Book Reviews – Vol 83, No 1

March 2010

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


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Asia General

BEYOND THE FINAL SCORE: The Politics of Sport in Asia. By Victor D. Cha. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. xvi, 182 pp. (Tables, figures, B&W photos.) US$27.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-231-15490-1.

According to one version of the founding myth, Heracles, after completing his famous “twelve labours,” initiated the ancient Olympic games and built the stadium  within which the competitions were held to honour his father, Zeus. Beyond the Final Score is not the product of such arduous labours nor is it aimed at the gods. The stated objective is to outline a “systematic way of thinking about how sports and the Olympics matter in world politics” for the “educated and interested general reader” (2, 32). The book covers the entire modern history of the Olympics as it relates to East Asia, but also contains numerous references to Olympics and other sporting events held around the world. The writing style is clear and accessible, and the author occasionally sprinkles in some interesting personal anecdotes from his time as the director of Asian Affairs on the National Security Council during the latter years of the Bush administration.

Using the lacuna in the study of sports in political science and the purist argument that sports and politics should not mix as launching points, Cha argues that there are three ways in which sports affect politics and international relations. First, sports are often a projection of national image and affect international prestige. Second, sports can facilitate the improvement of diplomatic relations or exacerbate international conflicts. Third, sports can be a vehicle of material transformations in urban space, everyday behaviours, and policy thinking. In establishing the parameters of the book, Cha asserts that Asia is particularly inclined to mix politics and sports, and sporting events have a unique ability to mobilize national sentiments and intense emotions.

Perfect games and scores are rare in sports and perfect books are even rarer in academia. Although it generally fulfills its ambition of introducing an interesting and complex issue to a general audience, there are some issues that need to be flagged. First, the summary of the existing body of literature on the Olympics and sports is misleading. Cha claims that much of the literature in various social sciences fields on sports is “predictable and parochial” (30). Historians, anthropologists,  sociologists and urban geographers have in fact published numerous studies of the three points of intersection between sports and politics that Cha cites: prestige, diplomacy and transformation. Academic journals are hardly short of articles that trace the impacts the Olympics have had on national image, diplomacy, urban planning, civility and the environment. Of course there are undoubtedly a number of works on sports that are narrow in scope, but considering that Cha’s argument is indebted to several existing streams of research, a more considered summary would have been appropriate.

Second, the book deals with nation-states, but not differences within the nation or the region. Cha seems to invoke the notion of “soft power” as his frame (47-50). The pro is that this allows for the exploration of subject matter considered non-orthodox in political science. The con is that some of the problems inherent in the notion of “soft power” are replicated. To cite one example, since the nation-state is the unit of analysis, there is no sustained attempt to analyze differences between official and unofficial Chinese nationalism, inter-city competitions for Olympic bids within Japan or the domestic opposition to the preparations for the 1988 Olympics in South Korea. Moreover, despite his claim that only sports can trigger emotions required to galvanize national identity, Cha ends up referencing several cultural events and exchanges. The nebulously defined rubric of “soft power” covers anything that is not military power and thus, is not the best tool for supporting a claim that sport is uniquely evocative of collective emotions.

Third, Cha’s initial explanation for his focus – his assertion that sports have more resonances in Asia than in other regions – is not entirely persuasive. He notes that the Olympics are rare in Asia, that Asia has had a turbulent history and that its pace of transformation has been rapid. The very same points could be applied to all regions in the contemporary world other than Western Europe and North America. After all, the IOC’s longest-running feud was likely with Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Africa and Latin America have yet to host an Olympics (although this will change after 2016 with the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics). Even the relatively sedate contemporary history of Canada has not stopped Vancouver from undertaking massive urban construction leading up to 2010 or from domestic opposition groups from demonstrating against the Olympics. Moreover, some sports would appear to generate political tensions throughout the world, while some other sports do not seem to trigger similar responses in Asia (for example, rugby, K-1).

Despite these and other issues, the book does weave together multiple threads into a compact and clear form. Instructors of introductory undergraduate courses will find it to be particularly useful when dealing with the complex nexus of politics and sports.

Hyung-Gu Lynn, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


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China and Inner Asia

OLYMPIC DREAMS: China and Sports, 1895-2008. By Xu Guoqi. Cambridge (MA) and London: Harvard University Press, 2008. xi, 377 pp. (Photos.) US$29.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-02840-1.

Several books were published before the Beijing Olympic Games discussing China’s Olympic dreams and China’s international relations and sports. However, Xu Guoqi’s book is unique. It offers an international history approach, as the author claims, to analyze the role of sports in China’s political and diplomatic relations by “using the whole world as a reference point” (6). It is the first time the “Two-China Question,” “Ping-Pong Diplomacy,” and the Montreal Games in relation to the “Two-China” issue, are examined with such rich references from both China and the West.

The “Two-China” issue is one of the most fascinating events in the history of the Olympic movement and the history of international relations in both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China. Based on archives from Taiwan, Beijing and Lausanne, Xu Guoqi vividly describes how the three parties applied different political approaches, which made the issue more complicated in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and how the three parties compromised in a new political environment in the late 1970s and 1980s to produce the “Taiwan formula,” which later became the formula for China’s resolution for Hong Kong: “one country, two systems.” Sport in China has certainly become the testing ground for political solutions for the country. “One country, two systems” and “one China, many members” are the models for China’s ambition of unification in the twenty-first century. “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” has frequently been used in China as evidence of China’s diplomatic and political skills in breaking through the isolation of the Cold War and returning to the international political stage. The small pingpong ball has moved the globe, the world. However, Xu Guoqi, for the first time, examined the “American version of ping-pong diplomacy” (9) through Western, especially American, sources to help the audience see the other side of the coin. He demonstrates the American response to the Chinese table tennis team’s visit of 1972, and the suspicion and hostility among the White House, the State Department and the National Committee which reflected the uncertainty of the Sino-US relations at the time. However, as Xu states, the ping-pong delegation was the first official PRC envoy to the United States since 1949, and its visit generated an enormous amount of interest in China among the Americans. The positive response from the American side certainly played an important part in stimulating the development of diplomatic relations between China and the USA in the 1970s, which, in turn, changed the political order of the world in the late twentieth century.

The chapter on the Montreal Olympics is the most interesting. Xu has dusted off the files from the archives and chosen the best morsels from a huge quantity of raw material to present the reader with the fascinating story of “politics challeng[ing] the Olympic ideal” (164) in Montreal in 1976.

The Two-China issue, again, dominates the theme of the Montreal Olympics in 1976. This time, the parties, including the PRC, Taiwan, the IOC, Canada, the US, the UK, Germany and Australia, were all involved.

Both Beijing and Taiwan were determined to represent China at the games (the IOC did not manage to solve the problem until 1979). Although the PRC was not a member of the IOC yet, its international visibility was much improved as a result of the ping-pong diplomacy. The PRC assumed its seats at the United Nations in 1971 and established diplomatic relations with the US and Canada and some other Western countries in the 1970s. Therefore the PRC insisted on linking the visibility of the Olympics with its international status and legitimacy at the Montreal games.

Canada, on the other hand, had established diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1970 and acknowledged the One-China policy: the PRC was the sole legitimate government of China and Taiwan was part of China. However, Taiwan was still a member of the IOC then and was determined to use its membership status to participate in the games. Canada, for its part, when Montreal applied for the games, promised the IOC in 1969 that it would welcome all member countries to participate in the games.

Now the question was who should represent China at the games, the PRC or Taiwan. How could the Canadian government, the IOC, Beijing and Taiwan solve this diplomatic crisis so that the games could take place? Would Canada break its diplomatic relations with Beijing to follow the IOC rule? Would the US boycott the games if Taiwan athletes were not allowed to enter Canada? It is one of the crises not widely known but which almost destroyed the Olympic movement at the time.

Xu’s Olympic Dreams is a well-researched and fine piece of work with excellent photographs. Its chapters about the Two-China Question, Pingpong Diplomacy and the Montreal Olympics have advanced the study of Chinese sports, Chinese politics and China’s diplomatic relations. This is a must-read for anyone interested in history of China.

Fan Hong, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland


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LEPROSY IN CHINA: A History. By Angela Ki Che Leung. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. xi, 373 pp. (Tables, illus., B&W photos.) US$50.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-12300-6.

Leprosy is a disease that stigmatizes its victims through rumour and disfigurement. This has made it as much a social disease as a physical one, and the power of the stigma and fear surrounding the disease has been used both against, and by, those exhibiting symptoms of the disease. In China, as in Europe and elsewhere, the meanings of the disease have shifted with time and economic structures. In her thoroughly researched new volume, Angela Leung (Liang Qizi) translates a poem that demonstrates how a growing fear of mafeng (leprosy) led to segregation of leprosy patients in the late imperial period.

There is a strange disease south of the Five Ranges,
a fruit of excessive poison in humid swamps…
I hear that there are mafeng hospices
that have been taking in patients since time immemorial.
But I fear that the disease will not thus be stopped
but will spread ever more quickly. (100)

Until the twentieth century, leprosy (also known variously as li/lai/dafeng/mafeng, in English now known as Hansen’s disease, see introduction and chapter 1) in China was indeed considered a disease of the south- particularly Fujian, Guangdong and Guangxi, a humid, miasmatic region only semi-civilized. It was in these regions that isolated leprosy institutions first appeared (the first in 1518, in Fujian). Moreover, fear of contagion as expressed in this poem actually increased with such government-funded segregation (ch. 3), and so fear, stigma and segregation increasingly replaced an earlier consensus that those suffering from lai disorders were cursed and infected with chong (insect agents of infection) but redeemable through Buddhist, Daoist or Confucian ritual or moral acts (ch. 2). The poem does not express that lai was also for centuries a gendered disease where young southern women in early stages of the disease would wait by the roadside to seduce northern male travellers in order to guolai (transmit leprosy, 114-124).

Leung, one of the most respected researchers working on the history of medicine and philanthropy in China, combines these interests with her social history of this most feared of contagious diseases. To my knowledge, this is the only English longitudinal study of a disease in China from earliest known records to the present day (its closest cousin being Carol Benedict’s book on plague in the nineteenth century). Leung’s ambition to cover all periods of the disease produces a work that is supple to the shape of available sources: palimpsest medical texts in the nosological chapter (ch. 1); histories, gazetteers, literature, legal and religious works for the chapter on early through middle imperial period (ch. 2); adding biji (random jottings of elites) and missionary sources for the chapter on development of segregation (ch. 3); plumbing all these sources in the chapter on missionary leprosaria and their interaction with the modernizing state project of twentieth-century elites bent on ridding China of its image as the “sick man of Asia” (ch. 4); and using interviews, WHO and PRC reports for the final chapter about the recent eradication of the disease (ch. 5). Is this, then, the definitive history of leprosy in China? No. Leung’s arguments are far more interesting and subtle than such a modernist project would entail. She is concerned, rather, with “the construction of li/lai/leprosy as a medical, social and political ailment throughout history” (5).

Leprosy in the Western popular imagination has been relegated in time to the medieval past (think Foucauldian confinement) and geographically to the non-West generally (especially India), yet in the age of European imperialism and Chinese migrant labour (1860s to 1940s), as missionary physician James Cantlie-teacher of Sun Yat-sen put it, the common factor of leprosy throughout the Pacific was “the Chinaman, and he is leprous” (142-143). We thus see that the disease became both racialized as Chinese, but also class-based it was the migrant Chinese “coolies” who were to be controlled, according to Cantlie and according to elite Chinese nationalists. Indeed, the most horrific stories in Leung’s book are of post-revolution (1911) local military exterminating leper colonies (163). Japan has recently apologized for its forced confinement of leprosy patients to eradicate its own national stigma. Yet in China, the social and legal stigma of leprosy has continued into the current millennium (206) despite effective standardized treatment with multi-drug therapy since the early 1980s, which, according to the WHO, has cured 8.4 million leprosy patients worldwide and taken China off the list of countries where leprosy is endemic. Yet, as the success of mass mobilization and socialized medicine of the Mao years gives way to for-profit medicine, Leung reports fears of a return of the disease as poor patients find medical care out of reach.

There are riches in Angela Leung’s book that cannot be mined in this short review. It is highly recommended for historians of China and of medicine and those policy experts sane enough to value knowledge of historical trajectories in approaching contemporary medical dilemmas.

David Luesink, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


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Northeast Asia

FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT IN POST-CRISIS KOREA: European Investors and “Mismatched Globalization”. By Judith Cherry. London and New York: Routledge, 2007. xi, 201 pp. (Tables.) US$150.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-27006-9.

Foreign Direct Investment in Post-Crisis Korea deals with the central theme in contemporary discussion of the South Korean political economy, particularly in strategic policy-making discourses since the outbreak of the 1997 currency crisis “the issue of globalization” and examines how South Korea (hereafter Korea) has undergone the process over the last four decades (1962-2006). The book questions whether the neoliberal nature of globalization, where one finds an open and expanding Korean market in the late twentieth century, has brought about political, institutional, and socio-cultural transformation along with the shift in the economic development paradigm.

The author’s systematic analysis of the evolution of Korea’s inward foreign direct investment (IFDI) policies over the last four decades (1962-2006) reveals that a combination of policy failures, excessive and non-transparent/ inconsistent implementation of regulations, anti-foreign capital/business sentiment and Korea’s deep-rooted anti-foreign ethos depicted in media continue to hamper Korea’s efforts to develop and integrate into the international economy. The principal task of this book is to examine the process of Korea’s “mismatched globalization” – mismatched between the speed of convergence in terms of economic globalization and the far slower pace of change in terms of cultural globalization (141). The book argues that the problems are political, socio-cultural and perceptual rather than economic. Cultural globalization or changing mindset/perception towards the broad concept of globalization is yet to arrive in Korean society.

This book is divided into three main parts. It covers the evolution of the Korean government’s IFDI policy from one of restriction and control (mercantilist attitude towards inflow of foreign capital but in favour of exports, and Korean overseas direct investment under the banner of segyehwa (globalization) (1962-1997)) to one of encouragement and promotion (1998-2006), a period of stark change in policy direction towards neoliberal and MNC-led (multinational corporations), to globalization and the Korean market environment through the eyes of European investors and officials in Seoul, Korea.

The introduction and chapter 1 contain the theoretical framework of the book and examine different contexts of “globalization” including concepts of economic, cultural and hybrid globalization and their application to the case of Korea’s IFDI pattern during its rapid industrialization period (1962-1992) led by the developmental state. Chapters 2 and 3 follow with a detailed analysis of the Korean government’s segyehwa policy (liberalization of overseas direct investment policies) initiated by the Kim Young-sam administration (1993-1997), and the 1997 financial crisis which saw the birth of a new economic development paradigm, moving away from the state-led and export-oriented developmental economic growth model (Korea Inc as state-capital collusion) embedded in a strong nationalistic and neo-mercantilistic leadership to the promotion of neoliberal and MNC-led globalization paradigm. Chapter 3 in particular focuses on discussion of the debate about the sustainability of the long-hailed Korean development model known as Korea Inc in the context of Korea’s globalization efforts today.

The second part of the book (chapters 4 and 5) attempts to answer the above question through a detailed analysis of Korea’s shift in policies and attitudes towards IFDI including trends over the period of Kim Dae-jung (1998-2002) and Roh Moo-hyun (2003-2006) administrations. The chapters also offer some insights into software issues of IFDI (barriers to investment) through the eyes of foreign investors and Korean government officials.

Part three of the book, comprising chapters 6 and 7 followed by a summary and conclusion (chapter 8), presents findings of a case study of European investors in Korea which included forty in-depth face-to-face interviews with European investors and government officials in Korea between April and September 2006. The case study highlights software issues as major deterrents in attracting IFDI and conducting business in Korea as seen through the eyes of European investors.

The book successfully examines Korea’s globalization paradox by taking into account the legacy of Korea’s rapid capitalist industrialization including political, institutional, and cultural. Throughout this book qualitative insights are provided as to how specific political, cultural and institutional relations form and affect the Korean FDI policies and their influences on foreign business activities. The book substantiates the view that there is plenty of evidence for Korea’s meandering path to globalization from more than foreign business perspectives.

My only criticism is that perhaps a more and comprehensive use of field data would offer more concrete analysis. Similarly, so would the testing of dependent and independent variables in an effort to develop new theoretical insights or the testing of existing theoretical insights.

Nevertheless, this book provides a much-needed contribution to the literature in debating the process of Korean globalization. This book will attract a large audience including source and host (Korean government), officials, the Korean business community, existing and potential foreign investors in Korea, plus a group of investors who have never considered Korea at all. Many of the anecdotal experiences reflected in the book offer valuable lessons to countries that are in a similar stage of economic development and industrialization process.

You-Il Lee, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia


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THE PARTITION OF KOREA AFTER WORLD WAR II: A Global History. By Jongsoo James Lee. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. xxvi, 220 pp. US$28.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-230-60227-4.

The communists of North Korea and radicals on the left in general have long denounced the political, though not the initial military, division of Korea as a self-serving decision cooked up in Washington. Those on the radical right have attacked Joseph Stalin for creating an equally perverse impasse leading to the country’s vivisection. Those Korean “leaders” who vitiated the situation by instigating chaotic and deadly internecine feuds, are often sanitized by their partisans either as heroic defenders of various brands of righteous patriotism or as helpless victims or pawns of foreign machinations.

To his credit, James Lee transcends all sectarian views and offers a comprehensive analysis of the causes and consequences of the events relating to Korea from 1945 to 1948, and he does all this in a rapidly unfolding Asian and global context. His blend of international diplomatic history and domestic Korean political history leaves one with the solid conclusion that no single-factor narrative can do justice to the truth of that period; a synthesis of all forces in dynamic interaction, a “holistic” understanding, alone can put a closure – if one still can use that term – to it.

Relying on both primary and secondary sources, notably newly accessible Soviet archives, Lee meticulously goes over major wartime conferences and decisions among the Allied powers concerning the future shape of Korea. The country was to be freed like other Japanese colonies after Tokyo’s defeat, but a paternalistic FDR favoured a flexible period of “trusteeship”(“guardianship” as the Russians put it) involving the US, Britain, China and the Soviet Union to prepare the peninsula for independence in “due course.” This expression was fraught with serious misunderstanding, for to most Koreans it meant something akin to “soon after Japan’s defeat.” The anti-colonial sympathies of FDR, the anti-imperialist stances of Moscow and its determination to prevent Korea from being misused as a springboard for any future aggression against the Soviet Union, made Stalin wholeheartedly embrace the concept of a time-bound trusteeship. On this issue, in fact, FDR and Stalin were closer to each other than FDR and Churchill during the war.

The death of FDR in early 1945, the succession of the more rigidly anticommunist Harry Truman to the US presidency, the initial rejection of the trusteeship idea by almost all leading Korean voices as deeply insulting to their dignity and honour, the right-wing sympathies of General John R. Hodge, (the chief US military administrator of Korea south of the 38th parallel after Japan’s defeat and surrender), the rapid emergence of the pro-trusteeship stance of the Korean communists under Soviet prodding, and the strident rhetoric and violent actions of the Korean rightists against left-wing and other Koreans questioning their platform, quickly made short shrift of any possibility for keeping Korea intact.

The prospects for a unified Korea were destroyed when, under US domination, a UN Temporary Commission on Korea (UNTCOK), composed of Australian, Canadian, and Indian members, uneasily approved the creation of an independent state in Korea after supervising elections in the southern parts, with the North closed off by a discomfited Soviet Union. In this connection, the author could have benefited from studying the writings of Mo Yunsuk (Marion Moh) and K.P.S. Menon, the Indian chairman of UNTCOK. In his book Many Worlds (OUP, 1965), Menon barely disguises his warm relations with this beloved Korean poet. She also happened to be a booster”agent” in the eyes of othersof Syngman Rhee, a rightists’ rightist if you will, who eventually came to head the new Republic of Korea in the south on 15 August 1948. It would have been interesting to see from Lee’s perspective how much UNTCOK was swayed by the very close personal relationship between Menon and Mo.

All this, according to Lee’s careful analysis, was not inevitable. Stalin knew his country’s weaknesses as a result of the war, made deeper by the American use of atomic weapons in Japan, and wanted to avoid any deadly confrontation with the rising AngloAmerican bloc in Korea. He might have settled for a unified democraticcapitalist Korea on its border but with a foreign policy friendly to the Soviet Union, la Finland, or with a unified Korea akin to a
neutral Austria. He was less an ironclad ideologue or diabolical schemer on Korea than a cautious, pragmatic deal maker.

Yet Stalin was smart enough to prepare for all contingencies, thus he had begun to create all the paraphernalia of a state in northern Korea early in 1946. It was only a matter of putting the system into the “drive” gear once a southern state had been set up. In this way, he could also persuasively claim that his hand was forced by the intransigence of the US and its right-wing henchmen in the south.

Except for a tendency to be repetitive at times, this book is an illuminating addition to scholarship on modern Korean history.

Vipan Chandra, Wheaton College, Norton, USA


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South Asia

FOUR CRISES AND A PEACE PROCESS: American Engagement in South Asia. By P.R. Chari, Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema and Stephen P. Cohen.  Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2007. x, 252 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$59.95, cloth, ISBN 78-0-8157-1384-5; US$24.95, paper, ISBN 978-0-8157-1383-8.

The enduring hostility between India and Pakistan, which centres on the disputed status of Kashmir and is amplified by a sometimes virulent rhetoric of hatred on both sides, has given rise to recurrent crises. For a long time, however, South Asia remained a backwater in international affairs and the outside world paid little attention to the region. But all this has changed since the two countries became declared nuclear states, following the tests that each carried out in 1998. President Clinton argued famously that “the Indian subcontinent and the Line of Control on Kashmir” might be “the most dangerous place in the world today,” and subsequent events have served to confirm that judgment. The prospects for permanent peace between India and Pakistan are of the utmost concern, therefore, and this book, by three of the leading security specialists from the two countries and from the United States, will be quarried for insights.

The book brings together the three authors’ studies (independently published) of four crises: the “Brasstacks crisis” of 1986-1987 that followed from Indian military manoeuvres; the “compound crisis” of 1990 that came about as result of turmoil in Kashmir; the limited war that took place around Kargil in 1999, as a result of Pakistani incursions; and the border confrontation of 2001-2002 that followed a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament. The last was treated so seriously that a large number of diplomats were withdrawn from Delhi for several months. These four crisis events provide the material for a sustained analysis of the security relations of India and Pakistan, and then of the peace process that got underway in 2003, when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee extended “a hand of friendship” to Pakistan.

The text is extremely cautious, weighing arguments on the one hand and on the other, to the point that at times the reader is left feeling baffled as to quite what the authors are concluding. They pronounce themselves, finally, “optimistic” even though they say that “recent events do not bode well for the future”(221). The book was sent to the press late in 2007, and much, of course, has happened since then. The two essential conclusions are that “strategically, the Kargil crisis and the border confrontation crisis have taught both countries that they cannot gain their political objectives” including a resolution of the long-enduring Kashmir dispute”by force of arms. The state of nuclear deterrence now existing between them as a result of their nuclear tests effectively foreclosed the military option”; and “on the pessimistic side, the current peace process is arguably brittle and ephemeral, if the past history of IndiaPakistan relations is any guide. A single dramatic act of violence on a high-value economic or political target, especially if it evokes strong emotional sentiments, could derail the process” (212). With regard to the latter conclusion, we might perhaps take heart from the measured response of the Indian government to the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008 – which was certainly directed at a target of enormous symbolic significance- and from the failure of the opposition BJP to gain any electoral advantage by playing the “Congress government is soft on security” card. But I have found continuing pessimism in recent conversations with senior diplomats serving in Delhi.

The reason for the sometimes tortuous arguments of the book, and for diplomatic pessimism about the present situation, has to do with what Chari, Cheema and Cohen conclude about the process of decision making on security matters on both sides. “The reassuring thesis that nuclear weapons bring an era of stability is partly offset,” they say, “by the readiness of leaders in both countries to indulge in rhetoric, by the concentration of power in the area of national security and foreign policy, and by the absence of checks and balances in the decision-making processes of both states” (216). They comment, too, that “the military and political leaderships of both countries have learned little from past crises and nothing from the crises of other states” (215). Both are “still learning to be nuclear states.” Thus the authors conclude that “the lack of institutional structures and the narrowness of the present arrangements in both countries for decisions related to nuclear security do not bode well for crisis stability if the present dialogue should falter” (217). Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope in the fact that in spite of the stresses to which it has been subject as a result of the Mumbai attack, and the inconsistent Pakistani response, a dialogue has been kept going. The intensity of media coverage and the continuing activity of civil society groups in both India and Pakistan contribute significantly to continuing engagement, while there are also indications in the approaches of the Obama administration of the development of a strategic focus on South Asia on the part of the United States, in place of what these authors see as having been only a “tactical” involvement in the past.

This is an important book, worthy of a wide readership.

John Harriss, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada


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RETHINKING DEMOCRACY. By Rajni Kothari. London and New York: Zed Books, 2007. vii, 176 pp. US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-84277-946-0.

The twentieth century witnessed a remarkable shift in many countries from authoritarian to democratic rule and a no-less-astounding move within many older democracies towards more plural forms of political competition. Yet this upsurge of formal democracy has often occurred in the absence of a significant change in the distribution of political opportunities on the ground. Rajni Kothari, one of India’s foremost political scientists, speaks directly to this paradox in his new book, drawing together a lifetime of observations on India’s changing political scene. Rethinking Democracy does not always fulfill its promise, but it deserves to be read by all those interested in political transformation, democracy, grassroots mobilization and social justice in South Asia.

Central to the book is a story of India’s failed democratic state, situated within a critique of European modernity. The outlines of this account will be familiar to readers of Kothari’s prior work. He charts a decline in Indian democracy from a period in which the state was putatively uninfluenced by powerful sections of society, in the 1950s and 1960s, to an era in which the state has been thoroughly captured by national elites and their associates among the middle classes and powerful institutions abroad. Kothari characterizes the contemporary era as one in which the state is manifestly incapable of meeting the needs of the poor, economically, socially or politically, and in which the worst excesses of consumer capitalism have been allowed free rein. Kothari imagines an upsurge of reactionary forms of religious communal violence as a consequence of this political and moral crisis. At the same time, he emphasizes the emergence of powerful environmental, social justice and women’s movements since the 1970s in India.

Kothari’s suggested remedy for contemporary ills is the decentralization of governance to allow grassroots organizations greater power in the framing of policy and planning. What Kothari has in mind is a radical revision of the role of government in society that would include diminished party political action, and widespread popular participation in the running of public affairs. He also appeals for a reorientation of the educational process to provide a more holistic understanding of the world and greater efforts to nurture and connect grassroots social movements. Kothari repeatedly stresses the importance of Indian traditions to this political drive. India requires “new indigenous roots of sustenance and strengthbased on genuine possibilities of alternatives that can work” (48).

Kothari’s description of political crisis and plans for recuperating Indian democracy are only partially convincing. His description of India’s political trajectory arguably downplays the extent to which elites were able to shape state policy in the 1950s and 1960s. Moreover, Kothari exaggerates the failure of the state to counter problems of poverty in contemporary India. Social science research on the state in India published in the 1990s and 2000s has shown that, even in the areas of India most profoundly affected by “elite capture” and bureaucratic inefficiency, some benefits do arrive for the poor, who are increasingly demanding the forms of “modernity” disparaged by Kothari.

The author’s search for a new decentralized and participatory form of democracy is more suggestive. Kothari’s emphasis on learning from multiple grassroots organizations and strengthening non-party political forums resonates with recent feminist and subaltern research in India. Moreover, Kothari’s discussion of the capacity of middle classes to play brokerage roles in networks of political assertion is timely, reversing a tendency in some quarters to paint elites as inevitably self-serving. Towards the end of the book, Kothari also develops an intriguing argument about the ability of subalterns to expand our understanding of what constitutes the political. And yet, when moved to outline specific measures that might democratize India, Kothari is rather vague, falling back on general calls for greater civic social involvement in governance and a decline in the role of the state.

Reviewing five volumes of Kothari’s work in this journal nearly twenty years ago, Pratap Bhanu Mehta questioned whether Kothari’s Gandhian emphasis on decentralized forms of governance was viable in the absence of a better account of the type of institutions that could replace those associated with Europe’s modernity (India’s Disordered Democracy, Pacific Affairs, vol. 64, no. 4, Winter 1991-1992, p. 548). Nearly twenty years on, I am left with the same uncertainty. Rethinking Democracy falls short of providing a roadmap for a more genuinely democratic Indian polity. But it remains a compelling summary of the work of one of South Asia’s leading intellectuals and a passionate appeal for a fairer, more inclusive India.

Craig Jeffrey, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom


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Southeast Asia

MYANMAR (BURMA) SINCE 1962: The Failure of Development. By Peter John Perry.  Burlington (VT): Ashgate Publishing, 2007. xv, 208 pp.(Tables, maps.) US$99.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-7546-4534-4.

Myanmar (Burma) poses a serious problem for the democratic world. Its regime is extremely repressive and apparently cares little about the welfare of the great majority of its citizens. When Cyclone Nargis struck the south of the country in May 2008, the reaction of the ruling junta was so lethargic that the French foreign minister suggested that the United Nations should mount a humanitarian mission to the worst affected parts of the country even if the government did not support such an intervention. That this did not happen was mainly due to the realization that China would veto any United Nations’ initiative that did not have the support of the Burmese government. Eventually the government did allow some international aid, mainly owing to the persuasion of its partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). But the destruction of lives and property was enormous and the delta regions have yet to recover from the tragedy.

This monograph covers the period from 1962 to early 2006, so the impact of the cyclone is not dealt with. But the author is unlikely to have been surprised at the reaction of the junta to a natural disaster which caused such havoc over a large part of the country. Perry claims to have had a long-standing interest in the country, although it is not clear how often, if at all, he has been able to visit, let alone carry out field research. Much of the book is based on secondary data, with many references to the work of expatriate Burmese scholars such as Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung, Khin Maung Kyi, Kyaw Yin Hlaing, Maung Maung Kyi, Mya Maung, Mya Than, Myat Thein and Tin Maung Maung Than. Several of them have been associated with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, and that institution’s annual publication, Southeast Asian Affairs, has over the years managed to keep up a running survey of events in Burma/Myanmar, as has the American journal, Asian Survey. In recent years scholarly work by non-Burmese scholars has inevitably dwindled as access to the country has become more difficult and academic rewards from a specialism in such a controversial country have been slim. The World Bank no longer publishes much on the country and the Asian Development Bank’s published surveys have been compromised by a rather uncritical approach to highly dubious government statistics.

Perry’s book is therefore to be welcomed, even if it is mainly a survey of work done by other scholars. The first four chapters look at the Ne Win era and its legacy, followed by four chapters on the rice economy, teak and timber, and minerals. These chapters are followed by a useful discussion of how the distribution system operated over the 1970s and 1980s as the “Burmese road to socialism” caused a sharp decline in the private system of wholesale and retail trade. By the 1980s, the high-ranking, and to a lesser extent middleranking party and state officials had access to state cooperatives to buy basic foods and other needs; everyone else relied on informal or illegal markets. Here Perry uses the work of Kyaw Yin Hlaing who has described in detail the hmaung-kho system that emerged in the 1980s and in which the great majority of the population by the 1990s was involved for their basic needs.

Perry devotes a chapter to the growth of regional insurgencies and the drugs economy during the Ne Win era, making use of the work of Lintner, the Boucaud brothers and others. The final two chapters examine post-1988 developments. One feels that the space devoted to this period (30 pages out of 185 pages of text) is rather meagre. In particular this reviewer would have liked more information on the growing importance of Burma’s neighbours, especially Thailand and China, but also India, in supporting a regime which would seem to have little support from its own citizens. Burma is one of a mercifully small group of brutal and repressive states (Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is the other obvious example) which survives because neighbouring powers are prepared to support it, thereby frustrating the desires of the state’s own citizens. How much longer can this continue?

Perry does not really try to answer this question; perhaps it can only be answered by the Burmese people themselves. His book gives a useful background to anyone wishing to understand how contemporary Burma reached its present parlous state, although the price of the book means that only libraries are likely to buy it. Students should probably photocopy the bibliography and try to read as much as they can about a country which will continue to feature in news bulletins for the wrong reasons.

Anne Booth, University of London, London, United Kingdom


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FOREST GUARDIANS, FOREST DESTROYERS: The Politics of Environmental Knowledge in Northern Thailand. By Tim Forsyth and Andrew Walker. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2008. x, 302 pp. (Maps, figures, tables.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-98822-1.

Anyone who has visited Thailand over the past two decades would be aware of the concerns about the environmental crisis the nation faces. Tim Forsyth and Andrew Walker are no exceptions. In their book, however, they challenge the ways in which the crisis is talked about and even the severity of many aspects of it. Using the concept of “environmental narratives,” they critique the discourses surrounding the environmental crisis in northern Thailand.

Environmental narratives are simplified cause-and-effect explanations of environmental problems that emerge from and reinforce the social and political aspects of environmental knowledge. These narratives underlie critical debates about environment and development. Forsyth and Walker present, then unpack and dispute, several environmental narratives that they argue drive environmental policy. Four dominant themes frame the debates in northern Thailand: water supply and watershed functions; forest protection and biodiversity; agricultural mismanagement; and ethnic conflict. The latter forms the main motivation behind the book. These narratives surround the debate about the environmental impact of upland farmers. Upland ethnic minority farmers are seen as either “forest destroyers” or “forest defenders.” In either case, the authors argue, these labels are applied based on simplified and generalized understandings of the upland ecosystems.

In nine detailed and accessibly written chapters, Forsyth and Walker show how these narratives developed and are misused to promote particular social and political positions. They present how the narratives thrive in the popular imagination, and how they are used by government officials, conservationists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) alike to inform policy. Rarely are the perspectives of upland farmers themselves considered in the framing of these narratives. A central example is that “the key resource provided by the forest is water” (87). From that narrative, several others arise, including descriptions of erosion and soil degradation, the impact of agrochemicals on lowland water quality, a focus on upland water supply rather than lowland water demands and the loss of biodiversity, to name a few.

Given their focus on northern Thailand, the authors emphasize issues that surround upland minorities. Early in the book, they devote a chapter to upland people. They contrast how the Karen and the Hmong are represented, the former as engaging “traditional environmental knowledge” to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable livelihoods, and the latter as environmentally destructive. These ethnic stereotypes pervade environmental narratives, often creating situations of racial discrimination. At times, Forsyth and Walker make their case too strongly and stridently. Even as they complicate both the environmental and the cultural contexts of upland northern Thailand, they come close to stereotyping the lowland Thais in the region. They accurately mention that the dominant environmental narratives ignore ethnic lowland Thais who farm in the uplands. What they do not discuss is that some lowland Thais, including some NGOs, academics and government officials, themselves challenge the environmental narratives that exist.

One example is their brief discussion of the use of Buddhism to contribute to these narratives. The only environmental monk Forsyth and Walker mention is the controversial Phra Phongsak Techadhammo, and his conservationist organization, Dhammanaat Foundation. I agree that Phongsak and Dhammanaat provide good examples of how some “deep green” conservationists use environmental narratives to serve the social and political interests of lowland Thais, especially against those of the Hmong. Their actions can even be called racist. Phongsak does not, however, represent the majority of monks who have concerns about the environment. Most complicate the issues in ways that Forsyth and Walker argue needs to be done, looking at local ecosystems and the diverse approaches and explanations given by both the people living there (upland minorities and lowland Thais) and the scientific “experts.”

In their discussion of biodiversity and the reasons upland farmers engage in cash and monocropping, the authors provide a somewhat limited explanation. Forsyth and Walker challenge the dominant narrative about the evils of monocropping only through its advantages for farmers and how it can contribute to biodiversity. They do not raise factors such as the debt farmers incur through cash cropping.

Forsyth and Walker raise provocative questions about the environmental situation in northern Thailand. Their critical dissection of environmental narratives forces the reader to rethink assumptions. Grounded in thorough research, they offer a valuable contribution to environmental studies in Thailand. Their book is well worth reading, and it promotes thinking about the complexities of the situations they discuss. While I do not always agree with their interpretations of the debates or how various actors engage these narratives, they challenge how we think which is crucial to moving the social and political understandings of environmental situations forward.

Susan M. Darlington, Hampshire College, Amherst, USA


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Australasia and the Pacific Region

TO THE ISLANDS: White Australians and the Malay Archipelago since 1788. By Paul Battersby.  Lanham (MD): Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (Lexington Books). 2007, xv, 249 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$75.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-7391-2051-4.

The Timor crisis, the Bali and Jakarta bombings, West Papuan refugees, impounded Indonesian fishing vessels and a steady stream of Australians in jails in Indonesia and Thailandthese have been just some of the recent prompts for fresh bouts of hand-wringing over the general ignorance that is purported to exist between Australia and its neighbours of the Malay Archipelago. Paul Battersby’s book provides an extended genealogy for this time-worn claim. His basic argument is that improvements during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in shipping and communication resulted not in a closer integration of Australian interests within its immediate region, but in a reassertion of ties to Britain, Europe and the United States and the entrenchment of a perspective fixed firmly beyond the local horizons. Australian ventures in the region, though they extend back to the origins of European settlement in Australia, have seldom been sustained, and reciprocal interest in Australia from Southeast Asian partners has been welcomed only infrequently.

Battersby aims to write against the seeming inevitability of this mutual indifference, in a bold attempt to recapture the sense of regional possibility embraced by nineteenth-century travellers from Australia, embodied in the broader geographical reference once enjoyed by the term “Australasia.” This enlarged sense of region is matched by the book’s wide-ranging scope of enquiry. Drawing largely on Australian sources, he approaches regional connections through the prism of trade, demonstrating the overwhelming dominance, both by export and import, of traffic between Australia, New Zealand and Britain, to the virtual exclusion of Southeast Asia. The late nineteenth-century transport revolution and the explosion of tourism as a mass leisure activity introduced a new generation of Australians to the Pacific and to Asia, though this does not appear to have been reflected in any change in the orientation and value of trade. Nevertheless, Battersby insists, Australians were active throughout the region in search of opportunity, principally in the mining sector, pursuing gold in New Guinea and tin in Siam and Malaya. The most detailed sections of the book deal with Australian investment in Thailand, both before and after World War II.

Though there is no doubting the essential merit of the book’s argument, its impact is undermined by the sheer ambition of its scope. While broadly similar in range to Alison Broinowski’s 1992 study, The Yellow Lady: Australian Impressions of Asia, it lacks the conviction of connection between different genres of source, or the generous and judicious use of illustration in her study. Eleven different tables and six graphs dealing with trade flows make the simple point about the poverty of regional economic exchanges, but the author’s claims for a much broader engagement are not aided by the thinness of his material, which draws eclectically on diplomatic exchanges and advertising copy for shipping and tourism. I was left wanting more of the texture and feel of these engagements; we learn that Ida Kalenski, a resident of the Straits Settlements who wrote a series of vignettes for the Queenslander, “offered insights through Australian eyes into everyday life in Singapore” (73), but not a word of hers is tendered in evidence. Readers are not likely to be enlightened by the frequent recourse to anachronisms, such as the “adrenalin rush” of riding rapids (81) or “Arc of Instability” as the title for the chapter on World War II; and occasional lapses into generic characterization”many Australians exhibited an ethos which marked them out as different” (114) invite rather than provide further explanation.

It is difficult to identify what the publishers have contributed to justify the cost of this volume. Woeful editing and an obvious reluctance even to run the text through a spell check further distract the reader’s attention from the merits of the author’s argument; tables are incorrectly aligned (table 2.2) or captioned (table 7.1), references missing or wrongly given, sentences are not completed and quotations mangled, though the reference to Java as “over-num [sic] with tourists” (57) appeals. More worryingly, for a book that makes the case for improved regional exchange, names are incorrectly given (“Jakasta,” “Halamhera,” “Mahatir”), and local geographies become unmooredpity the miners sent to dig eastward from the Louisiades to New Guinea (72)! This is a useful introduction to an important theme in regional history, but it deserved better service for its author and readers alike.

Chris Ballard, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


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MAKING DEAD BIRDS: Chronicle of a Film. By Robert Gardner; foreword by Phillip Lopate; edited by Charles Warren; designed by Jeannet Leendertse. Cambridge (MA): Peabody Museum Press (Harvard Univ. Press), 2007. xvii, 137 pp. (Photos.) US$35.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-83765-823-2.

Dead Birds is one of the best-known ethnographic motion pictures of all time. Set in the highlands of New Guinea in 1961, the film recounts events in the lives of the Dani people, for whom revenge killing was a central tenet. The plot centres on a few key protagonists, including the warrior Weyak, who stood lookout atop a tower for an enemy appearance while women of his tribe gardened, and a small boy, Pua, who daydreamed as he watched over his family’s pigs. Against the backdrop of everyday life was the constant fear of tribal warfare (graphically depicted in the film) and payback killing. As a central metaphor for his story of violence and mortality, Gardner employed the Dani identification with birds as totems and their reference to the captured possessions and bodies of their victims as “dead birds.” The film invites viewers to ponder the nature of human aggression as it unfolds in a highly ritualized tribal cultural environment.

This well-illustrated volume chronicles the process of making the film. Phillip Lopate provides an informative overview, while Gardner furnishes the background for the extensive quotes from letters, journals, telegrams, newspaper clippings, camera notes, interviews, reviews and articles that constitute much of the text. The reader is led from the film’s conception through the extensive planning, fund-raising and securing permissions stages to the actual filming and the shaping of the picture and its story. Of historical significance is Michael Rockefeller, youngest son of then New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, the soundman and photographer for the expedition. Shortly after the shoot, Michael, on a separate expedition, was lost off the south coast of New Guinea. The volume deals with his time in New Guinea and the aftermath of his death.

Ethical dilemmas are revealed. For example, Margaret Mead cautioned Gardner against making a film about warfare. “Her point was that in photographing or even just observing hostile behaviour of this kind, we would be condoning it and thus letting down the administration, ‘making it unsafe for every white man,’ as she put it” (22). Mead’s words were prophetic, because rumours spread that Gardner and his team were provoking warfare in order to film it. Documents reveal how strongly he denied these allegations, although he did insist that police and other visitors stay out of the area so as not to interfere with the project. And in a startling revelation, Gardner admits that the crew “closely held the intelligence that Michael was grazed in the leg by an arrow in a battle…. Were it to become known… [there would be] … unpredictable consequences for our work” (71). Another choice involved the possible theatrical allure of filming the amputation of young girls’ finger joints as part of a mourning ritual.

Anthropologists will appreciate the manifold problems of acquiring permission for research and filming, the remoteness of the place, getting supplies, equipment and research materials in and out of the field site, communicating with and gaining the trust of the Dani, assuring that the picture would be anthropologically accurate, considering the effects of the production crew on local events, and coping with the sheer physical discomforts arising from conditions that caused film stock to swell, cameras to jam, and film to be lost in a swamp.

Artistic concerns are also aired. Gardner strongly desired a humanistic, experiential anthropology that valued subjectivity and intuition. He pondered whether to impose “the burden of language” on the film with a voice-over narration (which he chose) rather than let the images and actions speak for themselves. Decisions had to be made about balancing close-ups against broader action scenes, whether to combine action shots taken at different battles, the implications of using unsynchronized sound and constructing a story line. Because Gardner had to send the film out for processing, for long intervals he never knew whether the exposures were correct, if the temperamental equipment had functioned correctly, if the film had arrived safely at its destination or if processing labs had damaged the negatives.

The book succeeds at many levels. It takes the reader inside the making of one of the most highly acclaimed ethnographic motion pictures. It chronicles the early days of visual anthropology, provides ethnographic information on a people about to experience fundamental social change and gives insights into the thoughts of a pioneering filmmaker with an extraordinarily challenging goal and noble aim: As Gardner puts it, “In Dead Birds, my fondest hope was that my camera would be a mirror for its viewers to see themselves.”

Richard Scaglion, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA


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