China and Inner Asia
Australasia and the Pacific Islands
DOCUMENTARY FILMS REVIEWED
Since the last fifty years, first with the rise of East Asia, and now the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, economic power is gradually shifting to the South, as living standards of some of the developing world slowly but steadily catch up with those of the advanced market economies. But were countries in the South always behind the countries in the North in living standards? If not, when did the divergence between the North and the South begin? How extended is the convergence of the South with the North in recent years—which countries have caught up and which countries still lag behind? What explains the catch up of developing countries with the richer countries of the West? Is it trade, capital flows or migration?
In an ambitious and far-reaching book, Deepak Nayyar puts together a fascinating treatise of economic history that is painstakingly researched and elegantly argued. Starting with the onset of the second millennium, in chapter 2, Nayyar notes the overwhelming significance of the South in world incomes and populations, with Asia, Africa and South America taken together accounting for 82 percent of world population and 83 percent of world income in the year 1000. The relative importance of the South remained more or less unchanged for the next five hundred years. Then, beginning in 1500, and then more sharply, after 1820, the relative importance of what Nayyar calls the Rest, comprising Asia, Africa and Latin America, fell steadily. In 1820, the Rest’s share in world income was 63 percent. By 1950, it was a mere 27 percent. The drop in relative income was particularly sharp for Asia: its average GDP per capita was 48 percent of Western Europe and Western Offshoots (which includes the USSR and Eastern Europe) in 1820, and had declined to 10 percent in 1950. What explains this phenomenon, which Nayyar calls the Great Divergence? In chapter 3, Nayyar argues that this was primarily due to colonial policies and the politics of imperialism, and the mercantile expansion of trade, underpinned by the state and naval powers of the colonizers, that hastened the process of de-industrialization in Asia.
However, in chapter 4, Nayyar documents a reversal of fortunes “from 1950 onwards, and especially from 1980, when the share of developing countries in world GDP stopped its relative decline in 1962 when it was one-fourth, to increase rapidly after 1980, so that it was almost half by 2008” (73). In chapter 5, Nayyar documents a similar upsurge in the engagement of developing countries with the world economy. Since 1980, their share in world trade also increased rapidly, and so did their shares in stocks and flows of inward and outward foreign direct investment in the world economy. There was also a significant increase in international migration flows from developing to developed countries, with new forms of mobility driven by markets and globalization. Similarly, in chapter 6, Nayyar observes a sharp increase in the share of developing countries in world industrial production.
However, in chapters 7 and 8, Nayyar notes that the process of catch up of developing countries with developed countries has not been even among regions and also between countries in the same region. Among emerging economies, Nayyar finds that Asian countries had brought an end to divergence and saw a convergence. On the other hand, the Latin American emerging economies stayed roughly where they were, while the two African countries that Nayyar looks at—Egypt and South Africa—experienced a continuing divergence. Nayyar attributes this to initial conditions, enabling institutions and the role of governments as catalysts or leaders. Nayyar also finds that there was an exclusion of regions within the emerging economies in the catch-up process, that inequality between countries persists, and that the increase in standards of living in the developing world has not done away with extreme poverty in many developing countries. Nayyar concludes in chapter 9 with some reflections on the “prospects, in terms of possibilities and constraints, for countries that have led this process of catch-up so far and for those that might follow in their footsteps” (173).
A weakness of the book is that the explanations that Nayyar offers for both the initial divergence and the more recent convergence of developing countries are not compelling. Nayyar argues that the initial divergence was due to the mercantilist policies followed by European colonizers and that the later catch up was due to the specific set of import-substituting policies followed by East Asian countries that enabled them to industrialize rapidly, in spite of being late-comers to industrialization. While these explanations have some weight, it is surprising that Nayyar does not give sufficient consideration to the role of institutions in explaining the process of divergence in the nineteenth century (Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, Profile Books, 2012) and the positive effect of “re-globalization” in the catch-up of Asia with the developed countries in the late twentieth century (Ronald Findlay and Kevin O’Rourke, Power and Plenty: Trade, War and the World Economy in the Second Milennium, Princeton University Press, 2007). In spite of this limitation, Catch Up is an important contribution to world economic history and to development studies. It is provocative and illuminating at the same time, and should become essential reading for those interested in understanding the process of economic development in historical terms.
Kunal Sen, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
EAST ASIAN DEVELOPMENT: Foundations and Strategies. The Edwin O. Reischauer Lectures. By Dwight H. Perkins. Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 2013. 213 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN
Expanded from the Edwin O. Reischauer Lectures given in 2009 at Harvard, the book offers a comprehensive overview of policies and institutions that have contributed to national economic growth and income inequality in postwar Northeast and Southeast Asia. Continuing in the best traditions of development economics and comparative institutional analysis, Perkins takes aggregate output growth as the top priority of development, intrinsically beneficial for the society, and responsive to appropriate national policies and institutions that improve the productivity of key factors of capital, labour and natural resources. One might point out that the notion of development in this traditional sense does not adequately account for major externalities such as environmental costs and human development and social justice trends. Furthermore, it does not venture to discuss how political-institutional development (e.g., democratic transition or intra-regime reforms in authoritarian states) and approaches to social justice (e.g., redistribution and anti-corruption) may condition economic growth except in a general, cross-country comparison of political commitment to effective government interventions. It would also be easy to criticize the book as being dated given the strong doubts of development economics by mainstream economists, advances in data analysis and the ever increasing sophistication of various measures of efficiency, market integration and innovation, and an expanding literature of local and non-Western diagnoses of economic problems in these countries.
I would urge readers to set aside these facile prejudices, and instead reflect on the book’s overarching analytical framework that offers an open architecture to build deeper, country- and issue-specific understandings. Within his clearly defined parameters, Perkins is eclectic and liberal in his perspective, constantly showing attention to new and updated interdisciplinary explanations—such as in his pointed critique of the influential book Why Nations Fail, by Darin Acemoglu and James Robinson (55).
The book is structured around country case studies (chapters 3 and 4) and economic systemic transitions (chapters 5 and 6). The general argument is that strategic government interventions, building on monopolistic resources of select state-owned enterprises and national resources in entrepreneurial culture and the educational system, have brought about high growth rates in Northeast Asia. Southeast Asia, hampered by the colonial legacy as well as weaker initial human resource and organizational endowments, has struggled with reform policies that could transcend the rent-seeking demands of powerful social interests. As Perkins has argued elsewhere, there is no common Asian model of growth, but there is a fundamental logic of growth that underpins both success and failure. In the following analysis, I discuss five issues emerging from his causal reasoning.
Perkins adopts Alwyn Young’s focus on total factor productivity (TFP) in assessing Asia’s growth rates. However, he departs from Young and Paul Krugman—who famously critiqued the East Asian miracle as “based on perspiration rather than inspiration” (Krugman, “The Myth of Asia’s Miracle,” Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 1994)—in three insightful ways. First, while Young and Krugman point to low and stagnant TFP in Asian tigers’ heydays of rapid growth as a result of the national developmental policies, Perkins argues that variations in the TFP of Asian countries, in particular in terms of human capital, have stemmed from deep cultural legacies and historical political choices made in postcolonial nation-building. These factors have supported sustained household investment in higher education in Korea and Taiwan, and inflicted discriminatory and inefficient social welfare allocative decisions in Malaysia and Indonesia. These differences in turn shape the effectiveness of national development policies.
Second, Perkins makes a key distinction within the “extensive” growth of the Asian countries: between those implementing rational, disciplined and limited industrial policies, and those trapped in private rent-seeking industrial favouritism and trade protectionism. The distinction contributes to the earlier theories of the critical transition from import-substitution industrialization to export-oriented development, but is not limited to that linear viewpoint. Perkins sees national politics in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia as pernicious to any sustained effort at industrial policy making, regardless of specific policy choices made to accommodate local endowments and legacies.
Third, Perkins makes a strong case for the inevitable deceleration after the high-growth periods. While he is mainly concerned with anticipating reforms to help usher in China’s “soft landing,” it would be additionally instructive to consider the current difficulties in structural reform of the previously successful Northeast Asian economies. While South Korea has been characterized as a successful example of IMF intervention in 1998, Japan and Taiwan have witnessed a further decline of manufacturing sectors, structural unemployment as university graduates could only find basic service jobs, service sectors lacking in international competitiveness, and asset bubbles. Overall, Asian growth since the late 1990s has neither resolved weak domestic consumption and widening income gaps and digital divides, nor sustained innovation and industrial upgrading. Consequently, Asia has suffered lower capital productivity leading up to the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, and since the global financial crisis in 2007.
Generally speaking, Perkins deftly links key explanatory factors in his case studies. In addressing Robert J. Barro’s growth equation in chapter 2, he is quick to point out that crucial political institutional and policy variables are inadequately represented and related in conventional econometrics analyses (53). It would be useful to incorporate theoretical developments in the literature on Varieties of Capitalism (Peter A. Hall and David Soskice, 2001), and its emphasis on “system coordination” and the idea of “institutional complementarities.” This perspective could build on Perkins’ basic diagnosis to critically evaluate how Beijing has propped up the profitability of oligopolistic state-controlled corporations, provided liquidity for the housing construction boom and transport network expansion, and debated the path toward Renminbi internationalization—three current issues that necessitate major reforms of domestic financial institutions. Credit misallocation is arguably the greatest source of inefficiency and inequality in China.
Lastly, one is tempted to ask the author: “Is output growth going to be the big question in ten years?” It is possible to argue that the current interest in the more developed countries in Asia is not growth per se, but the quality of growth and the prospect for more sustainable and equitable engines of growth. The middle-income trap argument has often come up, as well as new growth accounting methods that take externalities into consideration. How would the initial advantages of the Northeast Asian population and governments contribute to facing the new challenges of the protracted downturn in Western markets? It’s been nearly seventy years since postcolonialism—that would be three biological generations, and China is on the fifth generation of post-Mao political leadership!
This accessible volume of distilled personal and scholarly knowledge from Perkins is highly recommended to undergraduates, postgraduates and the informed general public seeking an enduring perspective on the vast changes in Asia over the past half century.
Kun-chin Lin, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
NEW CHALLENGES FOR MATURING DEMOCRACIES IN KOREA AND TAIWAN. Studies of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. Edited by Larry Diamond and Gi-Wook Shin. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014. xxii, 383 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-8918-9.
Many transitologists tell us that the establishment of a new democratic regime through a free and fair election is only the beginning of democratization. Democratization is a long journey. Many obstacles have to be overcome for the “consolidation” and “deepening” of new democracies to take effect. New Challenges for Maturing Democracies in Korea and Taiwan, edited by Diamond and Shin, deals with various obstacles that new democracies are encountering after their democratic transitions, especially in the era of globalization. This volume highlights that Korea and Taiwan, new democracies in East Asia well known for their successful democratic consolidation, have maintained high economic growth and human well-being after democratization, but have experienced notable socio-economic, cultural and political challenges. It is certain that such challenges are not peculiar to Korea and Taiwan, but pervasive in most new democracies. That is why this book may help to identify problems and solutions for maturing democracies not only in these two East Asian countries, but also in most new democracies around the world.
This volume consists of 11 chapters. Chapter 1 examines the changes in the public support for democracy in Korea and Taiwan in terms of values, norms and institutions, following David Easton and Pippa Norris who have articulated multiple dimensions of regime support. It argues that citizens in those two countries are less supportive of the liberal idea of limited government, and that they have very low trust in representative institutions of democracy. It also shows that their preference for democracy and their trust in democratic institutions were eroded by economic crises.
Chapter 2 explains how the identity politics has emerged after the initial dominance of party politics based on regional animosities in Korea. It claims that the “Sunshine Policy” during the Kim Dae-jung administration initiated a new “identity politics” by drawing a line between the progressives advocating pro-North Korean policies with anti-American sentiments and conservatives supporting the pro-United States policies with strong animosity toward North Korea. It also claims that identity politics was a main cause of Roh Moo-hyun’s victory in the 2002 presidential election and remains a powerful determinant of party affiliation in Korea. Chapter 3 shows that party politics in Taiwan has also been strongly influenced by identity politics. The Kuomintang (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) advocated reunification with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and independence, respectively. Although the unification/independence issue became a valence issue in the middle of the 1990s, electoral competition between them is still dominated by the issue of engagement and integration with the PRC (129–130). Similar to Korea, the national identity cleavage and the identity politics made it difficult to resolve domestic problems by shifting “pragmatic policy decisions” into “ideological battles” (131).
Chapters 4 and 5 examine how digital media has transformed politics in those two East Asian countries. Digital media not only enabled the emergence of alternative sources of political information, a new kind of political participation, and public deliberation, but also increased online censorship by the government in Korea (chapter 4). The way digital media reshaped politics in Taiwan was very similar to that in Korea. The Internet was widely utilized by political parties and social movements, and facilitated the “daily-life campaign” by exposing every part of a politician’s personal life to the masses, and the “professionalization of campaigns and the weakening of political parties” due to the increasing role of experts, including film producers and music composers, portraying candidates attractively online (153). In addition, the Internet allows those who spend much time for the creation of postings on line to have more influence in an election campaign and in social movements, and makes it easy to delegitimize political figures in cyberspace in Taiwan(181–183).
Chapters 6 and 7 examine the socioeconomic transformation that took place after democratization in Korea and Taiwan. In Korea, large corporations successfully adapted to the global market, but Korean workers had to face critical polarization, and electoral competition around social welfare policies was intensified after the economic crisis of 1997 (chapter 6). In Taiwan, economic liberalization and economic integration with China has been successful in achieving continuous growth and moderate unemployment since the late 1980s (chapter 7). Similar to the situation in Korea, however, the neoliberal reform intensified income disparities and raised the distributional issue. Chapters 8 and 9 investigate changes in healthcare policies in Korea and social welfare policies for the elderly in Taiwan. Chapter 10 examines China’s intention toward the two Koreas with a focus on the issue of repatriating North Korean defectors back to the DPRK and suggests China take the “balancing act” of providing political and economic support for North Korea and unequivocal chastisement of its aggressive actions, and of protecting China’s north east border and the safety of North Korean border crossers for maintaining peace in the Korean Peninsula. Chapter 11 discusses the growth in China’s power and domestic conditions for the success of Taiwan’s mixed strategy, including the “engagement and reassurance” of “rewarding the PRC for what it assumes are limited goals and doing nothing that might lead Beijing to take risks” and “external balancing” of “reliance on the United States to its aid in the event that engagement fails” (345). It also evaluates the idea of Finlandization and presents its implications for Taiwan.
This book is an excellent reference for those who are eager to understand what Korea and Taiwan are struggling with as they “deepen” of their democratic regimes in the era of globalization. A number of prior studies have utilized the cases of Korea and Taiwan due to their similar experiences, including their rapid economic growth under authoritarian regimes and their paths toward democratic regimes. This volume successfully extends the temporal scope of the research strand to the era of democratic consolidation and of globalization. Although this book does not provide sufficient solutions to every issue discussed here, it is certain that, at least, it may provide important clues to the distinctive post-democratization politics with neoliberal reforms in new democracies.
Byong-Kuen Jhee, Chosun University, Gwangju, South Korea
OUT OF THE SHADOWS: The Global Intensification of Supplementary Education. International Perspectives on Education and Society, v. 22. Edited by Janice Aurini, Scott Davies, Julian Dierkes. Bingley, UK: Emerald Books, 2013. xxiv, 263 pp. (Tables, figures.) £62.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-78190-816-7.
Supplementary or “shadow” education has generally been associated with education in the Asian region. The buxiban in China and the juku in Japan come to mind, as do their counterparts in Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and much of Southeast and South Asia. However, Aurini, Davies, and Dierkes, in their highly informative edited book Out of the Shadows, remind us that this extra educational effort is a global phenomenon. Their book does include chapters on Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea, but there are also chapters on Turkey, Brazil, Canada, Australia, the United States and Germany as well as an interesting concluding chapter utilizing data from a 17-nation study on variations in family capital and how it impacts the use of supplementary education.
The editors organize what they call “this monster of an industry” around an interesting typology of: countries with high-intensity forms of supplementary education (Japan, Turkey, China, Brazil and Vietnam); countries with low-intensity forms of supplementary education (Canada, Australia, the United States and Germany); and a comparison of high- and low-intensity forms of supplementary education (the United States and Korea; and a 17-nation study focused on family capital). Much of the justification for this organizational model has to do with their broad definition of what constitutes supplementary education: “academic instruction that takes place during nonschool time including after school, on the weekends, or during summer vacation” (xv). This allows the editors and the authors of the individual chapters to roam around the variety of settings of this industry, which includes such diverse locales as conventional schools, business office buildings, individual homes, libraries, religious organizations, and so on.
The authors are further guided by a set of “key questions” that the editors pose and which are related to the typology and focus on intensity, impact, and pedagogical authority of supplementary education. Finally, it is important to note the methodological diversity of the chapters, which includes both qualitative and quantitative, as well as mixed methods.
The richness of the data and arguments in the individual chapters varies but in general it is possible to say that they all contribute to the literature on supplementary education. In part 1, (high-intensity forms of supplementary education), the chapter on Japan makes the important point that despite the general negative impression of juku and yobiko they have often contributed to and complemented the formal school system, and have been in some respects engines of innovation. As the further corporatization of Japanese education proceeds, these alternative educational institutions will likely gain more acceptability as smaller “shadow schools” disappear.
It is surprising to learn that Turkey has a fifty-year tradition of supplementary schools, but it is not surprising to learn that the primary motivation for this is the presence of high-stakes national and central examinations. That, along with the increased demand for tertiary education, has fueled this industry. There is also great diversity in supplementary education, ranging from one-on-one individualized teaching models to those that resemble formal schools. The latter are gradually being transformed into “learning centres.” Although the private sector plays a predominant role in supplementary schools, national regulatory policies include equity requirements for low-income families.
In the China and Vietnam chapters we learn much about “how” to do supplementary research in those particular settings. In these mixed methods studies the authors place the data collection process in the cultural, social and political contexts. This is an uncommon approach and one that tells us a great deal about not only the process of researching sensitive areas such as supplementary education (buxiban in China) but about the schools themselves. Unlike the case of Turkey, China’s growth and increase in income attract mainstream teachers to these schools. And the Vietnam chapter is rich in data and highlights the tutoring function of supplementary education.
The rapidly growing supplementary market of Brazil is the last chapter in the high-intensity section. The data provided by the authors raise serious and interesting questions about the implications of supplementary education on learning and instruction as well as social equity. Given that little has been published about supplementary education in that nation this chapter marks a significant contribution to the literature.
In part 2, low-intensity forms of supplementary education are captured in Canada, Australia, the United States and Germany. What seems to link them together with the possible exception of Germany, is the peripheral nature of supplementary education vis-à-vis the formal system. While the practice is growing in Canada and the US, it appears to fail to penetrate the formal system in the manner detailed in the part 1 countries. And in Australia, the data show that attending such schools does not necessarily enhance the main goal of supplementary education, that is, increased access to higher education. However, in Germany, a perceived insecurity among parents and students has produced a strong push factor toward attendance in these schools such that about 30 percent of students in the cohort attend with the primary goal of compensating for what is perceived as a weak formal school system. Nevertheless, supplementary education has found a market even in the low-intensity systems and has adapted to changing motivation factors.
Part 3 concludes with two chapters that are comparative in scope and provide useful data on the distinctions between the formal and nonformal educational sectors, the power of the market even in vastly different contexts, and the process of social reproduction as one important outcome of supplementary education (a 17-nation comparative study).
The book is clearly a strong addition to the literature on this “shadowy” educational phenomenon and will likely spur others to broaden the research base for an increasingly important force in education and national development.
John N. Hawkins, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
THE THOUGHT REMOLDING CAMPAIGN OF THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY-STATE. ICAS Publications Series. Monographs; 7. By Hu Ping; translated by Philip F. Williams and Yenna Wu. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2012. 313 pp. US$75.00, paper. ISBN 978-90-8964-410-7.
When the revolutionary Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic in 1949, a central component of the state-building project was thought remoulding. Defined by Hu Ping as transforming individuals’ worldviews, or more simply as xinao (brainwashing), the scope of this endeavour was enormous: “Today, there is no one over fifty years of age in mainland China who lacks heartfelt experience of thought remoulding” (10). The breadth and depth of thought remoulding in China was unparalleled anywhere in the communist world, such that Hu sees it as a defining feature of the CCP’s totalitarian rule. To Hu, the process of thought remoulding is essentially about the “taming of the human” (10), and, importantly, the varied responses of individuals willing to accept or resist the will of the party. This translated volume of Hu’s meditations on thought remoulding tackles several questions: what was it, why was it accepted, how was it carried out, and how did some resist it?
In addressing these questions, Hu makes clear the devastating impact of thought remoulding on both the individual and larger Chinese society. Hu weaves into his narrative a mixture of personal anecdote, references to Western philosophical work, social science research, and Chinese history. The breadth of references is striking: Hu will move effortlessly from summarizing a 1959 psychology study carried out at Stanford University to, three pages later, a discussion of the relationship between thought remoulding and Chinese literary classics such as Water Margin.
Over the course of seven chapters, Hu considers his core questions about thought remoulding for audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with the topic. The first two chapters seek to define thought remoulding, including its “absurdity” in comparison to more “logical product[s] of Marxism” (21) such as the planned economy. Part of defining a concept foreign to most Western readers is articulating what thought remoulding is not; Hu is emphatic in differentiating it from other mental processes such as the development of morals or evolution of ideas.
Chapter 2, which takes up the issue of why thought remoulding was accepted en masse, focuses on the CCP’s building of a new conceptual universe (for example, casting intellectuals as the “stinking number nine” at the bottom of a new social hierarchy) and an ideological and organizational structure whereby there is one truth and violence accompanies the enforcement of that truth. Totalitarian systems have a “sky-darkening huge net of many types of lies” (50), which make it difficult for any lone citizen to determine truths outside of official doctrine. Layered over this is the sheer power of the endless campaign culture of the Mao period. Here Hu tells the story of a friend of his who loved singing but disliked revolutionary songs. Despite his best efforts to sing folk songs, this friend nonetheless found himself humming revolutionary songs to himself during unguarded moments because of the repetition of hearing these songs over and over, everywhere.
After laying conceptual foundations, the third chapter provides a description of the various tactics employed in thought remoulding, to powerful cumulative effect. There are the study sessions, collective rituals, affective propaganda, criticism, and self-criticism meetings. First is the “ferocious clap” of denouncing a person in a criticism session, then isolation and shaming. All of this has the effect of breaking down an individual’s defenses and creating in him an “emotional need to identify with one’s oppressors” (117).
From there the book pivots to the ways in which individuals found ways to evade thought remoulding or outright rebel against these heavy-handed tactics of a seemingly monolithic party-state. Evasion has the appearance of “getting tamed” (164), observed during the middle and late periods of the Cultural Revolution (1969–76). Rebellion has followed evasion, though Hu puzzles through, in chapter 7, why CCP membership is still widely coveted and why there hasn’t been a mass defection from the Party.
The last two chapters weigh the problem of an apathetic Chinese citizenry—the result of a crumbling ideological foundation and the waning of thought remoulding—against the struggles of a pro-democracy minority both underground and exiled. Hu is staunchly in the liberal camp, but he is skeptical of the thesis posited by modernization theorists that economic development and shared prosperity across a burgeoning middle class will drive political liberalization. He favours an ideational approach to political change, one where citizens must have at bottom faith in the power of liberal ideas. At this juncture he could have dedicated more space to the formidable coordination problems facing his political minority, which is compounded by the problems of falsified preferences, geography, and lack of institutional memory.
Hu is cautiously optimistic about the emergence of a China free of thought remoulding and the political control required to carry it out. He sees a present and future where liberal-minded citizens and sympathetic Party members support one another and break down a system where thought remoulding will mark a historical moment in a bygone system. But whereas thought remoulding is “a negation of the freedom of thought” (165), this does not necessarily imply that the end of thought remoulding will usher in a time of free thought. Instead there is only the possibility, with measured strides, of achieving the universal dignity that Hu believes is at the heart of a liberal society.
In closing, Hu casts China as progressing through several stages in the life cycle of a totalitarian system. First is the promise of a utopian system that elicits fanatic pledges of loyalty, and citizen obedience is further enforced through a regime of terror. Rebellion follows, and if the party is successful in thwarting these efforts, citizen indifference and apathy mark the final stage. What happens next is a matter of speculation.
Charlotte Lee, Stanford University, Stanford, USA
WALKING A TIGHTROPE: Defending Human Rights in China. Asian Insights, no. 6. By Gert Holmgaard Nielsen. Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2014. xxxii, 277 pp. (B&W photos.) £18.99, paper. ISBN 978-87-7694-131-4.
Faced with evidence of human rights abuse, victims and activists typically have two choices. They can shout loud, call out the abusers, and demand retribution and redemption. Or, they can work with the system in which the abusers operate to try to persuade, cajole, or even force them to repair the wrongs they have committed. The specifics of any one situation dictate which is likely to be the most effective approach, though in reality it is nearly always a combination of the two that yields results. The headlines are usually grabbed by protestors pursuing the first option precisely because they shout loudest, but this cannot be allowed to overshadow, still less diminish, the contributions to change that the latter group make.
It is with the actions and attitudes of a collection of low-key human rights defenders working inside China, and with the Chinese legal system, that this book is concerned. Its documentary style of delivery—comprising extended interview notes and some reflective commentary—makes for captivating reading. There are ten interviewees. They work across a range of human rights matters: migrant workers; women; unregistered (i.e., non-citizen) children; free speech; democracy; the police and court systems. All are refreshingly frank and, with the exception of two lawyers working for a district prosecution service, happy to be named. It is no surprise that the prosecutors use pseudonyms as they have much to lose by speaking out (or laughing nervously, as was their telling response when asked whether they have faith in the Chinese legal system).
It is clear that the reformatory-minded interviewees in the book are as committed to exposing abuse and seeking justice as are those of a more revolutionary bent. It is just that their methods, and often physical locations, differ. Demonstrative revolutionary critics tend to be outsiders—that is, neither Chinese, nor living in China—while these reformers are both. It is they who must walk the tightrope of the book’s title: maintaining the delicate balance between being active, critical and visible, and overdoing it such that they are knocked off their perch (and into jail). It requires tact as well as guile, and a large dollop of bravery.
Gert Holmgaard Nielsen, a journalist who has lived and worked in China for many years (and is fluent in Chinese), is masterful in the way he collects, arranges, and presents the material. He clearly empathizes with his subjects, but that said he is no patsy. One of the best features of the book is how he presses interviewees on their motivations and reasoning. When labour activist Wang Kan takes a job with the very government think-tank he had previously criticized, Nielsen pushes him to explain his reasoning (basically, he is playing a long game, gaining experience from both sides), and when Yang Songcai expresses some optimism regarding the situation of defense lawyers, Nielsen repeatedly challenges him in light of apparent evidence to the contrary.
There are two intellectual themes running through the book. One is the determination of the interviewees to promote the rule of law over the rule of man (or guanxi, as politician Wu Quing puts it). Each works through the existing legal system, insisting that laws be enforced as stated rather than at the discretion of those in power (especially the police, the judiciary and government officials), and where the stated law is inadequate, pushing reforms—such as the new Criminal Procedure Law 2012 in which “human rights” are now expressly mentioned, or the successful registration of a school for the children of migrant workers in Beijing. An important feature of many legal cases explored in the book is not that they succeeded (most did not), but that they excited media and public attention that led eventually (and often quietly) to desirable outcomes. Public interest lawyer He Hairen’s exposure of a hidden insurance tax on train travel, (thereby permitting claims to be made where previously they were not thought possible), and the raising of domestic violence as a matter for public debate and policy reform noted by activist Li Yang, are two results achieved in this way.
The second theme concerns claims of Chinese exceptionalism. Many interviewees highlight the differences between China and the West, and stress the importance of the gradual, indirect route towards change. Li Ying refers to the “long, slow haul” towards women’s equality, while Wu Qing says much the same about China’s road to democracy. Scholar Li Buyun accepts that when he protests about the human rights abuses of convicts he must couch the discussion as one about their “legal status” if his voice is to be heard, while lawyer Yang Songcai recognizes that the most persuasive way to teach human rights to the police, prosecutors and judges is to present them as contributing to the achievement of such officially sanctioned goals as a “harmonious” and “inclusive” society.
A number of interviewees gently chide Western critics for being too impatient or unrealistic in their expectations regarding human rights reforms in China, or being blind to the achievements that have been made. Some are also ambivalent (if not a little resentful) of Chinese dissidents feted in the West, referring to AIDS activist Hu Jia, Falun Gong defender Gao Zhisheng, Nobel laureate Liu Xiabo, and blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, among others, as “lone wolves,” or pointing out the broad shoulders of others upon which they have been able to stand. This, of course, is a common (and not unfounded) lament of the unsung about the sung, though the diffidence of the interviewees here might also be a direct result of these individuals’ status as persona non grata in China.
But all that said, rhetorical value is seen in measuring Chinese standards against those of international human rights law. Children’s rights activist Liu Huawen, for example, challenges skeptics to “read the Convention [on the Rights of the Child] and tell me which articles contradict our culture,” and the ingrained culture of police torture, as noted by various interviewees, is not only contrary to Chinese criminal law and the Chinese Constitution, it also violates China’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture.
The insights this book offers into how human rights advocacy is practiced on the ground and on a daily basis in China are both profound and compelling. These are stories that need to be listened to by those outside China as much as those inside, and so, to that end, we should be very grateful to Nielsen and his subjects for telling them in such an attractive and accessible manner. To reach out and enlighten in this way can only help to build human rights bridges within China, and between China and the rest of the world.
David Kinley, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
A CONTINUOUS REVOLUTION: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 343. By Barbara Mittler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2012. xvi, 486 pp. (Illus.) US$59.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-06581-9.
A Continuous Revolution is a strongly argued book and given its sweeping nature is bound to be the subject of controversy in the field. Continuity is the theme that Mittler hammers away at repeatedly. Her subject is cultural production during the Chinese Cultural Revolution over the officially defined time period of 1966–76. By continuity, Mittler means cultural continuity from the late Qing period to the present day. In every chapter she places the output of the Cultural Revolution period in music, visual arts and literature into the continuum of modern Chinese cultural history.
The book is carefully organized to bring out this central argument. The introduction deals with broad questions defining cultural production as propaganda, education and form of art. She ties the roots of modern Chinese culture to the May 4th Movement of 1919 as the first Cultural Revolution. The two revolutions must not be analyzed strictly in terms of their place in the art or literary history of China. A broader lens is necessary to understand fully the Cultural Revolution of 1966–76 and its impact on the targeted audience, i.e., the Chinese masses. Mittler’s assertions about the Cultural Revolution are based on a comprehensive reading, listening and viewing of the material products of the period from Mao buttons, to poster art, to well-known revolutionary operas and ballets, to editions of the Little Red Book, and the mass singing of revolutionary classics like the Internationale. Examples of the above are housed in special collections at Heidelberg University where Mittler is the senior China scholar. Besides these primary sources, she draws heavily upon interviews (names kept anonymous) with countless individuals who experienced the Cultural Revolution and its cultural production as adults (the majority are intellectuals).
Mittler then proceeds to show in chapter 1, from “Mozart to Mao to Mozart,” how music of the period fit into a long tradition, rooted in this case in the popular music of the 1920s and 1930s. She argues that Cultural Revolution operas, ballets and the efforts of Mei Lanfang in particular were neither xenophobic nor a negation of tradition. They had in fact strong connections to various Western styles and traditions while echoing Chinese traditional musical forms. Chapter 2 dwells on music, orchestrations and songs sung in mass or individually. She goes to quite some length to examine the work of the popular rock star Cui Jian and the connection of his music to the Cultural Revolution (even when he is mocking it). Chapter 3 is an analysis of the written words or scriptures of the Cultural Revolution period, boldly refuting as a myth the idea that the Cultural Revolution attacked and destroyed traditional philosophical and canonical works (like that of Confucius). To demonstrate this point in chapters 3 and 4, she provides an elaborate analysis of the divergent versions of the Sanzijing or three-character classics that were produced between 1966–76. She also argues that the story of the Foolish Old Man Who Moves Mountains and the Little Red Book have deep roots in China’s past (and survive today in post-1979 PRC). Chapters 5 and 6 examine the visual arts: paintings (especially portraiture), posters, comic strips. Here she emphasizes the variety of cultural production and the difference between the earlier period from 1966 to 1972 and the later period from 1972 to 1976.
Throughout the book, Mittler takes issue with most established scholars who have written on the culture of the Cultural Revolution: Julia Andrews, Paul Clark, Colin MacKerras, Orville Schell and Mary Ann Farquhar. In the conclusion she insists that the Cultural Revolution was not a period of cultural stagnation and shallow propaganda models, out of step with the rest of modern Chinese cultural history. Cultural production of the period was neither xenophobic nor iconoclastic. Like the products of the May 4th period, the art, music and literary output of the 1966–76 period represent a tapestry, rich in its diversity and connections to both earlier Chinese traditions and foreign influences. She ends the book by calling for a reevaluation of the Cultural Revolution period as a complicated, contradictory time culturally speaking that has been overly stereotyped and dismissed as unworthy of serious scholarly examination.
Mittler’s book is bold in its insistence on the continuity and relevance of Cultural Revolution art to understanding present-day China. To achieve this, she avoids the politics of the Cultural Revolution. Hardly mentioned is Jiang Qing, who is usually thought of as a sort of cultural czar before her downfall in 1976. In other words, Mittler explores the context and precedents for the art and forms of Cultural Revolution propaganda without discussing their political purposes or relevance to the power and ideological struggles of the period. Is it possible understand the cultural production of the 1966–76 period devoid of its political context? Although Soviet influences are mentioned, comparisons are not pursued vis-à-vis Chinese cultural production as part of the communist cultural industry that dominated Eastern-bloc countries during the Cold War.
In contemporary China, the legacy of the Cultural Revolution period in cultural terms is contradictory. On the one hand there is a rejection of Mao-era cultural production by many intellectuals and artists (Wang Hui for example) in favour of returning to traditional norms from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The reverse reaction is also present: the revival of old Maoist slogans and revolutionary songs at mass meetings, led by political figures like Bo Xilai and muscularly nationalist intellectuals. The legacy is clearly complicated and how it fits into Mittler’s argument of continuity is not clear.
Stephen R. MacKinnon, Arizona State University, Tempe, USA
BREAKING WITH THE PAST: The Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China. By Hans van de Ven. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. xiv, 396 pp. (Figures, tables, graphs.) US$50.00, cloth . ISBN 978-0-231-13738-6.
Breaking with the Past: The Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China by Hans van de Ven does indeed break with the past. It breaks with past approaches to modern Chinese history. It breaks with scholarship that neatly compartmentalizes Chinese, British Imperial and Treaty Port history. Instead, it offers an interconnected narrative that addresses the big present-day questions about the origins of China’s new position as a global power. This is answered through a long overdue reinterpretation of the significance of the often overlooked foreign-led state agency, the Chinese Maritime Customs Service (1854–1949).
The book comprises seven chapters, together with an introduction and an epilogue. The introduction explains the significance of the Customs Service as a middle house for Chinese and foreign contact. The author states that the “aim of this study is to write the Customs Service back into the history of modern China and modern globalisation and so, more generally, to bring the foreign back” (5). Its approach to modernity attempts to be alert to its patchwork nature, to its improvisational aspects, and to the fact that what we might see as typically European or Chinese, in reality came about as the two met. He states his argument that the Customs Service was a chameleon because of the hybrid quality personnel it employed. As a “frontier regime” it gave commercial opportunities for advancement not just to reputable merchants, but also to adventurers, arms dealers, speculators, mercenaries, and sailors.
This book does really break with the past. This break is most noticeable in the author’s treatment of John King Fairbank’s notion of “synarchy.” While acknowledging Fairbank’s status in the historiography of this period, van de Ven does nonetheless revise the overly Orientalist and imperialist perspective that Fairbank had on Chinese history. He writes,
Fairbank was naïve about the political context in which the Customs Service operated and did not do what is an imperative for historians: follow the money. He failed to pay sufficient attention to conflicts among foreigners as well as between Chinese officials and Manchu aristocrats. Nor was he sufficiently alert to China’s long history of commercialisation and overseas trade, or of the fact that its officials and merchants often collaborated or that the weak, too, often have some sort of power (8).
Chapter 1 assesses Prince Gong and his cosmopolitan efforts to use the British and French as a counterweight to the Taiping. It combines that assessment with a study of the activities of Horatio Lay as first inspector general, whose more forceful approach tested Prince Gong’s willingness to accommodate British demands. Lay’s dismissal and the appointment of Robert Hart signalled a clear change in philosophy for the Customs Service, from being an instrument of British informal empire to one that was “more a Chinese institution” (63). This separation between trade and governance is today regarded as one of the modern principles of free trade. Chapter 2 discusses the contribution of Robert Hart to the consolidation of the Customs Service, not least by the construction of a network of lighthouses. Hart’s “panopticon,” then, was built as a centralized and disciplined administration that inhabited a space between the Qing and Western powers that was to become a modern and established bureaucracy on the Chinese coast. That space was, perhaps more accurately, a locum for interdependence, that is, the mutual need, commercial and otherwise, of the foreign for China and China for the foreign. This moment marks the start of economic globalization as we now know it and the place of China in the world economy.
Chapter 3 examines the ever-difficult relationship between China and Japan through the lens of the London office of the Maritime Customs Service. In the period between the Taiping Rebellion and the First Sino-Japanese War, China went from being the leading East Asian naval power to second fiddle to Japan as the terms of trade changed in the bilateral relationship: China exported agricultural and other primary goods to Japan while it imported industrial goods from Japan. Despite the best efforts of the London office to revitalize the Customs Service, the Japanese pressure proved too much and led to the collapse of Chinese rule in the seas and markets of East Asia.
Chapter 4 provides insight into the involvement of the Customs Service in the fiscal affairs of the country. As a lender of last resort, it underwrote loan bonds to pay dues to Japan after the First Sino-Japanese War and guaranteed the Boxer Indemnity. Chapter 5 examines the role played by Francis Aglen at the helm of the Customs Service. His commitment to fiscal prudence ultimately paved the way for the Nationalist takeover of the country and his replacement by Frederick Maze. The Nationalists, in turn, used the Customs Service as a cash cow, a raiser of revenue with which to fund their revolutionary activities.
Chapter 6 traces the formation of the modern Chinese state through the development of a consistent tariff policy under the direction of the Customs Service. This administration provided a ready template for accountability, which would later prove useful for the governance of the Chinese polity. Chapter 7 outlines the collapse of the Customs Service under pressure from the horrors of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Communist revolution. This was a time of great confusion that even saw the parallel appointment of two rival inspectors general, the Japanese-backed Kishimoto Hirokichi and the American Lester K. Little. The Korean War and the paranoia of “enemies within” was the final nail in the coffin for the Customs Service.
Once again, van de Ven wants—indeed, he needs—to write “about the Service largely as a way to bring the foreign back into China’s modern history” (309). He succeeds. He does so with the support of a relentless archival study that took him all over China and beyond, from Nanjing and its Second Historical Archives to Kew and the British National Archives. His admirable focus on the big picture combined with detailed archival analysis is underwritten with rigour, in telling the broader narratives from Old China to Young China to Nationalist China to Communist China to China today as the largest economy of the world. And out of this narrative, the colour green of Customs Service flags and ensigns triumphantly appears in postal services everywhere in Greater China as a visual reminder of the historical legacy of this great agency of the Chinese state, fittingly, in the green of Hart’s Ireland, not the vermilion red of China.
Stephanie Villalta Puig, Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
SEEING TRANSNATIONALLY: How Chinese Migrants Make Their Dreams Come True. Global Migration and China. By Li Minghuan. Leuven (Belgium): Leuven University Press; HangZhou (China): Zhejiang University Press; Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press [distributor], 2013. xiii, 317 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$79.50, cloth. ISBN 978-90-5867-901-7.
This book consists of a collection of papers that were all previously published in English during the author’s more than twenty years of studying transnational migration from China since1986. Not all the original publications, particularly those consisting of conference papers or research reports, are easily accessible and a pulling together of a lifetime’s work on the theme is perhaps warranted. Several of the papers have been lightly edited since their original publication or updated through return visits to the field. The book is divided into three main parts, together with a short introduction and concluding remarks.
Part 1, with six chapters, covers empirical studies in places of origin of migration. These focus on the author’s main areas of fieldwork in Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province, and in several parts of Fujian Province. However, in two chapters, the author also examines the evolution of the relatively recent migration to Israel and the process of labour recruiting in southern China. This section concludes with a discussion of an agricultural village established in Fujian Province to settle Chinese migrants from Southeast Asia from the 1950s. Part 2, also comprised of six chapters, deals with destinations of migration, and focuses primarily on Europe, concentrating heavily on the Netherlands. Migrant associations, the evolution of migration to Europe, and students and scholars are the specific themes examined. Somewhat out-of-place is a short chapter on refugee determination in British Columbia, Canada. The third part consists of three chapters, two of which are based upon cemetery archives from nineteenth-century Batavia, which are today held in the Netherlands and which generate much useful information on the Chinese in Indonesia. The first chapter in this third part consists of reflections on the Dutch language, landscape painting and the nature of Dutch culture to argue the case that the Dutch are the Chinese of Europe based upon a common entrepreneurial capability.
Such a wide range of topics certainly provides insight into the great diversity of Chinese transnational migration. However, it also leads to two weaknesses. First, there are no common themes running through the chapters of the book that might hold the book together, and one might have wished for a greater degree of editorial attention and updating to try to bring about a greater consistency. For example, chapter 8, a short entry that reviews Chinese migration to Europe, could very easily have been incorporated into chapter 12, where the same issues are introduced using more recent data (183–185). At the very least, cross-referencing between the two chapters to try to reconcile the different estimates given for the numbers of Chinese in Europe would have helped the reader. The author gives an estimate of some 2.5 million Chinese in Europe around 2008 (183), whereas recent United Nations estimates place the number of migrants from China in Europe at just over one million in 2013, although many of the one million other migrants from Southeast Asia would also have been ethnic Chinese. Readers would have benefited from a much fuller discussion of the differences between numbers of migrants from China and numbers of people of Chinese ethnicity. One might also have expected the revisions to the papers to have incorporated information from an important source such as Lynn Pann’s The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas (Singapore, Archipelago Press, 1998, second edition, 2006). Unfortunately, the author could not have had access to Elizabeth Sinn’s recent meticulous work on labour recruitment and migration from southern China, in Pacific Crossing (Hong Kong, Hong Kong University Press, 2013).
The second weakness inherent in the breadth and range of topics in the chapters is that it has led to a lack of depth of analysis on particular topics. For example, one wondered whether there was any relationship between the emigrant villages (qiaoxiang) in Wenzhou and the some two million immigrants from other rural parts of China who appeared to have moved into Wenzhou (9). The village of Lishan seemed to be depopulating but was this typical of qiaoxiang areas, of which there were many? What was happening to vacant housing and unused land? Was there evidence of land consolidation? Or of houses being rented out to immigrants, elsewhere if not in Lishan? We are never told. Again, in the case of Songping, the village created for migrants from Southeast Asia is presented as typical. However, how do we know that it is representative? Much more information needed to be presented to justify the case. A third example is that it is never made clear upon which basis asylum seekers were awarded refugee status in Canada. That is, what would seem to be interesting follow-up questions are never examined in the various chapters.
The strength of this book is also its weakness: the great range of topics covered. Some of these topics have received relatively little attention in the literature, such as the Chinese migration to Israel or the villages established for ethnic migrants from Indonesia. However, once introduced, the reader is often left frustrated that the research was never pushed to a greater depth. Li Minghuan has done great service over almost a quarter of a century in pioneering different approaches to the topic of Chinese transnational migration. It is a pity that a greater effort was not made in the editing and updating of the papers presented in this book to take into account both more recent research and a fuller interpretation of her own empirical data.
Ronald Skeldon, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom
GUANGDONG AND CHINESE DIASPORA: The Changing Landscape of Qiaoxiang. Routledge Contemporary China Series, 94. By Yow Cheun Hoe. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xxi, 231 pp. (Maps, tables, illus.) US$135.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-64222-4.
This book sets out to challenge what author Yow Cheun Hoe describes as an enduring “myth that the Chinese diaspora’s relations with China is something natural and primordial, and that regardless of their base outside China and their generation of migration, the Chinese diaspora are inclined to participate enthusiastically in China’s social and economic agendas” (1). On the contrary, Chinese overseas have in general been distancing themselves from their ancestral homeland for more than six decades since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the rise of postcolonial nation-states in Southeast Asia, and the abrogation of anti-Chinese exclusionary policies in the former white settler colonies of North America and Australasia. Moreover, Yow argues, “not all Chinese diasporic communities are the same in terms of mentality and orientation” (1) and the degree of their attachment and connections to China often varies greatly from one community to another. In fact, Yow maintains, affective ties as a whole are less important than other considerations when it comes to determining diasporic investments in today’s China. During the reform era in China since 1978, emigrants’ ties to their ancestral villages, primordial sentiments and feelings of patriotism toward China “have not necessarily enhanced the degree of involvement of the Chinese diaspora in the economic arena of China” (2). Instead, Yow argues, it is primarily “business calculation and economic rationale” that has determined the “destination and magnitude of diasporic engagement” (2). In order to prove his thesis, the author has painstakingly assembled evidence from a wide array of written and oral sources, including local newspapers and magazines, government documents, personal interviews, questionnaires and extended periods of fieldwork in China and Southeast Asia.
The core of the book consists of a series of detailed case studies that examine the shifting familial, cultural and economic ties between two major qiaoxiang (emigrant districts) in China’s Guangdong province (Panyu and Xinyi) and Chinese communities in Singapore and Malaysia, Hong Kong and North America. These case studies are further augmented by the research findings of scholars who have studied diasporic ties in Guangdong’s other qiaoxiang. The result is an empirically rich and evidence-driven analysis that also makes a significant theoretical contribution. Yow shows that the current economic disparity among Guangdong’s qiaoxiang is something that has emerged most clearly in the past three decades since the onset of the reform period. Qiaoxiang that have been successful in attracting diasporic donations and foreign investment have been transformed and revitalized, while those that have not have become quiet backwaters and relics of an earlier time. The author demonstrates convincingly that the key determinant of qiaoxiang success in attracting investment capital is not diasporic connections per se, but rather economic location and, specifically, proximity to Hong Kong. The only partial exceptions to this pattern are qiaoxiang such as Kaiping and Taishan. As a result of their relatively remote location outside the main Pearl River Delta region, Kaiping and Taishan have received far less in the way of diasporic business investments in recent decades. However, both have managed to compensate for their disadvantaged economic location by becoming the recipients of considerable charitable donations and social welfare investments, thanks to their historic links with Chinese in North America.
The short summary above does not do justice to the breadth and depth of topics explored by Yow. The book is comprised of eight chapters including an introduction and conclusion. After setting the stage with a broad overview of the Chinese diaspora and a critical review of recent literature on qiaoxiang ties and transnational business networks, chapter 2 provides a detailed and nuanced discussion of historic patterns of out-migration from Guangdong and the formation and subsequent development of the province’s distinctive qiaoxiang areas from the early part of the twentieth century to the present. Chapter 3 describes the “waning ancestral ties” (38) of Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese with their ancestral villages in Panyu and Xinyi and their “deepening commitment” to their countries of residence over the past half century. The next four chapters, which constitute the heart of the book, examine the fluctuating fortunes of Panyu and Xinyi before and after 1978. The former profited handsomely from its strategic location in the Pearl River Delta, becoming a major magnate for Hong Kong investment capital, while the latter, located in the mountainous interior of the province, continued to languish economically as it had for much of the twentieth century.
Yow’s book is written in the same spirit as earlier studies by Madeline Hsu and Adam McKeown that challenge migration scholars to rethink entrenched assumptions and basic categories of conceptualization and approach, in the process leading us toward new avenues of research and understanding. Guangdong and Chinese Diaspora provides a useful corrective to a clutch of earlier studies that rushed to proclaim and celebrate the reinvigoration of diasporic ties to China after 1978 without engaging in very much research to support their effusive claims. Empirically rich and theoretically engaged, this book will be of interest not only for historians and social scientists who specialize in Chinese migration, but for all scholars who are interested in human diasporas and how they change and evolve over time.
Glen Peterson, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
REGULATING PROSTITUTION IN CHINA: Gender and Local Statebuilding, 1900–1937. By Elizabeth J. Remick. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014. xv, 270 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8836-6.
Elizabeth Remick’s Regulating Prostitution in China is a welcome contribution to the growing literature on modern Chinese state building. Similar to the best scholarship in this subfield of study, it offers a complex portrait of state-building initiatives that were developed over the course of the tumultuous first decades of the twentieth century. Building on her earlier work on taxation, public finance and local state building in Republican China, Remick deftly outlines three regulatory models deployed by Chinese cities beginning in the early 1900s, showing how local political histories gave rise to distinct trajectories in the bureaucratic management and regulation of prostitution. Remick’s most important contribution, however, lies in her attention to the ways in which local state building was composed of highly gendered processes with important consequences, as she argues, for the size, function and reach of the local state itself.
The impetus to regulate prostitution initially came from international pressure to address what was perceived to be the low status of Chinese women. But even if it was European powers that pressured the Qing government to do away with “white slavery,” it was not, ultimately, European models of regulation that were implemented. Instead, late Qing and Republican city administrators adapted from Japan’s approach to police reform in three distinct ways as a means of obtaining better public health and social control. Specifically, Remick discusses the emergence of three reform models as they developed locally: the “light” approach, the “revenue intensive” approach, and the “coercive-intensive approach.” The light approach, in which prostitution was lightly taxed and monitored, was adopted by most Chinese provincial capitals in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Focusing on Hangzhou, Remick offers a fascinating portrayal of failed police attempts to crack down on unlicensed prostitution during the mid-1920s, attempts that were followed by an even less successful intervention to phase out prostitution altogether. Remick’s description of the lively and well-attended protests that followed the city’s initiative to ban prostitution via lottery is a compelling account of how “‘big picture’ political commitments ran into trouble when local officials tried to implement them on the ground” (53).
Prostitutes working in Guangzhou would prove equally unwilling to conform to new forms of regulation. Remick opens her discussion of the revenue-intensive model as it was developed in Guangzhou with a vignette focused on prostitutes instigating a strike. Unlike in Hangzhou, however, where city officials made little off of the services of sex workers, the city of Guangzhou became so dependent on the tax revenue generated by prostitution that it willingly modified the new regulations in order to get the prostitutes back to work. Indeed, Guangzhou’s extraordinary dependence upon the 500,000 yuan that came in annually during the late 1920s and early 1930s exceeded the entire budget for social welfare expenditures. As Remick points out, these funds were not just an important component of the city’s budget but were, in fact, indispensable—a major factor in the resistance of local Guangzhou officials to the abolition movement.
The regulation of prostitution in Kunming, where the most extensive development of the “coercion-intensive” model was implemented, would prove to be far more intrusive in the lives of sex workers than it was in much of the rest of China. As managers of a “frontier town” in the late Qing and early Republican era, Kunming’s officials prioritized social order above all else. As a consequence, the highly militarized local government chose to segregate brothels from the rest of society by locating them within walled compounds, or jiyuan. Although the jiyuan system was subject to sharp societal critique and was even shut down for several years during the mid nineteen-teens, the police not only returned to this system but over the decades expanded their bureaucratic and physical control of the lives of sex workers through the implementation of extremely invasive health inspections. As the jiyuan system continued to evolve, prostitutes essentially became state employees complete with personnel files. The surplus revenues made by the jiyuan after 1923, in turn, were used to support social welfare projects, including a women’s social reformatory.
Explicit throughout Remick’s analysis of the local institutionalization of prostitution regulation during the late Qing, Warlord and Republican eras is the centrality of gender to these processes. The shifting political terrain and rapidly changing norms regarding the management of society in general, and the morality of women in particular, therefore not only influenced the regulation of prostitution, but also produced unique institutions such as the jiliangsuo, or prostitute rescue institutions, described by Remick in chapter 5. Indeed, central and local elites, police administrators, social reformers and Confucian scholars debated vigorously over how to best regulate prostitution or, in the case of a number of vocal opponents, to do away with prostitution altogether. As Remick makes clear, these debates were fueled as much by panic over the perceived immorality and public health threat of sex work, as they were about upholding an idealized version of the married, virtuous woman during a time of rapid change. At the same time, the defiance of women sex workers and brothel owners suggests the real limitations of the reform models as they were conceived and implemented. For although local approaches to prostitution regulation and reform engendered new and unexpected forms of state building, these approaches ultimately failed to meet many of their goals (other than generating enormous local revenues, in the case of Guangzhou).
In conclusion, Regulating Prostitution in China offers a unique contribution to the Chinese state-building literature and an important addition to the study of gender in late Qing and Republican China, and will enliven undergraduate and graduate courses focused on early twentieth-century Chinese history and gender and modern China
Kimberley Ens Manning, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada
CONSUMPTION IN CHINA: How China’s New Consumer Ideology is Shaping the Nation. China Today Series. By LiAnne Yu. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press; Hoboken, NJ: Wiley [distributor], 2014. xi, 207 pp. (Map.) US$22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7456-6971-7.
China’s sustained prosperity over the decades has considerably raised household income, and accordingly, improved the amounts, varieties and qualities of consumer goods. However, the World Bank reports that China’s household consumption expenditures only represent 35 percent of GDP in 2012, far below the world’s average of 60 percent. As China is engaged in transforming itself into a more consumption-based economy, LiAnne Yu’s new book Consumption in China: How China’s New Consumer Ideology is Shaping the Nation provides a timely guide to explore the consumerism in contemporary China.
The book aims to unveil “what is global and what is unique about China’s consumer revolution” (27). Yu collected the first-hand information including real-life cases and individual interviews in Beijing and Shanghai from 1990 to 2013 and connected her empirical observations with academic theories. Yu, who received a PhD in anthropology from UC San Diego, is an independent consultant specializing in consumer cultures in emerging markets. She has twenty-year experience in ethnographic research on behalf of global businesses seeking expertise on consumer habits.
The book covers three themes: the transformation of Chinese society, the influence of the one-child policy, and the activism against adverse consequences of consumption. The first theme discusses what modernization is bringing to China: public propaganda areas are giving way to malls and hypermarkets; consumers move seamlessly between virtual and real spaces with the aid of the Internet and digital devices; and social distinctions reemerge as people pursue social superiority through conspicuous consumption. In Chinese society, with keen interests in material possessions, relations with potential spouses and child rearing are increasingly commoditized, which fits in with Fan’s viewpoint that social status is the key in both male-female and intergenerational relationships (C. Simon Fan, Vanity Economics: An Economic Exploration of Sex, Marriage and Family, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2014). The second theme addresses how the one-child policy is shaping China’s consumption landscape: while elder generations save every penny to give their kids the very best, young singletons focus on a lifestyle that is self-indulgent and self-fulfilling. The final theme is about how Chinese people express their consumption freedom, with topics spanning from a boycott of Japanese brands, media censorship, moral decay, and environmental degradation to the lack of food safety standards.
Yu’s work contributed to the literature by emphasizing the role of the “state” in Chinese consumerism. In the planned economy era, China’s centralized economic and trade policy led to surly services in state-owned stores, shoddy products and a scarcity of imported commodities. Despite its recent transformation into market economy, the state still employs a heavy hand in restricting foreign corporate access and Internet freedom. More importantly, China’s one-child policy, which has been implemented for over thirty years, has been shaping the consumption experiences of several generations.
One interesting aspect of this book is the identification of some consumption patterns with Chinese characteristics: for example, reusing branded shopping bags to carry lunches and phones, traveling abroad for shopping instead of sightseeing, and sitting in MacDonald’s for leisure time rather than eating fast food. Yu also argued that “consumers in China seek to display their hard work, entrepreneurialism, and potential for upward mobility” (82), which is against the idea of Thorstein Veblen (a 19th century American economist and sociologist) that being idle and wealthy is the most desirable status.
We also find a couple of limitations in this book. First, Yu seemed to attribute the prevailing consumerism to China’s political ideology while ignoring the contributions of market liberalization, technological advances, and cultural traditions. For example, Yu found that “China has overtaken the US to become the world’s largest market for luxury goods” (4) but did not probe deeply into the motivation of the massive purchases. In fact, many Chinese buy luxury goods for families and friends, instead of for themselves, probably because the Chinese culture values collectivism more than individualism.
Our other concern is regarding the author’s research methodology. Yu conducted research based on her personal conversations with upper-middle-class residents of Beijing and Shanghai, yet overlooked the huge population (over billions!) in the less rich cities and rural areas. Recording the lifestyles of the elites but not of the ordinary people makes the book’s title appear misleading. Besides, as Kiminori Matsuyama notes, the development of mass consumption societies follows the Flying Geese pattern: as productivity improves, each consumer good becomes affordable to a continually growing number of households (“The Rise of Mass Consumption Societies,” Journal of Political Economy 110, 2002: 1035–1070). It is therefore worth investigating the entire spectrum of the Chinese market.
Weaving the vivid human stories and representative voices into a theoretical framework, LiAnne Yu offers us a general understanding of consumerism in China’s cosmopolitan hubs from her perspective as an ethnographic professional. The book also gives a detailed portrait that depicts the universalities and particularities of China’s consumption practices through the eyes of a non-native. Overall, it is an easy-to-understand, up-to-date work which can be recommended to businesspeople who are exploring Chinese consumer behaviors and those who are new to, yet interested in China.
C. Simon Fan, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, China and
Yu Pang, Macau University of Science and Technology, Macau, China
MOBILE HORIZONS: Dynamics Across the Taiwan Strait. China Research Monographs, 69. Edited by Wen-hsin Yeh. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2013. viii, 335 pp. (Maps, figures, tables.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-55729-106-6.
The rise of China and the increasing economic interactions between Mainland China (PRC) and Taiwan (ROC) since the 1980s have raised a profound question: Will closer economic relations across the Strait eventually lead to the reunification of the two sides? This is exactly the question posed by this book under review, and its answer is “no.”
In the work’s introduction, editor Wen-hsin Yeh clearly lays out the main themes and arguments of the book: despite enhanced communications and intensified activities and economic interactions across the Strait, there has been no promising sign of political integration, but rather growing cultural and identity divergence between the two sides. To be accurate, the subject of cross-Strait relations should not be one of international relations, yet it has largely been treated as such. Cross-Strait relations have become more sophisticated than normal international relations and they call for an interdisciplinary approach in dealing them.
As the title Mobile Horizons indicates, and taking an interdisciplinary approach, this book has gone far beyond the conventional way of studying international relations, which has mainly focused on the role of state and political, military and economic actors, and sets out to explore other structural factors at work along a much broader spectrum, such as immigration, smuggling, investment, media, religion, marriage, identity, education, and historiography. With the exception of chapter one by Yu-shan Wu and Lowell Dittmer, which offers an overview of cross-Strait political relations since the 1990s with a conclusion that “the economy in command” mentality can work both ways—either for or against political integration, and chapter two by Shelley Rigger, which examines the evolution of the defining of “China,” which has shifted from a Taiwanese understanding of China as primarily a domestic issue in the early period to the current notion of China as primarily an external matter, the rest of the book’s chapters are mostly thematic discussions and analyses of nonpolitical issues in cross-Strait relations.
Michael Szonyi analyzes different identity claims that people of Kinmen deployed during different historical phases in order to gain preferential treatment, arguing that the positions regarding the cross-Strait activities and projects “are largely produced locally by people’s perception of their immediate interests” (93), which are not necessarily for or against political integration. Micah S. Muscolino studies the illicit maritime trade across the Strait from the 1970s to the 1990s. Similarly, he finds that the development and consequences of economic activities across the Strait did not parallel with the anticipation and dynamics of political interaction. Although the common culture shared by the Fujian-Taiwanese people and the cessation of hostilities across the Strait and the policy of the PRC in the 1970s–1980s encouraged the revival of direct commerce in the region, the ban by the ROC of all direct exchanges with the mainland, at odds with its political ideology that claims ROC sovereignty over all of China, was manipulated by smugglers for lucrative underground commerce, who also viewed a full-scale integration against their interests.
Robert P. Weller traces the development of religion on both sides of the Strait, from secularization of the early twentieth century to the political intervention and restriction during the Cold War era and then the relaxation of government control since the 1970s. Along with rapidly increased commercialization and wealth after the 1970s, there has been the growth and expansion of Chinese temple religion as well as an increase of religious similarities and contact across the Strait. However, the shared religious heritage and a convergence of religious practice in both places shows no indications of moving toward any sort of unity.
Sara L. Friedman presents an empirical study of the recent wave of cross-Strait marriages. She finds that Taiwan’s gendered policies on marital immigration and citizenship have undergirded feminized domesticity and dependency, which were in direct conflict with the gender ideology embedded in the mind of mainland spouses. The intimate intermingling brought about by marital unions may have hardened perceptions of cross-Strait difference and incompatibility. In the words of Friedman, “Marital unions do not necessarily portend other kinds of unification” (151).
William C. Kirby presents another case study, this of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC), coming to a similar conclusion that there has been no automatic connection between cross-Strait economic integration and political partnership. Instead, “the lack of formal political ties and (until recently) direct transportation links have been ‘push’ factors for Taiwan industries to relocate to the mainland, to be nearer their customers and workforces…” (195), while normalization may convince Taiwan’s marquee firms of the need to stay at home enjoying every advantage.
Timothy B. Weston tells the story of Taiwan’s leading newspapers from 1945 to the present and the evolution of the newspaper discourse on the mainland from being censored, propagandistic, and highly negative to being free and commercialized but of a highly partisan nature, despite the fact that Taiwan media enterprises are all busy seeking local business opportunities in the PRC.
Thomas B. Gold analyzes the reasons that the Inter-University Fellowship Program for Chinese Language Studies (IUP) moved from Taiwan to Tsinghua University in Beijing, as well as the significance of “the Taiwan Familiarization Program.” Finally, Wen-hsin Yeh describes the interesting history of writing Taiwan’s history, the means through which to “assert Taiwan’s right place in the world” and construct Taiwan’s “authentic identity,” and how the history of Taiwan was “represented and integrated into the various contesting positions” over the past two decades (259–260). Culturally, Yeh concludes, “The two Chinese-speaking societies across the Strait have much to share” (286), but the new historical writings affirm their differences more than their congruities.
In short, this book exposes the role of non-state actors in, and the intercrossed, interwoven, multifaceted and evolving aspects of, cross-Strait relations. It will be a very useful work to graduate students, scholars, diplomats and businessmen studying or engaged in international relations, especially involving cross-Strait relations.
C.X. George Wei, University of Macau, Macau, China
GOVERNING INSECURITY IN JAPAN: The Domestic Discourse and Policy Response. Sheffield Centre for Japanese Studies/Routledge Series, 50. Edited by Wilhelm Vosse, Reinhard Drifte and Verena Blechinger-Talcott. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xvii, 180 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-81130-9.
JAPAN’S CIVIL-MILITARY DIPLOMACY: The Banks of the Rubicon. Politics in Asia Series. By Dennis T. Yasutomo. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xviii, 192 pp. US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-71129-6.
There is growing interest in Japan’s security policies due to Japan’s rising tensions with China (the world’s number two military spender), revisionist claims regarding Japan’s Second World War experience by Japanese cabinet members, including Prime Minister Abe and his supporters, and due to several high-profile changes in Japan’s security policies themselves in the past several years. Readers of these two volumes will be exposed to a more nuanced and broader conceptualization of Japanese security than seen in mainstream news coverage and also treated to a rich panoply of empirical data and insider stories regarding Japan’s contemporary security practices and security concerns. Both volumes are recommended, but are directed to different audiences: Japan’s Civil-Military Diplomacy is especially suited for those seeking a detailed account of the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) recent deployments overseas (especially to Iraq, 2004–2006) and of the changes to Japan’s civil-military relations this has required; Governing Insecurity in Japan is for those seeking a broader overview of the security challenges Japanese perceive themselves to be facing in the twenty-first century, from nuclear weapons and missile attack to crime from undocumented immigrants and dangers of contaminated food.
Yasutomo (Smith College) makes a more important contribution to our understanding of Japan’s contemporary security practices (and also Japan’s foreign aid policies) than his somewhat obtuse book title suggests. This book provides the definitive English-language account of the most significant JSDF overseas deployment since their creation in 1954, to Iraq from January 2004–July 2006, in two chapters of this five-chapter book. In addition, the book recounts Japan’s important contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan from 2001–2013, which did not involve deployment of the JSDF but nevertheless required new civil-military cooperation in Japan’s overseas development assistance (ODA) policies. In addition, the opening chapter provides a concise history of Japan’s civil-military relations as well as a primer on the evolution of Japan’s ODA policy (the subject of a book Yasutomo published in 1986). A concluding chapter focuses on the extent to which Japan has “crossed the Rubicon” in its security policies in the cases examined. Yasutomo argues throughout the volume (to a somewhat tedious degree): “Japan has not crossed the Rubicon in the traditional sense, and is not likely to anytime soon” (16). He does argue, however, that “a new civil-military security culture is replacing the old merchant state culture of pacifism and antimilitarism” (opening summary).
Much of the first chapter of Japan’s Civil-Military Diplomacy is devoted to an examination of the concept of a “civilian power,” contrasting the use of the term in Europe, the United States and Japan—a comparative context that is informative and germane to a broad readership beyond those who focus on Japan. He concludes this first chapter with these words: “For Japan, civilian power diplomacy, with its enlarged civil-military component, is the new normal” (22). The chapters on Afghanistan and Iraq make this case persuasively and are laden with rich empirical detail from a wide range of published sources and interviews. Many readers may not be aware of the extent of Japan’s contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan (the number two financial contributor after the United States) after the US toppling of the Taliban. Japan’s ODA coordination with military efforts and objectives may not have “crossed the Rubicon” but they were unprecedented in Japanese ODA policy and in many ways laid the groundwork for Japan’s later engagement with Iraq, including by the JSDF. Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi would later describe Japanese ODA and the JSDF as an “inseparable pair” in Japan’s Iraq policy (77). The detailed discussion of the JSDF deployment to Samawah in terms of logistics, strategy, lessons learned and the positive reception by the local Iraqis should be of broad interest to readers beyond just “Japan hands,” since, as Yasutomo wryly notes, “In the end, the SDF rather than U.S. troops were the ones who received sweets and flowers from Iraqis upon their arrival in Iraq” (105).
It is a shame that Yasutomo did not seek to engage with broader works on Japanese security policy that have been published in the past decade, seeking to enhance or disconfirm those arguments based on the excellent casework he presents on Japan’s Afghanistan and Iraq experiences. There is a notable absence of such works in his bibliography. By contrast, the bibliography includes an impressive number of Japanese-language sources germane to the narrower sub-set of issues he does seek to address: about the evolution of the concept of a civilian power, civil-military relations, and the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Governing Insecurity in Japan provides, by contrast, a great breadth of consideration of how Japanese in the 21st century view their and Japan’s security. The three editors of the volume deserve kudos for assembling such a broad overview, rooted in the concept of “securitization” in vogue among especially European-educated scholars (who constitute the majority of the contributors to this volume). Each of the eight chapters is clearly written and carefully edited, well-argued with research questions stressed at the outset, methods discussed, and central findings summarized in a concluding section. Each chapter also provides a concise historical overview of the specific topic that will be useful to those new to the subject matter. This historical context and framing of the central issues is important since the data presented in most chapters ends around 2010, and sometimes earlier, which is unfortunate given the quickly evolving security environment in East Asia. Nevertheless, the volume collectively makes an important and lasting contribution which future researchers can update with more recent data and in general the time-lag does not appear to undermine the central conclusions of each chapter.
The volume introduction begins rightly by noting the paradox that a country that objectively enjoys so much security in comparison to most other states perceives so much insecurity. The first two empirical chapters of the volume build on this theme, focusing on Japanese public perception of threats to themselves and to Japan. Vosse (International Christian University of Japan) draws on evidence from an innovative cross-national survey that he and colleagues conducted in 2004 that shows that Japanese express a much higher concern about crime than Americans despite an objectively much lower crime rate; and, moreover, that Japanese express a greater fear of the outbreak of a major war and use of weapons of mass destruction, and also of an impending economic crisis. Vosse then draws on other survey data to illustrate an increasing threat perception among Japanese from 2000 to 2006. What is striking in his findings, however, is the divergence in policy prescriptions between Japanese and Americans based on this sense of threat: to a large degree, Japanese are still from Venus and Americans from Mars. Midford (Norwegian University for Science and Technology) follows on the issue of policy prescriptions by examining in-depth survey data and exit polling from the 2007 House of Councillors election, which pitted the nationalist incumbent Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Prime Minister Abe against the more economic policy-focused challengers from the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ); the DPJ win was a major upset for Abe’s party. Midford argues that it is notable that at a time of an objectively escalating external threat from North Korea, Japanese voters chose to focus on economic security issues, rooting his argument in the post-classical realist school.
Three chapters of Governing Insecurity in Japan address the security aspects of immigration to Japan. The most accessible and useful chapter is by Chiavacci (University of Zurich), which situates the immigration question in the context of Japan’s shrinking population (since 2010) and aging demographic profile. He argues that the two dominant and conflicting “frames” of the present immigration debate—that immigrant workers should be imported to address the demographic challenge and that immigrants commit more domestic crime—are both mistaken, and that a more realistic and pragmatic discussion over immigration should take place. Quite striking is a table (121) that shows the number of immigrants that would be needed each year just to maintain Japan’s currently challenging demographic profile—which would lead to a total population for Japan of over 800 million by 2050 (compared to about 128 million today)! His discussion of the methodological flaws in reporting on crime statistics and coverage of the ugly nationalist discourse on immigration will be informative to a broad audience. His characterization of the debate differs somewhat from the chapter by Vogt (University of Hamburg), who purports to focus on the “discourse” over immigration in Japan, a contrast which is unacknowledged by either author. Vogt is strong on the comparative perspective (contrasting Japan with Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea) and in examining the institutional actors involved in the debate within Japan. Kibe (International Christian University of Japan) contributes to the issue by examining the debate over the Japanese version of multiculturalism, tabunka kyōsei. Like many of the contributors to the volume as a whole, he argues that the current approach to managing this perceived security challenge is not working but that in a shifting political environment with frequent leadership turnover and a wide range of bureaucratic actors with overlapping responsibilities, how to go about crafting a new set of policies is unclear. Collectively the three chapters suggest that a significant change in the immigration status quo in the near-term is unlikely.
The remaining chapters in Governing Insecurity in Japan address the issue of food security, the recent growth of Chinese investment in Japan, and Japan’s experience with overseas peacekeeping and related activities since 1992. Takeda (University of Tokyo) addresses the issue of food security, beginning with a broad overview of the history of this concern back to the pre-war period and situating the concerns more recently in a global context. The chapter concludes, however, with a strong condemnation of “neoliberal political reform” that accelerated under Prime Minister Koizumi (2001–06) and continues despite what she argues are obvious shortcomings in the wake of the March 11, 2011 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima that left the Japanese people to manage food risks of radioactive contamination with little effective government assistance. Drifte (formerly of Newcastle University) sketches out the contours of recent Japanese concerns about rapidly growing Chinese investment in Japan, framing it in the context of recent growth of Chinese foreign investment globally, but is not able to offer much by way of analysis in only seven and a half pages. Still, his contribution adds to the breadth of the volume in illustrating the range of security concerns contemporary Japanese perceive, and also links to concerns expressed in the Takeda chapter regarding imports of contaminated food from China. Mulloy (Daito Bunka University) returns to themes developed in greater depth in Yasumoto’s Japan’s Civil-Military Diplomacy. It is surprising how little attention Mulloy pays to the significant departure from previous red-lines in overseas deployment of the JSDF that the Iraq mission heralded. Rather, this chapter categorizes the five civilian and nine JSDF overseas deployments under the 1992 International Peace Cooperation Law and subsequent legislation into four different types of missions and then evaluates each category, with common themes of risk aversion, bureaucratic stove-piping, and narrow missions emerging, despite writing in his conclusion that “the JSDF have usually performed above expectation, professionally, and have contributed to local human security” (169).
Taken together, these two volumes illustrate the many challenges the Japanese government faces in addressing new and continuing threats to Japan’s security at a time of frequent political leadership transitions, continuing economic stagnation, and a rapidly evolving regional and global security environment. They usefully guide readers beyond persistently conveyed images of Japan as an unimportant or unevolving global security actor.
Andrew L. Oros, Washington College, Chestertown, USA
GROWING DEMOCRACY IN JAPAN: The Parliamentary Cabinet System since 1868. Asia in the New Milllennium. By Brian Woodall. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2014. xi, 284 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$50.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8131-4501-3.
In this book Woodall makes a valuable contribution to the study of Japanese politics by carefully examining the historical development of the cabinet system, literally the centre of the Japanese government. Starting with the tragedy of the 2011 Eastern Japan Great Earthquake and the then government’s flawed response, the book questions: “Why did Prime Minister Kan and his cabinet ministers fail to use their powers to galvanize and reassure the nation following the catastrophic sequence of events?” (2). More generally, the book attempts to answer why cabinet government failed to set root in Japan and how Japan’s cabinet system came about, in a comparative perspective—especially in contrast to the Westminster system. In answering these puzzles, Woodall draws theoretical concepts from works by Huntington, North, and Mahoney and Thelen on institutionalism and institutional change to show that Japan’s cabinet system evolved in a gradual process against a backdrop of historical change.
Utilizing a wealth of both Japanese and English documents, Woodall chronologically traces the evolution of Japan’s cabinet system by focusing on major political actors, their interactions, and political structures at different times, or “critical junctures.” Such actors include bureaucrats and party politicians, with the first half of the book—whether intentionally or not—focusing on the former. In building up a modern state, oligarchs from Satsuma and Chōshū avoided implanting a constitutional monarchy as in the UK, but rather chose the Prussian system whereby political powers were centred on a sovereign emperor and the central bureaucracy (chapter 1). This quasi-cabinet pseudo-democracy was followed by bureaucratic dominance after the war, when Prime Minister Yoshida appointed cadres of bureaucrats and utilized core state organs for the cabinet (e.g., the Cabinet Legislation Bureau), in the political vacuum created by the US occupation’s demilitarization and democratization reform measures (chapter 2). Bureaucrats-turned-politicians such as Kishi, Ikeda and Satō kept dominating politics after the birth of the Liberal Democratic Party’s one-party dominance in 1955 (chapter 3).
The second half of the book, in turn, explains how party politicians and opposition parties make the cabinet system obsolete. The long-term LDP dominance allowed veteran MPs acting as zoku giin (policy specialists) to demand particularistic benefits for their home districts through the LDP’s policy-making organ, to the extent that such demands eroded the cabinet’s own policy initiatives (chapter 4). This fragmented policy-making process did not disappear after a series of administrative measures in the 1990s and the 2000s. Rather, as the 2005 postal privatization tumult suggests, Prime Minister Koizumi needed to go through intraparty disunity and revolts (chapter 5). After 2007, divided parliament or “Twisted Diets” have become the norm, as the opposition controls the equally powerful law-making body, the House of Councillors, to stop the government’s important legislation (chapter 6).
All in all, as the first comprehensive analysis in English providing an in-depth account of the historical development of Japan’s cabinet system since the Meiji period, this book is a welcome addition to the literature on Japanese politics.
That said, there are several problems that could have been better addressed. Most notably, empirical evidence is offered in a somewhat ad hoc manner, making the arguments a bit unconvincing. This is mainly because the Westminster model is (a little unrealistically) depicted as an omnipotent cabinet filled with senior, skillful MPs that can adequately respond to a (somewhat daunting) list of issues: economic downturns, government deficits, public health concerns, environmental problems, demographic changes, natural disasters, foreign relations, territorial conflicts, major corruption scandals, and others (15–17). Whenever Japan’s cabinet showed an inadequate response to any of these issues or was filled with junior MPs, the book argues it was dysfunctional.
Let’s take the example of ministerial appointment: Woodall argues that a stylized Westminster cabinet should have senior politicians who can effectively monitor bureaucrats. Based on this thesis, Woodall attempts to show that Japan’s ruling party in the early postwar period only formed figurehead cabinets—and therefore they were inefficient agenda setters—because of the shortage of career politicians. But one could argue that Prime Minister Yoshida and the subsequent LDP leaders were able to circumvent this information asymmetry problem by actively utilizing the bureaucracy as a potential pool of candidates to train future political leaders. In fact, according to some claims made in this book, this is the case: the bureaucratic dominance disappeared by the 1970s as “the influence of the government bureaucracy declined” (165), because the ruling party was indeed able to nurture career politicians skilled at dealing with the bureaucracy and specializing in some policy areas. This point further implies that there seem to be multiple different causal pathways leading to the dysfunctional cabinet system, and that the “institutions, structures, personnel, and norms from an authoritarian prewar order” (217) may not be necessarily important, as opposed to the thesis presented in the first half of the book.
More generally, the Westminster system is just one of the different parliamentary models out there. It can inadequately respond to a corruption scandal, as the British Tories could not recover their brand name after the party was tarnished in the 1961–63 Profumo Affair. It can make a policy mistake, as evinced when the market liberalization policy of the 1984–90 Labour government in New Zealand was unable to meet its core supporters’ expectations. It can have a factional struggle over leadership, as anti-mainstream factions in the Australian Labour Party demonstrated when they staged intraparty coups to oust the incumbent prime ministers in 2010 and 2013. In each of these cases, the result was electoral defeat. And while Japan’s cabinet system may not be working like that of the UK, New Zealand or Australia, perhaps it can be conceived of as just another parliamentary democracy model, under which the country was able to recover from the ruins of war to become an affluent, safe, well-organized society.
Kuniaki Nemoto, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan
THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION OF JAPANESE CAPITALISM. Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies. Edited by Sébastien Lechevalier; translated by J.A.A. Stockwin. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xxxv, 198 pp. (Figures.) US$140.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-71766-3.
This highly stimulating book takes up a wide range of core themes and debates in studies of Japanese capitalism, and of comparative political economy (CPE) more broadly. Sébastien Lechevalier’s goal in the original French version of 2011 was to pull together and make accessible to a non-specialist audience the results of his research on Japanese and comparative capitalism, and J.A.A. Stockwin’s admirably clear translation has made that effort available to an English-speaking audience. Lechevalier makes the case that Japanese capitalism has, since the early 1980s, gone through a “great transformation” (his use of this term seems not to have any Polanyian overtones), one so significant that the country’s political economy must now be seen as fundamentally different from the “classic” Japanese model that prevailed in the decades after World War II. One of his core goals is to explore the central role of neo-liberal policies in instigating this transformation. He argues that such policies (which were put into place largely in the mid-1980s and between 1996 and 2006) have had significant negative consequences for Japan, most notably through their contribution to the disastrous economic bubble of the late 1980s and the ways in which they have dismantled Japan’s classic system of political economy without putting a coherent new system in its place. Lechevalier thus finds that the “neo-liberal transition” has transformed Japanese capitalism, but that these changes have not added up to “convergence towards the liberal model” (21). The peculiarities of Japanese neo-liberalism mean that the country continues to occupy a distinctive place within the CPE literature.
The Great Transformation of Japanese Capitalism has an unusual structure. After an extended foreword by the great régulation school political economist Robert Boyer, the book is comprised of an introduction and a series of empirical chapters by Lechevalier (chapter 5 is co-authored with Arnaud Nanta). The one exception is chapter 1, in which University of British Columbia political scientist Yves Tiberghien seeks to periodize, explain and evaluate Japan’s structural reform process since the early 1980s. This inclusion of a single chapter by a different author as an integrated part of Lechevalier’s argument works very well, and Tiberghien’s contribution can profitably be read both as a stand-alone piece and as a component of the whole. The chapter (which was written in mid-2013) also extends the book’s argument to the political implications of the 3/11 disaster and the return to power of Abe Shinzō in December 2012, with Tiberghien arguing that “Abenomics” should not be seen as driven by neo-liberal ideas. Lechevalier’s chapters also allude to these events from time to time, and his extensive references to works published in 2012 suggest that they may have been updated somewhat from the 2011 French version (though his empirical coverage ends for the most part in 2010).
While Lechevalier’s analysis has more moving parts than can be summarized in a short review, his introductory chapter does an excellent job of highlighting the core elements of his research and their implications for broader debates. At the heart of the book is a theoretical framework in which different capitalisms are distinguished and analyzed along three dimensions: the micro-level dimension of the nature of firms, and the macro-level dimensions of forms of co-ordination (both market and non-market) and of the social compromises that underpin and help to constitute particular capitalisms. Chapters 2–4 cover these three aspects of Japanese capitalism in turn, with each first outlining the “classic” Japanese system in the relevant area before exploring how and why it has been transformed since the early 1980s. Chapter 2 emphasizes above all the increasing heterogeneity of firm types in Japan, chapter 3 the decline of the old forms of co-ordination (including keiretsu networks and industrial policy) and the rise of new ones, and chapter 4 the rapid rise in socio-economic inequality (the development that Lechevalier sees as the “most visible” aspect of the “real rupture in contemporary Japanese capitalism” (86). Chapters 5 through 7 then take up three other central features of Japan’s changing capitalism, the education and innovation systems and Japan’s place in the global and regional political economies.
The Great Transformation of Japanese Capitalism covers a remarkable range of material in a relatively small number of pages. While the presentation is sometimes dense (though almost never difficult to follow) and readers with some background in Japanese political economy will get the most benefit from the book, Lechevalier succeeds admirably in giving an accessible, analytically driven account of the multifaceted restructuring of the Japanese political economy over the last three decades. The emphasis on brevity and accessibility detracts from the book’s effectiveness, however, when arguments are presented without the detailed engagement with data required to make them stick. This is the case, for instance, in the coverage of statistics on inequality (92). In some instances, Lechevalier deals with this problem by providing citations to his own or other researchers’ work on the topic at hand, but in others key arguments come across as assertions. Chapters 2 through 4, too, are not organized as clearly as they might be around demonstrating the impact of neo-liberal reforms, specifically on firm diversity, forms of co-ordination, and the social compromise. Chapters 5 and 6 make this argument much more effectively with respect to the education and innovation systems. Overall, however, the book is an impressive achievement, and anyone with an interest in Japanese and comparative political economy will benefit from reading it.
Derek Hall, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada
Since Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword was published in 1946, many scholars have studied Japanese senses of self and patterns of behaviour with a holistic approach to Japanese culture. Every decade has seen important books published on the theme of Japanese cultural uniqueness, or Nihonjinron. JAPAN: The Paradox of Harmony follows in this line of works analyzing what wa, meaning harmony, is and its implications in Japanese society. Three decades ago, during Japan’s economic burgeoning, books analyzing the concept of harmony as an element of Japanese cultural uniqueness also flourished. Many praised this Japanese uniqueness, stressing harmony as a driving force of the country’s economic success, while others pointed to the same characteristic as a major source of the discrimination against out-groups, the inflexibility of the system, the overwhelming pressure of individual responsibility, and so on. The way in which this book analyzes Japanese society through the concept of harmony might not seem new at all for many people who pay attention to Japanese society and related research. What is new in this book is the broad range of current issues it analyzes, from recent territorial disputes with neighbouring countries to the popularity of K-pop culture and from the disaster of the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 to changing portraits of men and women, along with its engaging manner of incorporating anecdotal materials.
Arguing that the harmony that once led Japan to achieve its remarkable economic success and social solidarity in the postwar era might cause harm in the future, the authors present various cases to show the rigidity of the Japanese system and intensified conflicts in Japan. Chapters like “The Whistleblower” and “Meltdown,” for instance, clearly reveal the authors’ main point that strict hierarchy and excessive loyalty to superiors prevent the discussion of critical problems among the public and keep society from finding the most effective ways to fix the problems. Linking their discussion to another aspect of wa, which creates sharp boundaries between in-group and out-group, the authors present well-balanced critiques of both in- and out-groups in the chapters “Getting Along with the Neighbors” and “Graying and Shrinking.” In the chapter “Grass-Eating Girly Men,” they also discuss an interesting contrast in that modern portraits of men and women in Japan have diversified, while old gender roles still persist. In contrast to the traditionally masculine and achievement-oriented “salaryman” images, increasing numbers of gentle and sensitive herbivores are changing the patterns of men’s lives as well as their relations with women in Japan.
Many previous studies on Japanese culture and its uniqueness focus on either Westerners’ perceptions of Japanese-ness or Japanese people’s own perceptions of it. Such studies pay attention to one dimension only, and their analyses often reveal only fragmentary truths or a distorted knowledge of Japan. Keiko Hirata and Mark Warschauer, on the other hand, enlighten readers about Japan and Japanese-ness through their treatment of various dimensions of current issues that involve different actors and changing environments. For instance, their discussion weaves together diverse strands of social life in Japan, including the fever for K-wave culture, memories of the Second World War, the changing stances of political leadership, and ethnic education of Chongryon (the General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan) schools, to explain conflicts between Japan and neighbouring countries. The authors present that diverse actors including China, America and South and North Korea have a strong influence on making Japanese shape and reshape views about themselves. And the chapter “Grass-Eating Girly Men” explains diverse male-female relations and family life through the cases of Otaku men (people who “have a hobby to passionate extremes”), Herbivore and Konkatsu (marriage-hunting), revealing that the existence of diverse relations can be understood best in the broad context of Japan’s changing socio-economic circumstances.
The book also has some shortcomings. First of all, not surprisingly, the authors stress American solutions of efficiency and rationality over more Japanese social norms. They write, for instance, that reconstructing small and dangerous coastal communities populated largely by the elderly rather than supporting towns that could offer more opportunities for the young is disrupting rational efforts to rebuild the region damaged by the 3.11 tsunami. Regarding Japan’s decreasing birth rates, they argue that Japan needs to accept more immigrants. Considering only economic efficiency and development per se, these might be the quickest and most effective solutions. However, it is possible that the Japanese would prefer to pay greater economic and social costs, if by doing so they could recover their community solidarity. Cultures may not be etched in stone, but Japanese culture has evolved for hundreds and thousands of years. Secondly, although the authors make a strong effort to reveal different dimensions of the issues and take a broad perspective on the Japanese paradox, the prevailing view in their book still seems to see the Japanese as a single unit of analysis. They do not fully consider the dynamics among all the different actors in Japanese society. Recent conflicts over memories of the Second World War, for example, reveal huge variation in the different voices of Japanese citizens. It is common to see even the groups roughly considered right-wing nationalists positioning themselves as different from each other. Finally, the conclusion of the book is somewhat vague. After pointing out all the negative aspects of Japanese ways of harmony, the authors hurriedly conclude that “Japan need not abandon such admirable cultural traits as honesty, hard work, service, self-sacrifice, respect, and commitment to education” – many of which can also be considered central characteristics of wa and also cause problems in Japanese society.
Despite these shortcomings, by covering so many recent issues the authors have made a strong attempt to create a comprehensive road map of current Japanese society. This book will be valuable for students and others who might be interested in better understanding Japanese society after the devastating 3.11 earthquake and tsunami.
Hye Won Um, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Honolulu, USA
INEQUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE: Labor Market Reform in Japan and Korea. By Jiyeoun Song. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014. xvi, 229 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5215-4.
The economic and social institutions in Japan and Korea seem more similar to each other than to institutions in Europe or the U.S. In this book, however, the author reveals that the two countries respond in different ways to similar pressures of labour market reform. This is because of differences in the formation and arrangement of institutions in Japan and Korea.
[The author] argues that the two variables of employment protection systems and industrial relations determine the diverging pathways of labour market reform. The institutional features of employment protection shape the pattern of reform-selective reform for outsiders versus comprehensive reform for all workers by constraining the available range of reform options, especially for employers and policy makers, and the configurations of industrial relations affect the consequences of reform on the workforce by exacerbating or alleviating insider-outsider differences in reform implementation through the mechanism of compensation. The lack of compensation policies for those affected by labour market reform accelerates labour market inequality and dualism (8).
As a result, in Japan what emerged was liberalization for outsider workers and protection for insider workers, and in Korea, the liberalization of all workers, with the exception of those working for family-owned and managed business conglomerates (i.e., Chaebol).
The major accomplishments of this book include its revealing the emergence of different paths from the same pressures, especially the divergence of the internal labour markets in Japan and Korea even though we might have expected similar outcomes in those two countries. It would have been better to mention in terms of the different functions of employment the substantial institutions and the role of employers in Japan and Korea in order to improve the book’s achievements.
First, as the author mentions for figures 1.1 (22) and 1.2 (23), the grade of employment protection legislation for regular workers is nearly the same in Japan and Korea and for temporary workers the difference is not great. It is worth noting here that in figure 2.2 (59) the author notes the length of tenured years for regular Japanese workers in 1995 as higher than that of regular Korean workers. The author explains this as having to do with “a high degree of the institutionalization of employment protection in Japan versus a low degree of the institutionalization of employment protection in Korea” (59). According to Botero et al. (“The Regulation of Labour,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2004) 119 (4): 1339–1382) the labour market regulation index, which is a measurement of employment law, industrial relations law, and social security law, indicates that the grade of employment legislation is almost the same in Japan and Korea—with Japan ranking 34th and Korea 35th in terms of labour market regulation among the 60 developed and developing countries in the index. However, in the substantial regulation index (i.e., the employment adjustment speed), Korea (9th) ranks much higher than Japan (41st) among the 59 countries indexed. Here we can see the gap between Korea and Japan in terms of legislation and substantial regulation.
Secondly, how can we explain this gap? We can find one clue from the role of the employer in labour management relations because the employer is not only a partner but also the final arbiter in the substantial forming of labour management relations. A Japanese employer is required to protect employee jobs even though retrenched in a recession that has continued for two years, as during the oil shock period of the 1970s (Kazuo Koike, “Kaiko kara mita gendai nihon no rōshi kankei” [Contemporary Japan’s labour-management in perspective from dismissal], in Moriguchi C., Aoki M. and Sawa T. (eds.), Nihon keizai no kōzo bunseki [Constructional analysis of the Japanese economy], Tokyo: Sobunsha, 1983). We might better term it “long-term stable employment” rather than lifetime employment because Japanese companies have reduced employees during recessions. Nevertheless, Japanese employers make efforts to retain their workers, the reason we recognize job security in Japan as stronger than in other countries. We also need to investigate retroactively in order to distinguish the origin of the differences between employer behaviour regarding labour relations in Japan and Korea, particularly at large-scale companies. Korean employers had little experience in labour management relations at large-scale companies during the first colonial industrialization period because Japanese companies advanced into Korea and sent in Japanese top and middle managers. After the 1960s, during the second industrialization period in South Korea, Korean employers did not have enough to develop meaningful labour management relations.
This book is the first to reveal the distinctions between the labour markets of Japan and Korea through a focus on large-scale companies and Chaebol. This accomplishment would be much improved if the author had focused on the function of substantial institutions for social protection and the differences of the employer’s role in labour management relations.
Jae Won Sun, Pyongtaek University, Pyongtaek, South Korea
FROM CULTURES OF WAR TO CULTURES OF PEACE: War and Peace Museums in Japan, China, and South Korea. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Takashi Yoshida. Portland, ME: MerwinAsia; Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press [distributor], 2014. xix, 308 pp. (Illustrations.) US$75.00, cloth, ISBN 978-1-937385-44-6; US$35.00, paper, ISBN 978-1-937385-43-9.
Memories of the past have always mattered in international politics, and it may not be an exaggeration to say that the East Asian region currently serves as one of the strongest reminders of this truism. At the time of writing, Japanese Prime Minster Abe Shinzō and Chinese President Xi Jinping had held the first Sino-Japanese summit since 2012, following territorial disputes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Japan’s announcement to nationalize the islands had prompted emotional, large-scale anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, as well as a suspension of all high-level contact between the two states’ leaders. Such reactions were undoubtedly fuelled by memories (partly kept alive by the Communist regime to boost their legitimacy) of Japan’s invasion of China and its seizure of Chinese territory. Meanwhile, relations between Japan and South Korea remain in a deep “freeze,” with South Korean President Park Gyun-he continuing to refuse to meet Abe unless he alters his attitude towards “history issues,” including Korean “Comfort Women” and visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. It is clear that how Japanese imperialism is “remembered” has tremendous implications for the international relations of East Asia.
Given this context, the publication of Takashi Yoshida’s new monograph on war and peace museums in East Asia is guaranteed to be of interest to observers of the region’s politics and history. The book, which consists of seven chapters, is organized in a broadly thematic fashion. After providing a chronological survey of war museums in Imperial Japan and the rise of multiple voices of pacifism in the aftermath of Japan’s defeat in 1945, the author provides a broad survey of various Japanese war and peace museums. In doing so, Yoshida’s work makes a number of contributions. First, it serves as a valuable “museum guide” for researchers and students of East Asian history and politics. Yoshida provides us with detailed descriptions of the museums’ exhibits and the political messages behind them, as well as analysis on the socio-political context in which each museum emerged.
Second, through his detailed examinations of these museums, Yoshida is able to trace the gradual evolution of Japanese attitudes towards the Asia-Pacific War of 1931–45, as well as the politics of “remembering and forgetting.” Thus, while many Japanese war and peace museums are subjected to pressure from both conservative and progressive camps to adopt the “correct” attitude to history (chapter 6), Yoshida shows there has been a gradual acknowledgement of Japan both as a victim and perpetuator of war. Even museums that were founded primarily to remember events in which Japanese citizens suffered (such as the Himeyuri Peace Museum, the Voiceless Museum or the Centre on the Tokyo Raids and War Damages) examine Japanese aggression in their exhibits, distinguishing them from others that continue to stick to glorifying the heroism of the Japanese war dead (such as the Chiran-Town Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots). The overall picture of Japanese war memories that emerges from Yoshida’s careful empirical analysis is one of complexity, where competing narratives coexist uneasily with each other, vying for mainstream acceptance.
Yoshida’s third contribution is to put Japanese war and peace museums in a regional context by comparing them to Chinese and South Korean war and peace museums (chapter 7). In contrast to Japan, the author finds less scope for diversity in what is “remembered and forgotten” in terms of each state’s darker episodes of history. The museums examined remain (to different degrees) within the framework of state-led nationalism, leading the author to conclude that “[m]useums in China and South Korea seem more perpetuating a notion of ‘innocent-us’ and ‘savage-them’—and thereby inciting a divisive brand of patriotism (i.e., nationalism)—than on exposing the pervasive horrors of war and promoting peace” (236). In both countries, the emphasis remains firmly on highlighting Japanese atrocities, glorifying the heroic anti-Japan struggles by Chinese and Korean citizens, while frequently ignoring any historical wrongdoing committed by native regimes after Japan’s defeat (Park Chung-hee’s political repression, as well as Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution are cases in point).
This book provides a rich empirical account of the politics of memory in East Asia, and the author’s question of whether or not “patriotism contribute[s] to promoting peace in Northeast Asia” (231) provides us with much food for thought. There are nevertheless a number of points that could have made this already useful book even more valuable. First, on a somewhat technical point, given that the book serves as a “guide” to war and peace museums in Japan, a list of their addresses and other details would have been extremely beneficial in assisting researchers wishing to build on Yoshida’s work and conduct additional fieldwork to these sites of “remembering.” Second, while I am fully appreciative of the fact that the author’s strength lies in Japanese history, as well as the inherent difficulties in conducting multi-lingual research, given the title I would have liked to see more analysis on the Chinese and South Korean cases. In particular, it would have been interesting (and useful) to include more detailed analysis on the politics of memory in South Korea, which is a liberal democracy that tolerates—at least in theory—much more diverse historical narratives than an authoritarian one-party state like China. What are the political dynamics that seem to produce a much more homogenous “remembering” of the past? In what way does South Korean society differ from Japanese society in this regard? These points aside, Yoshida’s book will prove to be highly valuable for scholars and students of all levels and disciplines, particularly history and political science. It is a timely and a valuable addition to the literature.
Shogo Suzuki, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
DISCOURSES OF DISCIPLINE: An Anthropology of Corporal Punishment in Japan’s Schools and Sports. Japan Research Monograph, 17. By Aaron L. Miller. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2013. xiii, 245 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-55729-105-9.
At the beginning of 2013 two separate stories regarding corporal punishment (taibatsu) in sport led the Japanese media headlines. The first involved the suicide of a high school student and captain of the basketball team, allegedly in response to being subjected to relentless and excessive physical punishment at the hands of the team’s 47-year-old coach, who was also a teacher at the school. The second involved 15 female judoka or judo athletes, including competitors from the London Olympics, who filed a collective letter of complaint to the Japanese Olympic committee against two coaches for using excessive physical violence and power harassment. The minister for Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology, Shimomura Hakubun, described the situation around these scandals as the “biggest crisis in Japan’s sport history,” stating that it was “necessary for Japan to clearly demonstrate it has eliminated violence from the sports world with its own self-cleansing functions” (Yomiuri, Feb 6, 2013).
The case of corporal punishment in Japanese sport is rendered even more unusual by the fact that it has been banned from educational settings first in 1879, and continuously since 1941. So how and why does corporal punishment persist in schools and sports clubs across Japan? This is the question Aaron Miller sets out to answer in his excellent book Discourses of Discipline. Based on long-term participant observation fieldwork in a university basketball club, grounded further in his experiences of teaching in Japanese schools and working in higher education, and drawing on extensive historical data, Miller has produced a rich and informative analysis of the practices and meanings of corporal punishment in the Japanese context. With a good degree of critical reflexivity, and adopting an anthropological approach to the question, Miller offers an interpretation, rather than an explanation, of corporal punishment, and in so doing avoids the traps of essentialism and cultural comparison.
As the book develops it is clear that the more one tries to understand and define taibatsu the more ambiguous and slippery it becomes. Indeed its origins appear to be a Japanese response to the modernization and engagement with foreign education systems rather than an indigenous concept. Prior to the Meiji Restoration taibatsu was not part of the educational vocabulary and, whilst there were forms of physical punishments in both temple and samurai schools during the Edo period, it is argued that the preference in these settings was for non-violent forms of sanction. Considering the central role of the samurai class in Meiji educational reform, and especially in the establishment of sports clubs in education, it seems likely that corporal punishment would have been absent from educational practice.
From this point onwards Miller provides an extensive historical and ethical contextualization of the practice of corporal punishment in education. He positions corporal punishment within a broader language of disciplining techniques and in doing so highlights the diversity of pedagogical styles at work in Japanese sports, from authoritarian (“bushido”) to liberal (“scientific”) coaches. It is here that the real strength of this book comes through as Miller considers the various cultural explanations for the use of corporal punishment. He addresses the scope of “uniquely” Japanese (samurai ethos, groupism, ascetic practice, character building, etc.) reasons for the continuing practice of corporal punishment and then proceeds to expose such approaches as limited in empirical evidence, being generalizations, and indeed characteristics of sports in many other cultural contexts.
In countering the various nihonjinron explanations of corporal punishment Miller utilizes the work of Michel Foucault to pose an alternative point of view. Corporal punishment is a discourse: linguistic, legal, symbolic and physical. As such it is a power relation that works through the subjectification of the individual bodies it interacts with. Understanding corporal punishment as a form of “bio-power” is effective in explaining, for example, why those who are victims of corporal punishment often do not recognize that they are victims (and may even come to be grateful for their beatings), or how others come to internalize the demands of coaches and adapt their behaviour accordingly.
As promised in the beginning, this book does not pose a solution for the corporal punishment problem. What it does is present a thorough contextualization and rethinking of the issue and in doing so paves the way for others to find the answers. In this sense the book offers policy makers, educators and coaches a way to reconsider corporal punishment and perhaps, as the minister suggests, facilitate Japanese sports’ “self-cleansing functions.” It would be essential reading for anyone interested in Japanese sport and, considering other issues and problems (bullying, school refusal, and drop-out) faced in Japanese education, a way of examining various problematic relationships of power. Finally this book exposes the culturalist shortcomings in explaining violence in a given society. One would contend that this approach could be adapted to other settings and situations where violence becomes institutionalized.
Brent McDonald, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
FAILED DEMOCRATIZATION IN PREWAR JAPAN: Breakdown of a Hybrid Regime. Studies of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. By Harukata Takenaka. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014. xii, 241 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-6341-7.
Deeply rooted in the Enlightenment past, the social sciences struggle with the enormous complexity of a twenty-first-century world. As Stanford-trained Harukata Takenaka reveals, political scientists have concocted innumerable labels to capture the political complexity of our times: traditional democracy, semi-democracy, pseudo democracy, illiberal democracy, delegative democracy, near polyarchy, competitive oligarchy, inclusive hegemony, tutelary regime, competitive authoritarianism, electoral authoritarianism, classical authoritarianism, autocracy, despotism, etc. Takenaka himself leans toward the increasingly popular study of “hybrid regimes,” polities with democratic and authoritarian attributes.
In probing an overlooked subgenre of hybridity, the “semi-democratic” regime, Takenaka hints to the potential of social science research on Japan. Compared to other models of hybridity (competitive authoritarianism, electoral authoritarianism), “semi-democracy” suggests the permeability of invented political categories. Takenaka applies the term, after all, to a nation typically considered democratic, Great Britain. Although blessed with the fundamental conditions of democracy—regular elections, accountability and mass political participation—nineteenth-century Britain, Takenaka explains, suffered from bribery and coercion, the unaccountability of the House of Lords and military, and limited suffrage. By the late 1920s, however, legal reform transformed Britain into a model democracy.
Similarly, Takenaka finds Japan wanting between 1918 and 1932 and, like Britain, suggests this “semi-democratic” polity could have transitioned to democracy. Echoing recent historical analyses, Takenaka appropriately distinguishes 1920s Japan from the “competitive oligarchy” of the latter nineteenth century. Whereas latter nineteenth-century Japan witnessed battles among the oligarchs and one political party (the Seiyūkai), by the 1920s, political competition shifted to two major political parties (the Seiyūkai and Kenseikai, later Minseitō). While electoral control in the nineteenth century extended only to the Lower House, by the interwar era, both the Lower House and government became beholden to the people through the strong place of political parties in both. Finally, although only 4.8 percent of the adult population could vote before 1919, by 1925, universal male suffrage enfranchised 37.3 percent of Japanese adults.
Despite these impressive gains, democratic reform did not, of course, continue in 1930s Japan. Takenaka’s broadest aim is to explain how such “semi-democratic” regimes fail. The experience of Japan reveals, first, the importance of civil-military relations. Interwar Japan saw the gradual rise of military over civilian authority. The shift was facilitated by a failure of electoral control over institutions such as the Privy Council, House of Peers and the military, and by the “semi-loyalty” of some party politicians vis-à-vis the civilian government. The lack of loyalty derived from an erosion of civilian legitimacy in the face of economic crisis, political scandal, even political party betrayal of democratic principles.
Takenaka’s strength lies in locating specific points where alternative actions might have facilitated a smooth Japanese transition to democracy. Had the Hara Takashi cabinet (1918–21) introduced universal male suffrage, he argues, the Katō Takaaki cabinet (1924–26) could have curbed the power of the House of Peers and Privy Council. Had the first Wakatsuki cabinet (1926–27) stood up to the Privy Council, the Seiyūkai might not have objected to the London Naval Treaty and thus politicized the military. Had the Tanaka Giichi cabinet (1927–29) punished the army assassins of Chinese warlord Chang Tso-lin, military politicization again could have been checked. Had the second Wakatsuki cabinet (1931) abandoned Hamaguchi’s economic austerity, it could have retained popular legitimacy. It might also have worked harder to control the military after the Manchurian Incident. Following the May Fifteenth Incident, the Seiyūkai and Minseitō parties could have turned to public support against the military.
Takenaka thus offers an important corrective to the determinist vision of a prewar Japanese political culture adverse to democracy. At the same time, his analysis reveals the limitations of social science research on non-Western societies. Codified with the nineteenth-century rise of the Western world, modern political science continues to privilege Western polities (particularly, Britain and the US) as ideal models against which non-Western societies invariably pale. Although Takenaka effectively counters the cultural determinism of political science research from the 1980s (Lucian Pye), his discussion of “semi-democratic” Japan and early 1920s roots of failure echoes early post-1945 Japanese Marxist and revisionist American (Robert Scalapino, Barrington Moore) emphases on the structural origins of Japanese militarism.
A less Anglo-American-centric reading might recognize that, while legal mechanisms for civilian control did not match those in contemporaneous Britain or the United States, democratic procedures in 1920s Japan were fully, if more informally, established. The Japanese parliament adopted universal male suffrage in 1925, just seven years after Britain. And as Mitani Taichirō, Murai Ryōta and Itō Yukio have argued, the Lower House gained ascendancy over the Upper House; party cabinets neutralized the power of the elder statesmen, the Privy Council, and the military; the selection process for prime minister became regularized; and the civilian cabinet expanded its authority over the imperial house. As Kawada Minoru has observed, in deliberations over the London Naval Treaty, Prime Minister Hamaguchi Osachi (1929–31) unified the Imperial Army, Navy, parliament and Privy Council under political party command.
Trapped by his own “semi-democratic” label, Takenaka cannot interpret the ultimate rise of militarism as anything but the product of weak Japanese democracy. Yet contemporary sources reveal nothing if not the extraordinary power of party government under Hamaguchi and an inordinate fear of that power among Japan’s non-elected elites. It seems likely that Japan’s political transformation of the 1930s derived from a problem of legitimacy not of Japan’s political parties but of her non-elected elites. Rather than focus on a brewing storm from 1920, one might note that the 1930 ratification of the London Naval Treaty marked the pinnacle of prewar Japanese party government, demonstrating to all the overwhelming power of the Hamaguchi cabinet. Unable to surmount party politics by legal means, members of the Imperial Army resolved to do so by a campaign of violence at home and abroad. Unfortunately, no amount of political accountability in interwar Japan could control armed soldiers determined to recover their waning authority through political assassination and foreign conquest.
Frederick R. Dickinson, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
IN TRANSIT: The Formation of the Colonial East Asian Cultural Sphere. The World of East Asia. By Faye Yuan Kleeman. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. viii, 295 pp. (Illustrations.) US$52.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3860-7.
Faye Yuan Kleeman’s In Transit: The Formation of the Colonial East Asian Cultural Sphere provides a fascinating description of Japan’s empire and the cultural exchanges that flowed within it through the life stories of ten of its subjects and citizens. As Kleeman points out, even though the Japanese empire might not have been as large as that of Britain or France, its compact nature allowed for the relatively easy internal flow of people, cultural knowledge, ideology, art, and material culture. Through her biographical approach, Kleeman shifts the discussion of such movements away from larger entities, such as particular colonies or ethnic groups, to individuals so as to “illustrate the intertwined and multifarious relationship between the personal and the national, the private and the public, in the grand scheme of the Japanese colonial enterprise” (7). She consequently argues:
It was not through the ideologies championed by the state apparatuses that people were persuaded to participate in the imperial enterprise; rather, it was through the lure of desire and pleasure, through their romantic imaginations that everyday people came to be engaged in the seemingly abstract concept of empire. Simple drives to see the outside world, to better one’s social and financial standing in society, and to experience the vicarious pleasure of information about new and exotic places drew individuals into the narrative of the empire. (9)
Thus, while acknowledging its use for exploitation, Kleeman contends that the “Great East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere” was not simply a government construct for the purpose of propaganda but something based at least in part on the realities of colonial cultural exchange, which, while problematic, were to some degree a response to the demands of individual subjects.
In Transit begins with its only male biography, that of Miyazaki Tōten, a nationalist and Pan-Asianist who participated in China’s 1911 revolution and subsequent nation building. Kleeman next examines in chapter 2 the life of Kawahara Misako, the daughter of a samurai Confucian scholar. As a “new woman,” Kawahara dedicated herself to bringing modern education to the people of China and Mongolia and then as a “good wife, wise mother,” devoted herself to her husband and household. In chapter 3, Kleeman explores how the Japanese empire’s marriage politics shaped the family lives of Nashimoto Masako, whose marriage to Yi Eun linked her with the Korean imperial family, and Saga Hiroko, whose union with Pu Jie, the brother of Pu Yi, tied her to the imperial house of the old Qing dynasty. Kawashima Yoshiko, the cross-dressing Manchu princess and spy executed as a Japanese traitor to China and Ri Kōran, the Japanese actress who played Chinese parts in films and passed as a Chinese during significant parts of her life, serve as the subjects of chapter 4. In chapter 5, Kleeman examines the lives and writings of Masugi Shizue and Sakaguchi Reiko, both of whom made literary careers in colonial Taiwan and wrote sympathetically about the aboriginal peoples there. The lives of Choi Seunghee and Tsai Juiyueh, Korean and Taiwanese dancers respectively, provide the concluding chapter to In Transit.
I found much of In Transit to be gripping. In particular, chapters 3 and 4 were hard to put down. Kleeman has a knack for revealing the pathos of her subjects through her exploration of the conflicts and tensions within their lives, providing a humanistic perspective that helps us to make better sense of issues of “collaboration” with empire. While I believe she may have understated the impact of imperial ideology on the subjects of empire, her point that there were other, more individual, factors at work is well taken, and amply proved through her biographies. Likewise, her argument that there was a prior reality of cultural exchange that the co-prosperity sphere built on is significant and demonstrated throughout her book.
Despite its strengths, In Transit also has its flaws. At times the text has a disjointed feel and interesting questions are raised without being fully answered. For example, in seeking to answer the question of whether Ri Kōran was a “propaganda tool of the Japanese empire,” Kleeman provides a summary of an article by Tanikawa Kenji entitled “The Reproduction and Sustainability of the Ri Kōran Myth,” in which he compares her to the anti-Nazi movie star Marlene Dietrich, and the maker of Nazi propaganda, Leni Riefenstahl (145–146). The section then ends without Kleeman directly answering the question she raised. Considering her sensitive treatment of Ri, I think it would have been edifying had Kleeman gone on to situate her between Dietrich and Riefenstahl. In Transit itself ends in essentially the same way, without a conclusion, which considering Kleeman’s deep knowledge of her subject and excellent powers of analysis, is unfortunate. There are many common themes that arise throughout her book that could have been examined more fruitfully. For instance, Kleeman argues that since men are often the centre of works of this period, she has chosen to focus on the lives of women. However, men constantly appear in the lives of the women she studies, particularly as fathers (adopted or biological), as lovers, and as husbands, shaping the women Kleeman studies and their own histories. Perhaps then a reflection in her conclusion on how relationships influenced the lives of the people her book featured would have been interesting, particularly as a focus on “modern” relationships would have resonated with the reformed Confucianism of such figures as Miyazaki Tōten and Kawahara Misako.
Despite these flaws, Kleeman has made a significant contribution to the study of Japan’s empire through her sensitive exploration of the lives of individuals who made up the Japanese colonial cultural sphere. I recommend In Transit to anyone interested in this subject matter and time period, particularly those who focus on history, literature, and the arts. Moreover, this work would also serve well in a graduate seminar dedicated to any of those fields.
Franklin Rausch, Lander University, Greenwood, USA
MABIKI: Infanticide and Population Growth in Eastern Japan, 1660–1950. Asia: Local Studies/Global Themes, 25. By Fabian Drixler. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. xvii, 417 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$75.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-27243-9.
Historians have long known that parents in early modern Japan sometimes killed their newborns, a practice euphemistically called thinning the shoots (mabiki). Fabian Drixler’s ambitious book skillfully blends statistical and textual analysis to explain how the culture of infanticide evolved over three centuries, shedding light on the intellectual, cultural, and institutional history of early modern Japan and offering a fascinating, and at times harrowing, case study of population control.
Drixler’s methodology is rich and complex. In the introduction he explains that a “feedback loop between demography and discourse goes through several cycles in this book” (21), a simple statement that belies the complexity of his argument. Until recently, historical studies of the demography of early modern Japan relied on structuralist assumptions that viewed social, political, or economic relationships as static. Drixler sets aside these static assumptions and argues instead that the practices and demographic consequences of infanticide evolved through dynamic processes of social change that were influenced by widespread debate about infanticide. While he uses discourse analysis he cites no post-structuralist sources in the notes or bibliography. His approach is neither structuralist nor post-structuralist, but rather bears an affinity with the new interactive structuralism. The result is an insightful, dynamic view of the culture of infanticide backed up by a sophisticated quantitative analysis.
The quantitative analysis is audacious in scope. Where most demographic studies of early modern Japan examine a single village, Drixler analyzes data from ten provinces in eastern Japan, a region that stretches from north of what is now Tokyo to the northern tip of the main island of Honshū. Most of his quantitative conclusions appertain to that region but he provides context by explaining population change, sex ratios, and fertility levels throughout all of Japan based on data compiled from secondary sources. For the main statistical analysis he collected roughly 780,000 observations from 3,300 population registers coming from over one thousand villages in eastern Japan and compiled the data into thousands of spreadsheets. To this data he applied the “Own Children Method” (OCM) that estimates fertility based on a snapshot of the surviving children in a family. By analyzing many thousands of entries from population registers Drixler generated an estimate of where and how often infanticide took place. His results show that infanticide was common in eastern Japan, sometimes shockingly so, that it was only sometimes sex-selective, that it was not practiced uniformly throughout the region and that rates of infanticide changed over time, rising to high levels in the eighteenth century before decreasing in the nineteenth (he uses different data to show it ended in the middle of the twentieth century). Many tables, maps and charts make the quantitative results more accessible.
The book is quite readable because Drixler has placed most of the technical explanation in appendices and endnotes, but readers who venture into the end matter will have a better view of the scope and complexity of the analysis. To organize the data for analysis Drixler had to make what must have been a staggering number of adjustments to the hundreds of thousands of observations he used. To use the OCM he also had to make assumptions about a number of values that are difficult to estimate, such as mortality rates. He explains how he made these adjustments and assumptions but for reasons of space cannot provide details. The estimates and assumptions look plausible, however, and the adjustments to the data look reasonable so his results are probably correct. In at least one case, however, his explanation lacks adequate transparency. He uses a Monte Carlo simulation to examine the comparative frequency of infanticides and abortions, referring readers who want a fuller description of the method to an article he has not yet published. Readers may want to withhold judgment about the results of the simulation until he publishes the supporting article.
His analysis of the discourse on infanticide is fascinating and shows that commentators in early modern Japan had diverse attitudes about the practice. He argues that infanticide became widely accepted in eastern Japan in part because priests in some Buddhist sects began to promise they “could transform a dead soul into a divine ancestral spirit” through the ongoing performance of rituals (62), and limiting family size through infanticide helped to stabilize households and secure heirs who could ensure the future performance of the rituals. Cultural practices such as costly reciprocal gift giving at the birth of a child and the belief that having a large family would lead to poverty provided further justification for infanticide by shaping social expectations about the need to limit family size. The diverse discourse also included criticism of infanticide based on Confucian ideology and Buddhist theology. Drixler argues that such discursive attacks, backed up by domain policies to monitor pregnancies, exert moral pressure on villagers, and subsidize child-rearing, led to lower levels of infanticide in the nineteenth century.
The dynamic development of the discourse on infanticide came to an end with a radical political rupture at the beginning of the modern period, and this is the most problematic part of Drixler’s analysis. To some extent early modern debates about infanticide had to take into account the hereditary patrimonial authority of the domain lords, especially after domains began to implement countermeasures to curtail infanticide. When the Meiji Restoration (1868) swept away the old system of domain-based political authority it also swept away the underpinnings of that discourse. Drixler describes insightfully how the discourse died out, but he underestimates the extent of the discursive rupture that took place. As a result he conflates incommensurate understandings of civilization (Chinese and Western) and pays insufficient attention to how meanings of civilization changed during the process of reshaping state power after the Restoration. Drixler’s explanation of how the culture of infanticide ended in the twentieth century is first rate, however, and his analysis of discourse in the early modern period is on firm ground. On the whole the book is packed with interesting insights that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
Robert Eskildsen, International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan
BEYOND AINU STUDIES: Changing Academic and Public Perspectives. Edited by Mark J. Hudson, Ann-Elise Lewallen, and Mark K. Watson. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. xi, 257 pp. (Figures.) US$52.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3697-9.
Published in 2014 by the University of Hawai‘i Press, Beyond Ainu Studies: Changing Academic and Public Perspectives consists of 13 chapters of arguments and discussions in research paper, analytical essay, and other styles. It is one of the world’s most comprehensive non-Japanese-language publications of its kind about Ainu studies based on the latest research results.
As the title indicates, the book is a critical re-assessment of Ainu studies conventionally conducted by scholars in Japan and elsewhere, and seeks to clarify how such studies will ideally be implemented in the future. In light of the need for a fundamental change in the people, targets, and methods involved in achieving the aims at hand, authors other than recognized experts on Ainu studies contributed; the 13 chapters based on 4 themes were written by 12 authors representing the attributes of Ainu, wajin (majority Japanese) and non-Japanese people, and include scholars as well as Ainu culture practitioners. Theme One: Representation/Objectification deals with the history of Ainu studies, which stemmed from relations between the nation-state and anthropology during the period of their establishment in Japan. Thus, Theme One focuses on the history of the Ainu people’s objectification. Theme Two: New Critical Responses is based on the objectification history described in Theme One, highlighting initiatives to redefine the scope of present-day Ainu society and culture beyond geographical boundaries. The authors of the chapters for Theme Three: Academic Disciplines and Understandings of Ainu question the authoritative nature of academic disciplines (particularly those of archaeology and history) on which images of Ainu people are based, and suggest the possibility of changing this in the future. Theme Four: The Discourse of Culturalism shows a new direction for Ainu studies toward the reassessment of connections between cultural practice and identity from the perspectives of museology, gender, linguistics, and law.
One of the threads running through the book involves clarification of the relations linking Ainu studies, the formation of Ainu social images, and the political movement for the restoration of the Ainu as an indigenous people. Based on this, efforts are made to open up new horizons by removing limitations that have been placed on Ainu studies in the past; here lies the significance of this book, which is written for English-speaking readers. The section below outlines new attempts presented by the individual authors and highlights challenges added by the reviewers based on new developments concerning recent Ainu policy and research trends.
The authors of the book seek to tackle the theme Beyond Ainu Studies from four perspectives: (1) reinterpretation of the history of Ainu studies by Western scholars; (2) reinterpretation of the history of Ainu studies by Japanese scholars; (3) a look at the present-day Ainu community by Ainu people; and (4) background to the establishment of Ainu social/legal positions and related analysis. Although each chapter may initially appear to approach conventional Ainu studies from an individual perspective, those who read the book through will recognize a loose connection among the threads and realize that they lay the foundations for future Ainu studies. Hans Dieter Ölschleger, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, and Kirsten Refsing address Ainu studies conducted by Western scholars, discussing the Ainu culture described in Western thought and its impact on subsequent Ainu studies conducted in Japan. In contrast, David L. Howell, Mark J. Hudson, and Deriha Koji reconsider Ainu history as interpreted by Japanese historians and archaeologists. Based on their research experiences in Japan and elsewhere, these three authors underline the importance of understanding Ainu culture with consideration of the multiple perspectives required among historians and archaeologists in order to conduct new Ainu studies in light of the multi-faceted nature of historical events. One of the book’s characteristics is its content expressing the opinions of scholars who engaged in Ainu studies in Japan and elsewhere in the past as well as those of others involved in Ainu research domestically and internationally today. Another characteristic is its inclusion of descriptions of the Ainu community by Ainu people. Mark K. Watson, Uzawa Kanako, Sunazawa Kayo, Tsuda Nobuko, and Ann-Elise Lewallen address the Ainu community in Hokkaido and elsewhere, and especially Uzawa, Sunazawa, and Tsuda contribute to the book in their roles as Ainu authors. Tsuda and Lewallen cover research on embroidery and clothing as handicrafts of Ainu women, pointing out how related techniques passed down for generations play an important role in ensuring cultural inheritance and meeting Ainu ethnic requirements despite a lack of detailed written records. These handicrafts stand apart from the traditional Ainu cultural elements of hunting/gathering and language as discussed in chapters 8, 9, and 12, and represent a new perspective in which focus is placed on another aspect of traditional culture that has been passed down in the private domain of women’s handiwork. In chapter 13, Georgina Stevens discusses the significance of practicing Ainu culture and exercising self-determination as an indigenous people within the legal system of Japan. The chapter describes the movement to restore the rights of indigenous peoples within the international community as well as the process behind the restoration of Ainu rights that has taken place since the 1980s against a background of legal resistance to Ainu discrimination in Japan.
Since the book’s publication, rapid and diverse developments have continued in research on Ainu culture and various policy measures. As mentioned in chapter 13, the Council for Ainu Policy Promotion proposed the concept of the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony in July 2009. Scheduled to open in 2020, the space will act as a national centre for the revitalization of Ainu culture. It will be a base for new initiatives toward the preservation and revitalization of the Ainu language and other aspects of the culture, with efforts including the designation of Ainu as an official language of the facility. These goals are worthy of attention as new developments in the restoration of Ainu culture.
The author of chapter 10, Tsuda, earned a doctoral degree in traditional Ainu attire and related culture in 2014 from the Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Japan. Her work on Ainu cultural studies as an Ainu woman has earned academic acclaim, thereby creating promise for new future developments in Ainu cultural studies.
Meanwhile, a number of issues in Ainu studies remain unresolved. By way of example, as discussed in the book’s introduction, the question over repatriation of Ainu human remains collected for scientific study has yet to be concluded. Despite its certain limitations, the book’s juxtaposition of perspectives in Japan and elsewhere is expected to provide a strong stimulus for consideration regarding efforts to resolve such issues, and the effectiveness of its methodological framework will be revealed in future Ainu studies.
Mayumi Okada, Rina Shiroishi, and Yasushige Takahashi, Hokkaido University Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies, Sapporo, Japan
A FAMILY OF NO PROMINENCE: The Descendants of Pak Tŏkhwa and the Birth of Modern Korea. By Eugene Y. Park. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014. xvii, 239 pp. (Figures, tables, maps.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8876-2.
At the beginning of this short but insightful book on status and social mobility in early modern and modern Korea Eugene Park makes the interesting observation that while many contemporary South Koreans are proud of their lineage background, in fact very few know much about their actual ancestors. This remark is not only indicative of how the social status system has transmuted itself in twentieth-century Korea, it also points out a blind spot in historical memory. Through the reconstruction and study of his own family’s lineage and its history in this book, Park successfully shows that such personal micro-history in fact has the potential of being a hitherto largely untapped source of information about social change and the emergence of modern Korea.
While the approach is original and in many ways path-breaking, the fact that the author’s ancestors were chungin (technical specialists and others of social status below aristocracy but above commoners) means that the subject of this book corresponds with a recent major research trend in the study of Korean history: secondary social status groups and the fuzzy demarcation lines of what was once considered to be a clearly delineated social status system. The previously prevalent monolithic understanding of social status can be explained by master narratives on ancestry in twentieth-century Korea. As Park argues, “The descent group narratives that crystallized in early modern Korea have framed popular discussions of ancestry in a way that allows little room for real family stories” (4). In terms of English-language scholarship on Korean history, it can also partly be explained by the fact that the first generation of Koreanists in the West focussed primarily on the yangban elite and their lineages.
The first four chapters offer fascinating insight into status and social mobility in Chosŏn Korea through the narration of the Pak lineage’s ascent from commoner status to specialist chungin, and finally the insertion of
its progenitor into the genealogy of a yangban branch of Miryang Pak.
Chapter 1, tellingly titled “From the Mists of Time,” discusses descent and kinship in medieval and early modern Korea and provides a general picture of the social status group defined as chungin before attempting to trace the earliest origins of this Pak lineage in the seventeenth century. Through a detailed study of genealogical records of the lineage and its in-laws, in conjunction with a wide range of other sources, the author comes to the conclusion that the earliest traceable ancestors probably were commoner military officers. The second chapter is set in the eighteenth century and argues that the “expanding commerce and urbanization of Seoul allowed social upstarts to accumulate wealth and join the society’s middle ranks” (28). The section on the Pak lineage details how the Paks relocated to Seoul—while maintaining an economic presence in their home region—and advanced within the military.
In chapter 3, dealing with the nineteenth century, the Pak lineage has more firmly established themselves as chungin. In a period when this status group came to the fore in the capital with prominent and affluent families pursuing “various forms of cultural activity, ranging from artistic connoisseur to erudite antiquarian to versatile literatus to social critic” (50), the Pak lineage finally established themselves as specialist chungin, the highest stratum within this social status group. The lineage having achieved specialist chungin status, the fourth chapter, dealing with the late nineteenth century, describes how the Paks, like many other lineages in the period, performed a “genealogical maneuver” to make themselves descendents of a yangban branch of Miryang Pak by having the progenitor, Pak Tŏkhwa, inserted as
a son in their genealogy. After this the book slightly changes focus. Chapter 5 describes some prominent in-laws of the Pak lineage and their activities
in the early twentieth century, and chapter 6, while returning to the Paks, offers vignettes into the lives of its members during the colonial period rather than discussing the vicissitudes of their social status.
To trace the lives of the members of the Pak lineage and their in-laws, Eugene Pak has mobilized an impressive range of sources. Bringing these texts to the fore of his narration the reader can follow the detective work involved and obtains a good understanding of both the difficulties in using such sources and the potential they possess. As the book is tracing the life
of people “of no prominence,” sometimes the link between people found in the sources and the Pak lineage is tenuous and the analysis has to be somewhat speculative. However, even if it can’t be confirmed that all of the people found in the sources actually belonged to this branch of the Pak lineage, the narration still corroborates the overall picture provided of the life and social mobility of this social status group in Chosŏn Korea.
As mentioned earlier, secondary social status groups have recently received increasing academic attention. This book stands out for two reasons, though. Firstly, whereas previous studies have focussed on more well-known chungin, this study with its path-breaking methodology is a both minute
and long-term analysis of the social mobility of a “family of no prominence.” Secondly, as argued by the author, this approach also facilitates a more variegated understanding of this social status group, in particular in
the colonial period, when many prominent members of the chungin have been described as collaborators. This book is therefore indeed a valuable contribution to the field and should be read by all interested in the social status system of Chosŏn and its transition into modern Korea.
Anders Karlsson, University of London, London, United Kingdom
INDIA’S OCEAN: The Story of India’s Bid for Regional Leadership. Routledge Security in Asia Pacific Series, 26. By David Brewster. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xiv, 228 pp. (Maps.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-52059-1.
The peninsular character of India, with its extensive and open coast line and with a littoral that is extremely fertile and rich in resources, makes India dependent on the Indian Ocean. Hence, a secure and safe Indian Ocean, along with the vast Indian shoreline, is insurance for India’s industrial development, commercial growth, and stable political structure. India’s Ocean, written by David Brewster, aims to enlighten readers on India’s strategic ambitions in the Indian Ocean and asks whether India has the wherewithal to become the leading power in the Indian Ocean. At the outset, the author claims that “a lack of clear strategic direction” makes India’s future role uncertain.
To tell the story of India’s bid for regional leadership, the author outlines the development of Indian thinking on its role in the Indian Ocean and examines its relations with the Indian Ocean littoral states and major powers. The book is divided into eleven chapters with interesting insights. The first two chapters underline transforming the balance of power in the Indian Ocean, and Indian strategic thoughts about the Indian Ocean and their likely impact on India’s strategic activities. The author points out that many in New Delhi believe that the Indian Ocean must be, and must be seen to be, “India’s Ocean.” Further, he elaborates on three key features of this idea. First, domination of the Indian Ocean is part of India’s “manifest destiny.” Second, to preclude the possibility of extra-regional intervention in the subcontinent India must establish a defence perimeter as deep into the Indian Ocean as possible. And finally, the author visualizes the development of a sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean as a necessary step towards India’s status as a global power. While the author admits gaps in India’s potentials and capabilities, he underlines that should India succeed in maximizing its power, it would be for the first time in history that a local Indian Ocean player will be the most predominant one.
Subsequently, the book examines India’s strategic role in the Indian Ocean by dividing it into five geopolitical spheres: Maritime South Asia (primarily Sri Lanka and the Maldives), Southwest Indian Ocean (comprising Mauritius, Seychelles and the Mozambique Channel), East and Southern Africa, Northwest Indian Ocean (comprising states in and around the Persian Gulf), and Northeast Indian Ocean (comprising the ASEAN nation-states). While the author describes India’s peacekeeping force in Sri Lanka as India’s ‘regional military adventures,’ he also underscores the Indian navy’s evolution as a benign provider of public goods. Indeed, the Indian navy has sought to institutionalize itself as the leading Indian Ocean navy through such initiatives as sponsoring the biennial Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, to which the navies of all Indian Ocean littoral states are invited. The author asserts that India’s intervention in the Maldives was a model for the benign security role that India could play in the Indian Ocean. He stresses that India’s intervention in the Maldives to procure political stability might be used further afield in the Indian Ocean.
The book provides a comprehensive account of India’s security relationships in the Southwest Indian Ocean, demonstrating India’s exemplary approach to this region, and examples of the flexibility that India will need to demonstrate in the future as it extends its influence throughout the Indian Ocean.
Australia, the United States, and China are discussed in separate chapters. The author underlines that other than as a potential energy supplier, Australia will find it difficult to make itself an indispensable partner to India. He adds that Australia has had no desire to sponsor the establishment of a local security order, and has worked assiduously for decades to draw the US further into the Indian Ocean region and keep it there. The author asserts that New Delhi has been successful in developing security relationships with smaller countries such as Singapore, but has been slow to develop cooperative relations with larger or more powerful states such as Australia. He, however, keeps readers guessing on what he means by more powerful states. Elsewhere, he makes a claim that if strategic autonomy is part of India’s DNA, then collaboration is part of Australia’s. This makes clear why India has been slow to develop relations with more powerful states.
The author asserts that the US military sees India as a capable partner. India also sees limited cooperation with the US as a useful means of achieving its long-term goals in the Indian Ocean, and New Delhi wishes to be regarded as a global power that deals directly with Washington. Indeed, India could take on more responsibility in Asia, such as in peacekeeping, search and rescue, disaster relief, and providing high-value cargo escort. Nonetheless, the author underlines that “the US is still perceived by the Indian elite as a potentially unreliable strategic partner that may ultimately seek to dominate India” (177). It is not clear, however, who is being referred to as “the Indian elite” and how much influence they have had on India-US security relations.
The book contains some concepts like “Anti-Access Area Denial (A2AD) capabilities” or “Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA)” without offering any detail. Some information on such concepts could have added value for readers. Similarly, the author mentions in the first chapter that the Indian Ocean was first opened to European naval power in 1498 by Vasco da Gama. Recent archaeological and historical research, however, indicates that by virtue of India’s geo-strategic location, the Kushan rulers gained access to ancient maritime routes that led from India to the Persian Gulf, the southern shores of the Arabian Peninsula, and the Red Sea. The Asian ships were a major force in early history, carrying both commerce and culture to new heights and the maritime branch of the silk roads had reached its maximum extent by the first century CE. More importantly, the analysis in the last chapter seems biased, as the author describes India as “Hindu India.” While the book tells a fascinating story of the increasing centrality of the Indian Ocean and India’s growing role throughout the region, it leaves readers craving for more of an assessment of India’s capability to become a leading power in the Indian Ocean.
Nevertheless, the author presents his experience and knowledge in a clear and candid manner. The book is handsomely produced, with an index, endnote references, and sourced from the most relevant documents on the subject. India’s Ocean is an excellent contribution to understanding the geopolitics in the Indian Ocean and will be welcomed by both policy makers and scholars alike.
Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, National University of Singapore, Singapore
THE PARIAH PROBLEM: Caste, Religion, and the Social in Modern India. Cultures of History. By Rupa Viswanath. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. xviii, 396 pp. (Maps.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-16306-4.
Rupa Viswanath’s The Pariah Problem is a study of Dalits in the Madras Presidency, south India, between the 1890s and 1920s. It is an outstanding work of historical scholarship, based on innovative, assiduous archival research and a through reading of relevant literature, which carefully examines the data and relevant theoretical problems, and advances original conclusions about the position of Dalits in India today, as well as in the past.
Dalits in south India have been known by various terms, but their miserable condition was first publicly identified as a problem that afflicted “Pariahs,” an anglicization of “Paraiyar,” the name of the largest Dalit caste in Tamil Nadu (formerly part of Madras). The Pariahs’ condition, Viswanath insists, was a function of both class and caste, because they were unfree landless labourers or slaves, and also degraded because they were excluded from society proper, as constituted by the higher castes. In the late nineteenth century, an alliance developed between Pariahs and Protestant missionaries, mainly because Pariahs actively sought out missionaries, rather than the other way around. The alliance gave Pariahs new resources to combat local, village oppressors and the missionaries’ interventions eventually forced British officials to recognize the reality of the Pariah problem, an event Viswanath dates to a government report in 1892.
Officials, however, were reluctant to tackle the Pariah problem vigorously, because they did not want to alienate the landed elite groups whose support was vital for imperial rule, and they feared that interfering with traditional customs would be dangerously provocative, especially if the customs were religious ones. The missionaries viewed the Pariahs’ degraded, untouchable status as essentially linked to the Hindu religion, and their understanding became part of how the colonial government and rural elites conceptualized the problem. Hence any attempt to truly ameliorate the Pariahs’ condition could be deemed offensive to the rights and sentiments of all other Hindus. Moreover, the notion that relations between high-caste masters and untouchable servants were mutually harmonious, rather than exploitative, was pervasive in government circles, among both British officials and their numerous Indian colleagues and subordinates.
In the early twentieth century, the government, partly influenced by new liberal ideas of social welfare in England, cooperated with missionaries in granting new house sites to Panchamas (as Pariahs came to be called). Such initiatives provoked serious opposition from higher-caste landlords, however, and officials were unwilling to confront them. Starting in 1918, the government nominated several Dalits to the reformed Madras Legislative Council and some became vocal members of it, demanding equal rights of access to public space and facilities. But high-caste council members and British officials responded by insisting that because the untouchables’ problems were social, not political, peoples’ minds had to change before reform could be effective. Hence even progressive nationalists evaded the reality of the Pariah problem by defining political and legal problems as social problems, primarily within Hindu society. That definition and the outlook it entails, Viswanath argues, remain “deeply embedded in political, scholarly, and legislative responses to the plight of Dalits in the present day” (241).
Viswanath writes well and presents her arguments clearly in the main text of 258 pages. The 84 pages of endnotes, however, are burdensome. Unfortunately, too, bibliographic references in them are sometimes inadequate; for instance, citations never indicate whether the voluminous proceedings of the Madras Board of Revenue were consulted in the Tamil Nadu State Archives or British Library, although the two sets are not identical. Furthermore, the endnotes contain too much digressive material, probably surviving from her PhD thesis. A lot of this content deserves to be in the main text and checking this is tedious, especially because no footers cross-referencing page numbers are printed in the endnotes.
One significant issue mentioned only briefly is the difference between Paraiyars, Pallars and Chakkiliyars (3). The first two “specific caste terms” were practically synonymous with terms for agrestic servants or “slaves,” and “to be a Pariah was to be a laboring servant” (28), but an endnote confirms this does not mean that “all laborers were Pariahs, although virtually all Pariahs were laborers” (n. 19, 273). If I understand Viswanath correctly, “Pariah” primarily denoted someone belonging both to the servile labouring class and an untouchable caste. The populous Paraiyars gave their name to the whole untouchable category; nonetheless, the less numerous Pallars were and are a different caste group, often said to rank above Paraiyars, and the Chakkiliyars are a third, still smaller caste group normally ranked lowest. Even in modern Dalit political organizations, the three groups are not always united, and their social divisions persist in many localities (Robert Deliège, The Untouchables of India, Berg, 1999, 58–62; Hugo Gorringe, Untouchable Citizens, Sage, 2005, 55–64). Viswanath says hardly anything about these divisions during the period she discusses and sometimes I was unclear whether her book’s “Pariahs” belonged to all untouchable castes or were Paraiyars only.
The book’s virtues greatly outweigh its flaws, however. One important research innovation is Viswanath’s combined use of the separate missionary and government records, which has contributed to her original finding that Pariahs actively sought out missionaries, rather than passively waiting for them to proselytize. She also shows that Dalits—not just Brahmans and non-Brahmans—mattered in south Indian colonial history and that, too, is a major step forward. Other historians and anthropologists have previously argued that servitude or slavery, as well as ritual pollution and status inferiority, define untouchability, but none has done so more effectively than Viswanath. Her explanation of how the Pariah problem in Madras became social-cum-religious, instead of political and legal, is consistent with modern ethnographic evidence, although her claim that “hurt Hindu sentiments,” rather than undermined privileges, “became central to the discussion of the Pariah” (131) sounds anachronistically contemporary. Finally, though not everyone will agree with her extrapolations to the current state of Dalit affairs in India, Viswanath makes a persuasive case and her book deserves a wide readership.
C. J. Fuller, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom
This wonderfully written book is about changing marriage practices in Tamilnadu, South India. Dravidian Kinship has been characterized as a mammoth “system” in the study of kinship in India/South Asia, and in general, in anthropology. This book provides an update by taking us back into the world of Kallars, made famous by Louis Dumont. The author looks at the “rights” (murai) that some kin have over others when it comes to marriage. Such a concept of entitlement could have “moral and emotional consequences when matrimonial rights are denied” (2). For consequences there are, and quite traumatic and exacting ones at that. The subject of kinship is made real and “visible” in this ethnography. The author convincingly argues that ignoring kinship (“demotion,” as the author puts it) would deprive anthropology of some remarkable practices which may soon “disappear” (3).
Clark-Decès starts with a detailed discussion of the various theories of kinship delineated for Tamilnadu by Dumont and Good. The excessive attention paid to kinship terminology meant that the “logic of marriage rules” was overlooked (6), and for a long time Dumont’s structuralist model of marriage alliances was the governing paradigm. This was refuted by Good when he started looking at marriage “at the level of practice” (8). His assertion that “uncle-niece marriage” was the most preferred in Tamilnadu/South India changed the understanding of kinship and marriage (9).
The author presents her case with three main arguments. The first is that instead of focusing on kinship terminologies, the emphasis should be on murai, rights of marriage endowed on some individuals over others. But this right can be challenged and subverted, thus giving rise to violence, vanmurai. The case studies in the later chapters establish that “when a ‘right’ marriage does not take place, the missed opportunity can deeply, and negatively, affect one’s sense of self” (16). Clark-Decès next calls for an examination of the mother-daughter duo as the “atom” of Tamil kinship, not brother-sister (16). These two women, and other sisters, are heavily invested in arranging (or de-arranging) matrimonial alliances. The final point is about exploring why close-kin marriages are no longer preferred, from the perspective of young people and their experience of close kin relationships (20).
Why is the mother’s brother “inherently different” (37)? Clark-Decès demonstrates in chapter 1 how a once criminalized group has now become economically and politically powerful by looking at the significance of gift-giving as evidence. The mother’s brother bears nearly or more than half of the expenditure of a girl’s wedding, even if that share of burden is undocumented. The small sums of rupees given, now run into several hundred thousands, most of which is entered into further circulation of capital through investments in real estate and trade. This “ritual cooperative” (32) has not only helped the Kallars become dominant, but has also ensured that gift-giving remains important, especially from the mother’s brother(s).
Probing Tamil terms like contam (mine) and anniyam (other), the author argues in chapter 2 that “entitlement rather than exchange” is the organizing principle of Tamil kinship relations (38). To suggest that “I own my kin and whatever they have” is to affirm not only “right” but also to give back in the same way. This practice then leads to “doing the right thing,” (43) such as a man marrying his mother’s brother’s daughter. Murai not only means “right” but also “order.” Murai ensures democracy in that everyone has the possibility to receive the right gift or the right woman. But when this right does not play out as it should, then it begets violence (53–56).
But marriages are as much about power play, in the sense defined by Bourdieu (58–59). Chapter 3 illustrates in great detail two marriages that were not “right” because the persons concerned were not in control of things themselves; the same “right” rules of kinship did them in. Kallar ideas of what applies to elder siblings and those in the lower order ends up becoming an ordeal in some lives. “Marriages missed” (74) extract a heavy toll.
On the “mother’s brother,” Clark-Decès argues in chapter 4 that in uncle-niece marriages, the uncle is the sacrificial being. The women around him—his mother and his (elder) sister—are the primary movers and shakers, forming the “most critical bond” (90). In such marriages, money transactions from the bride’s family are considerably reduced. Uncle-niece marriages are also preferred by most castes in Tamilnadu because it brings familiar kin together, especially a woman and her natal kin, and reduces chances for conflict.
Critiquing Trawick’s (1990) Oedipal take on brother-sister relationships among Tamils, Clark-Decès proclaims in chapter 5 that it is “entitlement,” rather than any sexual longing, which results in cross-kin marriage (103). But this close “chain of kinship” can also become “unbearable,” as is demonstrated in one “wrong” marriage, with devastating consequences for those involved.
Clark-Decès discusses change in the Tamil marriage system in chapter 6. While uncle-niece marriages are fast disappearing, cross-cousin marriages are also less favoured. A decreasing birth rate, and widespread belief that close kin marriages result in genetic defects in children, or “medicalisation of spouse selection” as she puts it (124), have resulted in the decreasing popularity of the “right” kin as spouse. Instead, young people imagine their future to be more about social mobility and less about family ties.
The last chapter is about young Tamils’ understanding of love, particularly the unrequited kind. The changing socio-economic landscape of the state has left many young people in rural areas with neither the qualifications to compete in the neoliberal economy nor the desire to engage in agriculture. They find themselves in a conundrum when it comes to pursuing their love interests. Through the lives of two people, Clark-Decès illustrates the hopeless situation they are placed in, unable to marry the ones they love, and being rejected by “right” kin for having lost out in the race.
This beautifully written study on the “emotional cosmology” of Tamil kinship (165) is an important contribution to the anthropology of kinship. It will be of interest to scholars in anthropology, South Asian studies, gender, and to anyone interested in what’s going on in the marriage scene in India.
Haripriya Narasimhan, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India
This book deftly and intricately shows the various hesitations, strategies, machinations, contexts, geopolitical interests, complex mixture of motives, strategic interactions, and unintended consequences that went into understanding the events of East Pakistan and the subsequent independence of Bangladesh during the nine months from March 1971. The book outlines the games of chess that were being played by various actors and countries in determining their support, hesitation, and encouragement to the movements in East Pakistan, or to the activities of the West Pakistani government. Based on exhaustive archival research in various countries, this book brings out the intricate details and behind-the-scenes manoeuvres of the big stories that are intertwined with the known and lesser-known political narratives of 1971.
The prologue and the first two chapters map the situation in 1971 leading to the chilling events of Operation Searchlight on March 25 by the Pakistani army in Bangladesh. The subsequent chapters outline the role of the Indian government and the varied reasons for its support and scepticism of the movements and struggles in Bangladesh; the Kissinger-Nixon and US government machinations over its support for Pakistan in order to seek an alliance with China; and the reluctance of the Russians in supporting Bangladesh. The chapter titled “Poster Child and Pariah” shows how “Bangladesh distilling the hopes and fears of the swinging sixties” (147) and the atrocities relating to the war catches international attention. The next chapter outlines the different diplomatic manoeuvres undertaken by varied countries; the complicated strategies that determined China’s concerns; and increased support by the Indian government followed by the victory of the Indian army over the Pakistani military strength. The epilogue maps the impact of 1971 on the Bangladeshi political trajectory.
The book is fantastic in locating the war of 1971 within varied sets of local and international contexts: namely public opinion, globalization, humanitarian politics, and sixties counterculture, especially music, the global and Pakistani student revolts of 1968, and diasporas. The events of Biafra, the Vietnam War, international and internal dynamics within the White House and its need to align with China, communal politics in India, the dynamics of Congress politics, and Indira Gandhi’s advisors—all of these factors impinged on the course of events in 1971 and its consequences thereafter. The book shows how the Russian government did not want Pakistan to break up and rather than Cold War realpolitik (which was the main reason for USA’s involvement with the 1971 war), it was concerned about Chinese influence in East Pakistan. Similarly India’s scepticism and support for Bangladesh liberation waxed and waned in the early months of the liberation struggle and only gained momentum in the last few months of 1971. Overall, the book brings out the central role of refugees as political tools and shows that relationships with China were pivotal to the diplomatic manoeuvres relating to 1971.
The book makes a substantial contribution to the disciplines of international relations and diplomacy. However one of the conspicuous absences in this book is the lack of reference to the extensive history of rape during 1971 and how it became a tool for international relations. The issue of rape is mentioned once in the epilogue when referring to collaborators who are being tried by the current Bangladesh war crimes tribunal. There is no dearth of images, photographs and press reports on rapes during 1971 and the raped woman emerged as a mobilizing figure for various national and international actors. In the documentary Dateline Bangladesh (1972), Indira Gandhi, in making a case for India’s humanitarian and military intervention in the Bangladesh war said: “Shall we sit and watch their women get raped?” On The Frost Programme (1972), Sheikh Mujib agonized over how Muslim men could rape Muslim women. In fact Raghavan, when referring to the existing scholarship on 1971 relating to memory, violence and identity (5), seems to suggest, disdainfully, that “these themes detracted from a serious engagement with the staid but ineluctable questions on the causes, course and consequences of the conflict”(5). In fact the global history of Bangladesh is not confined to the diplomatic games of chess described in this book. The history of rape during 1971 is intrinsically a global one given the intricacies of abortion and adoption, and the images and photographs – all of which involved individuals from across the world and a global audience (Nayanika Mookherjee, The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971, Duke University Press, 2015).
There is a brief reference to the East Pakistanis being “animal cunning” (46) but the Bengali Muslim discourse is not further expanded. However this point is raised in the case of the Pakistani army’s perception of themselves with regard to the Indian army. Following from the British martial policy one Muslim soldier is deemed to be equal to ten Hindu soldiers. However that this policy itself is deemed to be a reason for the instances of rape in the case of 1971 is lost on the author. According to Bangadeshi accounts,
the Pakistani army perpetrated the rapes so as to make better Muslims of the ‘half Muslim’ Hinduized Bengalis of East Pakistan. (Nayanika Mookherjee, “The absent piece of skin: Sexual violence in the Bangladesh war and its gendered and racialised inscriptions,” in Modern Asian Studies 46, no. 6 : 1572–1601). The book also remains uncritical of Khandaker Mushtaque (218), needs to elaborate more on the Militant leaders of March 1971 (mentioned throughout chapter 2) and there is inadequate (76–77) reference to the Indian government’s position on 1971 vis-à-vis the Naxalite movement occurring at the same time in West Bengal.
One of the notable arguments that the book makes is that if India had intervened earlier it would have helped avoid such hardship in Bangladesh. At the same time the book contends that the emergence of independent Bangladesh is not a given but the result of historical chance and conjunctures that went beyond South Asia (265). More controversially, the book argues that the tensions that existed between various actors in independent Bangladesh emerged during those nine months. According to Raghavan, this in turn made it inevitable that the liberation war created the groundwork for the failure of democracy in Bangladesh (272). This argument attributes a minimal role to Bangladeshis in their own liberation struggle. Overall, it is the human stories of the diplomatic decisions taken and the nature of the unintended consequences emerging out of this humanitarian crisis of 1971 that come through most strongly in this book.
Nayanika Mookherjee, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
THE POLITICS OF ACCOUNTABILITY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: The Dominance of Moral Ideologies. Oxford Studies in Democratization. By Garry Rodan and Caroline Hughes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. xiii, 230 pp. US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-870353-2.
This important study offers a constructive appraisal of ideologies informing accountability politics in Southeast Asia, with the authors asserting the primacy of morally conservative notions over liberalism and democracy in shaping demands for responsible governance. While the authors acknowledge that their principal concern is determining whose authority is advanced by accountability practices, they stress a crucial point: neoliberalism and democracy have reached a compromise, a reason for the rise of moral ideologies.
The authors further argue that both democratic and authoritarian Southeast Asian states resort to an exploitation of moral ideologies to contain burgeoning pressures for accountability. Powerful state institutions and actors are able to dictate the form and propagation of these moral ideologies because the middle class is deeply fragmented. State leaders aspire to direct this discourse in order to shape business-state relations that have taken a variety of directions in Southeast Asia and which have, in turn, precipitated differing degrees of elite fracture.
This nexus between neoliberalism and democracy, and how compromise is reached between the two functions is, unfortunately, a fundamental matter that did not secure the multifaceted analysis it merits. An interesting fact about this neoliberalism-democracy nexus is its simultaneous emergence in Southeast Asia in the mid-1980s. Meanwhile, authoritarian states, in response to flourishing democracy in the region, began to expound the idea of an Asian democracy—and values—to offset criticisms of their reluctance to liberalize their political systems.
Having broached this topic about neoliberalism and governance, the authors should have broadened their assessment of different manifestations of neoliberal rule, its effects, and state response to demands for accountable employment of authority. Neoliberal rule touts not merely the importance of freedom but also accountability, and increasingly regulation, a point the authors note. Regulation, however, stifles neoliberal market restructurings such as privatization, practiced by all Southeast Asian governments. These state claims about accountability go on to champion the idea of a belief in civil society and its greater participation in defining political processes. The recognition of accountability under the context of neoliberal governance can thus, paradoxically, enmesh social activists within structures of power, while simultaneously empowering the state to confine accountability to manageable categories, establish the ground for re-inscribing non-accountable rent-seeking practices, and reinforce unjust local power structures that were supposed to have been dismantled with the consolidation of democracy.
Another issue in discourses about moral accountability is respect of private property, a core dimension of neoliberalism. However, private property debates serve as a mechanism to justify the securing of rents. Notions of accountability become new processes of capital accumulation. Crucially therefore, moral accountability has to be presented as a state-social formation, grounded in religion and values. The regime of governance that then emerges melds both neoliberal and democratic concerns, and in the process produces and shapes the conduct of accountability. This is imperative as new state-business alliances inform how rents are created and distributed. In the context of moral accountability, government leaders intensify political and economic pressures on state agencies to consider their interests when determining the particular parameters that accountability should take. Such pressure on the state to serve vested interests is a primary factor for growing intra-elite contestations.
While these ideas run through the book, the key problem is this: the authors provide insufficient insights into their primary query, namely where does authority lie given this compromise between neoliberalism and democracy? Answers are suggested, but not in terms of how neoliberalism works and what this means for society and the economy. Powerful states in Singapore and Cambodia can control how neoliberalism functions. The situation in authoritarian Malaysia is more complex because the government and the opposition advocate neoliberal policies while espousing Islamic-based morality to deal with the repercussions of this economic agenda. Thailand’s business elites promote neoliberalism but are deeply split and at loggerheads with each other over access to state rents, a situation that also prevails in the Philippines. Indonesia is an anomaly as business elites have failed to consolidate control over the state, partly due to the influence of (anti-corruption-based) NGOs.
Clearly, accountability-based claims rooted in morals constitute an unpredictable terrain of politics as they offer the ground not simply for empowerment but also disempowerment, as social groupings navigate through reconstituted rent-seeking-based governance systems. In spite of enabling expressions of aspirations for accountable governance, the empowerment that often accompanies the recognition of accountability has not helped transform the conduct of politics in progressive ways. The most pernicious outcome, despite these accountability debates, is the mounting monetization of politics coupled with weak political institutions. In Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, party hopping is rampant and personality-based politics predominates, issues not expected in countries that are in the process of consolidating democracy. In these countries, strong, well-managed parties driven by ideologies or policies struggle to emerge. It is difficult to consolidate well-functioning political institutions because new oligarchs have captured power. Parties are mere tools to obtain the authority to determine forms of rent creation and distribution. Inevitably, one consequence is growing contestations between society and neoliberals using parties to capture the state, though disputes among neoliberals also disrupt the political system.
Accountability discourses are thus a response to serious and mounting state-society hostilities, with institutions incorporated ostensibly to respond to growing crises of corruption and monetized politics. But society is not convinced by these forms of accountability rhetoric. Deeply divisive protests have emerged all over Southeast Asia, most clearly manifested in recent elections.
In Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia, the electorate is equally split. Thailand is severely fractured, spatially, and with clear fissures over the value of elections. Dominant parties in Singapore and Vietnam, though responsible for rapid industrialization, are losing support. The fundamental point about all elections is their extreme monetization, even in exceptionally poor Cambodia, though not as much in enormously wealthy Singapore, a difference that is not discussed. The question remains: Is this democracy-neoliberalism compromise the reason why a segment of this divided middle class has created alliances with neoliberal oligarchs who have deftly deflected attention from pressures for democratic accountability reforms?
Edmund Terence Gomez, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
ADVANCING SINGAPORE-CHINA ECONOMIC RELATIONS. Edited by Saw Swee-Hock and John Wong. Singapore: co-publication between ISEAS and East Asian Institute, 2014. xix, 309 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$39.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4519-18-2.
This well-edited book consists of nine chapters focusing on Singapore-China economic relations since the October 1990 establishment of formal diplomatic recognition between the two countries until 2013.
Chapter 1 by Saw Swee-Hock provides a comprehensive background of the changes to Singapore-China economic ties since the 1970s, covering the areas of trade, investment, services, tourism, and education. The writer highlights the historic landmark visit of China’s supreme leader Deng Xiaoping to Singapore in November 1978 (2) which subsequently paved the foundation for symbiotic Singapore-China economic collaboration. Saw’s paper also analyzes the roles Singapore’s top political leadership and governmental institutions played in sharing the city-state’s developmental experience with China (8) in Singapore’s flagship Singapore-Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) project.
In chapter 2, the authors John Wong and Catherine Chong claim that the Singapore-China economic relationship is “special and unique” (31). They maintain that Singapore-China economic relations are broad-based, substantive, and complementary to each other (31). They convincingly argue that China has emerged as “the center of global and regional production networks” and as “an integrator of regional and global manufacturing activities” (47).
In chapter 3, Lye Liang Fook considers the SIP as a useful developmental model to transfer economic management and public administration “software” to China (63). Thus the SIP can serve as “a reference for China” (66), since the SIP project clearly delineated industrial, commercial, educational, residential, and greenbelt zones (71). Lye’s paper provides a sound argument regarding the confluence of political and economic factors that contributed to the successful establishment of the SIP by the two governments.
In chapter 4, Chen Gang and Zhao Litao analyze the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City (TEC) project, which was the second major joint infrastructure development project by Singapore and China after the SIP, and served as a litmus test of whether Singapore could still be relevant to the future development of China. The TEC’s aim—to build a new environmentally friendly and socially harmonious city with long-term economic sustainability (113)—is new for China. The paper highlights the social dimension as an important component in the TEC project (119).
In chapter 5, Yao Jielu argues that Singapore is not as important a destination for China’s outbound investments as other resource-based ASEAN economies like Myanmar and Indonesia. China for instance has invested extensively in resource energy and infrastructure development in Myanmar since 2011 (129, 144).
In chapter 6, Fan Ying and Huang Yanjie highlight the following points: first, Singapore’s Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in China had a head start in the 1980s (155) even though Singapore had yet to formally diplomatically recognize China. Prior to the 1990s, most of the FDIs were from ethnic Chinese Singapore businessmen, traders and investors. Second, Singapore’s FDIs in China are broad-based, ranging across trade, services, commerce, industrial parks, financial services, real estate, education and health care.
Chen Wen and Zhai Baiquan’s chapter 7 focuses on the structural features of Singapore-China trade and assesses the effects of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA) on bilateral trade between the two countries. The chapter highlights the asymmetrical interdependence of bilateral trade in which Singapore constitutes a small portion of China’s total global trade. The authors claim that China is more important to Singapore in trade than vice-versa. The writers analyze the competitiveness and complementarities of Singapore-China trade. China has the comparative advantage over Singapore in labour intensive products but is complementary in electronic and electrical products (210–211).
Chiang Min Hua, author of chapter 8, argues that Singapore has an advantage in tourism because of its strategic location as a business hub, mature tourism management skills and market strategies (217). In order to secure a slice of China’s huge tourism market, the writer suggests that Singapore should adopt strategies to promote gambling tourism, education tourism, health-care tourism and finally medical tourism, in descending order of importance (245–246).
The final chapter by Saw Swee-Hock and Ge-Yun analyzes the complementarity of Singapore-China educational collaboration. Singapore is attractive for China because of its cultural similarity, safe environment, and ability to provide top-class university education. The paper shows that Singapore has been instrumental in China’s human capital development through the employment of various programs such as the one for leadership training conducted by the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University. The chapter concludes by arguing that education collaboration has played an integral part in enhancing overall bilateral relations between the two countries (284).
In conclusion, the edited book in the context of economic regionalism contributes to the knowledge of the nexus between states, the economy, and markets. In the case of Singapore-China economic relations, the three actors are: first, the top political leaders; second, the bureaucrats in the inter-governmental institutions; and third, the enterprising private businessmen and entrepreneurs who provide inputs to cement the symbiotic economic ties between China and Singapore.
In terms of the structure of the book, the nine chapters are well organized and systematically presented, with the first chapter providing a solid background in understanding the evolution and development of economic ties between the two countries. Subsequent chapters touch on trade, infrastructure development, investment, and tourism, before finally concluding with education. There are however two minor shortcomings: overlapping discussions on trade, investment and infrastructure projects such as the SIP project in chapters 1, 2 and 3 and some repetition of data in the different chapters regarding trade and investment (39, 40, 164, 165).
In short, the book is highly recommended reading for its balanced and objective analyses written by specialists on Singapore-China economic relations.
Shee Poon Khim, Tamkang University, Lanyang Campus, Yilan, Taiwan
ARCHIVING THE UNSPEAKABLE: Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia. Critical Human Rights. By Michelle Caswell. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2014. xii, 231 pp. (Figures.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-299-29754-1.
Michelle Caswell’s Archiving the Unspeakable traces the social life of a profoundly haunting set of photographs. Upon entering Tuol Sleng, the infamous Khmer Rouge torture, interrogation, and killing center (also known as S21), prisoners were systematically photographed. Whereas almost none of the estimated 16,000 prisoners lived to tell their story, over 5,000 mug shots and other photographs from the prison have survived. The mug shots have since taken on iconic status, giving individual faces to the almost unfathomable scale of suffering and loss of life perpetrated by that brutal regime.
Caswell takes her readers on a meticulously researched and compellingly narrated journey through the making, archiving, and contemporary circulation of these photographs. In the introduction to the book she provides theoretical framing, bringing theories generated within the field of archival studies into dialogue with anthropological scholarship on material objects, archives and the production of history. The first chapter examines the making of the photographs and their prehistory in colonial-era police photography. The bureaucratic process of taking photographs served two functions, Caswell argues, performatively transforming men, women, and children into “enemies” of the regime and enabling those working at the prison to act as mere cogs in a relentless machine of death. The book’s second chapter details the process of gathering the images into archives. It recounts the often heroic efforts of profoundly committed individuals to preserve the images and make them accessible in the face of local hostility, international indifference, technical and financial limitations, and the ravages of tropical climate and neglect. The third chapter traces how the archived images have been used as prompts for stories, becoming “active agents in the performance of human rights” (98) in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, and in documentary films, NGO publications, and photographs showing survivors, descendants and tourists looking at or holding the photographs. Narrative-making and the visual act of bearing witness are intimately entwined here, and the images serve as both documentary evidence and affectively charged proxies for the dead that demand to be given a voice by the living. The fourth chapter addresses the commodification of the images within Cambodia’s emerging tourism industry. Against negative assessments of “atrocity tourism,” Caswell argues that visiting sites like the Tuol Sleng museum can transform tourists into engaged witnesses; the act of photographing themselves with mug shots and survivors—and circulating these images via social media—facilitates this transformation. In the conclusion, Caswell revisits debates about the ethics of looking at atrocity photographs, concluding that the Tuol Sleng images play a vital role in acts of bearing witness and remembering the dead.
Tracing the photographs’ historical trajectories, Caswell approaches them as agentive participants in political processes. She is sensitive to the play of absence and presence that animates them, and she attends carefully to the ways that they take on different potentialities and potencies as they shift formats and contexts. Throughout, Caswell draws on Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s analysis of the “silencing of the past” as it occurs at distinct moments in the production of history, reminding us of the multiple ways in which the images at once testify to and participate in the silencing of victims of the Khmer Rouge. The chapters are replete with fascinating, often poignant moments in the social life of the photographs.
Yet the book’s greatest strength—Caswell’s tenacious focus on the images—will also be a weakness for some readers. At times one wishes for a broader view of the historical and political processes at work in Cambodian society as it grapples with its past. And the question of how the making of the images or their current mobilizations might be inflected by Cambodian or regional approaches to photography, death, and memory also goes largely unexplored. Clearly, a purely culturalist reading of the mug shots would have been profoundly misguided, and Caswell is right to situate the images within technologies of modern bureaucracy and surveillance and contemporary human rights campaigns. But what would have emerged from a more ethnographic reading of the Tuol Sleng images along the lines of Alan Klima’s analysis of images of political violence in Thailand (The Funeral Casino: Meditation, Massacre, and Exchange with the Dead in Thailand, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002)? What if the instances of mug shots apparently imbued with the spirits of the dead (briefly noted in several places in the text) had received more sustained attention? (I think here of Heonik Kwon’s Ghosts of War in Vietnam [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013] about the role of ghosts in contemporary Vietnamese memories of the American war.)
Finally, the book’s engagement with the photographs as “records” leaves their visual status less deeply engaged than one might expect. Despite reference to W.J.T. Mitchell’s provocative question in his book What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), we learn more about what has happened to the images than about why and how they make such powerful claims on viewers. Atrocity photographs typically show acts of violence enacted on human bodies, or the traces of such acts after they have occurred. How does the peculiar anticipatory temporality of these photographs—images of people “who are dead and who are going to die,” to paraphrase Roland Barthes (Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, translated by Richard Howard, New York: Hill and Wang, 1981)—act upon the viewer? What is the effect of being looked at by the people in these photographs? Why have some mug shots—particularly those showing attractive young women and children with resigned, even serene, expressions—circulated more widely than others?
If such questions suggest that more remains to be said about the Tuol Sleng photographs, the book is nevertheless a welcome contribution to scholarship on photography, human rights, and the making of historical memory in Cambodia and beyond. In Caswell’s account, the archive, its material contents, and history itself are revealed to be open-ended processes rather than fixed contents. Like the struggle to hold perpetrators accountable, remember the victims, and rebuild a devastated country, the photographs of Tuol Sleng remain unfinished.
Karen Strassler, Queens College, City University of New York, Flushing, USA
GHOSTS OF THE NEW CITY: Spirits, Urbanity, and the Ruins of Progress in Chiang Mai. Southeast Asia: Politics, Meaning and Memory. By Andrew Alan Johnson. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. x, 190 pp. (Figures.) US$27.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3971-0.
A spectre is haunting Chiang Mai: the spectre of progress. Andrew A. Johnson has entered into a project to call forth this spectre, to make it visible amidst the ruins of economic uncertainty and in the thoughts and actions of people of the city. Johnson’s book is about ghosts and spirits (both phi in Thai), but ghosts and spirits broadly construed. The book is as much about the ghosts of bad deaths that haunt high-rise apartment blocks and lordly spirits channeled by otherwise marginalized mediums as it is about the ghosts and spirits of culture (watthanatham) and above all progress (chareon) that inhabit modern subjects of the Thai “educated classes.”
Focusing mainly on the past two decades and based on fieldwork conducted in 2006–2007, Johnson’s account of the “ruins of progress” may not satisfy those looking for a more materialist or political-economic explanation for the fate that Chiang Mai suffered in the post-crisis period from 1997 and post-coup period from 2006. He makes only passing reference to issues such as corruption, cronyism, real estate speculation and the like. In fact, like a medium himself, Johnson does not seek to “explain” progress, so much as channel it: to call forth the spirit of progress, such that his audience, the reader, can sense its presence in many, often surprising, places. For those interested in a cultural, discursive, ideational, and ethnographically grounded discussion of how diverse residents of Chiang Mai have experienced the haunting, elusive spirit of progress, the book has a lot to offer.
Johnson effectively, if often implicitly, organizes his arguments around various dichotomies drawn from the social and cultural context of his fieldwork. The most prominent is the dichotomy between phatthana (development) and chareon (progress), which maps onto an engagement Johnson takes up with questions over the importance of surfaces versus substances within Thai society and culture. As Johnson demonstrates at several points, drawing on specific cases from his fieldwork, his interlocutors critique numerous things—from Europe in general to specific newly built gated communities around Chiang Mai’s suburbs—as having the outward appearance of “phatthana” but lacking the (more important) substance of “chareon.” Here and elsewhere, Johnson critiques a range of scholarship on Thailand and readings of Thai society and culture, which will give specialists much to engage with in the text.
A more sociological dichotomy around which the book is organized is that of the “educated classes,” embodied primarily in architects and urban planners, and the socially marginalized, embodied primarily in spirit mediums but also undocumented (Burmese or Shan) migrant workers and others. Another unstated, but obvious, argument of the book is to critique the idea that the educated, professional classes are “modern” and “rational” and the marginalized classes are “superstitious” and “irrational.” Both, Johnson demonstrates, are haunted, possessed and driven by invisible spirits; and both (though this is a more muted point in the book) are occupied with practical, “rational,” material concerns. The master spirit haunting all these subjects (akin to a “master narrative” in other theoretical writing) is that of chareon.
The book is organized into five chapters, bracketed by a very brief introduction and conclusion. Chapter 1, “Progress and Its Ruins,” lays out the general themes and briefly introduces the main protagonists of the book (i.e., the “educated classes” and spirit mediums). It also introduces several theoretical issues, such as Freud’s “uncanny,” though with a light touch. In general, the book is written in a way that is theoretically informed but not overly jargon-filled. Chapter 2, “Foundations,” provides historical and broadly ethnographic information about Chiang Mai, in reference to the issues of progress, development, urbanity, spirit mediums and other topics upon which the work dwells. Chapter 3 provides an intimate and rich, if somewhat brief, account of Johnson’s encounters with spirit mediums, particularly a woman named Kham who channels three distinct spirits. Chapters 4 and 5 turn to a more extended discussion of charoen and the spirit of watthanatham (culture) amongst academics, architects and urban planners, who seek to bring progress and prosperity to Chiang Mai by reproducing an authentic, if “edited” version of Lanna (Northern Thai) culture.
General readers are likely to find the book engaging, as Johnson provides many vivid vignettes and stories drawn mainly from his field work, though they may also find it at times mystifying. Johnson states numerous explicit arguments here and there throughout the text, but in the end his overall argument remains more implied than stated—if indeed the book is meant as an argument rather than a mere description of Chiang Mai during a particular period. Johnson concludes by telling us that Chiang Mai is “haunted, not by its past, but by its present” (156). The spectre of chareon in the end would seem to be something of a trickster, offering substance beneath the veneer of phatthana but revealed here as more an apparition than an essence. In terms of a metaphor Johnson employs in several places in the text, chareon is a phantom pulling Chiang Mai’s subjects down the ladder of advancement rather than an enlightened spirit hoisting them up. For readers interested in the complex uncanny of (post)modern subjectivity, and certainly for specialists of Thai scholarship, the book is a rich contribution on contemporary Thailand from a closely attentive ethnographer.
Eric C. Thompson, National University of Singapore, Singapore
DEBATING DEMOCRATIZATION IN MYANMAR. Myanmar Update Series. Edited by Nick Cheesman, Nicholas Farrelly, Trevor Wilson. Singapore: ISEAS Pub., 2014. xiv, 381 pp. (Maps, tables.) US$29.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4519-13-7.
Debating Democratization in Myanmar is the latest edited volume from the Myanmar/Burma Update conference held at Australia National University. This volume is evidence that not only is the quality of scholarly work on Myanmar advancing overall, the conference is establishing itself as a premiere academic event for the study of Myanmar. One of the most promising aspects of the work is the significant number of Burmese contributors, something that will hopefully become a trend in other scholarly compilations.
The risk of putting out a volume like this on a country in the midst of a transition is that some of the research that may have seemed innovative a year ago is more commonplace in current analysis. While this is true of a few of the contributions (for example, Thomas Kean’s solid chapter on the surprisingly active parliament), even those pieces that seem dated provide an important record of how actions were perceived at key moments in the transition. Given the mercurial nature of Myanmar analysis (witness the country’s rapid swing from being a prematurely anointed success story to a stalled and disappointing failure), these time-bounded essays are crucial in reminding us just how nascent, fragile and context-dependent this transition process is.
The book opens with an essay by Winston Set Aung, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar; like other government officials who have participated in academic conferences, he isn’t really free to offer insight beyond acknowledging that the reforms continue to face challenges. A long chapter by Morten Pedersen sets up the overall reform context and includes a useful consideration of a number of different explanations of why the reforms have occurred.
From there, the rest of the book is divided into three sections: Encouraging Signs, Anticipating Reforms and Enduring Concerns. The first section contains some of the most interesting work of the whole book. A chapter by Tamas Wells and Kyaw Thu Aung on the role of village networks engaged in land-related activism reflects the increasingly prominent role of Burmese civil society groups in conducting research and empowering local communities. It also contests the common claim that rural communities are mere objects of policy, showing their (albeit still limited) role in democratization “from below” and revealing intriguing alternate understandings of democracy that ought to be further explored. Politician Daw Than Than Nu relates a more personal story of her life in exile (she is a daughter of Burma’s first prime minister U Nu) and her subsequent return to contest the 2010 elections, with reminders of the important role that exiled Burmese have played in maintaining connections between communities. Kerstin Duell’s chapter on the participation of former exiles in Myanmar’s current politics attempts to compress too much of her rich dissertation research into too small a space, but effectively highlights an important potential fault line. Kyaw Soe Lwin’s excellent study of labour protests and related violence argues that, while an increase in political space and support from activist groups has contributed to an increase in labour protests, an additional key determining factor was the concentration of workers, which “produced a feeling of solidarity” (152).
In the second section, a chapter by Anders Engvall and Soe Nandar Lynn on economic reforms is thorough in the subjects it covers yet frustratingly includes no critical perspective on the economic development paradigm that is being unquestioningly pursued in Myanmar. Sean Turnell’s piece is much more sensitive to the political context within which economic reforms are debated. Andrew Selth’s detailed chapter on police reform is similar to his contributions on the subject to other recent edited volumes, but, given the critical role that the police will play in managing conflict and promoting rule of law, the topic deserves to be discussed regularly. A chapter by multiple authors on electoral system changes was likely more impactful in 2013, whereas today the substance of those discussions has largely been lost in political maneuvering.
Renaud Egreteau’s chapter on the continuing political salience of the military ought to be re-read on a regular basis by anyone inclined to put too much faith in the ability of the quasi-civilian government to press reforms. The hard lines taken in recent months by military leaders and MPs on the ceasefire process and constitutional reform remind us that they are not likely to easily give up their constitutionally protected role in politics. It is a discouraging marker of how peripheral ethnic concerns have remained to the reform process that Seng Maw Laphai’s powerful indictment of both the Myanmar military-government complex and the international community seems almost out of place in the volume. Given the Tatmadaw’s recent attack on a Kachin cadet school, her discussion of “institutionalized state terrorism” compels a re-examination of the assumption that the military could be a credible negotiating partner in peace. Dealing with another perennially marginalized population, Khin Mar Mar Kyi looks at the daily struggles of women, demonstrating that developmental weaknesses such as lack of infrastructure or education affect women disproportionately or in unique ways.
While these primarily empirical accounts are a valuable contribution to understanding Myanmar’s reforms, more engagement with broader theoretical paradigms could help extend the utility of the volume. Not only can Myanmar’s transition be better understood by moving beyond empirical descriptions, but studies of the country could also contribute to developing or refining theories of transitions, democracy, military rule and economic sequencing, to name just a few areas. Two notable examples here are Egreteau’s contribution and the thought-provoking concluding chapter by editor Nick Cheesman on democratization and political violence. Framed as a corrective to the fact that none of the chapters address communal or religious violence, the conclusion effectively reviews the book’s essays through this lens, demonstrating the deep interconnectedness between different manifestations of violence. Cheesman ends with the worrying yet timely warning that violence “has the capacity to insinuate itself into whatever nominally-democratic institutions emerge over the next few years” (342). Clearly, what democracy means and how it should be enacted in Myanmar will remain central elements of the debate over its transition.
Matthew J. Walton, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
THE ROOTS OF TERRORISM IN INDONESIA: From Darul Islam to Jema’ah Islamiyah. By Solahudin; translated by Dave McRae; foreword by Greg Fealy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013. xx, 236 pp. (Map.) US$26.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8014-7938-0.
The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia is a bestseller in Southeast Asia, stirring interest and even controversy. Solahudin, an award-winning journalist, explores the origins and ideology of violent Islamists in the archipelago and beyond. Thanks to translation by Dave McRae, English-speaking audiences are now able to access this influential book and gain a better understanding of the groups responsible for a range of brutal attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings.
The book’s primary strength is its ability to piece together a coherent narrative from a murky history plagued by misinformation. It unfolds chronologically, from early Islamist rebellions during the Dutch colonial era, to the Darul Islam (DI) rebellion, and through to more recent groups such as Jema’ah Islamiyah (JI). This highly informative account uses primary documents and interviews with militants in order to illuminate how radicals formed and maintained their networks. Particularly interesting is the book’s discussion of the Suharto era, a time we previously knew little about. Solahudin shows the different directions that DI leaders went under the New Order, with some co-opted by Golkar and state intelligence networks, while others vowed to fight on, all the while maintaining links to former comrades now aligned with the state. Above all, we learn how the jihadist movement responded to a variety of setbacks and political changes, only to emerge again. The ability of this network to regroup, recruit, and adapt in their continued efforts to utilize violence to further their religious agenda is as impressive as it is disturbing, and Solahudin deserves high praise for documenting how this has played out.
The picture painted of jihadist networks is a mixture of threat and ineptitude. Along with planning deadly attacks, these networks are also fragile, prone to factionalism, petty disputes, and delusion. For example, when DI planned to assassinate Suharto in the early 1980s, they did not just conceptualize how to kill the president, but also dreamed of an immediate victory rally and an aftermath in which the country would flock to them in celebration. They forged a letter from a state Islamic group organizing a rally which would take place as news of the killing would be announced, and when the plot failed, did not really know how to respond. In the deadly Christmas Eve Bombings in 2000, many bombs failed to detonate or killed their handlers as they drove over speed bumps on the way to sites. The network has reached out to international actors such as Libya and Osama bin Laden, volunteering in Afghanistan, and creating bases in Mindanao, but at no point has it seemed to be in full control of these exchanges. Solahudin portrays a network that is deadly and resilient, but also weak and delusional, prone to daydreaming and in constant need of recruits and funding.
The strength of this book is clearly its engaging description of the lives of Indonesian jihadist networks. The reader will find it to be more journalistic than academic, unsurprising given that the author is a journalist, but unique for an academic press. This is top-notch, unrivalled journalism, surpassing many academic studies in the quality of its data. Still, the academic reader may long for conceptual development, especially since the book promises to delve into jihadist ideology. The author tries to tie the story together with the concept of “Salafi Jihadism,” which he claims is the core belief motivating these groups. In defining the term, Solahudin suggests that “Salafi Jihadism should not be confused with Salafism per se. What distinguishes the two is the former’s overwhelming emphasis on the importance of jihad” (12). Later, the author notes similar views and strategies among traditionalists, Sufis, and even Shi’a groups, making the Salafi elements seem secondary. While it is true that jihadist networks were shaped by Salafi writers who interpreted the broad concept of jihad in strictly military terms, it seems that these were actors in search of an ideology post-hoc, making it difficult to see how this muddy concept motivates violence.
A second shortcoming of this excellent book relates to aspirations versus reality. There is a tendency in the literature on terrorism and armed conflict to privilege primary accounts, and for good reason. However authors rarely intervene and put grandiose plans and organizational schemes in perspective, as elaborate concepts bear little resemblance to reality. The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia clearly suffers from this shortcoming. In one of many examples, we are told that JI wrote a constitution in 1995, designating members with military and political titles, creating fatwa councils, and dividing Southeast Asia into distinct regions (including Australia!), each with their own councils. For all the rich descriptions of these plans, at no point does Solahudin remind us that these were imagined. They were never really implemented, but were instead created to sound authoritative to internal audiences. It is crucial to move past the acronyms and charts to examine the actual capacity wielded by such groups. Similarly, we are repeatedly provided estimates from terrorists regarding the number of recruits. Besides the fact that these may be exaggerations, it is not clear what membership meant—did an individual simply attend a meeting, or did he help carry out attacks? Without a critical discussion, this method necessarily exaggerates threats and misrepresents reality.
Solahudin and Dave McRae have provided audiences with a uniquely accessible, authoritative account of jihadist networks in Indonesia and beyond. It will be enjoyed by a range of readers, from the general public to experts, as it is both readable and empirically rich. The book provides intimate accounts of how these groups work and how their leaders think, providing a valuable contribution to the study of terrorism, armed conflicts, and Islamic politics.
Shane J. Barter, Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, USA
GENDER ON THE EDGE: Transgender, Gay, and other Pacific Islanders. Edited by Niko Besnier and Kalissa Alexeyeff. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. vi, 378 pp. (Figures.) US$35.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3883-6.
The fourteen essays in Gender on the Edge bring us into the lifeworlds of Pacific Islander “gender outlaws” (K. Bornstein, Gender Outlaw, London, Routledge, 1994), who co-editors Besnier and Alexeyeff refer to collectively as “non-heteronormative”: persons that transgress and resist the binary sex/gender model. Anthropologist Besnier established the “on the edge” metaphor in previous publications from his project, now in its second decade, on the mediation of local and global notions and practices of transgender and sexuality in the Pacific. This volume expands on his project by gathering scholars from many disciplines: anthropology, cultural and media studies, sociology, law, political sciences, gender/sexuality studies, and more. In the introductory chapter, the editors reiterate the anti-essentialist argument for a shift in attention from “‘who people are’ to ‘what people do’, to what effect, with what intentions, and according to whom” (9) and this focus on categories and identities as emerging in everyday relational practice brings to the fore the themes for the book’s three parts.
In part 1, “Historical Transformations,” Elliston explores how historical transformations in Tahiti continue to shape identity narratives of raerae (male-bodied, femininity-performing, men-desiring persons) and how this sexualized category has increasingly taken on meaning in contrast to the long-standing and sexually ambivalent gender category of māhū (“half-man, half-woman”). The other two essays in part 1 concern Samoan fa’afāfine. Dolgoy’s mostly descriptive essay brings to life personalities and urban spaces shaping a fa’afāfine social movement from the 1960s. Strangely, he never explains what fa’afafine refers to (translates as “in the way of a woman” and is used for boys by birth who are seen to act in effeminate ways and who are thereafter raised more like girls). It becomes clearer in Schoeffel’s critique of anthropological representations of fa’afafine as a social institution that functions to reinforce masculine psychosexual development, as a gender surrogate in households with a shortage of girls, or as a sexual surrogate in a society where girls should not engage in pre-marital sex. Schoeffel argues, unconvincingly and partly contradicting Dolgoy’s descriptions, that fa’afāfine “are not primarily identified by their sexuality or their roles, but by their demeanor” (86).
A more careful understanding of fa’afāfine is provided by Tcherkézoff in part 2, titled “Performing Gender.” Exploring the category in relation to “tomboys,” the Western category for girls who are viewed as acting in the way of men, his essay becomes a rich theoretical and ethnographic discussion of the socialization of gendered inequalities and sexuality in Samoa. Kuwahara’s similarly strong essay illuminates the divergent local effects of global and neocolonial forces, most notably tourism and the French military, in a comparative investigation of the different ways māhū and raerae are used and understood in Tahiti and Bora Bora, two islands in the same nation. In a rather weak analysis, Ikeda sets out to question sensationalized accounts of transgender persons and explores how her informants in Honolulu, Hawai’i, construct new forms of families underpinned by long-standing local values. Presterudstuen instead sets out to question homogenous understandings of non-heteronormative urban Fijians by highlighting the diversity of gendered self-identification among transvestites, qauri (or “queens”), and homosexuals. In one of only two essays from the non-Polynesian Pacific, Dvorak closes the section with a well-crafted personal and scholarly conversation about local and global notions of intimate and sacred male-to-male relationships in the Marshall Islands.
In part 3, “Politics of the Global,” the strongest and most original analysis emerges from Pearson’s investigation of New Zealand television comedy through the lens of Pacific gender. Teasing out mutually transformative effects of long-running Pacific-influenced comedy shows featuring transgendered personalities and the locally famous white and lesbian sketch characters the Topp Twins sisters, Pearson reverses the dominant center-to-margin approach to global influences. She shows how public indifference to transgender in New Zealand popular culture may owe a partial debt to Pacific conceptions of identity where “gendered social roles, performances, and kinship relations are foregrounded” (257), rather than sexuality. Another carefully contextualized essay is George’s outline of changing discourses underpinning gay rights advocacy in Fiji. Gaining traction alongside local women’s rights activists who drew on global human rights agendas, the narrowing of political space under the military regime has seen gay activism become more closely associated with global and local sexual health advocacy, making them easy targets for pathological stigmatizing by conservative agents. In the second essay from outside Polynesia, Stewart importantly draws attention to the glaring lack of research about non-heteronormative lives in Papua New Guinea which she explains by the challenges presented by the rich cultural diversity and the absence of clearly identified non-heteronormative categories or self-identifying communities in PNG. In a conceptually disparate essay, Good suggests that marginalized youth in the hyper-sexualized Tongan categories fakaleitī (men who dress and act similar to women) and fokisi (women who breach local moral standards of modest femininity) can claim some local social authority through work with transnational NGOs in HIV/AIDS awareness programs. Teaiwa’s essay mainly provides reflections over gaps in research on Fiji’s sexual minorities in military services, and Farran closes the book with an examination of the domestic legal status of transgendered people in Samoa and Tonga. Asking what effects global legal developments, such as same-sex marriage, could have, Farran rightly cautions against any transplants of legal reforms. Claiming some form of legal status will not necessarily improve all lives in the highly heterogeneous transgendered community, and may instead isolate some people, as well as exclude others from transnational groups with whom they share some concerns and characteristics.
Like many edited volumes, the quality of analysis and originality of arguments thus vary from one essay to the next, and the editors’ alignment in the introductory chapter with well-established, anti-essentialist theoretical stances in gender and sexuality studies is hardly “edgy” or new. Gender on the Edge nevertheless becomes an important reminder of the centrality of gender and sexuality studies in analytical developments in the human sciences, and the collection can moreover be a useful contemporary addition to the teaching of area studies.
Åse Ottosson, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
GREED AND GRIEVANCE: Ex-Militants’ Perspectives on the Conflict in Solomon Islands, 1998–2003. Topics in the Contemporary Pacific. By Matthew G. Allen. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xv, 243 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3854-6.
Greed and Grievance is an important contribution to continuing reflection on the so-called Ethnic Tension crisis which devastated Solomon Islands between 1998 and 2003. The author concentrates on the perspectives of the two principal protagonists, the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), bitter at historic Malaitan occupation of rural Guadalcanal, and the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF), a response to the IFM’s violent expulsion of Malaitans from the island. Allen interviews ex-militants from both groups, placing their perspectives in the context of current historical, political, and socio-economic analyses of the causes of the conflict, as well as (often inaccurate) media and popular explanations. The greatest strength of the book is Allen’s empathy for all the ex-militants interviewed and his even-handedness in putting forward their views.
Fresh from conflict in the Balkans, the international media portrayed the conflict as primarily ethnic, using terms such as “ethnic cleansing” and describing the country as in a state of “civil war.” Allan’s ex-militant protagonists make it clear that the conflict was primarily ethnic only at the beginning and that each side had legitimate grievances. The author traces the historic roots of Guadalcanal underdevelopment and marginalization (for want of better words) as well as Malaitan initiatives in resisting British colonialism and building Solomon Islands as a nation-state, including in Honiara and its environs, such that Malaitans resisted their expulsion through the formation of the MEF.
However, with the MEF-organized June 2000 raid on the national armoury in Honiara and the coup that placed the prime minister, Bartholomew Ulafa’lu, under house arrest and forced his resignation, the MEF gained the upper hand militarily and politically. Crowds of unemployed youth flocked from Malaita to the MEF camps in Honiara hoping for spoils of war (for example, prizes from the vehicle dealerships in Honiara) and some MEF leaders began to raid the national treasury through compensation claims and extortion. The IFM splintered and a militant Guadalcanal Liberation Front (GLF) led by Harold Keke emerged on the west Weather Coast of Guadalcanal.
When Keke and the GLF refused to sign the Townsville Peace Agreement of October 15, 2000, the conflict continued on the Weather Coast with a government-organized Joint Operation comprised of police and ex-militants of both sides, resulting in massive human rights abuses all around. Allan documents these post-ethnic phases of the conflict, critiquing well popular tendencies to read the post-coup MEF criminal activities back into the original conflict and to disregard non-ethnic causes of the conflict. The 2013 report of the government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), unfortunately available only as Allen’s book was going to press, documents that the majority of deaths and human rights abuses in the conflict were intra-ethnic and intra-island rather than Guadalcanal vs. Malaita. Allen’s interviews and analyses are consistent with this finding.
As tensions between rural Guadalcanal and the national government increase again today over issues unaddressed after the conflict, such as the expansion of Honiara, resource extraction not benefiting the local population, and lack of employment and infrastructure, Greed and Grievance would be useful reading for Solomon Islands politicians and the general public. Indeed, most Solomon Islands politicians and/or prominent ex-militants prefer historical amnesia for this period, exemplified by the prime minister’s refusal to table the final TRC Report in Parliament, as required by the TRC Act. Allan’s volume is accessible and would be of considerable interest in the Solomons.
If I have one reservation about Greed and Grievance it is that it seems to lack a certain freedom at times, in that it is shaped by an academic tradition that requires the historical precedents of political, militant, or even religious movements be identified, explored, and connected, through academic analyses (historical and current), even if these movements and analyses are not especially relevant or even known to the contemporary protagonists being discussed.
In the case of the IFM/GRA, Allen’s exploration of the ex-militants’ relationship with the Gwaina’alu Movement (formerly the Moro Movement) is entirely appropriate, as it was widely perceived, with some accuracy, that there was a relationship between the IFM and Moro. Indeed, Allen explains the split between the IFM and the GRA in terms of their different views of Moro and Christianity. The relationship between the Guadalcanal militants and the Gwaina’alu Movement deserves further detailed treatment.
However, I am not so sure the same can be said for the MEF and the postwar anti-colonial Maasina Rule movement, which Allen discusses in much detail, citing David Akin’s new definitive history, Colonialism, Maasina Rule, and the Origins of Malaitan Kastom (2013). Akin emphasizes the passive-resistance qualities of that movement and there is little indication that the MEF saw themselves as somehow in the tradition of Maasina Rule. Rambo movies and Israel were sometimes more immediate models. A better historical case might be made for Malaita Provincial Government as the true heir of Maasina Rule, not the MEF. A similar argument might be made whether the 1980s concept of the Honiara “Masta Liu” (unemployed youth walking about town doing nothing) is so relevant now that education is more universal, aspirations are higher but massive unemployment still exists.
I see only a few small errors in the book. Allen maintains that civil society was excluded from the TPA talks. That is not entirely accurate, as the Anglican Archbishop of Melanesia, Sir Ellison Pogo, was included representing the Solomon Islands Christian Association. Also, the Honiara suburb of Ngossi lacks its proper nasalized spelling.
Greed and Grievance is an important addition to Jon Frankel’s The Manipulation of Custom (2004) and Clive Moore’s Happy Isles in Crisis (2004) as studies of the crisis. The passage of years gives Allan the advantage of more direct protagonist accounts. However, still overshadowing all three are the five volumes of the Final Report of the Truth Reconciliation Commission, available on the internet. Read together, the four works go a long way to understanding the Solomons conflict and preventing it from recurring.
Terry M. Brown, Trinity College, Toronto, Canada
THE SHARK WARRIOR OF ALEWAI: A Phenomenology of Melanesian Identity. Anthropology Matters: Scholarship on Demand, v.6. By Deborah Van Heekeren. Wantage, UK: Sean Kingston Publishing, 2012. xi, 211 pp. (Maps, figures, illus.) US$110.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-907774-03-4.
The Vula’a (Hula) people are coastal fishers whose villages lie some 110 kilometres east of Papua New Guinea’s national capital, Port Moresby. The central topic around which this ethnography is organized is identity, conceived and analyzed in terms of Heidegger’s notion of Dasein (roughly, “being there” or existence) with a healthy dose of Lucien Lévy-Bruhl’s idea, via Maurice Leenhardt, of “mystical participation,” which conceptualizes a mode of thought in which people identify with other things in their environment to such an extent that the line between self and other fades or disappears (as in totemism).
Van Heekeren builds the case that Vula’a identity is an expression of being, considered an abstract Gestalt (my word choice) with its own perspective and action apparently beyond the merely human agent. At times the model seemed almost to attribute agency to this trans-human “being.” Doing so would, in my view, comes a bit too close to adopting a sort of mystical participation as an etic theoretical stance, rather than using it as a model of certain kinds of emic experience. In this latter, appropriate usage, Van Heekeren convincingly argues that her Vula’a informants make and inhabit a life world in which they sense their being in participation.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork and ethnohistoric reports that enable an admirably diachronic portrait, Vula’a individuals are shown to experience themselves in terms of interconnections with one another through such media as genealogy, storytelling, exchange, intermarriage, feeding, and singing. Their sense of existence interpenetrates and converges in people’s participation: in the wider world, through recognizing common substance with food and other living things; with ancestors, through common association with the places they established; and with contemporaries, through co-ownership of their historical and mythological stories, told to those with whom they are genealogically, though not necessarily biologically, connected. The shark warrior of the book’s title is an historical figure whose achievements are celebrated in this manner.
The introduction warns that the argument will not proceed in a linear manner; nevertheless, the topical foci of each of the eight chapters to follow provide admirable explorations of this phenomenological approach to identity in as many different areas. Chapter 1 introduces the people and their colourful history of migration and living in houses built over the sea and trading fish with land dwellers for vegetables. Chapter 2 provides an historical account of Kila Wari, the shark warrior, a nineteenth-century figure who distinguished himself in both fishing and battle. In this as in other chapters, past events are presented from multiple sources, in which the original versions are not smoothed into a composite, but rather the different perspectives remain discernable. This is fine historiography.
Chapter 3 concerns connections between genealogy and place, in which traced family relations, fictive as well as biological, are one means by which people identify as participating in a greater unitary being with putative ancestors, living relatives and village sites named for and traced to founding individuals. Taking a Schneiderian view that kinship does not exist since relations are not solely reckoned biologically, there is nevertheless a heavy use of genealogies and notions of primogeniture that imply that biological kinship is nevertheless a prototype on which the flexible business of feeling and justifying relatedness is carried on.
The fourth chapter considers history in a theoretical sense. Of value here is information on how Vula’a have adapted their own emic historical models in light of contact with Western emic ones inspired by the precepts of the academic discipline of history, focused on accuracy, dates, and linearity. Van Heekeren finds that these intrusions have not diminished the primary theme of Vula’a historical sensibilities, which is to establish the being of the teller and recorder of historical narratives through identification with the figures and events they describe.
Chapter 5 provides an intriguing perspective on theoretical models of Melanesian exchange customs that goes beyond the Strathernian notion of “dividual” persons and relationality to argue that exchange is an expression of being in such contexts. It all feels more holistic. “So although great achievements are attributed to singular persons, they are not to be understood as the gains of individuals. They are negotiated as a matter of shifting relationships between the living and the non-living world” (112). In this light, Van Heekeren develops an account of contemporary Christian life that is impressively erudite and subtly analyzed.
The sixth chapter concerns how food and eating manifest a being identity that extends beyond humans to the substances of which their bodies are made and in which they physically participate. “There is no escape from the ontological fact that there is a consubstantiation between humans and food” (135). Chapter 7 discusses the role of sound and singing in relation to religion, particularly as a Christian ritual undertaking that, at the insistence of missionaries a century ago, replaced dancing. The sense of broader identity and participation beyond oneself, that anyone who has sung with others knows, is productively analyzed in the phenomenological theoretical terms of the book.
Chapter 8 considers myth, convincingly arguing that rather than being primarily an account of past events, it is an ontological statement of continuing relevance, in which the teller expresses his or her being and participation with the circumstances it describes in the now. “That there is no substantial difference between subject and object is crucial to the mythic mode of being” (171). Van Heekeren’s approach suggests that the physical transformations common in myths “are possible because beings are of the same substance and share certain essences” (188). Such insights as this are among the most valuable of this rich work. The conclusion succinctly summarizes the argument, which represents a significant advance in the anthropology of identity.
Roger Ivar Lohmann, Trent University, Oshawa, Canada
HAFU: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan. Directed, produced and shot by Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi; thematic advisor, Marcia Yumi Lise; executive producer, Jilann Spitzmiller; edited by Aika Miyake; music by Winton White. [Japan]: HAFU is made with the support of Japan Foundation and Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), 2013. 1 DVD (87 min.) US$300.00, Institutional use; US$29.97, Personal use. URL: www.hafufilm.com.
Nowadays, mixed race/ethnic Japanese are called “hafu” (hāfu) in Japan. The word stems from an English word, “half.” Hafu generally means half Japanese and half non-Japanese. Using the term, “hafu” to denominate mixed race/ethnic Japanese is controversial because mixed race/ethnic Japanese are wholly Japanese, not partially Japanese. The term isolates mixed race/ethnic Japanese from the full membership of Japanese society. The term hafu is in circulation in Japan and mixed race/ethnic Japanese use the term to represent themselves. This review uses the term while acknowledging the problems with it.
The social position of hafu would be characterized by their hyper-visibility and invisibility. They are hyper-visible in show business. They have been popular as actors, singers, anchors, athletes, and models since the 1960s. The 1960s witnessed the emergence of many hafu stars. After the defeat of World War II in 1945, the Allied forces servicemen, mainly Americans, came to occupy Japan. Some had legitimate or illegitimate mixed race/ethnic children with Japanese women. Some of these children reached their twenties in the 1960s. Their physical difference fascinated the Japanese audience, and they became popular in show business. In fact, the term “hafu” is said to be derived from a once popular girls group, “Golden Half,” which consisted of four mixed race Japanese. The popularity of hafu entertainers still continues today. While hafu entertainers in the 1960s were marred by the negative stereotype of being the illegitimate children of Japanese women and American servicemen, contemporary hafu entertainers are not susceptible to that kind of negative stereotype. They are very visible in show business, and in demand for their beauty and talent.
Japanese people tend to associate hafu with hafu entertainers in show business and they do not pay attention to the everyday lives of ordinary hafu. Unlike ethnic minority groups such as Ainu, Korean residents in Japan, and Okinawans, hafu have never experienced institutional oppression in Japan. They are not recognized as ethnic minority people. If they have Japanese nationality, they are entitled to all the benefits Japanese nationals have. They have no difference from anyone else in a legal sense. The lives of ordinary hafu are therefore invisible in Japanese society. However, having a multiracial/ethnic heritage makes them physically and culturally different, and their difference sometimes brings difficulties to their lives. Megumi Nishikura and Lala Perez Takagi, directors of the film, “HAFU,” and who are hafu themselves, shed light on the everyday diverse lives of ordinary hafu. The film is significant in telling us of the pain and resilience of ordinary hafu, which most Japanese people do not recognize.
The film introduces the diverse lives of five hafu. The first one is Sophia Fukunishi. She has an Australian mother and a Japanese father. She was raised in Australia and cannot speak Japanese. She visited Japan to find her roots. She tried to fit in by joining many activities, but she found herself isolated from Japanese people due to her lack of Japanese language as well as cultural knowledge. She ends up leaving Japan as if escaping. The second individual featured is David Yano, whose mother is from Ghana and whose father is Japanese. His parents were separated, and he was raised in an orphanage with his two brothers. He recounts negative experiences such as being bullied by Japanese children at the orphanage, and he says he used to hate Japan. The third story featured involves the Oi family, consisting of a Mexican mother, Japanese father, their son and daughter. The film focuses on the son, Alex. He was bullied at a Japanese public school because of his physical difference. He moved to an international school where many multiracial/ethnic students like him study. Alex struggles to master three languages; Spanish, English, and Japanese. The fourth person the film focuses on is Edward Yutaka Sumoto. He was born of a Japanese mother and a Venezuelan father, but raised only by his mother. His only tie to Venezuela is his Venezuelan passport. Since Sumoto has only Venezuelan citizenship, he is legally Venezuelan. He faces a difficult decision: to get Japanese nationality and abandon his Venezuelan one, in order to keep living in Japan. The last person featured in the film is Fusae Miyako. She has a Japanese mother and a Korean father. Her parents kept her Korean heritage a secret because having a Korean heritage used to be thought of as a stigma in Japan. Miyako was shocked to know the secret, and tormented because she did not know how to accept her biethnic heritage. She was in an identity crisis.
All the stories illustrate the painful experiences of hafu. All of the subjects in the film seem to be alienated from Japanese society, and find it difficult to live in Japan. They may look very vulnerable. However, the directors show their resilience, too. For example, Sumoto launched a support group for hafu, “Mixed Roots,” and he has become an active advocate for hafu. Miyako joined the group, and has supported other hafu. After visiting Ghana, Yano determines to be a bridge between the two countries of his roots, and he has started fundraising to build schools there. Overcoming painful experiences, hafu embrace their multiracial/ethnic heritages, and have started making Japan a bearable place for them to live in. The examples of Sumoto, Miyako, and Yano look quite hopeful.
The film ends with statistics that show the increasing number of intermarriages in Japan, which suggests an increase in the number of hafu. With their rising numbers, hafu may become more visible in Japan, but whether Japan could be a comfortable place for hafu depends not only on hafu themselves but on all Japanese people. The film lacks the perspectives of Japanese people: what they think about and how they accept hafu. Without mutual efforts, Japan may continue to be an unbearable place for hafu as the escape of Fukunishi from Japan symbolizes. If the directors pursue the issues of hafu, it is expected that Japanese perspectives on hafu may be incorporated in their next film project.
Kaori Mori Want, Shibaura Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan
JALANAN: A Music Documentary. By Daniel Ziv, director, producer, cinematographer; Ernest Hariyanto, editor, co-producer; Meita Eriska, sound recordist; Levy Santoso, sound design & mixing; Dadang SH Pranoto, music scorer. [Jakarta]: DesaKota Productions; distributed by Miles Films, 2013.
1 DVD (107 mins.) Rp100,000. In Indonesian, with English subtitles. Url: http://www.jalananmovie.com
The title of this beautifully crafted documentary refers to being on the street as well as the pathway of life. It focuses on the lives and aspirations of three musicians in their late twenties or early thirties: Boni Putera, “Ho” Bambang Sri Mulyono and Titi Juwariyah, who make a living from busking on buses and in other public spaces in Jakarta, Indonesia’s bustling capital of over 12 million people. The filmmakers follow the three characters over a considerable period of time, during which life-changing events happen to each of them. The documentary provides details about their work, living conditions, and family and private life, including their ideas about themselves and their surroundings. It is an intimate portrait of life in post-authoritarian Indonesia, where some things have changed, but many others have remained the same.
The movie starts with Boni, who lives with his wife and family in a sewage tunnel. Ho, who regularly performs with Boni, is single and without permanent accommodation. Titi lives with her jobless husband and their son at her mother-in-law’s, in a devout Islamic environment. Insight is provided into the buskers’ poor financial situation. In Titi’s case, US$10 of her average earnings of US$40 per month goes to cigarettes for her husband, another US$10 to groceries, and US$20 to school fees for her son and medicine for her ill father in her home village. Ho’s earnings are barely enough for his daily meals. Some of his minimal savings are spent on occasional girlfriends and prostitutes. Boni considers himself fortunate, because he and his family have had fresh water for free for years, after accidently hitting a hole in a pipe of the Jakarta water company.
Throughout the movie, the viewer learns more about the background of the three characters. Boni has been on the streets of Jakarta since he was a child. Ho comes from Purworejo in Central Java and Titi from a small village in East Java. Their opportunities for education were severely limited. At a young age, Boni, who can read but not write, felt morally obliged to help his mother with work instead of going to school. Titi comes from a family of seven children, of whom only two finished junior high school. She left her home village for Jakarta, in order to find a living and not be a burden to her parents. All three share a great passion for music, and enjoy the sense of freedom and artistic fulfilment provided by their work. Especially for Titi, who has three young children in three different locations, it is not easy to combine her lifestyle as a busker with family life.
At some point in the documentary, the three characters are faced with dramatic turning points in their lives. Boni’s sewage tunnel is hit by floods. He and his family manage to restore their dwelling, but are eventually evicted by the municipality and forced to find another place. Ho is arrested by the police for busking and not carrying an ID. On the positive side, he finds love with a young widow, whom he will later marry. Titi is divorced by her abusive husband because of her unconventional lifestyle and irregular working hours, and forced to separate from her youngest child. Nevertheless, she manages to complete senior high school, and fulfil the dream of her father, who dies only a couple of days before her graduation. The exceptional optimism of the characters is moving and inspirational, and reflects the resilience of Indonesia’s lower socio-economic class.
What is refreshing about this documentary is the space it provides for its characters to show and tell about their own lives as well as Indonesian society more broadly. Their narratives are not interrupted by questions or voice-overs by the filmmakers, who also visually stay out of sight. Boni, Ho and Titi show who they are and tell what they think in a clearly confident manner, using both down-to-earth language and poetic lyrics and expressions. The documentary breaks with stereotypes about class, gender and religion, and focuses on aspects of Indonesian society that are rarely shown in the national and international mainstream media. To a certain extent, although different in style, it follows the example of the early documentaries about workers and street children of renowned Indonesian film director Garin Nugroho. At the same time, it shares some of the visual and story-telling techniques promoted by contemporary youth and video communities like Kampung Halaman.
Jalanan illustrates the fascinating, but also often disturbing, complexity and diversity of contemporary Indonesia. The busker songs and performances, with their highly topical as well as personal qualities, are the highlight of the movie. Some of the other remarkable visual and narrative aspects include Boni seeking entertainment by strolling around and visiting a bathroom in a luxurious shopping mall; Ho referring to politicians participating in an anti-corruption demonstration as hypocrites; Titi and one of her classmates struggling with their exam preparations; Boni painting a Hyatt hotel sign on his restored sewage dwelling; Ho courting his wife-to-be by inviting her to a Padang restaurant; Titi’s father recounting nationalistic songs and education systems from Dutch, Japanese and post-Independence times; Ho performing songs in and about jail, and Titi performing Islamic songs in order to appeal to women wearing headscarfs.
Although the behaviour and speech of the characters feels authentic, the act of being filmed must have intensified their self-reflections and impacted on their personal decision making. The documentary style confirms the power of the camera, and triggers numerous ethical questions. It may have caused Titi to reflect on her divorce, while also encouraging her to return to study. It gives attention to Ho being sent to prison, but may also have steered his quest for a wife. It may have contributed to Boni giving in to forced eviction, and directed him to find better accommodation for himself and his family. The filmmakers may consider creating a video or website about the negotiations with their characters about the film-making process itself, as a complement to their remarkable and highly recommended documentary.
Edwin Jurrïens, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia