Book Reviews – Vol 84, No 3

September 2011

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

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Asia General

PATHS TO DEVELOPMENT IN ASIA: South Korea, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia. By Tuong Vu. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010. xvii, 294 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$85.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-521-76180-2.

The East Asian developmental experience continues to attract attention. Rightly so: the economic history of twentieth-century East Asia remains one of the most surprising and optimism-inducing periods of the recent past. There are still potentially important lessons to be learned about how it happened and what it might mean for other parts of the world. In the context of existing debates, Tuong Vu’s analysis of the East Asian “miracle” pays particular attention to the role of the state and the conditions that allowed it to play a role in overseeing economic development. While this is hardly a novel undertaking, of course, Vu’s book adds to our understanding of this process by focusing on the historical circumstances which gave a number of East Asian states their distinctive “developmental” character. What distinguishes this book in the author’s view, is that it provides an explanation that emphasizes the “political and contingent factors,” rather than what Vu takes to be the dominant sociological interpretation of regional development.

Paths to Development in Asia consequently does what the title suggests. By looking at the comparative historical experiences of South Korea, China, Indonesia and Vietnam, Vu provides an elite-centred analysis of state development which explains state coherence and hence its potential to oversee the developmental project. Some readers will be surprised at the choice of case studies, no doubt, as apart from South Korea, their status as developmental states might be considered contestable. Whatever the merits of considering states like Indonesia as developmental, though, this approach does have the merit of isolating some of the factors that caused states to develop in particular ways; factors which help to account for their subsequent effectiveness. As Vu notes, the inclusion of Vietnam and China is also illuminating because they are notionally non-capitalist states, and because this analysis pays specific attention to the role of ideology. Given China’s growing importance as a potential developmental role model, a discussion of the early period of the modern state in China is especially welcome.

The key argument that emerges from Vu’s comparative analysis is somewhat counter-intuitive: elites that attempt to accommodate oppositional social forces are associated with reduced structural cohesion. Historical contexts and contingent factors mattered, but weren’t decisive: establishing growth-oriented political coalitions was the decisive move, whatever differences in background and even ideology there may have been. The historical evidence provided to support these claims is detailed and generally persuasive and the country studies will be of interest to country specialists and comparativists alike. Indeed, there are extended comparative analyses of Indonesia and Vietnam in particular, and the latter’s inclusion is especially welcome as it doesn’t generally receive the sort of attention its unique circumstances and potential merit.

It is always irritating for authors when reviewers tell them about the book they should have written rather than reviewing what they actually did say. With apologies in advance, it would have been helpful—and significantly added to the book’s overall appeal —if the analysis could have included some greater discussion of the case studies’ current circumstances and an assessment of the developmental period’s long-term importance. As it is, the book focuses mainly on the formative periods of the countries concerned, principally up until the 1960s. Informative, useful and well done as all this is, it would have been helpful to draw out its contemporary relevance in more detail. Nevertheless, the book is a significant contribution to the literature in this area and provides an original interpretation of an important and relatively neglected phase in the development of what has rapidly become the world’s most important economic region.

Mark Beeson, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia


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China and Inner Asia

ART IN TURMOIL: The Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1966-76. Contemporary Chinese Studies. Edited by Richard King; with Ralph Croizier, Shengtian Zheng and Scott Watson. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010. xii, 282 pp. (B&W photos, coloured photos, illus.) US$32.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7748-1543-7.

This fine book is a welcome addition to the growing body of new research on the cultural products of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. It pays particular attention to the visual arts but also includes studies of the model operas and ballets and a brief glance at fiction. The introduction by Richard King and Jan Walls gives helpful political and social background, and more specific detail can be found in the individual chapters. A generous number of illustrations, many in colour, are also provided. The distance in time and social transformation between China during the Cultural Revolution and today encourages reconsiderations of the visual arts, not least because of their remarkable survival in original and refigured forms. The introduction, for instance, after drawing attention to the huge gap between artistic representations of the period and the reality of life at the time, raises a provocative question: Do these “ghosts” now threaten post-socialist China? The book does not provide an answer, but many of its chapters highlight the persistence of Cultural Revolution art forms decades after their supposed demise.

In her opening chapter, Julia F. Andrews, like other contributors to this collection, stresses the brutality of the Cultural Revolution, noting the contrast between German openness about national responsibility for their recent past and the failure of current Chinese politicians to face up to communist misrule. She rejects the phrase “the ten lost years,” preferring to see the period not as an aberration but as an accumulation of existing trends, and points out the tendency of Red Guard organizations in 1966-68 to replicate the bureaucratic habits that they ostensibly opposed. Andrews concludes with reflections on the revival of Cultural Revolution iconography, or “fictionalized remembrance”: “That the Cultural Revolution images—happy pictures masking a tragic reality—were often fiction themselves has been forgotten. Those that survive have outlived the truth that has not” (57).

Chapters by Britta Erickson and Ralph Croizier examine the changing interpretations or representations of Cultural Revolution works over several decades. Erickson contrasts the early series of the Rent Collection Courtyard sculptures with Cai Guo-Qiang’s Venice’s Rent Collection Courtyard in terms of audience expectations and reception, collective authorship and copyright, and class-based rhetoric and current nationalist rhetoric. Croizier is equally illuminating on Hu Xian peasant painting, tackling the “relationship between mass spontaneity and guidance from above” (137). I would be inclined to differentiate between the professional painters who were involved in their production through teaching and collaboration, and the party’s cultural authorities, local and central, whose intervention then and now in vigorously promoting these products needs a stronger word than guidance. Croizier sees the continuance of peasant painting as not just a matter of local choice by individual painters but the result of new central policies “to validate the party as a protector of Chinese national identity in the face of renewed Western cultural inroads” (153). A fascinating interlude is provided by two short memoirs by Chinese painters now resident in Canada, Shengtian Zheng and Gu Xiong. At the time of the Cultural Revolution, the former was a young art teacher in Hangzhou, the latter a Chongqing schoolboy sent to the countryside. Both then found refuge in art; neither now suffer from nostalgia.

The remaining chapters focus on the artistic and social contexts in which the works originally appeared. Shelley Drake Hawks writes an impassioned account of the tragic life of the painter Shi Lu, and Bai Di examines gender issues in The White-Haired Girl and The Red Detachment of Women. Paul Clark draws attention to the number of performance presentations throughout the Cultural Revolution and to the narrowness of their contents and styles. While few scholars now believe that only eight model works were performed during this period, from the audience perspective there was little choice in theatrical entertainment. Propaganda art is not as easy to produce as it may seem.

In his concluding chapter, Richard King draws together the visual, performing and literary arts in works featuring “an exemplary hero ready for literal or metaphorical battle” (203). Unfortunately for its promoters, these victorious battles turned out to be mere fantasies, “evaporating the instant that the real battle was joined” (215). The perpetual battlefront mentality of the Cultural Revolution forms one of the great contrasts with today’s “harmonious development”: Is it being suggested that the latter is equally a fantasy of politicians divorced from reality?

Readers may wish to take issue with some passages. One may doubt whether “politics and art” are “irrevocably intertwined” in China significantly more than in other countries (54). And were the middle generation in the 1950s and 1960s “idealistic” or was their apparent commitment to building socialism simply self-interest? Was it “trust and idealism” that led them into disaster, or fear and passive obedience? (29). The swift response to the economic reforms of the 1980s onwards does not suggest a weary, disappointed population but one responding in relief at their escape from oppressive interference in daily life. The book would also be improved by more care in editing, especially in regard to translating special terms. The apostrophe in Hanyu Pinyin is misused, and the index is incomplete.

These are minor quibbles. The level of scholarship throughout is high, with extensive reading in Chinese-language primary and secondary sources combined with personal experience. It is recommended reading for all students of contemporary Chinese culture and society.

Bonnie S. McDougall, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia


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SHANGHAI’S DANCING WORLD: Cabaret Culture and Urban Politics, 1919-1954. By Andrew David Field. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2010. xv, 364 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos, illus.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-962-996-448-1. /em>

This is a refreshingly well-written and richly detailed account of the world of cabarets, nightclubs and elite ballrooms in Shanghai during its jazz-inspired “golden age” from 1919 to 1954, as well as a wider social history of this important city during an extraordinary period of political upheaval in China. It intertwines its stories about nightlife adeptly with critical episodes in modern Chinese history, and is therefore also a story about China itself, as well as about its most hedonist city. Others have described Shanghai’s famous nightlife too, but this book is based on previously untapped government documents, newspapers, magazines, novels, photo archives and other materials, and stands out as the most comprehensive and most detailed source on the subject. The book is a must for any library about modern China. I recommend it too for non-China readers who are interested in urban social history, as well as for readers in general who simply want something interesting, fun and intelligent to read. The book is that good; Andrew David Field, an independent scholar-historian, is to be congratulated and deserves to be recognized for his accomplishment.

Shanghai’s Dancing World is organized chronologically and is divided into two major parts, one about the rise of jazz and related nightlife in Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s in the context of the city’s foreign settlements and rising modernity, and the other about the decline and fall of the same in the 1940s and 1950s under Japanese imperial rule, the return to power in 1945 of Chinese Nationalist government, and then the transformational rule of the Communist Party. The details are fascinating. In part 1 we trace the invasion of jazz into the ultra-formal world of “Shanghailanders and their Balls” (21), see the emergence of the city’s first jazz cabarets, witness the spread of “dance madness” among a segment of the Chinese population, and study the architectural splendor of grand nightclubs and ballrooms such as Ciro’s, the Paramount, and the Paradise ballroom, a taxi-dance hall built into the Sun Company Department Store, among other developments. Along the way we meet Shanghai’s personalities: Buck Clayton and his Harlem Gentlemen band at the Canidrome ballroom near the greyhound track in the French Concession; American jazz band leader Whitey Smith who in 1927 entertained 1,300 guests in the Majestic Hotel ballroom at the lavish wedding celebration of Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling; popular Chinese dancer Li Lina, an employee of the Black Cat, a Paris-style cabaret in the Paris Hotel on Tibet Road that was a favorite among a Chinese clientele; and impresario Al Israel who was referred to as the “Ziegfield of Shanghai.” He owned a popular nightclub-gambling den named Del Monte and is said to have met trains from Harbin to ply Russian women with champagne and offer them work as hostesses and dancers. A detour takes us across the Garden Bridge to a district in Hongkou near the Huangpu River that was known as the Trenches where we read about gambling, prostitution and other vices enjoyed by foreign sailors. Highlights of the second half of the book include insights to Shanghai’s Green Gang mobsters, criminality and alliances with the Guomindang in the New World Amusement Center and other cabarets in wartime; the special role as national icons that befell cabaret hostesses at this time; the formation of the Shanghai Cabaret Guild and regulation of the cabaret industry by the Nationalist government in the mid-1940s; and what is called the Dancers’ Uprising in 1948. The last chapter outlines the final demise of the Shanghai’s dancing world during the 1949-1954 building of a new society by the Communist government.

The book never loses sight of the fact that the frivolity enjoyed in Shanghai by the privileged leisure class was made possible by the labour and sufferings of the urban lumpenproletariat. This truth is firmly established in the introduction, where Field cites a 1932 short story by Mu Shiying called “Shanghai Foxtrot” that describes the city as a “maelstrom of decadence with a seething undercurrent of discontent,” and is discussed again in the epilogue, where the author discusses the paradox of studying happy nightlife to learn about social inequality and Chinese national conflicts. Other pluses are 58 wonderful illustrations that range from photographs or drawings of prominent musicians and dancers, to photographs and blueprints of architectural splendour in the city’s best ballrooms, to photographs of old dance hall tickets and magazine covers about Shanghai gaiety. There is also an appendix rich with data about individual establishments and their employees, as well as genuinely helpful endnotes and a fine bibliography. From beginning to end Shanghai’s Dancing World is an enlightening and enjoyable experience.

Roman Cybriwsky, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA


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Northeast Asia

EXPORTING JAPAN: Politics of Emigration to Latin America. By Toake Endoh. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009. 267 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$50.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-252-03402-2.

Toake Endoh’s Exporting Japan is an important contribution to the growing field of Asian Diaspora Studies. In this book, he provides his reader with a detailed analysis of Japanese emigration policy to Latin America. In particular, he writes against the scholarship of international economy, structuralism and transnational networks in order to examine domestic political aspects of emigration, adopting a state-centric paradigm that focuses on the intentions, ideology, perceptions and actions of the Japanese state in regard to Latin American emigration. Endoh explores three specific paradoxes: the unorthodox patterns of migration and settlement, governmental policy for overseas migration, and the southwest origin of the majority of immigrants. This Japan-focused study of emigration offers scholars insight into the policy behind the largest Japanese diasporic populations, although it does not introduce any new theoretical literatures to the field of Asian Diaspora Studies.

The strength in Endoh’s study lies in his ability to access Japanese-language sources that describe the Japanese government’s policies in respect to overpopulation, post-World War II emigration, and how the state retained links to its expatriate communities. Looking at the policies regarding overpopulation, Endoh introduces a hybrid approach that synthesizes migration, social control and state expansion, and considers the Japanese government’s Latin American emigration policies in the context of Asian colonization through its broader encouragement of emigration to Hokkaido, Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria. He analyzes the geographic and social origins of the emigrants and illustrates the ways in which the Japanese government recruited citizens from poorer communities as a means of combating overpopulation and poverty, looking specifically at policies directed toward the populations of the southwest of Japan (Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Kumamoto and Okinawa), the burakumin, and ex-miners (such as those from Mitsui Mining). In his consideration of post-World War II emigration, Endoh offers his readers an analysis of the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Paraguay, stressing that the Japanese government believed that emigration ensured “a smoother and quicker postwar reconstruction” despite the fact that the General Headquarters (GHQ) and Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) frowned on it during the Occupation (81). Finally, in his examination of state expansion through emigration, Endoh highlights Japan’s interest in Brazilian agricultural products, such as cotton and soybeans, as well as the nationalistic pride of the diasporic communities, whose members sent monetary contributions to Japan and encouraged loyalty to Japan. The detail-oriented analyses of these policies expand scholarship on the history and politics of modern Japan.

The greatest strength of Endoh’s book, its access to Japanese-language sources, is also its greatest weakness. Endoh heavily relies on Japanese- and English-language sources, including few in Spanish and none in Portuguese. While his summary of the history of the two waves of migration to Latin America, Peru and Brazil in the first wave (1898-1941) and Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Paraguay in the second wave (1950s and 1960s), is a welcome addition to studies of Japanese emigration to Latin America, his analysis of Japanese immigration to these countries ignores some of the major scholarship, including Jeffrey Lesser’s seminal studies of Japanese immigration in Brazil. Instead, Endoh claims that Latin American emigration policies were an extension of the imperialist designs of the Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. This problematic conflation of emigration policies with colonial policies insists on nation-building by way of transnational expansion when, in fact, Japan never colonized Latin America. Though it is true that some immigrants showed nationalistic pride in being Japanese, Endoh overemphasizes the significance of the defeat of Japan during World War II, citing emperor worship in Latin America and highlighting the conflict between the kachigumi (those who believed that Japan had won the war) and the makegumi (those who believed that Japan had lost the war). While this conflict did cause a rift in the expatriate communities in Brazil, Peru and other Latin American countries, the violence was particularly constrained to the Japanese community in São Paulo and was largely ignored by the Brazilian government until members of the Shindô Renmei (The League of the Emperor’s Subjects), a kachigumi organization, killed a non-Japanese Brazilian man in 1946. Endoh does not examine information that points to the Brazilian government’s role in the maintenance of Japanese nationalism. His reliance on Japanese-language sources leads him to overemphasize the importance of these conflicts within the Japanese expatriate community in support of his claim that Japanese nationalism abroad contributed to furthering immigration to Latin America from Japan post-World War II.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend the book to scholars of Asian Diaspora Studies as well as students of modern Japan interested in policies regarding Japanese colonialism and the GHQ/SCAP Occupation of Japan, because Endoh offers his readers insight into how the Japanese government used Latin American emigration as a political decompressor to restore order in Japan.

Zelideth María Rivas, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, USA


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TERASAKI HIDENARI, PEARL HARBOR, AND OCCUPIED JAPAN: A Bridge to Reality. By Roger B. Jeans. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009. xx, 277 pp. (B&W photos.) US $75.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-7391-3400-9.

Good biographies clarify difficult lives. Alternatively described as spymaster, informant and tragic hero, Terasaki Hidenari’s life begs illumination. Combining previous analyses with MAGIC intercepts, State Department documents, press reports and memoirs (mostly in English), Roger Jeans’ portrait of Terasaki diverges from previous work yet explains reasonably how prior views coalesced. Jeans sees Terasaki as motivated by concern for emperor and country, an analytical thread that integrates Jeans’ and previous assessments.

Elite schooling enabled Terasaki to join the Foreign Ministry. Posted to Washington in 1927, he met his future wife and married despite potential for real hardship. She had to confront anti-Asian feelings in her family and society and he had to consider relations potentially souring between America and Japan. Ominously, they married the November following the Manchurian Incident, after which Terasaki was sent to Shanghai. In favour of Japan’s seizure of Manchuria, Terasaki seems then to have been more an anti-communist and not a military expansionist. He feared Soviet encroachment and blamed the League of Nations for Japan’s withdrawal since the League was unwilling to confront the USSR. Transferred to Havana in 1936 he then helped establish an intelligence and propaganda network across the Caribbean before returning to China in 1939. There Jeans sees Terasaki as appalled by the Japanese military’s heavy-handed treatment of Chinese and the international community. Joseph Grew appears to corroborate this, because on the eve of Terasaki’s 1940 transfer back to the US, Grew noted Terasaki’s intelligence and pragmatism.

About half the book focuses on the year prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War. Closely connected to Japan’s Foreign Ministry elite through his elder brother and the Anglo-American clique, Terasaki was no mere functionary. Assigned an intelligence-gathering mission as well as a propaganda role, he helped establish a clandestine network among Americans opposed to the actions of their government vis-à-vis Japan, encouraging some to lobby their government to maintain friendly ties with Japan. This is one of the more intriguing angles of this study, as Jeans persuasively shows that rather than being more concerned with events in Europe, some American isolationists and pacifists were very interested in the Pacific, petitioning key figures accordingly.

Terasaki enjoyed a variety of American connections and through his wife could access others. Through the consulate Terasaki was also linked to Japanese businesses, some potentially in positions to gather intelligence. Not all of these contacts proved useful of course, but the picture that emerges is one of an active officer. Terasaki was also under orders to expand networks in Central and South America, and to be prepared to relocate headquarters there should war break out with the US. Diplomatic immunity provided Terasaki with some protection in these endeavours, but that did not stop American intelligence services from investigating, shadowing and even wiretapping him.

Jeans sees Terasaki as genuinely seeking to prevent war, even challenging more senior diplomats on policy. One of his greatest successes appears to have been helping prompt Roosevelt’s cable to the emperor on the eve of Pearl Harbour. The drumbeat, however, is inexorable, as Jeans contextualizes Terasaki’s actions with reference to wider events. Terasaki’s wife reported him sobbing the afternoon of December 7, recognizing his efforts to have been in vain and frustrated with Japan’s military leaders. In fact, when repatriated to Japan Terasaki had garnered the reputation of being pro-American, which marginalized him for the duration of the war.

The book’s final section addresses the Occupation. Reunited with other foreign ministry men experienced working with the West, Terasaki was assigned as an intermediary with American officials and appointed to the emperor’s inner circle. There, as advisor and interpreter he helped negotiate the purges and possible abdication en route to carving out a new postwar role for the emperor. This he managed despite several strokes. Ironically, his notes from that era—especially regarding the emperor’s “monologue”—caused a popular stir and a critical reevaluation of the emperor when published in 1990.

Footnoted in detail, this is an informative study. Terasaki held key posts and found himself caught at cross-purposes at several junctures. As head of espionage and propaganda he took on roles necessitated by his position and loyalties, yet he used them to endeavour also to effect changes his conscience dictated. The strain took its toll; Terasaki passed away in 1951, not quite 50.

This is a straightforward, jargon-free biography aimed at teasing out the details of a complex life in challenging times. Accessible to undergraduates and the general public it illuminates both the road to Pearl Harbour and the road to Japan’s postwar system.

Bill Sewell, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada


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South Asia

RISE OF THE PLEBEIANS?: The Changing Face of Indian Legislative Assemblies. Exploring the Political in South Asia, vol. 2. Editors: Christophe Jaffrelot and Sanjay Kumar. London, New York and New Delhi: Routledge, 2009. xxxvi, 494 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$100.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-46092-7.

Conceptualizing the effects of salient ethnic identities on the workings of electoral institutions has long been of central concern for scholars of democratic politics. In the wider comparative literature, the presence of politicized ethnic identities has been viewed as deleterious for outcomes ranging from levels of social trust to the provision of public goods in multiethnic democracies. Scholars have thus been apprehensive about the heightened salience of caste as the explicit basis for political mobilization and party formation in Indian states following the decline of the Indian National Congress’ dominance. Such entrenchment of caste, observers fear, necessarily undermines the liberal potential of the country’s democratic institutions.

It is to this interpretation of the role of caste in Indian democracy that the contributors to this volume offer a hefty challenge. At its core, The Rise of the Plebians seeks to build on an insight made by one of its editors in a previous work, where he provocatively posited that it was precisely the elevated salience of caste which “was responsible for the democratization of Indian democracy” (Christophe Jaffrelot, The Silent Revolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 10). This present volume argues that caste in many parts of India has been transformed from the basis of a vertical socio-religious hierarchy between communities to the foundation for horizontal political mobilization within them. Further, it is populations that have previously been excluded from the corridors of political power that have spearheaded this reconfiguration. In doing so, they have reshaped the ethnic identities that served as the basis for their historical marginalization into “vehicles for socio-political change” (1).

It is the rise of these “plebians” (particularly groups classified as Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes in the lexicon of the Indian government), mobilized explicitly on the basis of their caste, that has fundamentally deepened the representativeness of the Indian political system. The most compelling evidence the volume presents in favour of this argument is the perceptible, often dramatic shifts in the social composition of India’s legislators. This central empirical thread structures both the individual chapters on 16 major Indian states, and their ordering within the collection. Since the shifts in social profile have not occurred uniformly, a major contribution of the collection is to carefully outline the considerable variation in plebian assertiveness across India. Accordingly chapters have been grouped into regional sections that also serve to illustrate certain underlying commonalities.

A plebian rise has been most pronounced in the northern Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where lower-caste formations have effectively pushed upper-caste politicians into positions of relative marginality. A similar transition occurred much earlier in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where lower castes were aggregated under a broad regional “Dravidian” identity. Yet in states in the Deccan plateau, and India’s northwest, elite dominance persists, with struggles largely circumscribed between dominant caste groups. The studies of West Bengal and Kerala highlight a paradox offered by these strongholds for Indian communism, which despite their commitment to pro-poor policies (particularly in the latter case) and substantial support from subaltern voters, continue to be dominated by upper-caste leaders.

The data on the caste composition of Indian legislatures is the major contribution of this volume, an impressive testament to the patience and dedication of its researchers. Given that this data has never been systematically collected and made available, it offers fertile terrain for future analyses to explore the connections between state-level trends in representation and other socio-political phenomena, ranging from party fragmentation, to public spending, to patterns of social conflict. At the same time, the individual chapters can serve as useful references for students looking for brief accounts of contemporary political developments in major Indian states.

Yet the major shortcoming of many individual chapters, and the collection as a whole, is that they offer far less theoretically than they do empirically. Variation in analytic quality is perhaps to be expected in a volume of this size, with the chapters on Uttar Pradesh (Zerinini) and Bihar (Robin) providing the most compelling examples of a “plebian rise.” However, many other chapters are unable to move beyond dense descriptions of the political trajectory of an individual state. Few attempt to use their empirical findings as the basis for more abstract theoretical insights. For example, there is little discussion of the advantages or limitations of an exclusive focus on the social composition of legislators as an indicator of democratization. Nor are there many attempts to explain whether increasing representation has been accompanied by policy shifts, how these new political actors forge support among their caste constituencies, or the impact of these assertive plebians on coalition politics.

More broadly, the volume misses an opportunity to frame the collective findings of its authors as a contribution to the broader work examining the relationship between ethnic heterogeneity and democracy. Even within a purely India-specific discussion, the volume does not clearly differentiate its analytic contribution from previous arguments about the “silent revolution” of India’s lower castes (Christophe Jaffrelot, The Silent Revolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003)). Despite these theoretical limitations, The Rise of the Plebians is an invaluable addition to studies of the evolution of Indian democracy, and will remain an influential reference on the important shifts that its authors have uncovered with such care.

Tariq Thachil, Yale University, New Haven, USA


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MINORITY GOVERNMENTS IN INDIA: The Puzzle of Elusive Majorities. Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series, vol. 19. By Csaba Nikolenyi. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. xvi, 175 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$125.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-77826-8.

For the majority of its post-independent history, the Indian National Congress has largely governed New Delhi. Since 1989, however, no single party has been able to capture a parliamentary majority. A series of minority national governments, mostly ruled by enormous multiparty coalitions, have emerged in their place. This is a real puzzle given that India has a first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral regime which, following Duverger’s Law, regularly produces single-party majority governments and two-party systems in other Westminster-style democracies. What explains this puzzling transformation in the world’s largest democracy? Minority Governments in India presents a parsimonious original explanation, employing social choice theories and sophisticated regression analyses, to answer this important question. It makes several valuable contributions to our understanding of modern Indian politics, coalition governments and comparative electoral systems. Yet the argument leaves several questions unanswered that warrant greater attention.

The merits of the book are threefold. First, it presents an original explanation that integrates the Indian case within the wider, theoretically driven comparative literature, its principal goal. Nikolenyi argues that the rise of minority national governments in India since 1989 is due to the increase in the number of parties contesting for office that, in turn, is the unintended consequence of a previously understudied constitutional amendment. The passage of the Anti-Defection Law in 1985, designed by the Congress Party to control its factions, ironically encouraged the latter to form their own parties. Second, the author gathers and analyzes an enormous wealth of electoral data to defend his arguments. In particular, chapter 5 presents several intriguing observations that will stimulate further research, concerning the varying propensities of different Indian states to form minority governments, coalition governments and stable executives (121-149). Finally, the evidence and arguments are presented in generally clear prose, a virtue given that potential readers may be unfamiliar with the often bewildering complexity of India’s electoral politics or the models and techniques used to study its dynamics.

Nevertheless, the book invites scrutiny on several grounds. First, although its statistical methodology seems probabilistic in nature, the argument has a deterministic quality that begs several questions. As Nikolenyi shows, there was a dramatic increase in the number of parties contesting national and state-level elections in India after the Anti-Defection Law passed (72, 127). Whether the latter is sufficient to explain the changed electoral landscape, however, is another matter. Specialists of modern Indian politics have identified a number of possible contributing factors: the weakness of parties as organizations due to personalistic leadership and factional tendencies; the increasing assertion of caste, linguistic and regional identities, and their fluidity and fragmentation, as modern Indian democracy has deepened; the emergence of distinct state-level party systems following the reorganization of the federal political system along linguistic-cultural lines. Put differently, the demise of single-party majorities in India since 1989 is arguably the result of complex conjunctural causation. It is doubtful whether the Anti-Defection Law could explain these massive changes on its own, as the author seems to concede at the state level (143). Nor is it clear logically why it made building heterogeneous catch-all parties at the national level “well-nigh impossible” (86). And the capacity of Congress-led minority national governments to outlast rival political formations in New Delhi arguably has more to do with a readiness to undermine the latter, for power itself, than its presumed “ideological centrism” (87) or possession of the “median legislator” (65-70). To demonstrate these claims more convincingly would require greater engagement with rival claims, tracing the interaction of various causal factors at key moments over time. The author critically reviews some of the relevant India-specific literature in the introduction (5-23). Curiously, however, he does not engage its implications for his argument.

Second, the book seeks to explain various parties’ coalition strategies by calculating their relative power through a formula, the Shapley-Shubik power score (92-99, 117-120). But it is unclear how this formula explains, as opposed to describes mathematically, the outcomes it seeks to explicate. More substantively, the decision and capacity of different party organizations to form minority governments, join governing coalitions and remain in power reflected their changing strategies, tactics and perceptions. Arguably, the latter shaped their relative power in turn.

In sum, this book makes an important systematic attempt to understand the electoral politics of modern Indian democracy. The wealth of quantitative data and statistical analysis will be of great value to specialists. Greater engagement with the deeper scholarly literature of Indian politics might have persuaded the author to ground his argument with greater nuance and rigour, however. Hence the book may find greater resonance in debates amongst social choice theorists studying electoral systems, coalition politics and minority governments in the comparative tradition.

Sanjay Ruparelia, New School for Social Research, New York, USA


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Southeast Asia

INVENTING VIETNAM: The United States and State Building, 1954-1968.By James M. Carter. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. viii, 268 pp. (Tables, B&W photos.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-521-71690-1.

James M. Carter has written a thorough account of American attempts to build a new nation state in South Vietnam, spanning the critical years of 1954 to 1968. His central argument—and the book’s main strength—leaves no doubt that the contention of some contemporary conservative historians, who assert that the war in Vietnam was won by American military forces in the field, but lost by the liberal press and hippie protestors at home, is pure fantasy. Studying the massive efforts of state building in South Vietnam right up to the eve of the Tet Offensive in 1968, Carter presents a portrait of a fledgling South Vietnamese nation state so wrought with insoluble political and economic problems, and so dependent upon American support, that it was and would remain unable to exist on its own without continued American intervention. Carter contends that key American policy makers, like Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara, accepted this reality but stubbornly fought on, fearing that American Cold War credibility would be hopelessly compromised should they withdraw. Carter presents a convincing case that no matter how many resources the United States may have committed to winning this war, there was no proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” due to the woeful inadequacies of the governments it supported in South Vietnam.

Carter summarizes numerous political problems which developed in South Vietnam during the rule of the Diem Regime. Diem failed to establish his base of support, and quickly became corrupt and oppressive. After making gains between 1954 and 1957 by taking action against notorious sects such as the Binh Xuyen, Diem became more and more obsessed with militarizing his regime and less concerned with democratizing his country. American planners, led largely by the Michigan State University Vietnam Advisory Group, relentlessly struggled, and haplessly failed, to establish political and economic modernization. These efforts were steadily transformed into attempts to improve Diem’s policing and military capacities. Increased visibility of American aid only created a vicious cycle of diminishing returns of political support. Whereas this is not a new observation, Carter has shed new light on how grandiose and ultimately impractical were the schemes of American planners. Diem’s assassination left South Vietnam in a state of political chaos from which it never recovered, and subsequent regimes succumbed to the same process.

Carter’s analysis of economic problems is impressive. From the beginning, South Vietnam had an unhealthy economy, and American aid, followed by the Americanization of the war, only made it less viable as an independent nation state. Lack of infrastructure and trade deficits ensured problems. But war only made things worse, as projects that helped the American war effort were given priority over ones the nation really needed. Carter argues that the vast scope and magnitude of American economic efforts left little unattended: money was lavished into highways, airfields, ports, warehouses, bridges, telecommunications, electrical power, government bureaucracies and facilities. Yet, all these attempts eventually failed to create desired results, as the country only became more and more dependent on American cash flow, and spiraling inflation took hold. Military campaigns literally scorched rural regions, creating an endless stream of refugee and public health crises. Displaced people poured into cities, only to be placed in refugee camps, further undermining the ability of the central government to extend its support and successfully integrate the country.

Finally, corruption in various guises ensured that the entire nation-state building effort was a failure beyond redemption by 1968. Strategic hamlet and land reform policies took little notice of persistent traditionalism in Vietnamese rural life. Favouritism polluted import and war boom industries. Political insiders secured special deals, becoming wealthy profiteers who took their money out of the country for investment elsewhere. Bribery, graft and theft were commonplace. Few South Vietnamese reaped the benefits of millions of American dollars pouring into their country. Black markets and local shadow economies strangulated efforts to stabilize things and, worst of all, hyperinflation set in. Why did American policies fail so miserably? Carter effectively argues that increased militarization only served to undermine and sabotage efforts to build political and economic infrastructure at every point along the way.

War only increased pressures, and created unforeseen obstacles to achieving stabilization. Ironically, American planners turned to war because they were unable to achieve their goals without it. War, Johnson hoped in 1965, might create the opportunity to achieve the desired goal of nation-state building, but, Carter concludes, in reality it did the opposite. Carter’s work is required reading for anyone interested not only in understanding which specific American policies failed during the Vietnam era, but also in assessing recent American state-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where similar difficulties have often been encountered.

Robert Tomes, St. John’s University, Staten Island, USA


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SURVIVING AGAINST THE ODDS: Village Industry in Indonesia.By S. Ann Dunham; Edited and with a preface by Alice G. Dewey and Nancy I. Cooper; with a foreword by Maya Soetoro-Ng and an afterword by Robert W. Hefner. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009. xxxiii, 374 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos, coloured photos.) US$27.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8223-4687-6.

When American friends invited me to join them on a visit to an anthropologist doing research on copper smiths during my fieldwork in Indonesia in the late 1970s, I was happy to have a day’s outing in the beautiful, leafy uplands of Central Java. Something the woman we went to visit said that day stayed with me for a long time. She recounted how, learning that smiths hired labourers and paid them starvation wages, she had gotten funding from USAID to lend small amounts of capital to some of those workers so that they could set up their own workshops. It worked: several of them took loans, set up coppersmith workshops and hired labourers—and paid them starvation wages.

I have repeated that story many times over the years, since it warns so concisely against romanticizing people who suffer oppression and assuming that experiencing hardship generates compassion and virtue. But it was only when I read a New York Times article during the 2008 presidential campaign that I realized that the woman who told that story was Barack Obama’s mother. Now that her teacher, Alice Dewey, and a colleague from grad school, Nancy Cooper, have edited a manuscript that Ann Dunham was unable to finish before her untimely death, it becomes clear how that one story fits into the larger context of her several years of anthropological research and the work she went on to do as a development consultant in Indonesia (and briefly in Pakistan).

Dunham’s field was economic anthropology, a relatively unglamorous corner of anthropology that has begun to regain some prominence with the rise of environmental studies and of critiques of neo-liberal economics. The field’s obscurity is not mysterious. Doing economic anthropology well, as Dunham certainly did, requires painstaking, detailed work counting up tiny sums of money, looking at extremely small enterprises, considering minuscule expansions and contractions of markets—in a word, dealing with conditions and events on the Lilliputian scale at which most people acting as economic agents in poor countries operate. Economists could hardly be bothered with these kinds of data: What could they possibly amount to? Yet Dunham’s work makes clear that failing to attend to these matters at the humblest level runs the risk of overlooking everything essential about people’s economic behaviour, including all the ways that such behaviour, to be understood, must be connected to a great many other social and cultural concerns.

The most vivid part of the book is the third chapter, in which Dunham describes the history and sociology of the village where she did her most intensive fieldwork, a village with a relatively large number of iron-working blacksmiths situated in a poor area of southeast Central Java. Her portraits of specific individuals and their relationships show a keen eye for character and its social and material consequences. She also did enough research to learn a fair amount about the site’s history, even in an area where historical records are not very rich. A reader comes away with a sense of just how complicated the “economics” of any local industry is, since material activity takes place in a setting where families, received wisdom, status competition, ritual practices, and long memories make for motivations to act in certain ways that outsiders rarely appreciate. Yet this should not suggest that villagers do not make “rational” decisions: Dunham shows that they can usually see clearly what will follow from bureaucratic decisions concerning their livelihoods, and that they act accordingly.

Other chapters address more general questions, particularly those that preoccupied anthropologists and development specialists in the 1970s and 1980s, when Dunham was working in Indonesia. Difficulties surrounding appropriate use of the Indonesian government’s constantly shifting data-gathering require considerable explanation, especially when Dunham wants to use those statistics to venture some policy suggestions. Whether the Indonesian government hurts or hinders entrepreneurs by protectionist measures brings careful, nuanced responses: Dunham shows how some import taxes simply raise smiths’ costs, whereas others probably do help insulate their jobs from foreign competition. Perhaps the matter of greatest salience at the time, and still of concern, is whether government policy should be directed primarily toward promoting maximal growth, or whether it should on the contrary be used to counteract increasing social stratification. Dunham points out that growth has usually generated greater disparities in wealth among villagers, whereas economic downturns tend to bring people closer to some generalized mean. Characteristically, she avoids adopting an ideological position and does not commit herself as to whether she favours one side or the other in this debate.

Robert Hefner contributes a useful afterword, outlining the historical and academic contexts within which Dunham worked. Like the co-editors, he scrupulously avoids mentioning the name of Dunham’s illustrious son: it appears only on the book’s dust jacket. It would be politically incorrect, if in an unusual way, to make much of a woman’s scholarly contributions in light of her son’s fame. Yet it is hard to avoid inferring that that fame explains Duke’s decision to produce the book as though it were intended for a wide readership, one far larger than a serious, judicious, and fine-grained contribution to the economic anthropology of Indonesian smiths would normally attract.

Ward Keeler, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, USA


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Australasia and the Pacific Region

A BIRD THAT FLIES WITH TWO WINGS: The Kastom and State Justice Systems in Vanuatu. By Miranda Forsyth. Canberra: ANU E Press, 2009. One\online resource. Free, eBook ( ISBN 978-1-9215-3679-3.

In the early 2000s a shift in aid donor priorities saw large amounts of funding invested in two areas that had, up to that point, been marginalized in development discourse in Vanuatu: chiefs and so-called “kastom governance.” This represented a move away from the “good governance” approach that had dominated the development agenda in the 1990s, and had involved the prioritizing of “civil society strengthening.” In that setting, indigenous leadership had been excluded from the imagined progressive future of the country, being understood as a primarily reactionary force against the interests of particularly “women” and “youth.”

Miranda Forsyth’s book is positioned within this shift, both in terms of taking kastom seriously as a potential source of law for Vanuatu, and the author’s own active role in the redefinition of the possible role of kastom and kastom leaders in the future. The participatory orientation of her research is clear in the applied focus of the book, culminating, in the final two chapters, in a “typological” assessment of “relationships between state and non-state justice systems” and the introduction of a seven-step methodology to bring about “a situation of true legal pluralism” (250). This desire to assist in processes of legal change necessitates analytical manoeuvres with the concept of kastom in order to present it as a potentially equal/analogous, partner “system” to the state legal system—in other words, creating the object of study, and, in turn, the object to be acted upon in programs of legal reform. As Forsyth explains, a systemic approach is necessary to create “epistemological coequivalence” (96). Yet achieving this coequivalence results in a foreclosing of what the concepts of kastom and justice may in fact be comprised of in contemporary Vanuatu.

Forsyth uses historical and anthropological sources to suggest a continuity to the main factors that make up the “kastom system” in the present, while acknowledging change, particularly due to the disruptions of conversion, colonization and depopulation. However, the focus on “leadership structures” and “conflict-management” (chapter 3) that orients the historical section represents something of a functionalist extraction of “the legal” to enable the book’s contemporary comparison. As such, kastom is evacuated of, for instance, economic and cosmological aspects, which, I suggest, are factors that contribute to kastom as an ethos that informs ni-Vanuatu perceptions of justice and the possibility of justice within the current state legal system. This approach defines kastom as “other” but does not include aspects that may in fact constitute its alterity. A further effect of this emphasis on continuity is to naturalize the position of “chiefs” as key arbiters of the “kastom system.” This is an equation that many who identify as chiefs would be very happy with, but it runs the risk of diminishing aspects of kastom in practice: the role played in some communities by churches and women leaders, and the level of debate amongst other ni-Vanuatu around the contents and meaning of kastom. It also masks the recency of the inclusion of chiefs as a category/group in debates around legal reform in Vanuatu.

The primary research on which the book is based is comprehensive and rigorous, and, as such, it represents an original and valuable contribution to social sciences literature on Vanuatu. However, the categorical separation that underpins the analysis of this material suggests a reluctance to deal with the contradictions it contains. Forsyth presents a telling quote that illustrates the multiplicity of players, discourses and practices involved simultaneously in the adjudication of disputes/social control in contemporary Vanuatu. Reporting on a meeting held to settle conflict between two groups of people from Tanna resident in Vila, the Daily Post stated: “Police and VMF quickly calmed a raging fire by cooling down the dreaded fury of approximately 400 Tannese from attacking Chief Koro’s men as soon as the opening prayer ended with an ‘amen’. Scores of young men fuelled by instinct for revenge surged forward only to be stopped by the Police and VMF” (154).

In just two sentences kastom appears alternately as contemporary and alive, primeval and dangerous; Christianity is included as a taken-for-granted component of such an event; the police both co-operate with and intercede in the face of kastom. The overlaps and ambivalences suggested here can also occur at the level of personnel: a police officer may also hold a chiefly title; a lawyer or judge may at some time pay or receive a kastom fine. The possibly productive, dialectical relationship between kastom and its others is obscured by the supposition of an asymmetrical relationship between two systems. As Joan Larcom has previously suggested regarding definitions of kastom within Vanuatu, “contemporary needs are apparently more effectively satisfied by reference to fixed truths rather than to fluid and dynamic representations of culture” (78). Forsyth’s analysis suggests that the caution implied in that statement may be equally applicable to the otherwise laudable search for appropriate legal reform in Vanuatu.

Benedicta Rousseau, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia


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HAWAI’I AT THE CROSSROADS OF THE U.S. AND JAPAN BEFORE THE PACIFIC WAR. Editor: Jon Thanes Davidann. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008. vi, 246 pp. (Tables, illus.) US$49.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3225-4.

This is an unusually cohesive set of tightly interlocked essays dealing with two related themes, Hawai’i’s place in United States-Japanese relations in the years between the two World Wars and the status of Japanese immigrants in the islands during the same period. In the sense that the title draws attention to the “Pacific War” it is somewhat misleading, since the overwhelming focus of these essays is on the 1910s and 1920s and little attention is paid to the escalating tensions that lead to the outbreak of war between the two nations in December 1941. On the whole, however, this does not detract from the work’s impact.

A series of key issues are woven through most of the pieces. While there is a degree of redundancy, precisely because the essays are so tightly focused, this is a very minor drawback; indeed most of these pieces stand on their own and contain enough context to be assigned as individual readings in courses on international relations, labour history, immigration history, ethnic relations and Hawai’ian history. The themes receiving the greatest attention are the founding and early years of Honolulu’s Institute of Pacific Relations; the differing trajectories of the Japanese Buddhist and Christian churches in Hawaii, with particular reference to their respective roles in plantation labour disputes; Japanese-Americans’ multiple perspectives on the most effective ways to deal with white (haole) hostilities toward them; and the rise and tribulations of Japanese-language schools. Running through nearly every piece is the background noise of growing mainstream American opposition to both immigration in general and the Japanese in particular. It is always salutary to be reminded of the venomous hostility once directed at what is now touted as a “model minority.”

The Issei (first-generation) and Nisei (second-generation) population in Hawai’i was deeply conscious of discriminatory legislation and activities in California and struggled at length with a crucial strategic choice, whether to respond in ways intended to placate hostility toward them or to take positive strides to counteract similar developments in Hawaii. They were at the same time debating the relative degrees to which they should embrace American culture and citizenship while remaining loyal to the Japanese state and its culture. Two leaders in particular guided these different approaches, Okumura Takie, spearhead of the Japanese Christian community, and Imamura Yemyo, head of the predominant Buddhist sect. As several of these essays make clear, each worked tirelessly, adapted to changing circumstances, and pursued nuanced, not entirely consistent policies.

While the level of detail here should appeal to specialists, my sense is that these essays have the potential to inform a much wider audience, given some of the striking parallels with present-day issues in the US. One of these lies with what sloganeers have been calling “anchor babies,” children born in the US to non-citizens. The American constitution confers citizenship upon these babies and there have been recent attempts to introduce legislation depriving them of citizenship. Attempts were made in the 1920s to do precisely this to the American-born children of Japanese immigrants, without success. In the same vein, the era saw legislation enacted to curtail the teaching of Japanese to immigrants’ children, an earlier precursor of today’s English-only legislation and opposition to Islamic-themed education. Other interesting contrasts and parallels might be drawn between Yemyo’s ideas about Buddhism and democracy and what in recent years has been referred to as the role of “Asian values” in East Asian political and economic development, and fears about the “repaganization” of Hawai’i by Buddhists (196) and modern-day American fears about Islam.

One of the most penetrating essays is Mariko Takagi-Kitayama’s “The Strong Wind of the Americanization Movement,” describing the territorial legislature’s attempt to shut down the Japanese-language schools. For those who fought to preserve their schools, “the litigation meant ‘fighting for their right,’ and that was their understanding of the American way. In their view, by filing the case, Japanese immigrants demonstrated their ‘Americanness’ and assumed that white Americans in Hawai’i would stop despising the Japanese and using ‘illegal’ pressures” (225). Going literally door-to-door to beg pennies for legal costs, these stalwarts fought all the way to the US Supreme Court and prevailed, thus raising the bar for future generations.

In that the title does refer to World War II, it would have enhanced the accounts here if they had at least foreshadowed the eagerness with which many of Hawai’i’s Nisei enlisted in the army and fought with distinction in some of its bloodiest battles. And the work would have benefited as well from at least some reference to the efforts of Chinese religious groups to grapple with these same issues. But these are minor cavils in the face of an altogether excellent body of work.

Glenn Petersen, City University of New York, New York, USA


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