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Volume 90, No. 3, September 2017
China and Inner Asia
アメリカの排日運動と日米関係 = Amerika No Hainichi Undō To Nichibei Kankei [The Anti-Japanese Movement in America and US-Japan Relations]: 「排日移民法」はなぜ成立したか = Hainichi Iminhō Wa Naze Seiritsushitaka [The Reason Behind the Japanese Exclusion]. By Toshihiro Minohara. Reviewed by Noriko Kawamura
South Asia and the Himalayas
Community Natural Resource Management and Poverty in India: Evidence from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. By Shashidharan Enarth, Jharna Pathak, Amita Shah, Madhu Verma, John R. Wood. Reviewed by Ganeshdatta Poddar
Australasia and the Pacific Islands
POWERPLAY: The Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia. Princeton Studies in International History and Politics. By Victor D. Cha. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. xv, 330 pp. (Illustrations.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-691-14453-5.
Victor Cha’s Powerplay looks into the origins of the American “hub-and-spokes” alliance system in Asia. It builds on his earlier exposition of the “powerplay” strategy, outlined in an article in International Security (2009/10), to explain why the United States opted for bilateral alliances in Asia over the multilateral model applied to Western Europe through NATO. He argues that during the period in which alliances with Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan were formed (early 1950s to early 1960s), Washington sought maximum control over its new Asian allies based upon the enormous asymmetry of power in America’s favour. His emphasis is on how this specifically bilateral format provided for excellent leverage over potentially rogue allies, led at the time by Chiang Kai Shek, Syngman Rhee, and Yoshida Shigeru. Paradoxically, Cha argues that by doubling down or “hugging” its troublesome allies close, Washington was able to restrain them from sparking major region-wide conflicts in Asia that the US was unprepared for, given its strategic inclination toward the central front in Europe. The book spans eight chapters, including one outlining the powerplay thesis, another on the origins of the hub-and-spokes system, followed by the three case studies—Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan—and generously including counterarguments to the main thesis. It draws upon an extensive bibliography (in which all the leading lights of American IR are dutifully name-checked), and an array of US official/archival sources that lend excellent detail to the analysis.
As usual, Cha undoubtedly delivers a work of accomplished scholarship. While the book is very interesting in parts and definitely a worthy addition to the literature (especially the theoretical discussion of alliance pathologies), this reader does have a number of reservations regarding the powerplay thesis itself. First, the notion that alliances can function as pacta de contrahendo’ , or pacts of restraint, is not new (pace Paul Schroeder, cited by Cha). Thus, the argument’s premise is less revelatory than advertised. Second, since the powerplay thesis is predicated upon this assumption, it suggests that American statecraft was carefully aimed at the creation of a system of separate bilateral alliances in order to purposely achieve such a result. Instead, American policy makers ended up making a virtue of a necessity when their efforts to encourage a multilateral collective security arrangement came to naught due to the various internecine squabbles between the putative member states in Asia. The proposed Western Pacific Collective Security initiative and Pacific Ocean Pact, which failed, as well as ANZUS and SEATO (which was to be joined to an East Asian collective defence system), demonstrate the obvious American proclivity for multilateral security arrangements, wherever feasible. While Cha does touch on these efforts, some sleight of hand is at work in presenting selective quotations/evidence in favour of the powerplay thesis whilst downplaying or omitting contrary proof. The counterarguments section, rather than disarming critique, actually undermines the argument, especially if the reader independently searches some of the source material to find unequivocally contrary statements of national policy such as “the United States should encourage and where desirable participate in collective security arrangements in the Pacific area” (NSC 125/2, August 7, 1952, FRUS 1952-54, Vol. 14 China and Japan, Part II, Washington, DC: The US Government Printing Office, 1985, 1305). Even once the US settled for bilateral agreements—with the ROK, for example—the mutual defense treaty stated that this was “pending the development of a more comprehensive and effective system of regional security in the Pacific area” (see “The Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America” October 1, 1953, effective November 1954). For this reason the book functions much better as a descriptive analysis of how the US was forced to give up on security multilateralism in East Asia and settle for bilateral arrangements as an alternative. Consequentially, the benefit of this bilateral alternative was found to be a greater measure of American control over these Asian states through dealing with them individually, rather than collectively, as originally envisaged. Thirdly, it is conventional practice to include three cases, but one wonders if the powerplay thesis might have been extended to Thailand, the Philippines, or South Vietnam, for example, which may have revealed some interesting insights, as well as strengthened the powerplay thesis. Finally, for all of the supposed foresight that went into the separation of the spokes, it is notable that the United States is now tenaciously seeking to “network” these together into a tacit multilateral front to buttress its position vis-à-vis a rising China (as part of its “rebalance” policy). The Trilateral Strategic Dialogue between the US, Japan, and Australia is a case in point. China is also advancing its own multilateral architecture, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, among others. The trend in the region therefore appears to be moving beyond bilateralism, even as these American legacy-alliances endure.
The author is an establishment figure in the DC beltway and so there is little that is controversial about this book—it could be read as an ex post facto justification of the alliance architecture the US created in the postwar period. The implication that the extant alliances represent a “public good” in the contemporary era assuredly follows. To be fair, Cha does include some thorny problems and awkward critiques associated with these security pacts, but does not go as far as reflecting that Washington, by establishing these alliances at the outset, intervened to prevent the “natural” security equilibrium at that time, which has bequeathed the region with the legacies of a divided China, a divided Korean Peninsula, and an “abnormal” Japan. These are three of the most salient security problems and potential causes of conflict in the Asia Pacific today. Likewise, those with an eye to democratization and human rights might look askance at the bargain the US struck to perpetuate rather unsavoury regimes through the arming and enriching of brutal military dictatorships in Taiwan and (subsequently) Korea, in addition to effectively exculpating Japan from a conclusive reckoning with its wartime victims in Asia. For all the alleged political virtues of the powerplay alliances, such opportunity costs must be acknowledged and those of alternate scenarios for Asia—without US alliance intervention—envisaged. To address these important questions the reader must search elsewhere.
Thomas S. Wilkins, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
TWO CRISES, DIFFERENT OUTCOMES: East Asia and Global Finance. Cornell Studies in Political Economy. Edited by T. J. Pempel and Keiichi Tsunekawa. Ithaca, NY: Cornelll University Press, 2015. viii, 267 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8014-7971-7.
Many books have been written about the global financial crisis (GFC) of 2008 and 2009, but most have focused on its origin in the US, propagation to Europe, and debates in these countries on policy responses. This multi-author volume deserves attention as an important addition to the sparse literature on the GFC’s impact on the rest of the world (the “global periphery”), the East Asian countries in this case. It examines the remarkable resilience of the East Asian countries to the GFC against the backdrop of the experiences during the Asian Financial crisis (AFC) of 1997 and 1998, and the policy challenge of reshaping development strategies in the post-GFC era.
The introductory chapter by Pempel and Tsuenekawa and chapter 1 by Pempel provide the context for the rest of the volume. The state of the debate and unifying concepts are discussed in the introductory chapter, followed by a synthesis of the patterns of economic growth in the East Asian countries in the lead-up to the two crises, policy responses to the crises, and recovery. Chapter 1 presents a broad picture of the differences between the two crises in terms of the state of economic vulnerability and resilience of the East Asian countries in the context of globalization of finance and the long-term relations between business and government. Taken together, the two chapters make a compelling case for paying attention to the divergent political conditions that give rise to crises and the political changes that crises may catalyse, going beyond the narrow confines of pure economic analysis, for broadening our understanding of the causes and policy responses to crises. However, I am hesitant to agree with the authors that differences between the AFC and the GFC “run afoul” of the conclusion advanced by Reinhart and Rogoff (This time is different: Eight centuries of financial folly, Princeton University Press, 2009) that the sources of vulnerability to finance crises are strikingly similar across countries, regardless of the nature of the political regime. This critique seems to reflect their failure to distinguish between indicators of vulnerability and of general economic performance. In fact, the country case studies in this volume are supportive of the Reinhart-Rogoff inference.
The rest of the book is divided into two parts, dealing with the comparative performances of selected East Asian countries in the two crises and the drivers of sustained economic success of the countries in the region in the post-GFC era.
The four chapters in part 1 are by far the best in the book. Chatib Basri (chapter 3) discusses in an illuminating way Indonesia’s response to the two crises, with an emphasis on the role of policy reforms implemented in response to the AFC and political regime shift in successfully managing the GFC. The key message of the chapter is that Indonesia came out of the GFC so much better compared to the AFC, owing to a combination of good policies and a measure of “good luck.” The term “good luck” is, however, used here to refer to some structural features of the economy (rather than “good fortune”), in particular the lesser degree of integration with the global economy, and export concentration in primary products (which resulted in an export boom on the back of increased demand from China). These structural features of course played a role in cushioning the economy from the GFC. However, we should not ignore the widely acknowledged facts that the lesser degree of global economic integration and failure to diversify into manufacturing exports are also a part of the explanation of Indonesia’s relatively poor economic performance record in the regional context.
In chapter 3, Yun-ha Chu provides a fascinating analysis of how a set of well-entrenched institutional arrangements (including a strong and independent central bank), and a long-standing policy orientation characterized by a cautious approach to global financial integration played a pivotal role in Taiwan’s resilience to both crises. The most important message of the chapter is that, unless capital controls are appropriately embedded as a legitimate tool of public policy, financial globalization will continue to remain a major source of countries’ vulnerability to financial crisis.
Yasunobu Okabe (chapter 5) examines path dependence in vulnerability to financial crises through an innovative comparative case study of financial-sector reforms in Thailand and South Korea in the aftermath of the AFC and the contrasting experiences of the two countries in the context of the GFC. The financial-sector reforms of the two countries in the aftermath of the AFC were strikingly similar, but unlike Thailand, Korea was on the verge of another capital flight crisis in 2008 (which was avoided through a quick injection of US capital). This was because of the longstanding pro-industry policy stance of the Korean government of providing the Korean business conglomerates (chaebol) with access to finance under concessionary terms from state-controlled banks that compromised the independence of the Central Bank. Barry Naughton (chapter 5) provides a penetrating analysis of the impact of the two crises on institutional and policy evaluation in China.
The chapters in part 3 are substantial contributions on specific aspects of the experiences of East Asia economies, but overall their contribution falls well short of the objective stated in the introductory chapter: addressing the issue of whether “East Asia’s successful weathering of the GFC … suggest[s] that East Asia is poised for a ‘second Asian Miracle’ analogous to that touted by the World Bank in 1993” (3). Much of chapter 6 by Thomas Pepinsky is a synthesis of the causes and impact of the two crises, which largely overlap with chapter 1. The discussion in the chapter on long-term growth prospects is limited to only one paragraph. Richard Doner (chapter 7) examines the growth patterns of Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia in the context of the recent policy debate on the “middle income trap,” followed by a discussion on possible adverse effects on long-term economic growth of relying solely on macroeconomic measures to manage crises. However, the case he makes for using crises as an opportunity for implementing the structural adjustment reforms needed for escaping the so-called middle-income trap ignores the issue of the political palatability of such broad-based reforms in a crisis context (as discussed in chapter 3). Chapter 8 by Keiichi Tsunekawa, on the stagnation of the Japanese economy, makes interesting reading in its own right, but it is not well integrated within the overall structure of the book.
In summary, this is a book with many strengths that outweigh its weaknesses. It certainly belongs on the reading list for anyone interested in Asian development, financial crises, or the debate on reforming the international financial architecture.
Prema-chandra Athukorala, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
A NEW STRATEGY FOR COMPLEX WARFARE: Combined Effects in East Asia. Rapid Communications in Conflict and Security Series. By Thomas A. Drohan. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2016. xvii, 304 pp. (Figures.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-60497-920-6.
This book offers an unconventional approach to an age-old question: how to formulate and execute strategies in pursuit of security and in defense against threats. Traditional ways of thinking about strategies are more about how statesmen and military planners can best mobilize and apply resources at their disposal to achieve a particular objective. Left underappreciated and much less answered is how effective strategies with combined effects are needed and can be developed in confronting and defeating today’s complex threats.
The author argues that an effective strategy must take account of the diverse understanding of security and develop a comparative approach to addressing the fundamental questions of confrontation and cooperation, threats, and effectiveness. Specifically, each of these questions requires a strategy with a spectrum of instruments of power that can be applied to deliver combined effects both psychologically and physically. In essence, that author suggests that carefully designed strategies with appropriately chosen tools can have the combined effects to “prevent or cause certain behaviors and attitudes” (11) and “influence will and capability” (11).
Security culture features prominently in this innovative approach to understanding why strategies succeed or fail, and how national interests, objectives, and tools are perceived, defined, and selected. The rationale for developing an analytical framework derives from the author’s dissatisfaction with the American exceptionalism and US military culture of technology-determinist, one-dimensional, lineal, and single-effect approach to problem-solving and warfighting. The failure to appreciate and grasp the complexity of many of the security challenges that policymakers and military strategists face therefore has serious consequences.
To illustrate his points, the author selects China, Korea, and Japan as his case studies. Each case contains one chapter that summarizes and reviews the dominant security culture, followed by another chapter focusing on a particular set of crises or challenges to demonstrate how security culture affects threat perceptions, informs the selection of strategies, and influences their execution for combined effects.
The Chinese security culture draws from its historical legacy and cultural superiority, its sense of centrality in the East Asian international system, and as reflected in the tributary system, and a fixation on territorial integrity predominantly informed through its “hundred years of humiliation” at the hands of foreign powers. The use of force has not always been considered the strategy of first choice; instead, defeating the enemy without fighting demonstrates supremacy in military leadership. A combination of deterrence, coercion, and compellence on the one hand, and persuasion, inducement, and assurance on the other ensures the maximum effects in affecting the enemy’s will and behaviour. The strategies used by both Beijing and Taipei in cross-Strait relations—characterized as the unsettled sovereignty—reveals how the two governments use a combination of confrontation, assurance, and even cooperation to achieve their respective objectives: eventual unification for China and de facto independence or at the minimum, status quo for Taiwan.
The Korean security culture has been informed by a history of subjugation to great power dominance and therefore a strong will to maintain independence and ensure survival in often inhospitable security environments. At times, pragmatism necessitates appeasing one great power in order to fend against another. The ability to properly manage major power relationships has been a critical element in ensuring the Korean nation’s maintenance of either the semblance of or real independence. This is how Korea has dealt with its more powerful and often aggressive neighbours—China, Japan, and Russia. North Korea’s combination of the juche principle, military-first policy, and the pursuit of a nuclear weapons program over the past two decades is a clear demonstration of how Korean security culture informs a strategy of confrontation and cooperation to ensure regime survival, bargaining for economic benefits, and deterrence of any threats to the DPRK with the retention and development of nuclear weapons.
Japanese security culture reveals the ambivalence of a past record of militarism and aggressiveness and post-war pacifism, a combination of isolation and engagement with the outside world, reflected in a strategy
of reactiveness even though at times this actually translated into very proactive, and indeed aggressive, behaviors. The chapter on the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets reveals how Tokyo applies a combination of diplomatic, economic, and defensive measures to protect its sovereignty claims, driven primarily by its energy security concerns. While refraining from turning the dispute into a military confrontation with China, Japan nonetheless seeks to engage US commitments through the US-Japan security pact.
Through these case studies, the author seeks to demonstrate the critical role security culture can play in the selection of strategies whose synergetic application may result in combined effects on intended objectives. This is certainly refreshing as it draws our attention to important elements heretofore either understudied or largely ignored. It challenges traditional thinking on strategy and provides a unique way of thinking and applying it given the multitude of challenges today.
While the book makes an important contribution to the literature on strategy, the reader needs to be reminded that culture is not destiny. In fact, left unspoken, but implicit throughout the book, is the fact that hard power remains the bedrock and critical ingredient of any strategy, in addition to its application to deliver the optimal combined effects. For instance, it is not clear whether North Korea’s ability to achieve its goals has largely been due to its skilful application of strategy, or is in fact the result of discordance and the competing interests of its interlocutors, providing Pyongyang the opportunity to undermine the latter’s objective of persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. This book is intended for an audience with the knowledge, expertise, and attention to navigate the labyrinth of strategic concepts and military terms. In other words, the book’s strength could well prevent it from reaching a larger readership.
Jingdong Yuan, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
JEWISH IDENTITIES IN EAST AND SOUTHEAST ASIA: Singapore, Manila, Taipei, Harbin, Shanghai, Rangoon, and Surabaya. New Perspectives on Modern Jewish History, v. 6. By Jonathan Goldstein. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2015. xii, 242 pp. (Illustrations, map.) US$140.00, cloth. ISBN 978-3-11-035069-2.
Jewish Identities in East and Southeast Asia, by Jonathan Goldstein, is perhaps one of the most remarkable contributions to the already rich literature on Jewish experiences from the late twentieth to mid-twenty-first century. What makes this book unique, however, is its focus on the study of Jewish experiences in seven settings in East and Southeast Asia (namely, Singapore, Manila, Taipei, Harbin, Shanghai, Rangoon [Yangon], and Surabaya), a region rarely treated in the voluminous collections of essays in American and European libraries regarding the plight of Jewish people during this period. Thus, this work is a great contribution, offering a new, though less theoretical, perspective.
Of course, the author’s interpretation of historical experiences as narrated by individual Jews through various works of literature consulted herein can be subjective and other scholars may not buy into the same interpretations. What is important, however, is that the book itself has presented a unique collection of accounts to help us understand the formation of Jewish identities in East and Southeast Asia using five instruments or themes: colonialism/imperialism, memory, regional nationalism, socialism, and Zionism.
In this regard, the author writes that the various origins, political and socio-cultural conditions, and experiences of assimilation, economic participation, and linguistics adoption by Jews in the seven different cities profiled led him to the conclusion that over time Jews have formed multiethnic, multinational, and transnational identities as they lived in their given region.
The book is divided into five parts focusing on the seven different geographical areas. Part 2 examines Singapore’s Baghdadi Jewish community; part 3 explains how the “bagel boys” of Manila lived and assimilated in the Philippines; part 4 deals with the Jewish “transient community”; part 5 illustrates how Jews in Harbin formed their transnational community; part 6 explains the experience of the dynamic economic participation of the Baghdadi Jews, including the presence of the Eurasian Jewish community; and lastly, part 7 compares and contrasts the experiences of Jews in Rangoon and Surabaya.
The presence of Jewish society in the region covered can be traced back to colonial times when some European Jews served their colonial masters, such as the English, Spanish, and Dutch, in the expansion of trade beyond Europe as these countries competed for overseas markets for their surplus and for sources of raw materials. This so-called “capitalism outside Europe” was the dominant point of reference among these competing European powers. This activity was facilitated by their colonies in the Far East, including those cities that were long established ports for commercial and trading activities. Thus, it can be argued that these maritime routes created great opportunities for these colonial and imperial powers to connect with local traders. In many of these activities, European Jews worked laboriously in connecting Europe with Asia through maritime trade.
The eastward movement of Jews from the Middle East to India complemented the formation of Jewish communities in these cities. Both Singapore and China have a rich history of Jewish involvement in trade and economic activities. Singapore and China have shown a great sense of hospitality towards their Jewish settlers. As the author notes, Singapore has the oldest historical presence of Jewish institutions, while Shanghai in 1945 alone hosted around 20,000 Jewish refugees. Although the Jewish community gradually dispersed from Shanghai in the 1950s, many cultural indicators, such as synagogues, remained. In addition, Hong Kong—a British colony—once had seven synagogues with various communal institutions. Russian Jewish refugees who eventually became citizens of Israel have organized trips back to Harbin to visit their loved ones who for various reasons and circumstances remained in the area until their deaths. Yangon and Surabaya also have unique histories of Jewish communities that fitted themselves into the political structures of Burma and Indonesia.
With the rise of Nazism in Germany, many European Jews escaped to seek refuge in friendly environments as far away as Manila, albeit in a very “selective” process. The degree of humanitarian crisis was compounded with more hardship as Japan, an ally of Germany, embarked on dangerous militaristic adventurism in Asia and the Pacific in the name of the Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere. This resulted in the destruction of cities and displacement of their inhabitants, including Jews.
This development, however, was not without positive consequences. The Jews learned that the only way for them to survive and lead normal lives was to create a country that would guarantee their religious, political, economic, and socio-cultural preservation; Zionism was perceived as the only viable solution to the persecutions they had historically faced.
Multiple efforts were spearheaded to obtain assistance from the rich Jewish communities in various Southeast Asian and Pacific countries to help build the new Israel. In several instances, the author endeavors to demonstrate some sort of multiplicity in the practice and understanding of Judaism by these Jewish communities, that is, the various elements that helped define and sustain their identities, existence, and survival. In addition to Zionism as a political ideology, perhaps the most important element was the idea of “zikaron,” or the essence of “remembrance” or “memory,” which allowed them to connect to their historical origins and identify with their homeland Israel.
Henelito A. Sevilla, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, Phillipines
MIDDLE KINGDOM AND EMPIRE OF THE RISING SUN: Sino-Japanese Relations, Past and Present. By June Teufel Dreyer. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. xi, 454 pp. (Figures.) US$79.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-537566-4.
Can Japan and China learn to get along? More than a few observers will hesitate to say yes. After all, recent years have treated us to an apparently unending stream of bad news: clashes in the East China Sea over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, diplomatic competition in Southeast Asia, Chinese fury at the visits of Japanese politicians to Yasukuni Shrine, heated rows over the legacy and interpretation of Japan’s role in World War II—the list goes on. At times, it appears as if there is nothing uniting the two giants of East Asia.
Such views are unfortunate, disquieting, not entirely false—at least in a contemporary sense—and unlikely to change in the near term. What it also highlights is the pressing need for a new perspective as well as original ideas to ensure the China-Japan relationship does not completely fall off the rails. To inform this debate, however, it is crucial that we have access to an insightful and informative literature, one that provides a deep and balanced account of China-Japan interactions. While scholarly articles on particular aspects of this 2000-year-old relationship abound, full-volume treatments of the subject are frustratingly rare. It was thus with much anticipation that this reviewer opened June Teufel Dreyer’s latest book.
The result is disappointing. A professor of political science at the University of Miami, Dreyer focuses on the post-war era. She does not attempt to provide a new historical interpretation nor does she try to offer policy advice on the way forward—the latter is particularly surprising given that she has done consulting work for a number of institutions, including the American government, at different times throughout her career. As for her sources, Dreyer relies mostly on secondary material and her primary documents are almost entirely in English. For students and researchers alike, Dreyer’s dry book will mostly be useful as a reference tool to review the sequence of the key events that have connected Japan and China in the twentieth century.
Dreyer organizes her survey in three broad sections. The first, divided into seven chapters, reviews bilateral relations from the time of the first recorded Japanese embassy to China, in 57CE, all the way to the present. The second section, composed of the three following chapters, respectively focuses on post-WWII economic rivalry, military competition, and Taiwan’s past and present relations with its two neighbors. Section three is billed as a conclusion, but it merely summarizes the material reviewed in the previous chapters and thus, is neither particularly useful nor enlightening.
One of the many reasons Dreyer’s book feels unsatisfying is that it fails to deliver on its bold promise. Though subtitled “Sino-Japanese Relations, Past and Present,” it has little to say about the past: Dreyer skims over the first nineteen centuries of contacts in less than thirty pages. Cultural relations during the first millennium of our era, though largely unidirectional, were extensive, at times constructive, and constitute a useful historical background to help contextualize the negative trend of the present. Whether it is the tale of Eichu, an eighth-century monk who spent thirty years in China and introduced tea to Japan, or his contemporary, the better known Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, there is plenty of rich material to mine, but Dreyer chose not to do so.
The century preceding the Pacific War is given a more thorough account. By then, Dreyer points out, pre-existing cultural and diplomatic patterns, which had changed little over time, were beginning to shift. As Japan awoke from centuries of near seclusion and embarked on an ambitious program of modernization, it began to see China in a different light. In the past, Japanese cultural elites had expressed great admiration for the Middle Kingdom, its culture, philosophy, and institutions. By the 1880s however, China had lost much of its luster. The Qing government was inching towards collapse, weakened by conflict with Western powers, the Taiping Rebellion, and domestic unrest. In fact, many in Japan felt that it “had declined into an entity that was no longer worthy of emulation.” By comparison, Japan had never been conquered and “retained and nurtured ancient virtues” (42). Tokyo began looking for models elsewhere, in Europe and the United States.
Dreyer’s prose is competent, albeit fairly dull, and she misses many opportunities to enliven her story with personality sketches that could provide human context to her broader narrative. For instance, she says nothing at all about the crucial friendship between Sun Yatsen and Umeya Shokichi, an early film buff who established a company that would later become Nikkatsu Corporation, and also a generous financial backer of Sun’s many unsuccessful revolutionary schemes—by one account, Umeya provided Sun with billions in today’s US dollars. It was also in Umeya’s residence that Sun married his second wife, Song Qingling, who he had met in Japan in 1915.
In other cases, Dreyer teases her reader with fascinating connections, but frustratingly fails to dig deeper. She says little about Nosaka Sanzō, a charismatic adventurer who helped establish the Japanese Communist Party in the 1920s and then became its most important post-war leader. Nosaka, who travelled to Russia and worked for the Comintern for a while, spent much of the war years ensconced in Yanan with Mao Zedong where, inter alia, he was involved in the reeducation of captured Japanese soldiers. Dreyer says equally little about Saionji Kinkazu, the head of the Beijing-based Japan-China Cultural Interchange Association between 1958 and 1970, and one who is said to have befriended Mao and Zhou Enlai.
One thing Dreyer does well is showing how countless small incidents are slowly but constantly tearing at the fabric of the bilateral relationship, in a way that seems to preclude any significant and durable long-term improvement. The decade spanning 2006 to 2015, to which Dreyer devotes a full chapter, was rich in tit-for-tat irritants: Japanese Diet members attending the Taipei inauguration of Ma Ying-Jeou in 2008; the Dalai Lama and Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer receiving visas to visit Tokyo in 2009; a Chinese fishing trawler ramming a Japanese coast guard vessel in 2010; Japan nationalizing several islands in the East China Sea in 2012; cyber attacks from the mainland. Dreyer lists many more. But unfortunately, she does not offer solutions on how to break this cycle.
This, in the end, is what sinks the book. As an author concentrating on the contemporary era, Dreyer seems to have spent little time doing fieldwork. For the 2006–2015 period, for example, she relies almost entirely on newspaper clippings—of the 169 citations for that chapter, a mere two refer to Dreyer’s personal interviews. Many of the individuals who have helped shape the China-Japan bilateral relationship in the last three decades are still alive. Seeking their perspective could have been enlightening. It would certainly have provided some zest to her story. Her book is all the poorer for it.
Martin Laflamme, Global Affairs Canada, Ottawa, Canada
(The views presented here are the author’s own.)
Nihal Perera’s latest book foregrounds ways in which people make spaces in line with their cultural practices, everyday activities, and shifting aspirations. While at first sight this might appear to be a somewhat mundane dimension of contemporary urban and regional studies, Perera makes a compelling case for its significance. In part, people’s spaces and the efforts that go into making and maintaining them are important simply because of their historical and geographical ubiquity. Of course, there is spatio-temporal variability in both the need for and scope of people’s spaces—Perera suggests that they are often particularly significant in the global South—but people everywhere (re)make their living space in ways that exceed codified, professionalized knowledge in the fields of architecture, engineering, or planning. Even more significantly for academic audiences, Perera argues that scholars of planning and researchers in cognate fields have given insufficient attention to people’s spaces. He puts this down to a privileging of expert knowledge and conceptual abstraction, as well as an overwhelming tendency to focus on the state and the market as the key drivers of socio-spatial change. People’s Spaces: Coping, Familiarizing, Creating seeks to provide a corrective to those extant tendencies by detailing the transformative capacity of ordinary (and, in some cases, more marginal or subaltern) members of society.
Following a substantial introduction chapter that lays out the intertwined professional, political, and scholarly contributions of the book, the subsequent ten chapters are all case studies. Each of those chapters is straightforward and readable, the emphasis being on empirical material that demonstrates the book’s overall thesis in different times and places. Six of the chapters are on Sri Lanka, including two on Colombo under European rule. They concern how space in the colonial city was “indigenized” (chapter 1) and “feminized” or appropriated by women (chapter 2). These chapters revisit and extend Perera’s earlier historical work which first made him known to transdisciplinary urban studies audiences (Society and space: Colonialism, nationalism, and postcolonial identity in Sri Lanka, Westview Press, 1998). The other Sri Lanka chapters examine: how ordinary people forged their own spaces, social structures, and institutions during the separatist conflict (1983–2009), exceeding the ethnic and spatial dichotomies of the war; the means through which residents of Galle Fort negotiated and, in some cases, circumvented World Heritage Site restrictions on their socio-spatial practices; how post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in Hambantota district were dictated by donor agencies in ways that constrained survivors’ rebuilding capacity (a kind of “second tsunami,” 130) until they were able to infuse the process with their own memories and aspirations; and, the social dynamics of a handiya (a socio-spatial “intersection”) in a suburb of Colombo.
One of the Sri Lanka chapters and three of the other four chapters are co-authored. Those explicitly collaborative parts of the text, as well as many of the ideas and material in the single-authored chapters, arose from an immersive planning study program that Perera himself initiated and directs. I would have liked to have read more—beyond the acknowledgements section of the book and brief mentions elsewhere—about the three-way learning relations between researcher, students, and local community members that this entailed. Certainly, the process gave rise to rich empirical insights into space-making practices across many sites: in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Dharavi (in Mumbai, India), Daanchi (outside Kathmandu, Nepal) and Gangtok (India) as well as in Sri Lanka. Perhaps revealing some of my own disciplinary preoccupations as a geographer, I was surprised that there was no explicit conceptual engagement with “place” in the book—Perera draws instead upon work on (trans)locality—especially given its explicit focus on the human rather than abstract dimensions of space. What I really do appreciate, however, is Perera’s conceptual understanding of the workings of power in space/place-making. Across various cases, he shows how people’s spaces are not crafted in some autonomous realm outside or beyond wider authorities, but through negotiated relations with them. As in the seminal work of James C. Scott that Perera refers to at several points, such relations rarely manifest in the form of overt protest or resistance, and this is precisely why many other scholars miss or (wrongly) dismiss them.
There is no doubt that People’s Spaces contributes to the development of a relatively neglected area of contemporary urban and regional studies. Perera is correct, I believe, in attributing that neglect at least partly to the primacy currently afforded to political economic processes rather than sociocultural practices. To that I would add mention of a tendency for scholars to be drawn to the high-profile and spectacular rather than the everyday or (seemingly) mundane. In making the case for the novelty of his contribution, however, I do think that Perera overlooks some important traditions of existing work. The Chicago School of Sociology, for example, included myriad examples of urban ethnography that examined ordinary people’s sites, spaces, and associated institutions in their own terms, rather than trying to fit them into overarching theoretical categories or more-than-local explanatory frameworks. Indeed, these are among the oft-cited criticisms of the Chicago School and of ethnographic approaches to urban society and space more widely. This is not to suggest that the same forms of criticism may, in turn, be extended to Perera’s book. Apart from covering multiple time-spaces, coverage of each of his case studies is attentive to local detail without being localist (especially chapter 6, where work on translocality is mobilized to understand the constitutive connections involved in post-tsunami rebuilding). In addition, the conclusion chapter does an effective job of summarizing how the varied cases speak to the volume’s wider theme. I do wonder, however, whether more could have been done to draw out comparative insights across the diverse examples of “people’s spaces” covered in the book. The empirically rich material assembled for each of them certainly suggests potential for further work along such lines.
Tim Bunnell, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the
ends of the earth!
—Rudyard Kipling, “The Ballad of East and West”
Social theory emerged in Europe and the United States during the nineteenth century, at a time when “the great nations” of the West were colonizing and “civilizing” territories around the world. Although the prevailing forms of colonialism have changed, the legacy of modern empire continues to haunt the theoretical frameworks and ways of thinking among researchers in the twenty-first century. Kipling’s claim that East and West will never meet still rings true, despite the presumption among many prominent scholars—including those studying Asia and the Pacific—that they are strong enough to transcend global divisions and adopt a universal perspective.
Postcolonial theorists have convincingly addressed colonial blind spots in social theory for several decades, while heterodox sociologists like Raewyn Connell and Gurminder Bhambra have recently brought postcolonial insights into the mainstream of their field. Julian Go’s Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory follows in their footsteps and breaks new ground by providing a clear, coherent, and convincing argument for decolonizing social theory and initiating a third wave of sociological postcolonial thought. The book starts by posing the question: Is social theory beyond empire possible? Go suggests that although social theory has served empire whereas postcolonial thought has contested empire, the two fields have much to offer each other. To support this key point, chapter 1 examines the first wave of postcolonial thought that arose from anticolonial struggle and the second wave that originated in academia. First-wave authors such as Frantz Fanon and W.E.B. Du Bois recover the subjective experiences of the colonized, fight Western imperialism and racism, and challenge Enlightenment modes of knowledge. Second-wave authors like Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak stress that Western discourses on colonial territories construct colonized people and societies as objects to be ruled, while closing off spaces for the subaltern to represent themselves. Chapter 2 confronts the imperial standpoint and metrocentrism in social theory, which lead influential scholars ranging from Karl Marx to Anthony Giddens to adopt the “colonizer’s model of the world,” normalize the “law of division” separating the West from the rest, and repress the history-making potential of colonized people.
After identifying the postcolonial challenge and describing metrocentric social theory, Go discusses two kinds of relational sociology for analyzing connections among colonizers and colonized in chapter 3. Relational social theories oppose substantialism by treating interactions and networks as constitutive of actors and social systems. Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory, for example, highlights overlapping arenas of struggle in which actors compete for valued resources. And Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory prioritizes local, trans-local, and transnational relations among humans, non-human objects, and natural environments (rather than individuals, nation-states, and the world-system) as key units of action and analysis. Go calls for postcolonial relationalism in studies of overlapping territories and intertwined histories, urging scholars to pay special attention to how events in colonies around the world are integral to the formation of European modernity. In the fourth and most important chapter, Go draws on feminists to propose a subaltern standpoint theory. Contrary to the imperial standpoint shaping conventional research, the subaltern standpoint refers to the experiences, positions, and perspectives of social groups at the bottom of the imperial global hierarchy. Go relies on what he labels “perspectival realism,” accepting that a real world with knowable characteristics exists while insisting that how we perceive and represent that world partially depends on the particular observer. He suggests that subaltern standpoint theory offers an innovative (yet incomplete) map of the world that allows sociologists to see what was invisible, hear what was inaudible, and learn from subjugated knowledges. It encourages researchers to avoid false universalisms, focus on concrete problems and contexts, consider subjective orientations in analyzing action, and produce new theories and concepts for studying humanity. Finally, the conclusion reviews how postcolonial relationalism and subaltern standpoint theory enable a third wave of sociological postcolonial thought that not only confronts colonizing forms of social theory, but also opens the social and political sciences to new ways of thinking and acting in the contemporary world.
My brief summary cannot adequately capture the clarity of Go’s writing, quality of his synthesis, and significance of his theoretical manifesto. Nevertheless, I hope that the wider relevance of Go’s book is obvious to readers of Pacific Affairs. In my view, Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory is a key text for scholars seeking to critique the mainstream paradigms of their particular fields and create alternative approaches. It allows me to recognize the imperial standpoint and lack of attention to subaltern subjectivities in my field of social movement studies, for instance, while motivating me to develop new ways of doing research that prioritize the stories, positions, and perspectives of subaltern activists. It also encourages specialists on Asia and the Pacific to ground their observations and arguments in the complex colonial history of the region, and to be sensitive to how the legacies of imperialism continue to shape the conditions of Asian or Pacific people and cultures in the twenty-first century. Even Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory has its limitations, however. By taking for granted that direct forms of colonialism are in the past, for example, it tends to overlook how indigenous peoples around the world, Palestinian refugees, and aboriginals in Australia—among many others—still confront territorial rule today. And it almost completely neglects the crucial role of Mohandas Gandhi in South Africa and India as a first-wave postcolonial thinker and revolutionary. But these gaps in the book should only inspire us to add our own contributions to “the rising third wave of critical post-colonial knowledge” (202).
Sean Chabot, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, USA
CHINESE ECONOMIC STATECRAFT: Commercial Actors, Grand Strategy, and State Control. By William J. Norris. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2016. x, 303 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5449-3.
China does not just officially engage with its economic partners. Its unofficial interactions are perhaps more important. William Norris’ Chinese Economic Statecraft: Commercial Actors, Grand Strategy, and State Control delineates between diplomacy and statecraft in this manner. Its first two chapters construct a generalized theory for evaluating the government-business dynamics of any state. The third chapter applies this theory to the particulars of China’s “grand strategy” (46), a classical realist term borrowed from international relations theory that Norris defines as the “rational strategic logic” (48) of a given nation. Together, these three chapters delineate a comprehensive theory and comprise part 1, “On Economic Statecraft.” The remaining three sections of the book each address an economic sector using case studies that examine the theory through various combinations of the politico-corporate nexus. Part 2 discusses state-owned natural resource companies; part 3 highlights the experience of private fruit farmers and pro-independence entrepreneurs in Taiwan; part 4 examines state finance. Especially with its last section on Chinese sovereign wealth funds, the book’s approach is illuminating to those scholars discerning the complex relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and the far-flung agencies of its unique financial regulatory regime.
Norris theorizes that the “direct, classical mercantilist power of the state to dictate policy” (18) has gradually given way to the state’s “intentional manipulation” (13) of commercial actors to incentivize them to behave in line with national strategic interests. In other words, economic statecraft is replacing economic diplomacy. To predict the extent to which such influence is successful, Norris rather ambitiously proposes a tidy two-by-two matrix, the kind that always seem to sneak into business school curricula. It neatly tries to forecast the outcome of any given interaction between corporate enterprises and the state. Whether or not state unity is monolith or fragmented and whether or not the goals of the state and private interests are compatible comprise the four potential regions of this rectangle.
Principal-agent theory anticipates the result of economic statecraft in the most troublesome quadrant of this matrix, where state unity is high but the goals of the state and commercial entity differ widely. This amalgam of modern economics and political science posits that institutions or people (agents) do not always work well with the governments or corporations (principals) tasked to supervise them. The agent’s condition persists until their own selfish desires are almost perfectly aligned with those of their principals. Thus, these situations, in which the constant subtle thrum of economic statecraft may deliver the most value to the principal in terms of agent interest transformation, are where the author attempts to develop a broad and instructive theory of economic interaction. As such, Norris posits five independent variables that explain a state’s likelihood of success in their unofficial economic pursuits. In addition to the aforementioned state unity and goal compatibility, market structure, the nature of the reporting relationship, and the balance of relative resources are examined in a series of case studies that explicate the theory. Though maybe a little forced in its theory building, the effort is admirable in its potential explanatory power and breadth.
The work is not without criticism, however. The model’s inputs rely on a highly stylized binomial variable: state control. The idealistic assumption that state control either exists or not oversimplifies an increasingly complex hybrid state capitalist structure and too easily dismisses China’s unprecedented international financial configuration. To his credit, Norris admits to this conceit, stating that “in reality state control varies continuously” along a spectrum, but claims that characterizing the variable in discrete terms is necessary to make the model more “manageable” (23). In his case discussion, Norris provides sufficient detail to compensate for this coding convention. However, the cases in this book—for example, state oil companies and Taiwanese entrepreneurs—are purposely selected for their extreme profiles on this particular variable. Yet, if a theory aspires to be truly robust, it must be useful in predicting the outcomes of interactions between government institutions and commercial actors that, increasingly in the modern Chinese politico-economy, have a complex and evolving relationship with the state at many different touchpoints. Would an examination of internet behemoth Alibaba, for example, with its offshore holding company and dizzying cross-ownership structure of myriad entities involving Chinese state funds and non-Chinese investors alike, break the model? More work is needed to test the limits of Norris’ otherwise illuminating framework. Another shortcoming of the book is the relative staleness of many of the case studies. The work itself is a refresh of Norris’ dissertation submitted to MIT in August 2010. A reexamination of the framework using more cases from the post-crisis Xi Jinping era would do much to prove the validity of the theory.
To this reviewer, the part of the book with the most promise lies in its prospective capacity to explain China’s recent moves to “effectively leverage the sovereign wealth aspect of its monetary power” (164). Part 4 examines China’s sovereign wealth funds (SWF) from the novel perspective of defining any state fund charged with the responsibility to invest excess foreign reserves as an SWF. Hence, Norris’ findings that the cross-purposes inherent in the design of semi-autonomous funds, like the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), National Social Security Fund (NSSF), and China Investment Corporation (CIC), may result in institutional wrangling is novel and informative. Though the SWF universe has yet to provide too much empirical data for in-depth analysis, the Norris framework appears sufficient to explain and forecast that important monetary landscape as it changes in real time.
Advanced scholarly discourse on the Chinese political economy of this high quality is always welcome. Though not as statistically robust as the works of Nicholas Lardy, Norris’ broad-view interdisciplinary approach analyzing diverse issues, from state-owned extractive industries to cross-Strait relations to state-run investment funds, all from the perspective of the same unifying theory, is ambitious. Whereas such breadth may present complications when assessing model validity, the potential for the theory to be widely applicable is also one of the greatest strengths of Chinese Economic Statecraft.
Nicholas Krapels, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China
BUILDING CHINA: Informal Work and the New Precariat. By Sarah Swider. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press [an imprint of Cornell University Press], 2015. xxi, 187 pp. (Tables, figures, B&W photos.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8014-5693-0.
This masterly study of China’s urban construction workers is structured by an ingenious original concept: the “employment configuration,” a relational notion distinguishing the pathways workers pursue to acquire their positions and the mechanisms employed to regulate and discipline their activities on the job. Swider spent an intensive year in the midst of builders, living and sometimes working with them, sharing a smoke or a drink, and managing to enter their dorms to play cards and watch television, while forging friendships that enabled her to produce a fine-tuned, rich, and intimate portrait of those struggling in this dangerous and exhausting profession. Though Swider spent some time in Guangzhou and Shanghai as well as in Beijing, most of the work, involving 130 interviews, took place in the capital.
“Employment configuration” is a powerful tool allowing Swider to identify three large categories separating types of employment relationships: mediated, embedded, and individual. The first entails large labour contractors’ recruitment (of up to thousands) in the rural areas and control by a contract labour system. It confines the workers to specific worksites, and provides housing and nurture plus a safety net good for at least a year, at whose end wages are to be dispensed (but often are not). Since the employees are restricted to spaces behind walls surrounding their worksites, Swider calls their world a “city of walls.”
Embedded employment is arranged via social ties (of kin, hometown, province, and occupation). Their habitat is a “city of villages,” where sentiment, shared values, “bounded solidarity,” a term borrowed from Peng Yusheng (who got it from Alejandro Portes, though Swider does not mention that), “enforceable trust” (which she does attribute to Portes), or sense of obligation to one’s fellows, guide behaviour, as networks among workers transmit employment information and influence action. Those relying on such mechanisms coalesce in cities, unlike the charges of mediated employment, who trade transport into the city and a relatively secure place to work for a bonded tie to their bosses. The embedded, paid by the job, live much more flexibly and may develop a range of skills, unlike their confrères trapped in a mediated mold. Their work is self-regulated or governed by their own networks, their safety net supplied by those in their grid. Swider sharply depicts a migrant “village in the city” or migrant enclave, with its internal diverse migrant origins, occupations, and economic statuses.
The third configuration, individual, features a “city of violence.” Here employment relations are regulated through violence, while street labour markets, often commanded by powerful labour market bosses, are subject not to contracts or common ties but ruled by “an unregulated despotic market” (90). Here migrants “work for food and shelter, not for wages” (90), under total instability. It is the deplorable, unpredictable conditions of their lives and the raw vulnerability with which they must contend daily that lead many into criminality.
Swider shows how each configuration embodies a different combination of production (work on the job), daily reproduction (sustenance) and social reproduction (providing for family), but does not explicitly define these concepts. It would enrich her tale were she to spell out more fully how, for instance (103), production and social production are spatially separated in mediated employment, but production and daily reproduction are merged, whereas in individual employment, “production and social reproduction are both tenuous” (103). She may have miswritten on page 38, where she states that the mediated model’s contracted labour system “merges production and daily reproduction on the jobsite,” as on page 57 she argues that contractors “merge production and daily social production” by having “workers live and work on the jobsites.”
The book contains what is known about the hukou system and internal migration, but presents much new material on the construction trade. There is a chapter each on the three employment configurations, one on protest, and a final chapter laying out the senses in which China’s builders labour in precarity. The discussion of protest traces the structural factors causing unpaid and delayed wages and the battle for urban space between authorities and migrants: the two main prods that enrage the workers, fuelling everyday resistance, public dramas, and disruption. At times thousands of workers contend collectively for weeks on end. With the advent of the Internet and social media, it is sometimes possible to garner public attention and thereby pressure the state, though we are not informed about just how often this occurs.
I found some errors in the bibliography: Wang Feng is not Feng Wang, thus his work should be listed under Wang; Wang, Lin, and Ning’s paper is cited in the text as from 2013, but the bibliography states 2014. A tick is the persistent use of quotation marks, sometimes to set off a term coined by another scholar, such as “bounded solidarity” and “sporadic enforcement of the laws,” or for terms she herself devised (“employment configuration” and “permanently temporary”). But there are others, such as labour regime, in regular usage, and public drama, sojourner to settlement, protest of disruption, and time crunch, where the cause for these marks is obscure. These frequent markers can distract.
The book is disappointing when it comes to comparisons of places, industries, and times (despite Swider’s assertion that employment configurations can be compared along these dimensions). There is just one page (134 –135) on other countries, only a few sentences contrasting her three cities, and almost no mention of how builders differ from migrants in other professions. One final quibble: Swider maintains that literature on the Chinese urban informal economy “is largely missing” (xiii). But she omits reference to Kuruvilla, Lee, and Gallagher’s edited book, From Rice Bowl to Informalization (Cornell, 2011), Ching Kwan Lee’s edited book, Working in China (Routledge, 2007) (and much else by that author), has just two references to Lei Guang, very little from Li Zhang’s Strangers in the City (Stanford, 2001), and just one fact taken from my own Contesting Citizenship in Urban China (California, 1999). I was intrigued to note many similarities between my three gross sets of transients in the cities: the state-protected, the community-connected, and the anomic isolates, on the one hand, and Swider’s three employment configurations, on the other. But there is no mention of this congruity.
All said, however, this is an important book, well argued, expertly presented, and finely analyzed. Empirically, it adds considerably to our understanding of the construction industry, while conceptually furnishing a very fertile framework for grasping the intricacies of informal employment in the cities of China.
Dorothy J. Solinger, University of California, Irvine, USA (retired)
CHINA’S MILITARY TRANSFORMATION: Politics and War Preparation. China Today Series. By You Ji. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2016. xix, 284 pp. (Tables, figures, map.) US$22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7456-7078-2.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (the PLA, as China’s army, air, naval, and strategic missile forces are collectively known) has experienced a wave of growth and change in the twenty-first century. The ongoing changes to China’s military forces and the inevitable implications for Asia-Pacific security have attracted great academic attention in the West, especially in the United States. As a leading scholar in the field, You Ji provides a timely research monograph on the PLA’s transformation into a professional and technical modern army in the years from 1990 to 2014. Based on the available Chinese sources, You, head of the Department of Government and Public Administration at the University of Macao, offers objective surveys and an insightful interpretation by analyzing the civil-military relations, security concerns, organizational change, and new defense strategy of the Chinese military. His historical approach, concise narratives, and many figures and tables throughout the volume are very helpful for readers’ understanding of the recent and complicated evolution of the PLA.
His book focuses on the key issues the PLA faces today, such as CCP (Chinese Communist Party) control, the anti-corruption movement, combat readiness, and tensions with the US armed forces over the disputed islands in the South China Sea. He provides a “roadmap of how the PLA has modernized itself as a credible fighting force globally” (227) by pointing out that the PLA has transformed itself “from a tactical homeland defensive force to one that is capable of strategic offensive missions beyond national borders” (144). The book should be read by international strategy analysts, Chinese military experts, Asian studies specialists, military historians, and those who have an interest in contemporary China, the US-China relationship, and Asia-Pacific security.
The first chapter, titled “China’s Changing Civil-Military Relations,” examines the PLA’s evolution from the Party’s army or the “Party in uniform” (25), to its partial “autonomy” after Deng Xiaoping (leader from 1978 to 1989) (41–42). In the next chapter, “PLA Politics under Jiang and Hu,” the author continues to explore the changes in China’s civil-military relations from Jiang Zemin (1989–2002) to Hu Jintao (2002–2012), who had transferred power from the old-guard party/military leaders to postwar technocrats. “Institutionalizing civil-military interplay is a key attribute in this evolution,” You writes (47). The third chapter discusses the PLA and National Security by detailing “the PLA’s directional leadership in China’s policy-making process concerning its national security and defense-related foreign affairs” (23–24). The fourth chapter analyzes the formation and function of the People’s Armed Police (PAP), including its organization (totalling 1.3 million troops, chain of command, and operations. The author emphasizes that “[a]s China is experiencing rampant corruption, social injustice, and public disorder, increasingly more mass protests can be expected. … In sum, the PAP is a crucial armed force for PLA internal security missions” (115). His fifth chapter, “National Defense Strategy,” concentrates on the PLA’s primary functions—war fighting—to explain why and how the high command had made major changes five times in its national defense strategy, which as “practical and realistic” guided its force employment and war preparation (138). The next chapter, “Aerospace Power,” explores Beijing’s vision and preparation for air and space war in the near future on “how to combine air and space power in terms of building a joint command chain, a mutually supplementary force structure, and interconnected software and hardware weapons systems…” (145). In his last chapter, “China’s Deep Ocean Expansion,” You examines the PLA Navy (PLAN)’s transformation in the 2000s to 2010s when it was “extending its operations from coastal defense to far-seas power projection” (181). He, however, is critical of PLAN carrier-centric development, writing that “[t]he vulnerability of carriers to saturated air and undersea attack has been proven” (200). In his conclusion, the author believes that the PLA is still in the middle of its transformation since “[i]t is an ongoing process to catch up with the breakthroughs of global hi-tech technology, changing security environment, and evolution of military theory” (215).
The book offers a Chinese perspective with unique insights into the important facts which have shaped military reform and made unprecedented changes over the past thirty years. Some Western historians have overlooked the complex nature of the PLA transformation from one generation to the next. For example, You examines the institutional and ideological separations of the army from the party as part of the PLA’s modernization, while others look at the Chinese military modernization through “a process of normal equipment upgrade facilitated by natural technological progress” (225). You concludes that the PLAN would not risk a naval war over the disputed islands in both the South China Sea and East China Sea since its “carrier-centric transformation” would not guarantee any victory in the conflict against the American and even Japanese navies around these areas (203–208). Currently, many American as well as Japanese strategists and naval analysts predict that there will be a naval clash sooner or later between their navies or air forces and the PLAN or PLA Air Force (PLAAF), both of which have become more and more aggressive over the disputed areas in the seas.
Although You has done an incredible amount of research on such a broad subject in one volume, his work could have provided more coverage on the military budget process, financial resources, weapons procurement, and defense industries as important topics in the study of the PLA. While having used 23 out of 33 pages to criticize Beijing’s carrier development, the chapter could have gone into more detail on China’s deep ocean expansion, as its title indicated. As the second-largest navy in the world, exceeded only by the US Navy, the PLAN has more than 600 warships, including nuclear submarines, 430 warplanes, and more than 300,000 sailors, soldiers, and marines, while it has only one aircraft carrier.
Xiaobing Li, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, USA
THE RED GUARD GENERATION AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM IN CHINA. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Guobin Yang. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. xv, 262 pp. (Illustrations.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-14964-8.
This is a very ambitious and thought-provoking book, which attempts nothing less than to solve three highly contentious issues in the study of the Cultural Revolution and its legacies in less than 200 pages. First, Guobin Yang offers a new perspective on how to explain the roots of factional violence in China’s Red Guard movement; second, he provides an intellectual portrait in the long durée of the “Red Guard generation,” referring to the age cohort born around 1949 who attended middle school by the mid-1960s and for whom the Red Guard movement was the formative experience of their lives. The size of this cohort is not precisely defined (10 to 120 million) (6), but rather depends on whether or not one also includes students in elementary schools and universities. Yang’s final aim is to reveal changes and continuities in Chinese political culture and patterns of popular protest. The arguments are presented in a very accessible style of writing that eases classroom usage, especially at the undergraduate level.
The book is divided into seven chapters, which by and large follow a chronological order. After presenting a case study of factional violence in Chongqing in 1967, the book then traces aspects of political culture that influenced the Red Guard generation and delves into Red Guard theory production during the Cultural Revolution. Chapters 4 and 5 deal with the sent-down period, looking at how the hardship of “ordinary life” transformed the Red Guard generation’s previous revolutionary ideals, and furthermore depict aspects of underground culture that led to new forms of community and a reconceptualization of identities. These newly constituted identities were crucial in turning away from the Cultural Revolution, and by the late 1970s ushering in a period referred to as a “new enlightenment.” The final chapter is closest to Yang’s previous work and traces factionalized memories from the early reform era to the present.
The author is less interested in presenting new materials than in offering new explanations based on theories of Victor Turner, Max Weber, and others. The basic argument may be summarized as follows: Chinese political culture in the 1950s and early 1960s predisposed the Red Guard generation to certain perceptions of reality, most importantly inscribing the sacred nature of the revolution. “Performance” assumes centre stage, as Red Guards tried to live up to or even reenact some of these features during the Cultural Revolution. It is thus “ideas” rather than social background or political circumstances that Yang privileges in his explanations of Red Guard behaviour. The sent-down period is seen as a liminal stage that resulted in a routinization of the revolutionary ideals, as the mundane aspects of everyday life in the countryside superseded abstract notions of class struggle.
The book is strongest in the sections linked to its second goal, the generational portrait. Based on a plethora of memoirs, interviews, and contemporary documents, Yang presents the changes in Red Guard world outlook and self-perception by way of intriguing quotes and interview excerpts. Some issues, such as how members of the Red Guard generation actually perceived the world (64-68), merit a more detailed account. Also of interest are the recurring symbolic repertoires of political protest and the personal continuities, in a process that Yang aptly describes as “funneling out” (156), with activists decreasing in number following the arrests in the wake of every major outbreak of protest.
The book’s brevity, while making for a pleasant read, hampers a full development of many of its arguments. Replacing current explanations of Red Guard factionalism by providing a chapter-length study on Chongqing, which Yang claims applies to most major Chinese cities, is ultimately unconvincing. While Chongqing clearly is one of the most remarkable places to study violent conflicts in the early Cultural Revolution, the involvement of a large number of workers from the military-industrial complex joining different groups does not lend itself easily to purely ideational explanations of Red Guard factionalism. To be sure, including notions of “performance,” “script,” or “enactment” in our understanding of Cultural Revolutionary factionalism (as other authors have done in the past) is crucial, but this “performative turn” does not replace detailed studies of specific social and political contexts.
In terms of theory, the book offers interesting connections but shies away from some of the most difficult questions, such as that of belief in what is quite problematically defined as Maoist “orthodoxy.” It was precisely the lack of a coherent set of “orthodox” guidelines that provided the political space for the politics of the performative, as both the “Sixteen Points” and the “May 16th Circular” contained numerous inconsistencies and self-contradictions, not to mention the citational nature of Mao’s “supreme instructions.” Moreover, Yang employs Lü Xiaobo’s characterization of the “sacredness” of the revolutionary project, without offering an explanation of how we should analytically define and understand these notions of “sacredness” or “sacrality.” The stimulating nature of the book is further hindered by the uneven quality of the chapters, thus chapter 3 on Red Guard theory production offers neither new cases nor a novel analysis beyond what Wu Yiching and others have already explored in much greater detail. There are a few factual errors that are always hard to avoid, such as stating that the Cultural Revolution ended fifty years ago instead of forty (164) or giving the print number of Mao’s Selected Works between 1966 and 1970 as 4.2 billion copies (127) instead of 744 million. The former number includes the Little Red Book and various other writings. Pinyin syllables are also left unorthodoxly unconnected throughout the text.
While the book does not provide a clavis Sinica, a hidden key to unravel the mysteries of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, it does offer a highly intelligent overview of the Red Guard generation that is especially helpful in viewing the long-term development of this age cohort, as well as providing new perspectives on how to analyze this generation’s self-perception during changing periods of the recent Chinese past.
Daniel Leese, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
SINO-U.S. ENERGY TRIANGLES: Resource Diplomacy under Hegemony. Politics in Asia Series, 99. Edited by David Zweig and Yufan Hao. London; New York: Routledge  c2016. xxiii, 283 pp. (Illustrations.) US$160.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-77808-5.
David Zweig and Yufan Hao’s edited volume provides a rich combination of depth and scope. The volume examines ten resource-rich states in which China has made significant investment in energy, and in each case, explores the extent to which Chinese investment does or does not change the existing relationship the resource-rich country has with the United States. Finding little evidence to suggest the US has tried to use China’s need for energy resources to slow its rise, they seek to explain how these triangular relationships unfold and with what significance for international relations.
The editors group the states into three categories, based on the resource-rich states’ relationship with the US. They examine three “allies” (Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Australia); four “neutrals” (Angola, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, and Brazil); and three “pariahs” (Iran, Sudan, and Venezuela), positing that US response to China’s engagement will depend on its previously existing relationship with each state.
What makes the volume so successful is the enlisting of scholars with deep country-specific energy expertise to examine the research question, and combining their expertise with familiar experts in China energy, including the editors, Philip Andrews-Speed and Mikkal Herberg. Due to this combined expertise, the book highlights the agency of resource-rich states that are allegedly caught in this circumstance of “triangularity.” Nicholas Thomas shows that Australia is able to pursue its own interests amid pressure from both sides. Wenran, Zweig, and Siqin demonstrate that Canadian domestic concerns about China’s investment limit that activity more than does US intervention. In Ian Taylor’s chapter on Nigeria, China finds the ruling elites no easier to manage than have investors before them, and Watson and Zweig show that Venezuela pursued China’s investment in a deliberate act of provocation which raised little response from the US. For each case, the Sino-American competition is background context rather than the primary focus of the narrative. Zweig and Hao’s research model is unusually robust for an edited volume, and many of the authors take issue with the triangulation model as provided, arguing for its limited applicability to their country case, or interpreting it differently from their fellow authors. Even so, the model yields some useful comparisons across cases even as the chapter authors provide unusual levels of country-specific energy expertise.
The in-depth comparison of cases provides new insight into several trends. The first is the dazzling scope of China’s efforts in energy. These cases show Chinese companies moving rapidly on many geographical fronts from Brazil (where they startle the government with a $10 billion investment offer) to Saudi Arabia and Iran (rivals which received investment at roughly the same time). China also displays a range of skills in these cases – from working in the face of Canadian domestic opposition to acquire desired companies, to mastering the technology for processing (notoriously difficult) Venezuelan crude.
In the face of fundamental energy-related shifts in trade and investment, another trend that emerges among many of the “allies” and “neutrals” case studies is a progressive delinking of their economic and security interests. This is particularly striking in Nicholas Thomas’ Australia case and Yitzhak Shichor’s Saudi Arabia case, and in Sebastien Peyrouse’s Kazakhstan case (although Peyrouse makes clear that the triangulation of interests in that country is Russia-China-Kazakstan, with the US in a distant fourth position). A third trend that emerges is that the United States has effectively used sanctions against resource-rich states as a weapon in pursuit of non-energy goals. John Garver’s Iran chapter and Sonja Regler’s Sudan chapter colourfully recount how the US applied enough pressure to change China’s calculus of the risks it was taking by pursuing energy development in resource-rich states targeted by the US for exclusion from the world community. Based on the cases offered, the effectiveness with which the US uses sanctions is not reflected in US pursuit of other energy goals.
The case-by-case examination in this volume is mostly a strength, but it does pose one notable weakness: the interaction of China and international energy institutions is underexplored. Five OPEC states are included among its cases, but in none of them is the issue of China-OPEC relations examined. Angola’s decision to join OPEC, for example, which took place in 2006 much to the surprise of the US, happened after significant Chinese investment in the oil sector; however, Alex Vines’ chapter on Angola does not address this at all. What role China’s preferences had in Angola’s decision—and what approach China takes towards OPEC given its relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, and Venezuela—matters for future markets. Similarly, China opted to become an Associated Member of the International Energy Agency in 2015, rather than pursue full membership. What shaped this decision, and what was the interplay of members’ reluctance and Chinese interest, is another important question.
The chapters that frame this volume make clear the different approaches that China and the United States have towards energy security. Ideologically, US and Chinese pursuit of energy security reflect radically differing embedded assumptions. As the authors note, while the US has long advocated markets over mercantilism and institutions that help avoid zero-sum approaches in crisis, China has emphasized securing external supply and developing long-term state-to-state relationships. The cases presented here suggest that the US has not used energy to constrain China’s rise, but neither has it focused on safeguarding the US market vision for energy. This volume strongly illustrates China’s long-term commitment to ensuring its access to adequate energy for the future. Meanwhile, the United States, through the development of its resources at home (and radical shifts in price), has become less engaged in energy development and in the concerns of resource-rich states. How China’s participation will change markets and relations in the long term remains to be seen, but this volume offers rare insight into how China’s participation is progressing to date.
Theresa Sabonis-Helf, National War College/National Defense University, Washington, DC, USA
*Views expressed in this review are solely the author’s and do not represent the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense, or the National Defense University.
For more than a half century conventional wisdom has attributed the defeat of the Nationalists and the triumph of the Chinese Communist Party to the corruption and incompetence of Chiang Kai-shek and his inner circle. Ever since Mao and the Communists swept to power in 1949, the prevailing view has been that Chiang and his cronies were the authors of their own misfortune, reaping the predictable harvest of years of corruption, incompetence, and unwillingness to heed the advice of their American advisers. But in recent years this narrative has started to unravel at the edges, and General He Yingqin: The Rise and Fall of Nationalist China is an important contribution to this process.
Peter Worthing, an associate professor of history at Texas Christian University, is well known in military history circles for his earlier work, A Military History of Modern China: From the Manchu Conquest to Tian’anmen Square (Praeger, 2007). His latest work focuses on General He Yingqin, one of the most influential figures in the Nationalist regime and a stalwart supporter of Chiang Kai-shek. In his introduction Worthing provides a concise summary of He’s treatment in standard English-language secondary sources, noting that there are few references to the general despite his having been an important participant in every critical episode of Chiang’s career. Indeed, He’s résumé reads like a chronology of key events in the Nationalist era, making his absence from scholarship on the period puzzling. There are passing references to He in some classic works, such as Lloyd Eastman’s influential book Seeds of Destruction: Nationalist China in War and Revolution (Stanford, 1984), but Worthing notes that these texts dismiss He as incompetent and corrupt, portraying him as a pernicious influence in Chiang’s inner circle. While this view had its origins in wartime criticism directed at He by General Joseph Stilwell and others, the same charges continue to appear in scholarly treatments of the Nationalist era as recently as 2011. To Worthing, this negative portrayal seems difficult to reconcile with He’s long career. While it is conceivable that Chiang might tolerate a certain level of incompetence in exchange for unquestioning loyalty, it strains credulity to assert that he would consistently rely on such a person to handle tasks critical to the survival of his regime.
General He was certainly no sinecurist, for he served in important posts throughout the Nationalist era. He clearly enjoyed Chiang’s confidence and exerted a great deal of influence at critical junctures, which in Worthing’s opinion makes him long overdue for further study. General He Yingqin presents a revisionist examination of He’s life, starting with his childhood in Guizhou and ending with his relocation to Taiwan in 1949. Worthing takes full advantage of Chinese-language primary and secondary sources from both sides of the Taiwan Strait in order to situate He in the context of his times. While Worthing is hardly an apologist for Nationalist shortcomings, and does not hesitate to criticize He’s actions where justified, he makes a point of acknowledging the enormous difficulties He faced and the constraints under which he operated, factors other scholars have seemed reluctant to consider when passing judgment on him.
Worthing’s study starts with a brief overview of He’s early life, with a focus on his education at military academies in China and Japan. Worthing stresses the importance of He’s time in Japan, arguing that it provided him with valuable contacts (including Chiang, who was one year ahead) and a first-class military education. Unlike Chiang, who only attended a military preparatory school in Japan, He went on to graduate from the Imperial Army Academy (Rikugun Shikan Gakkō), receiving what was at the time the very best military education available to both Chinese and Japanese officers. Only a handful of Chinese cadets completed the rigorous program, making He part of a very select company. Worthing does an excellent job of piecing together the details of He’s activities between the 1911 Revolution and his eventual employment at the Whampoa Military Academy as chief instructor in 1924, where he quickly became Chiang’s close collaborator. At Whampoa, Chiang found a kindred spirit in He: both men were sober, fastidious, disciplined, and patriotic, and both had taken away from their time in Japan a faith in the military as a vanguard institution in the struggle to build a modern China. As Worthing argues, Chiang and He would become collaborators not because the latter was a reliable yes-man, but because the two soldiers shared a common vision for China.
The remaining chapters of the book present a careful analysis of He’s role in the defining events of the Nationalist era. He served, inter alia, as a regimental, divisional, and army commander in the Eastern and Northern Expeditions, director of demobilization and military restructuring, senior commander during the rebellions of 1929 and 1930, commander of the anti-Communist Encirclement campaigns, chief negotiator with the Japanese between the Manchurian and Marco Polo Bridge incidents, minister of war, wartime chief of staff, and even premier for a brief period in 1949. As Worthing reveals, He was no passive bystander in these roles, nor was he simply the executor of others’ policies, but his reserved demeanour and avoidance of the limelight meant that many contemporary observers overlooked his contributions. Worthing’s account of He’s role in the Anti-Japanese War is especially revealing, and provides a long overdue corrective to Stilwell’s harsh criticism.
Overall General He Yingqin presents a balanced account of one of the key figures in the Nationalist era, and shines new light on some of the most important events of that period. Worthing succeeds in demonstrating that He was not the incompetent sycophant or reactionary militarist others have made him out to be, and this book should be required reading for anyone seeking a better understanding of the challenges faced by the Nationalist regime.
Colin Green, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada
Frank Pieke adopts a China-centric perspective to move beyond Western preoccupations, desires, or fears. Knowing China is not aimed at determining whether China is or will become capitalist, or remain socialist. Instead, Pieke explores twenty-first-century China as a unique kind of neo-socialist society, combing features of state socialism, neo-liberal governance, capitalism, and rapid globalization. Pieke argues that delineating the distinctive features of this neo-socialist society not only helps us to know contemporary China better but takes us beyond the old dichotomies of West versus East, developed versus developing, traditional versus modernity, democracy versus dictatorship, and capitalism versus socialism.
Chapter 1 introduces the concept of neo-socialism. Pieke explains that from the perspective of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), market reform is only a means towards a more important end: a vigorous Communist Party leading to a strong state that governs a healthy nation and represents a powerful country. Rather than breeding conservatism, this conviction thus inspired a pragmatism and willingness on the part of the Party to constantly reinvent itself, while retaining core Leninist principles that guarantee its authoritarian leading role over state and society. An intrinsic part of neo-socialist strategy has been the selective, partial, and gradual nature of marketization of state and collective assets and functions. However, neo-socialism is not an ideology or a logically consistent model of governance but an analytical shorthand for the recombinant and open-ended nature of political, economic, and social development.
Chapter 2 starts with an analysis of the nature of socialist party rule. The Party after the reforms has in certain respects become more rather than less Leninist. These features include collective leadership, Party discipline imposed on the behaviour of its members, and Party control over leadership appointments. However, the ultimate objective of the Party is no longer communism; instead, it promises a united nation, a strong country, and a prosperous and harmonious society. Surprisingly, the Party after 1978 retained and deepened the highly decentralized structure of the administration that made local governance affordable and adaptable but also very difficult to control.
However, Pieke cautions that despite its successes, not all is well, and the long-term success of the neo-socialist strategy is by no means an established fact. Increasingly, Party politics is captured by special interest groups, the private interests of the families of high Party leaders, and even organized crime. The fall from power in 2011 of Bo Xilai laid bare the deep divisions in the Party leadership and showed the danger of a return to the devastating factional politics.
Chapter 3 examines the question of how a communist regime and a capitalist economy can exist alongside each other. Despite strong similarities with capitalist countries, Pieke shows that China charts its own course of neo-socialist development as much in the economic realm as in other aspects of politics, society, and culture. A closer look at the economic reforms shows that the growth of a market economy supports rather than undermines the socialist institutions and strategy of the Party. While thousands of state enterprises were let go, a select few were turned into large state-owned conglomerates and spearheads of further economic development and globalization. Neo-socialist industrial policy has thus been highly graded and selective. Whereas markets have been created in which all economic actors have to operate, certain strategy enterprises and sectors of the economy have been protected.
Pieke further argues that longer-term prosperity has less to do with the further development of market economy and more with the challenges that are generic and global rather than specifically having to do with the socialist legacy of the regime. Among these post-reform challenges, Pieke highlights three: demographic change, innovation-based growth, and environmental degradation.
Chapter 4 turns its attention to society. Under Mao, Chinese society had been wholly subsumed under the Party and the state. This totalitarian ambition was abandoned after the start of the reforms. In the 1990s the autonomy of individuals, families, enterprises, and organizations became a cornerstone of the Party’s unfolding neo-socialist approach. China has become a society of enterprising strangers who are free, albeit within the political limits imposed by the state, to pursue whatever goals or desires drive them. Just like in capitalist societies, freedom comes at a price: risk, inequality, individual responsibility, alienation. New forms of sociality based on religious beliefs, leisure and pastimes, lifestyles, or special interests have emerged to fill the gap created by freedom and individualization.
Chapter 5 argues that under neo-socialism, nation building and nationalism have become even more important than in the past. Chapter 6 tries to gauge the consequences that neo-socialist approaches have on the impact of Chinese people, businesses, capital, and culture in the world that we all live in. Pieke concludes that neo-socialist state strengthening, the proactive support for world-leading firms, the emergence of an intensely competitive market and society, and the aggressive nation-building project are preparing the way for China’s prominent global influence. China will become a global power not only because of a deep-seated wish to be independent from Western civilizers. There are also signs that China as an emerging power will not hesitate to become a civilizer in its own right, imposing its modernity on others.
I find this book very interesting and well written. Its innovative concept of neo-socialism is very useful to capture the distinctiveness of contemporary China, which consists of an uneasy combination of different contradictory elements that defies any easy characterization. In addition, this book is very informative because Pieke has done an excellent job in synthesizing the findings in Chinese studies to answer such research questions as: why the communist party will not fall from power, why China’s economy will continue to grow, but not forever, and why Chinese people have freedom without universal human rights. Thus, both general readers and area specialists will find this book indispensable for their in-depth understanding of contemporary China.
Alvin Y. So, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong SAR, China
INFECTIOUS CHANGE: Reinventing Chinese Public Health After an Epidemic. By Katherine A. Mason. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016. xiii, 252 pp. (Illustrations.) US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-9892-1.
Current scholarship on SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) mainly focuses on the political features reflected in the response towards this public health emergency, a nostalgic review of Mao’s government-led mass health campaign, and public policy studies of medical reforms before and after the pandemic. Katherine Mason’s Infectious Change analyzes the public health changes brought on by SARS based on over a year of fieldwork in Shenzhen (which she refers to using the pseudonym “Tianmai”). The book focuses on the transformation from a “grassroots, low-technology approach” to “a professionalized, biomedicalized, and globalized technological machine” (3) by analyzing how a group of medical professionals at the TM CDC (Tianmai Center for Disease Control) dedicated themselves to building and serving “an idealized world of modernity, science, and trust” at home and abroad (3–4), which Mason refers to as “the common.”
She breaks this object of study down into four groups: the civilized immigrant common, professional common, the transnational scientific common, the common of global health practitioners, and a global common of modern, civilized people around the world. Mason meticulously examines these four commons, starting with the bifurcated service-governance relationship between civilized immigrants and the floating population. She explores the logic of guanxi (connections), renqing (human feelings), and ganqing (emotion) in daily public health work and how newly recruited young professionals have challenged this logic. She further examines how ambitious young and highly educated professionals are eager to join the transnational scientific community because of increased funding and higher publication standards after SARS. She looks at how these professionals interacted with survey subjects, patients, and foreign collaborators. Based on a case study of the emergency response toward the H1N1 flu outbreak, she investigates how ordinary powerless bureaucrats felt betrayed by this process (178), motivated as they were by scientifically informed professionalism while working under the pressure of authoritarian mobilization. In the end, the book addresses how a few public health professionals tried to contribute to both the transnational scientific common, and the local professional common by promoting service to the most vulnerable population in the city: those living with HIV/AIDS.
As an anthropological work, the book dexterously interweaves the changes in public health after the SARS pandemic with major social and cultural phenomena in the dynamic migrant city of Shenzhen, including immigrants, migrants, guanxi, renqing, and ganqing. Shenzhen is located in the Pearl River Delta, where SARS first broke out in early 2003 before escalating into the first global pandemic of the new millennium. One of the four special economic zones designated by the Chinese government in the early 1980s, Shenzhen has attracted millions of highly educated young professionals and low-skilled factory workers. In this social context, as Mason vividly shows, traditional social and cultural principles like guanxi and renqing create intricate and multi-faceted relationships in public health work. She begins by examining the dichotomic relations between public health professionals and workers and employees at factories and service sectors, which she characterizes using categories such as civilized immigrants vs. the floating population, a beneficial group vs. a sacrificial group, and being served vs. being governed. According to the author, the former has dedicated itself to monitoring and controlling infectious diseases among the latter in order to protect the young, educated, and “high-quality” middle class that public health professionals themselves represent and which Mason defines as “civilized community.” However, the large number of migrants in the city becomes a form of biocapital for the use of public health professionals, who are eager to join the international scientific community with research based on first-hand data. Meanwhile, a smaller group of young scientifically minded public-health professionals set out to build a professional common that could serve the needs of the entire group (92). These professionals, represented in the book by Chu, have focused their efforts on providing care for the most vulnerable, marginalized, and stigmatized group among the floating population.
The book also vividly shows the changing and entrenched logic and practice of guanxi, renqing, and ganqing in the work of these public health professionals. As Mason argues, the success of the professional common lies in accurate biostatistics that reveal scientific truths about the population and a reliable means of sharing those statistics (70). Social gatherings, such as banquets and drinking wine, became commonplace as places where these relationships could be cultivated. However, newly graduated young professionals had little experience or interest in attending these sorts of occasions and cultivating connections through them. Notwithstanding, they still had to resort to these to obtain the large number of disease, placenta, and cancer samples for their scientific research projects. Guanxi and ganqing were also particularly important in follow-up work on populations with HIV/AIDS.
The book convincingly discloses and analyzes the features and deficiencies of some contemporary international scientific research projects in developing countries. As Mason shows, young public health researchers, their mentors, and foreign collaborators have their own motivations for carrying out their scientific research. Young researchers are under great pressure to publish and eagerly aspire to join the international community. To receive domestic and international funding, their mentors need to show how their administration has performed, including publication numbers and the ranking of these, and proof of the impact of their research. According to the text, foreign collaborators seem to benefit from this process, which results in a “division of ethical labor.” As Mason argues, these external collaborators “transfer ethical responsibility for the wellbeing of local people affected by global health interventions to local public health professionals alone” (201).
However, the book needs to elaborate on the continuity of some changes to Chinese public health after SARS. In fact, those changes took place following certain shifts in the macro environment that are linked with the motivations behind and changed orientations of scientific research in China. Nonetheless, this anthropological study has made a significant contribution to work on the professionalization of public health professionals, immigrant/migrant studies, scientific research ethics, theories of guanxi and renqing, and groups living with HIV/AIDS, issues it has examined from an interdisciplinary perspective in the changing, dynamic, and globalized context of Chinese society over the past decade.
Fang Xiaoping, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
FAREWELL TO THE GOD OF PLAGUE: Chairman Mao’s Campaign to Deworm China. By Miriam Gross. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016. xv, 357 pp. (Illustrations.) US$70.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-28883-6.
Beyond human travail, beyond societal disruption, beyond economic disaster, widespread disease, epidemic or endemic, has its uses. Medical science advances, careers are made, and political agendas rise and fall. This interesting book provides the first detailed examination of a well-known but until now poorly documented campaign to rid China of the blood fluke, Schistosoma japonicum. Human infection with this flatworm has been commonly known as snail fever in China because of the role of freshwater snails in its life cycle and transmission. As described in this carefully researched account by Miriam Gross, in the final phases of the war between the Chinese Communist forces under Mao Zedong and the Republican Army under Chiang Kai-shek, the dominant Communist army was thwarted by the lowly parasite which infected Mao’s army as it was learning to swim in preparation for the amphibious assault on Taiwan. The choice of snail fever as an early public health target of the new PRC leaders thus had both political as well as humanitarian resonances for the new government.
One of the first mass mobilization campaigns after Mao’s victory and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 was aimed at the problem of snail fever. Mao’s poem, used as the title for this volume, views endemic snail fever as a plague upon the Chinese people, a plague to be banished by the new socialist order. As shown by Gross, this campaign, often viewed as one of the first successes of the new Communist government, was in reality, a contest between the populist ideas of Mao and the elitist ideas of the entrenched public health authorities. It was a campaign based on mass mobilization rather than research-based, top-down approaches. Even with Mao’s support, there was considerable tension between local leadership and the central PRC government. This tension was managed rather effectively by restraint on the part of the central authorities, trying to establish the new collective socialism of the PRC.
The mass mobilization campaign at the local level used diverse means to combat old ideas and traditional superstitions and to instill new scientific ways of thinking. This campaign used approaches similar to the earlier anti-hookworm campaign of the Republican Period, waged under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation: village dramas, local talks, small incentives, and so on. As Gross explains, the campaign’s main success was to introduce new scientific ideas to the rural populations, especially the youth. The main weakness of the campaign was lack of financial support; in today’s jargon, it was an unfunded mandate.
The campaign had two components, prevention by snail control, and treatment with newer medicines. The prevention program was particularly problematic because it involved capturing and killing snails, mostly by burial of the snails, a very labour-intensive process. Local economies, still struggling to increase food production, were unable to devote sufficient labour to the anti-snail program and since it was run by local cadres, they rarely were enthusiastic about implementation of the prevention arm of the program, which required massive water and feces management schemes. Hygiene was seen as an urban fixation, not something of concern to rural communities.
While the actual snail-killing campaign was not particularly successful, according to Gross, the campaign did have the valuable side effect of combating superstition and introducing new scientific methods. This was later to be important in the consolidation of the collectivization program of the central government as well as to provide effective leadership during the later Cultural Revolution.
Even though the prevention campaign is famous, it was of dubious effectiveness because of local resistance from the authorities charged with its implementation. However, the treatment part of the campaign, even though based on Western medical principles and medications, was quite successful in reducing the incidence of snail fever over the course of a few years. Although the government described the rural population as backward and superstitious, most accepted Western medicine even though they distrusted Western ideas generally, and medicine specifically. The medical treatments did work, however, and that was recognized. As China transitioned from an empire to a socialist state, people came to accept more intrusion into their personal lives, including centralized mass treatment campaigns.
While elimination of snail fever was happening partly due to the revolutionary zeal of doctors armed with improved treatment, soon there was back sliding and recurrence in many places. Even though the prevention part of the program was never a great success, Mao’s authority and example were powerful incentives to accept the new treatments and some prevention. Disease was controlled but not eradicated.
At the national level, this mass mobilization campaign served other goals. Party strategy was to use health campaigns in rural areas to help develop and consolidate Party control as it aimed toward general ideas of socialist collectivization. In addition, technical skills in the villages increased because of the health campaigns, and this led to a kind of grassroots science that was of great help generally, and specifically in strengthening scientific socialism. For better or worse, as Gross argues, this was well demonstrated in the role these local youth would later play as leaders in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (815).
Gross uses newly available archival sources to revise the common view that the campaign against snail fever was an unqualified success, a model of collective, grassroots hygiene that has been seen as leading to the 1978 WHO Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care. As a needed antidote to this popular conception, she provides a balanced and clear-eyed analysis of an important milestone in global health and of the early days of the PRC.
William C. Summers, Yale University, New Haven, USA
CONVERGENCE OR CONFLICT IN THE TAIWAN STRAIT: The Illusion of Peace? Routledge Research on Taiwan, 18. By J. Michael Cole. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. viii, 215 pp. US$150.00, cloth, ISBN 978-1-138-69623-5; US$58.95, paper, ISBN 978-1-138-69624-2.
This book has been released at an important moment, timely as we assess the first year of President Tsai Ing-wen in office and China’s predictable response, all in the light of speculation about the policies of the incoming Republican administration in the United States. The chapters span the period beginning with the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration of Chen Shui-bian through to the run-up to the January 2016 elections and their immediate aftermath. The September 2016 Hong Kong Legislative Council elections were another milepost in a parallel unfolding of the democratic challenge to Beijing, originating back during the final months of 2014. Because of this linkage, the author devotes a large part of the analysis, in a book about Taiwan, to developments in Hong Kong. For both, the prospects appear stark, as observers remain hopeful, prompted by faint signs of medium- and long-term progress. China’s response has been predictable, but also, for both international observers and participants, alarming. President Xi’s turn toward a new Cold War stance in the region is the backdrop to this concern. Above all, it is the sober evaluation of objective facts and constraints as they are, and an understanding of the viable pathways forward, that the reader should keep in mind while studying the chapters.
The new government must look to consolidate all potential unofficial ties and points of support among the democracies and emerging democracies, political parties, and democratic movements of East, Southeast, and South Asia. On the front line, together with Taiwan, are: Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Myanmar, and India. International support for the embattled and isolated democratic movement in China forms part of this united front. Continuing to call attention to the growing crackdown in the PRC, which has turned back incremental gains of previous periods, strengthens the resolve of Taiwanese democrats. It also helps to galvanize awareness throughout the region for the need to counter China’s threatened subversion of Taiwanese sovereignty. Her natural allies face similar pressures—in the case of South Korea, military. Thus, annexation by China would be a severe blow to the interests of all. The national interest of each of the Pacific Rim democracies, the United States in first place because of its longstanding formal commitment (the Taiwan Relations Act; TRA), coincides entirely with that of all the others. This is the overarching theme of the book, perhaps formulated in a different way in some of the chapters. The incoming Trump Administration is expected to continue to stand by the TRA, as did its predecessor. An interesting question will be the consequences of the predicted failure to ratify the TPP, one of the cornerstones of President Obama’s Asia policy. Under pressure from protectionist currents in both parties, even the Democratic candidate abandoned it. The coming weeks and months are full of uncertainty on a number of key points.
A central argument of the author turns on the conditions that will forestall the overthrow of Taiwanese democracy, the “firewall.” One that commentators often overlook concerns getting its own developing institutions and civic/political consciousness in order. The consensus on defense of autonomy and de facto sovereignty is broader than it appears; that is, it is not restricted to the DPP and its allies. Even on specific questions of national identity, such as favouring official recognition of the Taiwanese languages, broad layers within the Kuomintang (KMT) find common cause with their “green” counterparts. On some of the relevant core issues, positions surprisingly coincide. For example, a current consensus views the offer by the PRC of a Special Administrative Region status with great skepticism. In the end, overriding imperatives of national unity and security are at stake, an understanding that the Tsai administration, in its moderate and defensive posture, has shown itself to be acutely cognizant of. This orientation, as the author points out, may be related to the exceptional circumstances of Taiwan’s transition to democracy, by all measure a model for the region, including for China itself. All of the above, by the way, should serve to reaffirm the commitment of the world’s democracies in support of Taiwanese self-determination. A number of aspects of this assessment are controversial, sparking further debate that we should all welcome.
An effective united front will seek to make the cost of occupation and annexation unacceptable. Chapter 12 is an assessment of the respective military capabilities. The panorama laid out here is the most stark. Readers should pay especially close attention here to the implications, given a possible recalibration on the part of Washington regarding its current security guarantee (for example, in the case of a future PRC reprisal). Given Taiwan’s robust capabilities, an invasion would commit overwhelming force of unmitigated violence to ensure that it prevails.
Throughout the chapters, Cole lays a large part of the responsibility for the confusion about the situation that Taiwan faces at the feet of academia itself. Professors and experts working outside of the PRC have choices. The soft power is strong, and the “Taiwan problem” is “inconvenient” (36). The invitations, the return visits, and the access are generous. But the invoice arriving in the mail often asks too much, depending on one’s specialty. Even publishing a paper, in a Western-based journal, is sometimes easier if you evade the difficult topic or soft-pedal a sensitive concept. Some researchers have made the decision that the complicity, when this happens (a complicated question), is no longer acceptable, that the sensitive topic can’t be avoided, and that their next invited lecture in China might be the last.
This study of China and Taiwan points to an important parallel with the threats posed to the smaller and weaker countries on the western border of the Russian Federation. Pursuit of great power pacts and “grand bargains” at the expense of sovereign nations turns out to be shortsighted and dangerous. These considerations have become timely again.
Norbert Francis, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, USA
ETHNIC CONFLICT AND PROTEST IN TIBET AND XINJIANG: Unrest in China’s West. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. Edited by Ben Hillman and Gray Tuttle. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. vi, 268 pp. (Tables, maps.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-16998-1.
This edited volume presents theoretically rigorous and ethnographically rich social science research concerning Xinjiang and the Tibetan areas of China. Its nine chapters cohere not only methodologically and thematically, but in a common argument: the authors challenge longstanding assumptions about the primary importance of ethnic and religious identities to Uyghurs’ and Tibetans’ discontent vis-à-vis the Chinese state and Han Chinese. Instead, they offer explanations rooted in economic change, local government, and ordinary people’s perceptions of the state.
Most of the chapters demonstrate the usefulness of comparisons between China proper and Inner Asia in narrowing down proximate causes of discontent. The authors point out the ways in which the expansion of state-directed infrastructural development under the Open Up the West campaign has affected Uyghurs and Tibetans much as they have Han. In Xinjiang and Tibet, Beijing subsidizes highly visible, labour-intensive projects that nominally are meant to “develop” the region but instead feed into local networks of official corruption and fail to enrich Uyghur or Tibetan workers. In Yeh and Nyima’s words, “The imperative to capture central level subsidies results in perverse policy implementation by local government” (155). Their subtle argument, like most in the volume, operates on two levels: in terms of policy and its reception, efforts at “environmental protection” are more likely to contribute to resentment when they are insensitive to local knowledge and needs. Moreover, Tibetans perceive that the state demands gratitude for its often-ineffective interventions. The result is the erosion of faith in Beijing’s claim to benevolence. Mortensen makes a related argument about the importance of the popular understanding of “the state” among Tibetans and observes considerable variation between regions. He finds that dissatisfaction has no necessary connection with ideology, religion, or ethnicity, but rather usually stems from human beings’ perennial concern with subsistence.
Cliff’s theoretically sophisticated argument makes similar observations in Xinjiang. He analyzes Uyghur discontent as a consequence of the region’s economic normalization within the Chinese system. The state supports economic development through two tracks: the first is large-scale infrastructure projects from “partner” provinces in China proper, which incentivize debt farming and the dispossession of land from small farmers, incidentally mostly Uyghur. The second is the creation of “lucrative chaos,” an artificial “frontier” economy that mainly benefits Han settlers, whose enterprises do not employ or promote Uyghur workers. Uyghurs, like many poor people in China proper, find themselves displaced, and then trapped on the lowest tier of the social hierarchy. Harlan finds exceptions to the rule, but they prove Cliff’s thesis: only those Uyghurs who successfully learn to navigate the guanxi networks of Chinese society succeed in the new Xinjiang economy. Hillman likewise looks at Tibet in the context of the broader Chinese political economy. He asks why since the 1980s sub-provincial governments in Tibetan-majority areas have not been as responsive to local concerns or as innovative as their counterparts in China proper. He finds a deeply entrenched system of disincentives against engagement with local issues in the official system of assessments and rewards, combined with incentives to misappropriate official money in informal networks of influence.
The tone-deaf insistence of campaigns for cultural assimilation also leads to counterproductive results. Henry’s piece argues that unrest stems less from the imposition of the Chinese language in Tibetan education per se and more from the frequency and intensity of those efforts. Leibold likewise characterizes discontent as the product of increasingly rapid social and economic change under a weak government and constantly changing policies. As Terrone explains in the context of Xinjiang, the strong emphasis on cultural assimilation in propaganda typical of these regions has the unintended effect of heightening Tibetans’ and Uyghurs’ awareness of their culture as the object of state power. In certain areas, “education reform” has become a vector for securitization, as well, which undermines the supposedly noble intentions of the state and reminds non-Han of their inferior position in China. Nevertheless, the volume is not entirely pessimistic in its outlook. Robin demonstrates that young Tibetans in China are articulating new universalist discourses of rights that reflect their own reactions against a growing Chinese particularism, rather than the influence of exile leaders.
A short review cannot do justice to the subtlety of the arguments in this volume, which will be of interest to anyone seeking lucid, innovative explanations of politics, economy, and society in Xinjiang and Tibet. Recently, “Xinjiang studies,” “Tibetan studies,” and “Chinese studies” have become increasingly separate fields, and work on contemporary issues in China’s West, with some outstanding exceptions, has rarely drawn on such rich ethnography or engaged so thoroughly with broader social-scientific questions. While we often speak of Uyghurs and Tibetans in the same breath, it is rare for scholarship to bring their situations into detailed comparison. This volume is a model for productive cross-regional scholarship and demonstrates the value of combining deep area knowledge with disciplinary rigour.
Eric Schluessel, University of Montana, Missoula, USA
CONTEMPORARY SINO-FRENCH CINEMAS: Absent Fathers, Banned Books, and Red Balloons. Critical Interventions. By Michelle E. Bloom. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. x, 271 pp. (Illustrations.) US$59.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5158-3.
The terrain of world cinema studies has been a treacherous one. This is because the terms of our comparison have been historically and ideologically coded through the epistemic violence of colonization and decolonization––and more recently, neoliberalization, recolonization, and renationalization (see Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, eds. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988], 276–286; see also, Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, eds., Multiculturlaism, Postcoloniality, and Transnational Media [New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003]). In addition, we often forget that such epistemic violence affects not only the voices of the colonizer and the colonized, but also those critical attempts made by intellectuals (including ourselves) who seek to reconfigure their own subaltern position. In Contemporary Sino-French Cinemas, Michelle Bloom scrutinizes a series of film coproductions between Sinophone and Francophone cinematic auteurs and communities. For her, establishing a comparative discourse requires an acknowledgement of the inevitable process of othering in both the objects of study and our critical language (14–21). Her book demonstrates that such a discursive process puts the critical agent (self) and the object critiqued (other) under erasure, thus leaving the traces of their erasure visible. Such a process of erasure in turn enables us to critique the very structure of differences that in-forms the epistemic violence at the first place (for the concept of “under erasure,” see Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology , trans. Spivak [Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1997], 62).
Bloom’s study is divided into two parts: Franco-Taiwanese cinema and Franco-Chinese cinema. The former may or may not bear any traces of the auteurs’ nationality, ethnicity, or cultural sensibility, yet the absence of these traces haunts the film texts as a presence of the structure of differences that constitute France/China and the Other (29). As opposed to their Taiwanese counterparts, which tend to focus on mixture and intertextuality, the mainland Chinese auteurs make visible intertextual “failures” such as displacement, mistranslation, and misunderstanding (137). Yet, these failures are crucial in the configuration of authority, power, and agency out of the epistemic violence that constitutes the difference between “China and the West.”
Each film Bloom studies is best considered a site where a mode of cross-cultural dialogue is reconfigured. In her analysis of Cheng Yu-chieh’s Yang Yang (2009), Bloom scrutinizes the way the film recodifies the term métissage. Even though the term can be interpreted simply as “mixed race,” it carries the connotation of biological impurity and moral degeneracy from the colonial discourses; yet it also makes visible the liminal space at which the racialized and gendered power asymmetries in such discourses can be turned into a site from which new social relations can be reimagined (34–37). Yang Yang’s representation and negotiation of métissage is indeed symptomatic of the way the métis/métisse has been treated in both French and Sino-Taiwanese discourses. Featuring actor Sandrine Pinna (Zhang Rong-Rong), who herself is a métisse, the film makes visible the struggle of a métisse left behind in Taiwan by her French engineer father (hence, a “product” of neocolonialism), in a society where she has trouble naming––let alone positioning––the racio-cultural liminality at which she has been abandoned (43–71).
While métissage can be considered a symptomatic form of negotiation, intertextuality can be regarded as a cinematic auteur’s active claim of their creative agency. In her analysis of Tsai Ming-liang’s What Time Is It There? (2002) and Face (2009), Bloom examines Tsai’s painstaking references to the works of François Truffaut (1932–1984). Tsai does so by casting Truffaut’s “double” Jean-Pierre Léaud in the former film, and his signature actresses Fanny Ardant, Nathalie Baye, and Jeanne Moreau in the latter. In addition, he also reconfigures the relationship between the image and the spectator by restaging and referring to specific scenes in Truffaut’s works, thus actively rewriting the authorial relationship between the director and the spectator. In so doing, the power asymmetry between France (as the author of the Nouvelle Vague) and Taiwan (whose auteur [Tsai] re-authors and reauthorizes the Nouvelle Vague through such intertextuality) is also revised (78–108). For Bloom, intertextuality is further developed as cinematic makeover by Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon (2007), as Hou does not simply remake the 1956 film Le Ballon rouge (Albert Lamorisse). Instead, he hybridizes, displaces, and rewrites the overall semiotic structures between France and Taiwan, a process that actively demands the spectators to rethink the structure of differences that underlies our understanding of their interdependent relationship (111–136).
For Bloom, Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2001) examines the power of translation by representing moments at which translators, through deliberate mistranslation, bring about social changes, individual freedom, and new means of expression during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Yet, such liberty is ultimately limited by social classes and global political asymmetry (139–159). In her analysis of Tang Xiaobai’s Conjugation (2001) and Jia Zhangke’s The World (2004), Bloom studies how imitation is not necessarily a sign of subservience, but can be appropriated by the imitator as a means of making visible the structure of differences that constitute the power relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. It also enables those who are confined within “China” as a political community to traverse their sense of economic and sociocultural entrapment (186–187).
Bloom’s study offers not only an insightful scrutiny of a series of individual texts, but also tropes by which we can open up further discussions of inter- and intra-cultural cinemas. In the end, the term “Sino-French” is best understood not as one that recalls the historically unsettling dynamic between the self and the other, but the productiveness and emancipatory potential of a dynamic that enables us to resist any temptation to reach a settlement.
Victor Fan, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
LEARNING FROM A DISASTER: Improving Nuclear Safety and Security after Fukushima. Stanford Security Studies. Edited by Edward D. Blandford and Scott D. Sagan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016. xi, 219 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-9735-1.
The March 11, 2011 compounded disasters in Tohoku, Japan took some 18,451 lives, destroyed 125,000 homes and businesses, and caused US$235 billion in damages. After the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Futaba, Japan, nearly half a million people became refugees. Some tens of thousands of people from across the region remain in shelters to this day while up to 15,000 may not be able to return to their homes in towns like Futaba, Ōkuma, and Namie for years because of radioactive contamination. Japanese newspapers continue to cover the fallout from the events, including the failure of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to safely maintain the hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive water on site at Fukushima. TEPCO has used containment measures such as ad hoc steel tanks for storage of the contaminated water and an underground “ice wall” which has so far failed to stop water from flowing into groundwater supplies and the ocean. The ongoing nuclear disaster—rated a seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the same as Chernobyl, despite lower levels of contamination—had political repercussions as far away as Europe. There, a number of countries, including Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland, used Fukushima as a policy window during which to examine their own nuclear energy policies.
Following a major natural-technological disaster like Fukushima, experts and policy makers alike scramble to engage in the work they do best: policy makers and politicians assign blame for failures or take credit for successes (Arjen Boin, Allan McConnell, and Paul Hart, Governing after Crisis: The Politics of Investigation, Accountability, and Learning, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008). Local politicians in the Tohoku area, for example, changed their political behaviour, depending on the disaster’s impact in their community, to reach out to politicians at the local, regional, and national level for assistance and demonstrate their competence to constituents (Daniel P. Aldrich and Yoshikuni Ono, “Local politicians as linking social capital,” Natural Hazards 2016). Subject matter experts, in contrast, hope to find patterns of behaviour linked to the event that can be avoided elsewhere (see Thomas Birkland, Lessons of Disaster, Georgetown University Press, 2006). This book, edited by Blandford and Sagan, brings together experts from a variety of institutions and disciplines (including nuclear engineering, environmental history, political science, public policy, and risk assessment) from Japan and the United States to analyze the events leading up to and following this man-made catastrophe.
It follows in the tradition of several other books which have sought to put the 3/11 events in Japan in context, such as Koichi Hasegawa’s Beyond Fukushima (Melbourne: TransPacific Press, 2015) and Naoto Kan’s My
Nuclear Nightmare (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2017). Chapters in Learning from a Disaster cover topics ranging from the engineering and design basis for nuclear power plant construction through the security implications of and political leadership and organizational learning during the disaster. A concluding chapter by Edward Blandford and Michael May brings together many of the lessons found within the individual chapters and may be suitable as stand-alone reading for undergraduate and graduate courses looking for a quick summary of the findings.
Some of the book’s findings are well known at this point thanks to a plethora of Japanese- and English-language reports: this includes Japan’s Diet, think tanks, and newspapers such as the Japan Times, and groups such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the American Nuclear Society. Three findings stood out in this edited volume. First, there was miscommunication and mistrust between TEPCO and the prime minister when they sought to govern and communicate about the disaster as it unfolded. An unorthodox use of an ad hoc command and control structure temporarily improved information flow between the two institutions (87). Next, the ex-regulator of nuclear energy, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) sought to manage the disaster through its inflexible use of radiation reference levels (such as the guideline of
20 mSv per hour as a safe level of exposure). That measurement was reached through political compromise and not through decision making based on science. Finally, despite various attempts to provide lessons learned from past disasters, including the 9/11 disaster in the United States, Japanese authorities did not learn lessons from past disasters and failed to adopt new practices which could have minimized risk during the Fukushima meltdowns (137). As such, a weak regulator, insufficient training for the plant operators, and the wide acceptance of the safety myth kept Japan from adopting strong accident mitigation measures (188).
One of the strongest chapters in the book investigates if Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plants were uniquely vulnerable in comparison with other plants in Japan and around the world. Using an original dataset of the tsunami exposure and disaster countermeasures of nearly ninety nuclear power plants from Japan, Europe, and Asia, Phillip Lipscy, Kenji Kushida, and Trevor Incerti show that Japan was “relatively unprepared for a tsunami disaster in international comparison” but that there was “considerable variation within Japan” (158). While observers may believe that smaller utilities and nuclear operators within Japan would be the most vulnerable, in fact “measures indicate that inadequate preparedness in Japan is concentrated among the largest utilities” (170). Those larger utilities include TEPCO, which serves nearly one-third of Japanese consumers, and Kansai Electric Power Company, which serves another significant percentage of the nation.
This book provides an easy-to-read reference guide to the disaster which will be of interest to graduate students and advanced undergraduates seeking summaries about Fukushima. Despite the book’s title, as past research and bitter experience have shown, it is unlikely it will assist regulators in preventing future disasters.
Daniel P. Aldrich, Northeastern University, Boston, USA
In this thought-provoking book Akihiro Ogawa delves into the burgeoning realm of lifelong learning in Japan, with a particular focus on the state as one of its key sponsors. Building on his earlier groundbreaking study, The Failure of Civil Society (SUNY Press, 2009), Ogawa argues that “Japan’s neoliberal state has attempted to reorganize the public sphere by the generation of a new disciplined knowledge based on a strong lifelong learning initiative” (21). He situates the rise of lifelong learning in the context of concerns about risk and risk management, arguing that this style of learning is a response to both governmental and socioeconomic risk. For state officials, lifelong learning becomes a policy tool for counteracting risks by shifting responsibility from states to markets, public to private, and collectivities to individuals, while for individuals lifelong learning emerges as a complex space in which they negotiate processes of Beckian individualization inherent in Japan’s contemporary neoliberal reality. All of this Ogawa sets against the backdrop of discussions in Japan about the so-called “New Public Commons.” According to Ogawa, lifelong learning is often discussed in terms of how it might contribute to this new communal imaginary by producing “comprehensive knowledge” among proactive, problem-solving citizens who aim to reduce risk in the public sphere. As he notes, this problem solving is meant to happen in local communities where “people cooperate to govern aspects of their own lives” (19).
Ogawa presents us with a Japan far more complex than an all-powerful state effortlessly mobilizing docile individuals by structuring their thoughts and actions. On the contrary, we learn how, in neoliberal Japan, “knowledge constructing subjects” are not only “constrained against their will by discipline” but, more intriguingly, “how individuals create their own selves through discipline” (81). This approach gives the book relevance well beyond Ogawa’s focus on Japan.
In the six content chapters Ogawa investigates lifelong learning from the perspective of history, state policy, community schooling, social entrepreneurship training, and youth. Chapter 2 traces the historical emergence of lifelong learning through earlier phases of “social education” and “lifelong education.” While recognizing continuity over time, Ogawa wants to stress differences, which he does through an adroit analysis of key policy documents. The important difference Ogawa identifies in contrast to earlier programs of “education” is that in lifelong learning the emphasis has shifted to individuals “as agents of their own learning” (37–38). The historical continuity is the centrality of the local and local community, which appear to have been at the core of all three policy visions.
In chapter 3, Ogawa examines lifelong learning in the context of what he calls “risk management by a neoliberal state” (53). Through a fascinating investigation of the notion of “comprehensive learning” and the role of local communities in building the New Public Commons, Ogawa argues that the promotion of lifelong learning becomes a tool by which the state manages the risks of governance. As he notes, citizens “armed with this new knowledge” from lifelong learning are expected to “contribute spontaneously to activities like agenda setting and problem solving at the grassroots level and respond suitably to constantly changing social and political life” (54). Chapter 4 delves further into the idea of a New Public Commons but does so through the lens of a rooted ethnography. Ogawa immerses us into the world of bunka borantia, or “cultural volunteers,” who work in local public facilities offering lifelong learning opportunities. He suggests that these volunteers are adept in applying a kind of “civic knowledge” (shimin chi) which not only helps them deal with constant change in daily life but also contributes to the formation of the New Public Commons (74). Through state-initiated processes such as jukugi (due deliberation), Ogawa confirms the shaping role on civil society of Japan’s interventionist state, but he also stresses how such processes create “a certain kind of disciplinary subject” who potentially produces “positive solutions” for social change (96). The tension between structure and agency Ogawa identifies here is deeply thought provoking.
Chapter 5 takes us into the realm of community schools, a relatively new, still somewhat rare, but increasing component of Japan’s educational landscape. Overall, Ogawa is largely supportive of these schools, which are a direct result of the neoliberal turn in Japan. As he explains, “shifting control of schools from the government to local communities” opens up the possibility of local mutual assistance and perhaps the evolution of an educational system more able to incorporate the diverse needs of individuals and communities. On the one hand, these community schools are tools for the state to mitigate “governmental risk” through a form of retrenchment. But for individual children, the schools become an important portal for communication with the local community and local people. Through this communication, Ogawa argues, children “learn how to survive in this difficult and complicated neoliberal world” (115).
In chapters 6 and 7 Ogawa turns to lifelong education in the context of socioeconomic risk, utilizing Beck’s notion of individualization. Chapter 6 traces the experience of a group of ten unemployed men as they study in a state-funded course on social entrepreneurship. In effect, the state is asking these vulnerable individuals to “voluntarily take risks” despite their precarious socioeconomic situation. Although some of the class members do eventually become involved in third-sector activities, the majority do not. Ogawa is quite critical of the initiative, saying that “rather than being asked to take risks,” what they really needed was “real vocational training that would help them secure jobs and earn money for a living” (138). The reality was that they were in no position to take the risks associated with social entrepreneurship (138).
Building on this theme of responses to precarity, in chapter 7 Ogawa traces the emergence and benefits of career education for youth. Different to training in social entrepreneurship, Ogawa is more upbeat about the value of career education. As a phenomenon that emerged in response to the mounting pressures on youth to manage risks in a neoliberal world, Ogawa argues that career education has the capacity to “promote the social inclusion of youth” and become a “foundation for developing the citizenry of contemporary Japan” (149). At the same time, while career education can empower individuals and possibly strengthen civil society, Ogawa also reminds us that it is, ironically enough, “a strategy crafted by the neoliberal state to develop certain types of required human resources for its own benefit” (166).
In sum, Lifelong Learning in Neoliberal Japan is a thoroughly engrossing and, at times, unsettling account of one critical apparatus of neoliberalism in contemporary Japan. The tension Ogawa identifies between empowerment and constraint in lifelong learning offers a powerful insight into how some Japanese are trying to survive, to pursue autonomy, and to construct genuine community in a neoliberal world. The book will be essential reading for anyone interested in neoliberal politics, risk and risk management, state-civil society relations, precarity, and the challenges of life in contemporary Japan.
Simon Avenell, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
SINGLE MOTHERS IN CONTEMPORARY JAPAN: Motherhood, Class, and Reproductive Practice. New Studies of Modern Japan. By Aya Ezawa. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016. xxv, 129 pp. US$80.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-2996-9.
Aya Ezawa’s book draws upon life history interviews with fifty-nine single mothers and aims to better understand “the class dynamics of family life and … the gender dimensions of social class in contemporary Japan” (107). It focuses on strategies that single mothers take to childrearing and obtaining and retaining jobs that can support their families, attending to how they negotiate their aspirations for their children and work-family conflicts. In her introduction and chapter 1, Ezawa introduces her framing questions, discusses her method, and sets the historical stage for her study. Chapters 2 and 3 examine women born after World War II who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, and what Ezra calls the Bubble generation, who came of age during Japan’s booming economy in the late 1970s and 1980s, before its long recession. Chapter 4 discusses single motherhood, focusing on how single mothers deal with financial and time constraints. Chapter 5 examines the class dimensions of women’s efforts to strike a balance between being good mothers and reliable workers who will be kept on in economic hard times. Ezawa wraps up the book with theoretical conclusions based on the recent experiences of single mothers from varied class and educational backgrounds.
Ezawa conducted her interviews between 1998 and 2000, with follow-up trips in 2004 and 2005. One of the strengths of her book is the empathy and close knowledge she conveys for her research subjects. We learn about how they made decisions ranging from marriage to work, divorce, and balancing work and family obligations. We learn where they cut financial corners, and how they relied on formal and informal arrangements to get by: government benefits, earnings, help from family members, and subsidized housing. The earlier generation approached education, marriage, and single motherhood in an innovative, feminist spirit of being pioneers who were finding new ways to establish and preserve families. In contrast, the Bubble generation was more apt to try to conform to the postwar Japanese family ideal of a breadwinner man married to a stay-at-home housewife. For both groups, women from middle-class families often went on to university and earned four-year degrees, while women from working-class backgrounds were more likely to pursue low-paid irregular jobs after finishing high school. Some high-school graduates pursued vocational training that helped them get and keep decent jobs (for example, as accountants), a strategy that Ezawa notes as an important route for single mothers to escape poverty. Though the composite portrait is clear enough, it was often difficult to track the different mothers’ voices, as Ezawa took the strategy of examining several issues one by one, drawing on several interviews to provide illustrations. Discussing a few exemplary women in depth (as she does in chapter 4) would have made it easier to track her subjects and to feel involved with their lives.
Ezawa zooms in on three women in chapter 4: Tanaka and Yamamoto (both middle class), and Kimura, a working-class woman. Tanaka worked two part-time teaching jobs in order to spend more time with her preschool-age daughter, managing despite being paid less with reliable help from her parents and by economizing on food and other expenditures. Yamamoto took the tack of being a workaholic who depended on her ability to earn a stable and relatively high income. She paid for babysitting services to watch her son, and prioritized giving him educational advantages even though she had little time with him because of work pressures. Kimura had two young children, and worked part-time as a bar hostess until she stopped working altogether. Living in a subsidized apartment helped her save a lot of money, and she relied on the government-provided dependent children’s allowance to stay at home with her children rather than spending long hours working to earn modest wages. Her own parents were unavailable to provide help with her children. Ezawa uses these three women to illustrate how the decisions each made about work, mothering, and childrearing reflect their priorities and convey class values to their children, reproducing class in the process.
For the most part, Ezawa focuses on how single mothers manage their stressful lives at the individual level, only rarely stepping back to consider the remarkable changes transforming Japanese society at the turn of the twenty-first century. Articulating the systemic character of the economic difficulties and organization of the labour market and the pressures they place on young people would have made this study richer. Young people face historically high unemployment rates, intense pressure to take part-time, contract, or temporary jobs, and enormous pressure on those who do get good jobs to work overtime and accommodate company demands so that they can keep those jobs. Such work-related issues have made the postwar Japanese family ideal hard to achieve for the ranks of young people stranded in low-paid informal job tracks. As it has become harder to find marriageable partners, the ideal has given way to hesitation about marriage and childbearing, harsh conflicts between work and family life, very low fertility rates, and increasing numbers of women who feel they must choose between being mothers and having lifelong jobs or careers.
Putting this study into the larger social, economic, and political context might have sharpened the stakes of Ezawa’s argument. As marriages are later, fewer, and more likely to end in divorce, understanding how single mothers cope and the economic straits they face takes on greater urgency. One might have expected her to offer some ideas about policy approaches that could make it easier for single mothers to manage: government support for “good” part-time jobs in the private sector, for example, or increasing the number of public-sector jobs that are suitable for single mothers (for example, with part-time or flexible hours until children enter elementary school, and paid leave to cover doctors’ visits and children’s illnesses), or passing reforms in divorce law to hold fathers more responsible for supporting their ex-wives and children.
Patricia Boling, Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA
ONE HUNDRED MILLION PHILOSOPHERS: Science of Thought and the Culture of Democracy in Postwar Japan. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Adam Bronson. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. ix, 268 pp. (Illustration.) US$59.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5533-8.
Attempts to foster a culture of democracy in Japan are the topic of this book. Adam Bronson focuses on the Institute for the Science of Thought, one of the most influential associations to emerge in Japan in the early postwar years. He follows the institute’s ideological as well as philosophical changes. We also get to know a number of key people in the organization and how they developed from a small research group to citizens’ activism in connection with the protests against the 1960 US-Japan Security Treaty. Science of Thought was one of the central rallying points marking the beginning of a citizens’ movement that has influenced civil society in Japan down to the present day. The research behind the book teaches us how intellectuals and citizens, through practical experience, tried to foster and create one hundred million Japanese philosophers.
For democracy to gain ground the immediate past must first be discredited as hierarchical and irrational. This is the topic of the first chapter. Science of Thought scholars forged a shared negative image of the prewar and wartime years as centred on an elite culture of all-male high schools, which many of them actually attended—an experience for which they later expressed regret. The pro-democracy groups that formed after 1945 were hostile towards any display of devotion to old Japanese thinkers such as Nishida Kitarō, whom they associated with the fascist past.
Chapter 2 addresses the way the Science of Thought scholars looked to America for solutions. They were disillusioned by West European thought, which they now associated with fascism and empire, and thought that the solutions to the apparent contradiction between intellectual and democratic culture were to be found in the US. The aim was to foster democratic citizens through the new science of communication, which was guided by principles of clarity and transparency. The group conducted statistical surveys and interviews in what became interdisciplinary research to probe the mind of ordinary people; this is treated in chapter 3. “The philosophy of ordinary People” (Hitobito no Tetsugaku) asserted that the philosophy that structured the life of an ordinary fireman was no less worthy of study than that of an intellectual. The idea of an “open room” was introduced through which they solicited the participation of non-intellectuals in a collaborative “thought movement.”
In the early 1950s the group thought that the social scientific methods that they were using were not helping overcome the separation between intellectuals and the masses. As chapter 4 describes, they now shifted their focus towards grassroots education in the countryside. This process started with Muchaku Sekyō’s Echo School (Yamabiko Gakkō), a collection of essays written by middle-school students in the impoverished Yamagata prefecture. It became an immediate runaway bestseller and later also a film. Another example was the sociologist Tsurumi Kazuko, who criticized her own earlier use of quantitative scientific methods and instead went on to become an active part of the communities she studied. She participated in amateur writing circles organized by female textile workers in Yokkaichi. Many imagined these as parallels to the reading and writing groups in the People’s Republic of China. They were geared to playing a role in a transition towards a revolutionary “village democracy in Asia.”
With the onset of high economic growth in the latter half of the 1950s the Science of Thought group started worrying about the growing material prosperity. They were concerned about their politically active classmates shedding their beliefs and undergoing an “employment conversion” when they graduated and about how conformism was being enforced in the 1950s just as in the 1930s. Chapter 5 shows how this led to the group promoting an oppositional stance embodied in the ideal of a classless society.
The conclusion, finally, is about the Science of Thought group’s struggle in connection with the protest movement against the US-Japan Security Treaty of 1960 and how they tried to transcend the political divide between progressives and conservatives and set an example of principled opposition to the government in the name of defending democracy. They countered the suggestion that a silent majority of the population supported the treaty.
The book is a historical exposé of the development of the Science of Thought and how the focus and philosophy of its members adjusted to changing conditions in the surrounding society. It tells the story of how difficult it must have been for the Japanese to embrace democracy right after the war and how some individuals, believing in a scientific approach, really struggled to have it implemented in Japanese society. It is a good illustration of the devotion that individual Japanese citizens can bring to bear once they are convinced of a certain idea. Japanese society is often described as one that favours consensus, but in this book we also gain insights into how fighting can go on inside organizations when members have different ideas—something which is not uncommon in civil society organizations in Japan today. It also testifies to the Japanese belief in “learning by doing.” Rather than emphasizing the development of refined theories, the Science of Thought members believed that democracy needed to be practised if it were to gain ground.
This is an unusual book that does not follow any specific trends. It gives a broad picture of left-wing and opposition movements in Japanese society and the struggle to establish a culture of democracy. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to gain insight into this type of democracy movement, on which we do not seem to have much research at the moment. The book is also a good read for anyone interested in philosophy in its broadest sense.
Marie Söderberg, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden
ACCIDENTAL ACTIVISTS: Victim Movements and Government Accountability in Japan and South Korea. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Celeste L. Arrington. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016. xiii, 234 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5376-2.
This is an excellent book. In her study on victim movements in Japan and South Korea, Celeste Arrington searches for an answer to the question of why some victims and their supporters receive more redress and compensation from the state than others. Her well-thought-out and elaborate analysis delivers not only an innovative answer to this question, but she also contributes significantly to theory building by developing a dynamic and interactive model in her book. Her comparative study is carefully researched and is based on impressive fieldwork conducted in Japan and South Korea with over 200 interviews from 2007 to 2015, as well as written sources in both Japanese and Korean. Finally, it is well and clearly written, which makes it a pleasure to read.
Beyond the introduction and conclusion, the main part of the book is structured into five chapters. After explaining her research question and introducing her argument in the introduction, Arrington develops the theoretical framework in the first chapter by constructing a redress scale in order to capture the variation in redress outcome and she identifies different ideal types of sequence patterns in conflict expansion processes. In the second chapter, she discusses how victimhood and state accountability have been constructed over time in both Japan and South Korea. She also analyzes lawyers’ autonomy vis-à-vis the state, structures, and grassroots embeddedness of civil society, as well as the diversity of the mainstream media. In the subsequent three empirical chapters, the author traces victim redress movements related to Hansen’s disease, hepatitis C tainted blood products, and citizens abducted by North Korea in both Japan and South Korea. She discusses the interaction between these movements, mass media, and the state and shows how differences in these processes have led to great variation in the success of the movements in enacting official inquiries and institutional reforms as well as in the success of gaining an official apology and state compensation. While the Hansen’s disease movement and the hepatitis C movements achieved full redress in Japan, the Hansen’s disease movement in South Korea and the abductee movements in both countries gained only partial redress. Furthermore, the South Korean hepatitis C virus movement did not obtain any significant redress from the state. In the conclusion, the main argument is recapitulated and some further examples are introduced to demonstrate the validity of the theoretical model developed in the study.
The main contribution of this book is the new and dynamic model on the interaction between victim redress movements, which frames the victimization and politicians. This interactive model is an important step forward from the static theoretical models of state-society interaction that are still dominant in research on civil society and social movements. Arrington’s main argument is that “gaining an elite ally too early in the claims-making process can be detrimental, even if outsider groups ultimately need elite allies to affect policy. … [It] reduces incentives to mobilize fellow claimants and sympathetic citizens, leaving these allies with less leverage” (4–5). Moreover, her book is also an important contribution to our understanding of the state-society relationship in Japan and South Korea. In contrast to the state-of-the-art research on civil society in Japan and South Korea, and despite much more homogeneous mainstream media and weaker advocacy capabilities by civil society in Japan, her study shows that conditions in the public sphere for redress movements are more favourable, and that victim redress movements have achieved better outcomes in Japan than in South Korea.
Despite being an empirical and theoretically strong and compelling analysis, this reviewer also identifies some shortcomings in Arrington’s study. To begin with, despite a very clear argument, it becomes unclear regarding how early is “too early.” This is a fundamental problem of any dynamic theoretical models. Moreover, one starting point of Arrington’s argument is that the transition to democracy in South Korea, as well as the end of uninterrupted rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan, resulted from the early 1990s onwards in more favuorable political conditions for outsider groups in both countries, which gave victim movements more collective leverage. While the end of authoritarian rule and democratization in South Korea surely fundamentally changed the political climate and institutions, I am not fully convinced that the same applies to Japan. As the author herself recognizes, victim redress movements related to the burakumin (an outcast group), as well as to Minamata disease, had already in earlier decades in Japan achieved favourable redress outcomes. The long (and nearly unique) stay in power of the LDP under a democratic system may in fact have much to do with its “creative conservatism” (T.J. Pempel), i.e., its flexibility in taking up new issues that made it to the public agenda, including the claims of victim movements. This also raises the question of whether the focus on politicians in the study is really reasonable, or if the role of state bureaucracies should not also have been incorporated in both countries. This would make the theoretical model much more complicated, but there is plenty of recent empirical evidence demonstrating that Japan and South Korea in many policy fields still exemplify strong states in which bureaucrats are not simple agents of politicians as their principals. Finally, as in nearly all comparative studies, one has to question if national political system differences have been adequately taken into account. For example, South Korea’s president has, in general, more decision power and agenda-setting abilities than Japan’s prime minister. This, and other differences, might have a significant influence on the political processes, but are not included in the model and analysis.
Still, as stated at the beginning, this is, without a doubt, an excellent book. The comments in the paragraph above should not be regarded as a critique, but more as an illustration of how stimulating Arrington’s study is; one would like to immediately start a discussion with her. What more can we expect from an academic book? It can only be hoped that this book finds a large readership in the social sciences as well as in East Asian studies. The future is unwritten, but it can be assumed with high probability that this book will have a significant impact on the research on victim movements and on Japanese and South Korean politics.
David Chiavacci, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
YASUKUNI SHRINE: History, Memory, and Japan’s Unending Postwar. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Akiko Takenaka. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015. ix, 278 pp. (Illustrations.) US$57.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-4678-7.
In present day East Asia, there are few issues as contentious as the past, and there are few places that are the subject of as much controversy as the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. In this masterful and empirically rich study, Akiko Takenaka performs an invaluable service in providing an almost panoramic history of the origins of the Yasukuni Shrine and its evolution since its founding in 1869.
The book begins by tracing the origins of the shrine to medieval Japanese beliefs in the need to appease the spirits of the dead (goryō shinkō) by creating special shrines (Shōkonsha) and conducting placatory rituals. Originally created to commemorate the spirits of the soldiers who fell in the Boshin War at the start of the Meiji Restoration, Yasukuni quickly became a central site where the Japanese state sought to shape the official historical narrative and instill the spirit of patriotic sacrifice in the broader citizenry. Takenaka calls this exercise in transcendental authoritarianism “mobilizing death” in the service of the state.
The Shrine also became one of Tokyo’s main entertainment districts, replete with shops, curio shows, and regular festivals and horse races on temple grounds. Later, these more traditional forms of diversion were expanded with the construction of a war museum that included full-scale battlefield dioramas that allowed eager visitors to vicariously experience the thrill of the Empire’s victories overseas. In this way, emotions of joy and excitement, as well as grief and sorrow, were molded by the state to serve national interests.
Takenaka gives an informative description of how after 1945 the Shrine continued to work closely with the government in the postwar era even after it became a privately run entity. She chronicles how, together with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, as well as the immensely influential Japan Association for the Bereaved Families of the War Dead (the Nihon Izokukai), the Shrine officials continued to draw up lists of who would be commemorated at the shrine and who would not. In the process, the Shrine became the center of a complex battle over how to remember modern Japanese history. In one of the most interesting sections of the book, Takenaka argues that the political saliency of the Shrine increased in the 1970s and 80s not only because of the changing international political environment, but because for the generations of Japanese who had no direct experience of the war the Shrine became a potential resource for coming to terms with the inherited trauma of the war (167).
Takenaka demonstrates that while the state has tremendous resources in shaping memory, even during the war its control was far from absolute and its version of history often contested. She movingly describes wartime scenes of grieving parents challenging the authority of the state, screaming at military officers during enshrinement ceremonies to give them their sons back and accusing them of being murderers. These counter narratives surrounding the shrine intensified in the post-war period, triggering fierce legal and political battles. To her credit, Takenaka resists a simplistic left-wing interpretation of the Shrine as simply a tool of state propaganda. Even while she clearly is on the progressive (i.e., critical) side of the debate over the Shrine, Takenaka also recognizes that for many ordinary Japanese the Shrine serves a genuine, intensely felt need for mourning and honoring departed friends and family members.
For all its virtues, the volume does suffer from some shortcomings. Those looking for a comprehensive analysis of the politics surrounding the shrine will be left disappointed. For instance, there is virtually no mention of how the issue of defense and national security became intertwined with the debate over religion and the Yasukuni Shrine in postwar Japan. Likewise, although she draws heavily on secondary literature on the Shrine, Takenaka does not provide a history of the intellectual debate over the Shrine. Instead, this is first and last, a social history of the Shrine. The book does an excellent job of providing insight on the personal experiences of ordinary Japanese as they try to come to terms with the mute reality of the death of loved ones, but Takenaka tends to overemphasize the role of cultural forces in shaping Japanese memory of the past. It may well be that by honoring the war dead as eirei—the spirits of the heroic dead—many in Japan evade the troubling question of how those same soldiers may have been perpetrators as well as victims. And by leaving the political and intellectual contexts largely unexamined, Takenaka skips over the underlying motives for why such a historical narrative is propagated in the first place.
The volume also suffers from occasional lapses into academic jargon, with Adorno, Halbwachs, and La Capra being invoked without much value added to the analysis. While in some cases—as when she draws on the literatures on trauma and Holocaust studies—these excurses offer new insights, in other cases they wind up producing tangles of tortured prose that obscure more than they illuminate.
These quibbles aside, Akiko Takenaka has produced an extremely useful volume that joins the ranks of a growing body of high-quality literature on the politics of memory in postwar Japan. It represents a welcome addition to such landmark studies as Franziska Seraphim’s War Memory and Social Politics in Japan, 1945–2005 (Harvard, 2005), Yoshikuni Igarashi’s Bodies of Memory (Princeton, 2000), James J. Orr’s The Victim as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001), as well as James Breen’s edited volume Yasukuni, the War Dead and the Struggle for Japan’s Past (Oxford, 2008). It will be of considerable value, not only to course instructors looking for a comprehensive history of the Shrine, but also to experts in the field.
Thomas U. Berger, Boston University, Boston, USA
アメリカの排日運動と日米関係 = AMERIKA NO HAINICHI UNDŌ TO NICHIBEI KANKEI [THE ANTI-JAPANESE MOVEMENT IN AMERICA AND US-JAPAN RELATIONS]: 「排日移民法」はなぜ成立したか = Hainichi Iminhō Wa Naze Seiritsushitaka [The Reason Behind the Japanese Exclusion]. Asahi Sensho, 942. By Toshihiro Minohara. Tōkyō: Asahi shinbun shuppan, 2016. 310, 14 pp. ¥1600, paper. In Japanese. ISBN 978-4022630421.
Professor Tosh Minohara’s reexamination of the history of the anti-Japanese immigration movement, which culminated in the so-called Asian Exclusion Act of 1924, offers timely warnings and historical lessons to all of us across the Pacific. His book reminds us of George Santayana’s words: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” as President Donald Trump is taking an alarmingly dangerous turn toward the policy of “America first,” with an emphasis on isolation, exclusion, and racial and religious discrimination. Minohara’s book focuses on the intersection of white America’s racism, state-federal government relations, and partisan politics within the United States, and demonstrates how they undermined US-Japan relations. The author makes a compelling argument that immigration, which Americans largely treat as a domestic affair, developed into a diplomatic and international crisis. He shows America’s racially motivated ban on Japanese immigration drove Japan toward its decision to go to war with the United States two decades later, because America’s discriminatory action shattered Japan’s national prestige, which was equivalent to hurting Japan’s national power and interests.
The first half of the book traces the trajectory of the snowballing, anti-Japanese immigration movement in California, from the 1906 attempt to segregate Japanese students from public schools in San Francisco to the successful passing of the alien land legislation in California. When the Japanese government protested San Francisco’s attempt at school segregation, President Theodore Roosevelt was able to block San Francisco’s action by working with both the city’s officials and the Japanese government. However, his successor, President Woodrow Wilson, mishandled partisan political opposition from California, and allowed the 1913 alien land legislation to pass, which prohibited Japanese immigrants from owning land in California. In 1920, under the slogan “Save California from the Japs,” anti-Japanese forces passed further legislation prohibiting Japanese immigrants from renting land in California by linking Japanese immigration to Japanese imperialism in the Asia-Pacific region.
The most important contribution of Minohara’s book is his reexamination of the making of the 1924 Asian Exclusion Act, by which the US Congress banned Japanese immigration completely. Minohara challenges the existing simplistic interpretation that the US Senate passed the legislation due to Japanese Ambassador Hanihara Masanao’s letter to Secretary of State Charles E. Hughes containing the warning about “grave consequences,” which the Senate viewed as a “veiled threat.” Minohara argues that Hanihara’s original letter was not intended as a veiled threat and Secretary Hughes actually encouraged Hanihara to rewrite a stronger letter with the hope that it would dissuade Congress from passing the objectionable legislation. Minohara also suggests that Assistant Secretary of State John V. A. MacMurray most likely recommended the wording “grave consequences,” for the State Department did not consider that expression to be threatening. Minohara argues that the real reason behind the successful passage of the Japanese Exclusion Act was the badly divided Republican Party’s desperate efforts to reunite the party and win the presidential election in 1924 against Robert La Follette, who had left the Republican Party and become the Progressive Party’s candidate. In addition, in that same year, the fallout of the Teapot Dome Scandal, the most sensational scandal until Watergate, shook the credibility of the Republican administration. Senior Senator Henry Cabot Lodge shrewdly used the anti-Japanese immigration legislation as a scapegoat and rallied all Republicans’ support by calling the Japanese warning of “grave consequences” a “veiled threat.” Secretary Hughes, who underestimated the effect of Lodge’s political maneuvers, ultimately failed to prevent the Senate from passing the legislation. The outcome irreparably damaged US diplomatic relations with Japan. This American act of racial discrimination of the Japanese disillusioned many Japanese intellectual and political leaders who admired US liberalism and democracy as the model of Japan’s future course. Minohara suggests many of them turned their backs on the white-dominated world system and sought a new order for Asians in Asia, although he does not discuss the subsequent unfortunate path the Japanese empire chose to pursue in Asia.
Minohara’s book is based on meticulous research of both US and Japanese primary sources, but it is written for a general Japanese audience. There is no doubt that American readers will benefit greatly from Minohara’s book were it to be published in English. His book shows the dangers of the politics of fear and racism, especially when they are intertwined with intense partisan politics, the unintended consequences of which can be tragic. Furthermore, as historians and news media in the United States are facing the unprecedented challenge of “alternative facts” we need to embrace historical works that take historical evidence and accuracy seriously.
Noriko Kawamura, Washington State University, Pullman, USA
DEMYTHOLOGIZING PURE LAND BUDDHISM: Yasuda Rijin and the Shin Buddhist Tradition. Pure Land Buddhist Studies. By Paul B. Watt. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. xii, 181 pp. US$52.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5632-8.
Paul Watt’s new book, which features an extensive introduction to Yasuda Rijin and Pure Land Buddhist thought, followed by translations of six of Yasuda’s dense philosophical works, is not an easy read. As a premodernist most familiar with Shin Buddhism in its medieval forms, I found Yasuda’s writing, with its many invocations of German philosophy, quite challenging. But the book is well worth the effort required, for in these pages we gain access not only to the depth and seriousness of twentieth-century Shin Buddhist engagement with Indian, Chinese, and Western philosophy, but also to a crucial component of modern Japanese Buddhist intellectual history.
Watt’s book is organized as follows: Part I, which is just over 40 pages, presents a biography of Yasuda Rijin and an overview of Pure Land Buddhist thought. It then places Yasuda in the context of the Seishinshugi (“Spiritual Awareness”) movement associated with Kiyozawa Manshi (1863–1903), Kaneko Daiei (1881–1976), and Soga Ryōjin (1875–1971) and delineates Yasuda’s own reinterpretation of Shin Buddhism. Yasuda, Watt explains, was the “most articulate spokesperson” of Seishinshugi philosophy. One of the core messages of this philosophy was that Amida Buddha and his Pure Land, so central to Pure Land doctrine, were not “otherworldly realities” but rather concepts that enable sentient beings to “discover their true identity” (34). Or, as Yasuda puts it, awakening is about achieving an “inner reality” where the mind is “at ease” (75, 109).
In Part II, which comprises the remaining two-thirds of the book, Watt provides translations of six different works. He groups the first two together, under Yasuda’s earliest writings, and presents the remaining four, which are longer, individually. Attached to each is a short introduction that provides context and outlines major objectives of the work at hand. As Watt explains, most of Yasuda’s works are both focused and erudite, meaning that they often read “more like meditations rather than philosophy” (34). In other words, Yasuda tends to expand at length on a single insight or set of insights, often forgoing contextualization and restating key ideas multiple times, but in slightly different ways.
Although I would describe this book as a difficult read, Watt’s introduction is clearly written and accessible. His overview of the Shin Buddhist tradition, which traces the intellectual threads of Shin Buddhist thought back to major Indian and Chinese figures, such as Nāgārjuna (2nd-3rd c. CE), Vasubandhu (4th-5th c. CE), Tanluan (476–542), Daochuo (562-645), and Shandao (613–681), are illuminating. Here we see that many of the seemingly radical interpretations of Yasuda have roots in the classical works of these figures. Tanluan, for example, proposed that Amida could be understood as “formless, ineffable reality itself” (22). I also appreciated the deftness with which Watt draws parallels between Shin understandings of entrustment (shinjin) and the general insight, commonly articulated in Mahayana traditions, that enlightenment is ultimately about “the transformation of mind” and “insight into the true nature of reality.” When the Shin concept of shinjin is reduced to this definition, Watt explains, it sounds strikingly similar to Chan and Zen descriptions of enlightenment (24). Still, while this observation may ring true to those who have heard contemporary Zen priests describe fleeting moments of insight or “being the Buddha” in language similar to that used by Shin priests to talk about experiencing the Pure Land for brief moments within everyday life, it also begs for further explanation. In particular, it would be fruitful to examine the degree to which similarities between Shin and Zen descriptions of enlightenment reflect specific developments in the intellectual history of modern Japanese Buddhism.
Watt’s translations of Yasuda’s difficult work are quite readable, and I admire the intelligence—and mental grit—that these translations reflect. Still, some additional help for the reader would be useful. Watt does provide helpful endnotes, but in many places I would have been grateful for lengthy footnotes or even more thorough introductions. Additionally, Part I could be expanded to address the innovations of Yasuda’s thought in more detail.
I learned a great deal from this book, both from the introduction and from Yasuda’s essays, but I was also left with many questions. A number of these undoubtedly reflect my own ignorance of modern Shin thought. As I struggled to make sense of the radical re-interpretations of Shin Buddhism offered by Yasuda and his teachers, I benefitted from the volume Cultivating Spirituality: A Modern Shin Buddhist Anthology, edited by Mark Blum and Robert Rhodes (Albany: SUNY University Press, 2011). It turns out that Watt initially published several of his translations of Yasuda’s work, as well as a shorter biography of Yasuda, in Cultivating Spirituality. Blum’s introductory essay in that volume, “Shin Buddhism in the Meiji Period,” provides essential historical background that contextualizes the innovations of the Seishinshugi philosophers and, specifically, what they were reacting against. It may be that Watt did not want to repeat what Blum had already explained so effectively in this essay, but as an outsider to modern Shin Buddhist thought, I found Blum’s essay crucial for understanding Yasuda’s ideas, especially his emphasis on practice and individual experience, both of which, at first glance, might seem to contradict Shinran’s well known exhortations that we rely on tariki (Other-power) rather than jiriki (self-power).
Many of Yasuda’s writings engage with Western philosophy extensively, especially that of Heidegger, Buber, and Tillich. This is another area where I felt Watt could have provided the reader with additional context. How representative was Yasuda’s use of these philosophers? Were other Shin thinkers invoking them, and if so, what was distinctive about Yasuda’s engagement with Western philosophy? What, specifically, about these philosophers made them useful to Yasuda’s project? Along the same lines, it would also be useful to consider in an even more sustained and systematic way the roles of D.T. Suzuki and Nishida Kitarō in the development of Yasuda’s thought.
The high level of sophistication evident in Yasuda’s writing also made me wonder about his audience. What do we know about the dissemination of his ideas? Watt is clear that Shin authorities regarded many of the Seishinshugi philosophers as radicals and sometimes even heretics (33–34). I found myself wanting to know more about the demographics of those who received and supported Seishinshugi philosophy. Who was reading the journals these men published in, and who was attending their lectures?
Another, related set of questions has to do with the legacy of Yasuda’s thought. Clearly the “demythologization” of Shin Buddhist thought undertaken by the Seishinshugi philosophers has had a lasting impact on modern and contemporary Shin Buddhism. But what exactly does this influence look like, and where, specifically, do we see it? Who are the more recent inheritors of Yasuda’s intellectual legacy?
In short, Watt has left us with some very exciting questions for future research. I commend him on this important contribution to the field and look forward to future studies of modern and contemporary Shin thought.
Lori R. Meeks, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
IMITATION AND CREATIVITY IN JAPANESE ARTS: From Kishida Ryūsei to Miyazaki Hayao. Asia Perspectives. By Michael Lucken; translated by Francesca Simkin. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. vi, 248 pp. (Illustrations.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-17292-9.
Michael Lucken’s Imitation and Creativity in Japanese Arts, translated from the French, concerns the period from the seventeenth century to recent times. It is, however, mostly a small number of twentieth-century arts that are his preoccupation as the preceding centuries are the counterpoint to his focal examples.
The first half, entitled “Historical Construction,” is divided into a number of thematic subsections that trace a narrative of imitation or lack of imagination (variously addressed as a strength, critical weakness, a defense against it, or indicative of some supposed national/geographical character) ascribed to Japan’s arts and other productive activities. These are marshalled from several centuries leading up to the early twentieth, from essays, novels, and travelogues by Europeans (English, French, and German).
It is a relatively conventional tale of an unacceptable standard maintaining that the West creates and the East imitates. When the West imitated the East, it was somehow alternatively creative rather than belated, indebted, or technically servile. Part of the interest here is how premodern European narratives about Japan (and Asia) alleged a lack of originality, dispersed by interlocutors who favoured the repetition of received ideas. As Lucken explains it, this was a case of a literary trope masquerading as an historical explanation of a distant people and country. This was subsequently internalized by the Japanese through into the twentieth century, before it was partly decommissioned by late twentieth-century postcolonial studies. Lucken writes that “Complete imitation of the West, the blind and slavish kind that Westerners liked emphasizing and the Japanese even attributed to themselves, never existed” (50). Inarguably, however, some Japanese works could be incrementally close to their Western sources. Part 1 is essentially a lengthy prelude to the writer’s more pertinent interests in his early twentieth-century and postmodern case studies that follow. Bridging the two parts are some reflections on the early- to mid-twentieth-century philosopher/cultural critic, Nakai Masakazu, cited through reference to Hasumi Shigehiko as being “the forerunner of all that is called in Japan contemporary thought” (59).
Four “masterpieces” are addressed in part 2 and these are said to represent contemporary influences and therefore muddy, even obviate, the un-nuanced creation/imitation binary in which imitation is not assigned a fixed position; the author calls this “the secret engine of twentieth-century Japanese art” (71). More specifically, Lucken’s idea is to consider how various modern and postmodern Japanese arts fit neither a progression from imitation, through individuation, then creation, nor a model moving from the rejection of imitation, followed by creation, then individuation.
His subjects are the “Western” oil painter Kishida Ryūsei’s portraits of his daughter, Reiko, done between 1914 and 1929, Kurosawa Akira’s black and white film Ikiru (1952), the photographic narrative Sentimental Journey–Winter (1991) by Araki Nobuyoshi that recorded the death of his wife in a succession of images that resulted in what might ultimately be called a kind of “still life,” and Miyazaki Hayao’s internationally acclaimed and popular animation, Spirited Away (2001). The four topics are said by the author to in some sense cover the twentieth century, meaning that it can “be read as an aesthetic history of modern Japan” (6), but in fact, if we look at them together, the specific concern is with arts evincing either serial production or the unfolding of events in time, though the times in his examples are frequently complex rather than chronological. Furthermore, a suite of oil paintings, two films, and a photographic diary barely touch upon Japanese modernism’s diversity, yet alone the sheer range of a single artist’s oeuvre.
While these examples might reasonably be taken as “Japanese” masterpieces, it is their admixture of Western and Eastern references/influences that is of significant import, and what counts among Lucken’s interests are those art forms that are already considered under some form of Westernization rather than examples of Japanese arts that might seem more resistant. His examples erode simplistic distinctions of East and West until such ascriptions are largely themselves somewhat peripheral or perhaps perennially undecided. In his final study of Miyazaki, for example, he discerns “going beyond dialectical oppositions by a genuine openness to others” (206) that is part of his discussion of a larger perspectival metaphor inherent in the animation.
But it is also interesting to note that pushing his first early modern example further might yet yield the desired complexity escaping reduction to East and West. While Kishida was one artist introducing Fauvism to Japan (largely meaning postimpressionism in the Japanese modernist context), he subsequently turned to an increasingly myopic realism (as did many others) through an exploration of German Renaissance painting. Thus it appears he sought an alternative point of “rebirth” in painting that was distinct from the pivotal Italian one that formed the basis of the main Western art-historical narrative. This was not simply anachronism because while in Kishida’s time Western modernism was being introduced to Japan, so simultaneously was much of Western modernism’s earlier history. The images of his daughter, which number over a hundred, form a part of this exploration, but so do his numerous self-portraits, and his still-life paintings.
All of those subsequently underwent variant forms of sinification from at least since 1915 (the author’s explanatory route is through photography and early twentieth-century studies of the supernatural) in Kishida’s piecemeal adoption of aspects of Chinese literati painting that had been imported to Japan from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, then indigenized. From 1918, Kishida frequently began inscribing the flanks of his portrait paintings with kanji scripts, whereas four years earlier they were dated and signed in English. And Kishida would later depict himself on several occasions as a Chinese hermit in the mountains, or Reiko in figural multiplication as part of a mandala, or as a Chinese immortal. Kishida’s multifaceted cultural references, in addition to works in oils, mineral pigments, watercolours, prints, sketches, his illustrations, ukiyo-e/kabuki imagery, and even a votive plaque, evidence the often manifold and frenetic character of early twentieth-century Japanese modernism. Early twentieth- century art practices can sometimes rival postmodernism’s alleged pluralism.
Matthew Larking, Independent Scholar, Kyoto, Japan
NOUVEAU-RICHE NATIONALISM AND MULTICULTURALISM IN KOREA: A Media Narrative Analysis. Routledge Advances in Korean Studies, 31. By Gil-Soo Han. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. xx, 181 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-78150-4.
In this work, the author discusses the racism and discrimination that “new Koreans” confront in their everyday lives in South Korea, choosing the Korean media to analyze how this everyday racism is deployed on the individual and social structural level. He points out that South Korea has accepted massive numbers of immigrant workers and foreign brides since the 1990s because South Korean society urgently needed labourers for “3D” (dirty, difficult, and dangerous) work and brides for men in rural areas. So, these “others” have in fact contributed to Korean society by maintaining industrial production and the birth rate. Without them, South Korean society would face more severe problems. However, instead of receiving fair treatment from Korean society, these new Koreans are still suffering from harsh racism and discrimination. In the author’s analysis, he notes that “nouveau-riche” nationalism and “pure-blood” nationalism are the key factors in this situation.
This book is composed of nine chapters, including an introduction and concluding remarks. As each research-related chapter includes a short introduction, literature review, research methodology, and findings section, readers can easily read the chapters independently. In the introduction the author explains why he has examined this subject and how he has conducted his research. Chapter 2 defines his theoretical perspectives and research methods on racial discrimination in South Korea. He adopts the realist perspective of social sciences, which involves trying to determine the mechanism(s) of social phenomena through empirical investigations. The author posits “nouveau-riche” nationalism and “pure-blood” nationalism as the two major discriminatory operators in South Korean society. The former was generated by South Korea’s economic success, and as the term indicates, it is quite new, whereas the latter emerged as a self-empowerment tool against Japanese racism during the period of Japanese occupation, and remains a feature of Korean society. The following five chapters discuss concrete cases of race-related discrimination, except for chapter 7, on North Korean refugees. Chapter 3 analyzes the discourse of those who oppose the anti-racial discrimination law. Their main argument is that multiculturalism serves only a small number of Koreans, such as entrepreneurs, while the majority of Koreans suffer. Their logic is quite similar to that of other reactive right-wing groups, in that they argue that immigrant workers reduce job opportunities available to “original citizens,” and therefore the promotion of “multiculturalism” comes at the expense of the genuine “have-nots.” Confronted by strong opposition, this law has not yet passed. A small error in this chapter (49) is that the year of establishment of the first newspaper in Korea is April 7, 1896, not 1989.
Chapter 4 analyzes how migrant workers are exposed to “modern slavery” conditions. Two levels of discrimination oppress them: on the structural level, under the “industrial trainee” labour law system, they are exposed to systematic exploitation by entrepreneurs; and on the individual level, they experience racial discrimination in the workplace and in their everyday lives. Chapter 5 reveals clear racial discrimination cases in private teaching institutions’ English-teacher recruiting process. Their “valid” excuse is the customer’s preference for “white” instructors. Chapter 6 discusses a more severe discrimination case, according to the author, since it concerns children. The children of international marriages, especially those who have a Korean mother and an African-American military father, or a Korean father and a mother taken as an East Asian bride, suffer from social prejudice from an early age in school. The mechanism of this discrimination is based not only on nouveau-riche nationalism but also pure-blood nationalism, which is a social historical product of the trauma suffered during the Japanese occupation and the Korean War, from which South Koreans have still not managed to free themselves. Chapter 7 examines whether North Korean refugees living in South Korea are regarded as “our Koreans” or “other Koreans” in their everyday lives. The book’s research findings are not surprising considering the evidence presented in the its other chapters; these “new Koreans” also face difficulties in integrating into South Korean society professionally and personally due to the discrimination operated by nouveau-rich nationalism. Chapter 7’s title captures the treatment these new Koreans receive from the “blood-sharing” South Koreans: “What more do you want?: deserted North Korean refugees.”
Chapter 8 examines how nouveau-riche racism influences K-pop stars’ black-facing performances. The author analyzes Internet comments about these performances to better capture interpretations of “the other.” As part of his concluding remarks, the author suggests a list of policy or legal-level implementations for the healthy development of multiculturalism in South Korea.
If I could give another title to this book, it would be, “The disgraceful naked face of South Korean society in the twenty-first century.” The author successfully articulates his conceptual framework of research (a realist perspective of racism) and presents concrete analysis based on a thorough examination of primary resources, such as newspapers and interview records, and scholarly works mainly in Korean and English. Primary sources and scholarly works in Korean are always valuable for a better understanding of Korean society as they may contain subtle but essential elements of the study subjects that foreign languages cannot express. Therefore, this book will be helpful not only for Korean studies students but also racism studies scholars who want to enlarge their study horizons. A few small flaws of this book are that some arguments and citations are redundant (for example, “the future of mistreatment of new settlers is civil unrest,” 3D workers socio-economic conditions, socio-historical explanations of “pure-blood” nationalism, and Noja Pak’s research about the origin and false argument of Korean “pure-bloodism”). However, these small flaws should not undermine this book’s undoubted contribution to Korean studies.
This book’s groundbreaking analysis of everyday racism in South Korea inspires readers to ask new questions, such as whether South Koreans will be able to foster a healthy multicultural society or turn towards the establishment of an extreme right-wing party, phenomena which can be observed in other developed countries but not yet in South Korea.
Jeong-Im Hyun, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
In an era of cross-disciplinary cultural studies, it is refreshing to find a book like Writers of the Winter Republic, which focuses on the study of literature and treats its subject matter with utmost respect and care. The book’s approach is as useful as it is necessary to convey the ethos and significance of the cultural scene of 1970s South Korea, which was a time when literature enjoyed an extraordinary moral and cultural authority. The democratization decades of the 1970s and the 1980s was indeed a period when literature was “simultaneously art and more than art—a testimony, a rehearsal in revolution, a gospel of salvation, and ultimately a ‘second government’” (180). At the core of the book lies the question of how writers managed to turn literature into such a potent form of social critique and political defiance even in the context of intense censorship and the government’s control of national media. Youngju Ryu, a professor of modern Korean literature at the University of Michigan, pursues this question through four case studies on major writers—Kim Chi-ha, Yi Mun-gu, Cho Se-hŭi, and Hwang Sŏk-yŏng—all of whom have been canonical figures of minjung (common people) literary realism, a dissident aesthetic that in many ways represented political and economic alienation under South Korea’s succession of the dictatorial regimes.
The book’s four chapters are each organized around defining tropes of the writers’ work, such as the outlaw bandit, the neighbour, or the homeless drifter. This organization is effective in highlighting the great thematic and stylistic diversity among the writers, along with their individuality. Chapter 1 examines the writings of Kim Chi-ha, the most iconic face of 1970s dissident literature, with a focus on his famous narrative poem “Five Bandits.” Ryu provides a detailed account of how this scathing parody of the corrupt elites effectively inaugurated a populist form of dissident literature by ingeniously appropriating the traditional poetic form of p’ansori. The book’s publication landed Kim in prison with a death sentence in 1974. As Ryu shows, the public outrage over the incarceration gave rise to the Chayu silch’ŏn munin hyŏpŭihoe [the association of writers for freedom and praxis; 1974-1987], to which both Yi Mun-gu and Hwang Sŏk-yŏng belonged.
Chapters 2 and 3 organically revolve around the central thematic trope of the book, the Levinasian figure of the neighbour as the congenial other, a stranger with whom one shares spatial and social proximity and for whom one should care out of an ethical choice rather than calculation. In Yi
Mun-gu’s episodic portraits of rural villagers in works such as Kwanch’on Essays and Our Neighborhood, Ryu argues, the figure of the neighbour counters the rhetoric of Cold War identity politics by opposing individual humanity in its concrete presence to its ideological abstraction. As Ryu writes, Yi’s fragmented narrative form, which resembles the traditional biography of chŏn more than the modern novel, “attests to the violence of the stories it must narrate, and to the ultimate failure of the struggle to suture the wounds in the communal body” in the divided Koreas (76). The idea of kindness to strangers also anchors Ryu’s reading of Cho Sehŭi in chapter 3, whose lyrical omnibus novel The Dwarf commands a towering status in Korean literary history. The novel’s multi-perspectival, stream-of-consciousness narrative achieves important political effects, Ryu suggests, in two ways: by contesting the homogenous teleological time of national developmentalism through temporal montage, and by presenting a reportage-like account of state violence against vulnerable members of society through the allied voices of the victims and their middle-class neighbours. In these and other chapters, Ryu combines her careful reading of texts with a rich ethnographical study of the writers, for which she amply draws from personal interviews with writers and other literary figures as well as from newspaper articles, speeches, and court records.
The book brings us to the contemporary era in its last main chapter and the conclusion. Chapter 4 traces, through the key trope of “the drifter,” the literary trajectory of Hwang Sŏk-yŏng, who has given testimonial representations to virtually all major South Korean historical events—from participation in the Vietnam War, the 1970s labour union movement, the Kwangju uprising, to the 1980s national unification movement—and whose name epitomizes, along with a few others, 1980s minjung realism. Partly because of Ryu’s own ambivalence toward the more radicalized and doctrinally rigid literature of the 1980s, the chapter critiques Hwang’s belligerently masculine, patriarchal writings from a gendered perspective as much as it admires their rebellious call to action, which Ryu aptly characterizes as “mobility against mobilization” (140). Instead of Hwang’s recent, rather unconvincing experiments to globalize a Korean literature, Ryu turns in the conclusion to find a successor to the “warrior soul” of dissident literature in the works of Pak Min-gyu, whose surreal post-human stories of “irregulars,” that is, the precariat in neoliberal society, resist “the conjuncture of forces that makes human life less than humanly livable” (185). In this final analysis, Ryu may have done more to highlight Pak’s most characteristic science-fictional tropes, that of “the alien,” which at once expresses a profound sense of individual alienation and betrays the absurdity of a globally bipolarizing neoliberal social order.
As the first book-length study of 1970s South Korean literature, Writers of the Winter Republic fills an important critical gap in current Korean literary scholarship in English. The work stands at the crossroads of literary studies and political and intellectual history, and it makes for productive intersections with some of the most exciting scholarship in South Korean historical and cultural studies. The book will have its place among essential readings for students of postcolonial Korean literature and society along with Jin-kyung Lee’s Service Economies: Militarism, Sex Work, and Migrant Labor in South Korea (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) and Theodore Hughes’ Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom’s Frontier (Columbia University, 2014). More broadly, the book also joins and augments Paul Chang’s Protest Dialectics: State Repression and South Korea’s Democracy Movement, 1970-1979 (Stanford University Press, 2015) in renewing our knowledge of the 1970s, which has often been regarded as sort of an overture of the democratization decade of the 1980s but is being recently rediscovered for its own epochal significance. Indeed, the author is leading this worthy critical intervention of historiographical relevance not only by authoring this book but also by editing a collected volume of critical essays, Cultures of Yusin: South Korea in the 1970s (forthcoming, University of Michigan Press).
Sunyoung Park, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
THE CHANGING FACE OF KOREAN CINEMA: 1960 to 2015. Asia’s Transformations, 49. By Brian Yecies and Aegyung Shim. New York; London: Routledge, 2016. xxii, 282 pp. (Illustrations.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-70765-7.
This is one of the first monographs published in English that traces the South Korean (Korean hereafter) government policies and censorship on film production from the 1960s up to 2015. This volume makes a valuable supplement to the existing scholarship on the Korean film industry, as the majority of the existing scholarship in English on Korean cinema has focused on the transformation of the contemporary film industry since the 1990s (often characterised as the “New Korean Cinema” or “Korean Film Renaissance”), although as of late more attention has begun to be paid to the golden age of Korean cinema of the 1950s and 60s. Previous monographs on contemporary Korean cinema have explored how the Korean domestic film industry has blossomed in response to the US demand to deregulate the market, and subsequently yielded several internationally acknowledged directors, such as Bong Joon-ho, Hong Sang-soo, Park Chan-wook, Lee Chang-dong, and Kim Ki-duk.
The volume is divided into three parts, each of which is dedicated to one of three different eras—the 1960s, the 1970–80s and the1990s onward—with three or four chapters in each part discussing the changing governmental policies, salient industry practices, and various case studies. The authors further pay adequate attention to the transnational dimensions of the Korean film industry, by exploring production strategies between Korea and its neighbouring film industries—the industry’s attempt to adhere to governmental co-production guidelines by forging relationships with the Hong Kong industry, and the production of illicit adaptations of Japanese cinema (both of which are discussed in chapter 4), and the industry’s efforts to make inroads into the PRC’s opening market by offering co-financing and post production facilities (chapter 11).
Part I, on the golden age, shines the most in the volume, not only because less scholarship on the film policies of this era is available in English, but also because the chapters are more in conversation with the scholarship on other national cinemas, carefully advancing arguments with references. Such a case study as The Empty Dream (dir. Yu Hyon-mok, 1965), an adaptation of the Japanese film Daydream (dir. Takechi Tetsuji, 1964), exemplifies the ways in which the industry had been governed by diverse and, sometimes conflicting, forces: the governmental policies, the industry’s desire to carve out a niche market in the absence of Japanese cinema that was then officially banned in Korea, and the directors’ craving for artistic inspiration. The Empty Dream demonstrates well the government’s censorship of obscenity and the scapegoating of the directors who were vocal in criticizing the then government’s anti-communist ideology, as well as Yu’s experiment with aesthetic. The ambiguous status of the “literary film” (munye yŏnghwa) within the industry—an outcome of the industry’s effort to secure government subsidies as well as to earn aesthetic esteem from the public and critics—is nicely contrasted with European “art cinema” as a mode of practice. The adaptation of literary sources, often the work of well-established authors, well served the government’s desire to propagate cultural nationalism while providing an aesthetic safety net to be protected from controversies and criticisms.
Compared to part I, parts II and III engage less with the existing scholarship on both contemporary Korean and Western cinema. Some chapters suffer from the lack of adequate referencing, especially on corporate profiles and mergers (159; 164–166). Indeed, the 1970s and 80s were considered by many the “dark age” of Korean cinema, but the chapters do not provide insight into the directors and genres other than the decades’ usual suspects: Lee Jang-ho and the often discussed “hostess” films or “ero” films. If the youth (counter) culture, as the authors claim, had been such a key phenomenon that underlined the 1970s, they could further have explored how that culture had been negotiated through other genres, such as youth films or teen pictures, despite the government’s controls over cultural outlets and expressions.
The most interesting chapter in part III is its focus on women producers and directors (chapters 8 and 9), a topic that deserves a monograph in and of itself. The authors rightly acknowledge the significance of women producers and directors, yet could have further questioned and challenged the industry practice that still seems to be based on familial relationships and ties; many female producers and directors are married to Korean male directors (for instance, Choi Eun-hee/Shin Sang-ok; Shim Jae-myung/Lee Eun; Ahn So-hyun/Choi Dong-hun; Hong Ji-yong/Min Kyu-dong). To what extent, then, despite the changing Korean film industry in terms of gender, is it a challenge to penetrate the networking system that still governs the many facets of Korean society: hakyŏn (education background)-chiyŏn(region)-hyŏlyŏn (familial relationship)? What were some of the women producers’ struggles in securing finance, or in manoeuvring within the patriarchal industry? What were some of the creative inputs from the women producers on particular films? Chapter 9 on women directors also reads rather descriptively, without offering insights into the films themselves.
Throughout the volume, except a few cases (Yeongja’s Heyday, 146), no original titles are offered for Korean films. The English translations of some titles (Old Park, Pak sŏbang) and film movement (“Visual Age,” yŏngsang sidae) diverge from those more commonly circulated: Mr. Park and the “Age of Images,” respectively. Plot summary, occasionally, does not accurately reflect a film’s content (e.g., The Guests of the Last Train). Some of the Korean names neither abide by the Revised Romanization nor follow commonly circulated transliterations, including two of the so-called troika of the 1980s—Jeong Yun-hi [sic. Jeong Yun-hui] and Jang Mi-hi [sic. Chang [Jang] Mi-hee] and the well-known founder of Samsung, Lee Byung-chull [sic.]. In total, the quality of part I does not carry through to parts II and III, which results in the final work being somewhat uneven.
Jinhee Choi, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
THE COLLAPSE OF NORTH KOREA: Challenges, Planning and Geopolitics of Unification. By Tara O. London: Palgrave Macmillan [an imprint of Springer Nature], 2016. xvii, 168 pp. (Illustrations.) US$54.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-59800-4.
How shall neighbouring countries deal with a collapsed North Korea? Tara O, Adjunct Fellow at the Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies—and a retired US Air Force officer—tackles this question in The Collapse of North Korea. The result is a well-researched, lucid and, for the most part, objective analysis of the steps necessary to prevent a collapsed North Korea from wreaking havoc in Northeast Asia and beyond.
According to O, and in common with the view of most Korea experts, the end of North Korea would mean the reunification of Korea. Thus, following a succinct introduction about North Korea’s class system and the disconnect that it has created between a small elite and ordinary North Koreans in chapter 1, O examines three different unification scenarios in chapter 2. She presents three possible situations: gradual and peaceful unification, unification through war and collapse and absorption. The author considers the first two scenarios unlikely due to Pyongyang’s unwillingness to reform and the strength of the US-South Korea alliance, respectively. Thus, O argues, the collapse of North Korea is the most likely pre-reunification scenario.
Will North Korea collapse though? Keen North Korea watchers know well that the collapse of the country has been predicted several times since the collapse of communism almost everywhere else in the early 1990s. Yet, Kim Jong-un is the third member of a Kim dynasty that has ruled North Korea since its inception in 1948. In chapter 3, however, O presents a careful analysis of the indicators and triggers that could lead to the collapse of the country. The indicators are well known to North Korea specialists. They include a crumbling economic system unable to satisfy the basic needs of ordinary North Koreans, the reliance on external assistance, the disintegrating information control mechanism, the on-going processes of leadership succession between Kim Jong-un and his father Kim Jong-il and power consolidation by the former, the possible queasiness of Pyongyang elites, and the growing number of defectors.
Building on a wealth of sources, O concentrates on three possible regime collapse triggers. She starts with an examination of elite disaffection and factionalism, powerfully arguing that Kim’s frequent purges and brutality show that he does not command the respect enjoyed by both his father and his grandfather Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea. Rule by force could therefore lead to elite-driven instability and systemic collapse. The author then focuses on famine and mass migration, followed by mass opposition. These two potential triggers can be conflated, since they focus on processes driven by ordinary North Koreans and the regime cannot contain mass disaffection. The parallels with the still-recent triggers behind the Arab Spring are clear.
Once North Korea collapses, what comes next? In chapters 4 and 5, O focuses on regional geopolitics and preparations and responses to a possible collapse. In the first of the two chapters, she first examines a regional geopolitical landscape in which tensions about a host of issues create enmity, but in which —crucially—deepening economic regionalism is likely to lead to cooperation. Thus, O analyses the national interests of the five remaining countries with an important say in affairs on the Korean Peninsula—the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea—as well as South Korea’s bilateral relations with the first three from the prism of a geopolitical landscape in which tensions are overridden by a need for cooperation to preserve economic links. Therefore, she argues, there is scope for regional cooperation in the areas of pre-collapse planning, North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, and stability and economic development. This is very welcomed, since many journalistic and—some would say—lazy analyses of contemporary Northeast Asia focus on the disagreements between the regional powers rather than the many areas with potential for cooperation.
In chapter 5, O discusses twelve different areas of preparation for and response to a North Korean collapse. They range from the obvious and already well-planned—such as ensuring quick control over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal—to the not-so-often discussed but equally important—including dealing with the unemployment of under-skilled North Koreans, the reforestation and flood mitigation of large swathes of underinvested North Korean land, and the development of the DMZ. O comes with a to-do list that to some might seem overwhelming. For example, she rightly points out that the education of a North Korean population that has lived under decades of Juche ideology will be far from an easy task. Yet, this list is a timely reminder that reunification is much more than bringing together two countries that most think should be together. The not-too-distant cases of Germany, Vietnam, or Yemen show that reunification processes take time.
In the concluding chapter, O provides a useful summary of the main points raised in the book. Arguably, this chapter also shows the only weakness that can be found with this book. The author’s analysis is very systematic, with one issue presented after another. It would have been interesting to know, for example, whether O thinks that South Korea’s bilateral relations with the United States, China, and Japan influence each other. Or whether migration from North Korea towards the south in a reunified Korea has any implications for unemployment or social integration. This is a minor issue in an otherwise very interesting read.
O’s The Collapse of North Korea will be of interest to Korea and East Asia specialists, whether from academia or from policy-making. It is recommended for those who want a broad and comprehensive overview of the challenges that Korean reunification would—or will, following the author’s train of thought—entail.
Ramon Pacheco Pardo, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
COMMUNITY NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND POVERTY IN INDIA: Evidence from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. By Shashidharan Enarth, Jharna Pathak, Amita Shah, Madhu Verma, John R. Wood. New Delhi; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing, 2016. xxiv, 414 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-93-515-0652-2.
The researchers contributing chapters in the book under review drew inspiration from the first goal of the Millennial Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2000, namely the eradication of poverty. They narrowed down the focus of their research to studying poverty reduction in four of India’s community natural resource management (CNRM) programs: participatory irrigation management, watershed development, joint forest management, and inland fishing cooperatives. The selection of the programs is premised on the belief that they all share many common features. The research project aims to study the four programs comparatively. The states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (MP) provide the context for the comparative aspect of the project. The book explores “two main questions, namely whether the promise of community managerial success has been realized and whether the CNRM projects and institutions have made an impact on Indian rural poverty” (xxii).
The book is neither the work of a single scholar nor an edited volume. Five scholars have contributed chapters to the book. They have worked together closely, and have been involved in each other’s contributions to the extent that the outcome can “be considered as jointly authored” (xxiii). There are eight chapters. Chapters 3 through 6 are on four CNRM programs, each written by a specialist. The introductory and concluding chapters, 1, 7, and 8, are written by a generalist in CNRM studies, John R. Wood. It is interesting to note that the chapters that involve introducing the subject matter of the book, drawing conclusions, and making generalizations and the all-important job of making recommendations based on the findings of the research are written by a political scientist whose disciplinary training gives him an edge over his team members when it comes to the question of making generalizations from data collected. Chapter 2 is co-authored by the generalist in the team, John R. Wood, and two specialists, Shashidharan Enarth and Amita Shah.
Gujarat has adopted a more “bottom-up,” gradual approach that involves grassroots initiatives and NGO inputs with regard to CNRM, whereas MP has taken a more “top-down,” rapid, and government-led approach. Thus, the selection of these two states for carrying out their fieldwork allowed the researchers “to see how differing approaches to implementation and operation in these two states made a difference to programmatic outcomes” (5). While acknowledging the serious limitations of the representative character of their samples, it is claimed that their research led to the discovery of a “range of successes versus failures (and all the gradations in between) of CNRM institutions” that they found both “challenging” and “enlightening” to analyze (39).
Chapter 2 explores the conceptual and methodological issues addressed in the research project. It also spells out the details of the fieldwork, including the focus group discussions and the household survey. Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 present research findings and analysis of the four CNRM programs of participatory irrigation management, watershed development, joint forest management, and inland fishing cooperatives, respectively. A comparative perspective is maintained to bring out similarities and dissimilarities in initiation, performance, and outcomes of programs. All specialists writing chapters 3 through 6 attempt to answer a set of questions that guided their research: “1) At the village level, how was the CNRM project and institution introduced? 2) How did the project and institution perform, both de jure and de facto, in terms of CNRM goals? 3) What was the extent of productivity and income increase? 4) How decentralized and inclusive was the governance of the CNRM institution? 5) What has been the impact on the poor members of the village? 6) How integrated was the project intervention and what was the extent of the outreach? 7) How has the project and institution contributed to effective, equitable and sustainable resource management?” (40–41). Though with significant variations, the similarities and the differences that the answers bring out are instructive in drawing generalized conclusions and making appropriate recommendations.
In chapter 4, Jharna Pathak maintains that the “empirical realities presented and discussed will serve to create a conceptual framework (such as that used by Bandaragoda and Firdousi, 1992: 28) within which the impact of community participation, poverty and equity can be examined” (124). However, nowhere in the chapter is it clear what the conceptual framework is that the writer is referring to, nor is the reference mentioned in the section on references and select bibliography. Her use of the concept of “coercive cooperation” to explain government strategy wherein certain benefits are made contingent upon the end-users forming a cooperative is noteworthy.
Comparative findings presented in chapters 3 through 6 are explored in chapter 7 in the way of conclusions. Chapter 8 presents the main deficiencies of CNRM in the two states and suggests policy changes regarding CNRM and its role in the reduction of poverty in India. It ends on a note of optimism that the CNRM experiment in India “is worth pursuing as a vehicle for reaching the goal of ‘inclusive growth’” (385).
This book is a timely effort to examine the CNRM experiment in India, and it makes important recommendations to policy makers, NGOs, and activists working in the area of community resource management. For instance, examining the experience of JFM institutions in chapter 6, Madhu Verma’s suggestion to future policy-makers is “to ensure that sustainable livelihood interventions need to be accompanied by communication on the local project’s benefits and the importance of forest conservation” (353). Verma is also for greater involvement of NGOs specializing in CNRM projects to get better results. As well, drawing conclusion in chapter 7, John R. Wood recommends: “Thus it is essential that Project Implementation Agencies, whether they be government officials or NGO activists, set the terms early on as to how equity and sustainability are to be achieved, and follow through on both” (371).
The book will be equally useful to students and scholars of development studies as it brings to them important insights into the functioning of CNRM projects in different regions of India directly by those involved in conducting field studies.
Ganeshdatta Poddar, Foundation for Liberal and Management Education University, Pune, India
PIPE POLITICS, CONTESTED WATERS: Embedded Infrastructures of Millennial Mumbai. By Lisa Björkman. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015. xi, 281 pp. (Illustrations.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5969-2.
Mumbai’s ambitions to be a world-class city are constantly under threat by infrastructural challenges—be they related to rail, road, water, or power. Rapid rates of construction and re-landscaping in the city have also created new challenges for the routine provision of basic services. Lisa Björkman’s focus in Pipe Politics is on water. Water scarcity is a major source of political and economic risk for much of the world, and an impending source of conflict in many cities of the global south. But Björkman starts with more of a puzzle in Mumbai, where it is not water scarcity itself that is the essential problem. Mumbai is estimated to have as much water, and estimated leakage levels, on a per capita basis as London. Rather, Pipe Politics shows that it is the growing mismatch between the means by which urban development has been taking place above ground and the underground life of pipes and water below ground that disrupts and hinders flows of water around the city. Mumbai’s economic transformation has created a chasm between the water infrastructure and the rapidly changing landscapes that the city’s water engineers have to serve.
Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork within residential neighbourhoods and the water department, accompanied by close textual analysis, Björkman seeks to get to the bottom of the puzzling story of Mumbai’s dry taps. The book begins by detailing how administrative capacity to manage the city’s water infrastructure was hollowed out in the 1980s and 1990s as debates about public-sector restructuring and privatization led to an effective recruitment freeze and dwindling investment in the face of ongoing uncertainty about the future of water management in the city. This resulted in a situation in which the department’s survey section ceased functioning, and knowledge about the location of pipes, flows, and pressure became increasingly fractured and personalized. Yet even despite the chronic challenges within the department, water department labourers or chaviwallas (key men) continued to perform a “stunningly elaborate choreography” every day to keep water flowing through the city by managing water pressure and flow through the opening and closing of valves. Björkman goes on to document how the creation of a new market in transferable development rights in return for slum rehabilitation projects facilitated a construction boom in Mumbai that radically reshaped the urban landscape. In the process, the regulatory frameworks governing the built environment were divorced from the management of its water infrastructure. The continual bending of planning rules by “Mumbai’s world-class-city boosters” created “hydraulic chaos” for the city’s water department engineers (84).
Different communities of actors have sought to make sense of the city’s continuing water problems in varying ways. In chapter 4, Björkman shows that one way the city’s water engineers explain the problems they face is through reference to the city’s slums and the issue of “illegal” constructions where people steal water through “illegal” connections. Björkman carefully shows, however, that what has been happening—driven by the new market in development rights—is the recategorization of certain settlements as slums. This recategorization makes them targets for slum rehabilitation and the lucrative transferable development rights that come with it. She examines the neighbourhood of Shivajinagar-Bainganwadi, which was originally a planned municipal housing colony but has become known as a slum. Residents in this area have become dependent on ever more improvised “microtechnologies” to access water. Such micro-innovations have themselves helped to recast the housing colony as informal and illegal, driving the water department to focus on policing illegal encroachments rather than improving water distribution. This leaves the residents of the neighbourhood reliant on improvized strategies that are constantly vulnerable to disruption, either by the water department or other residents diverting water for their own purposes.
The unpredictability of flows of pipes and water produces a deep reliance on local knowledge and rumour in both “slum” areas and middle-class residential neighbourhoods alike. In this context, a second form of explanation for the perennial problem of dry taps focuses on corruption: either private profiteering by water engineers or by politically motivated tampering. Björkman writes: “Popular discourse suggests a general belief that rational and complete knowledge of the water grid actually exists among department engineers and planners but that corrupt engineers and labourers simply do not act on their knowledge and power to produce water in certain neighbourhoods” (168). The discourse of corruption allows for the reproduction of the idea that the water department does have coherent knowledge and authority despite the constant experience of water shortages and volatility in supply. Politicians themselves are caught in the act, too, as chapter 7 shows. Aware that water flows in his area will be interpreted as a sign of someone’s power, Suresh (a.k.a. Bullet) Patil, the municipal councillor, is driven to claim credit for alleged works of the water department, or to demonstrate his ability to prevent them from disconnecting pipes even when those pipes had been responsible for the spread of disease (201). The book ends with the story of a chaviwallah who himself wins a seat on the municipal corporation, defeating the Congress Party incumbent who had held the seat for twenty-two years. In M-East Ward, where Björkman was based, over half of the thirteen elected councillors have a connection to water, either through vendors, engineers, or plumbers.
This is a book written with a sense of fondness for the poetics of water, as well as the mundane routines that shape its everyday movement through the city. Through water, it illuminates the contradictory and overlapping logics that shape the political economy of urban governance in Mumbai, offering insights that will resonate in many other fast developing mega-cities.
Louise Tillin, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
GROWING THE TREE OF SCIENCE: Homi Bhabha and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. By Indira Chowdhury. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016. xxxix, 274 pp. US$54.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-946690-0.
This book examines how Homi Bhabha—best known as the founder of India’s nuclear program—created a culture of science at the institute he established—the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), one of India’s premier scientific research institutions. The book draws upon documents from the TIFR archives (that the author helped set up) and some forty interviews. It focuses on the TIFR’s first two decades, when it grew from just 13 academic staff and five graduate students in 1948 to a more substantial research Institute. TIFR presently has three schools at its campus in Bombay, and six related centers in Bangalore, Pune, and Hyderabad, undertaking research and graduate training in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and computer science.
An initial chapter discusses how TIFR was established in 1945 with the help of personal connections, private funding, and government support. It notes that India’s political and industrial elites considered science and technology to be crucial for India’s economic development, and therefore looked favourably on indigenous scientific ventures. Still, Bhabha had to convince the Tata Trusts to fund his proposal for a research institute comparable to centers at Cambridge, where he had obtained his Ph.D. degree. Here, personal connections helped Bhabha, as a trustee offered guidance on how to frame the grant request. Finally, Bhabha’s request dovetailed with the Trusts’ new direction in philanthropy, which focused on “pioneering” projects—that explored new frontiers and generated capacity building—rather than just on charity.
The book makes some other points on TIFR’s early development. First, Bhabha recruited distinguished scientists and mathematicians to staff the Institute. Second, the Institute could not secure a permanent home for several years, because the Government of Bombay bargained hard on the price and title for any land purchase; Bhabha eventually had to persuade Prime Minister Nehru to give TIFR a plot owned by the Defense Ministry. Third, Bhabha’s friendship with the director-general of India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) helped secure governmental funding for TIFR (the book notes that, over the years, CSIR helped establish over twenty other research institutes throughout India).
The remaining chapters discuss how Bhabha and TIFR created a “culture of science” or an environment conducive to original research. To provide context, the book notes that, while colonial India had several university science departments and medical colleges, these had not encouraged scientific research. It adds that, in the years following independence, the state bureaucracy made it difficult to create a research culture at universities, which also faced (and still face) problems of low salaries, under-staffing of laboratories, shortage of equipment, and lack of contact with the outside scientific world. The book argues that TIFR overcame these obstacles not just because it had adequate funding, but also through its mode of learning (a combination of lectures, seminars, hands-on training, and peer learning, which today’s educators would describe as “active” learning or learning through experiments); through a focus on hiring young scientists who would work their way upwards to the rank of professor; and through Bhabha’s international scientific connections (while this feature was hardly unique to TIFR—an international economic regime supporting scientific exchanges between the developed and developing world had emerged by the 1950s—what was unique was the top-notch caliber of visiting scientists at TIFR).
The international network helped TIFR in several ways. For example, TIFR students were mentored and taught by academics and scientists from abroad, enabling them to learn about new technologies. In addition, TIFR’s senior scientists went abroad for training, where they established connections that facilitated fresh research projects. Further, Indian students who obtained Ph.D. degrees with Bhabha’s international colleagues were recruited into TIFR. The book also discusses projects drawing upon international networks: the strong mathematics department, the first Indian computer—the TIFR Automatic Calculator (TIFRAC)—and the research clusters in Cosmic Ray Research, Molecular Biology, and Radio Astronomy.
The book concludes with some critiques. It notes that because Bhabha spent most of his time heading India’s Atomic Energy Commission, TIFR was, by the late-1950s, administered by its deputy director who had bureaucratic training not conducive to the needs of science and technology. Moreover, Bhabha’s internationalist vision resulted in TIFR becoming an island of excellence (the “Princeton of the East”) in isolation from other Indian research labs. Further, the book cites a 2005 lecture at TIFR that faulted TIFR for not being adventurous and not taking risks in pursuing new research frontiers (the same critique could be made of several research centers and, indeed, entire academic disciplines, worldwide).
Overall, the book highlights several features of TIFR in its first two decades—personal connections and funding that helped its development, its method of training, international linkages, the Institute’s art collection and architecture, its workshop where much technology and learning developed, and its presence in the cosmopolitan city of Bombay. While these certainly contributed to a conducive research environment, and the book offers much evidence about research outputs, it does not provide a comprehensive listing of these outputs, such as publications, projects, and alumni placements. This, then, is the task for further scholarship, which could compare the factors and conditions at TIFR with those at other research centers in India, and the research outputs at these various centers and institutes of research.
Dinshaw Mistry, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, USA
PAPER TIGER: Law, Bureaucracy and the Developmental State in Himalayan India. Cambridge Studies in Law and Society. By Nayanika Mathur. Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xxii, 192 pp. (Map, illustrations.) US$110.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-10697-0.
On a scorching afternoon in the summer of 2009, I found myself straggling behind a group of ten women as they carried sacks of cement up a steep incline in the mountains of Uttarakhand. After reaching a plateau, the women placed their heavy loads next to a watering trough that was being constructed under the auspices of the Indian government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). The women shrugged their shoulders and laughed at my presumptions of their participation in decision-making when I asked if, and why, the trough was needed. Later, I found that these women were paid less than half of the government mandated wage for their arduous labor; the rest of the money was swallowed by village and administrative heads. As Nayanika Mathur might comment, the slippage evident in this one small project—wherein underpaid villagers built a potentially unnecessary structure—is all too common under programs such as NREGS, which was designed to provide no less than 100 days a year of government employment to India’s most impoverished while producing projects needed by rural communities. In her book, Paper Tiger: Law, Bureaucracy, and the Developmental State in Himalayan India, Mathur ethnographically explores how the law linked to NREGS came into force along with the many difficulties associated with a scheme that her interlocutors described as “unimplementable.” The text draws upon the anthropology of bureaucracy and the state to demonstrate the everyday struggles through which law is translated into practice in ways that are “capable of producing absurdity” (2) as well as “contingency, uncertainty, coercion, and affect” (5). Overall, the book offers a timely—and otherwise difficult to obtain—insight into the inner workings of state bureaucracies, and of the professional lives of administrators in Uttarakhand State.
Whereas other observers of state programs like NREGS might be quick to dismiss its quagmires as the inevitable outcome of entrenched corruption, Mathur urges us to eschew this “lazy person’s answer” in our analyses of “why the Indian state fails with such startling regularity” (17). As she explains, “In lieu of joining the large chorus that spends its time bemoaning what is popularly described as the ‘cancer of corruption’ in India… Paper Tiger, instead, concentrates its attention on the much harder task of articulating the bureaucratic everyday” (20). This, to her mind, helps us get past some of the “primitivism” of the international development apparatus, which for too long has described governments such as India’s as lacking and aberrant in ways that closely align with colonial discourse and practice. Since much of the blame placed upon corruption is insufficiently backed by empirical data, Mathur’s study serves as a revelatory correction; her book employs painstakingly acquired data to concentrate on how the Indian state actually functions as its officials navigate bureaucratic procedure and policy inertia (20).
The presentation of this data is spread across three main sections (and six narratively accessible chapters) in which the author discusses the sensibilities of remoteness as they influence life in her chosen field site; the everyday practices of administration in a sleepy town; the materialities and ambiguities of transparency; the letter-writing practices that convey nuance and hidden meaning; the high-stakes body language and intense boredom of official meetings; the challenging process of administering NREGS in the field; and the ways in which the state’s ineffectualness is most clearly exposed when it is unable to authorize the killing of a leopard that preys on women and children. But above all else, Mathur explains how and why the state—from the lowest administrative level to the highest branches of government—produces lots and lots of paper. So much paper, in fact, that it appears to Mathur and others that the production of documents is the main way that the state is able to show “progress” and “the accomplishment of development” (169).
The impressive means through which Mathur acquired the data to support her arguments helps us “study up” the chains of power that influence the lives of India’s rural poor. After an auspicious introduction via an official letter from the Chief Information Commissioner of Uttarakhand, Mathur was able to gain access to the everyday administrative workings of a “remote” office in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli District. With empathy and compassion, Mathur portrays the logics and practices of her colleagues in an administering NRGES office in the town of Gopeshwar, as well as across the district. Once established in the office, she undertook a project that knowingly committed her to the drudgery of governmental procedure and officialese that lasted from 10am to 5pm six days a week. This regime she continued over the course of a year in a town that public servants consider a punishment posting. It was a risky proposition, especially since those with whom she worked were uncertain if there was anything for her to discover in their offices that would be worthy of note.
Beyond her engagement with anthropologies of the state (including the work of Max Weber, Veena Das, David Graeber, and James Scott), Mathur draws upon insights from Michel Foucault, and to a lesser extent Pierre Bourdieu and Michel de Certeau. The author’s attention to the Foucauldian “regime of practices” that constitute the “paper state” is useful in this regard. The employment of Bourdieuian insights is mostly limited to his comments on power, which is the part of his work that is often overlooked elsewhere. More narrative direction for how readers might absorb and deploy the conceptual synthesis that the author builds would, however, have been useful. That said, the conceptual eclecticism is perhaps where the book provides the most use to readers hoping to understand how they can apply Mathur’s analyses to the exploration of bureaucratic and governing practices outside of India. Through her careful work, readers will catch glimpses of how they too can examine elements of affect and emotion amidst the banality of everyday governance, or the agency and materiality of official documents that were written to safeguard the professions of their authors rather than to improve the lives of those in need. Mathur additionally provides an example of how others might approach these topics in ways that keep an emphasis on the plight of the most marginalized, even as we discuss the dispassionate violence of the bureaucratic everyday with measured sympathy for those engaged in the mind-numbing production of the paper state.
Georgina Drew, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia
POVERTY AND THE QUEST FOR LIFE: Spiritual and Material Striving in Rural India. By Bhrigupati Singh. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. xiii, 335 pp. (Illustrations, map.) US$27.50, paper. ISBN 978-0-22619-454-7.
Bhrigupati Singh’s ethnography of an impoverished region in Rajasthan is a rich and thought-provoking account of Shahabad, a remote area of disappearing forests in Rajasthan inhabited by former bonded labourers (Sahariyas), among other groups. Shahabad was known for a series of starvation deaths in 2001 to 2003 and Singh went there to understand life amidst deprivation and scarcity. But the account that he renders seeks to show the possibilities for abundant life even within such a bleak context, challenging standard definitions of poverty put forward by economists.
In a time where research is dominated by what Singh terms “new” India books, it is important to have accounts from rural India. I read the book as an interesting combination of the new and old, perhaps reflecting the current state of anthropology as a discipline. One the one hand, the book is structured like the older tradition of “village studies” in its holistic emphasis on the interrelation of very different domains, or “thresholds of life” as he puts it (“this book is a rhizome, growing in different directions” (3). The book moves from historical context—and a real strength of the book is a consistent historicizing of the domains studied—to spirit possession, from development efforts to asceticism, from dietary change, fashion, and erotic intimacies (affairs) to local deities, and the question of poverty.
While ethnographically structured in the mode of village studies, much of the book is focused on engaging current theoretical concerns such as sovereignty, ethics, and the religious-secular divide. Its pervasive use of the first person and literary-philosophical writing style, drawing especially from Deleuze and Nietzsche, will be a point of diverging tastes among readers. The book is populated with concepts such as “political theologies,” “thresholds of life,” “intensities,” “potencies/potential” and a Nietzschian/Deleuzian conception of “life” (282–293). While written in an undeniably compelling and skillful manner, the frequent movement from the specific to the abstract and self-reflection—most pronounced in a conclusion written as a question and answer between himself and a Yaksa spirit (whose appearance in a dream apparently initiated the study)—will captivate and alienate readers respectively. One the one hand, the book makes the most consistent and comprehensive use of Deleuze in any ethnographic analysis I have read. But many readers may find this philosophical self-reflection unsettling, especially given the context of starvation deaths, hunger, and history (as well as apparently current practices) of bonded labour.
There is also a danger that such wide-ranging topics of study could gloss over important dynamics even if it does succeed in conveying a wider sense of the ways in which people conceptualize the quality of life. And Singh’s use of highly abstract concepts, while allowing new perspectives to emerge and not over-determining analysis, does risk concealing these dynamics. For example, in a fascinating account of the festival of Holi, an altercation started by alleged sexual harassment of Sahariya women by a government officer who was in the village to visit his lover, a village ration-shop dealer (ration-shops are tasked with providing highly subsidized food grains to poor households to prevent hunger), spirals into a near riot, police brutality, a protest movement, and court struggle. Singh describes this as reflecting a “circulation of agonistic intensities” (162). But especially given the context of hunger and what appears to be a dealer-bureaucrat-police nexus, it seems to me that this incident demands greater scrutiny. At the very least, this case suggests that the dynamics of the state and “sovereignty” are more complex than Singh’s concept of “Mitra-Varuna,” a paring drawn from Hindu mythology indicating the state’s dual nature of welfare and force (although such a distinction could be as easily taken from Machiavelli or even Gramsci). If as complex and multi-layered a “political theology” as that provided in the study of local deities were applied to this case, I suspect sovereignty would look rather different. Singh wants to move beyond the “dominance-resistance” dichotomy and his concept of “agonistic intimacy” does provide subtlety and complexity to overly simplistic activist accounts (although these conceptions are also part of the field). But although Singh lives at the offices of Sankalp, an activist NGO, and devotes an entire chapter to Kalli, an activist, the struggles and contestations that are taking place and appear to be a driving force of change in the region do not really figure into Singh’s conception of sovereignty and “agonistic intimacy.”
The end of the book contains what I found to be the most compelling chapters. These centre on in-depth and fascinating accounts of the lives of two exceptional people, Kalli, a Sahariya woman activist and Bansi, a con man/holy man. Singh portrays the lives of these individuals, and Bansi in particular, as embodying plentitude amidst scarcity. It is through Kalli and Bansi’s lives that Singh attempts to demonstrate his central argument, that there are diverse ways of living a “good life” that are ignored by mainstream development thinking. And with so much ground covered, both conceptually and in terms of topics studied, this book does succeed in compelling us to rethink how the quality of life is understood.
Jeffrey Witsoe, Union College, Schenectady, USA
Security is a relational phenomenon; it involves the capabilities, desires, and fears of one state vis-à-vis its counterpart. The desire for security is a defensive and self-preserving response to the threat of external harm. However, some propose that there are states that will always pose a mutual threat. In this regard, Pakistan, born in a hostile environment, continues to face serious challenges to its security from its primary adversary, India. Most importantly, the “trust deficit” that exists between Pakistan and India will never be eradicated until the Kashmir issue is resolved. Thus, Pakistan is in the process of enhancing its military capabilities to boost its psychological confidence and national morale.
In this context, C. Christine Fair has written an interesting book and provided a comparative evaluation of Pakistan’s strategic culture and security complexes, but in a very aggressively anti-Pakistan style. The author has also disregarded India’s frustrated desire for domination, its history of invasions and annexation of Pakistani sovereign territory, and chosen instead to focus critically on Pakistan, creating an impression that Islamabad is hostile and arrogant. However, the book constitutes a unique study in terms of assisting the reader to understand the nature of Pakistan’s security dilemmas. The author presents the idea that Pakistan was born insecure and continues to experience a security deficit vis-à-vis India. The author narrates the idea of security and essentially endorses the Indian factor as a legitimate instrument of security by Pakistan’s security establishment, which beautifully furnished the conceptual parameters of using religion to form a relatively inexpensive fighting force to defend the country. The author seems antagonistic in her depiction of Pakistan’s security panorama though she comprehensively discusses the developments and self-perceived objectives of the state security apparatus.
This book consists of eleven chapters, excluding appendix, notes, references, and index. The author covers a wide range of issues and establishes linkages between history, politics, and domestic vulnerabilities. She critically analyses the connection between Pakistan’s security policies and its ideology under its conservative civil-military establishment, an ideology that has worked as an operational force for national defense and as a form of psychological warfare. According to the author, during the Cold War, Pakistan used its US partnership as an excellent opportunity to take advantage of Washington’s desperate need to contain communism. Under the pretext of partnership, Islamabad accessed US military capabilities and other vital facilities to expand its influence and strengthen its bargaining position vis-à-vis India, much as Israel has done. India has proven the beneficiary of US support in the post-Cold War era.
In the introduction, the author deals with the nature of Pakistan’s security perception, which dominates its political landscape. Here the country has adopted strategies of guerilla warfare, proxy warfare, and low-intensity warfare as instruments against India. From this perspective, Fair mentions that Pakistan’s policy remains to convey the message to New Delhi that Islamabad will not accept its domination, and India must treat Pakistan as an equal, and thus that India must settle the Kashmir issue either through a plebiscite or by mutual arrangement. In chapters two and three the author criticizes the Pakistan military’s revisionist policy that antagonizes India. The author also explores how Pakistan’s policy makers are prisoners of the past, and how the country’s strategic culture is a reflection of a colonial legacy and shambolic economy.
In chapters four and five the author broadly explains the role of religion (Islam) in the creation of Pakistan and how the Pakistan military later took on the responsibility of defending the country’s ideological boundaries. According to the author, the Pakistan military established links with religious militants they considered to be an effective third line of defense. The author also unconvincingly argues how the Pakistan military is locked in by a colonial strategic culture to defend the country and treats Afghanistan with “strategic depth” to counter the Indian threat.
In chapters six and seven the author elaborates on how India and Indians (Hindus) are portrayed negatively as aliens in Pakistan’s socio-cultural literature. According to the author, the anti-India/Hindu narratives are successfully disseminated through electronic media, books, radio, and newspapers and thoroughly integrated into Pakistan’s education system, thereby successfully indoctrinating the populace. The author further analyzes the US strategic relationship with Pakistan, arguing it is based purely on selfish interests, while China, by contrast, is described as an enduring and reliable friend of Pakistan.
In chapters eight and nine the author explores the role of nuclear weapons in Pakistan’s strategic culture and how they have strengthened Pakistan’s leadership in the Muslim world. The author optimistically admits that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals reduce its foreign dependence, especially on the United States, while increasing its bargaining position with India and Afghanistan. The author explicitly argues how nuclear weapons have given tremendous psychological confidence to the country and how its security establishment uses militants as an operational strategic shield for Kashmir. In chapters ten and eleven the author elaborates on the circumstances behind Pakistani policy makers radically changing the philosophy of “revisionism” and their ultimate reliance on militants (Islamic proxies), which have served as strategic assets and helped Pakistan avoid direct confrontation with India.
This work is a thought provoking contribution to the study of Pakistan’s security dilemmas, providing interesting narratives, though partially selective in its arguments. Moreover, the book proves a cogent and well-referenced source of information on Pakistan’s strategic culture. It is a critical study on the history of the Pakistan-India confrontation and to be recommended to scholars, researchers, and students of politics, history, international relations, security, and war studies.
A. Z. Hilali, University of Peshawar, Peshawar, Pakistan
FORESTS ARE GOLD: Trees, People, and Environmental Rule in Vietnam. Culture, Place, and Nature. By Pamela D. McElwee; foreword by K. Sivaramakrishnan. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016. xxvi, 283 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99548-9.
At high altitudes in contemporary Vietnam, one can see posted signs in the hills. “Destroying the forest,” they declare, “is a grave sin” (phá rừng là tội ắc). This slogan targets swiddeners, shifting cultivars who have resisted state-led sendentarization campaigns, and illegal logging. It also broadcasts the importance of environmental management, controlling the natural world and those who dwell within it. Anyone who seeks a thoughtful, contextual analysis of environmental management and its link to governmentality in Vietnam, as well as its comparative connections throughout and outside Southeast Asia, should studiously read Pamela D. McElwee’s Forests Are Gold.
Based on long-term ethnographic and archival research, McElwee’s critical examination of environmental policies and their everyday realities balances empirical claims, and some fascinating stories, with compelling theoretical insights. This book will interest not only academic specialists across a wide swath of fields but also more general readers who have an interest in international development, contemporary resource conflicts, and environmental issues in Vietnam and elsewhere.
McElwee calls readers to consider the imbrication of the environment with the political. Recalling Bruno Latour and Michel Foucault, McElwee frames this book as a study in “knowledge-making” and “environmentality” (13–23). Rather than review official policies, McElwee traces the stakes of contemporary environmental management, and environmental crime, from the late nineteenth century to the present. McElwee charts the conceptual terrain of historical environmental discourse in Vietnam, drawing on fieldwork, archives, and the author’s own experience with the comically eponymous “PAM” project (134).
Across five chapters and a conclusion, readers follow the shifting paradigms of resource management in Vietnam. McElwee builds an account of environmental rule grounded in the recent Vietnamese past. The first chapter explains the emergence of environmental rule under French colonialism, tying a political understanding of the natural world to an anthropocenic frame. McElwee continues into the postcolonial twentieth century with the second chapter, “Planting New People: Socialism, Settlement, and Subjectivity in the Postcolonial Forest,” which deftly guides readers through the forest policy changes that accompanied the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (1945–1976), including an insightful account of the shifting definitions of “shifting cultivation” during the 1960s (83). However, the chapters that engage with the period since 1986, after “Renovation” or Đổi Mới, when the Vietnamese Communist Party pursued a platform of measured reform, are the most compelling. “Illegal Loggers and Heroic Rangers” (97–133), “Rule by Reforestation” (134–171), and “Calculating Carbon and Ecosystem Services” (172–206) not only provide crucial context to the contemporary environmental issues in Vietnam, but each combines solid documentary research, ethnographic fieldwork, and a capacious appreciation for comparative studies into an edifying narrative of environmental rule in contemporary Vietnam.
Throughout Forests Are Gold, McElwee connects Vietnam to the larger scholarly discourse surrounding environmental rule, avoiding the pitfalls of an overly constrained area studies approach while crafting an account that is both theoretically engaged and accessible. Readers will benefit from the comparisons between the French colonial forestry regime in Vietnam with elsewhere in the French Empire, as well as the taungya system in British Burma (53). McElwee’s work will particularly interest China specialists; the discussion of State Forest Enterprises (SFEs, lâm trường) features empirical accounts of individual hardship that resonate with the “Sending Down” or xiaxiang campaigns (76–86). The sophisticated analysis of Forest Rangers (khiểm lâm) in Bình Thuận province, and the scandal that followed, contributes to a long discussion by historians, anthrpologists, and political scientists about the ways in which people negotiate state power, including appeals to a higher bureacratic authority, media pressure, and mockery (125–126). McElwee has written a book that continues a conversation about governmentality and environmental rule begun by scholars such as Nancy Peluso, Peter Vandergeest, James Scott, and K. Sivaramakrishnan, but also one that recalls the work of David Biggs, Ken MacLean, Daniel Kelliher, and Xiaobo Lü.
Although this excellent book will leave its readers with a trenchant and critical understading of contemporary Vietnamese environmental rule, it will also leave some readers, particuarly historians, asking questions. For instance, to what extent did forest management and environmental rule “emerge” under French colonialism? (35). Did forestry managers “put in place the earliest reforestation programs” during French rule? (137). These claims invite future historical research into the relationship between land management and government before French colonial rule, hopefully inspiring much needed work on the Vietnamese imperial past.
Forests Are Gold does more than clear a fresh path for historical inquiry, it also sows the seeds of an engaged, critical envinromental sensibility. Readers will find their understanding of contemporary Vietnam enriched by McElwee’s work. For this reviewer, Forests Are Gold gives new meaning to familiar signs in the hills.
Bradley Camp Davis, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, USA
CLAIMING PLACE: On the Agency of Hmong Women. Editors, Chia Youyee Vang, Faith Nibbs, Ma Vang. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. xxviii, 348 pp. (Figures, B&W photos.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8166-9778-6.
In my opinion, the foremost achievement of this collection is to be amongst the first full-length volumes to tackle issues linked to gender within and around Hmong society. A good number of dissertations and articles have been addressing this field from a variety of angles, predominantly in the US, but this book takes the field to new heights. This is accomplished with the majority of authors being members of the Hmong community themselves. The locale for this quest is resolutely the US, where fourteen of the fifteen contributors are based and where the subjects of their research are primarily located. The volume also touches on Asia through a discussion of diasporic Hmong experiences from Laos to the US.
The book is structured into four parts that unfold after an introduction by the three editors who, among other matters, locate the volume firmly within the field of post-Vietnam War diasporic movements to the US. Part 1, “History and Knowledge,” involves Leena N. Her, Ma Vang, and Chia Youyee Vang proposing a reading of the nascent field of Hmong feminist perspectives, justly bringing to the fore seminal works by Patricia Symonds and Pranee Liamputtong Rice among others. Part 2, “Social Organization, Kinship and Politics,” with Mai Na M. Lee, Julie Keown-Bomar, Ka Vang, and Prasit Leepreecha, presents what should probably be termed case studies supporting the ethnographic project underlined in the section’s heading. Part 3, “Art and Media,” incorporating Faith Nibbs, Geraldine Craigh, and Aline No, discusses current forms of expression such as social media, textile production, and cinema. Part 4, “Gender and Sexuality,” with Louisa Schein, Bruce Thao, and Kong Pha, contains the most original contributions as sex, eroticism, and LGBTQ issues have not often been addressed in the scholarly literature on the Hmong. Closing the march, Cathy J. Schlund-Vials writes a short afterword emphasizing further the Asian-American studies backbone of the book.
Clearly, bringing together a majority of female authors (12) to denounce “patriarchal domination” as the “culprit of women’s subjugation” (back cover) is not a novel idea within feminist and gender studies. Doing it in the context of a lineage, acephalous society, however—even when seen from the eyes of a small portion of its subjects accidentally transplanted to a hyper-modern world—is definitely taking the discussion one step further. A strength of this book thus becomes visible in the combination of an established, mainly Western feminist literature, with non-Western traditions. On the flip side, well-known critiques from the subaltern studies viewpoint of drawing on Western approaches for such work—Chandra Mohanty being referred to only in passing—also open the door to critique.
Hmong society—around five million in all—is poorly known to most despite a rich scholarship made visible in hundreds of publications, and through the accomplishments of a thriving diaspora making waves in the United States (around 270,000). This new book will definitely help bridge this gap. Nonetheless, it is important to put things in perspective and keep in mind that the American Hmong account for only about 5 percent of this group’s total population. The remaining 95 percent are found in the highlands of the six contiguous Asian countries where they have spread over a few centuries (in decreasing demographic order: China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia), with Southwest China as its historical and demographic hub (three million). In this regard, Prasit Leepreecha’s chapter in this book is particularly welcome. One of Thailand’s 155,000 Hmong and a researcher from Chiang Mai University with a PhD degree from the University of Washington, he addresses the predicament of Hmong women going through divorce in Thailand. In doing so, Leepreecha nicely bridges the East/West divide and contributes to giving a voice to Hmong women in Asia.
Claiming Place, thus, reflects the fact that a relatively small number of representatives of this largely Asian and rural society—though this book tends to talk about this latter fact in the past tense—have been very successful in putting down new roots in a Western democracy and are now giving back to their community. These representatives have been able to achieve, within two or three generations, the educational skills and credentials needed to critically analyze “the Hmong.”
One, however, can foresee the caveats inevitably linked to such a historically specific gaze, which can easily drift, as it often does in this book, into speaking indiscriminately on behalf of all Hmong. Ironically, this inattention exposes a hegemonic process by which a powerful localized narrative is pushed onto a larger transnational ethnicity that cannot talk back, still missing the political recognition of their distinctiveness from their respective states, particularly under communist regimes in China, Vietnam, and Laos, and not yet holding the power leverage to convey and promote their homegrown life projects on the national and international stages.
Nonetheless, most importantly, this book should be hailed as a novel and welcome contribution to gender studies among Asian Americans, the disciplinary field to which most of the contributors belong, with a special and fruitful emphasis put on one particular segment of US immigration, the Hmong, coming in this case chiefly from Laos. Readers should acknowledge and welcome this collection meant to help us better understand the experiences of female and LGBTQ Hmong and Asian Americans faced with high degrees of pressure to conform to a largely male-dominated world, both their customary one and, though in a different guise, that of their host nation.
Jean Michaud, Université Laval, Québec, Canada
ACTIVIST ARCHIVES: Youth Culture and the Political Past in Indonesia. By Doreen Lee. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2016. xvi, 278 pp. (Illustrations.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6171-8.
The term pemuda (youth) was both cherished and feared at one major point in Indonesian history. The Suharto regime (1966–1998) recognized the determinacy of pemuda, as the term first emerged in public consciousness in the early twentieth century in reference to a nationalist “oath” for unification. Pemuda however only gained its power when it was militarized during Japanese occupation for war mobilization. The term became popular in the time of revolution. The revolutionary connotation of pemuda was considered unsuitable for a post-Independence regime seeking order and stability. To domesticate pemuda the ruling elite invented the term remaja (a term associated with mama’s teenager) for Indonesian youth. All through the Suharto era, remaja was popularized throughout popular culture, even constituting a significant genre in the New Order’s film industry. Since the appearance of remaja, pemuda was confined to past heroism, frozen as a street name in Surabaya, Yogyakarta, and Medan (and perhaps some other secondary cities), but not in Jakarta. Pemuda, despite its critical role in fighting for Indonesian independence, was considered dead (much like the national heroes) by the New Order that sought to build a new legacy of its own.
In Activist Archives, Doreen Lee challenges us to think of pemuda not as a part of the historical past, but as a living “other” exiled within the national archive. She retrieves the political past of pemuda by returning them to the 1980s-1990s as undercurrents haunting the remaja era and beyond. The book thus is organized around the political lives of activist youth represented as neither round nor linear. Lee portrays their lives as always already linked to some moments of the past, “moving back and forth between 1998 and other experiences” (108), with their subjectivities located in space moving discursively between home and homelessness. Why this is so has to do with the state’s suppression of its own violence, which in turn has produced an archive that seeks to exclude activists. Such otherness felt among the activists, no matter how equipped they are in their activism, has the subtler consequence of a difficulty in grasping their own contexts of production and activity.
It is in this context that Lee’s work is truly fascinating and challenging. She seeks to bring back, via a route of history and anthropology, the figure of pemuda now in the form of “activists.” But the route taken is far from straightforward as both the field and the archive are not always locatable, ready to be observed and narrated. The activist youth exist—and this to me is the most important contribution of the book—in multiple forms and engage us in many different ways, both concrete and imaginative: as environment (street, camps, posts, and home), image (art, film, and photography), artifact (t-shirts, banners, and cellphones) and discourses (of trauma, democracy, and emergency). For Lee, archive is shaped not so much by what it says, but by where it is located. She had to follow the discursive and often ephemeral paths of activists to grasp their excluded or exiled archive. Such an approach to archive is groundbreaking.
Throughout the book, Lee finds inspiration in a range of critical theories, from those of Giorgio Agamben to Jacques Derrida and Walter Benjamin. She has also brought to life the best of Cornell’s Indonesian scholarship characterized by rich ethnographic and historical materials, and perhaps most importantly, a strong sense of political engagement (although she never quite felt at home at Cornell, the “mecca of Southeast Asian Studies”). A most interesting part concerns Lee’s own subjectivity, and how she relates to her study, her field, and her Indonesia. “What I did when I was there” is more than a methodological report of a scholar standing from a position of an observer. It concerns “another story” about her embedded-ness in space and time (for Lee too belongs to Generation 98—no matter what this might mean). This has made her aware of her own class, ethnic, and gender backgrounds and what it means to live through (together and apart) an important chapter of Indonesian history, of 1998, before and after. Beneath this scholarship thus is a work of redemptive imagination of who constitutes the Generation 98 activists after years of suppression and misunderstanding, how they came to be, and what they have done, and perhaps more urgently, what they mean for today’s youth.
This book is also timely as its publication comes at the time when the streets of Jakarta are experiencing a war between the ghosts of different pasts, with each claiming to represent post-Reformasi activism. And yet the rallies and protests on the streets are energies with sources not necessarily in activists. Meanwhile, much of what is happening today is also inseparable from the technology of the virtual world, such as social media, which constitutes faceless groups. Discourses too have also shifted from human rights and democracy to the subject of religion, with Islam and the politics of morality at the forefront of activism. Lee sees some of these coming in her concluding chapter, but they seem to be beyond the reach of Generation 98—thus beyond the stretch of her book. Such a limit however is also the strength of the book, so Activist Archives can be called a definitive work that will be prized as perhaps the best “biography” of a generation of Indonesian urban activism.
Abidin Kusno, York University, Toronto, Canada
INDONESIAN NOTEBOOK: A Sourcebook on Richard Wright and the Bandung Conference. Editors, Brian Russell Roberts and Keith Foulcher. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. xxiv, 262 pp. (Map, figures.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6066-7.
Ignorance about the world beyond their shores was a feature common to many US intellectuals during the early Cold War period, whether taking the form of unbridled confidence in their development models or in dismissing the value of social mores they were unfamiliar with. It also posed no hindrance to their travels nor curtailed the authority of their pronouncements. The famous African-American writer Richard Wright was no exception. The Color Curtain, a “report” of his visit to the Asia-Africa conference held in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, is as far removed from the extraordinary power and brilliance of his novels Black Boy and Native Son as one can imagine, yet it remains a go-to book for many scholars seeking to understand this historic conference. Wright, sitting in self-imposed exile in Paris when the conference was announced, was quick to realize the significance of the event, and, unlike his government, was not alarmed by the prospect of the free coloured nations of the world getting together. He was also self-aware enough to realize that since he knew nothing about Indonesia, the best he could do was hope that the common discriminations of racial prejudice would be a sufficient bridge between him and his hosts. Given this, Color Curtain can be read as a report of Wright’s discovery of a world beyond the Black Atlantic, with the conference becoming a means of expanding a relatively limited worldview, much as Malcolm X’s visit to Mecca a decade later would help de-parochialize the latter’s ideas of race, struggle, and universalism. At worst, the book stands as a reminder that for all his deep insight into the racial and economic contradictions of the United States and despite the universalism implied by joining the Communist Party, Wright reverted to being an American when he travelled to the developing world. There is perhaps no better realization of his limits than when we discover that the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCR), a CIA front, paid for the celebrated author’s visit to Indonesia and had a significant role in shaping who he would meet. Wright never met the celebrated writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, for example, although there is an excerpt of the latter’s writing included in the volume where he expresses his admiration for Wright’s work.
This carefully curated “sourcebook” on Wright and the Bandung Conference is primarily written for specialists on Richard Wright, the African-American writer, and to a far lesser extent for those who are interested in the intersections of Bandung and the cultural politics of the Cold War. The editors are careful to point out that Wright’s account of his visit is often at odds with others’ memories or what is more likely to have happened, and we are repeatedly reminded that Wright’s Indonesian interlocutors found him unable to get beyond a “black and white” view of the world. Contradictions abound: Wright chooses to stay with the American ambassador in Indonesia although he detests the fact that this ambassador is the grandson of slave owners. Throughout the volume, the editors wonderfully contextualize the period and the people Wright met; the net effect is to make the reader far more interested in Indonesia in the 1950s than Wright at Bandung.
Following an excellent introduction, where the editors identify the different compulsions and intersecting literatures involved in producing a book of this kind, including the burgeoning field of Asian-African studies, the volume is divided into three sets of readings. The first, entitled “Transnational Crosscurrents,” helps situate Indonesian knowledge of Wright’s work. It includes excerpts from an official account of the rise of modern Indonesian literature, an essay by Pramoedya where he comments on the power of Wright’s writing and his lack of concern with beauty, “None!” (47), and an essay by Beb Vuyk that introduces a variety of Western writers to an Indonesian audience. The latter essay unwittingly highlights the unevenness of global literary knowledge, and reminds us of the tacit privilege that comes from being an American author writing in English. It is impossible to imagine, for example, a similarly informed essay discussing literary debates taking place in Indonesia, or even Japan, then just emerging from American occupation, being published in Partisan Review (one of the journals Vuyk mentions approvingly, also CIA-funded) during this period. Beb Vuyk’s writing here and later in the volume is a revelation; her voice is clear and direct, and she sums Wright up in his host and fellow CCR grantee, Mochtar Lubis’s words, “the fellow is color crazy” (203).
Part 2, “An Asian-African Encounter,” discusses Wright’s reception in Indonesia during his three-week sojourn. The section includes newspaper articles mentioning him, an interview in the “prominent cultural affairs publication” (95) Gelanggang, a report on an extended conversation between Wright and members of the Konfrontasi literary movement, and a lecture given in Jakarta, all very well annotated by the editors. These texts are useful in identifying the distance between the kinds of questions that drove the “universal humanism” of the elite Konfrontasi group and contemporary concerns of Western writers.
The third and final section of the volume is entitled “In the Wake of Wright’s Indonesian Travels.” It has writings by Beb Vuyk, Asrul Sani, and Frits Kandou, all written shortly after Wright’s visit, but also includes a short excerpt by Goenawan Mohamad, “Politicians,” written in 1977, and an article about classic Bandung hotels written in 2005 in which Wright is mentioned. These last pieces point to one of the weaknesses of the volume, namely, a tendency to try and include every Indonesian mention of Wright, whether relevant or not, a temptation that the editors have unfortunately succumbed to a little too often. This is a pity because it draws attention away from their own writing, which is so informative and intelligent that it makes the quixotic task of locating Richard Wright in Bandung entirely worthwhile.
Itty Abraham, National University of Singapore, Singapore
LAND AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDONESIA: Searching for the People’s Sovereignty. Indonesia Update Series. Edited by John F. McCarthy, Kathryn Robinson. Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, 2016. xxii, 382 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$29.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4762-08-3.
Who currently controls land in Indonesia, and who should control it? These are the two questions at the heart of this informative edited volume. Struggles over land are ubiquitous, as the 55 percent of the population who still gain their livelihoods from agriculture compete for space with forest reserves, extractive industries, expanding oil palm plantations, burgeoning infrastructure, and peri-urban sprawl. The constitution imagines a wise and benevolent state that holds sovereignty over land and manages it for the maximum benefit of “the people.” The 1960 Basic Agrarian Law declares that land has a “social function,” and is to be used to secure the wellbeing of disadvantaged sectors of society. Tragically, neither the Suharto regime nor its successors have been committed to these principles. A massive reverse land reform continues to appropriate land from “the people” and allocate it to the cabals of profit-seeking politicians, bureaucrats, and financiers who dominate in the fields of timber extraction, mining, plantations, and urban development.
Decades after independence, Indonesia still does not have a national framework for governing land in a just manner. Sectoral departments such as forestry and mining compete for territorial jurisdiction, and 68 percent of Indonesia’s land mass is reported to be under concession to timber, plantation, and mining corporations. Administrative decentralization and direct elections have spurred claims to “peoples’ sovereignty” at multiple spatial scales. Outside Java, these claims are often linked to ethnic territories and “customary communities,” while in some of Java’s city neighbourhoods, the urban poor also assert the right to rule in their own domain. Each of these spatially referenced “sovereigns” has a different plan linked to the particular set of benefits that land affords them as a homeland, as an economic resource, as a site of revenue generation or speculation, as a place to grow food, or a place to build a house and access services. The result of these competing sovereignties is not a benign pluralism but a patterned process of inclusion and exclusion of which the constant is that poor and relatively powerless people lose out.
The volume, edited by John McCarthy and Kathryn Robinson, offers powerful and richly textured insights on this complex terrain. The chapters are of uniformly high quality, which is especially admirable given the very rapid turnaround between the 2015 Indonesia update conference at the Australian National University where they were presented, and the 2016 publication. Chapters are written by noted experts, and strike a balance between overview and update. The result is a landmark volume that is both “of the moment,” and destined to stand the test of time.
An overview by the editors sets the scene with a discussion of notions of sovereignty and the challenges presented by competing land uses and unequal powers. It reviews the sorry history of stalled land reform, the unresolved question of customary rights, and the tangled thicket of land law, in which scores of overlapping and contradictory regulations make land transactions expensive and insecure. It also notes the dynamic processes that are changing peoples’ relations to land across the archipelago: land grabbing for plantations, population growth, migration, and the rise of global agendas stressing sustainability, climate change, human rights, and “corporate social responsibility.”
One cluster of papers foregrounds the dynamic processes and powers that shape the actual control of land in various settings. A chapter by Nancy Peluso on “the plantation and the mine” shows how crop booms and a gold rush, combined with the violent eviction of rural Indonesians of Chinese descent and a state-manipulated discourse of customary rights, configured land control in parts of West Kalimantan. Laksmi Savitri and Susanna Price show the very limited effectiveness of new regulations designed to protect the land rights of indigenous Papuans who must negotiate with large plantation corporations on vastly unequal terms. Afrizal and Patrick Anderson also note the disproportionate power of plantation corporations, but see some potential in global and industry standards for informed consent. Studies by Suraya Affif on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), and Kathryn Robinson on mining, show how (some) local actors have been able to make effective use of global discourses (around climate change, and responsible mining) to advance their interests. For Lesley Potter, state policies that favour corporations are somewhat balanced by the determination of smallholders to enter the lucrative oil palm sector; the dynamic in this case is furnished by migrants, both state-backed and spontaneous, who flock to frontier areas to buy up land at low prices, squeezing the original landholders onto ever smaller pockets of land.
A second cluster of chapters foreground schemes for state-backed land regulation, their promises and pitfalls. Modes of regulation include allocation, mapping, planning, zoning, taxing, licensing, and attempts to formalize existing customary arrangements. Pierre van der Eng takes a long historical view of colonial land law and official attempts to map and tax land. Adriaan Bedner outlines the main contours of Indonesia’s land law since independence, with a focus on the 1960 Basic Agrarian Law, the New Order Forest Law, and the struggle for recognition of customary land rights that gathered pace in the post-Suharto period of reform. Chip Fay and Ho-Ming So Denduangrudee examine emerging options for the recognition of the land rights of indigenous communities. Jeff Neilson addresses the long-stalled process of land reform, and the different interests it could potentially serve. Aprilia Ambarwati et al. explain why distributive land reform based on the principle of “social efficiency” is still needed in rural Java, where the great majority of people who work in agriculture own little or no land. Delik Hudalah et al. and Jamie Davidson explore the inordinately complex procedures required to release land for the construction of urban housing and infrastructure, noting the unfair terms of compensation.
None of the writers expect that improvements to the regulatory regime will solve Indonesia’s land problem once and for all. A striking chapter by Patrick Guiness on Yogyakarta’s low-income city wards makes the counter-argument. He finds that urban residents already have an effective customary regime for regulating land access, complete with mechanisms to make investments in infrastructure and enforce community standards for managing common areas. He notes that top-down attempts to formalize rights tend to work against the interests of the poor. As several chapters point out, two-thirds of Indonesia’s rural and urban land parcels are not formally titled, hence informal or “customary” regimes are not limited to self-identified “indigenous people.” They are the operational basis for land control for much of the population. Taken as a whole, this is the dilemma that stands out most clearly from the book: terms like security, legal certainty, and recognition are very appealing, but strengthening the land rights of one set of actors usually means undermining the position of another set of actors (for example, migrants, women, landless people). The alternative approach to land regulation—based on flexibility, adaptation, and discretion, and building step-wise on existing informal practices—also sounds appealing, but it too has pitfalls: it exposes landholders to predation by officials who exercise these discretionary powers. Ironically, it is most often state-sponsored programs that promise to bring progress and development to “the people” that end up robbing ordinary people of access to land.
Tania Murray Li, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
MOMENTUM AND THE EAST TIMOR INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT: The Origins of America’s Debate on East Timor. By Shane Gunderson. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015. xix, 159 pp. (Illustrations.) US$80.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-0234-4.
How did East Timor (now the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste) manage to win its independence after being annexed to neighbouring Indonesia? A number of writers have attempted to answer this question, with several stressing Timorese diplomatic efforts outside the country as a key factor alongside resistance within the territory.
Shane Gunderson asks a different and rather counter-factual question: “Why did it take so long for the independence movement to build momentum?” (131). Instead of a historical approach, he starts with the knowledge that Timor-Leste won its independence, initially declared in 1975, then restored in 2002. Why did it take 24 years (from the 1975 Indonesian invasion to the 1999 referendum in which Timorese voted strongly for independence) to achieve this goal? Gunderson’s book, adopted from his doctoral dissertation, assumes the end result and asks why independence came when it did, not sooner. He employs the concept of social movement momentum, defined as “a driving social force furthered by an emerging field of inevitability harnessed to achieve goals in such a way that it attracts broader public support” (1). It is in this interpretive framework, rather than in unearthing new knowledge, that this book makes its main contribution.
Momentum and the East Timor Independence Movement is not a study of events within Indonesian-ruled Timor-Leste. Instead, it studies what Timorese activists and their overseas supporters called the “international solidarity movement,” a diverse network spanning the globe. Gunderson’s lens zeroes in on the United States and the role of US activists, academics, and other intellectuals in supporting and sustaining an issue and finally building a “momentum sequence” during the second half of the 1990s. He argues that the solidarity movement was able to build increasing support in this period through a series of turning points and thereby help achieve a goal—self-determination for the Timorese—that had not been possible in the 1970s or 1980s.
Individuals within the US solidarity movement loom large, with intellectuals portrayed as entrepreneurs of ideas that activists could then pick up on and promote through US government and United Nations forums. Names like Noam Chomsky and Benedict Anderson are prominent among the figures interviewed for this book. Gunderson shows their importance in the early years of US campaigning by highlighting the role of Anderson’s former students at Cornell, including some scholars who remain prominent, from Geoffrey Robinson to Douglas Kammen to Richard Franke. Most central is Arnold Kohen, who worked closely with journalists, religious networks, and members of Congress as the only full-time US campaigner in the 1980s. In 1991, journalist-activists Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn added intellectual leadership, and key activists in the New York peace movement, including Charles Scheiner and John Miller, formed the first dedicated US solidarity group, the East Timor Action Network. Although Gunderson draws on ETAN’s archives, he pays less attention to the organization than it might warrant, due to the stress on individual rather than collective narratives. The US focus elides the role of others in the international solidarity movement, especially those who did not work in English: Timorese diplomatic leader Jose Ramos Horta appears, a New Zealand activist is among the interviews, and British-Indonesian activist Carmel Budiardjo makes an appearance (though in a way that suggests her prominence hampered Timorese momentum by linking it to her role in Indonesian left-wing politics). The focus remains, however, a case study of the American solidarity movement. This does not take away from its contribution in illustrating the role of US activists, until now a little-told story.
Gunderson stresses a series of “turning points” in the Timorese march towards independence. Chapter 1 introduces the concept of momentum in social movement theory. Chapter 2 provides a brief historical background before chapter 3 introduces the book’s main interest, pro-Timor activism in the United States. Chapter 4 discusses campaigns in the US in the 1970s. American anti-communism proved decisive as a source of “negative momentum” for East Timor’s campaign. Chapter 5 continues the story in the years from 1980 to 1992, downplaying the common depiction of the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991 as a watershed, even while admitting the massacre was one of five turning points in these years. Subsequent chapters each address about two years. Chapter 6 covers 1993 and 1994, with a focus on US Catholic solidarity with the majority-Catholic Timorese independence movement. Chapter 7 depicts a UN-sponsored Intra-East Timorese Dialogue process as the key development in 1995 and 1996, noting also the growth of US activism (ETAN’s budget had tripled and the group expected it to triple again within a year). In chapter 8, covering 1996 to 1998, turning points include the Nobel Peace Prize going to Timorese Bishop Carlos Belo and to Jose Ramos Horta. The Nobel award sparked “the chain of events that created the feeling of inevitability” (101), Gunderson writes, even while arguing that previous writers have missed crucial turning points before and after. From 1995 on, Gunderson argues, the momentum was with the challengers to Indonesian rule. Chapter 9 examines the year 1999, with the referendum on independence as the last of several turning points that year.
Some troubles stem from the author’s lack of engagement with existing literature on Timor-Leste, prompted by his decision to stress participant narratives. For instance he writes misleadingly that Timor was “acquired in 1859 by Portugal through a treaty with the Netherlands” (9) and occasionally refers to “Timoran” rather than Timorese. The names of journalist Robert Domm and diplomat Ibrahim Fall are misspelled, as is the name of Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Komnas-HAM). But the errors detract only slightly from the overall narrative and the theoretical contribution stressing social movement momentum building towards ultimate success. It may well be that studies on global activist movements should pay more attention to turning points that “give movement actors the feeling of turning the corner toward success represent[s] intermediate goals that can be plotted on a time line. Closely occurring turning points in a positive sense represent a momentum sequence” (136). The final “momentum sequence” seems to have been vital in reaching the movement’s goals. Here, Gunderson suggests, lie lessons for activists in other movements from the Timorese solidarity movement, which in the end proved remarkably effective.
David Webster, Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, Canada
ENGAGING WITH STRANGERS: Love and Violence in the Rural Solomon Islands. ASAO Studies in Pacific Anthropology. By Debra McDougall. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2016. xx, 287 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$120.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-78533-020-9.
When foreigners come ashore in the rural Solomon Islands, which is where Debra McDougall’s new book is set, a classic van Gennepian rite of territorial passage may ensue; the insecurity and unpredictability involved in traversing a no-man’s land are allayed by means of conventionalized scripts of symbolic action. In a way, the little rite evokes the Polynesian concept of the “stranger-king,” of sovereignty as overseas agency that must be domesticated by the landed citizenry. The sociopolitical authority of the landed community over its political-geographic boundary in space is symbolically asserted when male youth armed with spears and decorated in leaves and face paint threaten the new arrivals until a member of the ranking elite intervenes and beckons them safely in the community, not as “sharks on the land,” but as “guests.”
The intriguing point is not the moral transformation of the stranger that is achieved but what McDougall makes of the broader attitude it typifies. Not just new arrivals, Solomon Islanders view everybody in society as a “stranger.” Everybody descends from an “empty-handed” immigrant, or a woman captured during pre-contact warfare, or just lives on land that their matrlineage does not own. In other words, status legitimacy is an ongoing problem in Solomon Islands society, of which this ritual greeting, or “warrior welcome,” is a symptom instead of a solution. McDougall’s conclusion about this problem, which might be likened to an indigenous form of alienation, is more generative than ambivalent. “Intense attachment to place,” she declares, “is not incompatible with radical openness to others” (21). For McDougall, particularism should not be condemned as a subversive form of sociality that necessarily undermines society at the local level, much less the state level.
At the local level, questions about status legitimacy become particularly critical in contexts of land disputes, which modernity, needless to say, has done its part to exacerbate. Industrial logging began in the Solomons in the 1960s but only reached Ronongga several decades later. Environmental damage was done. No benefit was left behind. Instead, logging destroyed gardens and old settlements and old coconut groves. Meanwhile, kinsmen, seeking to consolidate land claims, made efforts to exclude kin who became viewed as “other,” for example, as not having descended from an apical ancestress. A series of land disputes, and inevitably, court cases followed. When the World Wildlife Federation wanted land rights, a controversy arose over the role of chiefs as landowners. Community development projects were undertaken, such as coconut oil production, which required stipulation of land boundaries.
Civil war broke out in Honiara, the capital of the postcolonial state, in the late 1990s. The violence, McDougall argues, was not caused by primordial, ethnic rivalry, as political scientists might assume, but rather resulted from state-based neglect of hereditary landowners on Guadalcanal who saw peri-urban migrants as being favoured, despite their illegitimate presence in town. Indeed, if anything, the violence was curtailed by the porous construction of social groups in an intercultural world in which acts of hospitality like the “warrior welcome” occur, as well as its valuation of usufructory claims through which non-kin may work on the land and start to become members of a matrilineage—but of course never in any conclusive way.
After two years of violence, the so-called “Ethnic Tensions” between Guale hereditary landowners who wanted to evict Malaitan settlers, the latter staged a coup, and all out warfare broke out. A multilateral mission, led by Australian military, arrived in the Solomons to police the region. “Hardened warlords” surrendered weapons. Perpetrators sought to personally reconcile themselves with former enemies and victims. Prayer groups formed in prison. The Australian prime minister arrived in 2003 and was greeted by the “warrior welcome.” But when riots broke out in the capital in 2006, state failure ensued. The world of Ronongga Island and of the Solomons, more generally, may be a “cosmopolitan space” of a sort, but it is one that is being severely compromised by modernity.
Engaging With Strangers is itself an engaging, if disturbing, ethnography, which left me feeling bewildered and exhausted at times. McDougall attends to the problem of illegitimate identity through an examination of the sociological, demographic, cosmological, missionary, political, and of course, economic impacts on the alienated construction of moral personhood among Ronongga Islanders, who are as often as not individually named. The narrative, that is to say, might have been edited with a more rigorous hand and made tighter.
Still, McDougall’s ethnography is thoughtful and composed in relatively accessible prose. It presents a useful example of a broader problem in the postcolonial Pacific, not to mention, the wider developing world, which I see as a kind of double alienation, one that is constituted in terms of both indigenous and modern estrangements.
David Lipset, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA
As the title promises, the book delivers. Margaret Pointer presents a clearly structured history of two hundred years of this relatively small island. Though it experienced a series of processes of intensifying contact, common to many parts of the Pacific world, the island is also here in its unique features of geology, cultural expression, and politics. The book does not dwell long on the times before the coming of Westerners, though peppered throughout we get glimpses of an older conceptual world in narratives from oral tradition as well as recorded through the eyes of explorers, whalers, missionaries, traders, and commanders of British warships. Islanders’ interactions with these groups of foreigners comprise the first part of the four-part organization of the book, to be followed by sections on empire, New Zealand administration, and finally, the road to self-government.
In part B we see why this island became initially under British protection. The depredations of the Peruvian slavers seeking workers in 1863 were devastating here, as on many other small islands in the region, though it did not discourage mobile islanders from seeking subsequent overseas work on contract. Add to that London Missionary Society missionaries who were not only effective as church people but also actively concerned with the future of the people. To them and representatives of all the settlements on the island, Britain seemed a likely protector. But wider colonial interests prevailed with a British deal with Germany in 1886 to keep areas of the Pacific neutral and open to all traders, so Britain declined the Niuean petitions. The Niueans, then with an elected king, persisted. Britain’s eventual change of heart, stimulated by the agreement in 1899 to split Samoa between the Germans and Americans with Britain to have small pieces of the islands elsewhere, finally gave the Niueans the protectorate it sought in 1900. Britain soon gratefully handed Niue and the Cook Islands over to empire-aspiring New Zealand, much to the disappointment of the Niueans who knew the relative power of the respective states.
So Niue, encircled by Tonga, Samoa, and the Cooks, with an ocean between it and New Zealand, became the last carriage on New Zealand’s short colonial train after the Cook Islands, placed even further from the engine by the addition of yet another forward carriage, the mandate of Western Samoa as a result of World War One and Germany’s loss of its colonies. As the writer shows so well in part C, New Zealand, while no colonial exploiter, certainly gave the island short shift when it came to effective administration in the interwar years, not aided by the economic depression of the 1930s. World War II, an awakening in New Zealand of a realistic sense of itself and its place in the region under Peter Fraser, along with the influence of the United Nations saw a quickening of all levels of development and welfare support in education, health, and infra-structure.
The island and New Zealand’s department of Island Territories reeled in 1953 under the gruesome murder of the commissioner, Larsen, and severe injuries to his wife as they slept one night. This was no heroic nationalistic revolt but the bitterness of a couple of prisoners who escaped to get revenge for the rough manners of Larsen. It did incline New Zealand to pay even more attention to the island, however.
The book’s final part D addresses the detailed and careful steps to self-government in free association with New Zealand. Leaders, such as Robert Rex and Vivian Young, feature in negotiations. What impresses is the care that both parties displayed in this slow and difficult process, made more complex in that the United Nations delegates seemed to believe that Niue, along with the entire colonial Pacific, wanted to be rid of all hints of colonial association.
The book has many appealing features. The narrative has several one- to four-page inserts that highlight particular people or events, often with ample quotations from the actors. The illustrations are many, well chosen, and enlivening. The maps are clear and orient the reader. It is a beautiful book and a credit to its creator and the University of Otago Press.
While the history is naturally island-centred, it also discusses Niueans abroad: as migrant workers, as soldiers in World War One, and as more permanent migrants to New Zealand, an accelerating flow from the 1960s. In fact, the expanding diaspora believed by the 1970s that it had a major part to play in the island’s political destiny, an opinion not necessarily shared by those who decided to stay and live on Niue. This difference features in the discussions leading to self-government in free association with New Zealand in 1974.
Besides these positives, we are presented with a very readable, clear narrative. The author is even-handed throughout; there is no great Manichean struggle posited with evil colonialism and virtuous and vulnerable islanders cast against each other. Pointer digs behind actions to show us what often-distant factors shaped people on Niue, especially the mental and physical distance between the New Zealand government and the island’s administration until post-World War Two. The tenor of the lives, and the behaviour and motivations of the island’s people and the outsiders involved are all there, with their strengths and weaknesses. The moral failings of a couple of administrators are mentioned but not excessively dwelt on, no more than the shame of the Niuean families of Larsen’s murderers. While not afraid to discuss the reasons why, say, a particular person was respected and another not, Margaret Pointer remains a compassionate historian, well acquainted with the human condition, as well indeed as she is with the island, its robust people, and her myriad sources. Her work is a valuable and accessible contribution to the history of the Pacific region.
Judith A. Bennett, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
ISLES OF AMNESIA: The History, Geography, and Restoration of America’s Forgotten Pacific Islands. By Mark J. Rauzon. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. x, 271 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$24.99, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-4679-4.
Rauzon’s book offers an exclusive, intimate tour of some of the most remote Pacific islands that have eventually become American insular areas. As a federal biologist, Rauzon is tasked with the unglamorous responsibility of eradicating invasive species from the islands and atolls of Amerikan Sāmoa, Baker, Guam, Howland, Jarvis, Johnston, Kiritimati, the Northern Marianas, Palmyra, and Wake. Each chapter embarks on an adventure to one of these floating ecological systems and the reader accompanies Rauzon, much like a nature enthusiast guided by an expert park ranger, to the national parks and wildlife refuges he strives to restore. With him, we hike up a waterfall to the steep, verdant, avian-rich cliffs of Lata Mountain in Amerikan Sāmoa to trap predatory rodents, and meditate with Thai Buddhists on Wake Island when taking respite from the savage business of killing elusive wild cats. We learn the fascinating fact of how the coconut palm tree, which is iconic of island life in the popular imagination, was actually introduced to Palmyra Atoll by Polynesians, and has since eclipsed the native pisonia tree. The scope of the book is impressive: ranging geographically from Polynesia to Micronesia; historically, from early European sea voyagers, such as, Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, to the ultramodern submersible that lowered famed film-maker James Cameron to the plunging depths of the Mariana Trench in 2012; and, in scale, from the contained world of the hermit crab crawling out from under a log to global concerns, such as, climate change. Moreover, Rauzon’s allusions to conservation efforts in New Zealand and Alaska create a relevant context that broadens our understanding of environmental issues in general.
One of the most compelling aspects of his book is his explication of the ethical dilemmas that are faced in the work of exterminating introduced life forms calamitous to vulnerable endemic species and fragile ecosystems. Island restoration is a double-edged sword in that ensuring the survival of some species necessarily depends on the elimination of others that may have an unfair genetic advantage. In an isolated ecosystem, the absence of threats from land predators may sometimes lead to the evolution of flightlessness in volant birds, such as rails. Introduce a feline to the mix and extinction of ground-dwelling avifauna becomes an all too real probability. The cats on Jarvis had already exterminated six species of seabirds when Rauzon and fellow conservationist, David Woodside, set out to hunt them down. This “inherently violent” (183) job is fraught with moral conundrums, especially for a cat-owner like Rauzon, who is acutely aware of his personal “cognitive dissonance” (181), which is further compounded by the disapproving eyes of the Buddhist Thais residing on Wake Island. Every cat, especially the last one, must be annihilated or else the others would have been killed in vain. Therefore, this line of work demands extraordinary degrees of determination, stoicism, and resourcefulness while living on limited supplies under the relentless sun, disconnected from the rest of the world for extended periods of time.
Despite the agonizing challenges endured, this occupation is not without its rewards. Thanks to the painstaking efforts of Rauzon and Woodside, Jarvis made a complete recovery, abounding with previously endangered bird species. At times, conservation endeavors may inspire ingenious solutions, as in the case of Guam and the Northern Marianas, where various invasive species, including the brown tree snake, water buffalo, goat, pig, and rhinoceros beetle, among others, have wreaked havoc on the ecology. Control and eradication methods have sometimes been fairly innovative, elaborate and expensive, involving aerial and ground shooting, trapping, building snake-proof fences, using biocontrol agents, chemical deterrents injected in baits distributed through helicopters, and so on. Simultaneously, captive breeding programs for birds on the brink of extinction are also undertaken. Although copious amounts of research and substantial funds are invested, the cascading effects of human intervention, labeled “unintended consequences,” are inevitable and success is not always ensured.
Conservation does not occur in a vacuum; indeed, Rauzon meticulously contextualizes his activities within the larger social, political, and historical landscapes of each island. We are privy to the chance landings and premeditated conquests and transactions that have rendered these isles into colonies and commodities over the last few centuries, transforming them first into guano mining camps and then relatively recently into nuclear testing sites. Notably, Johnston Atoll was the launching ground for the Pacific Project that entailed biological and chemical weapons tests and Operation Magic Sword that engaged in “entolomological warfare” (155) in the form of a chilling experiment on the deliberate use of mosquitoes for disease transmission. The strategic location of some Pacific islands has made them particularly attractive possessions (also called “picket-fence islands” ) for the United States, especially during different wars. The Marshallese island of Wake, for instance, has served “as portal to the Orient” (158), where an “amphibious airport” was once established (166) and the island was gradually fortified in preparation for World War II. Rauzon sensitively captures the personal experiences of prisoners of war in the Battle of Wake and delves into the often-overlooked ecological consequences of war on an island.
On the other hand, and, on a far more positive note, one of the most beneficial and hopefully enduring contributions of the United States has been the establishment of national parks and marine sanctuaries and monuments in the Pacific region. Undoubtedly, these play a critical role in protecting and preserving the natural habitats that sustain the biodiversity that Rauzon educates us about. However, loss of habitat is a pressing concern for human beings as well. As rising water levels threaten the residents of Tarawa, many migrate to Kiritimati, where overpopulation is increasingly problematic.
Understanding the challenging nature of island restoration encourages an appreciation for the stringent rules and regulations governing the admittance of foreign flora and fauna into unique ecosystems, for instance, in Hawai‘i. It also provokes further thought about environmentally responsible tourism. Rauzon’s passion for the islands and the life they harbor is evident. His humorous anecdotes and accessible writing style make his book a pleasurable read, one in which these “isles of amnesia” are vividly remembered. His book would appeal to environmentalists, biologists, conservationists, ecologists, Pacific historians and anthropologists, scholars of island studies, and readers interested in nature, wildlife, and American national parks.
Rachana Agarwal, Independent scholar, Cambridge, USA
THE BATTLE OVER PELELIU: Islander, Japanese, and American Memories of War. War, Memory, and Culture. By Stephen C. Murray. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2016. xii, 278 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$59.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8173-1884-0.
Back in the 1960s, one of my undergraduate anthropology professors, Robert McKnight, liked to speak of what he called anthropological “triangulation.” Specifically, he wanted to see work that would include Palauan, Japanese, and American viewpoints on Palauan social and cultural life, and I still recall diagrams he chalked on the board, illustrating what this process might look like. I have no reason to think Stephen Murray ever knew McKnight, but he fully realizes my teacher’s vision in this book.
The 1944 American invasion of Peleliu, the southernmost island in the Palauan archipelago, was an unmitigated disaster for everyone involved. It’s among World War II’s least-known major actions, but it remains etched in the consciousness of everyone involved in the battle, and their descendants. Its public obscurity notwithstanding, a good deal about the battle has been written by Americans and Japanese, both historians’ accounts and combatants’ memoirs. I have distinct recollections of watching the US Navy’s “Victory at Sea” television documentary series (1952–1953) as a child, and the scenes which lodged most deeply in my mind were undoubtedly those of marines with flame-throwers torching Japanese troops out of caves. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was Peleliu.
What’s been missing in all this outpouring is any consideration of what happened to the people of Peleliu itself. Murray, who first encountered Palau as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s and who subsequently wrote an anthropology PhD dissertation on this topic, has done an outstanding job of rectifying this. While his primary focus is on the islanders’ displacement during the battle, their subsequent return, and the complete devastation they found when they got home, he has managed to interweave analysis of not only of how Americans and Japanese, respectively, view the battle but of how entirely absent the Peleliu people have been in all these accounts. He has returned them.
I recall reading E.B. Sledge’s celebrated first-person account of the battle, With the Old Breed (New York: Random House, 1981), which he fought as a young marine, and wondering where the Palauans were while all this action was taking place, how they survived, and how they managed to re-establish their way of life following the war. Now I know that they had been removed to islands in the north, and that when they were finally able to return home they encountered conditions not unlike Gertrude Stein’s summary of returning to her hometown, “There’s no there there.”
Murray establishes all the many ways in which the island’s landscape and seascape were woven into the fabric of people’s lives. Because the lives of these individuals, families, and clan groups were all rooted in their natural world, it wasn’t merely that their history had been demolished, but that all the articulation points for ongoing social relations were erased. The Japanese and American veterans who wanted to commemorate their own losses on the island had virtually no interest in recognizing what they had done to the Palauans. They’ve visited the island and built monuments to celebrate their own sacrifices and remained oblivious to the disaster they wrought upon the islanders.
Lawrence Carucci, Lin Poyer, and Suzanne Falgout (The Typhoon of War, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2000; Memories of War, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007) have reported on Micronesians’ accounts of what World War II did to them and their islands, and Geoffrey White and Lamont Lindstrom edited two volumes analyzing islanders’ stories about the war from throughout the island Pacific (Island Theater: Island Representations of World War II, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1989; Island Encounters: Black and White Memories of the Pacific War, Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1990). The literature on the war in the Pacific, as the combatants understand it, is almost infinite. But this book is to the best of my knowledge one of the very few works that gives us a full picture of how the decisions made by the warring parties played out in the continuing lives of the noncombatants. Documentaries about the devastation of war in Europe and Asia commonly portray streams of refugees driven from their homes, and the rubble that is all that is left of those homes. In this book we finally get something comparable for the island Pacific.
There is another very compelling aspect of this book that deserves mention. It is clear in retrospect that there was little if any need for US forces to take Peleliu. It could have been bypassed in the way that so many other spots were during the island-hopping campaign that drove toward the Japanese homeland. This was recognized by many at the time. But because so many lives were lost in the battle, officials believed they had to emphasize the victory’s strategic importance. Much the same can be said about the invasion of Iwo Jima, one of the most iconic battles of the Pacific War (Robert Burrell, The Ghosts of Iwo Jima, College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2006). The refusal of military and political leaders to acknowledge their vast mistakes, for fear of offending those who made the sacrifices and the families of their survivors is, I suppose, understandable. As Murray notes, “Knowledge that their lives were cut short elicits the need to believe they did not die in vain” (155). But it has the disastrous consequence of preserving the preposterous notion that a victorious military makes few mistakes, and this in turn conditions people to attribute much greater wisdom to leaders than they’ve truly earned. As one marine veteran Murray quotes put it, “That sort of thing does disservice to the men” (199). Each disaster, covered up, begets a series of newer disasters.
Everybody lost at Peleliu, and Murray does a remarkable job of making us understand why.
Glenn Petersen, City University of New York, New York, USA
HEARING THE FUTURE: The Music and Magic of the Sanguma Band. Music and Performing Arts of Asia and the Pacific. By Denis Crowdy. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. xiii, 183 pp. (Illustrations.) US$52.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5156-9.
Reading Denis Crowdy’s book, Hearing the Future: The Music and Magic of the Sanguma Band about the internationally acclaimed Papua New Guinea band popular during the 1980s, led me to dig out my copy of their first cassette, the eponymously titled Sanguma, that I had bought when I first arrived in PNG in 1978. I then had to find a cassette player, buried away in the garage, on which to play it. Listening to the ethereal sounds of Sepik bamboo flutes alternating with jazz riffs played on trumpet and keyboard transported me back to my first visit to Port Moresby, the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), and the National Arts School (NAS), where I had purchased the cassette en route to fieldwork on Manam Island. I was also transported “back to the future”—1975, when Papua New Guinea achieved independence and the nation’s future as it was envisioned in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the historical period that Crowdy analyzes in Hearing the Future. The band Sanguma and its distinctive fusion style were very much products of that post-independence moment that gave birth to the young nation’s hopes for a new pan-Papua New Guinea national identity. That idea provides the thesis for Crowdy’s book as well as his argument for the role music can play in national identity, a concept prevalent in ethnomusicology today (think of the role of reggae in Jamaica or calypso in Trinidad). Crowdy’s historical and musical analysis of Sanguma provides a welcome and compelling case study from a Pacific nation of this concept. So too does his analysis of the factors—most significantly, local forms of neoliberal capitalism— that contributed to the band’s eventual demise.
The broadest importance of the book is its evocation of that nascent period in the country’s history and the role Sanguma—and the National Arts School—played in it. The members of the original band were students at the newly established NAS and came from many different regions across PNG, facts that were important to both the band’s musical style and its ethos. How the music of Sanguma— based on a fusion of traditional PNG musical forms and progressive jazz performed on both traditional and Western instruments by musicians in traditional PNG bilas (feather headdresses and pig’s tusk ornaments)—encapsulated those hopes and created a style that reflected that ethos is the subject of Crowdy’s book. The very name of the band—Sanguma—the Tok Pisin word for supernatural “poison” or magic, evoked both ancestral power and the potency of music to transport the listener to another reality.
The author, an Australian musician who taught in the Faculty of Arts (FAC) at UPNG (the successor of the original NAS) from 1992 until 2000, interviewed members of the original band, including Tony Subum and Thomas Komboi, as well as former NAS faculty member Les McLaren and others who had taught them. Crowdy is in an ideal position to describe the historical and musical legacy of Sanguma as he was distant enough from its originary scene to be objective, but familiar enough with PNG, the PNG music scene, and the institutional context in which the band arose to astutely and convincingly analyze it. He begins with a discussion of how the band sought to engender what he calls “a musical Melanesian Way”—a reference to ideas about what should constitute an indigenous post-independence Melanesian ethos articulated by Melanesian intellectuals such as PNG’s Bernard Narokobi and New Caledonia’s J-M Tijbaou. Their doctrines set out the goal of incorporating important elements of Melanesian cultures—such as respect for the ancestors, local traditions, etc.—while embracing modern forms of government, economics, and technology and blending them to form something distinctly Melanesian. Crowdy describes Sanguma’s decade of international fame during the 1980s and its performances abroad. Ironically, the band was more popular abroad than it ever was at home, a fact Crowdy attributes to the urban, art school-educated background of the band members and the influence of their expatriate instructors, who conveyed their admiration for the musical sophistication of jazz to their students. In contrast to the Western music the Sanguma musicians were learning at NAS, the most popular music in PNG at the time was Western rock or country. Outside of Port Moresby and other urban centres in PNG, there was little interest in the sophisticated syncretic music Sanguma was playing. By far the longest, and most technical, chapter of the book is “The Sound of Sanguma.” Readers not familiar with Sanguma’s music or without access to one of the band’s nine recordings, or without an in-depth interest in the musical structure of Sanguma’s sound, will find this chapter slow going. Importantly, however, Crowdy also discusses how Sanguma’s music was a precursor to the new genre of World Music that arose in the West and elsewhere in the 1990s. He also attributes the band’s brief reformation in the early 1990s as a result of the emergence of World Music’s popularity. In the chapter “From Heard Future to Sounding Present” and a coda he describes the disappointments the band faced in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century as the PNG music industry became more commodified. Despite its technical core chapter, Crowdy’s book should be of interest not just to ethnomusicologists, but to historians, anthropologists, geographers (for example, Crowdy discusses the concept of “ecomusicology” with regard to Sanguma’s reception in PNG), cultural studies scholars, and students of global studies and development studies. Not only is the thesis of the book—the relevance of music to the creation of national identity—of broad import, but Crowdy’s analysis of the parallel trajectories of the demise of Sanguma and the difficulties PNG has experienced as the result of local and international inflections of neoliberal capitalism provides a fascinating, if sobering, look at an important moment in the history of Papua New Guinea.
Nancy C. Lutkehaus, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA