Book Reviews – Vol 84, No 1

March 2011

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

DECENTRALIZATION POLICIES IN ASIAN DEVELOPMENT. Editors: Shinichi Ichimura, Roy Bahl. Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific, 2009. xxv, 414 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$111.00, cloth. ISBN 978-981-281-863-8.

This timely volume, originating from a major conference in Kitakyushu in 2003, is a comprehensive addition to the rapidly growing literature on decentralization. Some but not all of the papers have been updated since then. The keynote address to the conference, by Roy Bahl, reflects his stature as one of the leading authorities on the subject. He points to the principal motivation for decentralization, “the welfare gain that comes from moving governance closer to the people”(2). These gains arise from the possibility of greater government accountability and increased revenue mobilization. But equally, there is a range of potential or actual costs, including some loss of macroeconomic control, infrastructure challenges, possibly increased regional inequality, and administrative duplication. Bahl comprehensively surveys the challenges in making decentralization work effectively: dealing with sub-national taxes, structuring inter-governmental transfers, imposing hard budget constraints, and ensuring comprehensive reform.

There are nine case study chapters on Asian decentralization, comprising Japan (two chapters), China, India, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. These provide a rich set of studies, asking similar sets of questions in very different country contexts. For example, the Indian chapter, by Govindra Rao, stresses the importance of reforming that country’s federal fiscal system. He points to severe vertical and horizontal imbalances and the need to reform institutional mechanisms, while nevertheless concluding that “the system of inter-governmental arrangements in India has served [the country] well for over 50 years”(138).

Reform in the Philippines has met with mixed results, as ably examined by Benjamin Diokno. While noting the considerable achievements, the new grant system has actually increased local government dependence on the centre, in the sense that grants have “been substitutive rather than stimulative of own source revenues”(181). The grants have also complicated the task of macroeconomic management, especially in the context of slower economic growth and a large debt burden.

Vietnam is a welcome addition to the volume. Nguyen Khac Hung points to the transition challenges from plan to market and central to local governments, all in the context of very rapid growth. The conclusion is that “there has been much confusion about the ‘right’ direction for decentralization”(235). Unresolved issues include how many levels of government there should be, and the relationship between the party and the state.

Wolfgang Fengler and Bert Hofman provide a balanced evaluation of Indonesia’s “big bang” decentralization of 2001, which has resulted in provinces and districts now controlling about 36 percent of total expenditures and about half of investment in the public sector. They neatly divide their paper into five achievements and five challenges. The former include the survival of the nation state, increased local satisfaction with service provision, continuing fiscal consolidation, recovering development spending, and some attention to poor regions. Among the challenges are the quality of public expenditures, the high level of dependence on the centre, the uncertain investment climate, the centre’s reluctance to relinquish resources and the quality of local governance.

The four local public finance chapters are similarly interesting and varied, with case studies of Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines. The most comprehensive of these is Rosario Manasan’s paper on the latter country. She notes that the country’s tax assignment arrangements are consistent with the conventional wisdom. However, a major challenge is that the system works poorly with regard to local government autonomy. This arises because the central government has been reluctant to relinquish the necessary powers to local governments, particularly the freedom to set rates. She also concludes that the evidence on the effects on horizontal equality, that is, across regions, is mixed.

The Malaysia case study is of interest principally because it is the only federal state in developing East Asia, but the country has displayed the opposite trend with regard to local government authority. At the time of independence in 1957, the states retained considerable power, and the influence of the centre was further diminished with the inclusion of the two East Malaysia states in 1963. Since then, there has been a steady trend towards greater centralization, particularly under the long tenure of Prime Minister Mahathir. The authors, Azmi Setapa and Elayne Yee Siew Lin, examine the record of local governments, concluding on the basis of four case studies that their financial position is healthy, but that they face revenue constraints which result in a “lack of flexibility and dynamism” in their expenditures (329). They see some scope for the development of a local government bond market.

As these snippets from the chapters make clear, this is a most useful volume for academics and practitioners working in the field of public finance. Inevitably, as with all edited volumes, the quality of contributions is somewhat uneven, and some of the chapters are a little dated. But it will be an extremely important reference collection for many years to come.

Hal Hill, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


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NEW DIMENSIONS OF ECONOMIC GLOBALIZATION: Surge of Outward Foreign Direct Investment from Asia. Editors: Ramkishen Rajan, Rajiv Kumar, Nicola Virgill. London and Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2008. viii, 328 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$62.00, cloth. ISBN 978-981-279-310-2.

Outward Foreign Direct Investment (OFDI) from emerging countries and its correct interpretation and theoretical explanation are among the most important topics in today’s global economy. This book consists of ten chapters on Asian OFDI. Three chapters examine FDI trends from Asia, three are on the “Asian Giants” (Japan, China and India) and four are on OFDI from East and South-East Asia (Hong Kong and Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The chapters take different perspectives: the three general chapters examine FDI as do those on Japan (a much earlier outward investor chronologically), Hong Kong and Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia, but the pieces on India and on Singapore and Thailand talk about emerging multinational companies (MNCs). It would have been useful somewhere in the book to contrast data and theories on FDI and MNCs as these are emphatically not the same thing. Concentrating only on FDI and ownership links means missing out on all the non-equity network structures in which Asian MNCs excel. Indeed one of the distinguishing features of Asian MNCs is their business group or networked structures.

OFDI from Asia is an important research topic but is severely constrained by data limitations—hence the varying focus on FDI/MNCs. Recording is poor in many source countries, notably India. Asian OFDI is also bedevilled by “round tripping”: the country of source of the OFDI is not the same as the country of ultimate ownership. However research on South-South OFDI proceeds apace following UNCTAD’s seminal 2006 World Investment report. This book enriches this agenda but is subject to theoretical confusion. At various times theories of the MNC, internalization, ownership/location/internalization (OLI), flying geese models, politically driven approaches, trade theory, risk, macroeconomic and network theories are all invoked. This theoretical smorgasbord is also reflected in the analyses of motives for OFDI which are adduced to include push factors, national champion strategy, the “Greater China Effect” and traditional motives (market, efficiency, resource and asset-seeking). This is exciting but awkward, as it reflects no adherence to any particular theoretical perspective and therefore no synoptic view.

It would have been good to have a conclusion in which the editors drew on the rich material in the chapters to summarize what we know and to suggest a research agenda. We are left with the view that Asian OFDI is diverse and exciting but some key analytical drivers could have given this rewarding book far more impact.

Peter J. Buckley, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom


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China and Inner Asia

RED LIGHTS: The Lives of Sex Workers in Postsocialist China. By Tiantian Zheng. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2009. 293 pp. US$22.50, paper. ISBN 978-0-8166-5903-6.

This is a fascinating ethnographic study of the politics of sex as practiced in the myriad karaoke bars of the northern Chinese port city of Dalian. The author, a native of the city, spent two years working with the hostesses in three different karaoke establishments, of “high, middle, and low class” (28) and spoke to about 200 such sex workers in the process of her field work, as well as many clients, owners and other staff of the bars. Zheng embarked on her research expecting to study migrant workers, and in the process of cultivating her connections with local officials in the hope of finding a field site, realized that most of the hostesses in the karaoke lounges were migrants, although they generally tried to conceal this fact. Despite many warnings that she was embarking on a dangerous topic and initial hostility from the hostesses themselves, Zheng ended up becoming embedded in her field work locations, including sometimes entertaining clients herself and living on site.

There are two main parts to the book: the first focuses on the male clients and how their sexuality has been shaped by Dalian’s history. Zheng’s account describes the historical evolution of prostitution in Dalian and the “emasculation” of Chinese men there in both the colonial period and the post-revolutionary era. In the first half of the twentieth century Dalian was first under Russian and then Japanese control. This colonial link saved the city from the devastation of the Japanese occupation, yet made its inhabitants politically suspect in the eyes of the communist rulers. Zheng argues that seeking sexual dominance through controlling the bodies of hostesses represents a response of Dalian men to this experience. Yet she also views this search for masculinity as an embrace of global modernity and a key aspect of building trust among men for business ventures. Ironically, this drama of masculinity is played out in a cultural context that is an import from Japan: the karaoke bar.

The second part of the book focuses on the hostesses, exploring their working conditions, their performances in the bars, how they resist discriminatory attitudes due to their rural origins through consumption and bodily practices and how they compensate for their transgressions against conventional morality by an exaggerated filial piety. Here the study is unabashedly partisan, as Zheng came to feel a deep sympathy and concern for the hostesses, particularly due to the violence they face at the hands of clients, employers and agents of the state. “Working and living with them, witnessing, experiencing, and writing about their everyday struggles [has] been emotional and disconcerting for me,” she writes (34).

Zheng sees the abuses suffered by the hostesses as part of a state system of exploitation of them as rural dwellers and women. The poverty that drives them from their rural homes to the city is a result of the state-created rural urban divide, which also forms the context for their marginal status in the city. She shows how this status distinction is also played out when rural men enter the bars as customers. Yet she highlights the strategies of resistance of the hostesses, expressed through their instrumental use of their own bodies to gain economic rewards and make connections with powerful men, and through consumption practices that make them trendsetters in the city. The ethnographic richness of this book is not fully matched by analytical or theoretical insights. One reason seems to be that Zheng takes on so many aspects of her story: history, political-economy, sexual politics, consumption and body culture. One area this reader found unsatisfying was the extensive attribution of the conditions she found to the state. Yet aside from her account of the engagement of the police in the bars—both in raids and as a major client base—the state remains largely disembodied in Zheng’s account, an entity that acts without being located in any specific form or place. For example, there is no discussion of how the legal framework for prostitution operates in this context.

This book will be of interest to many readers, and useful for various types of courses. Versions of many of the chapters in the book have been previously published as journal articles or in edited volumes. The chapters are thus largely discrete and could be used separately.

Sophia Woodman, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada 


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DEVELOPING CHINA: Land, Politics, and Social Conditions. Routledge Contemporary China Series, 40. By George C.S. Lin. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. xxiii, 343 pp. (Tables, figures, maps, B&W photos.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-41322-0.

The myth of China’s rapid economic acceleration has received a great deal of attention from scholars and commentators and has been explored extensively. While land remains an essential means of subsistence and capital accumulation in industrializing China, systematic investigation into the role of land use and its transformation in sustaining China’s economic growth is relatively scant due largely to a lack of comprehensive land-use data. Developing China provides a timely as well as systematic examination of land-use dynamics in rapidly urbanizing China.

Developing China is divided into three parts. Part 1 of the book presents an insightful discussion of the theoretical and conceptual issues upon which the dynamics of China’s land development under privatization and globalization can be understood. After the introduction, George Lin takes on a debate over China’s ambiguous land property rights in chapter 2. Lin demonstrates effectively the problem of the neo-classic logic on the casual relationship of clear definition of property rights with economic development by showing the empirical realities that China achieved in its remarkable economic miracle without a full-blown privatization at all. The limited and ambiguous property rights in China are manifested in social relations and gradually achieved initially from below by breaking regulations and later constantly negotiated and contested through various local institutional innovations. The flexibility that comes along with property rights ambiguity provides an efficient costsaving means to adapt to local conditions and development needs. To search for new theoretical constructs that can help us explain the rapid pace of land development, Lin makes an attempt in chapter 3 to identify alternative theories in the literature on social and political origins of land development. From the classic political economy of capital accumulation to the growth machine model and urban regime theory, Lin argues convincingly that neither offers a satisfactory explanation of the underlining forces driving the land development processes in China because neither of these theoretical approaches incorporates the interplay among various actors and agencies across different spatial and temporal scales and the role of such interactions in determining the trajectory of land development. The distinct history and strong political control of the Chinese government also limit the utility of the Third World political ecology approach in which nature and society relations are understood as a product of the coalition of state agencies, local elites and global capitalism. By unpacking and situating China’s land development, Lin concludes that the ideological conviction favouring public land ownership, overarching concerns with food security and political stability, and the locally driven land capitalization process combine to determine the processes of land development.

In part 2 of the book, Lin provides a systemic documentation and explanation of land use and its processes of change in contemporary China. In chapter 4, after an introduction to the evolving land management system from redistributive state socialism to a dual track post-reform regime, Lin provides an excellent clarification of how land is transacted for development in four segmented land markets. He claims that the dual track system of land management is “one of the root causes of the black markets, corruptions, and social discontents” (104), while elsewhere such dual track systems were celebrated as the centrepiece of successful economic reforms in China. In the following three chapters, by using data from the first national land survey, Lin first evaluates the structural and spatial change of land use in China in the past two decades and argues that the shift in ideology and transformation of the socialist economy have enabled the rediscovery of the economic value of land and engineered a dramatic conversion of agricultural land to industrial and urban uses in a government-led capital accumulation process across different localities.

Part 3 of the book highlights the regional characteristics of land development processes and explains how varying social, economic and political conditions have shaped regional trajectories of agricultural land conversion. Due to these varying conditions, forces of marketization and globalization have created diverse forms of land development necessitated under a new central-local fiscal relation. Chapter 8 compares two cases, Guangzhou and Hefei, and demonstrates the pattern of city-centre urbanization and land development. Chapter 9, on the other hand, identifies a more dispersed process of urbanization due to rural industrialization and expansion of rural settlements which is the most common form of land development in the Yangtze River Delta region. Chapter 10 uses Guangdong as a case study to demonstrate how reformation of central-local political and fiscal relations, intensified place competition, and the penetration of the global forces of accumulation have together fostered the intertwined phenomenon of land development and urban annexation and expansion. Using detailed land use data derived from Landsat images coupled with other information, Lin presents rich empirical evidence of the land development process in these localities and helps to debunk the myth of land use and land development situated in changing social and political contexts and conditions.

Developing China represents an important step towards a deeper and systematic understanding of the root causes of land use and land development in China. It critically engages with theoretical as well as empirical debates on land use pattern and land development process, and provides a valuable addition to the literature on China studies in general and the geography of China in particular.

Wei Xu, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada 


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Northeast Asia

THE ART OF THE GUT: Manhood, Power, and Ethics in Japanese Politics. By Robin M. LeBlanc. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010. xix, 229 pp. US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-25917-1.

Recent Japanese politics appears to be simultaneously moribund and beset by turmoil. The long rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has ended, but Japan’s new regime seems shackled to that checkered past. Certainly it is important that the leaders of the currently ruling Democratic Party of Japan learned their craft during their tenure as members of the LDP. But could the dismal continuities also be explained by the obvious yet overlooked influence of shared cultural practices rooted in common masculinity? This sort of question is stimulated by reading Robin LeBlanc’s The Art of the Gut: Manhood, Power, and Ethics in Japanese Politics.

The central dilemma of this engaging and timely book is summarized in the opening pages: in meeting the ethical imperatives implicit in identity discourses, people collaborate in the reproduction and maintenance of the structures of power that constrain them. How then, LeBlanc asks, can the “middle managers” of such structures in Japan, men who do not control but are bound to subscribe to those discourses of power, “do the right thing” and use for good purposes the power that remains to them, when acceptance of the unspoken rules and higher symbolic principles of masculinity is both the source of corruption and the basis for being a good man?

Describing in detail two men (one rural, one urban, both reluctant political participants), this book illuminates the paradox of masculine doxa, how the power of seemingly natural, unconscious symbolism and premises for being a “good man” constrain and enable political action. From her ethnographic data, LeBlanc argues persuasively that all politics is personal as well as local, that individuals and their gendered ethics can effect significant structural change.

Two figures are central to this complex and intimate account of male gender and Japanese politics. Takada-san is the son of a long-time LDP assemblyman in Tokyo’s Shirakawa Ward. He feels duty to the family enterprise: he inherited his father’s supporters and the web of accumulated mutual obligations. Takada-san accepts his family tradition of masculinity integrity, although he doubts how politically useful its general principles and respect for hierarchical authority are in an age of policy specialization. Despite his questionable enthusiasm for a political life, family connections win Takada-san his first election. In a typical sentence, LeBlanc adroitly summarizes the dilemma of his pyrrhic victory: “Unfortunately for Takadasan, however, his notion of ethical identity was enmeshed with the same masculinist power structure that commanded his submission to the often arbitrary likes and dislikes of men more powerful than he” (95).

The older protagonist, the more interesting of the two, is the smalltown sake merchant, Baba-san. He resides in rural Takeno-machi, where a large utility company has bribed the local population to accept a nuclear power plant, hoping money will entice the hard-pressed citizens to ignore the dangers. Baba-san’s business ties to local politicians bound him initially to support the project, but his disgust at the corruption surrounding it causes him to later take the leading role in an anti-plant movement called the Referendum Association, which eventually succeeds in preventing the construction. Baba describes his political participation as “cheating,” violating the codes of his town’s masculine networks and using his masculine power to silence other men and thereby promote the candidacy of less contentious anti-plant female candidates for the local assembly.

The “art of the gut” of the title refers to mobilizing “what is unspeakable or must be known in the gut” as a strategy to marginalize, exclude and silence opponents. This meticulous portrait of “the tenacity of unarticulated masculinism” is a worthy complement to the author’s earlier book on the political world of Japanese women, whom she called “bicycle citizens.” Clearly written and reasonably priced in paperback, The Art of the Gut could be used with advanced undergraduates, but it is perhaps better suited to graduate seminars in gender, politics or the sociology of Japan.

Over the course of the introduction, five core chapters and a memorable conclusion, the reader is taken on a keenly insightful tour of the complexities at the intersection of modern Japanese masculinity and politics that is more nuanced and less reductionist than the Foucaultian power theory that LeBlanc uses to frame her analysis. Anticipating the criticisms of her colleagues in political science, she offers a reasoned, self-reflexive argument in support of her unabashedly anthropological approach to understanding Japanese democracy. But by the end of her satisfyingly complete and compelling story she is transformed, becoming, in Chalmers Johnson’s phrase, “a recovering academic,” no longer dependent on the illusory objectivity of technique.

Scott North, Osaka University, Shita-shi, Japan 


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THE RISE OF JAPANESE NGOS: Activism from Above. Routledge Contemporary Japan Series, 28. By Kim D. Reimann. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. xv, 207 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$130.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-49802-9.

NGOs have received increased attention in the last two decades. Some scholars have documented the growth of NGOs and their expanded influence in global politics (e.g., M.E. Keck and K. Sikkink, Activism beyond borders, Cornell University Press, 1998). Others have noted the disparate levels of development achieved by NGOs in different countries and examined the domestic structural barriers to NGO establishment and growth in countries such as Japan (e.g., F.J. Schwartz and S.J. Pharr, eds., The state of civil society in Japan, Cambridge University Press, 2003). While asking how and why NGOs emerge and grow, Reimann addresses both the general rise of NGOs (referred to as “convergence”) as well as the differing levels of NGO strength (referred to as “divergence”) among industrialized countries, with a focus on Japan as a case study.

In chapter 1, Reimann explains her analytical model, which she terms “activism from above.” This framework considers a number of domestic and international factors, all of which suggest NGO activism is shaped from above by the state and by international structures. At the domestic level, she identifies state policies and the structure of political institutions as causal factors of divergent NGO development. At the international level, she identifies three factors to analyze the convergence: international political opportunities, state socialization and transnational diffusion of ideas. Reimann’s model thus challenges conventional wisdom in International Relations, which views NGOs as a grassroots, bottom-up phenomenon challenging state authority. Reimann claims that her model better accounts for political factors (e.g., state policies) to explain the convergence and divergence of NGOs, in contrast to both modernization and globalization theory, which, in her view, attend principally to socio-economic factors to explain NGO convergence.

Most interestingly, Reimann argues in chapter 2 that regime types correspond to NGO development. According to Reimann, liberal pluralist (e.g., the US, the UK), corporatist (e.g., Germany, the Netherlands) and social democratic (e.g., Nordic countries) regimes facilitate NGO organization and activism through NGO-friendly domestic policies and more open political opportunity structures. In contrast, the more restrictive legal structures and limited political opportunity structures of statist regimes (e.g., Japan, France, Italy) serve as barriers to the establishment and growth of NGOs.

In the following chapters, Reimann explains the convergence phenomenon through an analysis of recent changes in international political structures and politics (chapter 3), and then examines the delayed emergence and growth of globally active Japanese NGOs (chapters 4 and 5). In the last chapter (chapter 6) she summarizes her arguments.

Reimann’s work has many strengths. She draws on an array of research in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Japanese Studies to address a wide range of important issues such as global governance, international norms, state identity and domestic policies. The study also provides rich and valuable data on globally active Japanese NGOs. Most importantly, this is one of the few studies that seeks to analyze both the convergence and divergence of NGO development among industrial countries.

At the same time, the study faces two shortcomings. First, it depends on a single case (Japan) to make a cross-national claim that regime type affects NGO activism. The claim is difficult to evaluate without in-depth case studies of countries representing the other three regime types she discusses. Second, the book fails to sufficiently explain how domestic and international factors interact in shaping NGO development. The study provides a partial picture of that interaction: for example, Reimann argues that state socialization at the international level has brought about changes in state policies toward NGOs at the domestic level. However, she does not discuss how state socialization and international norms (international factors) intersect with regime type. According to Reimann, “liberal and progressive rich democracies” (152) or “powerful democracies” (153) in the West (e.g., the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden) support a pro-NGO norm at the international level (163-165). This might imply that non-statist regimes are promoters of that norm and that statist regimes are norm learners via international socialization. But since, in Reimann’s typology, statist regimes include Western democracies such as France and Italy, one wonders whether these countries are considered norm followers like Japan or whether they are also “powerful [Western] democracies” that promote NGOs worldwide. Since Reimann does not address these questions, it remains unclear whether regime type matters at the international level.

Despite these shortcomings, Reimann’s book is a high-quality study that offers a fresh perspective on NGO development. It will be of interest to scholars and students of civil society, NGOs in the non-Western world, or state-society relations in Japan.

Keiko Hirata, California State University, Northridge, USA 


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South Asia

GLOBAL POWER: India’s Foreign Policy, 1947-2006. By B.M. Jain. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008. xxi, 303 pp. (Tables.) US$36.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7391-2415-0.

India’s self-assurance as an emergent Great Power has a long history. Nehru’s musings on Indian civilization and its potential to influence world affairs left him with little doubt that, once freed from British colonialism, his country would assume a place among the chancelleries of the world. Yet as recently as the late 1980s, this peculiarly Edwardian confidence seemed bizarrely misplaced. Indian foreign policy was oddly reactive, stuck to a childless marriage with Moscow and frozen out of any meaningful US rapprochement. Rhetoric aside, it remained suspicious of a powerfully emergent China while with Pakistan it remained belligerent and diplomatically gauche. With its smaller neighbours, such as Sri Lanka and Nepal, India managed to combine incompetence with bullying. There were doubts as to the utility and efficiency of its growing military power, and economically India was by no stretch of the imagination a “tiger”: it was not even, in Lord Desai’s immortal phrase, a fleet-footed elephant. What was the use of developing blue-water navies with no global interests to defend? Could India really continue to influence world affairs through the tired and seemingly vapid language of non-alignment and generic low growth rates? Finally, the slow and seemingly inexorable rise of Hindu nationalism seemed to threaten India’s claims to be the world’s largest democracy, undermining its own constitutional uniqueness, and eliminating its one genuine advance at the expense of China. And yet by the beginning of the twenty-first century Nehru’s famous tryst with destiny appeared to be coming true; the discourse and tropes used to describe India, its ambitions and capabilities, suddenly changed fundamentally. Indian foreign policy appeared to have crossed some legendary Rubicon (or perhaps an Indus)—better relations with the US, the recognition of Israel, sustained growth—and all the old shibboleths seemed inadequate.

In this ambitious book, B.M. Jain sets out to analyze how and in what ways Indian foreign policy has broken with the past. Jain offers a detailed—indeed in places rather bewildering—narrative of Indian events since Independence organized around a series of chapters that locate Indian policy to the US, to the former Soviet Union and now Russia, to China, to Pakistan and even Latin America and the Middle East. He suggests ways in which India’s quest for influence can be meaningfully enhanced, with more efforts at soft power and economic projection. He spots significant changes but also highlights limiting continuities. The resulting book provides an important source of information for students studying Indian foreign policy at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Yet for those more analytically inclined, the book suffers from a singular lack of conceptual clarity. Chapter 1, by far the weakest in the book, sets out to locate the empirical material alongside the theoretical and paradigm debates taking place within mainstream International Relations and Foreign Policy Analysis. It is a patchy affair at best, summarizing some arguments and ignoring others. The list of paradigms and the literature it conveys on page 5 is at best idiosyncratic. The debates on globalization and regionalism are too short and as such, inconclusive. For someone so anxious to look at the role India’s political elite has played in shaping and formulating Indian foreign policy, there is little serious engagement with constructivism and the ways in which this elite has formed and changed over time. Buzan is mentioned en passant but not really used to identify the influence that the switch from Congress to a BJP-led government has had on the “image of India,” for example, or on the language of power used after 1998. Chapter 2 presents a somewhat disorganized overview of Indian foreign policy by era, which is entirely descriptive and indeed at times subjective: there has never been a serious suggestion that Shastri was murdered in Tashkent, for example, and if Jain has evidence it should be in the text or at least a footnote. His assertion that there has been no public debate on Indian foreign policy is bizarre. The chapter on Indo-Pakistan relations is also weak. On page 159, Jain rightly notes that “both the countries have failed to transcend the deeply entrenched psychology of mutual hatred and hostility” and then proceeds to reproduce the very narrative that re-inscribes this view. Nehruvian narratives on civilizational greatness, which immaculately airbrush out Pakistan from the Indian subcontinent, are exactly the shibboleths that Jain is supposed to be critiquing.

In describing India’s wider relationships to the US, Russia and China, there is a clearer sense of purpose and greater clarity but no real summation of the argument in theoretical terms at all. For example, Indian elites have long known that US policy sees New Delhi as a check against China, and that this potentially constrains Indian diplomacy with Beijing. Indian support for US policy after 9/11 had very clear repercussions for Indian policy to Pakistan, even if India was initially out-manoeuvred by General Musharraf: it nonetheless enabled India to squeeze Pakistan’s fragmenting political elite with a series of choices that they found harder to deliver domestically and live with regionally. How has coalition government changed foreign policy agency? Jain doesn’t really get to grips with these important underlying trends because the book is just too descriptive; it is driven by a narrative that precludes any real debate about structures and agencies, or a critical evaluation of the idea of what global power means to an Indian elite which has transformed itself over time.

Vernon M. Hewitt, University of Bristol, Clifton, United Kingdom


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THE PARTITION OF INDIA. By Ian Talbot and Gurharpal Singh. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. xvii, 206 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$85.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-521-85661-4; US29.99, paper, ISBN 978-0-521-6756-6.

In 1960, just four years before his death in office, India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was said to have ruefully confessed: “The truth is that we were tired men … We saw the fires burning in the Punjab and heard everyday of killings. The plan for partition [of the Indian subcontinent] offered us a way out and we took it” [italics added]. This shocking revelation by a key player in the events surrounding the 1947 division of the Indian subcontinent threatened to undo the labour of scores of historians working on the assumption that Partition was (at best) inevitable and (at worst) cruelly imposed by Britain in a desperate move to cut its imperial losses. Yet it is clear that today many more are prepared to entertain the claim reiterated by the authors of this new book, that “the division of the subcontinent was contingent on a range of political choices made by both the British and India’s political elites” (58) and that it was “in large measure willed into existence [by Indian political leaders]” (178).

While this contention will no doubt still generate some resistance, both authors are well placed to meet the challenge. Ian Talbot is widely respected as a historian of Pakistan and is the author of a number of critically acclaimed studies of Punjab under colonial rule. Gurharpal Singh, who shares a common interest in Punjab, has made valuable contributions to the study of ethnic conflict that are key to a better understanding of Partition. Now working as a team they have skilfully synthesized a vast body of complex historiographical debates on the causes of Partition and sought at every turn to rescue its history from the political agendas of its key protagonists, namely the nation-states of India and Pakistan.

Ultimately, however, the authors are (by their own admission) less interested in why Partition happened than in what happened, where and to whom. With the use of a wide array of English and Urdu sources spanning official documents, press reports, personal memoirs and literary accounts, they bring to light the dreadful human cost of Partition. Much of it understandably centres on the violence that was, by all accounts, more brutal, widespread and co-ordinated than anything ever witnessed in India. At the same time, the authors are careful to emphasize that much of what has hitherto passed as “Partition violence” actually predated the moment of Partition. Thus while Punjab clearly bore the brunt of some of the worst atrocities in 1947, savage acts of violence bordering on the “genocidal” had already torn through Bengal in 1946 following the great Calcutta killings. The violence of Partition also varied in intensity: British administered areas, especially in the north, were more affected than many neighbouring princely states. Elsewhere, in districts across India and Pakistan, violence continued to exact a heavy toll long after Partition.

Patterns of migration and the conditions of the resettlement of millions of refugees—the majority forced to flee—also varied. Again the authors warn against the temptation to generalize from the case of Punjab, where the deadly violence that characterized the experience of migration has long furnished the iconic image of Partition. The reality, they suggest, was more complex. The process of migration in Bengal and Sind was not only more drawn out compared to Punjab (refugees from India were entering Karachi as late as 1954), but also made worse in some regions by the two-way integration of “non-elite” groups in which “all the social inequalities of the South Asian formation played a critical role” (125) and whose legacies are still deeply felt.

Indeed, the authors address squarely the legacies of Partition. However, it is here that some readers may find their conclusions problematic, not least in their efforts to draw sharp parallels between the trajectories of the subcontinent’s two main successor states: India and Pakistan. For while on the face of it both countries have shown some obvious similarities—in their preference for over-centralized states and their vulnerability to ethnic and religious nationalism—their implications for state identity, legitimacy and possibly even state survival have differed significantly. In this regard the enduring pathologies of the Pakistani state are, arguably, best seen not as the legacies of Partition per se, but as symptomatic of the fundamental weakness of Pakistan’s founding ideology and the country’s ambiguous relation to Islam. And while it is true that ideas of the nation and the secular state are still hotly contested in India, the presence of a robust tradition of negotiating differences constitutionally, nurtured over generations by India’s political leaders, has ensured that India is today much better equipped than its hapless neighbour to escape “the trap of history that Partition has constructed” (181).

Farzana Shaikh, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, UK 


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Southeast Asia

ANWAR ON TRIAL: In the Face of Injustice. By Pawancheek Marican. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Gerakbudaya Enterprise, 2009. xvi, 386 pp. (B&W photos, illus.) MYR50.00 ISBN 978-983-44793-2-9.

This is an important book for specialists in the legal fraternity, so too for political analysts of Malaysia. Anwar on Trial is virtually a metaphor for “Malaysia on trial.” While the book, by one of Anwar Ibrahim’s lawyers, is openly partisan, it has been written in a lucid style and packed with all the facts that one needs to know about the first trial of Anwar Ibrahim in 1998, which lasted 76 days in the months of September, October and November. The book then is about Anwar Ibrahim’s so-called “corruption trial.” In a nutshell, Anwar was accused of using his political clout as deputy prime minister to direct his subordinates to conceal evidence regarding his homosexual behaviour, and this constituted an alleged act of political corruption.

Marican provides us with a detailed account of the charges, the proceedings, including the cases of the prosecution and the defence, the appeal to the Federal Court, the final judgment of the court and the postappeal review. There was then the second, perhaps even more sensational, trial of Anwar, the sodomy trial, which lasted 118 days, in which Anwar was tried along with his adopted brother, Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja, in 1999. The book is not about this second trial although important details of this trial are found in the appendix. At the second trial, Anwar was sentenced to nine years jail, but in May 2004, Anwar and Sukma were acquitted of those charges. At the point of acquittal, he had served out his sentence of six years jail time from the first trial.

Marican’s book is important for a number of reasons. First, it is the only full account and complete record of Anwar’s first trial. Second, by reporting clearly the manner in which this trial was conducted, the evidence of witnesses for the prosecution and the defence, and the respective final submissions, readers can judge for themselves the merits of each case. Third, without question, there are significant implications stemming from this highly charged political trial with regard to the functioning of the Malaysian legal system and Malaysia’s practice of the rule of law. Marican has argued that Anwar’s trials epitomize “the emasculation of Malaysian’s democratic institutions” and that “the rule of law was flouted” (xvi). It is best, of course, that readers decide for themselves if this was the case and certainly the book provides enough details for anyone to form such an opinion.

The political character of the trial was never in doubt. On 2 September 1998 Anwar was dismissed as the deputy prime minister cum finance minister of Malaysia by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. He was subsequently arrested and detained under the country’s draconian Internal Security Act. In jail, Anwar was beaten unconscious by the then inspector general of police, Rahim Noor, who was later convicted in 2000 for this act. Prior to Anwar’s sacking, in early 1998, a political tract entitled “Fifty Reasons why Anwar should not become Prime Minister” (written in Malay) was widely circulated. Among other sensational allegations, this dubious piece of writing contained innuendos that Anwar was a homosexual. Soon after the tract’s release, Mahathir declared that he could not countenance a homosexual to be a leader of Malaysia. Social scientists could certainly also draw on the facts surrounding the case to illustrate the international repercussions of the Anwar trials. A rendering of such reactions is found in chapter 5.

The relevance of the book today is that Anwar’s new trial, dubbed Sodomy II, is almost a carbon copy of the first—an instance of déjà vu. In February 2010, Anwar was again in the dock on the allegation that he had sodomized a 24-year-old political aide, Saiful Bokhari Azlan, sometime in 2008. The circumstances surrounding this new trial are again highly charged and have more than a hint of politics. Anwar Ibrahim, now leader of the opposition in Parliament, had just led with great success the new oppositional People’s Alliance in a general election on March 8, 2008, which saw the egregious collapse of four state governments and the denial of the two-thirds parliamentary majority of the ruling party, the National Front. Saiful, Anwar’s accuser, admitted meeting with the Prime Minister Najib Razak to discuss his liaison with Anwar. Will history repeat itself? Many think it will. At the point of writing, the trial is ongoing.

Finally, it should be mentioned that since Anwar’s first trial many of the main personae involved have passed on: the former attorney general, Mohtar Abdullah; the High Court judge, Augustine Paul; the lawyer Christopher Fernando; and Anwar accuser Khalid Jafri. Anwar sympathizers may see this as poetic justice, as Anwar’s own presence in Malaysian politics remains larger than life.

Johan Saravanamuttu, Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs, Pasir Panjang, Singapore 


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“IF YOU LEAVE US HERE, WE WILL DIE”: How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor. By Geoffrey Robinson. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2009. xvi, 319 pp. (Figures, maps, B&W photos.) US$27.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-691-13536-6.

After a 1999 United Nations-sponsored referendum in which a strong majority of East Timorese voted for independence, Indonesia’s military (the TNI) and its militia allies waged a campaign of terror and destruction. Over a few weeks, they killed many hundreds of civilians, forced at least 400,000 people to flee their homes—almost half of the illegally occupied territory’s population—while burning or destroying about 70 percent of East Timor’s buildings and infrastructure.

Historian Geoffrey Robinson vividly recounts the terror and the surrounding events, while offering a multifaceted analysis of the structural and contingent factors that brought about and ultimately stopped it. In doing so, he engages important discussions on violence, humanitarian intervention, and justice following mass atrocities. The result is a thoroughly researched, carefully analyzed and compellingly argued work, one greatly enriched by Robinson’s first-hand witnessing of, and participation in, myriad developments he discusses as a political affairs officer with the UN mission that oversaw the vote.

In analyzing the terror, Robinson interrogates the three principal explanations that circulate, all of which, he finds, have some value. The first is that the militias were a spontaneous response to the public emergence of the pro-independence movement in 1998-99, and that their violence reflected traditional cultural practices. The second is that the TNI formed the militias and orchestrated them. And the third is that powerful Western countries and the United Nations are responsible for the violence because of their failure to take appropriate action.

Indonesian officials most typically advance the first, one “not wholly without foundation,” says Robinson, given divisions among East Timorese and a tradition of violence, typically colonially fostered, on the half-island. Yet, among other deficiencies, such explanations fall short by referencing supposedly “universal psychological conditions or cultural traits,” and are unable “to account for variation across time and place” (12). Hence, Robinson ultimately gives little credence to this line of analysis, and emphasizes the second and third explanations.

To help explain why the TNI and its paramilitary allies engaged in the scorched-earth campaign—in violation of Indonesia’s international obligations and in the presence of a UN mission and international media representatives—Robinson introduces the concept of an “institutional culture of terror.” This describes “a complex and evolving system of norms, discourse, and behavior within an institution, in which extreme violence or terror is a defining feature” (46)—a feature that infected commanders, soldiers and members of affiliated organizations. Thus, while the militia groups had diverse socio-geographic origins, they drew upon a common “repertoire of violence” (121).

Longstanding Western complicity or acquiescence also contributed to TNI calculations, Robinson surmises, making the military confident that international invention would be slow in coming—and perhaps not happen at all. Indeed this seemed like an accurate forecast in early September 1999 as the terror exploded when “powerful states [most notably the United States] continued to insist that the restoration of order was Indonesia’s responsibility” (185).

What explains this posture’s reversal was “an unusual conjuncture of historical trends and events that distinguished that moment decisively from the situation in the late 1970s”—including the presence of many foreign observers and journalists; the influence of international NGO and church networks; East Timorese courage and fortitude; and a “temporary shift in prevailing international norms and legal regimes that strongly favored humanitarian intervention” (19).

This conjuncture’s outgrowth was a UN-authorized military force that ended Indonesia’s reign of terror in East Timor. This prevented a second genocide from occurring, Robinson suggests, a position for which he offers remarkably little support. (The first occurred in the 1975-79 period, the initial years of Indonesia’s invasion and occupation).

Given “the consequences of international inaction [my emphasis] in the late 1970s with the results of intervention in 1999” (244), Robinson concludes, one can only determine the merits of international humanitarian intervention on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of the conclusion’s wisdom, inaction was not the problem in the late 1970s. As Robinson explains, various Western countries “effectively encouraged the invasion of East Timor, facilitated the institutionalization of state terror in Indonesia, and abetted crimes against humanity” in both countries. Had they not done so, “it is quite possible” that the terror in 1999 and the previous 24 years “would never have happened” (244).

That they did aid and abet Indonesia’s crimes for so long makes this reader wish that Robinson had applied his lens on pathologically violent institutional culture to Western states. What is it about their “norms, discourse, and behavior” (46) that led them to behave across different governments/administrations in such violence-enabling ways, to say nothing of their directly violent practices abroad? Similarly, one wishes that Robinson extended his excellent analysis of the lack of accountability by the TNI and other elements of the Indonesian state following the occupation to Jakarta’s international partners-in-crime, and thus enriched his insightful discussion of justice and reconciliation.

Those concerns notwithstanding, Robinson’s meticulously crafted book is an important one for experts on Southeast Asia, international affairs, violence, transitional justice and human rights alike to consider and debate. Its clear writing, historical depth, and strong yet nuanced analysis also make it highly appropriate for both upper-level undergraduates and graduate students.

Joseph Nevins, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, USA


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Australasia and the Pacific Region

SOCIETY OF OTHERS: Kinship and Mourning in a West Papuan Place. By Rupert Stasch. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. xv, 317 pp. (Figures, maps, B&W photos.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-25686-6.

This is an ethnographically rich, tightly constructed, exceptionally well argued and creative descriptive analysis of Korowai concepts of social relations based on “otherness.” The Korowai of West Papua live in houses perched some 5m high in the forest, usually some distance from one another. The Korowai “experience society as a field of otherness” and “imagine their social world as consisting of a population of strangers” (38). Given that anthropology has long assumed society to be based on shared commonalities built upon day-to-day, face-to-face interactions among people who live in relatively close proximity to one another in communities, villages and hamlets, this pronouncement comes as a kind of shock. Stasch presents a remarkably detailed analysis of how the Korowai construct their universe of otherness spatially and temporally through concepts of geographical belonging; linguistics; kinship, marriage and childbearing; and the living, the dead, monsters and demons. Topic by topic, chapter by chapter, Staschbuilds a compelling picture of Korowai culture and society that is impossible to summarize in this short space.

What is really intellectually and theoretically stimulating is the concept of “other,” and “otherness” and “boundaries of otherness that are at once separative and connective” (73). Boundaries separate—be they boundaries denoting landownership (non-owners), kin (nonkin), living (dead), linguistic dyads—and organize “social experience in otherness-charged terms” (47). Thus, people “experience each other as mutually strange” but this strangeness is also a point of relatedness (63). Social bonds are created (or undone) through action across those boundaries of otherness. Verbs such as disruption, impingement and violation describe social bonds as a consequence of “events of disrupting separateness with closeness, or disrupting close belonging with acts of estrangement” (174). Marriage is a violation of boundaries understood to be a “problem of relating across boundaries of nonbelonging” (195). Death is estrangement creating “margins of separation and strangeness” (210). Thus, kinship and especially marriage are disruptive creations of attachment; “mourning is disruptive undoing [in space and time] of attachment” (212). The ethnographic details of Korowai relations of otherness are richly complex and immensely satisfying. There is much here to think about in terms of an anthropology of place and the negativity associated with Other/ing in theorizing today. The concept of Cartesian dualism is an implacably othering system of thought where boundaries cannot be disrupted to create relations based on difference, and dyads stand like pillars, unbreachable without negative consequences. Unlike the Korowai, who breach dyadic boundaries of otherness despite fear, tension and possible catastrophe, we are immobilized by our otherness.

We have much to learn from the Korowai, whose “otherness-focused culture of social relations is a culture of action” (275, original emphasis). This is an ethnography not to be missed: beautifully written, dense with detail, theoretically innovative. I would highly recommend it to all anthropologists, especially students of Melanesian ethnography, senior undergraduates and graduate students.

Naomi M. Mcpherson, The University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada


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THE 2006 MILITARY TAKEOVER IN FIJI: A Coup to End All Coups? Studies in State and Society in the Pacific, No. 4. Edited by Jon Fraenkel, Stewart Firth and Brij V. Lal. Canberra, ACT: ANU E Press, 2009. 1 electronic document (xiv, 472 pp.) Free, e-Book ( ISBN 978-1-921536-5-19.

On December 5, 2006 Fiji witnessed its fourth coup d’état in less than two decades. Unlike the previous two coups of 1987 and the putsch of 2000, whose justificatory grounds were Fijian ethno-nationalism, intra-ethnic Fijian rivalries and class tensions, the military takeover of 2006 was staged in the name of good governance and envisaged as a clean-up campaign against racism, nepotism and corruption. However, the de facto politics of the Bainimarama regime which has been in power ever since challenges its earlier proclamations. The 2006 Military Takeover in Fiji brings together a number of scholars, local civil society activists, union leaders, journalists, lawyers, as well as politicians who address the multi-faceted political, social and economic developments in pre- and post-coup Fiji.

The 31 chapters of the book are organized into 9 sections. Section 1 (introduction) comprises Fraenkel and Firth’s critical overview of the paradoxes and contradictions of Fiji’s “good governance” coup. In the following section (the Coup), Lal maps Fiji’s road to the coup (chapter 2) and its aftermath (chapter 4). His detailed discussion of several core issues, such as the connections between the military takeover and the putsch of 2000, the evolving tensions between the Qarase government and the military, and the roles played by key figures and institutions before, during and in the wake of December 2006, enriches our understanding of the broader context of Fiji’s political instability. Fraenkel’s analysis of the “who, what, where and why” of 2006 (chapter 3) tackles the same issues from the perspective of a political scientist.

In section 3 (Themes) Norton explores the changing role of Fiji’s currently suspended Great Council of Chiefs from its establishment in the late nineteenth century until April 2008 (chapter 5). His analysis is followed by Firth and Fraenkel’s discussion of the transformation of the Fiji Military Forces from a key instrument of Fijian ethno-nationalism into its “nemesis” (117) in 2006 (chapter 6). Chand’s contribution focuses on the negative economic implications of the latest coup d’état (chapter 7) and Fraenkel offers an insightful explanation for the postponement of elections from 2009 to 2014 by reference to the regime’s response to foreign political pressure and its limited popularity among the local population (chapter 8).

In section 4 (Religion) Newland outlines the close relationship between religion and politics in Fiji and the responses of the several Christian denominations to the coup (chapter 9). Her article helps readers understand the conflict-laden relationship between the regime and the Methodist Church of Fiji. Prasad lays bare the reactions of Indian religious groups to the coup (chapter 10). He offers valuable insights into the internal frictions of the Indo-Fijian community and argues rightly against the perception of a general support of Indians in favour of the military takeover in 2006.

Sections 5 to 7 (Labour, Media, Law and the Constitution) consist of 8 articles on subjects as diverse as the role of the media after December 2006 (chapter 13), censorship and the freedom of the press, the negative impact of the coup on Fiji’s judiciary (chapter 15) and the erosion of judicial independence (chapter 16). These contributions can be best understood with regard to the clampdown of media freedom through the Media Decree of 2010 and the abrogation of the constitution in April 2009.

Section 8 (Perspectives) contains 11 chapters on topics such as the People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress, constitutionalism or Fijian ethno-nationalism, written by local scholars, politicians, civil servants and human rights activists. I would like to single out Tarte’s “Reflections on Fiji’s ‘coup culture’” (chapter 27) which represents a good starting point for a sociological analysis of the factors that shape Fiji’s political instability.

In section 9 (Conclusions), Lal reflects on the year 2007, which he describes as depressing and miasmic (chapter 30). The clean-up campaign was stalled, numerous breaches of human rights were reported and the regime faced a number of internal difficulties which led to the reshuffle of the cabinet in 2008. In their final chapter (31) Fraenkel and Firth define the architects of the coup as “the radicals amongst the westernized elite” (449). Furthermore, they discuss three possible future outcomes of Fiji’s last coup: 1) a “praetorian state,” 2) a speedy restoration of a constitutional government, and 3) a continuing cycle of coups.

In summary, the contributors of The 2006 Military Takeover in Fiji offer a justified critical response to Fiji’s contemporary politics and its “coup syndrome.” Although parts of this easily accessible e-book have been published before—for example in From Election to Coup in Fiji: The 2006 Campaign and Its Aftermath, edited by Jon Fraenkel and Stewart Firth (Suva: IPS Publications, 2007)—the book is of great value to those interested in understanding the manifold forces behind Bainimarama’s takeover in 2006 in particular and Fiji’s long-lasting socio-political instability in general.

Dominik Schieder, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany 


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