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CONTESTED VIEWS OF A COMMON PAST: Revisions of History in Contemporary East Asia. Edited by Steffi Richter. Frankfurt (Germany), New York: Campus Verlag; Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press (distributor), 2009. 422 pp. (Tables, figures, B&W photos.) US$59.00, paper. ISBN 978-3-593-38548-8.
The phenomenon of nationalism in northeast Asia has received much attention in recent years, with the discussion generally focused on popular and official responses in China and Japan to the publication of Japanese textbooks and the presence of nationalism in areas such as spectator sports, manga (Japanese “comic books”) and popular culture. However, much of the work on nationalism in the region has consisted of superficial assessments of the phenomenon. Part of the problem is that the very term nationalism, which is, as many authors do point out, fraught with complexity, is nevertheless seldom well defined by those who seek to document it.
To that extent, Contested Views of a Common Past is a welcome addition to the literature. Focusing on the narrower concept of historical revisionism, this edited volume examines a range of texts to show how counter-narratives have recently surfaced to challenge dominant, and often official, views of the nation in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). By recognizing, comparing and critiquing a plethora of contesting national stories, the book delves deeper into the subject matter than many existing studies.
The book is well organized, beginning with chapters by Yonsan Ahn and Daqing Yang that lay the conceptual foundations for approaching revisionism, and is divided into four sections. The first and last sections seem to be “catch-all” parts of the book and, apart from the chapters by Yang and Tessa Morris-Suzuki, are less satisfying for it. The other three chapters focus on, variously, academic historiography, history textbooks and popular culture, and offer deep readings of a variety of texts—including movies, manga and television shows—that are used to show how concepts of the nation have changed over time, often challenging official narratives even in non-democratic polities such as the PRC.
Many readers interested in how national narratives are presented in official histories will enjoy the section on textbooks, and some of the chapters in that section reach surprising conclusions. In her comparison of history textbooks used in Korea and Japan, Lim Jye-Hyun shows that history can be a tool for educational elites looking to emphasize the place of national myths in both nations, rather than a means to help students unravel and interpret past events for themselves. However, there are problems with Lim’s case selection. In pointing out similarities between a mainstream textbook from an official Korean source with the privately authored New History Textbook (Atarashii rekishi kyōkasho), which, due to its controversial nature, has only been adopted by a fraction of Japanese schools, Lim tars official Korean history education with a brush belonging to some of the most strident nationalists in Japan. I doubt this is his intention.
While the New History Textbook is government approved, and an interpretation of many mainstream Japanese history textbooks would no doubt exhibit the officially sanctioned nationalist themes Lim identifies, his chapter highlights a problem with many of the works in this volume, namely, lack of context. Lim’s chapter is corrected to some extent by Claudia Sneider’s later chapter on the textbook authorship and official approval processes in China, Taiwan and Japan, but many of the authors approach their work by taking a narrow approach to the texts in question. Positivist analyses of contemporary and historical events related to nationalism are at best ignored in certain chapters as approaches that may help authors contextualize their work. In other chapters, however, there is a recognition that “it is vital to explain why certain works are chosen and how typical they are” (316). In this and other respects, therefore, the book is an uneven collection.
That said, there are some real gems in Contested Views of a Common Past. For example, Yamanaka Chie examines how manga have been adapted with original storylines in South Korea as manhwa, much to the disgust of some Korean commentators who despair at the Japanese influence on “their” national culture. Yamanaka, however, notes that manhwa fans do not necessarily associate the cultural products they consume with any particular national narrative, and indeed, often studiously avoid doing so. She therefore shows that the fiercest critics of “nationalist” content of popular culture are often those who are the least familiar with the works they condemn. Meanwhile, Morris-Suzuki’s chapter on Koreans trapped in the Soviet Union after being put to work for the Japanese Empire on Sakhalin provides an example of thinking about the consequences of war that allows the researcher and her readers to escape the bounds of historical narratives centred on the state. It is, like much of Morris-Suzuki’s work, a touching, yet critical and thought-provoking, piece of writing.
The inclusion of such chapters means that general readers will enjoy this book, but it will be of most interest to scholars examining nationalism and the production and reproduction of unofficial and official histories.
Bryce Wakefield, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Washington, DC, USA
China and Inner Asia
GAY AND LESBIAN SUBCULTURE IN URBAN CHINA. By Loretta Wing Wah Ho. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. xii, 180 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$125.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-55022-2.
The dominant model for understanding contemporary gay and lesbian identities has always been drawn from the theorization of Western queer cultures and communities. It is only recently that the Western (sometimes read “global”) notion of “gayness” has been questioned, criticized or even decentred, and this has occurred mainly along the lines of a critique of cultural imperialism and exemplified by the notion of “global queering.” Recent studies have drawn out the discrepancies between modern and traditional representations of non-Western, non-normative genders and sexualities, bringing forth the reconsideration of what is meant by “gay” or “lesbian” and re-examining appropriate gay and lesbian politics that are sensitive to local and global parameters.
Loretta Wing-wah Ho’s book is situated in this debate. The aim of the book is to examine the emergence of contemporary Chinese same-sex identities—gay, lesbian, lala, les, money boy, tongzhi, duan bei—under China’s opening up to globalization. Her analysis is based on Chinese and English scholarly literature, ethnographic studies of same-sex communities in Beijing and the Chinese same-sex cyberspace. Ho articulates four major trends in Chinese same-sex identities in urban China: an increasingly globalized gay culture; an ongoing construction of “indigenous” Chinese identity that counteracts globalized gay culture; a hybridized transnational Chinese identity; and the emergence of a gay space in Chinese cyberspace.
Conjoined with other scholars (e.g., Lisa Rofel, Tom Boellstorff, Martin Manalansan, Denis Altman, Chris Berry) in discussing globalization and identities in non-Western non-normative genders and sexualities, Ho asks the question: “How have Western notions of gay and lesbian identity been appropriated in non-Western societies as a result of increasing global interconnectedness?” (17). She rejects both the simple logics that Chinese same-sex identities are merely copycats of Western gay and lesbian identities and lifestyles, on the one hand, and that “indigenous” Chinese same-sex identities as being “authentic,” on the other. Rather, she argues succinctly that Chinese gay men and lesbians “selectively (re-)appropriate patterns of gayness through a Western model of modernity, whilst still continuing to defend an ‘authentic’ Chinese same-sex identity and sense of belonging” (21), leading to her overall paradoxical argument of Chinese same-sex identity: “open and decentred, yet at the same time, national and conforming to state control” (138).
Ho’s book is important and timely as it brings together (homo) sexuality and globalization in the Chinese context and offers a strong critique to the hegemonic (Western) notion of gayness. After the introductory chapter, Ho, in chapter 2, uses Ken Plummer’s symbolic interactionist notion of “storytelling” to bring out the different voices of the “coming out” stories of her interviewees, underlining how these stories are closely tied with the national and global imagining of China’s opening up. In chapter 3, she discusses quite lengthily her fieldwork, paying special attention to the problem of representation and legitimization. She is particularly sensitive to her own role as “a semi-outsider, a non-gay female, a researcher from Australia, a citizen of Hong Kong, a visiting scholar of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, and a non-Beijing resident in the field” (60) who has done research on gays and lesbians in urban China. Chapter 4 is a rather short chapter on the politics of same-sex articulations through the divergent meanings of “homosexual,” “gay” and “lesbian” in the Chinese context, using a linguistic analysis. In chapter 5, she turns into the increasingly commercialized and state-controlled Chinese gay cyberworld.
Building from the previous chapters, chapter 6 is the most important and interesting chapter, as Ho puts forward her main argument that the emergence of modern Chinese same-sex identities cannot merely be treated as “modern” (read Western) or “authentic” (read indigenous), but are constituted by a complicated interplay between local coming-to-terms gay and lesbian generations, China’s project of modernity, and global queering.
This is a rather short book, seemingly converted from Ho’s PhD thesis. As noted by the author, there are plenty of areas for further investigation. I enjoyed reading it very much but would like to read more. For example, I would like to read how the author might take queer theory on board to enrich her theoretical understanding of (decentering) identity. Her present theoretical model is mainly based on Stuart Hall’s notion of cultural identity and Ken Plummer/Richard Troiden’s notion of sexual identity formation. Secondly, I would like to hear more the different voices among the gay and lesbian communities, as the dominant voice presented here was that of highly educated, city-based, male professionals (mainly due to the sample of interviewees). Still, this does not distract from the book’s being a valuable empirical study of sexual minorities in China.
Travis S.K. Kong, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
CHINA FOREVER: The Shaw Brothers and Diasporic Cinema. Edited by Poshek Fu. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008. vii, 270 pp.(Tables, figures, maps, B&W photos.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-252-07500-1.
Whether it is walking into a DVD store in US Chinatowns, or turning on cable television in Taipei, the Shaw Brothers’ logo is still hard to miss even decades after the studio’s last film production. Starting in Shanghai in the 1920s, the later Hong Kong and Singapore-based Shaw Brothers Studio created an extensive business network, transforming itself from a local film industry to a transnational cinema once second in production only to Hollywood. Yet, unlike Hollywood, not much has been written on this cinematic empire. Poshek Fu’s edited China Forever: the Shaw Brothers and Diasporic Cinema comes to the shelves to fill in this long-standing gap.
As the first book-length critical study of the Shaw empire in English, China Forever brings together 11 critics, actresses and scholars from film to history, area studies to cultural studies, cultural geography to theatre. With their joint effort, the volume touches on a wide range of issues such as cultural, media, and even personal histories the studio engaged with, its formation of diasporic networks, global businesses it propelled, its role in the invention of pan-Chinese imaginations, and its modernizing, globalizing as well as localizing endeavours.
Mirroring the diversity of the Shaw Brothers’ productions, the volume looks at a number of genres. Wong Ain-ling focuses on black-and-white wenyi films made in the 1950s and 1960s, tracing a genealogy from Shanghai melodramas in the 1930s to the cross-pollinating of various later-rising genres (such as the wu xia film), a genealogy which Wong argues helps mold the contours of Hong Kong cinema until this day. Sui Leung Li discusses the musical in conjuncture with the historical epic. In so doing, he highlights a complex interplay between imaginations of the cosmopolitan, the local and the national which the studio, like Hong Kong itself, negotiated with as it ventured to find a place on a global stage.
Tracking the Shaw Brothers’ transnational endeavours, China Forever also touches on a range of locales. Law Kar looks at the studio’s Cantonese films in the 1950s, discussing how it produced a local image of Hong Kong for a rising lower middle class. Sai-shing Yung delineates a history of the Shaw Brothers’ involvement in the Malayan-Singaporean entertainment industry, looking specifically at a network of amusement parks and movie houses through which the studio made its mark on the Southeast Asian market.
A good number of chapters are also devoted to comparative work on the Shaw Brothers’ cross-regional, cross-genre, cross-language and multiethnic reach. Ramona Curry discusses the studio’s arduous attempt to push its pan-Chinese blockbuster Love Eterne onto a mainstream US stage. On the other hand, Sundiata Keita Cha-jua looks at the genre of kung-fu films, which has had the most success in crossing the Pacific. Pairing the genre with discussions of US blaxploitation films in the 1970s, Cha-jua shows how they provide an alternative imagination of masculinity that diverges from, and even combats, white supremacy at a militant time in US history. Fanon Che Wilkins further traces this cross-fertilization between Shaw Brothers’ kung fu fantasies and US blaxploitation films in the construction of African-American hip-hop imaginations.
Actress Cheng Pei-pei endearingly closes the volume with a personal testament of the Shaw studio’s influence over the lives of a whole generation. The Shaw studio, she reminiscences, “was the paradise of each and every young person who found themselves there … it was at that studio that each of us lived out our dreams” (246). As a dream factory of its time, the now dreamlike past of the Shaw studios has been beckoned back into being by China Forever. The volume serves as itself a “glocalizing” debut for Shaw Brothers studies in the English-speaking world, demonstrating the richness of the underrepresented subject matter, and showcasing many promising venues for further exploration.
Emphasizing the studio’s ventures and reception in diasporic communities, and even the mainstream US market, its relationship with Mainland China remains under-investigated in the volume. How might have the studio’s “Chinese Dream” formed a dialogue with the social-historical “realities” of Mainland China of the time, or even caused ripples in cultural imaginations in a Post-Mao era, especially after Celestial Pictures’ recent re-releases in DVD form? The fascinating evolution of the Shaw legacy in new forms of media such as transnational DVD sales, cable television, cult film festivals and YouTube, in an age inundated with streaming and online downloading sites, seems to be also worthy of investigation.
Nevertheless, China Forever reopens the gates to the Shaw Brothers’ legend, evoking critical attention to this under-recognized milestone in sinophone cinema, beckoning us to venture further for more.
SOCIAL CLASS IN CONTEMPORARY JAPAN: Structures, Sorting and Strategies. Edited by Hiroshi Ishida and David H. Slater. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. xviii, 243 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$150.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-47475-7.
Drastic socioeconomic changes following from the ongoing recession have brought about a shift in self-view and academic discourse: Japan, seen as a homogeneous middle-class society for some thirty years, has in recent years been labeled a gap society (kakusa shakai), in which social inequalities along the lines of income, occupation, gender and race are becoming visible. This volume tackles the paradigm shift by analyzing contemporary Japanese society from the point of view of social class.
A broad definition of class is applied which transcends the traditional concept restricted to economic aspects and allows the linkage of class with social, cultural and political phenomena. In the introductory chapter, the editors Hiroshi Ishida and David H. Slater present their frame of reference, firmly based in theory, which makes possible an analysis of class dynamics that gives a general overview of processes of social stratification in contemporary Japan.
Based on this theoretical groundwork, the different authors map out class structures (part 1); analyze how these structures are reproduced by class selection (part 2); discuss class socialization and lifestyles (part 3); as well as addressing behavioral strategies in different social classes (part 4). The clear structure of the four subdivisions of the book helps underscore the overall argument. As the volume includes articles based on quantitative as well as qualitative methods, the reader can get an understanding of both macro-sociological processes and individual narratives.
To analyze aspects of class structure (part 1), Hiroshi Ishida investigates social mobility by looking at the relationship of socioeconomic resources and class location. The author concludes that in Japan, as in other advanced industrial countries, there is a strong propensity to class inheritance. Sawako Shirahase comes to a similar conclusion in her analysis of marriage patterns: both getting married as well as remaining single are connected to class origin and assist in reproducing class structure.
Considering processes of sorting and class closure (part 2), Takehiko Kariya and Mary C. Brinton analyze how changes in education policy and the economic situation have altered the hitherto strong link between school and the labour market. Both articles show how individuals are sorted into different classes through the transition from school to work.
Thematically closely linked to the previous section, the two articles in part 3 investigate socialization mechanisms through which class-based skills, attitudes and interests are formed and solidified. David H. Slater examines the role of formal education in middle and high school for class socialization within what he calls the “new working class,” whereas Amy Borovoy focuses on the influence of changes in company training systems on the relative importance of skills acquired in different types of higher education.
The last part of the book, on “class strategies,” illuminates how patterns of behaviour can be traced back to class-based resources and attitudes. Aya Ezawa gives an account of gender ideals of single mothers and shows how their idea of being a “good mother” is closely connected to their initial class location. In her study on Peruvian migrants to Japan, Ayumi Takenaka turns to the intersection of ethnicity and finds that coming from a different class background back in Peru, migrants of Japanese and non-Japanese ancestry show different strategies of adaptation and status achievement when coming to Japan.
With its structured analysis of processes of class formation and reproduction based on recent original research by the authors, this book fills a gap in the current discourse on social stratification in contemporary Japan. In bringing together different areas and topics of class analysis, the book paints a broad and lively picture of Japanese society. At the same time, it points to areas in which further research is still needed, i.e., a more detailed investigation of aspects of the role of the state in creating new groups at the margins of society—one of which is discussed as the “new working class” by Slater.
This volume is a must-read for any scholar of contemporary Japan. It is highly recommendable as a class reader in seminars on Japanese society. The introductory chapter not only gives a comprehensive account of how the analysis of social structure in Japan has shifted in focus; it is also an excellent illustration of how to place an analysis within a clearly defined theoretical frame. The single articles are well-structured and profound in content as well as research method. This not only makes them an informative read but also good examples of academic analysis valuable to students (and researchers) in the fields of social sciences and ethnography.
THE CULTURE OF COPYING IN JAPAN: Critical and Historical Perspectives. Edited by Rupert Cox. London and New York: Routledge, 2008. xii, 275 pp. (Tables, figures, B&W photos.) US$150.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-30752-9.
The Culture of Copying in Japan: Critical and Historical Perspectives is a useful scholarly endeavour in a field of research that has not received as much attention in Japan Studies as comparable work in European or American studies. The book follows earlier publications on this topic, notably John Singleton’s edited Learning in Likely Places: Varieties of Apprenticeship in Japan (1998) and Brenda G. Jordan and Victoria Weston’s edited Copying the Master and Stealing His Secrets: Talent and Training in Japanese Painting (2003). The Culture of Copying in Japan builds on this and other research, contributing not only new material, but an approach that specifically addresses negative Western perceptions about Japanese ways of copying.
This collection of papers is based on a Japan Anthropology Workshop Series and provides historical context on Japan’s practices of copying, challenging the notion of a “devious Japan that mimics and exploits the best that others have invented” (preface). As the editor Rupert Cox writes, one question that the essays address “is why the West has had such a fascination for the adeptness with which the Japanese apparently assimilate all things foreign and a fear of their skill at artificially remaking and automating the world around them” (4). The chapters in the volume use case studies that deal with concrete examples of copying, examples that give us both the details and nuances to the practice of copying in Japan over a span of centuries. In doing so, the authors of these chapters argue for an examination of the concept of copying itself.
The introduction to the book provides a summary of “various assumptions and historical conditions behind the Western idea of Japanese copying.” This gives the reader perspective on the following chapters, which counter with what Japanese may understand by the practice of copying, how that practice operates in various situations and historical contexts, and expanding the range of meanings of “to copy” in Japan. In doing so, the authors also challenge the basic assumptions about copying in the West.
Part 1, “Original encounters,” is a group of essays that question the importance of the original and what is meant by an original. Irit Averbuch discusses “Body-to-body transmission: the copying tradition of Kagura.” Jane Marie Law follows with “A spectrum of copies: ritual puppetry in Japan” and Keiko Clarence-Smith completes this section with “Copying in Japanese magazines: unashamed copiers.” One theme that emerges between and within essays is the necessity of not only identifying an “original” but also confronting the ideas about originality in Japan.
Thus, in part 2, “Arts of citation,” the authors discuss originality and creativity of the copy, identifying processes and particular persons involved in those processes. They demonstrate that creativity in copying is the result of the individual character of practitioners as well as the kinds of materials and techniques employed. We learn about “The originality of the ‘copy’: mimesis and subversion in Hanegawa Töei’s Chösenjin Ukie” from Ronald P. Toby. Alexandra Curvelo follows with “Copy to convert: Jesuits’ missionary practice in Japan.” Morgan Pitelka takes us “Back to the fundamentals: ‘reproducing’ Rikyü and Chöjirö in Japanese tea culture.” Rein Raud follows with “An investigation of the conditions of literary borrowings in late Heian and early Kamakura Japan” and John T. Carpenter provides the final chapter in this series of essays with “Chinese calligraphic models in Heian Japan: copying practices and stylistic transmission.”
The chapters in part 3, “Modern exchanges,” argue that we can understand what might count as a copy better by knowing more for whom it is produced and for what purpose. Within the modern context of international exhibitions, manufacturing, cultural preservation and marketing, ideas about the “original,” “tradition” and the reproductive process may all be redefined. William H. Coaldrake begins the section with “Beyond mimesis: Japanese architectural models at the Vienna Exhibition and 1910 Japan British Exhibition.” “Copying Kyoto: the legitimacy of imitation in Kyoto’s townscape debate” by Christoph Brumann is the next chapter, followed by Christopher Madeley’s “Copying cars: forgotten licensing agreements.” Rupert Cox, who provided the detailed framework in the introduction, completes this section with “Hungry visions: the material life of Japanese food samples.”
I have written elsewhere that compilations such as this are increasingly difficult to publish with academic presses yet they continue to serve useful purposes for those of us in Japan studies as well as other fields. A book such as this presents a wide range of scholarship and topics under a thematic umbrella, enabling readers to expand their knowledge and understanding of Japan and Japan’s place in the world by sampling, as it were, the scholarship of numerous specialists. One of the most appropriate things one can say to a Japanese teacher is “I learned a lot,” after a class or lecture. Indeed, I did learn a great deal from this book.
POP GOES KOREA: Behind the Revolution in Movies, Music, and Internet Culture. By Mark James Russell. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2008. xvi, 224 pp. (B&W and coloured photos.) US$19.50, paper. ISBN 978-1-
Korea’s popular culture was virtually unknown outside Korea until the late 1990s and was exclusively created for and consumed by local audiences. However, as Korea’s popular cultural products, including movies, TV dramas, music, comic books, fashion, and online gaming, found popularity throughout Asia over the last decade, the local pop culture industry began to expand its scale and scope and changed its infrastructure for this extremely competitive international market. In this book Russell offers stories of some of the key players in the industry from the late 1990s and early 2000s. As he acknowledges, there can be “hundreds of stories involved in explaining the changes, challenges, and achievements that comprised that success” (xiii), but he has selected seven key players whom he believes to be the most emblematic forces behind the success of Korea’s modern pop culture.
He starts with the big question: “How did Korea’s entertainment industry grow so successfully at the end of the twentieth century?” (xiii). Russell lists seven answers “with the intent to encompass the breadth of Korean pop culture and be symbolic of the changes the industry went through as a whole” (xiv). Yet while TV drama and pop music have dominated in the international success of Korea’s pop culture, Russell emphasizes films, devoting three chapters to them.
The first chapter addresses the multimedia conglomerate CJ Entertainment. While readers may find the coverage of the two young founders’ family background (Samsung family) and their passion for movies from early childhood to be excessively detailed, descriptions of the company’s financial challenges during the 1997 economic crisis and growing competition from the other emerging companies are important contributions.
The second chapter focuses on director Kang Je-Gyu and his hit movies Shiri (1999) and Taegukgi (2004), exemplifying Korea’s move towards the Hollywood model: big blockbusters one after another with huge budgets. Russell’s brief note on remarkable changes in the film portrayal of North Koreans during the Kim Dae-Jung administration (1998-2003) is on target, although this widely recognized change did not just simply happen as he claims: “(T)he timing was pretty much perfect” (51). Such a shift requires a more thorough explanation of the political environment and important earlier developments that led to sympathetic portrayals of North Koreans in South Korean films.
The third chapter offers a history of PIFF (Pusan International Film Festival) and its startling success since it was first staged in 1996, with ample details but little interpretive reflection.
The fourth chapter turns to TV dramas, but is devoted almost entirely to actor Lee Byung-Hun. While Lee has taken leading roles in a few hit TV dramas, it is difficult to see a strong connection between him and the TV drama industry, since there are many more important TV dramas and influential actors/actresses, including Bae Yong-Joon (from Winter Sonata) and Lee Young-Ae (from Dae Jang Geum). Russell does not completely dismiss these two examples, but his brief summaries of their plots seem like momentary asides as he continues to praise (his perhaps favourite?) actor Lee Byung-Hun.
Likewise, the fifth chapter, turning to pop music, is narrowly focused on the founder of SM Entertainment, Lee Soo-Man, praising his great achievements as one of the most successful music moguls in Korea. Indeed, his SM Entertainment has produced many pop stars, including the boy band H.O.T. and the female star BoA, but it is just a clever copy of the Japanese idol (idoru) music business system, Johnny’s Entertainment in particular.
The sixth chapter traces the creation of the first Korean peer-to-peer file-sharing program, Soribada (similar to Napster). Reflecting on the music industry overall, Russell critically foregrounds the lack of genre diversity and the absence of a back-catalogue market as the industry’s main problems.
The seventh chapter, on the manhwa (comic book) industry, covers its unique, small-scale operation system, which has allowed Korean writers and artists to control their copyrights and keep the industry from being eaten by the giant multimedia conglomerates. His comparison of the Korean and Japanese industries here is highly insightful.
The most interesting part of this book for cultural scholars is the conclusion, where Russell turns to the international dimension, boldly stating that “there never was a Korean Wave” (215) and pointing out its negative connotations. He argues, “the trouble with talking about a ‘Korean Wave’ is that it does not really explain anything… Can we really say here is anything specifically ‘Korean’ [in Korea’s pop culture]?” (212). While his argument is provocative and partially convincing, it is structurally odd that he suddenly brings up Korean Wave issues only in his conclusion. Moreover, it conflicts with some of his earlier arguments (e.g., about the Korean-ness of Korea’s online manhwa).
Despite some weaknesses, Russell’s book certainly deserves credit for providing new and detailed insights into Korea’s pop culture industry. It is especially useful for readers unfamiliar with Korean pop culture; the many sidebars as well as the main text are informative and accurate. Given that Russell refers to this book as a first installment, we can expect to see more stories of Korean pop culture, revealing other dimensions through his insightful analysis.
Eun-Young Jung, University of California, San Diego, USA
THE VITAL DROP: Communication for Polio Eradication in India. By Gitanjali Chaturvedi. New Delhi: Sage Publications India, 2008. xviii, 319 pp. (Figures, tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-81-7829- 866-5.
In recent years the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has created one of the most comprehensive health communication campaigns in India’s history. As India is one of the last four countries with endemic polio (the others are Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria), the goal of increasing public demand for polio immunization has garnered substantial investment. Drawing on interviews and the personal observations of the clearly knowledgeable and committed author, The Vital Drop describes in detail the methods and trajectory of this historic social mobilization project.
The book includes a brief history of polio eradication globally and in India (chapters 1 and 2), detailed information on the communication strategy in India, with a focus on the endemic states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (chapters 3 through 5), additional information on strategies in Bihar and other areas of the country (chapters 6 and 7), and a discussion of data collected by the communication project (chapter 8). The strength of the book lies in the three core chapters (chapters 3 through 5), which describe in detail the multi-pronged approach used in India’s polio communication strategy. The descriptions of an intensive media campaign featuring the actor Amitabh Bachhan, of the organization of a network of door-to-door health educators, and of outreach to Muslim communities are useful and comprehensive. These three chapters would form an interesting case study in a course on health communication, and could be used as a resource for people designing health communication programmes in India and elsewhere. The availability of this information to people outside the Polio Eradication Initiative is an important contribution of this book.
However, the book has some weaknesses. Statements are made that are inaccurate: for example, on the first page, the author claims that “through polio eradication, we are reducing one of the few contributing factors of physical disability,” disregarding the effects not only of other enteroviruses but of accidents, aging and war. Some of the information on technical issues could have been presented more carefully; for example, the author incorrectly claims that use of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) cannot create herd immunity (10).
Throughout, the author takes claims made by her interviewees working in polio eradication at face value, citing them as fact without critical reflection. The book tends to toe the party line in terms of how UNICEF, and the Polio Eradication Initiative more generally, would like to portray the project. For example, with little evidence other than the statements of her interviewees, the author claims that so-called “vertical” programmes are always better managed than more broad-based primary health-care projects, and that vertical programmes “tend to be both egalitarian and democratic” (31). Whether this is in fact the case is arguable, and more evidence to support such claims would have been welcomed.
Also, the book describes recipient populations in ways that at times are problematic. The state of Bihar, for example, is described as “a cauldron of complex yet classical social, political and economic backwardness” (183). There is a related troubling tendency throughout the book to attribute irrationality to people who refuse to vaccinate their children. Chaturvedi states, for example, that “most people relied on hearsay and the opinion of local (often religious) leaders rather than on logic or reason” (96), and that rumours about vaccine efficacy “emanated from ignorance, illiteracy, and a fatalistic outlook towards life” (218). Throughout the book, Chaturvedi lays out very nicely the ways in which populations with low vaccination rates for polio are also marginalized from the health system and the society at large, and illustrates this point very well, with striking interview quotes. It would have been helpful to tie these factors more explicitly to reasons these communities might have for refusing vaccination.
This book is a good example of the utility of mixed methods; Chaturvedi draws on a great deal of interesting data, including a number of interviews, participant observation, and internal documents and research. As an anthropologist, I would have liked a clearer elucidation of the methods used, but a great deal of information of many types was collected and is presented. In particular, the interview quotes, presented both in epigraphs and in the text, are lively and interesting. Throughout the book, descriptions of communication programmes are paired with the results of research on the effectiveness of those programmes, which is a major strength of the work.
Despite some weaknesses, this book offers a useful description of an extensive, multi-pronged and quite successful communications strategy. As such, it will be helpful as a reference and source of ideas for those planning other health communication programmes, both in India and elsewhere.
COMMUNIST INDOCHINA. By R.B. Smith; edited by Beryl Williams. London and New York: Routledge, 2008. xii, 222 pp. US$160.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-46804-6.
I remember reading Ralph Smith’s Vietnam and the West (Heinemann, 1968) as a graduate student, being particularly impressed by his willingness to take us into his confidence, to make us part of his intellectual quest. As an Englishman, Smith thankfully avoided putting either French or American actors at the centre of the Vietnamese stage, a failing of perhaps 90 percent of all other Western publications. Smith produced a lot more of value in subsequent decades, but his sudden death in 2000, at age 61, meant that a number of studies remained little known or unpublished. Beryl Williams took up the responsibility of editing two compilations, the first titled Pre-Communist Indochina (Routledge, 2009), and the volume reviewed here.
Communist Indochina contains seven articles published by Smith in five different journals, and two conference papers. Chronologically speaking, we begin with the foundation of the Indochinese Communist Party in 1929-1930, and end with Vietnam undergoing rapid economic change in the 1990s. Along the way we are treated to two essays on Cambodia as well. The four works that Smith published in the 1970s and 1980s stand up well in general argument, yet suffer from the fact that since then abundant new archival evidence, document compilations, and memoirs have become available. During the 1990s, Smith did make effective use of the French colonial archives at Aix, but had yet to tackle the Vietnam National Archives (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City) or the advent of increasingly useful Vietnamese-language publications. Whereas previously students of Vietnam’s contemporary history needed to rely on translations in the BBC’s Summary of World Broadcasts (or FBIS), during the past two decades back issues of periodicals in Vietnamese have become readily available.
Three essays in this compilation focus on events during 1945, the most important year in the modern history of Vietnam. Smith explains the significance of the 9 March Japanese coup, which eliminated French administration, explores the first five months of Democratic Republic of Vietnam operations, and makes some interesting comparisons with events in Indonesia. Smith had a special knack for putting local developments into regional and international contexts.
My favourite essay in this book is the last one, titled “Vietnam from the 1890s to the 1990s: continuity and change in the longer perspective,” wherein Smith takes up issues of political culture, colonial economic transformations, and Vietnam’s opportunities and failures from the early 1970s onward. Smith posits three key moments of social and political discontinuity: 1916; 1945; and 1954-55. Writing in 1996, he suggests that 1989-91 may prove to be a fourth moment of discontinuity, which today we can affirm with confidence. Smith calls for a “more comprehensive attempt to analyse the structure of power in Vietnamese society […] before attempting to define its fundamental character in terms which are too simple to do justice to the reality” (203). And he wonders if the “revolution” had only a “superficial impact on the deeper ways of thinking of the vast majority of rural Vietnamese” (213). Here much depends on how broadly one interprets the word revolution. Vietnamese farmers of the 1890s would not recognize much of what today’s farmers are talking about, and vice versa.
It is a pity that Beryl Williams did not incorporate to this volume a list of all of Ralph Smith’s publications, to assist scholars in locating additional items of interest. I would place Smith among the top dozen or so Western historians of Vietnam in the twentieth century, with a clarity of prose and facility for lateral thinking that should attract readers for generations to come.
Australasia and the Pacific Region
FEAR OF SECURITY: Australia’s Invasion Anxiety. By Anthony Burke. New York; Port Melbourne (Australia): Cambridge University Press, 2008. xiii, 289 pp. US$29.99, paper. ISBN 978-0-521-71427-3.
This book is an updated version of work previously published by Burke in 2001 under the same title. It traces the history of Australian conceptions of security from 1788 to the present and argues that themes of white racial supremacy and fear of non-whites have impacted on Australia’s attitudes and security policies towards Asia. Burke uses broad and sweeping yet accurate historical case studies to emphasize his central claim that Australian security policy is affected by Australian society’s long-held fear of foreign “others” (non-British/non-European peoples) and the possibility of losing “their” country as a result of invasion (and migration) by such foreigners. Furthermore, Burke claims this widely held invasion anxiety has been leveraged by Australian political figures over time to generate levels of fear that are disproportionate to actual threats (sometimes for political gain) to the detriment of security policy.
A major aim of the book is to show that concepts of “security” and “Australianness” are artificial constructs and that these organizing principles have provided powerful symbols which have been used by respective Australian governments for their own purposes; the result being a poor understanding of the security environment and the implementation of sub-optimal security policy. The author clearly reviles this situation and encourages readers to break away from what he sees as an “inherited” and flawed approach to security, toward actively “making” a more “ethical” and “inclusive” approach to Australian security policy (235).
Despite adding new material Burke’s over-arching approach and thesis remains largely unchanged since 2001. The critical security studies analysis labours on a relatively long-winded historical narrative to argue that security and foreign policy in Australia continues to be based on racist and exclusivist notions of security, “bounded by a power which seeks to enforce sameness, repress diversity, and diminish the rights (and claims to being) of those who live outside its [Australia’s] protective embrace” (20). The new material emphasizes the continuity between the more recent Howard era of Australian government with the past, claiming that under Howard there was a deliberate fostering of perceived insecurities including “the loss of home” and “the loss of an (imaginary) homogeneity” in a period of “increasingly visible diversity of Australian society and the enhanced power of Asian” countries (169-206).
Fear of Security provides an interesting alternative assessment of Australian security policy from a cosmopolitan and moral philosophical perspective. However, the book left this reader with the impression that the author drew an extremely long bow to make his argument. Concluding that successive Australian governments’ racism has tended to justify security policy making by defining security in a way that justifies “massive insecurity and obliteration of others” is a polarized and unbalanced view that essentially misrepresents and downplays the full variety of other different and more influential factors influencing security policy. It also tends to overly conflate domestic issues involving migration and racial policy with security and foreign policy behaviour by effectively claiming racism as a major causal factor of security policy decision making.
The validity of Burke’s strong perspective on security policy would likely benefit from some testing via the greater use of extant, more specific, detailed and rigorous approaches to security-policy decision making at the elite and individual decision-maker levels (i.e., drawing psychological research and ethnographic methods to examine the relationship between race and policy).
Despite these shortcomings Burke’s historical approach is useful in highlighting the ways in which some specific xenophobic fears have contributed to Australian government policies. This background is of contemporary importance given recent increases in the number of physical assaults on Asians in Australia, the impact of these assaults on how Australia is perceived by other countries in the Asian region, and the implications of such perceptions for foreign relations. I recommend the book to readers interested in international relations and global politics, and especially those interested in critical security-studies approaches to Australian security and foreign-policy decision making.
Scott Flower, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
REMAKING THE TASMAN WORLD. By Philippa Mein Smith, Peter Hempenstall and Shaun Goldfinch. Christchurch, New Zealand: University of Canterbury Press, 2008. 296 pp. (Tables, figures, B&W and coloured photos.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-877257-62-9.
In 2001, one hundred years after Australian federation, James Belich published a general history of twentieth-century New Zealand in which he argued that the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia led to the death of the “Tasman World.” Prior to 1901, according to Belich, New Zealand and the states that came to be known collectively as Australia enjoyed an extensive economic, political, social and cultural relationship. But when Australia federated New Zealand turned its attention to the motherland, and entered into a “recolonial” relationship with Britain (James Belich, Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders From the 1880s to the Year 2000, Allan Lane/Penguin, Auckland, 2001). Remaking the Tasman World says very little about New Zealand’s ties with Britain, but Philippa Mein Smith, Peter Hempenstall and Shaun Goldfinch, along with contributors Rosemary Baird and Stuart McMillan, take issue with Belich’s declaration that the Tasman World died when Australia federated. Through ten chapters, covering everything from business worlds, defence, demography, economic relationships, education, government policy, religion, and sporting ties, they argue that the Tasman World not only survived Australian federation but, in the current era of globalization, is becoming ever more significant.
The central premise of Remaking the Tasman World is sound. As the authors illustrate, in almost any field you care to name numerous examples can be found throughout the twentieth century to show that strong ties between Australia and New Zealand flourished in the years after federation. There were always differences—the first substantive chapter uses cartoons to highlight stereotypes and rivalries—but every family has the odd feud. Rather than focus on national stories, as so many history books in both Australia and New Zealand do, here the shared regional trumps the distinctive local, as the Tasman cousins live, work and play together.
All of which begs the question: If there was a Tasman World prefederation, and it continued to exist post-federation, what needs to be remade? A good case could be made for an historiographical essay on the separate, nationalist writing of New Zealand and Australian history, and why a regional approach might disrupt the exceptionalist storytelling on both sides of the Tasman. Rather than remaking the Tasman World, we might need to create a regional historiography. But that is not the focus of Remaking the Tasman World. Historical facts, rather than historiography, are to the fore in this book. The authors are more intent on proving the ongoing existence of the Tasman World than they are with telling us why its existence matters. Which raises a further question: Will readers on either side of the Tasman care? Those taken by the transnational moment already look beyond national boundaries when they want to understand the past; such authors are unlikely to want to restrict their gaze to regional relationships when the whole world is there to be explored. And those who prefer to work within a national paradigm are unlikely to reconsider their approach just because there was once an Australasian Olympic team. As the (New Zealand-based) authors note, their Tasman World approach “is deliberately New Zealand-focused. New Zealand needs Australia; Australia does not need New Zealand and has not done so since 1901” (19). But New Zealand history needs more than Australia and it is debatable whether this book will encourage any Australian historians to decide that they need to know more about New Zealand.
In their conclusion Hempenstall and Mein Smith note that one of their goals in writing Remaking the Tasman World was to recover “a hidden history” of trans-Tasman relations (206). In this they have succeeded. But they failed “to get beyond the trans-Tasman to the global” (206). To the extent that this is a transnational history it is a regional history. As one of very few works that take trans-Tasman relationships seriously, it is full of promise. New Zealand and Australian historians should not ignore one another’s history. But the rationale for taking a regional approach, either in and of itself, or as part of a wider transnational approach, needs to be more compelling than a recovery exercise if historians on either side of the Tasman are to be convinced that the Tasman World is a useful category for historical analysis.