offer a suggestion that any plan for development needs to be centered on the question of what people do in the specific contexts of space and time within which they are embedded.
Finally, while the bulk of Unplanned Development is concerned primarily with rural development, one could ask if the insights could be shared with scholars working on the city. In any case, the growth of mega-cities in Southeast Asia has made the notion of “planning” the most widely heard word in the region. Rigg’s book would at least challenge urban planners to think about development in a more diverse way and to start and end planning with the ordinary life of people in mind.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada Abidin Kusno
COSTS AND BENEFITS OF CROSS-COUNTRY LABOUR MIGRATION IN THE GMS. GMS Development Series, 2. Edited by Hossein Jalilian. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2012, xxi, 416 pp. (Illus., maps.) US$54.90, cloth, ISBN 978-981-4345-33-0; US$29.90, paper, ISBN 978-981-4311-89-2.
The GMS refers to the Greater Mekong Sub-region, comprised of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. It’s part of the Greater Mekong Region (GMR) that includes the four countries and Myanmar. The GMS is also part of another broader and less formal regional partnership with Yunnan Province of the People’s Republic of China. Cooperation among the GMS countries and Yunnan is facilitated by the Development Analysis Network (DAN). It includes research institutes from each GMS country including the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) that oversees the functioning of the DAN. The CDRI assisted Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in preparing Jalilian’s volume for publication. He previously served as the CDRI’s director of research, a responsible position that enabled him to become acquainted with an ensemble of impressive scholars, some of whom he recruited to become contributors to his edited volume.
The book’s timeliness is confirmed by the contents of a report by the International Labor Office (ILO) that recently estimated that there are approximately 200 million migrant labourers who working abroad. The ILO further estimated that half of them are women. It reported that migrant labourers often lack sufficient everyday protections and are often systematically deprived of basic worker rights. The most egregious lack of sufficient protection affects women and children, who all too often fall victim to human traffickers who use them for illicit and/or illegal purposes. Unfortunately some of the most inhumane aspects of labour migration worldwide continue to take place in some GMS countries.
Jilian’s edited volume analyzes problems associated with these practices and treats them as serious depravities but on the whole it deals with practices that are legal and generally socially acceptable. The book focuses on the human dramas that play out daily throughout the GMS when some 200,000 people cross borders in search of “better lives.” Their analysis starts off by offering these key definitions. “International migration refers to the movement of persons from one state to another, with the intention of settling temporarily or permanently in a state other than the state of which the persons are nationals. Emigration refers to the exit of the migrant from the source country while immigration refers to the entry of the migrant into the destination country” (6). There are several types of migration: “regular, irregular, legal, illegal, voluntary and forced (e.g. trafficking)” (6).
With these definitions in mind, the study focuses on Thailand as the primary country of destination across whose borders workers from three source countries move: Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The volume examines the patterns of costs and benefits that flow from GMS migration, particularly their distribution among migrant communities, source countries and the key country of destination. The book points out that migrant communities are made up of three types of people: first, cross-state workers who are motivated to move and work elsewhere as a response to individual aspirations, or “dreams”; second, others who do so as a matter of inherited tradition; third and most significantly, migrants driven to cross state borders out of economic necessities and/or better employment opportunities. It analyzes the GMS’s migration experience in these six chapters: the first chapter deals with winners and losers generated by migration throughout the GMS generally; chapters 2 through 5 focus on the economic costs and benefits generated specifically in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam; and chapter 6 summarizes the lessons learned and how they can provide bases for better public policy making.
The chapters contain so much empirical, historical and theoretical materials that they defy brief descriptions. However, the volume’s basic theme is stated succinctly: “In this state-centric system, the possession of legal citizenship has been the core basis for awarding a person with full state recognition and the protection of such rights as life, liberty, security, movement, expression, and a standard of living enough to guarantee his or her well-being. Where these rights do not or only partly get fulfilled in their countries of origin [or source], some people venture abroad in the hope of improving their economic, political, and social circumstances” (1). However: “Lacking citizenship in their host [destination] countries migrants in general tend to end up grappling with even greater uncertainty regarding the status of their rights” (1).
They grapple in order to gain rights as well as to maximize benefits and minimize costs. On the cost side they leave home to enter an environment where destination country residents are often hostile to them. They leave behind families, traditions, communities and social familiarities and native languages and enter a land where custom and language are different. However, on the benefit side as documented aliens they have workplace and other rights and in the workplace they earn more income that they can use to consume a broader range of products, save for future consumption and/or investment, and remit to the families they leave behind.
On the positive side, Thailand has made grappling easier for most migrants via an institutionalized process of gaining documentation that offers protection to some migrant labour. With proper documentation migrant workers can “lodge complaints to labour protection offices in the courts; however, immigration enforcement has undermined the process” (393). In cases where “undermining” has occurred a worker can take her/his complaints to higher courts. A deported worker has the right to continue pursuing a legal matter even after an “order of deportation” has been executed. There’s a lesson in all of this: failing to grant a migrant labourer workplace rights an employer runs the risk of being encumbered by legal fees, court time and possibly less favourable access to important migrant labour markets.
Jalilian and his associates go on to specify in great detail the range of economic, legal, social and political costs and benefits that impact the individual migrant, the source countries and the primary country of destination. They offer an interesting, well-presented, content-laden, superbly researched, scholarly yet readable book on an important and timely topic. The human story they “tell” makes the book a “natural” for inclusion in university-level courses ranging from anthropology, economics, geography that contain study units on Asia specifically and development generally. General readers will also find the book useful as it offers insights into the nature of GMS migration.
California State University, Sacramento, USA
University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Honolulu, USA Robert Curry
DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: Recent Histories and Future Directions. Studies on Southeast Asia, no. 57. Lindy Williams and Michael Philip Guest, editors. Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 2012. 221 pp. (Tables, maps, figures.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-877-27757-6.
This edited volume on the demography of Southeast Asia presents a thorough, systematic overview of demographic change across the region in a very accessible manner that assumes no prior specialist knowledge of this area of the world. It is therefore a bit unfortunate that the book is published through a venue that specializes in the region and is now being reviewed in a journal focused on Asia as well, since the book would be of value to anyone wishing to understand processes and implications of demographic change in general and not just in Asia. One could even imagine this book to be part of a series on demographic trends in the world today (though unfortunately it is not), with other volumes presenting parallel treatments of other major world regions. Because the book could be used as a text on demographic analysis as illustrated through an extended case study of one particular part of the world, one hopes that it will attract an audience of demographers and not just area specialists.
Conversely, and despite the specificity of its focus on demography, the book can also be read as an introduction to the region of Southeast Asia. Since so many aspects of Southeast Asian history, culture, environment and livelihoods are intricately intertwined with population dynamics, the analysis of past, current and projected demographic change provides a very informative, if unconventional, entry point for learning about and understanding Southeast Asia. I therefore see this book as being appropriate for use in any area studies course dealing with the region overall, especially a course with a social science orientation.
A repeatedly emphasized theme throughout the volume’s seven core chapters is that of diversity across the region—in terms of languages, religions, political structures, levels of economic development and so forth—which is perhaps to be expected for what may be seen as historically a peripheral region, the in-between zone on the margins of Asia’s two great civilizational empires. In the pre-colonial past the region was characterized by low population densities and a political landscape of small (and some not so small) kingdoms defined more by the political loyalties they engendered than the territories they controlled. The effects of European colonialism profoundly altered these relations and laid the groundwork for rapid population growth into the post-colonial period. These developments are reviewed and analyzed in the excellent, historically grounded first chapter (by Charles Hirschman and Sabrina Bonaparte) that both temporally and geographically contextualizes the material in the rest of the book.
Subsequent chapters are organized around specific fundamental factors in demographic analysis, namely fertility (by Terence Hull), marriage (by Gavin Jones and Bina Gubhaju) and aging (by Ghazy Mujahid). These chapters are followed by a detailed overview of migration and mobility in the region (by Graeme Hugo) and a chapter examining the interconnections between migration and human health (by Mark Vanlandingham and Hongyun Fu). The last main chapter (by Sara Curran and Noah Derman) could in some respects be seen as a departure from the more purely demographic chapters that precede it, as it focuses on the complex interactions between population and environment in the region. The destruction of the natural environment and depletion of environmental resources that have characterized the region since the 1980s especially are not narrowly linked to population dynamics but, rather, are tightly bound up with other dynamic processes, such as the growth of industrialization, rapid and large-scale urban expansion, the deepening of market relations and linkages into the global economy, and in some cases the follow-on effects of migration out of the region, as when remittances from overseas relatives are spent on new, more efficient equipment for resource extraction. Because of its subject matter and, in particular, current concerns for the looming impacts of global climate change, this penultimate chapter (it is followed by a short concluding overview by Michael Philip Guest and Lindy Williams) is the most future-oriented (and thus most worrisome) part of the book. With regard to the structure of the volume, this piece on population-environment interactions and their implications for the not-too-distant future complements the historically grounded initial chapter, and together they function nicely as conceptual bookends for the five intervening chapters.
In addition to producing a quality text, the writers and editors have taken care to compile data from sometimes disparate sources and present these in highly accessible graphical form throughout the book, allowing the reader to quickly gain a comparative understanding of the countries of the region through a wide array of variables and socio-economic characteristics. The book therefore functions to an extent as a sourcebook for basic demographic and demographically related data on the region. In summary, this volume, which brings together current analysis by some of the most knowledgeable and experienced scholars of demographic change in Southeast Asia, is an exceptionally informative and useful book for anyone seeking to understand the critical social processes that are shaping this world region.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada Michael Leaf
BEYOND THE SACRED FOREST: Complicating Conservation in Southeast Asia. Edited by Michael R. Dove, Percy E. Sajise, and Amity A. Doolittle. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. xiii, 372 pp. (Tables, graphs, maps.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-4796-5.
Recent social, economic and ecological changes in Southeast Asia have been both rapid and comprehensive, with people, livelihoods and landscapes undergoing major transformations (D. Hall, P. Hirsch and T. Li, Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia, NUS Press, 2011). Transnational governance pressures, heightened boom-crop production, the rise in cross-border flows of labour and capital, and the related out-migration of people to new areas of economic opportunity have shattered older categories of peoples, livelihoods and landscapes in Southeast Asia. The prospect of conserving forests and biodiversity according to long-standing binaries—such as traditional vs. modern or indigenous vs. migrant—quickly break down as globalizing processes “go local” in the region, confounding simple management formulae or “final or fixed endpoints in conservation and development” (4). In this context, the diverse theoretical and empirically grounded collection of essays in the book Beyond the Sacred Forest aim to engage the contemporary challenges facing policy makers and conservation practitioners in Southeast Asia today.
Edited by Dove, Sajise and Doolittle, Beyond the Sacred Forest develops new perspectives and insights about how conservation policy and practice can no longer afford to achieve its objectives by reinvesting in older, dualistic categories that oversimplify the process and outcomes of local interventions. The book represents an excellent attempt to move conservation thinking and practice beyond its colonial-era hangover to examine how historical and contemporary processes have constructed certain assumptions and ideals that guide conservation policy and practice today. The chapters draw together authors with varied theories and empirical perspectives that challenge long-standing disciplinary ideas and societal ideals that inform policy of how people and landscapes “ought” to be or become. In doing so, the editors and authors do an admirable job of critically engaging the received wisdoms of overused terms such as tradition, community and conservation. As the initial chapters show, the editors’ overview of the cross-cutting themes in the book—local complexity, the significance of history, and power, knowledge and discourse—aim to challenge from a non-Western, Southeast Asian perspective the myths produced by Eurocentric stereotypes embedded in colonial and post-colonial governance interventions. They challenge, for example, the romantic and over-stated notion of traditional knowledge, indigenous conservation, homogenous communities and unidimensional, static views of livelihood often found in conservation planning. In embracing analytical complexity, the authors continue to honour the subjective values and realities of local people and those (extra-local actors) they engage with, as well as the structures and constraints of material realities. The book does well to engage the limits of structural materialism and post-structural “over critique” that now defines much analysis in human-environment relations.
Three book sections cover nine theoretically informed empirical chapters addressing rural conservation and development themes in insular Southeast Asia, principally Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The first section, titled “The Boundary Between Natural and Social Reproduction,” includes Tuck-Po’s chapter on Taman Negara National Park and how the symbolic representation of forest, people and wildlife intersect with and inform management ideals, beliefs and practices with direct consequences for people, fauna and flora inside of park boundaries. Kathirithamby-Wells’ chapter offers a deeper historical analysis of the origins and impacts of rubber and oil palm plantation agriculture and how extensive commercial intensification has progressively decimated natural forests with mono-cropped systems, taking away from smallholder resilience. Next, Dove’s chapter offers a nuanced empirical account of Dayak cultural interpretation of the symbolic, biophysical and economic value of rubber in swidden systems, where the income from and lifecycle of rubber in swiddens may give life to livelihood (e.g., due to sustained, enhanced income) but death to fields (e.g., rotational cycles, other crops). The chapter reveals why some rubber may well be suited for smallholder plots and their agro-ecological conditions. In section 2, “Community Rights Discourses Through Time,” Djalins’ chapter discusses the social and political construction of adat tenure, from the Dutch colonial era’s strategic use of the concept for social control of subjects to civil society’s current use of adat to denote traditional occupancy and sustainable use to leverage project legitimacy. Doolittle examines how local social relations of access and use are intertwined with the changing nature of property rights and community dynamics in the context of state land laws, management and political economy. Harwell considers how boundary making in the Danau Sentarum Widlife Reserve is inflected by and shaped through state and local identity politics, and the values local people assign to resources within boundaries. She notes how boundary mapping is embedded within and influenced by seasonal landscape variability, community change and the dynamics of state-civil society relations. Duhaylungsod similarly examines how in the southern Philippines, notions of indigeneity and community among the T’boli of Mindanao have been constructed through and impacted upon by a range of upland development projects and native title mapping that articulates with socio-political movements, conservation efforts and broader landscape changes. In section 3, “Reconstructing and Representing Indigenous Environmental Knowledge,” Sulistyawati engages Dove’s earlier work by using simulated modeling to examine (across a diverse range of micro variables) how household knowledge, family demography and livelihood changes affect forestland availability, the viability of swidden and broader landscape changes. The final chapter by Winarto offers detailed insights into how the paradigm of integrated pest management has had differential uptake, impacts on pest control and crop yields, and contrasting effect on farmer value, knowledge and adoption as compared to state interests in modern, capital-intensive inputs.
The book’s focus on insular Southeast Asia was refreshing and while not representative of the region, provided much needed insights on how changing forms of conservation and development are intersecting with and influencing local livelihoods, identity politics and landscape change in insular environments. While the chapters varied in quality, overall the volume achieved its goals of trying to integrate critical social analysis with appropriate theory and empirical analysis that accurately captured the reality of the localities in which the authors had worked. It is a serious attempt to ground critical social analysis with interdisciplinary perspectives that are theoretically informed and empirically robust.
The edited volume offers strong interdisciplinary analysis from a range of scholars across insular Southeast Asia, thereby positioning this book as a truly collaborative, regional effort. The volume will be of use to academics, practitioners and policy makers who hope to gain further insights from critical, collaborative, and interdisciplinary research that problematicizes simplified and romanticized notions of people, communities and forest conservation in the region.
Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands Wolfram Dressler
AGENT ORANGE: History, Science, and the Politics of Uncertainty. By Edwin A. Martini. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012. xvi, 302 pp. (illus., map.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-55849-975-1.
In 1962 the US military began using herbicides in Vietnam to defoliate forests and destroy food crops in order to deny cover and sustenance to revolutionary forces. Between 1962 and 1970, at airports and US operation centres throughout South Vietnam, more than 20 million gallons of herbicide were stored, mixed, handled and loaded into airplanes for the spraying campaign. The effort denuded five million acres of forest and destroyed crops in another 500,000 acres, an area the size of Massachusetts. Areas of Cambodia and Laos along the border were also sprayed. As many as 4.1 million Vietnamese and 2.8 million US military personnel may have been exposed. In 1970 the Nixon Administration ordered a halt to the spraying program. The remaining stocks of Agent Orange were removed from Vietnam and a US staging point, Gulfport, Mississippi, and were incinerated at sea in the Pacific in 1977. This might have been the end of the matter except that Agent Orange and some of the other herbicides were contaminated with dioxin, a highly toxic and persistent organic pollutant. Edwin Martini, in his excellent new book, quotes the mayor of Gulfport, Mississippi: “Like most people, I know very little about dioxin, but from what I can understand, it is one of the most deadly chemicals known to man” (116). The story continues to this day. A 2009 poll of Americans revealed that 80 percent of respondents recognized the term “Agent Orange” and two-thirds of them correctly linked it with Vietnam.
To a degree, even now questions of exposure, causality, compensation and justice polarize debates over the legacy of Agent Orange. Martini’s work “seeks to recover both the history of Agent Orange as a material artifact—the actual herbicide used by the United States in Southeast Asia, which had very real and very serious effects—and the cultural phenomenon of ‘Agent Orange,’ the meaning of which has been steadily made and remade by people around the world” (5). At the outset he puts his finger precisely on the paradox at the center of the Agent Orange legacy: “The more scientists learned about dioxin and the more precisely they could measure and detect it in discrete amounts, the more they were able to identify its potential threat to human and environmental health. Better detection, however, did not lead to greater ability to predict with accuracy what the effects of that exposure would be, particularly in human health” (7).
Chapter 1 describes how the Kennedy Administration came to weaponize herbicides in Southeast Asia as a technological substitute for manpower and the vast logistical system that developed from that decision. Chapter 2 draws on US archival records to reconstruct how soldiers and civilians in Vietnam in the 1960s experienced Agent Orange on the ground. Martini concludes that “there appears to be little, if any, concrete evidence that herbicidal warfare was in fact militarily effective” (81). Chapter 3 moves to the aftermath of war—the challenges the military faced in disposing of the remaining stocks of Agent Orange in Vietnam and the US and how citizens of Times Beach, Missouri, and New Plymouth, New Zealand, responded to dioxin contamination in their communities. In chapter 4 Martini shows how competing discourses of exposure, risk, human health and scientific uncertainty affected the legal and political battles of veterans in the US and Australia. Chapter 5 extends the analysis in chapter 4 to examine how the Agent Orange legacy is playing out worldwide in the 2000s, particularly in Vietnam. This is a bold book. In the conclusion Martini brings his historian’s perspective to three contentious questions: How could the US and its allies do such a thing? Should the use of Agent Orange be considered chemical warfare? What can and should be done for US veterans, Vietnamese victims and others around the world who believe they are suffering as a result of Agent Orange?
Martini has written the most complete history of Agent Orange to date. It is excellent. His book fills an important gap in the historical literature on the Vietnam War and contributes to a larger literature on the consequences and legacies of modern warfare. It should be at the top of the reading list for people of all persuasions engaged with the Agent Orange issue today. It will be of use to students and policy makers and, one hopes, a caution to military planners.
One element is missing from this story. Over the last half decade American foundations and a group of eminent private citizens in the US and Vietnam have broken through the logjam of scientific dispute and recrimination over Agent Orange that for decades has clouded relations between Vietnam and the United States. They have set their governments on a path to clean up the dioxin contaminated soils at former US military installations in Vietnam and provide new resources for those affected “regardless of cause.” Since 2007 over $100 million dollars have been raised for these purposes from both private donors and the US government. More than 40 years after the spraying of Agent Orange was halted, its legacy has been transformed into a humanitarian concern we can do something about.
The Aspen Institute, New York, USA Charles R. Bailey
SITUATING FILIPINO CIVILISATION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: Reflections and Observations. By Niels Mulder. Saarbrücken, Germany: LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing, 2012. 248 pp. Euro79.00. ISBN 978-3-659-13083-0.
This book consists of five essays that examine “the regional and historical contexts in which Filipino civilization should be studied” (4). One is immediately struck by the hortatory tone that Niels Mulder takes. He wants to tell readers—Filipinos included—that his is the proper way to study Filipino culture and society. While the prescriptive aim is fine, the slippages in execution are far too numerous to allow him this conceit.
Mulder claims that the only way “current Filipino civilisation should be understood” is “in its regional and historical contexts” (6). He starts with summations of the writings of historians of “pre-modern” Southeast Asia, but mutates into an elaboration on the similarity between the Filipinos’ concepts of individuality, conscience, private-versus-public spheres to those of the Thais and the Indonesians. The reason is that these are the three societies that he studied and lived in.
Unfortunately, the comparisons are not convincing. The same themes can be easily found in Latin American societies with which the Philippines—because of Spain via Mexico and the Catholic Church—shares some common bond. And what of another and more believable comparison: that of the Philippines and the United States, which actually brought in many of these “values,” and as Alfred McCoy has pointed out, also imported a lot from the Philippines? Why force a regional comparison when a colony-metropole contrast may yield more fruitful insights? Mulder does not tell us why his approach is superior; he just assumes it is, merely citing the purported binary of excessive concern of Filipino scholars with either the application of Western concepts or the search for indigenous roots of current society.
Mulder quietly shelves a region in the Philippines that is most Southeast Asian: Muslim Mindanao. Muslim Mindanao was hardly touched by Spanish colonialism and maintained its linkages with Southeast Asia despite a more effective American colonial state. The regional connections (and thus the contexts for meaningful comparisons) are there even today, in part because of the difficulty of policing these frontier zones. The reason for this lacuna is quite obvious: Mulder knows hardly anything about that part of the country (his account of the “Muslim rebellion” is exceedingly sparse).
Mulder argues that Filipino nationhood is insufficient because of the absence of a moral order as manifested in a “centre of civilisation” (7). Filipinos are thus divided into “two nations … the largely mestizo state-owning class and the ‘common tao’” (7). The latter’s separation is further “enhanced by the systematic exclusion of the ordinary citizen from the oligarchic political process.” This is an inaccurate depiction. Mestizos could indeed be found in positions of political and administrative power, but they hardly “owned” these pedestals, sharing it with non-mestizos as far back as the early post-war period. Were Presidents Garcia, Magsaysay and Marcos, as well as the majority of the members of the legislature mestizos? Hardly. It is class not the colour of one’s skin that informs oligarchic dominance; the ruling class was, and remains, ethnically diverse. And were the progressive “visionaries” really marginalized and made “irrelevant to the public agenda” (38)? Not really: the social scientist Gerald Clarke has shown otherwise.
Mulder explores (folk?) religiosity to further underscore this moral gap. But once he extends this to politics, his attempts at careful ethnography soon give way again to summaries of familiar histories. Further, certain actors’ impacts on history are overblown while others are misplaced. True, the Catholic Church did mobilize thousands in February 1986 to protect the military plotters against President Marcos, but a more convincing explanation was the way in which the plotters outmaneuvered the dictator in the fight over the support of the majority of the military that stood on the sidelines. The late Mario Bolasco succinctly explained that during the 1986 “People Power Revolution” against Marcos, the higher the class status, the more religious the participants were. It was more likely that “ordinary folks” joined the EDSA revolution for more secular reasons. Another example: The statement “Following the assassination of Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino on 23 [sic—it was the 21st] August 1983, the ideas of the sixties resounded again throughout society” is simply not true (38). In fact, the Communist Party and its allied organizations soon found that the “sixties” slogans and ideas they thought to have had proprietary rights over were outmatched by the smaller, looser, but more creative non-Left coalitions.
Finally, Mulder sees English as one of the culprits behind the problems of nationhood. He claims that it is a language that is not spoken by ordinary people, but it permeates the PA systems and advertisements in malls, shops, town halls and banks, the voice of the dominant elite loudly broadcasting to the masses. In actuality, English has become an enduring part of the national linguistic landscape. It has assumed a local hue in such everyday greetings as “Good morning Ma’am-Sir” and it blends itself with the other languages to create Tag-lish in the Manila area and Vis-English in the Central Visayas.
Why is there so much missing here, when compared to Mulder’s insights on Thai and Indonesian societies (one notices his propensity to cite himself as the main source of things Thai)? One suspects it is his lack of access to the Filipino languages. There is no evidence that Mulder is respectively fluent in Tagalog, Visayan, Ilocano or any of the Muslim languages, and in this book he is solely reliant on English language sources. Perhaps the Philippines—because of English—need not be treated as intimately as Thailand.
Mulder states that he has developed “the comfort of a thick skin” (207) in the long years he stayed in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, where he had “many confrontations with ‘the other’” (207). Perhaps he does not care what the “natives” of these societies think of his public views about them. Unfortunately, despite such sententious assertions this book adds nothing new to the study of the Philippines.
University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Honolulu, USA Patricio N. Abinales
Working with a rich archive of fiction, newspapers, journals, cartoons and blogs written in English by Filipina/os from 1915 to the present, this book traces an extraordinary genealogy of the entwined relations between elite constructions of the transpacific Filipina woman and Philippine nationalism, in the context of Spanish, US and Japanese imperialism. Constructions of modern Western-educated transpacific Filipinas and Philippine nationalism have been haunted by and circulated within, around and through other iconic representations of Filipinas: the loyal and self-sacrificing Maria Clara (Spanish-Filipino) mestiza; the indigenous pre-colonial Malay; and the provincial barrio girl. As a scholar of contemporary migration of Filipina caregivers, I found this book absolutely captivating: today’s vast global Filipina labour diaspora of nurses and caregivers is rooted in the history told in this book. The migration of Filipinas as care workers has been nurtured by a century-long celebration of the modernizing value of a Western education, a central feature of the US “civilizing” mission in the Philippines. The significance of education for Filipinas should not be underestimated: in the early years of US colonial presence, elite “Filipinas were thought [by Americans] to be more amenable to the civilizing influence of the United States than the men” (43).
The contemporary migration of Filipina care workers is also haunted by Cold War anxieties about Western-educated transpacific femininities, which fostered a reactive sentimental rhetoric about Filipina’s loving heart and capacity for care. As the author states, “the Cold War rhetoric of the caring Filipino heart gives life to the contemporary overseas Filipina worker, a woman glorified as her country’s most valuable export” (222).
The genealogy is staged in five parts, in relation to three empires and five moments in history. The complexities of the Maria Clara stereotype, framed within Spanish Catholic rule, is explored through a nuanced reading of José Rizal’s landmark novel, Noli Me Tangere. The production and circulation of transpacific femininities within debates about women’s suffrage and Philippine nationalism through the 1920s and 1930s are examined through periodicals and romance novels written by Filipinos in Manila and the United States. With the Japanese occupation from 1942–1945, new femininities emerged that were rooted in norms of domesticity: New Order Filipinas who practice “practical patriotism” and the “Guerilla Wife.” A rhetoric of domesticity and sentimentality infused Cold War discourse and the book examines novels written by Filipino and feminist Filipina authors to consider both how Filipinas came to be “pigeonholed into the role of caring for Filipinos abroad” (204) and feminists attempted to resist this. Transpacific femininities ends with a short epilogue that considers David Byrne’s 2010 album constructed around Imelda Marcos and predictable stereotypes of Filipina femininity, alongside contemporary feminist bloggers’ attempts to disrupt the femininities that are so closely examined throughout the book.
This is a rich and highly readable historical account that makes a number of important conceptual and empirical interventions. The book certainly disrupts conventional histories of the Philippines told through the figure of a male migrant or guerilla hero in which Filipinas are “only present as an absence” (146). The book not only considers how femininities are deployed in elite masculinist discourses of empire and nation; it recovers a rich archive of Filipina writing that brings women alive as agents of that history. At the same time the book disrupts conventional feminist readings of gender and nation, especially feminist understandings of the way that the figure of woman often works within nationalist discourse by being aligned with nature and the land. Though central to debates about Philippine independence and nationalism throughout the twentieth century, the transpacific Filipina is a troubling and transgressive figure precisely because she is mobile and unfixed. She threatens to destabilize class and race boundaries and heterosexual norms and has a vexed relationship with both the US empire and Philippine nationalism.
This book also brings to feminist scholarship and activism an important and rich history of thinking about the potentials and limits of global “sisterhood.” The Filipina women’s movement has had a long and productively uneasy relationship with the United States, in the first instance because the women’s movement in the US often has not been anti-imperialist. Many Filipina writers and activists since the 1920s also have recognized and been troubled by the deep structures of racial inequality in the United States. Cruz uncovers a century-long history in which Filipina authors have uncovered their own history of gender equality in their Malay past and attempted to imagine political coalitions and transpacific networks that look and work differently than romanticized notions of global sisterhood. Another fascinating strand of this analysis unravels the complicated relationship of Filipinas to other Asian women; Filipinas in the early decades of the twentieth century, for instance, often defined their exceptionalism in relation to their own orientalizing notions of Asian women.
Cruz is a generous reader who deftly negotiates the political subtleties of the writers and writing that she analyses. For instance, critical of the way that the practical patriotism of the Japanese occupation romanticized women’s role as the nation’s heart, she nonetheless notes the importance of this period for re-orienting Filipinas to Asia and creating a productive distance from the influence of the United States. Few of the writers or pieces of writing that she examines fit easily into the categories of radical or conservative, subversive or compliant; they are muddied and muddled by the complexities of gender, race, nationalist and imperial politics.
This book will be of interest to a wide range of scholars in Asian, American and Gender Studies, and across the disciplines of Sociology, Geography, History and Anthropology. It is a rich historical account that does a lot of conceptual work with great subtlety. Transpacific femininities is written to be widely accessible and could be easily used in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate classes.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada Geraldine Pratt
THE AUTHORITY OF INFLUENCE: Women and Power in Burmese History. Gendering Asia, no. 7. By Jessica Harriden. Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2012. xiii, 370 pp. (Figures, map.) £19.95, paper. ISBN 978-87-7694-089-8.
This is the first history of women in Burma to run the gamut of the historical period, from the second-century BCE to the present day. It is an impressive attempt to encapsulate the experiences of women throughout the shifting geopolity we now know as the state of Myanmar; indeed, Harriden’s success in achieving a history that examines the temporal dimensions across an area that has rarely remained unchanged for long are to be applauded, let alone her focus upon women in particular.
Here, too, she has made an excellent contribution, as scholars of gender issues and history in Myanmar and amongst the Burmese diaspora have had little else to rely upon until very recently. The appearance of two other historical studies of women in Burma relatively simultaneously: Chie Ikeya, Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011) and Tharaphi Than, Women of Modern Burma (Routledge, 2013) indicates, however, that there is a need for the “gender gap in Burmese history” to which Harriden refers (2) to be filled, and that others are beginning to address this need.
The book is modeled closely upon other longue durée histories in the Gendering Asia series from NIAS Press. The classical/premodern period precedes the colonial era, which in turn gives way to a discussion of nationalism, a decade of post-independence social reconfiguration, and increasingly narrower bands of time are analyzed through the end of the twentieth century up until the present day. Where Harriden departs from this model is in her innovative chapters on the ambiguity of “femaleness” in Burmese culture and the empowerment of women in exile.
The introduction emphasizes that the timeless nature of gender equality asserted by some Burmese writers is at variance with reality, contextualizing the situation of women in Burma in a political, social and economic sense. The section on the historiography of gender in Southeast Asia cites the usual gender history suspects in preparing a theoretical framework; the description of sources and methodology (8–14) was enlightening and should be noted by scholars intending to carry out in-country research themselves. Chapter 1 is perhaps the most useful for non-Burmese specialists as it gives an excellent explanation of three Burmese Buddhist concepts, hpoun, ana, and awza, without which it is impossible to understand power in Burma/Myanmar. Chapter 2 is the first historical chapter, drawing together the earliest polities (Pyu, Mon, and Burman groups before the Konbaung dynasty) in a coherent manner for analysis. Chapter 3 is devoted exclusively to the Konbaung dynasty, from 1752 to 1855; chapter 4 starts in the aftermath of the Second Anglo-Burmese War, when the power of the Burmese elite had begun to wane in the face of British annexation, and concludes after the Japanese and the British had been expelled.
Chapter 5 looks at the impact of independence and modernization on women in Burma until the military takeover in 1962, itself explored in chapter 6. Chapter 7 is solely focused upon the rise of Aung San Suu Kyi and her continuing significance despite cultural beliefs regarding gender roles. Chapter 8 carries through from the post-8888 persecutions of pro-democracy group members until early March 2011. Chapter 9 moves outside of Burma/Myanmar proper to the space of exile and resettlement in diaspora, where gender norms have been reconceived in different ways by women who continued to call Burma “home.” The conclusion links together the past history of Burmese women with their present and addresses their potential futures as agents of change and keepers of tradition.
Harriden’s argument is that despite a general belief that Burmese women were accorded higher status than their counterparts elsewhere in Asia, first espoused by colonial-era writers and taken up as evidence of Burmese “progress” in the nationalist movement and after independence in 1948, this was not the case in the distant past nor in the present. She cites examples of women who, through a combination of external forces particular to their time and place, were able to articulate agency and wield power; but these examples are few and reinforce her overall thesis. Aung San Suu Kyi, the symbol of resistance against an oppressive state in what is seen as an inherently Burmese manner, involving non-violent protest, literary works and discussion, is a woman, certainly, but her attraction for the Burmese people began not because of her inherent personal qualities as a leader. It was rather because of her relationship to Aung San, her father, a national hero assassinated at the very moment that Burma prepared to embrace independence from Great Britain. Despite the personal sacrifices she has made in pursuit of freedom for Burma and in spite of her oratory skills that blend Burmese tradition with modern, democratic reform, she is a woman, and therefore cannot possess hpoun. Lacking hpoun, no one can be seen as a force for political change in Burma.
Scholars of Burmese history will find this book an excellent accompaniment to the histories of Burma that tend to obscure women or pay lip service to the supposed “high status” of Burmese women compared to other women in Asia. Readers beyond the academic realm—working in gender and development, public health programming, and governance and human rights training—should read Authority of Influence for a solid grounding in the trajectory of Burmese history and how it has shaped gender perspectives within Burmese culture today. Historians of Southeast and South Asia who are interested in questions of gender will find it essential reading. While some will no doubt complain that a deeper analysis of one or perhaps two periods of history would have been “better,” I argue that there is a place for the longue durée approach, especially in an area of history such as women’s history that has been woefully understudied, if only so as to provide a starting point for future scholars. In this book, Harriden has provided such a beginning, and restored a female voice to the span of Burmese history.
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, USA Trude Jacobsen
Law’s Anthropology is a one-of-a-kind book, although other books cover some of the same ground. The author, Paul Burke, hopes to carry out a sociological study of applied anthropology and to understand the interactions between some of the key actors in the legal system, namely, the judges, the anthropologists, and the Native litigants. To do this, he examines in careful detail key cases in Australian native rights litigation, including Mabo. Burke relies on his own interview data with anthropologists who have provided expert testimony and with litigants themselves. (He writes that he was less successful in getting interviews with judges in these cases, something that I found in my own research into Aboriginal litigation in Canada). Burke also relies on his careful reading of court transcripts and what he terms the anthropological archive. In doing so, he has created a primer for expert witnesses engaged in Aboriginal litigation worldwide. There are several sections that people giving expert testimony would do well to read.
Burke notes that there are few other published insider sources that cover this ground, and for a good reason (which he doesn’t provide). The reason is that material published on one’s thoughts about the legal system would likely be fodder for contentious cross-examination in subsequent bouts of expert testimony. Burke does note, however, at the very end (279) that commentary that “goes beyond the usual bounds of acceptable commentary in most academic legal journals” in the attribution of “active and constructive intervention” by a particular judge in a particular case, if made in court, he writes, might lead to contempt charges (279). But Burke is a critic at heart, and freely challenges and grades the performances of everyone involved in Australian native rights litigation. He will no doubt make both friends and enemies with this book.
Burke is a former Australian council lawyer who encountered anthropologists, and, intrigued, entered the ANU anthropology program, earning a PhD in 2006. He has since worked as a consultant anthropologist on native title claims. He’s seen the legal system in action from several vantage points and is in a good position to comment on what he terms “law’s anthropology.” He doesn’t appear to give expert testimony himself, so he is free to write this book without fear of adverse cross-examination.
Anyone who has given expert testimony in Native cases surely must have worried about the strange process whereby anthropological ideas, concepts and data are rendered into legal categories. Native categories of thought are themselves twisted into anthropological categories, and Burke provides a glimpse of the multiple refractions involved in native litigation. Law’s Anthropology opens with a blow-by-blow account of the development of anthropological theory in Australia in order to show the underlying disputes regarding issues such as land ownership, which anthropologists were forced to address in giving expert testimony. He notes that debates that would have run their course and been largely discarded are revitalized by their entry into legal proceedings. He shows how subtle differences in anthropological perspective can be amplified and distorted in the courts, especially as experts are forced through cross-examination into increasingly tenuous positions. This useful and sometimes fascinating account shows, painfully, how these debates remain unresolved and how particular anthropologists have stumbled over the anthropological archive and earlier theorizing.
In a memorable passage Burke writes that “free anthropology” is “enslaved” by law and becomes “law’s anthropology” (24). Anthropologists compete for control of anthropological ideas with judges, who often have an “ideal image of science” (21) and expect that anthropology should resemble hard sciences. Judges may act as their own amateur anthropologists, making their own evaluations of earlier anthropological theory and data. Indeed, they may view the anthropological archive as needing no contextual knowledge. And, the work of anthropologists who venture into the courts may violate the rules of evidence and require packaging in new and unfamiliar formats, which pressures anthropologists to simplify their ideas.
There are still more difficulties ahead, Burke notes. In one case he examined, a judge rejected an anthropological report because it was produced for litigation, and in another because the anthropologist was too close to the litigants and therefore lacked objectivity (233). A judge warns against participation by the anthropologist in the development of the Indigenous litigant’s case, yet Burke shows the resultant problems for anthropologists whose perspectives do not coincide with those of the litigant who has hired them. Anthropologists are suspected of being influenced by Aboriginal “dogma” (219), and therefore lack credibility, a hideous problem following the Hindmarsh case.
All of these problems push Burke to conclude, not surprisingly, that law is about drawing boundaries and anthropology about openness to new ideas (94). Further, judges retain “structural superiority” to anthropological experts, whose testimony they may dismiss or treat lightly for these and other problems that Burke describes and illustrates with detailed examples. He provides a homology to develop this line of thought, as follows: ethnography: theory : : fact: law. But in the judicial field, he notes, “the fact—law distinction is pervasive and relentless, even forcing anthropological evidence to become more fact-like by announcing a lack of interest in the theoretical entanglements of ethnographic fact” (277). Even so, law and anthropology share and borrow ideas, a process which can lead to the “swallowing and digesting” of anthropology (278).
Burke concludes that his work doesn’t offer solutions to the many practical problems of performing as an expert witness. However, this carefully written and biting examination of the fraught relationships between fields of practice raises the right questions, provides the right examples, and gives insight into a number of intriguing questions, including ones that I am interested in: such as, how have legal processes changed anthropological theorizing itself? (Look at pages 219 and 277 for clues).
The University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, Canada Bruce Granville Miller
FROM MODERN PRODUCTION TO IMAGINED PRIMITIVE: The Social World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea. By Paige West. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012. xvii, 315 pp. (Tables, illus.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5150-4.
Before you settle down to read Paige West’s book, make yourself a cup of coffee. It may be the last time you drink coffee without being troubled by a number of concerns, the least worrying of which could be knowing that the use-value of your cup may not be fully realized. The coffee itself may not satisfy the romantic images that the people who sold it to you have tried to implant in your mind: images of the growers as primitives, or as the poorest of the poor, or as the poorest-of-the poor-bare-breasted-primitives. Perhaps you have images of an unsullied tropical rain forest where you have been led to believe the coffee is grown. Perhaps you hold a superior feeling of consuming a particular sort of coffee and you think of the shining copper coffee roasters which produced it. Or maybe you just have a good feeling that you are consuming a commodity that provides a fair return to its distant Third World producers.
Coffee is the world’s most traded agricultural commodity; the trade is worth over US$15 billion, and almost 100 million bags of coffee are moved around the world, every year. The International Coffee Organization estimates over two billion cups of coffee are consumed every year. Coffee was introduced into Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the 1950s and is now that country’s second most important agricultural export.
West uses coffee growing in PNG to analyze the circulation of coffee in the world and the images of the coffee in the context of neo-liberalization to show, in her own words, “how various forms of value, labor and politics emerge along coffee’s circulatory routes” (28). She focuses on the “materiality” of coffee, in the sense of its impact on the environments in PNG where it is grown, on the people who grow it, as well as on the people who buy it from the growers, prepare it for export and trade it, import it, roast it and sell it in coffee shops in Australia, Germany and the US.
A book that has as its main themes criticisms of neoliberal economics and fair trading could have been rather dull. But Paige West brings these themes to life by using her ethnographic skills to meet and talk with the growers, the buyers, the traders in PNG and overseas and the coffee shop owners. These people may not know each other, although many have associations with PNG, but they are inextricably linked to each other by the coffee bean.
Describing the realities of life in a fringe Eastern Highlands coffee-growing village is West’s bread-and-butter as an anthropologist. She intimately knows the Gimi-speaking people of Maimafu from numerous visits over many years. They do not grow coffee on anything like the scale of villagers in the Asaro Valley or the Wahgi Valley (they are not connected by road to Goroka and depend on an aircraft to carry their coffee to the market), but nevertheless coffee has changed the way they “come to be in-the-world as persons” such that a neoliberal project that has originated on the far side of the world, can “alter their cosmological view of what it means to be a person” (129). Descriptions of village coffee growing are preceded by an excellent short history of the introduction of coffee into the Eastern Highlands.
West carries these ethnographic and very personal approaches with her to Goroka, where she spends time with “coffee families,” European and Papua New Guinean, living the coffee trade in work and in play. She then goes overseas to Australia, Germany and the US, where she again makes many visits to individuals in their warehouses, coffee roasting facilities and coffee shops, as well as to her 101-year-old grandmother who drinks instant coffee. In many cases these people have become more her friends than her informants. As a result, although West’s criticisms of some of the things they do to sell more coffee are rigorous they are not ad hominem. As fashions change some of these things include creating images of the PNG growers as primitive, poverty stricken, or the recipients of fair returns on their labour. The structure of the book means that the readers already know how the Maimafu producers are faring and also know the Papua New Guineans who have bought the coffee, transported it to Goroka and have exported to the international markets. West understands why these images are created and why they are not meant to be harmful to her Maimafu friends. But she convincingly argues that these images can become dangerous when they spread beyond coffee drinkers to international politicians and economists who develop policies and practices based on such fantasies.
West succeeds in weaving descriptions of her personal relations with her village growers, buyers, exporters and sellers of coffee across the world, with some reasonably heavy theory. As a result, the theory is lightened but is not weakened. The analogy of the schoolboy who asks what is the point of doing mathematics comes to mind. In West’s book, the point of knowing something about the theory is there throughout the book in the way in which the lives of the villagers at Maimafu are directly influenced by the outcomes of economic theory, marketing practices and aid policies. The plain language West uses to describe the lives of her coffee growing and trading friends is not noticeably different from the language she uses to discuss neoliberal economics, market fetishism, or embedded social relations for example, and so her theoretical discussions are more accessible than they would have been if they were presented in isolation from those who directly feel the repercussions.
The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia Bryant Allen
POLYNESIANS IN AMERICA: Pre-Columbian Contacts with the New World. Edited by Terry L. Jones et al. Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2011. xix, 359 pp. (tables, figures.) US$85.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-759-12004-4.
This volume marks the latest revival of a 150-year-old debate on the timing, nature and scope of trans-Pacific contacts prior to the European expansion. Early nineteenth-century speculation on the possibility of connections between the Americas and the Pacific Islands was given more substance from the 1860s, when the apparent similarity between the Quechua term for sweet potato, cumar, and the Polynesian kumara, was first noted and attributed to human transfer. Despite the longevity of the debate, there are still precious few unequivocal proofs of trans-Pacific contact, and most of these remain ambivalent in terms of the light they shed on questions of agency or the direction of movement; of these proofs perhaps the most significant has been the discovery of charred sweet potato in Mangaia in the Cook Islands dated long before European contact with the Americas. Generally, transfers of people, ideas or materials in either direction do not appear to have been substantial, and were almost certainly out-weighed by their impacts. Yet significant questions hang on the resolution of these issues, ranging from the specifics of cultural-historical reconstruction in the Pacific and the Americas through to more general understandings of the processes of inter-cultural contact and exchange, and the pace of adoption of novel crops and artefacts. Was sweet potato, which entirely transformed the New Guinea Highlands, available for adoption a thousand years ago through Polynesian transfers, or seven hundred years later through European transport to island Southeast Asia? How might we re-evaluate the sailing capacities of South Americans and Polynesians were we able to demonstrate that either one or the other was responsible for trans-Pacific voyaging?
Their choice of title alone indicates that the editors of Polynesians in America have nailed their colours firmly to the mast, focusing on Polynesians (and not Americans or Asians) as the agents of contact and transfer, and this immediately introduces some unevenness to the collection and its conclusions. Most of the chapters are revisions of papers presented at a 2010 conference session, to which the first two editors, Terry Jones and Alice Storey, have added a set of four introductory chapters, framing the debate (as they see it). While the later chapters are collectively compelling, the introductory chapters are less convincing: reintroducing the case for Polynesian contact (chapter 1); a review of the history of diffusion theory (chapter 2); a very light skim through possible evidence from oral traditions (chapter 3); and a more thorough overview of the trans-Pacific debate (chapter 4). The perspective adopted throughout is from debates conducted largely within American archaeology, where a strongly conservative and processual attitude to the question of trans-Pacific contacts has insisted on better evidence than has been tendered in the past. However, the absence from the volume of any of the authors of these contending views, such as Atholl Anderson or J.E. Arnold, robs the collection of any sense of a robust discussion, leaving readers to challenge the more tendentious claims, and inviting further scepticism about the broader enterprise.
Nine more substantial chapters address particular lines of argument or bodies of material, including: the artefact record from North America of possible Polynesian influences (chapter 5); the specific case of Polynesian contact with ancestors of the Mapuche people of central-south Chile (chapter 6); a review of the proxy evidence for human movement derived from the distribution of commensal plant and animal species (chapter 7); a reappraisal of recent evidence for the pre-Columbian introduction of Polynesian chickens to the Americas (chapter 8); another case study, this time of evidence for Polynesian contact with the Gulf of Guayaquil in Ecuador, as a possible source of the Quechua term for sweet potato (chapter 9); a summary of possible cognate terms in Polynesian and American vocabularies (chapter 10); an inspection of three possibly Polynesian crania from Mocha Island off the coast of Chile, also a find spot for what may be pre-Columbian chicken bones (chapter 11); an argument for a faster and more efficient settlement of eastern Polynesia, as the likely point of departure for voyagers to the Americas (chapter 12); and a review of Polynesian voyaging capabilities (chapter 13). Though most of these chapters summarize or lightly extend arguments and material previously presented, the cumulative weight of their evidence begins to amount to a serious case for Polynesian contact with the Americas, or Ecuador and Chile more specifically.
The volume leaves me with two reservations: the first is the adequacy of a hard copy-only book in a field as dynamic as this. The broader debate addressed here has been contested in on-line journals over the past decade, and a static and largely one-sided contribution in book form cannot hope to capture the complexity of different positions, or offer evidence in entirely convincing detail; and by the time most readers have digested the contents of this volume, it will have been superseded by articles announcing new materials and new developments in the debate. What the book might have offered instead was genuine reflection on, and advances in, the ways we approach debates around diffusion, particularly where the contacts are likely to have been fleeting, partial and restricted. How do we generate really demanding questions for further research, rather than simply seek further evidence to support existing positions; how might debate proceed more productively than it has thus far? What are the conditions for selection and adoption of novel materials and ideas in cross-cultural encounters? And what might the trans-Pacific debate contribute to theories of contact and diffusion elsewhere? On these matters, the present book is largely silent.
The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia Chris Ballard
CHRISTIAN POLITICS IN OCEANIA. ASAO Studies in Pacific Anthropology, v. 2. Edited by Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2012. ix, 235 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-85745-746-2.
In this volume a group of anthropologists of Oceania address the interaction of Christianity and politics in the region, from the most local interpersonal relationships to national and (to a much lesser extent) international identities and movements, with case studies from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. While an assertion in the Introduction that the authors “make the case that politics in Oceania can only be understood by taking account of Christianity, and vice versa” is a bit grand, as much Oceanic politics takes place without reference to Christian faith, the volume certainly does show that the assertion is at least very often the case; and that Western academic attempts to study the politics of Oceania without reference to Christianity and the churches are likely to be inadequate.
Moving from the local to the national, the various contributors discuss conflicting church views of the much-storied “underground army” of Makira, the “tripod” relationship of church, provincial government and chiefs in Isabel, and the political culture of new Evangelicals and Muslims (Solomon Islands); the apparent (but only apparent) lack of interest of the Urapmin Pentecostals in politics and the heated political land disputes of three churches of the Waria Valley (Papua New Guinea); the tendency of churches to take on state functions in the context of a weak state (Vanuatu); the culture-Christianity of the New Methodist Church in its relationship with the Bainimarama military dictatorship (Fiji); and an overall national view of the relation of churches and politics (Papua New Guinea). The volume also contains a helpful afterword. Overall, the volume is refreshingly open and non-ideological and the authors make some effort to be in dialogue with one another.
All the essays are detailed, thoughtful and considerably nuanced in their analyses. As such, the volume is a fine example of the emerging discipline of the anthropology of Christianity, finally not afraid to move into theology, history, psychology and sociology for a more complete analysis. Because of their common multi-disciplinary approach, the essays complement each other well. The volume avoids earlier anthropological approaches that see Christianity (especially Christian theology) as a pariah to be avoided, if not actively opposed. Likewise, helpfully, new Christian churches or perspectives (where appropriate) are discussed here in relationship with the mainline churches from which they emerged. The chapters by Handman (PNG), Scott (Solomon Islands) and Tomlinson (Fiji) are particularly good on this point, as much recent Oceanic anthropology of Christianity has tended to focus on new Pentecostal and Evangelical groups as though they had no relationship with the older churches, with the latter often regarded as no longer of interest.
The strength of the volume (its contributors’ specialized knowledge of their particular areas) is also its weakness as these well-established specialties shape the priorities of the volume rather than more historically significant interactions of Christianity and politics. For example, for Vanuatu, the exceptional role of the churches in the Vanuatu independence movement remains substantially unaddressed; for Solomon Islands, the role of the churches (including denominational identities) in the implementation and solution of the “ethnic tension” crisis of 1999–2003 is hardly addressed; few of the chapters address the paradox that all the countries discussed have very high percentages of Christians yet are deeply rooted in corruption, from the local to the national level. The exceptions are the Fiji chapter, where the analysis is clearly rooted in discussion of the country’s extraordinarily significant coups, and the national survey of the relationship of the churches and politics in PNG.
Because Pacific Christians are generally hospitable and trusting, even to anthropologists, and sometimes the resulting relationships may be very short or continue over years (or are interrupted by long absences), the data for this volume is not always consistent and this inconsistency can affect interpretation; a very negative interpretation might even end the relationship. One senses this issue in the chapter on the Isabel “tripod,” where there was much more conflict than expressed here over the 2010 selection of an Isabel bishop living overseas to be paramount chief and (even more strongly) the selection of his local deputy; debate over the latter continued all night before the inauguration, which almost did not happen. One senses a reluctance to be too critical, lest it damage relationships. Conversely, the chapter on Pentecostal groups in Honiara and the Western Solomons and Islam in Malaita seems to be based on somewhat fleeting relationships and not so squarely fixed on politics, though that is perhaps inevitable, considering the transient character of some of the groups and persons discussed.
Despite these minor criticisms, this is a fine volume, perhaps even a landmark, in the anthropology of Christianity in Oceania and all the chapters are of a high quality. Some will become standard points of reference. But one is still left with the problem of many anthropologies, many Christianities, many contexts, many histories, many personalities and many exceptions, some discussed, some not; trying to get any analytical consistency across such diversity remains a major challenge. Insofar as the authors begin from local contexts and root their analyses there, and are in dialogue with one another, this volume is a major contribution and one begins to see some common themes emerging. I doubt that Christianity will again be marginalized in the ethnographical study of Oceania.
University of Trinity College, Toronto, Canada Terry M. Brown
Holmes’s text is an autoethnographic meditation on the politically charged relationship between Native Hawaiian and Western scholarly traditions of knowledge-making. It is as much a poignant, deeply personal quest for the author’s Hawaiian genealogy as it is an analytically sharp critique of the imposition of a foreign epistemic paradigm on an indigenous one. While yearning to anchor herself socially in relation to her Hawaiian birth mother, Holmes simultaneously strives to learn and privilege a distinctly Hawaiian mode of knowing in contrast to established epistemic discourses. Both these processes—her exhausting search for her birth mother and her educational pursuits—eventually converge as she examines the fundamental significance of lineage and land in Hawaiian conceptions of knowledge. Consequently, Holmes’s book juxtaposes intellectually stimulating scholarship with the suspenseful story of the serendipitous encounters that gradually usher her into the Hawaiian social network she once dreamed of.
Holmes’s academic endeavours are motivated by her own experience of being a child of Hawaiian descent adopted by American parents and raised on the US mainland. She introduces herself as the composite of “two voices” (xiii), glossed as “Hawaiian-style” and “University-style” (67), that manifest themselves in different forms throughout her book. This dichotomy is reflected most conspicuously in the visual presentation of her text in two columns; the left may be interpreted as symbolic of her Hawaiian consciousness and the right of her scholastic outlook. While Holmes does not specify any particular order in which the columns ought to be read, the reader might gravitate first towards the column on the left since it carries the experiential substance of her text: her life events, memories of her childhood, her dreams, excerpts from conversations and her interviews with Hawaiian elders (kūpuna). In parts of her book, the two columns address a common theme or topic from different perspectives; the right column often taking on an explanatory function that either contextualizes, analyzes or illuminates the subject presented in the left. But in other parts, the two columns do not neatly align with one another and stand apart as immiscible discourses; their dissonance iconic of the difficulty in integrating indigenous and Western epistemologies as well as Holmes’s conflicted personal identity.
Her chosen methodology, the unconventional presentation of her text, as well as her literary style, all have noteworthy political implications in keeping with Holmes’s aim to foreground Hawaiian epistemology. Adopting an ethnomethodological approach for data collection, Holmes is reflexive and critical of the structured interview format that strategically affords the interviewer an authoritative stance in leading the conversation. She is also mindful of the relational construction of knowledge, particularly relevant in the Hawaiian context, and therefore restructures the interview process by asking a socially embedded local Hawaiian friend to pose a few broad questions and engage in fairly open-ended discussions with Hawaiian elders. The discursive floor is yielded to the interviewee. Meanwhile, Holmes carefully positions herself as an attentive listener, a learner subordinate to the elderly Hawaiian knowledge-bearer. In doing so, she prioritizes her identity as a Hawaiian descendent over that of an academically trained researcher. Her stylistic choice to present dialogues and elders’ oral reflections as standalone narratives that are deliberately not framed within her own analyses or encumbered with theoretical flourish retains the original sequence and intactness of their speeches. It compels the reader to interpret Hawaiian expressions of Hawaiian cultural identity and epistemology independently of foreign theoretical frameworks such as political economy that Holmes finds inadequate for her task.
This is not to convey that Holmes’s text is devoid of theoretical rigour. Indeed she presents substantive summaries and critiques of the literatures on political economy and the invention of tradition debate referencing seminal texts in these discourses. One of her major discontents with such theories is that they reconfigure Hawaiians’ relation to nature in economic and ideological terms, and the “authorized languages [of such theories] leach out the presence of earth that often saturates the language of the texts and stories of those [Hawaiian] descendants” (171). The Hawaiian elders (kūpuna) Holmes interviews, “generate a grounded epistemology wherein knowledge emanates from the dictates of the land and passes through the generations connecting us with kūpuna of generations past” (171). The dispossession and commoditization of land brought up by colonization and capitalism effectively sever Hawaiians’ relation to it thereby eclipsing Hawaiian epistemology. By honouring and giving voice to kūpuna, Holmes intends to revitalize such a land-based, genealogically transmitted and practice-oriented Hawaiian epistemology.
As she straddles the Hawaiian and Western academic worlds she inhabits, Holmes recognizes her role in each as sometimes antithetical to the other. She questions whether embracing one identity, for instance, that of a scholar, might somehow betray her identification as a Hawaiian descendant. While her relentless struggle to be true to both identities is evident in her narrative, one wonders if, perhaps, these two identities are being reified to some extent and if they are necessarily mutually exclusive. It might be constructive to explore the ways in which each identity infuses the other. For instance, it is striking that Holmes is able to employ her educational activities, such as the interviews she conducts for her dissertation research, in service of her goal to integrate herself within the Hawaiian community.
In sum, Holmes’s book advances our understanding of indigenous epistemologies and will be of interest to scholars examining the nature and construction of knowledge, colonialism and postcolonial theory, self-determination and the struggle for sovereignty, cultural revitalization, biculturalism, hybridity, identity formation and Pacific studies. It will also be a thought-provoking read for those investigating the politics of research methods and the relationship between researchers and those who are researched.
Brandeis University, Waltham, USA Rachana Agarwal
THE NON-INDEPENDENT TERRITORIES OF THE CARIBBEAN AND PACIFIC: Continuity or Change? Edited by Peter Clegg and David Killingray. London: Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2012. xix, 206 pp. (Maps, tables.) £25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-9569546-0-2.
The volume The Non-Independent Territories of the Caribbean and Pacific: Continuity or Change? edited by Peter Clegg and David Killingray is a collection of articles whose focus is the governmental, administrative and policy changes that have occurred recently with regard to what might generally be called non-self-governing or non-independent territories in mainly the Caribbean and occasionally the Pacific. Written by economists, political scientists, government administrators, historians and lawyers, the articles delve into some of the complex governmental, policy and constitutional alterations that impact the administration of the “imperial fragments” (1). Fragments being an apt metaphor to describe how the authors allude to how the administrative powers sometimes understand these territories: bits of unfinished business, stale crumbs from the imperial “cookie,” so to speak.
The first four articles (written by David Killingray, Peter Clegg and Peter Gold, Ian Bailey, and Ian Hendry) deal specifically with the United Kingdom’s “remnants… of empire”(xvii), now officially called the “Overseas Territories.” One chapter exclusively explores the Netherlands and its Caribbean territories; and in my opinion, it is the best chapter (by Lammert de Jong and Ron ver der Veer). Another focuses on France’s Overseas Territories (by Nathalie Mrgudovic). Yet another concentrates on the role the European Union has in their member states’ non-independent territories (by Paul Sutton). Two more delve into the many concerns, and some notable benefits, for the administrative powers related to the Caribbean economies supported by international banking, offshore finance and the business of tax havens (by Mark P. Hampton and John Christensen, and William Vleck). Finally, Carlyle Corbin provides an overview of how self-governance has been framed internationally in relation to these non-independent territories that remain around the world.
The space in this review prevents a detailed summary of each article; all of which vary from one another. However, general themes emerged within most. Clegg and Killingray assert in the introduction: “Non-independent territories adhere to the metropoles for a variety of reasons, most importantly economic advantage, although security and sentiment also play a part” (xix). The striking word in that sentence is “adhere”—the image being of those crumbs that simply cannot be brushed away. Having gobbled up these territories in the years of intact imperial desserts, since World War II the imperial game of “keep them or set them free” has been in play; decisions partially motivated by imperialistic desires and partially those wishes of the people within these territories. As is appropriately noted throughout many of the chapters, what often remained of empire after the years of reshuffling was, as deJong and van der Veer euphemistically call it, “Kingdom-lite”: meaning, from the metropole’s position, less on guilt and responsibility, and more on a sense of “moral” relief at technically being a “colonizer” no longer (65). The administrative powers allowed these territories a semblance of self-governance at varying levels in various territories. Another euphemism expressed by de Jong and van der Veer suitably encapsulates this relationship: “LAT, or Living Apart Together” (64). But eventually for these administrative powers, Kingdom-lite was viewed as not as lite as once believed because in these non-independent territories the weaknesses of no independence with some local autonomy “simply [was] seen as a failure: huge budget deficits, poor education, social degradation and flawed law enforcement” (66).
In present-day colonial “modernity,” administrative powers no longer see independence as an option for most of these remaining territories, but rather an abiding state of in-between-ness, and the reality of enduring responsibility—and a “moral” responsibility at that. As is often stressed by some in this volume (as summarized in the afterword): “Despite the continued enthusiasm of some of their politicians and oft-repeated criticisms of the ‘colonial’ powers and their level of influence, the people have shown little appetite for re-visiting the issue” of independence (195). Especially given the international economic instability of recent years, these administrative responsibilities are believed to continue to weigh heavily on national budgets. As a result, some within the metropole question a continuation of any relationship with non-independent territories. For example, de Jong and van der Veer state: “Dutch political parties on the far right express loudly and clearly: ‘Sell them on eBay, hand them over to Venezuela’” (80). This is an extreme sentiment, but I think one that summarizes, at least in part, the essence of what the administrations see as their colonial plight. Because despite the responsibilities formulated in colonial yesteryears, the eternal question remains on the tip of the administrative powers’ tongues: Who benefits?” (152), which in all reality should be framed as “Do we benefit?”
Nonetheless, administrative powers, as it was noted throughout this volume, have in recent years attempted to reconceptualize a more “hands-on” relationship with their territorial possessions (81). The chapters on Britain stress that they want to promote “good governance, democracy and the rule of law” in response to the not-so-benign neglect allowed to fester in some of the non-independent territories (22). However, the ways in which the various powers have been going about changing these relationships are in flux—in seeming fits and starts, legalistic and incomplete—heavy on bureaucratic intent and low on actual practice.
As might be indicated above, the somewhat detached and top-down perspective of these articles may not resonate with some readers. Also, this is not a volume to understand the indigenous or islander perspectives, although flashes occasionally peek through. Indeed, these chapters tend to minimize and gloss over the complex ambivalence that many of these territories and their peoples may have in relation to their administrative powers. Also, the prose can be imposing, made that much more challenging because of the liberally sprinkled acronyms for non-independent territories and governmental organizations (FCO, TCI, OECD, OT, to list but a few). Yet I found this collection to be thought-provoking. It lays out some of the administrative truths, complexities and puzzles related to non-independent territories as political entities. Indeed, the overload of acronyms is rather symbolic and indicative of colonialism today—in a way abbreviated but yet mysterious, if not harshly opaque.
Wright State University, Dayton, USA Laurel A. Monnig
DOWN: Indie Rock in the PRC. Written, produced and directed by Andrew Field and Jud Willmont; shot and narrated by Andrew Field. Shanghai: Willmountain Films; Field Note Productions, 2012. 1 DVD (52 min.) In Chinese and English, with English subtitles. http://chinarockdoc.com/. (Parties interested in acquiring this film may contact Andrew Field directly at email@example.com.)
DOWN: Indie Rock in the PRC is directed and produced by China scholar Andrew Field and filmmaker Jud Willmont. DOWN offers a range of footage of Chinese rock musicians performing in clubs and at concerts. Beijing is the centre of China’s rock scene and as such the film primarily focuses on that locale, but it also includes footage from Wuhan and a concert held in the outskirts of Shanghai. There is an even mix of narration, interviews and music, giving the film a well-balanced feel.
The interviews and music are primarily in Chinese with English subtitles but there are also several English-language interviews. Andrew Field narrates to provide important links and insights to connecting scenes. Interview settings range from taking a trip on a train, to street restaurants, to back rooms and offices. The film primarily focuses on the contemporary moment but it also offers some archival footage of the Cultural Revolution that is nicely contrasted with contemporary shots. Similarly, the club footage is wonderfully juxtaposed with everyday street scenes. The people interviewed are charming, insightful and at times demonstrate a welcome sense of humour.
The film’s interviews include Western expatriate club owners and independent company representatives. It also provides interviews with a Chinese record shop owner, a music festival organizer, and a range of musicians who talk about what it is like to try to make a living in the industry. They provide several important insights into the development of music and outline some of the most important musical trends over time.
It should be noted that the film’s editor plays a little fast and loose with what one is actually seeing. The film frequently overlays soundtracks onto live video footage. This is edited fluidly enough that it often creates an illusion of listening to live performances. Viewers unfamiliar with the Chinese language might miss the fact that the lips often are not in sync with the music being played. The disadvantage to this approach is that one does not gain an accurate feel for the seeming chaos of club scenes. In the club footage one does not hear people talking, the sound distortion of bad equipment or poor room acoustics, or even the many moments when a performer might sing off key. Some might say this approach challenges the integrity of the footage.
The advantage to this approach is that the music is much cleaner and far more pleasant to listen to, and it is used to connect scenes more fluidly without interruption. In other words, the viewer gets to listen to the music at its best. Indeed, at times, the film feels like a publicity video for the bands. Given Chinese rock’s marginal status both in and outside of China’s borders, the choice to show the music in its best light is perfectly understandable.
Another issue that one might take with the film is that it does not problematize the musicians’ claims about Chinese rock in spite of questionable assertions about the music’s “authenticity” or “uncontrived” nature. For the most part the film depicts a world in which musicians, club owners and concert organizers are all unified in their attempt to promote rock for the benefit of the people. The ways that one’s different positions in the music industry might put them at odds with each other, even to the point of economic exploitation, are not addressed.
One of the strengths of the film is that it provides a compelling taster for different musical styles that the film provides. It also gives a feel for what the music venues for this musical genre look like. What the film does best is to provide a wealth of insights about how musicians see their worlds. Often, those interviewed are remarkably articulate in explaining Western influences (from Bob Dylan to Nirvana) and the ways that the music originated in the West but quickly localized to become something exciting and different. They eloquently link China’s contemporary rock scene with the hippie movement of the US—marking it, correctly I think, as a cultural transformation rather than merely a musical development.
The interviews with the musicians provide a range of impressive insights about the nature of Chinese society in relation to the sometimes overwhelming cultural, economic and political transformations of the last decades. One of the most culturally telling accounts is an interview of a female musician who talks of the intense stigma of being a rock star as opposed to the high status of her parents who are professors. Interviews with mainstream audiences watching a Cui Jian concert who know nothing about rock are juxtaposed with the intensely insular and remarkably devoted fans of alternative rock music who are featured in the rest of the film. The size of the Cui Jian concert also nicely contrasts with the far more intimate, and at times anemic, size of audiences for the majority of the performances in the film.
DOWN is wonderfully filmed, nicely organized, expertly edited, and in many ways feels like a big budget production. It would work equally well as entertainment at home or in the classroom. All in all, it is the best documentary that I have seen on contemporary music in China and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in studying music or popular culture in China.
University of South Carolina, Columbia, USA Marc L. Moskowitz
MONGOLIAN BLING. Written and directed by Benj Binks; produced by Nubar Ghazarian. Kingsville, Vic.: Distributed by Flying Fish Films, 2011. 1 DVD (90 mins.) Institutions, A$300.00; Home use, A$30.00. In Mongolian with English subtitles. Url: www.mongolianbling.com.
What does it mean to be Mongolian almost a quarter century after the democratic revolution of 1989/90? How are Mongolians, and especially young Mongolians, negotiating their place within society, and between nomadic tradition and the increasingly Western cultural world of Ulaanbaatar? Benj Binks’ documentary “Mongolian Bling” begins to offer possible answers to some of these questions by telling the story of Mongolian hip hop, and how it has become a dominant feature of youth culture in Mongolia, as it has in the west.
The importance of poetry within Mongolian culture stretches back beyond the “Secret History of the Mongols” and today it is still rare for someone devoted to literature not to write poetry. Poetry is the literary default, then, and the ability to use language with sensitivity to sound and rhythm is considered central to a successful career. For hip hop, of course, there is also the importance of presence, of edge, and Binks’ portrayal, not only of the artists Gennie, Quiza and Gee, but of the young rappers whom he meets in the poor ger districts on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, reveals very clearly who has the chops and who doesn’t.
Mongolian rap grew out of the music of techno crews such as Har Sarnai (Black Rose), who are featured here as the “grandfathers” of contemporary hiphop. During the late 1990s, bands such as Dain ba Enh (War and Peace) started to rap using the lyrics of the great maverick poet R. Choinom (1936–1976), whose uncompromising anti-establishment poems, proclaimed sometimes in Sühbaatar Square in the centre of Ulaanbaatar, landed him in jail on at least three occasions. That Choinom’s work influenced hiphop in Mongolia indicates the unusual form which rap’s universal challenge to the status quo has taken in Mongolia, as well as how Choinom himself, whose work was all but unavailable before 1990, became something of a figurehead to the emerging rap scene.
The film’s three central characters reveal more about how contemporary Mongolia looks and feels than about what makes their lyrics and music special. Gee’s well-publicized advocacy of the ger districts—he points out how there is pride and respect among the people who live there, but that outsiders see only the dirt and the apparent chaos—provides an important backdrop to much of the music. It also provides a backdrop to the fact that, as in the West, successful artists can make the sort of money which would have been unimaginable to those with whom they grew up. Now, although there is little love lost between Gee and Quiza (indeed, in a duo with the child hip-hop star MG, Gee mocked the chorus of one of Quiza’s songs; and here he expresses his opinion in graphic terms), and although there is much evidence in Mongolian rap videos of the bling of the film’s title, nonetheless, these three artists are shown at home with their families, living in relative simplicity, and being part of their own extended communities. For all their success, they remain regular Mongolians, who want somehow to help in the development of their nation in the twenty-first century.
“Mongolian Bling” seeks to introduce discussions about the democratic revolution (there is an interesting sequence about the song “Honhnii Duu” [“The Sound of the Bell”], which was sung throughout the democratic protests), about shamanic music and the possible influences of traditional nomadic music on Mongolian hip hop, and about the larger meaning of Ulaanbaatar’s urbanization, but I was left wanting more from the connection between the social and the musical. For instance, we hear nothing of the association, whether real or imaginary, between Har Sarnai and hardcore Mongol nationalist groups such as Dayar Mongol (although Har Sarnai do claim here that they wanted to make nationalism an “addiction”). And exactly how does traditional music function in hip hop? Bands such as Anda Union and Shuuranhai (and Tuva’s Hün Huur-tu) blend Western and traditional styles, but what influence do the damaru and kangling, imported from Indian shamanic ritual via Tibet, have on Mongolian hip hop? Such questions remain tantalizingly unanswered.
The inclusion of Gennie, one of Mongolia’s only female rappers, as a kind of foil to the bickering of Quiza and Gee, provided an excellent example of how hip hop might develop away from the macho and the bling, and towards a thoughtful and more musically sensitive style. We see her recording and at home with her grandmother, and she seems in both contexts to be assured as a young Mongolian, and as an artist. More than anyone else in this film, I will be intrigued to see how Gennie’s career develops. Quiza has become a UN ambassador, and Gee remains an advocate for his people in the ger district, but I would not be surprised if Gennie, as a smart and self-aware female artist in a male-dominated genre, made the leap into the international sphere.
This is a great film, and I congratulate Benj Binks for having the vision to pursue his subject with such integrity. Given the number of hip-hop artists in Mongolia, his was a fine choice, bringing together three rappers whose characters reveal the meaning and potential of Mongolia’s hip-hop industry, as the country addresses the issues of mining and economic growth, alongside urbanization, nationalism and globalization. While I would encourage anyone interested in contemporary Mongolia to watch this film, we should all be aware just how fast the nation is changing, and how the traditions which underpin even the most modern of art forms are themselves changing and adapting to the desires and aims of Mongolian youth and the largely benign influence of imported Western culture.
University of Washington, Seattle, USA Simon Wickhamsmith