Book Reviews – Vol 84, No 2

June 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

PUBLIC GOVERNANCE IN ASIA AND THE LIMITS OF ELECTORAL DEMOCRACY. Edited by Brian Bridges, Lok Sang Ho. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2009. xi, 297 pp. US$140.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-84844-628-1.

What are the limits of electoral democracy in East Asia? This book attempts to answer this question in two theoretical chapters and a series of country case studies. The two theoretical chapters adopt a substantive rather than a procedural definition of democracy and they view electoral democracy in instrumental rather than intrinsic terms. Both authors find electoral democracy wanting, particularly that version of it characterized by the fray among multiple and competing interest groups. Because the authors simply can’t envision how interest group politics in procedural democracies promote the public interest, they tend to view one-party autocracies committed to the public interest as preferable on democratic grounds because “they further the representative individual’s interest.” Few are likely to be convinced by this argument, particularly since even the most developmentally oriented one party governments of East Asia have been unwilling to permit untrammeled freedom of the press and assembly or legislative or judicial independence.

The authors also fail to take advantage of a large and rich theoretical and empirical literature on democracy and democratization in East Asia and its effects on developmental outcomes. While the authors recognize that the institutions of democracy matter, they never draw on the insights of Ben Reilly’s masterful book (Democracy and Diversity: Political Engineering in the Asia Pacific), or the equally important insights of Stephan Haggard and Robert Kaufman (The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions) or Torsten Persson and Guido Tabellini (The Economic Effects of Constitutions).

The theoretical chapters are followed by 10 country case studies, 9 of which are in East Asia. After the theory chapters one expected the case studies to provide empirical support for or against the theoretical chapters or at least place country experiences with democracy, autocracy, democratization and de-democratization within the large and growing literature in this field. Unfortunately there is little relationship between the case studies and the theory chapters and even less between the case studies and the literature on the proximate causes of democratization or on what causes democracy to become consolidated or fall to autocracy. For the most part, the case studies do little more than describe the evolution of democratic and autocratic development and tendencies.

As a result, one gains few, if any, insights from this book into the limits of electoral democracy.

Michael T. Rock, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, USA


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INVESTING IN PROTECTION: The Politics of Preferential Trade Agreements between North and South. By Mark S. Manger. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. xv, 267 pp. (Tables, graphs.) US$80.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-521-76504-6; US$31.99, paper, ISBN 978-0-521-74870-4.

The rapid proliferation of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) has generated considerable controversy and debate over the past 10 years or so. While there is no consensus as to whether PTAs are building blocks or stumbling blocks to greater liberalization, they are widely seen as inferior to unilateral or multilateral liberalization through the World Trade Organization (WTO). There is also a mounting body of evidence that shows that many firms do not take advantage of the concessions available in PTAs, due to the high transaction costs associated with proving eligibility for preferential access.

This presents a number of questions for scholars and policy makers: If PTAs are a sub-optimal way to liberalize trade, why do governments pursue them so aggressively? If firms are not making use of tariff preferences for their exports to PTA partner countries, how can we account for business support for these agreements? In particular, how can we explain the growing popularity of PTAs between major advanced economies and developing countries that offer few benefits to developed countries by way of market size or overall welfare gains?

In this excellent study of North-South PTAs, Mark Manger tackles these questions head on. Much of the literature to date on PTAs focuses on trade in goods, but Manger argues that this misses the point; the driving force behind North-South PTAs is not the desire to secure preferential access for the export of goods to developing country markets but rather to open up opportunities for foreign direct investment (FDI) in manufacturing and services. The essence of his argument is that firms in rich countries seek to invest in developing countries where they can take advantage of lower labour costs and produce goods more cheaply for subsequent export to other developed country markets.

But why not pursue this objective on a non-discriminatory basis through the WTO? Manger argues that this preference for PTAs is due precisely to their discriminatory nature, which is attractive to multinational corporations because of the way they raise barriers to outsiders while offering protection to insiders. Insider advantages are created through Rules of Origin (ROOs), an essential feature of PTAs that determine which goods are eligible for preferential access. ROOs can be structured in quite restrictive ways so as to increase the costs of production for firms from countries that are not party to a PTA. Similar advantages are created in the services sector, where market and regulatory structures penalize late entrants. This means that there are considerable “first mover” advantages created by PTAs, thus providing an additional set of incentives for multinational companies to pursue them. The proliferation of PTAs can then be explained as a domino effect, as outsiders pressure their governments to pursue PTAs in markets where they have been disadvantaged by these deals.

The study adopts a political economy approach and rests on the assumption that the outcomes of PTAs can be explained by pressure from organized societal interests and the public choice behaviour of government officials. Manger tests his arguments through a series of case studies of PTAs between major developed (United States, European Union and Japan) and developing countries. The studies begin with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—the “original sin.” Manger argues that the origins of NAFTA were primarily political but the negotiation offered US industries the chance to lobby for ROOs that raised costs considerably for outsiders who wanted to invest in Mexico to serve the US market, especially the automobile manufacturers. The following chapters show how NAFTA prompted the EU and Japan to seek to negotiate similar deals with Mexico, so as to mitigate the disadvantages experienced by their multinational firms in Mexico. A fourth case shows this competitive dynamic at work in the case of Chile, where the US, the EU and Japan all competed to secure PTAs with particular emphasis on foreign investment in the Chilean services sector. A chapter on Japan’s PTAs with Malaysia and Thailand shows how regional production networks in the automobile and electronic industries shaped the contours of those PTAs, with rapid liberalization of components and assembled products and blanket exclusions for agricultural products. These PTAs spurred the United States and the European Union to seek similar agreements with Malaysia and Thailand.

This is a terrific study, theoretically informed, empirically rich and well written, accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike. It makes a major and original contribution to the scholarly and policy literature on PTAs. It also makes a major contribution to our understanding of trade policy forum choice, an area that is relatively underdeveloped in the political economy literature on trade liberalization. It will be of interest to economists, political scientists and policy makers and it will become a standard reference in the field. It deserves wide readership.

Ann Capling, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


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EXPORTING THE BOMB: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons. Cornell Studies in Security Affairs. By Matthew Kroenig. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2010. xii, 233 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8014-7640-2.

Matthew Kroenig poses an important question that few who write about proliferation have focused on: Why do states transfer sensitive nuclear assistance that could help other states make nuclear weapons? His answer may be surprising: it’s not for the money. They do it, he says, for strategic reasons.

States capable of projecting conventional power—the ability to fight a ground war on the territory of potential target states—are loath to provide such assistance; states that cannot feel freer to proliferate. Power-projectors fear that the spread of nuclear arms will deter them from intervening, reduce their effectiveness at coercive diplomacy, aggravate regional instability that could ensnare them, erode their alliances, and trigger arms races. Non-power projectors are less concerned with these consequences. The United States exemplifies the first approach and Pakistan the second.

As evidence for Kroenig’s theory, France’s help for the Israeli nuclear program occurred in 1959-65 after the Suez crisis exposed just how far its power projection capacity had declined. Along with France, China provided Pakistan with help in nuclear-arming as a counterweight to India, but showed more self-restraint in proliferation once its power projection capacity expanded. An exception was Soviet help for China’s nuclear weapons program in 1958-60, which Kroenig explains away in realist terms as intended to bolster an alliance against a common foe, the United States, and characterizes as grudging, occurring only after Beijing accused Moscow of lack of support in the 1958 Taiwan Straits crisis.

The problem with any theory of proliferation is that there are very few cases, and Kroenig has specified his variables in ways that shrink the number still further. He confines his analysis to “sensitive” nuclear assistance: significant quantities of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium, help with weapons design, and construction of reprocessing and enrichment facilities. That excludes aid to construct research and power reactors and supply of dual-use equipment, among other items.

His statistical analysis takes account of the limited data set. In the end, however, that rests on his historical examples, and while he is judicious in his readings of the past, some of the world’s nuclear history remains murky. For instance, he excludes US nuclear cooperation with Great Britain and France on the grounds that it occurred after they had acquired nuclear weapons and was confined to delivery vehicles. Perhaps. But what of British and French help in the Manhattan Project?

Did power-projectors “fiercely” oppose proliferation, as he asserts? Here, the record is more mixed than Kroenig suggests. For instance, US intelligence detected Israel’s budding nuclear program in collusion with France in early 1958 and openly acknowledged that awareness in December 1960. President Kennedy warned that the US “commitment to and support of Israel could be seriously jeopardized” if it could not verify that Dimona was being used for peaceful purposes, but it contented itself with occasional oneday visits to the site under tight Israeli control that assured nothing would be uncovered—especially the underground reprocessing facility there. President Johnson was pressed to do more, but demurred. He was warned that Israeli acquisition of nuclear arms “might spark Nasser into a foolish preemptive move.” Nasser did just that in 1967. One of his aims in provoking war was to destroy Dimona before Israel had the bomb, an attempt that proved too little and too late—the Israelis already had their first weapon and preempted his preemption, destroying the Egyptian air force before it got off the ground.

Similarly, the US effort to keep Pakistan from nuclear-arming never took priority over securing Pakistan’s help in defeating the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The United States did its best to deny North Korea the means to arm, but having negotiated the 1994 Agreed Framework that verifiably shut down the Pyongyang’s plutonium program, Washington failed to keep its end of the bargain. It has shown even more reluctance to negotiate with Iran, though it made more sustained—and successful—efforts to induce South Korea, Taiwan and Sweden, among others, from nuclear-arming. What Kroenig calls “fierce” opposition by Washington to proliferation was sometimes a pretext for selective prosecution of some states through isolation, sanctions and war while ignoring others, rather than for sustained negotiations to disarm strangers.

For Kroenig to develop a new and interesting theory of why states spread nuclear technology is an ambitious undertaking. If at times the effort falls somewhat short of his claims, Kroenig deserves credit for trying. Social scientists rightly search for generalizations, and he has found some useful ones. In the end, however, one wonders whether each case of proliferation is idiosyncratic enough that generalizations may sometimes get in the way of understanding, and prudent policy making.

Leon V. Sigal, Social Science Research Council, Brooklyn, USA


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China and Inner Asia

China and Asia: Economic and Financial Interactions. Routledge Studies in the Modern World Economy. Edited by Yin-Wong Cheung and Kar-Yiu Wong. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. xviii, 297 pp. (Tables,
graphs, figures.) US$160.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-77609-7.

Not a single day passes by without an economist mentioning China. Its economy has been growing at an impressive 9.9 percent on average since 1980, which the current worldwide recession has only slightly dented: its growth rate fell to 8.7 percent in 2009 from 13 percent in 2007, while the G7 economies contracted by 3.4 percent.

The current interest in China is driven not just by its might, but also by ambivalence about its role in the current crisis. Some economists, notably the previous and current chairmen of the Federal Reserve, have argued that China is partially responsible for the crisis; its excess savings—i.e., a current account surplus at 11 percent of GDP in 2007—fed the insatiable profligacy of several industrialized countries, most notably the US and the UK. These “global imbalances,” they argue, gave rise to asset bubbles that eventually burst, leading to the crisis.

Whether China is partially responsible for this crisis is not just an academic question. For if recovery of the world economy must rely on a resumption of consumption in the advanced economies, will we see a resurgence of the global imbalances that caused the crisis? This book helps us to answer these questions by examining international macroeconomic and financial issues regarding China and Asia.

To grasp China’s contribution to global imbalances, one needs to start by looking at China’s savings and investment, which Lin and Schramn (chapter 2) analyze at both the national and sectoral levels. They show that the corporate and household sectors have provided more savings than the economy can use as investment. Interestingly, they also show that one-third of domestic savings are transformed into investment outside the formal financial system, indicating the country’s lack of financial development, which Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has pointed out cause China’s excess savings to flee to the highly developed financial markets in the US.

In addition to being shallow, Chinese financial markets’ lack of openness has been cited as one factor contributing to the global imbalances. As Hung (chapter 3) illustrates, the speed of China’s financial liberalization has not kept up with the recent phenomenal rise in exports, resulting in the pile up of the country’s international reserves (IR) holdings; it now holds US$2.4 trillion, or more than one-third of the world’s total IR. Other East Asian economies hold another one-third.

Ironically, while one of the major motives for China and other East Asian economies to hold massive amounts of IR was to insure themselves against another Asian financial crisis, this exact behaviour may have contributed to the current crisis through the export of liquidity. In chapter 12, Li et al. look at why countries accumulate more IR than the optimal level. According to them, countries can fall into a “zone of optimal inaction” in which they have no incentive to change their level of IR holdings even if they exceed the optimal level.

It has been argued that more than two-thirds of global IR holdings are held in US dollar assets. Cavoli and Rajan (chapter 7) as well as Schnabl (chapter 8) show that the US dollar has been the most dominant reserve currency in Asia, though the yen has marginally enlarged its role since the Asian crisis.

For China, the dollar’s depreciation means more appreciation pressure on its currency. Fung et al. join the ongoing debate on the undervaluation of the Chinese currency by questioning the way the effective exchange rate—an important yardstick to estimate the equilibrium rate—is usually calculated. The authors argue that the US dollar is overweighted in the currency basket used to determine the effective exchange rate because it does not adjust for China’s trade via Hong Kong, given China’s reliance on Hong Kong as its intermediary for international trade, and given that Hong Kong’s currency is pegged to the US dollar. This results in misleading estimates of the Renminbi’s equilibrium value.

The Renminbi’s undervaluation has become highly politicized in the US. However, Lee (chapter 6) shows that a large part of the current account surpluses of East Asia is of a permanent nature; therefore exchange rate movements would not have much impact on current account balances. Even if China allowed its currency to appreciate, many argue that imports from China would merely be replaced by those from other countries with cheap labour, possibly leaving US current account deficits intact. Ahearne et al. (chapter 1) show that the development of Asian countries’ industrial structure can be explained by the “flying geese paradigm”; thus, even if China moves toward higher-value-added industries, it would probably be displaced by other less developed economies in Asia.

This book illustrates how intricately China is woven in with the current global recession. While we want China to be the “demander of last resort,” as the US was during the Asian crisis, that growth must be both sustainable and balanced. Chen et al. show that there is still much room for China to move toward higher-value-added, non-processing types of industries, which will significantly impact both output growth and employment.

But don’t expect China to take drastic actions. History shows that Beijing policy makers tend to be risk-averse gradualists. They must worry about widening income gaps and the risk of societal and political instability, all brought about by rapid development. As Chinese policy makers learn from their own and others’ experiences, we need to educate ourselves about the circumstances that China faces. This book provides us with the key to not only China’s economy but also the world economy.

Hiro Ito, Portland State University, Portland, USA 


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WAS MAO REALLY A MONSTER?: The Academic Response to Chang and Halliday’s Mao: The Unknown Story. Edited by Gregor Benton and Lin Chun. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. viii, 199 pp. US$42.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-415-49330-7.

The academic response to popular histories is much like a master chef going to McDonald’s with a favourite young niece or nephew: disgusted by the crass marketing of salt, grease, and high fructose corn syrup but not wanting to come off as a snob (and, to be sure, the french fries are tasty). When academics fume against Gavin Menzies1421: The Year China Discovered the World (Bantam, 2002), Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (Basic Books, 1997), or, the subject here, Mao: The Unknown Story , they feel the same futile avuncular exasperation: How can I explain this to a civilian? To be sure, Ming armadas did make prodigious explorations, the Japanese Army did in fact commit war crimes, and Mao was indeed a megalomaniac under whose rule tens of millions died from political causes. But if Mao’s story is not “unknown” (any more than the Rape of Nanking was “forgotten”), was he the monster Chang and Halliday portray?

Fourteen academic reviews are reprinted here, with references given in the footnotes to reviews in newspapers and general interest weeklies. The editors’ introduction sets out the book’s history and initial positive reception, and then notes that most professional commentary has been “disapproving” (11). They challenge the assertion in the book’s opening sentence that Mao was “responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime,” saying that the number’s origin is vague and substantiation shaky (9).

Part 1 comprises reviews in general readership publications: Delia Davin’s “Dark Tales of Mao the Merciless” (Times Higher Education Supplement), Andrew Nathan’s “Jade and Plastic” ( London Review of Books ), and Jonathan Spence’s “Portrait of a Monster” (New York Review of Books). Nathan concedes that obstructions to research in China make documentation difficult but that, in the end, many of Mao’s “unknown stories” are suspect, some come from “sources that cannot be checked,” others are “openly speculative or are based on circumstantial evidence,” and some are “untrue.” Chang and Halliday are “magpies”: every “bright piece of evidence goes in, no matter where it comes from or how reliable it is.” “Jade and plastic” are arranged in a mosaic to “portray a possible but not a plausible Mao” (28).

Part 2 brings on the heavy hitters from a special review section of China Journal (January 2006). Gregor Benton, Steve Tsang, Timothy Cheek, Lowell Dittmer and Geremie Barmé dissect specific charges brought and mostly find them wanting. Cheek implies (54) that Chang and Halliday are rebels who bombard the headquarters of Western scholarship to dispel the Maoist ox ghosts and snake demons which dominate public discourse and American diplomacy.

Part 3 includes other academic specialists. Alfred Chan (from this journal) elegantly critiques the book’s argument and evidence. David Goodman’s full length article “Mao and The Da Vinci Code: Conspiracy, Narrative and History” (Pacific Review) is a highlight. Goodman explains that Mao, like Dan Brown’s thriller, is popular history, a genre which does not follow the “normal academic rules of engagement.” Neither book has an introduction or conclusion to discuss point of view, theory or methodology. Both simply assume that history is “the past waiting to be discovered rather than murky ambiguities to be interpreted, synthesized, or debated” (88). In both works, narrative replaces argument and excludes disagreement or alternative explanations; conjecture replaces evidence; and isolated references (“jade and plastic”?) replace sustained dialogue with the scholarly field.

Chinese reviews appear in part 4. Chen Yung-fa is cautious and meticulous, while Mobo Gao more polemically calls Mao an “intellectual scandal” (119), and Jin Xiaoding presents a low key “critique” (135).

In part 5, Bill Wilmott (published online) lucidly expatiates on earlier criticisms, but Arthur Waldron’s “Mao Lives”(Commentary) presents the sole minority view: Chang and Halliday’s factual evidence is “overwhelmingly accurate and well supported.” Like Goodman but to a different end, Waldron sees their voice as novelistic and moral rather than that of the “bloodless scholar” (167-168). Accordingly, Waldron first extols their thesis at length and only then explores their disconnection from scholarly discourse and emphasis on the “great man” rather than the history which produced him.

Another review which might well have been included is Perry Link, “An Abnormal Mind” (Times Literary Supplemen August 14, 2005). Link conjectures that Chang and Halliday “may have feared that to acknowledge anything beneficial would weaken their case against Mao or would play into the hands of those who argue that, despite all, the emergence of New China made it worthwhile to pay the price of Mao.” Chang and Halliday “feed the assumption, which is deeply embedded in Chinese political culture, that if only the good people can gain the upper hand, everything will be fine.” Link thus explains why, for them, Mao had to be a monster.

Charles W. Hayford, Northwestern University, Evanston, USA 


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Northeast Asia


OVERCOMING MODERNITY: Cultural Identity in Wartime Japan. Weatherhead Books on Asia. Editor and translator, Richard F. Calichman. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. xvii, 227 pp. US$57.50, cloth.
ISBN 978-0-231-14396-7.

In July 1942 a group of prominent Japanese philosophers, writers, musicologists, theologians, scientists and historians gathered for a symposium on “Overcoming Modernity.” The proceedings of the conference (twelve essays and two roundtable discussions) were first published in September and October 1942. They represent the highlight of Japan’s intellectual achievement during the Second World War and, if only for that reason, Richard Calichman is to be thanked for making them available in English.

Preparations for the symposium had started in January 1942, a month after Pearl Harbor, so it is reasonable to assume that its organizers were inspired by the dazzling Japanese triumphs over the Anglo-Americans. The events of subsequent months did nothing to dampen their spirit. By early May Japan appeared to be firmly in control of Southeast Asia and the western section of the Pacific Ocean. Although in retrospect the Japanese defeat at Midway in June 1942 may have constituted a turning point in the Pacific War, few, if any, in Japan at the time realized the significance of the battle. If the participants had any inkling of the ultimate disaster, they did not let on. Most probably, however, they swallowed the official line which presented Midway as yet another great victory.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that in the thrall of war euphoria the participants did not address such banes of modernity as military dictatorship or thought control, but instead focused on combating individualism, hedonism and pursuit of selfish profit. They were hostile to Anglo-American philosophy, which they regarded with contempt so great that, as Calichman tells us, they did not bother to discuss it. They feared the threat posed by the “contagion of the American way of life” (119) with its lethal combination of materialism, democracy, “jazz, eroticism and optimism” (120). They were alarmed by the “Jewish finance capital’s international dominance as well as the virus of material civilization on which it is based” (122). They were somewhat less worried about Marxism, because it represented “Jewish thought and spirit [that] are now outdated” (125). To combat these diverse evils, they wanted to oust Western influences which, the participants believed, had come to pollute Japanese culture, but they offered no practical solution as to how to end such contamination. It seems that the only concrete measure they came up with was their call to purify the Japanese language from Western loan words, but that does not seem to have been particularly original. For calls to purify the language had been made in Japan (with reference to China) by the great nativist Norinaga Motoori (1730-1801) and one must not forget that the Nazis also had similar ideas. Other than that, none of the participants stated just how they were going to overcome modernity, though some, it seems, believed that this could be done by the study of Japanese classics such as the Manyöshü (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) and the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) (128).

It is perhaps inevitable that a symposium with thirteen contributors from diverse fields had no unity of style or form. Some contributions are short, impressionistic sketches; others, long and erudite, and use highly technical language. Occasionally, subtlety and erudition reach such rarified heights that arguments are difficult to follow. This is not surprising given the belief of some contributors that “it is decadent to try to make oneself understood” (197).

It is possible to see in this collection a profound and pioneering critique of Western civilization. But it is just as valid to regard it as a monument to the bankruptcy of Japan’s intellectual enterprise during the war. Readers who embrace the latter position will no doubt agree with the remark by one of the participants, the celebrated literary critic Nakamura Mitsuo (1911-88), that “[i]n every country and in every age, countless examples can be found of erudite scholars who turn out to be nothing more than poor thinkers” (142). As the symposium shows, wartime Japan had more than its fair share of such erudite scholars.

In his lucid preface and introduction, Professor Calichman provides the intellectual background of the symposium. Certain important issues, however, are left out. For example, one wonders about Nazi influences on the participants. And one would like to know what evidence, if any, the literary critic Karatani Köjin (b. 1941) produced in support of his intriguing claim that the neglect of Britain and the United States “throughout the symposium pointed to an unspoken conviction on the part of the participants that Japan would, in fact, lose the war” (xiv).

Such reservations notwithstanding, the collection, finely translated by Calichman, will be indispensable for the study of Japan’s modern intellectual history and as such is to be highly recommended.

Christopher W. A. Szpilman, Kyushu Sangyo University, Fukuoka, Japan 


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South Asia


TSUNAMI RECOVERY IN SRI LANKA: Ethnic and Regional Dimensions. Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series; 27. Edited by Dennis B. McGilvray and Michele R. Gamburd. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. xix, 188 pp. (Figures, tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$ 130.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-77877-0.

The Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004 was remarkable both in terms of the magnitude of the disaster and the scale of the relief and recovery operations by national and international, state and non-governmental organizations. Following the tsunami and the “second wave” of humanitarian assistance there has also been a wave of academic writings on the tsunami, emphasizing questions of vulnerability to disaster, participation in disaster recovery and the links between the disaster and intrastate conflicts, especially in the Aceh Province of Indonesia and in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

The volume edited by Dennis McGilvray and Michele R. Gamburd focuses on tsunami recovery in Sri Lanka. The book consists of nine chapters that are organized in three thematic sections. The first section contains overview discussions of tsunami studies, the politics of disaster recovery and peace and the question of ethnicity and human vulnerability in Sri Lanka. The first chapter, written by the editors, provides a comprehensive review of the existing literature on the tsunami and highlights the interdisciplinary and cultural orientation of the book. This is followed by a chapter by Alan Keenan on the politics of tsunami recovery, emphasizing the failed attempt to use internationalized humanitarian rehabilitation as a forerunner to conflict resolution. Thereafter, Randall Kuhn offers a quantitative overview of ethnicity and coastal vulnerability in Sri Lanka, drawing attention to the complex realities of minority status at different geographic scales and units. The middle section of the book contains three ethnographic case studies of tsunami recovery processes in the Sinhala-speaking Galle District on the southwest coast (written by Michele Gamburd), on the Tamil-speaking Batticaloa District on the east coast (by Patricia Lawrence) and on Tamilspeaking Muslims and Hindus in the Ampara District (authored by Dennis McGilvray). These ethnographic case studies and the comparisons between two regions (the southwest and the east coast) and four ethnic communities (Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burgers) make up the substantive core of the volume. The final section returns to more general questions of disaster recovery. Timmo Gaasbeek provides an insider account of NGO activities and organizational culture in the recovery process in eastern Sri Lanka, while Georg Frerks examines the tsunami in regard to critical issues in interdisciplinary disaster studies. Finally, the main lessons from the three sections are brought together in a brief concluding chapter written by the editors.

The main identity and strength of this volume is found in its emphasis on ethnographic field studies of disaster recovery, providing an important corrective to the prevalence of state-centered and macro-scale analysis of politics, development and the tsunami in Sri Lanka. The ethnographic studies of the selected cases in Galle, Batticaloa and Ampara districts and the study of NGO organizational culture deserve to be read by both disaster scholars and practitioners in humanitarian and development organizations. These and the other chapters demonstrate the complex ways in which the reconstruction process was hampered by political patronage, by the competing efforts of humanitarian organizations and by the ongoing civil war. Still I would have liked to see a more systematic integration of the macro-scale politics and local experiences with patronage politics in disaster recovery. It can also be argued that the book would have benefitted from a more systematic engagement with the role of LTTE in the north and east and I find it regrettable that the book does not include a separate chapter on tsunami recovery in areas that were at the time controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Leaving this aside, the book is a well-researched and much-needed grounded contribution to the understanding of tsunami recovery and the politics of state power, conflict and development in Sri Lanka. As such it will prove itself to be of great value to Sri Lanka studies and to the interdisciplinary field of disaster studies.

Kristian Stokke, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway 


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Southeast Asia

MODERN NOISE, FLUID GENRES: Popular Music in Indonesia, 1997-2001. New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies.By Jeremy Wallach. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Press, 2008. xvi 323 pp. (Tables, B&W photos, illus.) US$50.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-299-22900-9; US$24.95, paper,ISBN 978-0-299-22904-7.

Wallach’s text is a valuable addition to the growing field of Indonesian popular music studies and this study is a welcome counterbalance to ethnomusicologists’ historical focus on gamelan traditions. Wallach’s work is especially enlightening when read alongside the recent contributions to the field by Baulch and Luvaas. While at first seeming over-ambitious, Wallach’s technique of comparing the very different genres of dangdut, pop and underground (metal, punk) musics allows him to approach issues of class, gender and globalization in rather sophisticated ways.

The social science research agenda on Indonesia has historically focused on the nation’s socio-economic extremes: the majority restricted to the poverty-stricken villages and urban slums versus the elite power brokers entrenched in metropolitan high-rises and government offices. The political changes brought about since an era of decentralization and democratization began in 1998 have illuminated the historically neglected cultural zone between the elite ground of global fashions and localized traditional practices. The musicians and fans that represent the primary subjects of Wallach’s project represent an emerging middle class of educated, but hardly wealthy, youth who have seized upon emergent electoral democracy and defied the attribution of “depoliticized floating mass” assigned to their parents. This is a complex middle zone in which different aesthetic worlds intermingle and global aesthetic currents flow with particular strength. In this meeting place of active aesthetic flux the multidirectional circulation of global aesthetic forms and the reinvention of musical meaning serves as a virtual terrain for social, aesthetic and religious reform.

Wallach analyzes in detail the quotidian activity of hanging out (nongkrong) in poor and middle-class life in Indonesia. This is a welcome antidote to the anthropological preoccupation with ceremony and spectacle in Indonesia. We are presented with fruitful and interesting investigations of previously neglected cultural artifacts, such as the “Thank-you Lists” found on locally produced cassettes. However, Wallach’s approach towards ethnographic thick description may, at moments, become a bit too thick for some readers and we tend in spots to get more detail than image, more trees than forest. This slight shortcoming, if it can be called such, is made up for in the tight concluding chapter.

The text is focused primarily on three general themes:

1) Globalization and the nation: Wallach is primarily concerned with the interaction of these two categories with the local and the development of cosmopolitan identities. Ethnicity is an important category here—one which could have been theorized more fully, especially its implications for reimagining the local from a national frame. Importantly, Wallach analyzes the Indonesian acara, secular social events, as a bringing together of local, national and global forms.

2) Sociality: Wallach stresses the “ethic of sociality” prevalent in Indonesia; however the suggestion that popular musical activity promotes harmony across “ethnic, regional and other social boundaries” (166) is sometimes overstressed. The result is to reify the power of class (vaguely figured) in this context and to downplay the assertion of individuality and personal expression in popular music scenes. While Wallach makes an excellent case, we might be wary of the unintended consequence of amplifying prior anthropological stereotypes of Indonesian culture as straightforward communitas. None of these forms completely erases social distinctions, as is implied at moments in the text (although this is problematized, 254).

3) Social class as articulated by genre. Wallach here applies Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital in his discussion of gengsi (status consciousness), and the perceived inferiority of local globalized (Anglo-American) genres (i.e., rock) versus their Indonesian versions. Here Wallach is concerned with, on the one hand, the ways in which popular music furthers processes of urban social differentiation, and on the other with the engendering of communitas through reception. Communitas is primarily associated with lower-class performance traditions such as dangdut (and the ethos of the Sukarno era), whereas lifestyle (gaya hidup) is associated with upper-class voluntary identity formation through the selective adoption of Westernized commodities and popular music (associated with the ethos of the New Order, Suharto era). The dialectic between these two processes isn’t always entirely clear, although Wallach does theorize the meanings generated when, for instance, working class musics such as dangdut> are performed in upper-class pop settings.

To a lesser extent, Wallach focuses on issues of gender and hybridity (both in identity formation and musical style). Both issues are discussed through rich ethnographic detail and fully theorized. Wallach is most articulate and powerful in his conclusion, where he more rigorously theorizes his subject without attempting to create a totalizing theoretical framework which would narrow his conclusions. Fortunately, Wallach’s spheres of interest and their interpenetration are allowed the complex ambiguity we experience in the world of Indonesian popular music.

Andrew Clay McGraw, University of Richmond, Virginia, USA


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Australasia and the Pacific Region

RESTORING THE BALANCE: Performing Healing in West Papua. By Ien Courtens. Leiden: KITLV Press, 2008. xii, 252 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$44.00, paper. ISBN 978-90-6718-278-2.

Restoring the Balance is a welcome addition to the ethnographic literature of Pacific cultures, dealing with the relatively little-known interior of the Bird’s Head of West Papua in eastern Indonesia. The monograph is narrow in scope, focusing on the performance of healing rituals in the village of Ayawasi, in the northwest Ayfat District. Ien Courtens has revised her 2005 anthropology doctoral thesis from the Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands. The work is based on field research in 1994-95 supplemented by a brief return visit ten years later.

The heart of the monograph is a single detailed case study of the serious illness of Mama Raja, a woman of high status in the village. The illness extended over a period of several weeks, giving ample opportunity for the family to draw on the full range of healing resources in the community. The author uses the case as a framework for discussing the hierarchy of resort to health care.

Early in her illness, Mama Raja performed private healing rituals, using the extensive knowledge of medicinal plants and spells she had acquired in initiation. When the illness continued, her family called in specialized male healers who performed the traditional rites appropriate to their understanding of the cause of her illness. One healer named a witch; another used a glass of water for divination of the spirits responsible.

Simultaneously, Mama Raja pursued biomedical treatment, getting a laboratory diagnosis of malaria and treatment from the nurses in the outpatient clinic. The clinic was first established in the village in 1963 by Dutch Missionary Sisters (CPS) who were replaced by Indonesian Franciscan sisters and local staff in 1992.

The final healing performances for the desperately ill Mama Raja, after the local priest had already conducted the last sacraments, were the syncretistic rites of the Christian healing society Kelompok Sabda, a peculiarly local integration of Christian and indigenous healing practice.

The term “hierarchy of resort” was introduced by Lola Romanucci-Ross in 1969, describing the search for health in Manus, Admiralty Islands, Papua New Guinea. The concept is well-established in medical anthropology, so it seems odd that Courtens does not credit her or other medical anthropologists who have struggled with the question of the extent to which different modes of treatment are accessed (1) in a firm sequence, (2) simultaneously, or (3) simply as a matter of convenience. In the end, Courtens comes down on the first option, that there is a firm hierarchy, since she knew of no cases in which an indigenous healer was called in after a Christian healer had begun to treat the case.

The use of a single dramatic case study is a common strategy in medical ethnography, this one inviting comparison with several such monographs from neighbouring Papua New Guinea (e.g. Gilbert Lewis, Verena Keck). The strength of the case study approach is that it makes a good read, an engaging narrative with all the tension of a novel, while allowing readers to absorb a good deal of cultural and geographical information. Fieldwork methods are worked in along the way. A particular fieldwork challenge was the requirement of secrecy imposed by the women who taught Courtens the names and uses of 60 or 70 medicinal plants, few of which were botanically identified or could be named in the text.

The weakness of the dominant case study is that by definition it is an atypical case, however repeatedly its generalizability might be asserted. Also, a reader unfamiliar with West Papua is left with a myriad of questions that would not flow in a narrative but might have been answered in a differently organized presentation. This reader had at least one pesky question per page: What were the injections given for malaria? Where did the local priest get a seminary education that helped him confidently develop a contextual theology? What is “malaria tropica”? (For that one, at least, finding an answer was easy: it is better known as falciparum malaria.)

The volume is attractively presented, with numerous photographs, map, glossary and index. The monograph can be recommended for university libraries and anthropology students at any level.

Patricia K. Townsend, University at Buffalo,The State University of New York, USA


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EVOLUTION IN THE ANTIPODES: Charles Darwin and Australia. By Tom Frame. Sydney (Australia): University of New South Wales Press, 2009. viii, 307 pp. AUD$36.32, paper. ISBN 978-1-921410-76-5.

Evolution in the Antipodes: Charles Darwin and Australia is the most recent work by theologist and historian Tom Frame. Ostensibly, Evolution in the Antipodes investigates the trajectory of evolutionary thought within Australia, extending from Charles Darwin’s 1836 visit to the continent, up to the present day.Frame provides his reader with the social and academic context for Darwin’s work, without which it is impossible to understand the man, his thoughts and the manner in which he developed his theory of evolution. Having provided this grounding in Darwin’s personal history, Frame guides his reader through the history of Darwinism in Australia: the early adoption of evolutionary thought in the secular community that was developing in the colonies; the influence of the Modern Synthesis on Australian Darwinism; and the growth of the creationist movement in Australia. This investigation of Australian academic history arguably constitutes the chief contribution of Evolution in the Antipodes to the Darwinian canon, examining the unique position held by Australia as a First-World, Westernized country in which a significant European population was establishing itself at the same time that evolutionary thought was attaining prominence.

Darwin in the Antipodes is not a simple history: from investigating the trajectory of evolutionary thought in Australia, Frame turns his attention to the parallel history of religion and the church’s attitude to evolution. From this point on, Darwin in the Antipodes is less concerned with Darwinism, and more concerned with the intercept between religion and evolution. Of real significance is Frame’s investigation of the evolution vs. creationism debate as it has developed in Australia, which has run in parallel to its counterpart in the United States of America. It is particularly commendable that Frame, a noted theologist, is transparent in his personal religious beliefs. The author’s honesty as to his personal views on evolutionary theory is to be commended, and provides valuable context for the remainder of the text. However, the addition of a personal epilogue that presents the author’s own interpretation of evolutionary theory is, at best, indulgent and, at worst, presumptuous. As such, Evolution in the Antipodes contains evidence of bias, which, especially in a text that aims to navigate the sometimes-dangerous path between evolution and religion, is somewhat disingenuous. Of particular concern are incidences where the text lacks transparency. For example, when Frame contradicts the chief thesis of historian Randal Keynes, that Darwin was an atheist, he neglects to mention that Keynes is the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin, and is the family biographer (146). Furthermore, Frame’s history is not without inaccuracies; for example, he states that Darwin was no theologian (150), despite the fact that Charles Darwin studied theology at Cambridge University, and was ranked 10th in his class. These omissions and inaccuracies do Frame’s main thesis no favours.

“Evolution in the Antipodes” this is not: “Debates on Darwinism” would be a more accurate representation of the text. Frame himself admits that the text is an “extended treatment of the interactions between Darwinian theory and theistic religion” (13). It is difficult to believe that the title given to this book, as well as its marketing, have not been influenced by the fact that 2009 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin. Evolution in the Antipodes is not a biography of Darwin, nor is it a historical text aimed at investigating the direct link between Darwin’s work and his time in Australia. Rather, it is a treatise of sorts, a series of essays that skim just over the meat of the material, making it a tantalizing read, but ultimately unsatisfying.

Amber S. Beavis, University of California, Berkeley, USA 


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