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Last updated 14 February 2018
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PAN-ASIAN SPORTS AND THE EMERGENCE OF MODERN ASIA, 1913-1974. By Stefan Huebner. Singapore: NUS Press, 2016. xiv, 397 pp. (Illustrations.) SGD$46.00, paper. ISBN 978-981-4722-03-2.
The Times of India (5 March) covered the Opening Ceremony of the first Asian Games, staged in 1951. The event, in New Delhi, was “Declared Open in Colourful Setting,” the newspaper reported. Jawarhalal Nehru, independent India’s first prime minister, was a strong supporter of the Games, and had suggested a motto for the 1951 event: “Play the Game in the Spirit of the Game.” During the event itself, “Ever Onward” emerged as a permanent motto, and in a climate of anti-Britishness among delegates, it was decided that the expression would be translated into the language of respective future hosts. If this was a tricky and sensitive decision, the choice of music and songs for the ceremonies was extraordinary, in a pan-Asian event in a radically post-colonial context. At the opening ceremony, participants and spectators were treated to Marching through Georgia and Way Down upon the Swanee River; at the closing ceremony the end of the Games was signalled by the Last Post.
This is just one of the countless arresting vignettes that bring alive the contradictions and tensions that characterize the history of pan-Asian sporting events in Stefan Huebner’s detailed and deeply researched study. Underpinned by around 107 pages of references, notes, and bibliographic detail, his introduction, conclusion, and eight intervening chapters examine the significance of pan-Asian sports events in the six decades from the eve of World War I to the mid-1970s. Huebner operates with a consistent conceptual framework in two ways. First, he regularly focuses, as he puts it (6), on three ideals that elites operated with in their aspirations to use sport as an influence upon the shaping of a “new Asian man,” and later a “new Asian woman” (6). These are internationalism, egalitarianism, and economic progress. The author shows how the political, religious, and economic aspects of these “ideals” were rebalanced as different Asian countries and their elites operated in this emerging transnational sporting calendar. Second, Huebner, noting that theoretical approaches to the study of sports remain “very much in their infancy” (11), anchors his analyses in three concepts: authoritarian high modernism, via James Scott; Anthony D. Smith’s ethno-symbolism; and nation-branding. This allows him to cover the historical sweep of the book and the geo-political range of the selected events with an appropriate and effective interpretive toolbox to hand.
The study is a chronologically based evaluation of three sports events, taking us from the series of the ten Far Eastern Championship Games (FECG, 1913–1934) to the one-off Western Asiatic Games (WAG) in India in 1934, and on to the Asian Games (AG), inaugurated in India in 1951, the seventh edition held in Tehran (1974). Huebner looks in particular at the elites who shaped the initiatives, but also, chapter by chapter, provides what we could call a semiotically inclined analysis of the ceremonies and symbols surrounding the events—the elements, one might say, of the sporting spectacle or mega-event. The overarching narrative in the study takes the reader in and out of China-Japan hostilities, sporting nationalism in an independent India, the politics of the Philippines and Indonesia, a persisting royalist presence in Thailand, and the economic consequences of oil wealth in Iran. It is a mind-boggling tour (Huebner himself calls it a “tumultuous ride,” 261) of the complexities and commonalities of Asian political, cultural, and sporting interests in the period. It is a comparative historical project of vast scale and proportion and Huebner is to be congratulated on accomplishing a study of such depth and quality that will be of interest to scholars of cultural history, political history, and sport studies, as well as international relations and diplomacy studies.
What Huebner shows in his overarching narrative is that the US Protestant missionaries from the US YMCA—many from Springfield College, the birthplace of basketball—who effectively established Western sports in the Philippines, were huge influences in the early “sportization” of that country, and ensuing relations between the Philippines and its early partners, Japan and China, in staging the early editions of the FECGs. All ten of the FECGs were staged by one of these three nations, but power passed from religious to more secular interests, and gradually involved, at the expense of civil society influences, more formal professionalized, political elites. The do-gooders in the Muscular Christianity tradition were in the long run displaced by political figures for whom the mega-sport event offered the potential to showcase national strengths and modernizing qualities on the global stage. There are nuances in these dynamics, case by case, and Huebner shows how Western sporting values and ideals were undermined by wider forces such as the World War I conflict between Western rivals; and how the Cold War made pan-Asian ideals increasingly difficult to sustain. Yet the study shows that the model of the supra-national sporting mega-event could be adapted to these localized or sub-regionalized circumstances, and still sustain a self-referencing and accumulative historical significance. But it was certainly not an idealized universalizing model that motivated the shah-inspired Asian Games of 1974, the final case study in the book, where nation-branding presented Iran as a modernizing, economic powerhouse on the cusp of global superpowerdom. The Tehran case is a sobering tale of the fragility of over-ambition, and of the ideological baggage (not Huebner’s choice of language here) that has been brought to the fore in the hyperbole and rhetoric so commonly employed in the winning and staging of, and justification for, the sporting spectacle.
Pan-Asian Sports is a book that will repay many return visits, to know more about a general point, or to inform a particular scholarly specialism. Each chapter depicts the elites and the strategies that put and kept this show on the road. It would be over-claiming to say that modern sports forms have shaped modern Asia. But Huebner’s outstanding and forensic scholarship confirms that sport events are invaluable sources for demonstrating the power dynamics of emergent elites, and their motives, in critical historical phases of the emergence of a modern Asia.
Alan Tomlinson, University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom
TELEMODERNITIES: Television and Transforming Lives in Asia. Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power. By Tania Lewis, Fran Martin, and Wanning Sun. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. viii, 314 pp. (Illustrations.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6204-3.
This book explores the captivating subject of lifestyle television and its presence and effect in “modernizing” Asian cultures. Chapters illuminate and describe striking similarities and startling differences in the consumption of lifestyle programming within and between geographic localities in China, India, and Taiwan. Using “lifestyle-oriented popular factual television … to examine shifting and emergent social and cultural formations” (2), the authors cover various forms of lifestyle programming, and pay attention to their representation across spatial divides, to illustrate lifestyle television’s effect through a range of topics including romance, religion and spiritualism, travel, health, femininity and patriarchy, family, and self-help.
Noting television “in many Asian countries … [as] the most powerful and ubiquitous media form” (3), the authors hone in on the medium’s impact through its programming—both conventional lifestyle programming and other instructive formats including “any nonfictional, non-news programming that incorporated direct advice to the viewer” (19)—“aimed at instructing the middle classes in matters of consumption, taste, and ‘the good life’” (3). As such, the demographic scope of this book is focused, yet, in the context of India and China, vast. Early on, the authors appreciate the difficulties in defining a monolithic middle class, especially in India, and the adoption of suzhi (human quality) in the establishment of new norms to manage modernization in China.
Together with the rise of the “middle class” in the countries analyzed, modernity and modernization is at the core of this book. However, instead of understanding modernity in Asia as the co-option of models, albeit dominant, from the West, the authors employ the multiple modernities discourse adding layers of complexities and depth to the book. The utilization of the multiple modernities paradigm, however, does not distract from the observance of transnational trends associated with rising consumerism and individualism symptomatic of conventional Euro-American modernities. Every chapter gives space to discussions on the aspirational and imaginative qualities of lifestyle programming depicting transnational norms of being juxtaposed against multiple modernities situated in on-the ground realities.
Chapter 1 charts the course of television, and lifestyle programming within China, India, and Taiwan. Comprehensively, the authors delineate the structure and ownership of television within each of these localities, mechanisms for access, audience demographics for lifestyle-oriented programs, and content. For example, “there is an explicit and disproportionate amount of advice … on topics of health and well-being targeting senior viewers” (32) in China in comparison to India and Taiwan, which reflects China’s large ageing population, and is an example of a competing modernity identified by the authors.
Key trends identified in chapter 1, such as the localization of transnational trends, political shaping of content, and the “division of audiences along linguistic, cultural, and geographic lines” (50) set the foundation for chapters 2 through 4. Interspersed with insightful comments from interviewees, chapter 2 tackles the politics of scale, and placemaking through comparative case studies of lifestyle programming developed on metropolitan versus municipal/regional television channels in China. Similarly, chapter 3 explores Indian television and its role vis-à-vis multiple divides based on class, space and place, cultural-linguistic, and disconnects “between lifestyles and ‘imagined worlds’ of television … in our interviews with poorer households” (91), and the growing prominence of regional television. The authors also wade into nationalism and television in the Indian context but surprisingly stay clear of sport.
Nowhere is the authors’ contention of competing multiple modernities more apparent than when it comes to the mediation of matters of the heart. This type of programming, while emulating transnational norms in format, sets, hosts, and expert guests, reverts to culturally appropriate content when the program topics include dating, romance, relationships, and marriage. For example, the exploration of love and dating in India and China in chapter 7 draws up examples of performative selfhood while tapping into “shifting attitudes toward love, sex, and marriage, and in particular the kind of calculative, individualist, and material turn … of Indian dating shows” (206). But the reinforcing of culturally acceptable and accepted gendered roles “underpinned by a patriarchal logic” (136) in India, and the articulation of “extremely direct pedagogical instruction in the rules of ‘proper’ feminine gender” (219) in China by “experts” display the nexus between the market, the state, the media, and the audience.
Both chapters 5 and 6 delve into the emergence of the experts on television for both entertainment and educational purposes by different audiences across the three countries for utilitarian, experiential, pragmatic, and aspirational purposes. The authors provide pleasing juxtapositions of the uses of experts to mediate information over metropolitan/national and municipal/regional channels to divides previously identified.
In a captivating exploration of religion and spiritualism in chapter 6, Da Ai, the television station of a Taiwanese Buddhist society, is situated within the intricacies of rational-ethical religiosity characterized by a “demythologization of traditional beliefs, a devaluation of ritual, a dilution of hierarchy” (184), and its critiquing of modernity’s excess vis-à-vis Buddhist precepts.
Holistic as the book is, it would have benefitted from some additional insights. The authors’ scant incursion into nationalism, especially in India, provides an overview, yet masks the growing imaginations of identities of the self and the other which are creating more divides in these rapidly modernizing spaces. In terms of sport, China’s hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics and India’s preoccupation with cricket could have further strengthened the multiple modernities discourse, and illuminated models of nationhood, and the convergence of geographic space and identities, if any. In exploring media forms and types in Taiwan, the authors curiously and continuously mention the use of Japanese media as a blueprint for Taiwanese programming. As such, it is confusing why the influential Japanese media is not investigated in depth.
Ultimately, the authors have provided an enthralling mechanism of “viewing” competing modernities in India, China, and Taiwan. The book is a resource for those interested in the development of television, lifestyle programming, and the multiple modernities in the world’s two largest populations.
Gloria Spittel, Independent Researcher, Dubai, UAE
GENDER IN MODERN EAST ASIA: An Integrated History. By Barbara Molony, Janet Theiss, Hyaeweol Choi. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2016. xiii, 534 pp. (Maps, B&W photos, illustrations, boxes.) US$55.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8133-4875-9.
This is an excellent textbook for an undergraduate course on East Asian history. It summarizes the histories of primarily women and secondarily men in Korea, Japan, and China from a genuinely comparative and global perspective. It also pays adequate attention to the interplays between gender and other categories of social hierarchy, including class, ethnicity, race, and sexuality. These critical perspectives are well sustained throughout the book, from the first chapter discussing gender relations in “ancient and medieval East Asia before 1600,” to the last chapter covering such relations in the current, post-Cold War. The consistent use of these perspectives makes this book stand out by compensating for the sweeping surveys on any given subject that textbooks are commonly bound to. The chapters alternate between the three Asian societies being studied, according to the historical direction of sociopolitical and economic change. For example, up to the early modern era, China, as the central civilization of East Asia, is discussed first, and then Korea as civilizational bridge, and finally Japan as the recipient of cultural diffusion. From the 1860s to World War II, the discussion begins with Japan, then moves to Korea, and ends with China, symbolizing the historical reversal in the direction of sociopolitical and economic change. During the Cold War and the post-Cold War eras, the authors alternate between Korea (South and North) and Japan as a source of sociopolitical and economic change in East Asia. The book lives up to the authors’ claim of offering “the first book-length work that focuses on gender in modern East Asia from both a transnational perspective at the macro level and an intersectional perspective at the level of the individual” (xii).
This book is written in a lucid and inviting style, perhaps even for undergraduate students who grew up with tweeting and texting as their primary mode of communication. In particular, this book does a good job in elevating sweeping historical surveys beyond descriptive narratives; it does so by focusing on the following thematic points. First, it approaches gender as a social structure that hierarchically organizes relations between women and men of various social groups. This is a basic but very important point because many undergraduate students and the general public tend to assume that gender is merely a more sophisticated-sounding term for women or it sounds neutral enough to unburden us from the vexing realities of women’s subordination and discrimination against women. Second, it links gender to other categories of social hierarchy and encourages students to see intersections between these hierarchies. This also allows the students to recognize differences and diversity among women and men as social groups and see that such variations often involve power differences. The section under the heading, “Sexuality and the Arts” (78–82), conveys an ideal discussion in this regard: it shows both the fluidity and constraint that Tokugawa society exhibited in dealing with femininity and masculinity in connection to sexuality. It also captures power inequality as a central factor in sexual encounters and interactions and thereby demystifies the romanticization of sexuality that is still prevalent in a popular view of sexuality. Third, it illuminates broader political and economic changes as the macro sources for altering gender relations and the remaking of meanings and practices of femininity and masculinity in a given social and historical context. This approach enables students to situate gender relations that individual women and men experience in their micro settings of families, romantic pairs, and a circle of friends in a larger context and thereby understand the social construction and reconstruction of gender in East Asian histories.
I would have preferred a more sustained and substantial discussion of men and masculinity in this book’s surveys of changing meanings and practices of gender. The disparity between discussion of the two dominant genders seems to reflect the relative paucity of existing studies of men and masculinities in these Asian societies. This in turn reproduces the common perception that women’s lives have been far more extensively and deeply shaped by gender than men’s, rendering critical roles that gender has played in men’s lives less visible, which is analogous to the relative invisibility of whiteness as a racialized category in the social hierarchy of race. Readers would have benefitted from more sustained attention to power, privilege, and invisibility in the discussions of men and masculinities in the modern era governed by nation-states when gender has become salient as a social category. Similarly, the discussion of sexuality is uneven throughout the book, reflecting the presence and absence of existing studies on this topic in these societies.
In chapter 10, covering “revolutionary social and gender transformations from 1953 to the 1980s,” there is a curious absence of serious discussion on militarization and militarism as crucial political and ideological forces in the politics of gender. Accordingly, there is no single index entry under militarism, militarization, and military service. During this period, both Koreas, China, and Taiwan were ruled by military or militarized leaderships and mandatory military service for men functioned as an important institutional mechanism for gender differences and hierarchy. The comparison between these militarized societies and the apparently demilitarized Japan could have been fruitful. Given that this chapter opened with the discussion of the global context marked by Cold War politics, readers would have benefitted from a substantial discussion of the masculinization of military service and its implications for gender hierarchy and citizenship.
Seungsook Moon, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, USA
AIRPORT URBANISM: Infrastructure and Mobility in Asia. By Max Hirsh. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. x, 201 pp.,  pp. of plates. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-8166-9610-9.
Max Hirsh’s Airport Urbanism offers an innovative (re)reading of contemporary cities through the lens of the airport. The book takes issue with expert understandings of urban development, and critiques scholarly approaches that “display an unfortunate reductive tendency to subsume all dimensions of urban change under a critique of neoliberalism” (viii). Hirsh’s work gives salience to a different kind of urbanism that complicates, if not contrasts with, elite planning notions of the modern, the progressive, and the globalizing. It seeks to historicize the manifold socio-cultural relationships that animate the city, and unearth the various disconnects between mainstream planning philosophies and lived experiences. In particular, the book focuses on the entanglements between mobilities, infrastructure, and urban form in East and Southeast Asian cities, where clearly different rhythms of urbanization are unfolding in tandem. Using Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore as its key examples, the book teases out a range of everyday informality and cost-consciousness that rub up against the glitz of urban life.
The introductory chapter opens with the author’s personal encounter with air travel in Berlin in the 1980s, when flying was still closely associated with the affluent. The seeming contradiction of travelling as a “non-elite” was, for Hirsh, symptomatic of the common conflation of a city’s offerings with one’s socio-economic status. The book nuances this view with understandings from Asia, calling to attention the rise of “the semi-privileged” who fly often, albeit on low-cost carriers. Using an “urban humanist approach” to capture their stories, chapter 1 immediately establishes the presence of parallel streams in Asian cities, as embodied by the diverse mobilities coursing through their airports. With specific reference to Hong Kong, the chapter uncovers a disjuncture between the design of the city’s airport (HKIA) as an efficient urban infrastructure for kinetic elites, and its less conspicuous function as a gateway for foreign domestic workers, low-skilled labourers, and Chinese tourists circulating to/from the city. Interrogating the slew of strategies that these non-elite travellers employ to become mobile, the chapter elucidates the entrepreneurial means by which they navigate Hong Kong and its expensive infrastructures through a variety of informal networks, social favours, and pop-up services. These stories suggest the tenuousness of “unifocal” understandings of the city as “sleek” and “modern,” exposing an underbelly that is just as much part of contemporary urbanism.
Chapters 2 and 3 extend this focus on the low-cost circuits threading through Asian airports/cities through an examination of certain “transborder infrastructures” and “special zones” springing up around Hong Kong. In referring to transborder infrastructures, chapter 2 calls attention to another stream of “non-elite” travellers—residents of the Pearl River Delta region—who take advantage of nearby nodes such as HKIA, beyond their jurisdictions, to connect with the world. Coinciding with a time when the Mainland’s infrastructures are not yet on par with the travel demands of its population, HKIA has stepped in to offer procedural enhancements like up-stream check-in and SkyPier (ferry connections) to facilitate the extra-territorial incorporation of these marginal populations within the airport’s orbit. Chapter 3 elaborates on this logic by elevating Shenzhen as a classic spillover or border city of Hong Kong. Sustaining another form of travel economy predicated on inter-modal connections and last-minute, over-the-counter ticketing to regional switching points, Shenzhen’s mobilities speak to a more colloquial form of globalization, which crucially supports the pent-up travel demands of the Pearl River Delta region that mainstream transport systems omit. Insightfully, these alternative systems depart from the usual discourses about prestigious international airports found in most literatures, making them an invaluable addition to mobilities scholarship.
The two closing chapters trace these non-elite circulations further south to Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, placing a particular spotlight on the low-cost carrier sector in each of these three countries. Observing Southeast Asia’s movement towards a single aviation market, Hirsh hones in on earlier discussions on the low-tech and less glamorous nature of these low-cost traffics, by fleshing out their dependence on offline channels for air ticket purchases, cheap bus transfers for getting to/from the airport, and old, defunct airports adaptively re-used as terminals for budget flights. Again, the new empirical cases presciently point out the contrasts between “plebeian” consumption patterns and the “first-world” image that urban governments tend to want to accrue to their cities. Nowhere is this contradiction more patent than in Singapore, where airport planning has taken on a more technology-savvy turn, even as air traffic growth in the city is driven largely by lower- and middle-class fliers not plugged in to the dot-com age. As the book concludes, this slippage between aspirational design and the less-than-congruent mobilities in Singapore and other Asian metropolises necessitates a serious relook at conventional rubrics of what counts as forward urban planning. It exalts policy makers to heed the lessons of the airport, to construct cities that are more in tune with the rhythms and flows of twenty-first-century “globalization from below.”
Airport Urbanism shines most in its advocacy of a subaltern view of contemporary cities. Innovatively, it does so through the metaphor of the airport and the messy, non-uniform streams that it carries. Rather than approaching these alter-mobilities as somehow residual or parasitic to the intended design of elite travel, Airport Urbanism exhorts scholars and urban planners to recognize them as a burgeoning norm in Asia, where large segments of the “semi-privileged” class can and are beginning to learn how to be mobile and urban in their own terms. While these networks of informality and cost-consciousness are not historically new, and indeed may not be as particular to Asia as the book paints them to be, the way in which Airport Urbanism puts these low-cost circuits into conversation with the conspicuous flows of kinetic denizens helps draw out a more balanced view, capturing the contradictions and simultaneities of international mobilities. This is a facet of today’s urbanism that is also worth highlighting, if to remind us that cities are not purely the domain of the well-heeled, but a shared space claimed, and resiliently transited through, by people from all walks of life.
Weiqiang Lin, National University of Singapore, Singapore
INSURGENCIES AND REVOLUTIONS: Reflections on John Friedmann’s Contributions to Planning Theory and Practice. RTPI Library Series. Edited by Haripriya Rangan, Mee Kam Ng, Libby Porter, and Jacquelyn Chase. New York; London: Routledge, 2017. xix, 307 pp. (Illustrations.) US$44.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-138-68265-8.
This book is, as the subtitle states, a collection of essays that engages with and reflects on the work of John Friedmann, eminent international planning scholar whose illustrious career spanned over half a century. It is divided into five sections: “Practicing Hope,” “Economic Development and Regionalism,” “World Cities and the Good City,” “Social Learning, Communities and Empowered Citizenship,” and “Chinese Urbanism.” The collection is bookended by a postscript from Friedmann and a preface from Leonie Sandercock, his life partner and an accomplished scholar of planning herself. While certainly not a hagiography, the book does present itself as a set of twenty-six “essay gifts,” a term used by one of the editors and very apt if we understand “gift” in the Maussian sense as a form of reciprocal exchange. Many of the editors and invited authors were once students or close associates of Friedmann, and their essays represent a symbolic repayment for his contribution to their own intellectual and professional development. Though generally written in academic fashion with ample empirical substantiation, the essays are short and often take on a reflective or dialogic tone. Unfortunately, John Friedmann passed away in June 2017 at the age of 91. The postscript recorded in this book is thus Friedmann’s last piece of writing: characteristically lively and lucid, it carries through his indefatigable commitment to conversation and optimism for the future.
The five sections reflect the dominant themes in Friedmann’s long career, but the individual essays do not slot neatly into the specific sections. Rather, several of Friedmann’s books and arguments seem to exert a much stronger influence across the essays: notably his defence of utopian thinking in “The Good City,” the framing of planning as social learning, as well as the concepts of urban “super-organism” and “urban fields.” Most authors explicitly engage with Friedmann’s work, showing how his political and intellectual projects have been extended to different contexts, put into practice, or reformulated in the face of new challenges. The essays by Tanja Winkler, Yuko Aoyama, and Mike Douglass are great examples of how planning theory travels across academies and continents and is built upon by generations of scholars to shape the world toward a common goal. I also find in Roger Keil’s response to Friedmann’s neglect of suburbs, Saskia Sassen’s questioning of the Good City in the age of privatization, and Keith Pezzoli’s defense of bioregionalization great instances of how intellectual traditions develop through disagreement. Finally, essays by Timothy Cheek, Aftab Erfan, and Libby Porter provide a more personal perspective on how Friedmann touched their lives as teacher, colleague, and provocateur. As short essays, they are not meant to be read as fully developed theses or contributions to scholarly debates. As “essay gifts,” however, they pay the highest compliment to Friedmann by keeping his ideas alive, not as dogma, but as dialogue. From the reader’s perspective, the book is infused with hopeful energy, as perhaps a vocation like planning must be or else fade into obsolescence.
The section that raised the most questions for me is the last one on “Chinese Urbanism.” After retiring from the University of California, Los Angeles, Friedmann started to study China and published “China’s Urban Transition” in 2005. In this section, essays by Klaus Kunzmann, Sheng Zhong, and Mee Kam Ng present rather contrasting pictures of what planning theory brings to the study of China and vice versa. Kunzmann focuses on the actual work of doing planning in China, highlighting the obstacles posed by cultural differences and institutional barriers. In this sense, he joins Friedmann as a Western scholar struggling to understand China. Sheng Zhong and Mee Kam Ng, however, attempt to shift the normative foundation of planning theory by bringing in Confucian values and philosophy. Zhong suggests that social learning is happening in Shanghai, but the agents are flexible bureaucrats and developers rather than insurgent citizens. Ng argues, through the case of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, that the Chinese route to the “good society” focuses on the cultivation of individuals as virtuous citizens rather than the transformation of social relations through activism. Unlike Kunzmann, they consciously uproot Friedmann from his foundation in continental philosophy and anarchist traditions and suggest that China must be understood within its own historical milieu. Conceding some ground to this argument, Friedmann suggests in his postscript that there could be a “culturally and institutionally specific Chinese version of planning theory” (294), and raises the concept of “human flourishing” as a guiding principle for planning. These are debates characteristic of a foundationalist planning theory that requires a vision of a “good society” as the basis for action. Attempting to replace this foundation with another reproduces the same kinds of questions that planning theorists have struggled with for a long time. Should there be many visions? Are they bound by historical experience or natural principles? Can “human flourishing” transcend cultural and political differences and create a unified theory of action? Are Confucian values, like the “Asian Values” debate in Singapore, an ideological smokescreen for political hegemony?
Another important discussion in the book is on insurgencies and the role of the radical/progressive planner. Most of the essays focus on civil society as the main protagonist for social change. Friedmann, in his postscript, is aware that the championing of civil society and insurgent action downplays the role of the state and resists the dominance of the market in contemporary societies. However, progressive action can arise from multiple sources and intersections and the classic division of society into market, civil society, and the state might be too blunt. Haripriya Rangan, for example, proposes that social entrepreneurialism might be the “business model” for the radical planner, while Chung-Tong Wu and Robin Bloch emphasize the role of the state in facilitating regional development. These essays highlight how planning theory must be analytically sharp and self-reflexive in order to remain relevant to and inspiring for practitioners today.
As a student and scholar of planning myself, I enjoyed this book. It is not a biography or a hagiography, but a permanent invitation to dialogue where the original interlocutor has quietly left the room.
Kah-Wee Lee, National University of Singapore, Singapore
YOUNG CHINA: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900–1959. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 385. By Mingwei Song. Cambridge, MA; London, UK: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2015. xiv, 379 pp. (B&W photos.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-08839-9.
In 1900, Liang Qichao published his essay “Ode to Young China.” He created the idea of youth as a symbol of young China and called for the nation’s rejuvenation. Since then youth discourse has been a central issue in China’s nation-building. What does it mean to be the youth? How has the discourse of youth evolved? In this well-researched cultural history, Mingwei Song offers a carefully constructed analysis of fictional representations of the ideal youth and youth discourse in novels by Ye Shengtao and Mao Dun in the 1920s, Ba Jin in the 1930s, Lu Ling and Lu Qiao during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), and by Yang Mo and Wang Meng in the 1950s, the Communist era. Using novels as primary sources, Song’s work situates literature in the larger historical transformation of China. He thus reaches a larger audience that includes all those interested in political culture, intellectual history, and youth history from 1900 to 1959.
The novels Song has chosen have undergone previous analysis. Some were condemned by Communist critics. Song’s contribution to the study of China’s twentieth-century history is to present the works as a coherent category by centering his analysis on the discourse of youth, using European philosophical, political, literary, and psychological theories, and in particular the framework of the Bildungsroman: the literature genre that depicts the spiritual development of a youth, rendered as “chengzhang xiaoshuo” or “novel of personal growth” in Chinese (53). The novels chosen are Chinese Bildungsroman. They share a master plot: an individual begins a journey in search of the realization of the inner self by merging with greater historical movements. The Chinese Bildungsroman, in comparison with its European counterpart, is more closely associated with the theme of national rejuvenation, reflecting the age-long Chinese concept of literature as a means of transmitting political ideas. Like China’s own journey, which has been full of struggles and frustrations, the protagonists’ growth connects more with an attempt to change the outside world, and often ends in frustration with no resolutions.
After an overview of youth discourse in chapter 1, chapter 2 explains how Liang Qichao has his ideal youth merge Chinese tradition with Western civilization. The ideal youth in Wu Jianren’s The New Story of the Stone is the hero, Jia Baoyu, from the Dream of the Red Chamber, who comes back to life as an “old youth,” deep in Chinese civilization and young with vitality. Chapter 3 argues that the New Culture Movement marked the beginning of the new youth generation trying to break away from tradition. In this context, Ye Shengtao’s novel, Nin Huanzhi (published in 1928) became the first truly Chinese Bildungsroman, although it is a disillusioned Bildungsroman in which the protagonist is caught in a cycle of repeated hope for change and repeated despair. Chapter 4 has Mao Dun’s early works as a focus. In his Eclipse (published in the late 1920s) Mao Dun creates a decadent image of youths filled with psychological anxiety, attempting to escape from reality. His Rainbow makes a Communist turn: the female protagonist’s developing personality leads to her transformation into a Communist. Thus Rainbow is the first Chinese Communist revolutionary Bildungsroman. Ba Jin’s anarchist Bildungsroman series of the 1930s (chapter 5) has a succession of protagonists. Although each novel does not follow the pattern of a Bildungsroman, together the protagonists of the series fit the journey of self-transformation, and develop into the ideal youth, Gao Juehui, in the Family.
In the Second Sino-Japanese War China’s political crisis made nationalism the dominant theme in literature. In chapter 6, Song chooses two novels outside this paradigm of national salvation: Lu Ling’s Children of the Rich and Lu Qiao’s Everlasting Song. Both “penetrate the complexities and ambiguities of individual subjectivity” against “institutional interventions” (239). Lu Ling’s ideal, youth strives for self-determination, refusing to submit to any form of constraint from family and ideology. Lu Qiao “focuses on the self-fashioning of youths” (239). It was the literary and academic dynamics of China’s interior under the control of the Nationalist government that made it possible for both authors to break away from the discourse of revolution. Lu Ling was under the influence of the literary theory of Hu Feng to resist spiritual slavery. Lu Qiao, a student of the National Southwest Associated University, based his novel on his experiences there, the most liberal institution at the time. Their works mark an alternative development of the Chinese Bildungsroman. Chapter 7 moves chronologically to the People’s Republic of China, when communist ideology was dominant, as depicted in Yang Mo’s The Song of Youth. Her socialist Bildungsroman maps a journey in which a female is gradually molded into a qualified communist youth. Yang’s taming of the youth motif, however, is challenged by Wang Meng’s works, which both glorify socialist youth and show resistance to that taming.
Not just an analysis of literature, Song’s work appeals to a wider audience as a contribution to the intellectual history of twentieth-century China. He situates the Chinese Bildungsroman in rich historical contexts, demonstrating how the novels closely reflect China’s efforts at reforming education in Ye Shengtao’s work, anarchist revolution in Ba Jin’s, advancing liberal humanism in Lu Ling and Lu Qiao’s, and Communist revolution in the works of Mao Dun, Yang Mo, and Wang Meng. Song’s book is also a history of youth. The novels are autobiographical, illustrating the journeys of writers themselves as intellectual youths, their own inner search and personal growth.
It would be unsettling if Song’s analysis had ended in 1959, the era of the Maoist youths, who went on to become Red Guards smashing China’s cultural heritage. China’s youth discourse did not end here. So it is good to see that Song has added a short epilogue with a critical review of Liu Cixin’s science fiction (published in 1999). He shows that in the Reform era, youth discourse undertakes another beginning. The Chinese Bildungsroman has become less political, more diverse, creative, and pluralistic, demonstrating youth’s search for individual growth in the new global context of yet another stage of Chinese nation-building.
Yihong Pan, Miami University, Oxford, USA
THE INTELLECTUAL IN MODERN CHINESE HISTORY. By Timothy Cheek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xxiii, 370 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$39.99, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-64319-2.
This book offers an epic account of the past 120 years of China’s intellectuals, as they tackled “reform,” “revolution,” and “rejuvenation” (three R’s, or what Cheek calls ideological moments) and pursued the meaning of “the people,” “Chinese,” and “democracy” in search of China’s future. The three recurring ideological moments, the three puzzling concepts, and the instrumental role of intellectuals are the foci of the book. Professor Cheek has successfully told the story of the intellectual in modern Chinese history, even if one may find it discouraging in the end: the swing between the three R’s has not ended, and the debate on the three concepts still continues after 120 years. But this makes the book a fascinating read for all those who are wondering where China has been, where it is now, and where it is going, especially for concerned students and scholars.
Discussing the various ideological moments and the ideas, worlds, and roles of China’s intellectuals, Cheek’s book is divided into six chapters: 1) reform (1895–1915); 2) revolution (1915–1935); 3) rejuvenation (1936–1956); 4) revolutionary revival (1957–1976); 5) reviving reform (1976–1995); and 6) rejuvenation (1996–2015). Now it seems that he has to add another chapter on “revolutionary revival,” since China appears to be continuing its swing between revolution (Mao), reform (Deng), rejuvenation (Jiang and Hu), and revolution again (Xi 2012 to now). Is it going to be followed by reform and rejuvenation in the future?
Another focus of the book is the evolving concepts of the people, Chinese, and democracy. It is interesting to note that from Liang Qichao’s time onwards, the term “people” gradually obtained a political aspect (46, 64, 105) so much so that in the Communist era, “class enemies” were not viewed as part of “the people.” Today, even if class struggle is no longer in fashion, those who do not support the Party-state are viewed as “hostile forces,” whether within or outside of China. They are deemed enemies of the people and penalized as such. The term “Chinese” has also undergone various changes. Zhang Binglin coined the term Zhonghua minzu to mean Han Chinese in 1907, and claimed that non-Han races could become Chinese only if they were culturally assimilated (tonghua) (49–50, 105). In the rejuvenation period of Jiang and Hu, and even in the Xi era, when talking about Chinese culture, Tibetan, Uyghur, and other minority cultures are often left out. Who is regarded as Chinese is still contested. The KMT was to develop democracy following the stages of military rule, provisional constitutional rule, and then constitutional rule (72), and democratic elections at all levels were finally implemented in Taiwan in the 1990s. But following Leninism, the CCP was practicing “democratic centralism” and “proletarian dictatorship” against the enemies of the people (107–111, 157). In the Xi era, the Party has increasingly consolidated its power in all walks of life and democracy has become even more of a dream for liberal intellectuals.
The role of intellectuals in China’s reform, revolution, and rejuvenation is the major theme of Cheek’s book. First, intellectuals are the people who have created and practiced the ideas of the people, Chinese, and democracy in their various forms. Second, they have all wanted to save China. Third, in their efforts to save China, they have always engaged Western thoughts no matter whether these are liberal or communist. Fourth, in their efforts to serve the state as revolutionary cadres, they made “a deal with the devil that came with severe constraints” and paid the price of engagement (117). Many, especially dissidents, paid the price with their lives (195). Fifth, one of those “severe constraints” is the propaganda state, whether it was the nationalist state under Chiang Kai-shek or the Communist state under Mao and his successors. Cheek calls this the “directed public sphere,” which is managed by the Propaganda Department of the CCP, where intellectual cadres are servants of the Party-state and where competing voices are removed or deeply attenuated (128–129, 322).
There are a couple of areas that I think future research should address. Cheek mentions intellectuals in the study of ethnic, religious, and gender issues but does not elaborate on them. But on each of these issues, there is a group of intellectuals who work to define the meaning of the people, Chinese, and democracy. Each group of intellectuals deserves a chapter or a paper of its own. Overseas Chinese (in the ethnic sense) intellectuals also need to be studied since they are actively engaged in defining these “enduring” ideas. All these intellectuals and activists are making an effort to influence what is happening in China. Even if the effect of their work is limited, their efforts are nonetheless important in China’s nation-building.
The book is almost flawless except for a few, very few places where I think improvements could be made. On page 109, when discussing the Three Principles of the People, “democracy” should replace the term “socialism” since that is what 民權, or people’s rights, means. On page 122, Cheek writes, “Landlords were shot…” Actually many, if not most of them, were beaten, stoned, or otherwise tortured to death. On pages 189 and 211, the nickname for intellectuals, the Stinking Ninth, does not derive from the Cultural Revolution. Rather, the saying comes from the so-called 九儒十丐, i.e., Confucians, who were ranked ninth, after officials, priests, doctors, craftsmen, and even prostitutes, but before beggars, during the Yuan dynasty. There are also several spelling errors. In footnote 5 on page 118, it should be Jiang Zhongzheng rather than Jiang Zhongzhen. On page 210, either Henan or Hebei should be used, not both. On page 270, first paragraph, the name should be Kang Xiaoguang, not Kang Shaoguang. Lastly, there are only a couple of places where Chinese characters are used, but more could have been used to make less familiar Chinese words or proper nouns more easily identifiable.
Cheek is one of the primary leaders in the study of intellectuals in China, and this book is the culmination of his various achievements in the field. It is a panoramic picture of China’s intellectuals over the course of over a century derived from a full understanding of the field of China studies. Cheek has absorbed and integrated the various perspectives and findings of those studies. Few books can surpass this one in its comprehensiveness and sharpness regarding the study of intellectuals and their roles in China’s development over the past 120 years.
Zhidong Hao, University of Macau, Macao, China
THE RETURN OF IDEOLOGY: The Search for Regime Identities in Postcommunist Russia and China. By Cheng Chen. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2016. x, 228 pp. (Tables.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-472-11993-6.
The literature on post-communist transition has overwhelmingly focused on the transition from planned to market-oriented economy, and the political transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Yet, despite the economic and political changes in the post-communist states, neither economic nor political transitions have happened as expected. In many post-communist states, not only has the transition to a market economy met great difficulties, but the initial democratization has also tended to be reversed. How can such developments be explained? Lately, scholars have begun to turn to other aspects of the post-communist transition. The book under review here stands out and makes an important contribution to this still growing body of literature. In this excellent study, Cheng Chen focuses on ideology, a subject that has been unduly understudied in the literature.
More than sixty years ago, in his Ideology and Organization in Communist China, Franz Schurmann pointed to the significance of political ideology to the Chinese communist state, arguing that what held Communist China together was ideology and organization. This argument is certainly applicable to other communist states. Therefore, when one talks about the transition, these two aspects are equally important. In this sense, Cheng Chen has brought ideology back in.
The book focuses on the transitions in China and Russia. Both are former communist states. While in a normative sense, Russia has transformed itself into a post-communist state, China continues to be communist despite its no less radical changes in both the economic and political domains. In socio-economic terms, a transformed Russia is apparently less successful than a still-communist China. In the former, the ruling party has been unable to bring the country socioeconomic prosperity, while in the latter, the ruling party has been able to achieve what many have called an economic miracle. Among others factors, ideology matters. Ideology-building (or “rebuilding”) explains the differences between these two states.
Based on interviews, surveys, political speeches, writings of political leaders, and a variety of publications, Cheng Chen looks into the different ways regime ideology has been rebuilt in China and Russia. The author contends that successful ideology-building requires two necessary conditions. First, the regime must establish a coherent ideological repertoire that takes into account the nation’s ideological heritage and fresh surges of nationalism. Second, the regime must attract and maintain a strong commitment to the emerging ideology, at least among the political elite.
The research in this study is well structured, and its chapters well arranged. The author first discusses the role of regime ideology in the post-communist context, and examines the two necessary conditions for successful regime ideology-building. This is followed by a chapter dealing specifically with the empirical issue of establishing the “success” or “failure” in building a post-communist regime ideology. The author then compares the two cases, namely, the Putin regime in Russia and the post-Deng regime in Communist China, and discusses in detail their respective ideology-building projects, assessing their varying degrees of success based on solid analysis. In the conclusion, the author goes one step further and systematically compares and contrasts the two cases, drawing out both theoretical and empirical implications based on the main findings of the study.
Ideology is important, but building an ideology is no easy task. Cheng Chen identifies some major obstacles to ideology-building in modern Russia and China and assesses their respective long-term prospects. The key problem during the process of ideology-building is the growing incoherence in ideological repertoires, which originate from rather different sources. The author also discusses how Russia and China employ different strategies to shore up elite support to build a new post-communist regime ideology.
The author delineates the differences between the two. In Russia, while the regime muddled through a rather inconsistent assortment of selected elements from the past(s), it only arrived at vague ideas devoid of concrete socioeconomic programs, such as “sovereign democracy” or “conservative modernization,” to define itself (93). In China, despite the regime’s successive ideological changes, it still suffers from a sort of “ideological deficit,” and its search for a clear and viable regime ideology remains a work in progress. Nevertheless, by comparison, Russia is less successful than China. The Chinese regime’s ideological repertoire has had a relatively consistent and clearly defined “core”—a state-sponsored nationalism that has been widely accepted, at least within the regime and perhaps within its society (123).
This book opens a new research agenda for the post-communist transition. It explores ideological changes in Russia and China, and explains the differences between the two. But more research questions can be raised. The ruling parties in both countries have endeavoured to construct new ideologies by putting together different sources, and tried to impose these onto its citizenry. But how relevant are the new ideologies to reality? Also, in both Russia and China there exist diversified ideologies at the societal level, and confrontations take place between and among ideologies. Questions such as how effective a regime ideology might be in a society with such diversified ideologies offer potential research subjects for scholars in the field.
Yongnian Zheng, National University of Singapore, Singapore
CHALLENGES IN THE PROCESS OF CHINA’S URBANIZATION. Edited by Karen Eggleston, Jean C. Oi, and Yiming Wang. Stanford, CA: Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, 2017. xvi, 264 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$24.95, eBook. ISBN 978-1-931368-41-4.
China’s urbanization is a deeply transformative process involving an unparalleled rate of new construction and historically unprecedented volume of rural-urban migration, posing significant challenges to planning and governance. As the country has a unique set of power, political, and institutional configurations, adapting existing knowledge is often difficult, and new problems continually emerge that require fresh perspectives.
Eggleston, Oi and Wang’s edited volume is a timely contribution to research on the most urgent problems confronting China’s urbanization process. It is divided in roughly equal parts between issues with land and with people—between spatial development, property rights, and land financing on one hand, and services for migrants, food security, and housing security on the other. I call it timely because the book is a response to China’s most recent national policies on urbanization and development, and the “challenges” referenced in the title have also been acknowledged by China’s top-level policymakers. As the central government seeks transition into a more sustainable form of urbanization, it becomes apparent that reforming historically rooted, politically motivated, and contextually embedded institutions is more than difficult. The book demonstrates these difficulties through a selection of empirical analyses, case studies, and critical assessments that share a focus on the political economy of financing social, economic, and spatial development. The editors emphasize, from both policy and research standpoints, the importance of understanding China’s politics and power dynamics and variations in local conditions in policy implementation. The central concern of this book is showing how policy actions taken in the past and present might affect and shape the developments to come. By discussing current problems, the volume offers readers ideas about directions for future research.
Of the contributions (not including the two introductory overview chapters), two chapters are based primarily on quantitative analysis: chapter 3 by Desmet and Rossi-Hansberg compares spatial growth patterns of India, China, and the US, and finds that while China’s service industry in medium-density clusters thrives thanks to good infrastructure, growth in mega-cities is bottlenecked by migratory restrictions. Chapter 8 by Huang et al. analyzes the impact of urbanization on food security in China and finds that urbanization moderately reduces supply and increases demand of grain and other commodities. Chapter 6 by Ai and Zhou provides an in-depth ethnographic analysis of the conflicting stakeholder logics and behaviors in Chengdu’s experimental property rights “clarification” process from the municipal government down to the village representatives and households.
The rest of the chapters offer evaluations and critical assessments of current policy designs or institutional configurations based on historical data, factual information, and/or literature review. Chapter 4 by Liu discusses in detail the (un)sustainability of China’s notorious locally-driven, land-based finance and development. Shi argues in chapter 5 that rezoning and administrative adjustment of localities can lead to misallocation of central funds when there is a discrepancy between a place’s official designation and its actual development. Chapters 10 by Yang and 11 by Khor and Oi trace the evolution of China’s housing reform—the former tracking the development of various types of commercial and public housing and the impact on housing security, and the latter examining the institutional challenges of affordable housing provision. Finally, chapter 7 by Gu and chapter 9 by Xu address problems with social service delivery for rural migrants: the former assesses the current status of providing compulsory education for children of migrant workers; the latter discusses fund allocation and transfer issues associated with migrants’ pensions, education, and healthcare, highlighting the difficulties faced by migrant-receiving cities.
Given such a content distribution, this book is most valuable for researchers who seek to understand China’s governance institutions, policy rationales, and inter-governmental relations and politics. Most chapters, in one way or another and to varying degree, either criticize the insensitivity of central policy mandates to local conditions, or highlight incongruences between ideation and implementation, or discuss conflicting rationalities/priorities/imperatives between different levels of government. The volume’s strength lies in its understanding of the central problems of China’s urbanization, as evident in its chapter selections and thematic organization. It offers a wide scope without sacrificing the details. The editors acknowledge that covering such a broad topic in one book also means that many other important aspects or impacts of urbanization need to be selectively left out. Because of its emphasis on China’s unique policies and practices, it is overall less theoretically inclined. As such, this book is best paired with others that explore in greater empirical detail and theoretical depth any one of its themes, lenses, or cases that have particular interest for the reader. The “critical assessment” chapters, such as chapter 4 on land financing and chapter 7 on migrant children education, provide detailed, comprehensive overviews of problems of such complexity that they can be greatly complemented by future case study research on variations in local scenarios and practices. Finally, the book might also benefit scholars of comparative urbanization to gain insider perspectives on China’s situation.
Christine Wen, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA
SHAKEN AUTHORITY: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. By Christian P. Sorace. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2017. x, 231 pp. (Maps, B&W photos., illustrations.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-5017-0753-7.
Many may be impressed by the Chinese government’s ability to manage crises in recent years. Although frequent, natural and man-made crises ultimately have had little politically destabilizing effect, but rather have been showcases of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) legitimacy and capacity. While scholars studying cases elsewhere have sought explanations for successful or clumsy crisis management from various tangible aspects of politics, like policies and their distributional outcomes, different actors’ stakes and strategies, etc., Christian Sorace’s new book, Shaken Authority: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, with rich empirical and historical details as well as illuminating analytical perspectives, directs readers to reflect on the ontological and aesthetic dimensions of China’s political system, in which enormous energies are mobilized to support government discourse and image. It reminds us that China’s official discourse is not empty propaganda; rather, “Communist Party utopianism persists in the production of dreamlike images around which reality is organized” (105).
As students of Chinese politics have long scattered their attention across specific populations, areas and issues, we need research like Sorace’s that examines the fundamental logic of how the whole system works. While this study is macro in its argumentation, it is also a granular and thorough report on the post-2008 Sichuan earthquake reconstruction. In the first three chapters, Sorace elaborates how: 1) the Communist Party’s “discursive path dependence” works; 2) Leninist and Maoist ethical norms—“Party spirit”—are embodied in cadre behaviour; and 3) the Party’s economic planning discourse works as “utopian pronouncements of the future to come” (15). These form the epistemological legacies and macro socio-economic context of the post-earthquake reconstruction projects. In the remaining chapters, Sorace conducts micro-level analyses of three reconstruction cases: the urban-rural integration plan in Dujiangyan (chapter 4); the tourism development in Yingxiu (chapter 5); and the massive attempts to make Qingchuan green (chapter 6).
Although the powerful state apparatus can turn political discourse into heavy-handed world-making activity, it often fails to use those processes to produce expected results. In the case of Dujiangyan, the Party sketched a blueprint for urban planning but the local socio-economic system did not work as intended. The Yingxiu residents indeed took the Party discourse seriously, using it as “the normative criteria through which they perceived the reconstruction as a failure of the Communist Party’s political and moral obligations” (122). In Qingchuan, “the ideology and discourse of ecological civilization is not powerful enough on its own to resolve” a series of contradictions inherent in the socio-economic structure (147). Frequently, observing the gap between the Party’s words and actions, even those who place genuine expectations in the Party’s promises might in the long run doubt all official accounts. In this way, by making directives to control discourse, the Party only creates traps for itself. It can only defend its narratives and “absorb shocks that shake its authority” by “silencing key voices that tell a different story through what are often Draconian measures” (151).
Recording the CCP’s extensive methods for responding to crises that shake its authority, the author does not make explicit predictions regarding where the CCP’s “discursive path dependence” is heading. However, he does ask, “Imagine a leadership visit where nothing is concealed. Would Yingxiu’s future be different?” (123) This is insightful, shedding light on the fundamental logic of the Chinese political system: even when “the hall of mirrors is smashed” (123), the Party will keep “performing a repertoire of legitimating narratives” (152) “through continuous transfusions, emergency interventions, diagnoses, and experimental treatments” (79–80).
The key question is how sustainable such governing approaches could be. Nowadays, we increasingly witness the Chinese government making rough and illogical “clarifications” after man-made catastrophes, taking the stance of “believe it or not, this is what we can tell you.” The recent official response to the Beijing kindergarten abuse scandal and the campaign to evict Beijing’s migrant workers are telling examples. If the convincing and preaching effects on the people of official accounts are continuously declining, and even the government itself becomes unserious about its language since it knows what really matters is the mechanism of violent suppression of different voices, then we may need to re-examine the precise mechanisms through which political discourse operates in the material world.
Notably, Sorace’s work provides important empirical correctives to several prevalent hypotheses of socio-political change in China after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. One is the “emergence of civil society” hypothesis. Sorace’s illustration of the top-down reconstruction process shows that (post)disaster management hardly created opportunities for a substantive expansion of civic participation, but rather was regarded by the leadership as a perfect opportunity for demonstrating Party strength. This is the general pattern of crisis management in China. The second hypothesis is that “the Chinese government is increasingly adroit and effective at managing crises.” Again, Christian’s careful case studies of the effects of reconstruction processes on the lives of low-level cadre and the people call this hypothesis into question; the prima facie success of the ruling party coexisted with many subtle and profound difficulties for individual cadre and citizens. The third hypothesis is the state-civil society paradigm, premised on state-phobic assumptions. Christian presents evidence that ordinary citizens did not complain about but rather requested Party intervention in their lives.
Methodologically, as sensitive as the subject of the earthquake (and disasters in general) can be, Sorace has demonstrated how to adroitly cope with such obstacles during fieldwork. By examining discourse nuances, he captures information from diverse sources ranging from various textual materials to daily conversations and behaviour, allowing highly flexible data collection strategies.
A book focusing on discourse and largely descriptive analysis can easily go shallow, but Sorace’s work offers profound insights into how power works in China by grounding abstract Party discourse in concrete state practices. The author demonstrates how to conduct a good discourse analysis study by analyzing texts in their contexts, which requires extensive knowledge of the socio-historical background of the data and a deep understanding of the theories revolving around the theme under study.
Yi Kang, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong SAR, China
LAW AND POLITICS OF THE TAIWAN SUNFLOWER AND HONG KONG UMBRELLA MOVEMENTS. The Rule of Law in China and Comparative Perspectives. Edited by Brian Christopher Jones. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. vi, 235 pp. (Figures.) US$140.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4724-8614-1.
During 2014, massive student-led demonstrations in Taiwan in March-April and in Hong Kong in September-December provided dramatic evidence that considerable political polarization existed in both societies. Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement was centered on a three-week occupation of the country’s Legislative Yuan protesting the attempt of KMT President Ma Ying-jeou to ram the highly controversial Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) through parliament. Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement erupted as a protest against a Chinese decision that, in essence, made it almost impossible for a pro-democracy candidate to be nominated for Chief Executive in the 2017 elections and represented the culmination of a series of disputes over the degree of democracy that Hong Kong would be allowed. Brian Christopher Jones’ edited Law and Politics of the Taiwan Sunflower and Hong Kong Umbrella Movements represents a sophisticated analysis of these two movements.
Parts I and II, plus one chapter in part III, considers these two important student movements individually from several analytic perspectives. Regarding the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan, Brian Christopher Jones and Yen-Tu Su conceptualize the Movement as a case of “confrontational contestation,” but they also argue that “democratic compromise” should prevail in its aftermath. Wen-Chen Chang analyzes the legal issues raised by the Sunflowers concerning the right to free assembly, with a particular focus on Taiwan’s domestic Assembly and Parade Act of 1992 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Taiwan ratified in 2009. Jiunn-Rong Yeh argues that the Sunflower Movement has enhanced the country’s “civic constitutionalism,” in which civil society assumes an active role to supplement the workings of courts and representative bodies. For Hong Kong, Albert H.Y. Chen presents an overview of Hong Kong’s governance from colonial times to the present, with a focus on the post-1997 period when the tension between the pro-democracy forces on the one side and China, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, and pro-establishment Hongkongers on the other over voting procedures escalated to the point of exploding in 2014. Fu Hualing raises several important issues relating to the Umbrella Movement, including the growing fears, especially among the young, that Hong Kong’s many achievements were under threat, the vision of “civic constitutionalism” that the protesters represented, the double-edged sword that the “rule of law” afforded the pro-democracy groups, and the growing polarization in Hong Kong’s politics and society. Daniel Matthews applies the concept of nomos, or the underlying normative foundation of a society, to develop an innovative interpretation of the Umbrella Movement as challenging in the very limited public space in the city and as shifting the cultural identities of Hongkongers. Chih-hsing Ho uses the Umbrella Movement as a case study illustrating the philosophical and legal issues about whether civil disobedience should or should not be punished, and concludes that the Hong Kong High Court took a very narrow perspective on when civil disobedience can be considered a right.
Three chapters in part III explicitly compare the Sunflower and Umbrella Movements; and part IV draws implications from the individual analyses in the book. Cheng-Yi Huang develops the concept of “unpopular sovereignty,” which exists when the people in a political unit are clearly not the source of the sovereignty exercised by their government, and argues that the Constitution of the Republic of China and the Basic Law deny popular sovereignty to the people of Taiwan and Hong Kong. Chien-Huei Wu tests the hypothesis that Taiwan’s and Hong Kong’s growing economic integration with China will undermine their democracy and rule of law and finds support for this thesis in some areas but not in others. Based on a personally conducted survey that focused on younger Chinese urbanites, Han Zhu concludes that most had an unfavorable view of the Umbrella Movement but were only marginally engaged with the Sunflower Movement, that this unfavorable evaluation was based on the perceived economic and social effects of the respective protest, and that they valued the rule of law over democracy. Brad R. Roth provides an overview of seven of the nine chapters in parts I–III and uses the issues associated with the relationship between political obligation and civil disobedience as a framework for synthesizing their arguments and insights. Jacques Delisle concludes that the Sunflower and Umbrella Movements both reflect challenges from China, were examples of civic constitutionalism and the invoking of “transcendent principles,” represented a not-always positive “intertwining of politics and law,” involved the growing impact of economic issues on their debates, and showed that China’s assumptions about Hong Kong and Taiwan were rather faulty. In contrast, the cases differ greatly insofar as China’s ability to affect these two polities.
Law and Politics of the Taiwan Sunflower and Hong Kong Umbrella Movements is an important book. It provides a sophisticated and insightful treatment of two massive student demonstrations. It goes well beyond simply describing and chronologizing these events. Rather, it raises complex issues regarding constitutional law, political philosophy, and public policy analysis. Consequently, it should be of interest to a broad readership.
Cal Clark, Auburn University, Auburn, USA
MANCHU PRINCESS, JAPANESE SPY: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army. Asia Perspectives: History, Society, and Culture. By Phyllis Birnbaum. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. x, 252 pp. (Illustrations.) US$24.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-231-15219-8.
Alongside soldiers and bureaucrats, Japanese efforts to dominate China involved individuals from many walks of life. Among the more colourful was Kawashima Yoshiko. Born Aisin Gioro Xianyu, she assumed several names in a high-profile life that ended in her 1948 execution. As a public personality she is discussed in detail in Japanese biographies and memoirs, and here we have the fullest study of her life in English, one that sifts Japanese materials. In doing so, Phyllis Birnbaum interrogates her sources as well as her subject in order to assess Kawashima in all her flamboyant and contradictory glory.
Kawashima was born a Manchu princess, the fourteenth child of a prince of the prestigious first rank, just before the Qing dynasty’s fall. Fleeing to Lüshun after the revolution, the family lived in a kind of exile, antagonistic to the new Republic. The family also accepted Japanese aid, and Kawashima was sent to live in Japan with an adoptive father in 1912, the “continental adventurer” (tairiku rōnin) Kawashima Naniwa. Birnbaum considers his life before proceeding with his adopted daughter’s life in Japan, a methodology repeated in considering other significant personalities with whom Kawashima interacted or could identify. These include the aristocrat Saga Hiro, the writer Muramatsu Shōfū, General Tanaka Ryūkichi, right-wing businessman Sasakawa Ryōichi, and the actor Yamaguchi Yoshiko (Ri Kōran). Contextualizing sources helps Birnbaum puzzle through the implications of their views of Kawashima, though Birnbaum also strays into territory only tenuously connected to her subject, such as a brief consideration of Japanese rural settlers with whom she would have had little in common (“Starting Over in Manchukuo”). The result is an episodic account of Kawashima Yoshiko’s life and times, one that tries to narrow the uncertainties about her life. This is difficult given the multiplicity of views evident in the materials, including contradictory stories offered by Kawashima herself.
For Birnbaum, Kawashima Naniwa’s exploits perhaps helped propel Yoshiko into a life of adventure, but at the same time the author notes a quirky personality evident early on. Mixing with conspiring continental adventurers and criminals exposed her to garrulous opportunists as a youth, and she continued to consort with writers, military adventurers, and other travellers as her quirks became more outlandish. Before turning twenty, for example, she shaved her head to escape gendered expectations—possibly because of rape—and returned to China. Her hair remained short thereafter, and she often chose to dress in men’s attire. After a short-lived marriage in 1927 to a Mongolian independence fighter, she split her time between China and Japan, often in dance halls, trying to find a social niche. This she famously discovered during the Manchurian Incident, beginning September 18, 1931 when the Japanese Kwantung (Guandong) Army took control of the region on behalf of the empire. Returning to China she helped spirit Puyi’s wife Wanrong out of Tianjin and allegedly supported the Japanese Army when fighting broke out in Shanghai by reconnoitering Chinese officers. She was also reported to have been involved in subduing the Chinese warlord Su Bingwen in northwestern Manchuria and given her own command of troops in the Japanese occupation of Rehe (Jehol). Although hard evidence for these exploits is negligible—making one query this book’s subtitle—the public avidly consumed published reports of her activities and Kawashima’s own boasting helped swell her reputation.
As a person raised in both the Chinese and Japanese worlds, Kawashima understandably felt an inclination to aid both. Disliking Chinese warlords and Nationalist officials, she gravitated to those in the Japanese military willing to take a firm stance in China. The forthright Kawashima, moreover, had no problem defending her actions publicly, and evidently enjoyed being in the spotlight. Outlandish behaviour was perhaps a way of ensuring continued public attention, but financial issues seem also to have pressured her to seek new opportunities and new lovers. In addition to a lavish lifestyle she had also become a drug addict. Kawashima, however, soured on the Japanese military, given police censorship of her activities and an increasingly heavy hand exercised by Japanese officials in Manchukuo. Her public criticisms became more trenchant, and Birnbaum reports that some in the Japanese military considered assassinating her. After war broke out in 1937 she offered to help negotiate peace between China and Japan, but was ignored. Dejected and increasingly isolated, Kawashima left Japan for Beijing with her three pet monkeys. There she awaited the end of the war, and did go into hiding upon Japan’s capitulation. Denounced as a traitor (hanjian), she was arrested and unable to defend herself given her reputation and notoriety among the Chinese. The public record was used against her and she was unable to claim Japanese citizenship and thus repatriation because it turned out that Kawashima Naniwa never formally adopted her. Birnbaum suggests ultimately that Kawashima acquiesced and awaited her execution with equanimity, but also reports rumours that at the last second she may have been spirited away to live out her final years in peace.
Birnbaum’s study reads well, but the references are frustrating. Instead of numbered references, the author identifies sources by repeating a phrase in the endnotes, identifying only sources of direct quotations. Not all quotes, moreover, are referenced in the back, presumably meaning that they were taken from the last reference noted—but some do not seem appropriate. Elsewhere, references to significant issues discussed in the text are entirely omitted, such as early Japanese efforts to support Manchu and Mongol independence from China (20). She also oddly lists the main personalities involved on the first page as “main characters,” as in a drama. Despite these qualms, the book does shed light on a controversial figure and deserves to be adopted by university libraries holding materials on this turbulent era.
Bill Sewell, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada
RUNAWAY WIVES, URBAN CRIMES, AND SURVIVAL TACTICS IN WARTIME BEIJING, 1937–1949. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 384. By Zhao Ma. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2015. xiv, 366 pp. (Illustrations.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-08838-2.
Runaway Wives is an original and moving study of the lives of the poor in wartime Beijing under Japanese occupation (1937–1945) and during the civil war between the Guomindang and the Communist Party (1945–1949). It is a tour de force, a rare insight into what war meant for the great old city, China’s capital until 1928. To date most work on the Anti-Japanese War has been on the unoccupied areas of China; this is a major addition to our knowledge of the areas under Japanese occupation.
The war years saw rapidly increasing poverty in Beijing. The economy was in the doldrums; the occupation authorities turned to printing money, which triggered inflation almost as bad as that in unoccupied China. The city was more and more crowded; peasants fled in to the cities of north China to escape the brutality of the Japanese armies in the rural areas. The occupiers and their local collaborators did nothing to alleviate poverty; their only concern for the civilian population was to control them. Ma Zhao refers several times to Lao She’s great novel, Four Generations under one Roof. The titles of its three sections express what the people of Beijing went through in the war: Bewilderment 惶惑; Ignominy 偷生; Famine 饥荒.
Very few records of the misery of the wartime city have survived. Censorship prevented news reporting. Sociological studies were out of the question. Ma Zhao, a son of the city, has found a fascinating way of bringing the lives of the poor to life, through court transcripts from trials for bigamy and adultery. The trials came about because two civil institutions still at work during the Japanese occupation, the police and the court system, were willing to listen to the complaints of outraged husbands whose wives had absconded and to arrest and charge the runaway wives. Beijing policemen were in a situation of the greatest difficulty during the war. Once the friendly local policemen, in charge of birth and death registration, keeping order and catching criminals, in the occupation heavy new tasks were thrust on them by the collaborationist city government: household inspections; drafting young men for forced labour; controlling the distribution of rations. These tasks made them vastly unpopular with the population, so much so that half the police force was dismissed in 1945, accused of collaboration. Ironically, though, the tasks put on the police in the occupation were continued under the Communist Party after 1949.
The misery of the poverty in wartime Beijing was intense, so overwhelming that the Japanese occupation was not uppermost in people’s minds. As much as 70 percent of the city’s population lived in deep poverty. The courtyards where the poor lived were tenements, each courtyard housing many families. The buildings were dilapidated, there was no electricity, no running water, no toilets. “Honey carts” trundled through the hutungs (lanes) every morning picking up “night soil.” Beijing was in a terrible state. After the end of the Qing Dynasty and the move of the capital to Nanjing, the city declined. In the war the squalid, smelly districts of much of the city were bursting with poor, shabby people, living in such close proximity that there was not an iota of privacy. This made it easy for the police to track down people living where they were not registered.
One sign of the social and economic collapse of wartime Beijing is that wives were willing and often eager to abandon a husband who could not provide for them. Implicit in the vivid stories of runaway wives that punctuate the book is that in a city where men vastly outnumbered women, marriages were fragile, conditional on the husband providing for his wife and children. The gender imbalance provided a range of opportunities for women: remarriage; concubinage; bigamy; elopement; cohabitation; prostitution. If a husband failed to support his wife she felt entitled to leave him. Usually she went to a pre-arranged new husband, without benefit of a formal divorce. There was a wedding, however: a ritual that gave social credibility to the marriage, and usually cost far more than the new husband could afford. Her departure did not offend social norms, but it did offend the law, which allowed her former husband, if he could find her, to have her charged with adultery or bigamy, and her new husband with abduction.
The lives of poor women should have been at least as bad and depressing as those of poor men, but in the cases that Ma Zhao brings to light the opposite is often true. Many women showed remarkable energy and initiative in coping with their desperate poverty and in fighting for what they saw as their rights. This was true of the runaway wives and also of the women, neighbours or relatives, who helped them leave their husbands. There was what amounted to an unorganized sisterhood willing to take action against inadequate husbands. This was not a free service: the income earned from finding a match for a runaway and organizing an escape was not insignificant.
Like many who knew the old Beijing I have deeply regretted its disappearance, and its replacement by an anonymous modern city of high-rise buildings, clad in glass, brass, and marble. This book is a corrective to a rather rosy vision of “Old Beijing.” Only part of “Old Beijing” was charming courtyards, quaint hutungs, and splendid imperial buildings.
So vivid are the stories that Ma Zhao tells that they would make a wonderful film to bring the old city to life, as The Return of Martin Guerre brought to life sixteenth-century France. It would be a forerunner to the Blue Kite, set in Beijing’s hutungs in the 1950s as communist rule took hold.
Diana Lary, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
THE MAGIC OF CONCEPTS: History and the Economic in Twentieth-Century China. By Rebecca E. Karl. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2017. xii, 216 pp. US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6321-7.
The Magic of Concepts is a set of related essays that identifies similarities and repetitions in debates about “the economic” and the nature of Chinese society in the 1930s and 1940s and the 1980s and 1990s, as well as their impacts on revolutionary strategies and policy making. Karl argues that an ideology of global capitalism underlies these points of resemblance and has been disguised in social scientific analysis and universal economic theories in post-socialist China. To uncover this hidden ideology, Karl critically reviews how late imperial and modern Chinese history has been incorporated into global history in recent decades.
Karl’s observation of a similar role played by global capitalism in China’s integration into the world economy in the 1930 and 1940s and 1980s and 1990s is truly surprising given the significant differences in socio-economic and intellectual contexts in these two periods. The Chinese economy in the 1930s and 1940s was largely based on a market economy and private property rights; yet the state did not have effective institutions of public finance to regulate the macro-economy and to safeguard the domestic economy against fluctuations in the international markets. China in the 1980s and 1990s was in the process of transition from state socialism to a market economy; but the state possessed a much enhanced autonomy and capacity in managing its macro-economy, particularly after the fiscal centralization of 1994. Moreover, global capitalism as a phenomenon and knowledge about it were quite different in the two periods. Thence, a careful examination of the contextual differences is crucial to establishing whether any similarities are the reflection of deeper patterns or constructions derived from Karl’s theoretical framework and ideological agenda.
Unfortunately, Karl’s discussion of the debates on “the economic” seems to be detached from the historical context. Little attention is given to the important debates on monetary and fiscal reforms in both the late 1930s and the 1990s, to which there was little contribution from either Marxists or market fundamentalists. Another example is the Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) in chapter 2. The concept of AMP was prominent in the 1930s and did indeed come back in the 1980s. Nonetheless, this revival seems to have been quite minor. Karl cites two historians, Ke Changji and Zhao Lisheng, and one political economist, Wu Dakun, as evidence, without providing any further information to show how influential these three scholars were in the 1980s. How then can we judge whether AMP’s “minor comeback in China historical analysis” (42) had any substantive impact on the economic reforms of China in the 1980s, let alone the reorientation toward a state-capitalism in the late 1990s?
Karl states that “the reorientation of Chinese socioeconomics in the 1980s toward growth and the accumulation of national wealth at any cost facilitated the return of the AMP” (59). But in the early 1980s no such reorientation existed. Karl attributes slogans and phenomena from the 1990s, such as “Good-bye to Revolution,” or high-speed growth with no regard for social cost as measured by massive lay-offs of workers of state-owned enterprises, to the 1980s (58–59). Those who shaped the economic reforms in the 1980s, such as Xue Muqiao, were sincere Marxists whose policies were mainly based upon their practical experience in managing the economy in the liberated areas in the late 1940s and in the PRC in the early 1950s. Integration with the global market in the 1980s remained very limited and well controlled by the state. The trajectory of reform from the 1980s to the 1990s should not be understood as a unilinear trajectory toward capitalism (see particularly chapter 4). Karl curiously does not mention the use of AMP in the 1988 TV series River Elegy (Heshang). Its producers, who were politically connected to General Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang, employed the AMP as a political strategy to call for a more liberal economy and more opening to the global economy. However, they did not have much influence on policy making in the 1990s; after June 4, most were either forced into exile or imprisoned.
Karl also notes the parallels between the introduction of the Austrian School into China in the 1930s and the popularity of the second-generation Austrian School economist Friedrich Hayek among Chinese intellectuals in the 1990s (chapter 3). For the reception of the Austrian School, Karl relies completely upon Wang Yanan’s critique without explaining whether or not it is justified. To connect Hayek to the market-oriented reforms, she mentions in a footnote (78) that Hayek’s major works were translated into Chinese in the 1990s and “sold briskly.” She also quotes Liu Junning that “the prime minister of China had Hayek’s works on his bookshelf” and that the former vice secretary at the Institute of Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences was a “firm Hayekian” (161). However, Karl does not provide any evidence as to how Hayek’s theory affected the actual making of economic policies, nor even which of his books were popular. The Fatal Conceit and The Road to Serfdom argue that it is impractical for state planners to determine prices, yet say nothing on how to reform state socialism. Hayek’s evolutionary approach to institutional development in Law, Legislation and Order could be used to criticize top-down radical reforms such as “Five Hundred Days to Capitalism” as irrational.
The contexts of economic theories in the 1930 and 1940s and 1980s and 1990s matter to our evaluation of Hayek’s influence. In fact, the disasters of the shock therapy in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the economic performance of Japan and South Korea in the 1990s made market fundamentalism less appealing to Chinese economic reformers. Neo-institutional economics and the political economy of late development, particularly the theory of the developmental state and its emphasis on regulation and on legal and political institutions, were quite influential among Chinese economists and reformers. Hayek’s influence should be judged against the range of economic theories and models that were known in China at the time. Market fundamentalism was by no means uncritically accepted.
In Karl’s view, “the appeal to ideology-free empiricism … through its reaffirmation of empiricist positivism as adequate conceptualization and method … is symptomatic of the pure ideology of the global and of universal economics as the expected history of the world” (33). But we should be careful to distinguish the relative autonomy of both economic analysis and empirical historical studies from ideology. The empirical investigation of rural households organized by the Marxist economist Chen Hansheng has had long-lasting value to scholars of different theoretical persuasions. Empirical studies of Chinese economic history that used terms such as semifeudalism, semicolonialism, or “sprouts of capitalism” accumulated to form the basis for the scholarship of R. Bin Wong and Kenneth Pomeranz, who situate their own studies against a broader review of global economic history. They reject a unilinear understanding of economic history by showing that a vibrant market economy does not necessarily become an industrial capitalism. Karl pays little heed to the varieties of development implied, such as industrial development based upon collective ownership (Wong) or energy-saving industrialization (Pomeranz).
Dialogue between critical theories of capitalism and empirical studies of the political economy of reform and the economic history of China is crucial to deepen our understanding of the interactions between China and the global market. Karl’s book is a valuable contribution to be followed by future scholarship.
Wenkai He, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong SAR, China
RURAL CHINA ON THE EVE OF REVOLUTION: Sichuan Fieldnotes, 1949–1950. By G. William Skinner; edited by Stevan Harrell and William Lavely. Seattle: University of Washington Press in association with University of Washington Libraries, c2017. xi, 265 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99942-5.
Few China scholars have had a larger impact than G. William Skinner, whose work on rural marketing and spatial order has provided scholars with a cogent model for thinking about social structure in China and beyond. It is well known that the original inspiration for Skinner’s model came from his dissertation fieldwork in Sichuan, carried out in the shadow of the advancing People’s Liberation Army and cut short after two and a half months by the PLA’s arrival. Skinner’s fieldnotes were confiscated by the new authorities, and Skinner himself always maintained that both his notes and the carbon copies he sent to his Cornell advisors were lost. Fortunately for us, they were not: when the editors (both of them former Skinner students) took custody of his papers, they found a full set of notes which, lightly edited and condensed, form the body of this book. The editors provide a short preface and helpful section summaries. The book also includes Skinner’s superb photographs, maps, an index, and a glossary.
Fieldnotes rarely merit publication. These ones do, for at least three reasons. Brief as they are, they provide a vivid picture of rural life in the Chengdu basin, just months before land reform brought irreversible change. They also give us a first-hand account of the Communist takeover, told by an open-minded and astute observer. Finally, they show us social science in action, as Skinner puts aside his earlier interest in child psychology and personality formation and quickly recognizes rural marketing as the best angle for an exploration of Chinese social structure. Skinner arrived in Chengdu in September 1949, having learned Mandarin (but not Sichuan dialect) during two years of Navy service. He spent October looking for a research site and discussing plans with Chinese scholars in Chengdu. Having settled on Gaodianzi, a market town a few miles south of Chengdu, he began fieldwork in mid-November. His early notes discuss the structures of rural life: land ownership and tenancy, farming, family composition, and domestic life. They include vivid descriptions of everyday technologies, dealing with such topics as food preparation, house construction and repair, and the work of the itinerant tailors, basket makers, barbers, etc., who pass through his hosts’ household.
It did not take Skinner long to find his topic: on the third day of his stay, Skinner notes “today was important: my first market day,” and from then on he appears to have attended the Gaodianzi market regularly. He did so primarily because this was where he met his informants: the local notables, leaders of the paoge secret society, students, and teachers who spent much of each market day socializing in the town’s restaurants and teahouses. On December 16, one month into his fieldwork and with the PLA rapidly advancing towards Chengdu, Skinner set out on bicycle to determine the size of the Gaodianzi market area. We do not know why he did so; his notes record his impressions and observations but are silent about his reflections and motivations. Nonetheless, one can feel his excitement as he finds out that market areas are spatially discrete. The insight that rural people always attend the same market, that in the course of months and years they become familiar with others who do the same, and that market areas therefore have to be understood as communities, was the first step towards a large and complex model of Chinese society in which the routine flow of retail goods forms a basic infrastructure which underpins all social organization. Markets, however, did not occupy all of Skinner’s attention. He conducted a household survey, collected information on local schools, and mapped local voluntary associations, including Confucian benevolent societies, religious brotherhoods, and the omnipresent “secret” society, the paoge. While “class” is not part of his vocabulary in these notes, he showed a keen awareness of the disparity in wealth and status between the wealthy and educated elite with whom he interacted, and the tenant farmers who lived together with his hosts, and whose lives he describes in moving details.
While Skinner worked frantically to complete his analysis, the PLA advanced and the Nationalists’ authority crumbled. He and his informants were less concerned about the PLA soldiers, whom they knew to be disciplined, than about marauding Nationalist soldiers and about fights between competing Nationalist factions. Skinner’s notes make frequent mention of the Nationalist soldiers billeted in his hosts’ home, of their panicked departure, and of the quiet and efficient way in which PLA vanguard units fill the resulting vacuum in the countryside days before they enter the provincial capital. The PLA’s official takeover provides a moment of high drama, coinciding with Chinese New Year and with the Dongyue temple festival, a two-day spectacle filled with processions, opera performances, and throngs of worshippers. A week later, Skinner was told that it was no longer safe for him to work in the countryside and he was put under house arrest in Chengdu; he was allowed to leave the country only in August 1950.
This book deserves to be read by all students of twentieth-century rural China, in particular those with an interest in Sichuan. It should be assigned to students preparing for fieldwork in China; Skinner’s acute observations and his strong sympathy for the people he studied (a sympathy which they apparently returned) remain a model almost seventy years after the fact. In teaching, it could be paired with Isabel Crook’s Prosperity’s Predicament, another study of rural Sichuan in the 1940s whose publication was delayed for almost seven decades.
Jacob Eyferth, The University of Chicago, Chicago, USA
REVOLUTIONARY NATIVISM: Fascism and Culture in China, 1925–1937. By Maggie Clinton. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2017. xi, 268 pp. (B&W photos, illustrations.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6377-4.
In her book Revolutionary Nativism, Maggie Clinton argues that between the years 1925 and 1937, following the iconoclasm and anti-Confucianism of the May Fourth Movement, the “right radicalized theorists” of the Guomindang (GMD), such as members of the New Life Movement and the CC (Central Committee) Clique, contributed to the reversal of “the historical fortunes of Confucianism” (198) in the twentieth century. They achieved this by “rendering Confucianism compatible with a path of modernization” (199). This “revolutionary nativism” and cross-class alliance are echoed in contemporary brands of Confucius Institutes, the celebration of a harmonious society, and in “Cold War champions of Asian values” (198–199). Clinton approaches the confrontation between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Guomindang (GMD), as a local manifestation of the confrontation of the two ideologies inherent in interwar politics, since they ended up on different sides of the communist-fascist world ideological axis.
This book not only examines the two parties’ violent feud in the 1930s through the lens of the ideological war between communism and fascism, it also explores the local roots of the rise of what Clinton calls GMD fascism, which was anti-internationalist, eschewed political liberalism and laissez-fair capitalism, and valourized the nation and “masculine prowess” (11). GMD fascism, an “extreme manifestation of nationalism” (4), was not a copy of European or Japanese models, though it was inspired by them it originated in China’s post-dynastic conditions (13). Among adepts of the GMD New Life Movement and CC Clique, “invocation of traditional values masked a profound reordering of the social world,” and included “a rationalized military or a Taylorized factory” (159).
This book examines the writings of such GMD leaders as Sun Yatsen and Dai Jitao, as well as the published periodicals and cultural production of the New Life Movement and CC Clique, as they attributed a special place to culture (16). Aesthetically, both the right-wing GMD and the CCP embraced the same “modern” aesthetics (188). Clinton explores the idiosyncratic relationship of the GMD with the notion of “revolutionary”: while the GMD espoused Confucian elitism (170), they also claimed revolutionary leadership (7). The United Front of 1923 to 1927 shaped the GMD’s militarized and technocratic milieus (chapter 1) and allowed them to fashion themselves as “anticonservative political vanguards” (21) in opposition to a foreign-directed communist insurgency, with the GMD’s fascist Blue Shirts claiming to have brought native things back to China (142). The GMD bound Confucianism and national revolutionary culture together with industrial modernity (chapter 2). This nativist discourse allowed the GMD to paint the Communists as anti-national and anti-Chinese, thus justifying their anti-Communist violence, to include both military campaigns and repentance camps (fanxingyuan) which propagated Confucian morality, the absence of which among Communists they argued excluded them from the Chinese nation (chapter 3). Confucian values were mobilized as a “bedrock of alternative modernity” for the needs of industrial productivity (chapter 4) and of the creation of “nationalist literature and arts” (minzu wenyi) that justified violence against leftist intellectuals (chapter 5).
This study not only places the New Life Movement in the context of 1930s Italian, German, and Japanese fascism, but also situates the GMD fascist-inspired movement in the larger international context, including Soviet and American influences and the confrontation between them. Though it had a different agenda, the GMD shared with the CCP a “politico-intellectual genealogy,” that is, a Leninist influence and anti-imperialist ideology (33). Parallels between CCP postwar production and even political campaigns and the GMD’s New Life rhetoric do exist (197–198), and GMD ideas concerning discipline, self-sacrifice for the nation, casting the “productive members of the society” (151), family cohesion, and the role of women in nation-building and deference to authority could be found in both fascist and non-fascist regimes (145). The labour ideals of the 1930s built on Fordism and Taylorism in various contexts, such as in the Soviet Union (148), but the distinct characteristic of this trend within the GMD was that those values in China were used to save the Chinese from social collapse (145).
This thought-provoking study raises new questions. While the fascists of the Nanjing decade based their vision on “native Confucianism” and “ignored everything that did not fit with their visions of a new order” (143), the GMD built its regional policy on ideas reminiscent of internationalism, even if designed in direct opposition to it (Craig Smith, “China as the Leader of the Weak and Small: The Ruoxiao Nations and Guomindang Nationalism,” Cross-Currents: East Asia History and Culture Review 24 : 36–60). Also, Sun Yatsen was not entirely anti-internationalist (74), but linked internationalism and nationalism together (Sun Zhongshan, “Sanminzhuyi: minzuzhuyi” [Three principles: nationalism], lecture 4, 17 February 1924, in Sun zhongshan quan ji [Collected works of Sun Zhongshan], 11 vols., Beijing: Zhong hua shuju, 1986, 9: 220–231, esp. p. 226). In the context of the interwar global moment, can we consider the nativization trend in GMD China as unique, or can we see it as a part of the indigenization trend of interwar globalization, which was the other side of the internationalization of organizations and ideologies?
Anna Belogurova, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
BITTER AND SWEET: Food, Meaning, and Modernity in Rural China. California Studies in Food and Culture, no. 63. By Ellen Oxfeld. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017. xv, 256 pp. (Illustrations.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-29352-6.
Ellen Oxfeld has spent over twenty years researching the village of “Moonshadow Pond,” Meixian County, Guangdong. She has amassed considerable knowledge regarding all aspects of the food economy. In this book, she describes with sensitivity, and in detail, the roles of food in society.
Moonshadow Pond was a farming village, but is now transitioning to a mixed economy. Rice was the elite crop. Sweet potatoes were the food of the poor; during difficult times they were the food of everyone. Onions, Chinese cabbages, and other Chinese vegetables and fruits were also cultivated. (Production statistics are found at the back of the book.) Today, agriculture is becoming an occupation for the elderly, as the young find easier and better-paid work.
Moonshadow Pond is typical of China in its use of foods and feasts to mark every social occasion. Social transactions create a constant circulation of foods, as people give gifts and “prestations” (socially obligatory gifts), exchange vegetables and eggs, sell small items to each other, and bring back special presents from town or from distant Hong Kong. The obligatory cup of tea lubricates all social interaction, even the most casual; older people remember the days when boiled water had to do. Childbirth requires the mother to consume healthy foods that restore her “blood” (iron), produce milk, and strengthen her body. Chicken stewed with ginger and other healing, mineral-rich items are common.
In the past 110 years, China has gone from imperial dynasty to war-torn “republic,” to total chaos in World War II and its aftermath, then a Communist government, bringing the enormous famine of 1958 to 1961 and then slow, uneven improvement, and finally rapid development in the last thirty years. Moonshadow Pond is close enough to Meixian’s capital to have profited from the last of these. Many Moonshadowers commute to the capital to work, and more young people are leaving the countryside permanently—part of the great country-to-city migration that has rolled over the world in the last 200 years and has finally reached all of China. More remote and less fertile parts of rural China remain desperately poor, but Meixian now has plenty of pork and vegetables, and even shrimp and ocean fish, formerly luxuries for this inland county. Moonshadow Pond’s traditions and changes are a fair sample of China as a whole. Extensive quotes from local people enrich the historic accounts and the explanations of the social uses of food and food exchanges.
Meixian is the traditional centre of the Hakka people (Kejia in Mandarin), a minority speaking a language (n.b., not “dialect”) incomprehensible to Mandarin speakers without special training. Some dishes are locally popular, though by no means confined to Meixian; these include chicken stewed with ginger, pig stomach with vegetables, and local swamp eels. More distinctively Hakka is stuffed bean curd (tofu): bean curd cubes split and stuffed with chopped shrimp, chives, fish, or other fillings. Local tradition holds that bean curd was used as a substitute for flour, unavailable for dumpling-making in old times. I missed any reference to cow spinal cord, a classic Hakka dish—possibly not Meixianese.
This book represents a valuable addition to studies of food in Chinese society. Recently, many historical and ethnographic works on Chinese food have appeared, both by Chinese and Western scholars, and several conferences have been devoted to the field. Food has been so important as a social marker throughout Chinese history that no one can neglect it. Chinese politeness often requires that spoken language at banquets, festivals, and celebrations is formulaic and has minimal communication value (it is “phatic communication” in Malinowski’s terms). Food transactions therefore often carry the social messages at such times. What is served, how it is served, how guests are seated, whom the host treats specially, and similar vectors take on much significance. Oxfeld has unpacked these matters with skill and perceptiveness.
However, I found the book’s lack of Hakka language terms problematic. Everything from plant and animal names to social terms is given in standard Mandarin. This deprives the scholar, and the interested general reader, of an opportunity to learn something about the Hakka language’s everyday usage. This language, spoken by tens of millions of people (the number is uncertain), is poorly documented, at least in the Western world; what materials exist are largely formal dictionaries and linguistic analyses. One cannot blame Oxfeld; ethnographers who write about Hakka communities seem to follow the Mandarin-only rule, as do many ethnographers in China today. This is unfortunate, given the Communist policy of standardizing Mandarin as the general language of the country. Local languages and dialects are dying out. Hakka will last a while, but someone should document its everyday forms and terms before they are lost.
Oxfeld also fails to identify some local plants. She records a wild-gathered green that she knows only as kumai; this is the general Chinese name for sow thistle, a widely eaten and even cultivated food throughout Eurasia.
E.N. Anderson, University of California, Riverside, USA
WARTIME MACAU: Under the Japanese Shadow. Edited by Geoffrey C. Gunn. Hong Kong: HKU Press; New York: Columbia University Press [distributor], 2017. x, 224 pp. (Graphs, maps, B&W photos.) $50.00, cloth. ISBN 978-988-8390-51-9.
World War II was a terrible human experience, during which China endured the longest and most extensive suffering. Yet Macau, a tiny Chinese city adjacent to Hong Kong and with a population of about 120,000 in 1936, miraculously warded off Japanese military invasion. Why was Macau so fortunate in avoiding the war? And did Macau endure any sort of hardship, not being a direct participant in that war?
Aiming to address these issues, the authors of this collection study wartime Macau and offer their explanations for the phenomenon. In chapter 1, “Wartime Macau in the Wider Diplomatic Sphere,” Geoffrey Gunn analyzes Macau’s five interlocking wartime diplomatic dimensions: the narrowed remaining space between Japan and Japanese-controlled South China; Portuguese-Japanese contention over Timor and its relationship with Macau; Portugal’s relations with the Allies, which affected its decision on Macau; the assassination of the Japanese Consul Fukui; and the Japanese military ultimatum of August-September 1941 to the Macau governor. What underlined Portugal’s “collaborating neutrality” with the Japanese over Macau, Geoffrey claims, was the September 1941 Tokyo-Macau agreement, under which Portugal acceded to many Japanese demands in return for maintaining Macau’s neutrality and access to a food supply. Japan respected Macau’s neutrality because of its interest in keeping Lisbon as an intelligence post and Macau as a favourable platform for the re-export of war materials, including opium stocks. Meanwhile, the Allies lost their interest in pressing Macau into the war because Macau was no longer a potential military foothold or a source of war materials to the Allies due to the Japanese blockade, while its neutrality made it a haven of European and Chinese refugees from Hong Kong and mainland China.
In chapter 2, “Macau 1937–45: Living on the Edge: Economic Management over Military Defenses,” João F.O. Bots appraises highly the leading roles Governor Gabriel Maurício Teixeira and Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU), a Portuguese National Overseas Bank, played in dealing with the economic crises of wartime Macau. They made plans ahead for contingency. Through the middleman Stanley Ho, and measures such as issuing “emergency certificate notes” in lithography and pangtans as promissory notes and using a ration system, they made a major contribution to stabilizing the currency and securing the rice supply, and provided a large number of European refugees from Hong Kong with monthly funding, shelters, food, sanitation, and clinic services. The society of Macau, including elites, various communities, associations and clubs, charitable organizations, etc., played a no less significant role in rescuing desperate people, raising and distributing personal donations, and keeping morale as high as possible. Yet, as Geoffrey discusses in chapter 3, “Hunger amidst Plenty: Rice Supply and Livelihood in Wartime Macau,” many locals fell “prey to hunger, disease, and lack of shelter and clothing” (72). Speculation and smuggling became accepted and tolerated and hyperinflation was a fact of life in Macau. While certain individuals thrived, the most vulnerable strata of Macau society, namely the Chinese refugee population and the indigent working class, suffered the most. Many of them had nutritional deficits, weight loss, dehydration, dysentery, fever and so on. Some media reported that the bodies of beggars and street people were actually being cannibalized. In 1941–1942, a cholera epidemic broke out in Macau. The cold snap hit Macau during the “black spring” of 1942, resulting in the creation of “the pit of 10,000 corpses” (81).
In chapters 4 and 5, “The Macanese at War: Survival and Identity among Portuguese Eurasians during World War II,” and “Nossa Gente (Our People): The Portuguese Refugee Community in Wartime Macau,” Roy Eric Xavier and Stuart Braga trace the refugee life of the Macanese, an ethnic group with a mixed Chinese and Portuguese ancestry. The Portuguese refugee community that escaped from Hong Kong received generous financial support, food rations, and other services from the Macau government, and were sheltered in the local Bela Vista Hotel and other settlements. In fact, this community enjoyed a high degree of autonomy in Macau, and was determined to set up its own resources, in the form of schools and churches, as well as organized sports, concerts, and entertainments, in order to keep its spirit high and life normal. In doing so, the prewar hierarchies separating the Macanese from their superiors were dissolved and a new identity of the Macanese as “intermediaries” between antagonists emerged. Many Macanese were viewed as “entrepreneurs” rather than black-market profiteers, who utilized their social connections and personal language skills to procure food and other resources for the community. Others were intensively involved with the Chinese and British undergrounds. Indeed, as Geoffrey describes in the last chapter, “The British Army Aid Group (BAAG) and the Anti-Japanese Resistance Movement in Macau,” Macau was turned into a base of anti-Japanese resistance, to which anti-Japanese Macanese activists, the BAAG, Chinese Nationalists, and the Communist underground all contributed, as well as a centre of Japanese espionage.
In short, the book tells us a story of World War II that has largely been ignored, probably because of Macau’s status of wartime neutrality. Contrary to popular belief, a neutral Macau had as difficult and complex a wartime life as cities directly involved in hostilities. With reliable sources, he contributors to this volume provide the reader with a microhistory, dissecting wartime Macau society and its diplomatic efforts into its many component parts. Since little attention has been paid to this subject, the book is unprecedented and a valuable source for those interested in the history of the Hong Kong-Macau region and World War II as well as the theme of war and peace and military history. As a conference volume, not every paper made the final edition, which was unfortunate as more context would have added value to this study. Further, had the authors included a comparative review of the existing literature on their research subject within a theoretical framework, the book would have been more comprehensive, interesting, and enlightening.
C.X. George Wei, University of Macau, Macao SAR, China
RADICAL INEQUALITIES: China’s Revolutionary Welfare State in Comparative Perspective. Harvard East Asian Monographs, no. 383. By Nara Dillon. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2015. 332 pp. (Illustrations.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 9780674504318.
Nara Dillon’s fine study of the history of the creation and expansion of China’s urban welfare is ambitious: she covers the initiatives for, influences upon, and pitfalls of providing welfare for the country’s urban workforce from the 1920s into the 1960s, plus observations on the future and international comparisons (among developed and developing countries). Dillon also includes shifts in the handling of “the unemployed” and “social relief” over time. The goal of the study is to understand “the paradox at the heart of the Maoist welfare state”: that the “most important social program for workers did not eliminate inequality; it entrenched it” (1).
The book traces the complexities of China’s convoluted and nonlinear labour history, especially from the 1940s into the early 1960s. It was surely no simple task to weave broad explanatory themes into the huge mass of detail that her clearly exhaustive and painstaking research unearthed. Dillon uncovers new material, such as how international influences—the International Labor Organization, European ideas and Soviet patterns, American aid, the US Congress of Industrial Organizations, and the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration—impacted the early days of labour relief in China; stories of ruralization back to the mid-1950s; the ways KMT factionalism stymied welfare work, but how KMT versus CCP rivalrous mobilization to recruit workers and attain international legitimacy spurred respective drives to expand welfare; and a 1956 draft of widely inclusive regulations put forth by the All China Federation of Trade Unions, which was quietly abandoned with the Great Leap Forward. She also links the major revolutionary campaigns of the 1950s and early 1960s (against “counter-revolutionaries,” the 3 and 5 “antis,” the 100 Flowers, and the Great Leap) with welfare development.
From welfare literature Dillon employs the concepts of “narrow,” “universal,” and “broad” welfare programs to show that China’s program, like that of most less economically developed nations, has overall been narrow, excluding vast segments of the populace. And she notes competition between welfare “insiders” and “outsiders” and the zero-sum distribution between them, and documents trade-offs the regime often faced (or perceived) between welfare and economic development.
The body of the book consists of six chronological chapters that trace, respectively, pre-1949 foreign involvement and models; Nationalist beginnings of a welfare state in the 1940s; the Communists’ own foundations from 1948–1951; the Soviet example during the First Five Year Plan, from 1952–1954; the second half of the 1950s, when restraint followed expansion; and the commune experiment from 1958–1962, which, again, was forced to shift drastically from universalism to a final, unequal project that excluded both the unemployed and the rural majority, constructing a “hierarchy of labor insurance … labor insurance contracts and social relief” that became “China’s permanent urban welfare state “ (261). As to the future, Dillon is both guardedly optimistic but pragmatically ambivalent.
While supplying an impressive collection of explanatory factors for the complex and twisting tale of welfare provision, the work appears reluctant to settle on a parsimonious exposition encompassing the entire body of data. This is definitely understandable. The author has learned so very much in her wide-ranging research that it would seem almost prohibitive to attempt to find an analysis that fits everything presented, especially given the frequent switches of policy under Mao, and the divisions of opinions among his lieutenants (Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai, for instance, did not always agree with Mao on how to treat capitalists, workers, or the unemployed). Sometimes China’s low level of economic development and inadequate amount of resources is the chief explanatory variable. At other times it is the degree and nature of opposition (racketeers in the 1940s, capitalists then and in the early 1950s); factions among policy makers versus one-party discipline; the existence or not of a cross-class coalition (between workers and unemployed); the structure of participation in policy (i.e., the extent of labour’s exclusive role); leadership and state administrative capacity; mobilization and the conditions undergirding it; national unity; rivalry for funds with other programs (social relief, help for the unemployed, the rural poor); legacies (expectations, narrowness, failures that produced caution later); the size of the population and labour surpluses; trade-offs between benefits and coverage; and discontinuities in economic development policy and the size of the harvest all had their roles.
In the end, it appears that it was the “difficulties posed by the high cost of expanding social insurance coverage in a poor economy,” however well-meaning leaders’ intentions, or, simply, “limited resources and a lack of state capacity” (268) that were at the root of a common conundrum in the less developed world. Dillon finds a “further problem” in the preferential incorporation of labour into welfare policy in that world. She attributes this to workers’ struggles to keep their own privileges while sacrificing welfare “outsiders.” But in fact one might read that move instead as regime choice.
Despite the enormous opportunity the book presents for learning new information about China’s early welfare programs, the sympathy I had for the heroic attempt to synthesize so much knowledge into one framework, and my admiration for the enterprise, I admit to having had some problems following the story. Some terms seemed to be used variably (“social insurance”—see pp. 10, 30, 53, 90, 118, 219, 228); the difference between social and labour insurance wasn’t clear; the terms “corporatism” and “labour contract program” lacked definitions; what really happened to excluded groups, especially the unemployed was not told, and, relatedly, there was no reference to the “sanwu” or “three withouts” (dependents, labour ability, source of livelihood) program. More importantly, there is scant mention of the role of political will, choice, and ideology among the leadership as reasons behind policy decisions. Overall, a presentation of welfare’s history that consistently highlighted just two or three factors might have oversimplified the stew but made it a bit easier to digest. Nonetheless, this is a landmark treatise that is unsurpassed in its energetic exegesis, a very welcome addition to labour and welfare scholarship.
Dorothy J. Solinger, University of California, Irvine, USA
OUTSOURCED CHILDREN: Orphanage Care and Adoption in Globalizing China. By Leslie K. Wang. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016. x, 190 pp. (Tables, figure.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-5036-0011-9.
China’s treatment of its children interests English-language readers for many different reasons. But as parents and non-parents alike know, judging how other people raise their children is fraught with peril. The open-mindedness that Leslie Wang demonstrates towards this thorny problem is one of the major strengths of her new book, Outsourced Children: Orphanage Care and Adoption in Globalizing China. Wang’s book tackles a vast array of issues regarding childcare in China and America: racial prejudice, disability, gender preference, domestic and international adoption, orphanage administration, class/religious influences on childcare practices, state interference in fertility management, orphan tourism, attitudes towards domestic labour, cultural imperialism, globalization, and more. If this list seems dizzying, it is: the book weaves through all of these topics across the world’s two most influential countries, tying some together, yet leaving the reader wondering why others are part of the story. By the end, Wang has presented us with a narrative experience that confirms her point that children “exist … at the juncture of local and global agendas” (23), but the central argument—and sometimes, even the central topic—remains elusive.
The book opens with an introduction to Emma and Henry, two disabled Chinese children who have been “outsourced” within China, giving the reader an immediate insight into some of the wrenching personal stories the author uses to tackle social, medical, and emotional dilemmas throughout the book. The chapter then expands to explore China’s recent economic and social development, including policies surrounding fertility planning (often known as the “one-child policy”), the scandal involving China’s orphanages sparked by the BBC’s 1990s documentary “The Dying Rooms,” changes in international adoption policies and their rationales, and the tension between the PRC Party-state’s responsibility for national social welfare and the desire of Western humanitarian NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) to “improve the lives of unwanted youth” (16). Here the unfortunately named concept of “outsourced intimacy” is introduced (“unfortunately,” because like 100 percent of those I unofficially polled, I initially assumed it referred to prostitution): “the process by which the Chinese state has outsourced the care of locally devalued children to Westerners who, using their own resources, remake them into global citizens” (4).
Chapter 2, “Survival of the Fittest,” reprises many of these macro-level themes, intertwining them with heartrending (and sometimes heartwarming) stories of individual babies. This chapter focuses on the concept of suzhi—“a set of quantifiable categories relating to the physical health, mental ability, and … productive power of individuals, groups and nations” (30)—currently trending within China about children’s potential contributions to China’s future. Wang compares these views with how other cultures have historically viewed the “social value of children” (28), making the critical point that even in the US, “as the U.S. economy developed and expanded, new ideologies of children” prevailed (28), radically changing the meaning and thus care of children. Yet she stymies her own valid argument by seeming to suggest that China’s “capitalist transformation” has achieved the point that cultural and childcare norms have already reached stasis (29). As a historian reviewing a sociologist’s work, I am gratified to see recognition of historical change, yet dismayed at the short time frame Wang allows for these processes.
Historical change is also discussed in chapter 3, “From Missing Girls to America’s Sweethearts,” which tackles the issue of gender bias in Chinese and American families. Wang reviews how Chinese girls became the focus for American and then Chinese parents seeking adoptions, leaving disabled children and healthy boys in China’s orphanages. While the absence of healthy girls in these institutions needs explanation (the author herself admits being “surprised to see boys everywhere” ), the digression into American adoptive parents’ “racialized preferences” (55–57)—while interesting—is the kind of departure that detracts from the main points of the book.
Chapters 4 and 5 delve into what Wang herself rightly characterizes elsewhere as her book’s primary contribution: a systematic study of daily life in Chinese state-run orphanages. These chapters present Wang’s personal insights as a volunteer participant-observer for two different Western charitable groups in China: the first an evangelical Christian organization running a special care unit of a Chinese orphanage, and the second a local grassroots group of affluent expatriate wives in Beijing working within a state-run orphanage. Here, Wang challenges us to understand “different logics of care” (78). She details how “affluent Western volunteers attempted to import a highly individualized middle-class approach to care that differed greatly from that of the local working-class Chinese caregivers” (78). The former she calls an “intensive” or “emotional” logic of care; the latter, a “pragmatic” or “custodial” logic (147–151). The different logics give rise to different ways of “raising the children,” and Wang does an admirable job of identifying and presenting both approaches sympathetically. She is less sympathetic to some Americans, however, particularly the ex-pat wives volunteering in Beijing, whom she calls “largely self serving” (151)—a criticism broadly true of any philanthropist, I would argue.
Chapter 6, “Waiting Children Finally Belong,” details the rise in special-needs adoptions in the US through the American evangelical church-based adoption movement (130). Here Wang also singles out certain actors for criticism. She argues that “the evangelical mission to pluck non-Western kids out of difficult circumstances one by one and place them into Western families has been bolstered by neo-liberal values that prioritize individual-level solutions over large-scale systemic change” (142), allowing Western Christians to “perform moral superiority and altruism” on disabled orphans (148). Although sympathetic to the original charge, the historian in me recognizes that social change will inevitably come, while meanwhile, lives are being saved regardless of the saviours’ motives. Wang might reserve some of her open-mindedness for these parents.
Wang’s book does a particularly good job of problematizing the work of well-meaning international NGOs. The futility of blindly imposing foreign ideals on actors not ready to accept them in environments unsuited to their acceptance comes through strongly in her book. Wang further nuances even this insight: The story of Dang Yan suffering from spina bifida reveals some of the unintended consequences of trying to forcefully export cultural imperatives, when her encounter with an emotional logic of care ends badly. Yet the ultimate outcome of Dang’s institutionalization (153) also shows that over time, change does occur, and happy endings are possible even for China’s disabled orphans. Neither a streamlined nor a particularly academic book, Outsourced Children offers a cross-culturally provocative smorgasbord introducing the politics surrounding China’s children.
Caroline Reeves, Harvard University Fairbank Center, Cambridge, USA
KNOWLEDGE ACTS IN MODERN CHINA: Ideas, Institutions, and Identities. China Research Monographs, 73. Edited by Robert Culp, Eddy U, and Wen-hsin Yeh. Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2016. xii, 382 pp. (Tables, B&W photos.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-55729-170-7.
This collection brings together new research by twelve historians of modern China, integrated into a thematically consistent and coherent whole. This is not just a group of papers, but a collective product showcasing a promising new area of investigation: the formation of academic and professional disciplines in Republican China.
In their introduction, the editors note a dearth of research on the establishment of modern disciplines. All contributors address this issue, and by reading the papers one learns a lot about what it meant, in Republican China, to be a geographer, an anthropologist, a lawyer, a judge, a civil engineer, an economist, a publisher, a journalist, or a scientist. Each chapter tells the story of its discipline, often through reconstructing the career trajectories of individual practitioners: Republican-era professionals whose names have not necessarily gone down into the annals of history but whose activities were crucial to the growth of their own fields. Collectively, the chapters in this book reflect the variety of career prospects available to educated individuals during this period. They add to the increasing number of studies that are reviving the rich diversity of Republican-era intellectual life and salvaging it from previous politicized oversimplifications.
A second claim the editors make in their introduction is that the essays contribute to our understanding of a “distinctive modernity” unique to modern China. Whereas intellectual life in most modern societies is characterized by increased specialization and a proliferation of relatively autonomous fields with their own standards, institutions, and dispositions, the editors feel that in Republican China these processes were more fluid, with professionals crossing over between academic and commercial institutions. In addition, they feel that the state, especially after 1927, intervened relatively more in the “arbitration of knowledge” and the establishment of professional institutions than in Western countries. I am not sure that a singular, distinctive “Chinese modernity” is what we should be pursuing in our study of this period, as it might turn out to be another oversimplification, but I do feel that the editors have been successful in sustaining this argument throughout the collection.
Several chapters take up the notion of fluidity across academic and commercial institutions. In the opening chapter, by Tze-ki Hon, the emphasis is on the establishment of historical geography as a field through commercial print publications. The chapter by Huei-min Sun, dealing with professional qualifications for lawyers, shows how newspaper advertisements for their services played a crucial role in constructing their professional identity. Elisabeth Köll, writing about the establishment of the discipline of civil engineering, with special reference to railroads, shows how commercial companies were in part responsible for professional training. Robert Culp presents a richly detailed study of the working practices of “petty intellectuals,” i.e., staff editors at publishing houses, whose habitus he describes in terms of a partial relinquishment of creative aspirations in favour of industrial-style cultural production. Similar aspects permeate the chapter by Timothy Weston, dealing with the introduction of journalism as a “hybrid field” where qualifications could be gained both through study and through on-the-job experience.
Virtually all chapters recognize the increasing significance of state intervention, especially under the Chiang Kai-shek regime. Clayton Brown shows how the discipline of archaeology became intricately linked to state-funded institutions aimed at preserving antiquities as national treasures. Glenn Tiffert’s discussion of the training of judges has fascinating information about state-sponsored bar examinations (including compulsory essays written in classical Chinese well into the 1940s!), while making the wider point that judicial independence was generally sacrificed in favour of national unity as soon as the war against Japan started. Köll’s paper shows how after the early period of commercially driven engineering, the state intervened in the early 1920s through the founding of Jiaotong University, and became itself the major employer of railroad engineers after 1927. The epilogue to Weston’s essay deals with the reformulation of journalistic independence in relation to service to the nation, especially during the war. Megan Greene’s contribution is devoted in its entirety to wartime debates about Ministry of Education policies that saw the natural sciences brought under state control for the benefit of postwar reconstruction, leading to a “confluence of interests” between scientists and the state.
The highlight of the collection is the essay by Bryna Goodman, which draws upon an impressive array of print culture material to revive public debates about the 1921 stock market “bubble” in Shanghai. Ranging from newspaper reports, to writings in professional bankers’ journals, to fictional accounts in literary journals, the wealth of material gathered by Goodman shows urban society coming to terms with “Western-modelled financial institutions and economic theory” (206). She follows the writings of Ma Yinchu as he emerges as a professional economist trying to demonstrate the significance of his discipline, while openly reflecting on the appropriateness of Western economic models for China’s development. This shows how thinking about a distinctively “Chinese” alternative to Western modernity was taking place already in the 1920s, casting further doubt on the editor’s use of “Chinese modernity” as an analytical category.
The final two essays cover different ground but are no less important to the overall idea of the collection. Timothy Cheek’s chapter on the Yan’an Rectification Movement shows how this movement can be seen as “interrupting the development of modern professionalism” (304). At the same time, his careful reconstruction of the actual implementation of the rectifications demonstrates the professionalism of the ideologues. Eddy U in his contribution looks at the differences in disposition between Long March veterans and “newcomers” in Yan’an, showing the latter to be less proletarianized in, for instance, their dress or their liberal views of romantic relationships, which indirectly led to their stigmatization as bourgeois intellectuals and to a negative redefinition of zhishifenzi that would have significant impact after 1949.
The collection ends with a discussant-style contribution by Wen-hsin Yeh, who places the Republican-era processes of professionalization in a wider context, especially in relation to the older, Confucian hierarchies that were much more based on seniority and less on field-specific qualifications. She ends with a timely warning that more work needs to be done to understand the continuities at work in state/knowledge relationships across the imperial, Republican, and Communist periods.
This is a very rich collection that will be of use to many historians of specific disciplines, while at the same time presenting a coherent overall argument that will feed into continuing discussions about China and modernity. It also has ample comparative potential for scholars working on social fields and processes of professionalization in other parts of the world.
Michel Hockx, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, USA
MODERNIZING CHINA: Investing in Soft Infrastructure. Edited by W. Raphael Lam, Markus Rodlauer, Alfred Schipke. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2017. xvi, 372 pp. (Tables, figures, boxes.) US$38.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-51353-994-2.
We know a lot about the effort China has put into creating hard infrastructure over the last three decades since the reform process started, with studies of its railways, roads, and energy systems. But since 2013 the Xi Jinping administration has set its sights firmly on creating a middle-income, more service-sector orientated, higher consumption economic model that will need institutions, regulatory frameworks, standards agencies, and a host of other entities under the purview of what the International Monetary Fund calls “soft infrastructure.”
China knows how to build high-speed train links and physical infrastructure better than any other country on earth. But reforming its tax system, constructing a workable and fair pension system for its emerging middle class, modernizing its administration, and generally upgrading the way in which it manages and governs itself are far harder goals. Part of this, as several of the book’s chapters make clear, is because of the ongoing tensions between the centre in Beijing and the provincial regions across the country. The mismatch between the revenue of local government and their spending obligations is a recurrent theme indicative of this tension, along with the ways in which in recent years raising of bonds, rescheduling of debt, and land sales have all been used to try and address the shortfall, all with varying but limited levels of success. The bottom line remains a political one, however, with Beijing resistant to empowering provinces to such an extent that they become too strong and start thinking they can push back.
The chapter on tax is illustrative of just how much of a mountain China still has to climb. From the era of Maoist statism, during which tax was simply an abstract notion, the country now has a complex system of personal, corporate, and consumption tax, with a national network of over 100,000 offices and personnel involved in making sure that it is paid. Tax merits close attention, despite its highly technical nature. This contribution doesn’t spell out the specific reasons for this: the ways in which it directly impacts on people’s wealth and their sense of justice in a particular society. But this study makes clear that a central office staffed with only 800 people trying to direct this whole mammoth exercise, the continuing divisions between provinces and the ways they collect some taxes, and the problem, shared with many other countries, of how to deal with the mega-wealthy are all massive structural issues that need to be urgently addressed.
A similarly daunting set of challenges is presented in the chapter on pensions. China faces a rapidly ageing population. Its current system, in which there are three broad groups of pension provision, from retired state enterprise employees, to those from rural areas, and those who worked in the public service apparatus, is once more fragmented across provinces. One of the key policy recommendations this book gives is simply to raise the retirement age, to as high as 67. We are used to viewing the Chinese government as all-powerful and highly coercive. It seems however that even in as simple a remedy as this, it fears angering its citizens, and as yet, no moves have been made to raise these age limits.
Across the areas of budget planning, fiscal administration, and even into the realm of internationalization of the Chinese RMB, a matter on which there are two detailed, very helpful chapters, one consistent theme sticks out: the need for China to have stronger institutions. Once more, the image of the unified Party state under Communism grates against the reality this book illustrates: of a country undergoing immense transformation and needing more and more sophisticated finance and bond markets, regulatory procedures for dealing with state enterprises and the private sector, and a means of allowing Chinese currency a greater international role without this being disruptive, but which currently simply lacks the administrative and institutional wherewithal to properly address these issues.
A critical reading of this book would need to recognize the immense amount of data that it contains. The 350-plus pages of text are littered with graphics, bar and pie charts, and lists of information. The book’s various authors have a huge amount of knowledge about the areas they address. Despite this, there is a sneaking suspicion that this work, while probably right on one level in most of its prescriptions, simply ignores the huge political impediments that stand in the way of many of the reforms its recommends. A unified national pension system makes great sense, for example. But it would also create a vast potential empire of vested interest. And the issues over tax reform have lurking behind them, as stated above, the age-old battle between the centre and Chinese provinces. Chinese attempts to set up more rational systems for its finance sector are only happening in a context where rule of law and freedom of information exist within tight parameters. The Chinese attempt under the Communist Party to create its own indigenous, hybrid system, but one where the Party maintains its supremacy, looks even stronger under Xi Jinping than his predecessors. And one can imagine the bureaucrats in Beijing in particular, who are the target of most of the advice offered here, appreciating the work’s deep knowledge of their system, but dismissing it for its over-rational disregard of the very specific political context in which they are endeavouring to build what they call “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Kerry Brown, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
PARK CHUNG HEE AND MODERN KOREA: The Roots of Militarism 1866–1945. By Carter J. Eckert. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016. xii, 472 pp.,  pp. of plates. (Maps, illustrations.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-65986- 475.
This book is divided into two parts: the first is about the development of Park Chung Hee as a military officer, while the second traces the roots of South Korea’s modernization from the 1960s under President Park Chung Hee. The book’s first part, titled “Contexts,” consists of “Militarizing Time,” “Militarizing Minds,” and “Militarizing Places and Persons,” while the book’s second part is composed of “Politics and Status,” “Politics and Power,” “State and Society,” “Tactics and Spirit,” and “Order and Discipline.”
Although Chosŏn society had a strong tradition that “esteem[ed] civil literati culture (mun) while looking down on all things associated with the military (mu)” (56), the necessity of reforming effete Chosŏn society was gaining in urgency in the face of a growing crisis emanating from outside Korea and which accompanied the global militarization process. This process of reform also helped produce male-centered, racist martial notions that were often laced with and buttressed by Social Darwinist concepts.
In 1896, a Korean military academy was established during the Korean emperor’s refuge in the Russian Embassy. This attracted the best-qualified young Korean men between 18 and 27 years of age regardless of social background. These were the products of the first wave of militarization in premodern Korean society, and this wave of military training continued even after Korea’s annexation by Japan in 1910, and up until the Korean Independence Movement of March 1919.
The second wave began in the 1920s, in particular through the Japanese-imposed mandatory military training in schools, something that was supported by Korean cultural nationalists. Although the military training was regulated by the Japanese government-general in Korea without any public consensus, the Dong-A Daily, the most popular Korean newspaper at the time, published an editorial in support of the training. The first educational institutions to start the training were normal schools and commercial schools, including the Taegu Normal School where Park Chung Hee was educated.
Another catalyst of militarization in the colonial period was the Manchurian Incident of 1931. The Japanese occupation of Manchuria and the creation of the puppet state of Manchukuo provided an opportunity for Koreans to raise their status and power, particulary those who entered the Japanese military, for military life attracted men, like Park, who “cherished ambition” (87–88). The Manchurian Military Academy (MMA), which emulated the Japanese Military Academy (JMA), was a melting pot composed mainly of ethnic groups from Manchuria, Japan, and Korea, and provided an opportunity for the best students, including those from poor families. In sum, the development of the military officer Park Chung Hee does not just tell the story of one individual’s trajectory; it is emblematic of the social discourse of the period in the first part of this book.
The second part of the book presents a precise examination of the MMA. The influence and impact of the curricula of and life in the MMA on Park was the most important root of the prototype of South Korean social norms in the 1960s and 1970s as established by President Park. The author stresses the atmosphere in Japanese society in the 1930s, when ambitious young military officers attempted several military coups and social reforms to carry out the so-called Shōwa Restoration. The military’s intervention in politics seemed not to violate social and political norms. Moreover, Korea’s Chosŏn Dynasty was established through a coup in 1392 and the short-lived Kapsin Coup in 1884 was positively portrayed during the colonial period. According to the author, such precedents made it possible for Park to implement a military coup in 1961 with the object of saving South Korean society. The Japanese officers who were involved in failed coups of 1930s Japan moved on to Manchukuo, where they played critical roles not only in key institutions like the South Manchurian Railway, but also in the Manchukuo Government and the MMA. The MMA cadets were trained under the idea of total war, which might be positioned as between socialism/communism and the ideals of the Shōwa Restoration, as the author points out.
The author further argues that 1970s Korean society was an incarnation of MMA ideas. As a Japanese government publication expressed it during the Asia-Pacific War, the essence of the total war idea was “to activate the fundamental energies of national growth and development” and to link “defense and economy inseparably” (213). The total-war system had two prerequisites. One was the reform and regulation of the economy, which would “introduce state planning and coordination over the entire range of the economy” and “ensure the ‘full capacity’ of the nation in all areas could be ‘mobilized and uniformly exercised’” (213). The second prerequisite was psychological mobilization, where businessmen served the state interests and people lived under a unitary sense of “mutual dependency” and “national co-existence and co-prosperity,” adhering to the so-called idea of total-war thinking (213–216). The psychological side was connected with the ideas of “certainty of victory,” “can-do” spirit, and “no slacking,” which are mentioned in the latter part of the book.
In conclusion, the author argues that among the MMA Korean graduates, no one embraced this ethos more thoroughly and enthusiastically than Park Chung Hee, and he and his fellow alumni found “a home in South Korea and Korea’s martial lineage, honed at the MMA in Lalatun and JMA in Zama, gained a new lease on life” (322), despite the fact that the legacies of the MMA and JMA vanished in Japan.
Starting from 1990, the author conducted countless interviews with individuals involved in the military academies at Lalatun and Zama, and cites an impressive range of primary sources and works in Chinese, as well as in English, Korean, and Japanese. In addition, through fieldwork in the former locations of the MMA and the JMA, Eckert is able to vividly describe the geographical characteristics of these sites in order to illustrate the conditions of the cadets at the time. However, I wonder how the author might, in the second volume of this study dealing with Park post-1945, tally his own logic regarding war criminals during the Asia-Pacific War with the creation of another “total-war system” in post 1945 South Korea, a system accompanied by its own inevitable security crises and human rights violations. Park’s activities after his commission as a second lieutenant, which was not clearly detailed in this study, will be a key part of that logic. For answers, researchers must await the next volume in this series, which will detail the third wave of militarization in Korean society after 1945.
Tae-Gyun Park, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
JAPANOMANIA IN THE NORDIC COUNTRIES 1875–1918. Ateneumin Publications, v. 75. Edited by Gabriel P. Weisberg, Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff & Hanne Selkokari. Brussels: Mercatorfonds; New Haven; London: Yale University Press [distributor], 2016. 296 pp. (240 color + 66 b&w Illustrations.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-300-22011-7.
The term Japonisme was coined by the French art critic Philippe Burty in a series of articles published in 1872 to describe the impact of Japanese art and objects in a variety of media and forms throughout Europe from the mid-1850s on. Academic literature on Japonisme as inspiration and (mis)appropriation has accumulated in volume and range since the inception of the term, but this work has been largely fixated on France, England, the Netherlands, and the United States, in large part due to the prominence of artists who were influenced by Japanese woodblock prints in these countries, such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, James McNeill Whistler, and B.J.O. Nordfelt. The beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated Japanomania in the Nordic Countries aims to fill a lacuna by a close look at the less-studied transmissions, manifestations, and interpretations of Japanese art in Scandinavia during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
Based on an exhibit that was initially held at the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, where I saw it in February 2016 (it moved to the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo later in the same year, and then to the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen in 2017), the chief curator and lead editor Gabriel Weisberg, who has published extensively since the 1960s on Burty, Impressionism, Naturalism, Realism, and Japonisme in France, has organized the book into seven sections. As might be expected of a work positioned in art history and based on an exhibition, there are close analyses of individual works and artists, with notable Norwegians, famed Finns, and decorated Danes making significant appearances. But it moves beyond fine-grained studies of specific artworks to explore a wider range of collectors, curators, exhibitions, and media involved in the dissemination and reinterpretation of Japanese art and objects throughout Scandinavia.
Section 1 establishes the international context via an overview chapter by Weisberg, and a summary of Japonisme in English artists, including the famous wallpapers of William Morris, by Widar Halén. Section 2 describes the ways in which Japanese art and objects were transmitted and collected, with Weisberg providing an account of the progression from travel books, photographs, and commercial activity, to artists’ networks, exhibitions, and eventually to wider mass consumption of Japonisme. Halén describes the early collections of Japanese art in Nordic countries in museums in his chapter, and Leila Koivunen focuses on Finland’s Museum of Applied Arts holdings of the same period.
Section 3 overviews the early history of Nordic discovery and dissemination of Japanese objects. Anna Kortelainen analyzes the Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt’s exposure to Japonisme in Paris, in particular the orientalist tropes of geisha and women in general in kimono. Susanna Pettersson examines the activities of Herman Frithiof Antell, the first Finnish collecter of Japanese fine and applied art, who had also commissioned work from Edelfelt. Malene Wagner looks at the influences of Japanese art on Danish depictions of nature in the illustrations and the porcelains of Karl Madsen and Arnold Krog, respectively. Ellen Lerberg explains the role of Jens Thiis, the curator of the Norwegian Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Kunstindustrimuseet) in the expansion of Japonisme, and Koivunen’s chapter provides a close-up of the woodcuts displayed in the first exhibition of Japanese art in Helsinki, held in 1897.
Section 4 shows how the widespread interest in Japanese aesthetics vivified the visual vocabulary among Nordic artists. In his chapter Halén argues that in Norway, Japan filtered through English and Continental Japonisme became a proxy for the medieval art that was admired at the time. Anna-Maria Von Bonsdorff depicts the ideal of simplification in Japanese art as manifested in the work of the Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck, and Nils Ohlsen explains the influences of Japanese woodblock prints on Nordic interior paintings. Hanne Selkokari introduces the activities of Gustaf Strengell, a Finnish architect and museum curator in organizing a “second wave” of exhibitions on Japanese art.
Section 5 features three chapters. Leena Svinhufvud parses Japonisme’s intertwining with Finnish textile art to conclude that there was conscious and selective adaptation rather than wholesale applications, meaning that the art produced was as much Finnish as it was Japanese (204–205). Trine Nordkvelle probes the prints of Norwegians Nikolai Astrup and Edvard Munch to show the influences of Japanese woodblocks via the direct documentation of Astrup’s studies of Japanese art, circumstantial evidence of Munch’s exposure to things Japanese, and readings of specific paintings (208–210). Nils Ohlsen’s analysis of Japan’s influence on Nordic photography shows the overlooked importance of photography relative to woodblock prints as a medium through which Japan was presented and received.
Section 6 focuses on nature as genre and motif: Von Bonsdorff traces the ways in which Nordic depictions of nature were influenced by Japonisme, while Vibeke Waallann Hansen deals with two Norwegian painters—Thorolf Holmboe and Theodor Kittelsen—who were closely associated with the Art Nouveau of the 1890s. Finally, section 7 features two chapters that deal with the popular consumption of Japan. Halén, in his fourth contribution to the volume, traces the diffusion of “Japan Mania” via the popular press, operettas, and fashion, and Harri Kalha provides a fascinating overview of late-nineteenth-century Japonisme postcards as simulacra, copies without originals, arguing that the “fantasy of Japan found its most compelling expressions in the postcard” (262).
Despite its comprehensive coverage, some areas of elision provide suggestions for possible avenues of future research. First, Sweden seems curiously under-represented, with artists such as Anders Zorn receiving little attention despite their relative prominence. Second, sculpture appears rather sporadically. Given the renown of August Rodin’s series of sculptures of Japanese actress “Hanako,” it would have been useful to have provided further explanation of why some forms, themes, and genres were less emphasized. Third, while the selected bibliography is replete with books, articles, and exhibition catalogues in English, French, Finnish, Danish, and German, there are only two exhibition catalogues in Japanese/English despite the existence of a much larger body of published academic work in Japanese on Japonisme around the world. Fourth, Utamaro, Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other famous Japanese artists are referenced in reverent tones, but Japanese traders, dealers, artists, and writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are notable in the book largely by their near absence. There are salient yet brief discussions of self-Japonisme in postcards (268–269), and “fruitful misunderstandings” in interior paintings (187), but further investigations of the imbrications of power, orientalism, and commerce would have provided additional cross-disciplinary bridges. However, the aim of the book is explicitly and squarely on outlining receptions and influences of Japonisme in Nordic countries, and it emphatically succeeds in that important task by providing a plethora of rich and useful details.
Hyung-Gu Lynn, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
FEMININITY, SELF-HARM AND EATING DISORDERS IN JAPAN: Navigating contradiction in narrative and visual culture. Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies Series. By Gitte Marianne Hansen. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. xii, 210 pp. (Illustrations.) US$148.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-90530-6.
This book explores the relationship between normative femininity and the increasing number of cases of eating disorders and self-harm in Japanese society. Both scholars and public commentators commonly suggest that the association of thinness with ideal femininity in the media and entertainment industry is a cause for women starving themselves to the point of developing mental illness. Advertisements, magazines, and websites frequently promote advice on losing weight and weight-loss products, which sends women a clear message that their worth hinges upon their thinness. This book offers new insight into and understanding of the relationship between contemporary Japanese femininity and eating disorders and self-harm. Hansen argues that “contradictive femininity,” contemporary normative femininity in Japan, demands that women navigate multiple subject positions, which often conflict with each other, and as a result, it is responsible for an increase in eating disorders and self-harm among women. She makes her argument by exposing the common cultural messages about normative femininity in storylines and female character constructions in a variety of narratives and visual cultures.
In this book, Hansen uses contradictive femininity to characterize contemporary normative Japanese femininity. Thanks to expanding legal rights and opportunities, Japanese women can explore and enjoy full participation in the social world and take on multiple roles and social identities beyond the domestic sphere. However, traditional gender expectations that tie women to the domestic sphere as mothers and homemakers and the obligation to serve men’s desires and needs remain strong. By adopting Judith Butler’s concept of gender performance, Hansen argues that to gain social acceptance and approval Japanese women must navigate and balance multiple subjectivities, all while continuously living up to the dominant cultural meaning of desirable femininity. Contradictive femininity, the fragmentation of one’s self, affects Japanese women more than their Western counterparts because of the failure of Japanese feminism to liberate women from domesticity and the continued celebration of their contribution to the private sphere. For Japanese women, this gender performance is challenging precisely because they must move back and forth between subjectivity and non-subjectivity.
Hansen uses the doppelgänger motif—a “classic literary element that is characterized by its ability to destabilize the unified self and counter oneself as another” (41)—in her analysis of female character constructions and storylines to show the fragmented nature of the contemporary self and the gender performance of contradictive femininity, including self-directed violence, in dealing with this fragmentation. In Japanese narratives and visual cultures, contradictory femininity is performed either by multiple characters, each of whom assumes a distinctive social position, or by a single character with an inhuman ability that can exist only in a fantasy world. However, real women cannot split themselves into multiple selves or acquire inhuman abilities to navigate multiple social roles and identities. Thus, real women face the challenge of performing contradictive femininity. Moving back and forth between an identity that highly values one’s subjectivity and an identity that requires the suppression of one’s agency causes psychological and emotional stress for contemporary Japanese women.
In the second half of the book, Hansen argues that self-directed violence, such as eating disorders and self-harm, is a nonnormative strategy for dealing with the challenge of performing contradictive femininity. In contemporary and classic literary works and visual culture, “appetite control and thinness” and “self-reproach and pain tolerance” (119) are described as expected normative feminine competences for social acceptance. In particular, eating insatiably is considered a monstrous quality, whereas refusing to eat is associated with being a good woman and vomiting with purifying the self. These feminine competences are closely tied to eating disorders and self-harm. Developing and exercising these feminine competences are necessary for societal acceptance and validation, but embracing them to the extreme would cross the line and receive a negative societal response. In other words, the line between what is desirable and what is pathological becomes blurred. For women who are struggling with navigating multiple subject positions, exercising these feminine competences is a strategy to resolve their fragmented self because these competences will always bring societal acceptance to women regardless of their positions/identities at the moment. Moreover, becoming simultaneously a victim and a victimizer allows women to move easily between two opposing selves. Hansen shows that self-directed violence often appears in Japanese narratives and visual culture as a result of women’s inability to navigate contradictory social positions, with their body symbolizing the entrapment in gender expectations that they over-conform to or can never escape. With the abundance of literary works, manga, and images in contemporary Japan that have a theme of self-directed violence, Hansen warns that self-directed violence has become a lifestyle some women adopt as a kind of gender performance. Japanese media’s increasing use of self-directed violence as a topic/theme for consumption and entertainment promotes women’s identification with and normalization of this lifestyle.
This book shows the pervasiveness of the fragmented self of contemporary Japanese women and its consequence, contradictory femininity, by examining not only literary narratives and entertainment forms such as manga and films but also TV dramas and commercials, print advertisement, and artwork. The gender performance of contradictory femininity described in this work provides valuable insights into the struggles of contemporary Japanese women who seek to advance socially and escape the entrapment of being a social category. Hansen’s analysis of eating disorders and self-harm as contradictive femininity performance to cope with the fragmentation of the self has serious implications for the mental health of Japanese women today. If this is a form of gender performance, then their self-directed violence will persist and increase because it is closely tied to their gender identity. Though fictional characters and storylines can reflect real social conditions and experiences of women, the analysis remains theoretical. To truly understand how contemporary Japanese women navigate between dominant cultural messages of desirable femininity and opportunities that allow them to expand their social roles, we need to listen to real women.
Akiko Yasuike, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, USA
RETHINKING JAPAN: The Politics of Contested Nationalism. New Studies in Modern Japan. By Arthur Stockwin and Kweku Ampiah. Lanham; Boulder; New York; London: Lexington Books, 2017. xi, 297 pp. US$110.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-3792-6.
Stockwin and Ampiah begin this study of politics in contemporary Japan with a brief survey of the re-emergence of both right wing populism and authoritarianism around the world, which leads them to their central claim: “the election and continued incumbency of the Abe government signals a fundamental change in the politics, political economy, and conduct of foreign policy on the part of Japan” (2). According to Stockwin and Ampiah, Prime Minister Abe Shinzō’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is much less ideologically diverse than previous versions of that party, and the LDP aims “to assert the primacy of national identity, to revise the constitution, roll back crucial elements of the occupation settlement, bear down on human rights guarantees and important elements of democratic process, remove restrictions of freedom of action of the Self-Defense Force and establish Japan as what it called a ‘Normal State’” (9).
The first four chapters lay out the overall argument and paint a broad picture of changes in Japanese politics between the end of the occupation and today. The next five chapters outline and place in context recent changes in four different policy areas: political economy, constitutional revision, the Designated Secrets Law of 2013, the politics of World War II apologies in Japan, and the issue of collective self-defence. The final three chapters include an examination of Japan in relation to its neighbours, an examination of Japan’s relationship with the rest of the world, and a reassessment and critique of the idea of Japan as a reactive state.
Stockwin and Ampiah do an excellent job providing historical and political context to several of the debates currently animating Japanese politics. The strongest chapter in this book is chapter 6, which carefully analyzes the LDP’s 2012 proposed revisions to the constitution. In doing so, they effectively discuss both the history of the drafting of the constitution and the historical context behind many of the LDP’s proposed revisions.
In chapter 7, where they analyze the 2013 Designated Secrets Law, Stockwin and Ampiah make an unusual but ultimately very good decision. Although they are quite critical of the Designated Secrets Law and the damage that they fear it will do to freedom of the press in Japan, they also decide to include extensive reference to thoughtful correspondence from Kimura Sōta, a specialist in Japanese constitutional law and supporter of the law. This effort to present readers with both sides of a contentious issue further enriches the analysis in this book.
Stockwin and Ampiah also do a nice job discussing the history of party politics in Japan. They effectively address the conventional wisdom that in the post electoral reform years the LDP’s factions were non-ideological (24–25). They also shed light on the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)’s difficulty in governing Japan between 2009 and 2012 with an interesting and novel comparison—they compare the DPJ taking over the Japanese government after a long period of LDP rule with the Australian Labour Party taking over in Australia after defeating the conservative coalition that governed Australia between 1949 and 1972 (56–57). Their brief summary of the collapse of the Japan Socialist Party after its coalition government with the LDP is also well done (187).
As is perhaps unavoidable in a shared authoring project, Stockwin and Ampiah claim primary responsibility for different chapters (although they also gave one another input and, in some cases, made additions to chapters that the other was primarily responsible for) (viii). Thus, at times this book is unnecessarily repetitive. A few examples will illustrate this point. The LDP’s factions are effectively introduced on pages 24–25, and then are again explained from pages 77–79. The comfort women issue is explained on pages 166–173 and then again on pages 206–209. The issue of constitutional revision is the topic of chapter 6, but it is also introduced and discussed on pages 180–184. In none of these cases does the latter discussion make reference to the earlier one.
More substantially, although “contested nationalism” is in the title, Stockwin and Ampiah do not discuss that provocative phrase in the text of the book. At times their own interpretation seems to overstate the importance of nationalism to the current climate in Japan. For example, the concluding paragraph to their chapter on Abenomics begins with the observation that “[t]o Abe, the problem of China is just as important as Japan’s chronically ailing economy,” and they go on to suggest that concern with Japan’s position vis-à-vis China “might well be the primary factor compelling Abe to transform Japan’s economic fortunes” (113). This conclusion goes a bit beyond what the carefully and thoughtfully presented evidence in that chapter illustrates.
Finally, this book would have benefitted from a bit more attention to public opinion in Japan. Especially given that the elections won by Abe’s LDP have had historically low voter turnout, what does the Japanese public think about the direction that Abe’s LDP is taking Japan? This is an important question because, if the public is, by and large, not pleased with the LDP, then it is premature to talk about a new and more nationalist “2012 political system” (16).
Despite these relatively modest concerns, this is a book that outlines and provides historical context to many of the most important issues facing Japan today. It would be useful as a textbook in courses on the politics of Japan, politics in East Asia, and/or the comparative politics of advanced industrialized states, and would also be useful to those wanting thoughtful background on the challenges currently facing Japanese democracy.
Michael Strausz, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, USA
A MOST ENTERPRISING COUNTRY: North Korea in the Global Economy. By Justin V. Hastings. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2016. xviii, 216 pp. (Graphs, figures.) US$29.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-5017-0490-1.
The Bank of Korea (BOK) estimated that North Korea’s annual growth rate was -1.1% in 2015, and 3.9% in 2016. (Note that the credibility of BOK statistics on North Korea is still a matter of debate). For the same period, the Hyundai Research Institute estimated North Korea’s per capita GDP to have increased by 8.9%.
Recent statistics show that the North Korean economy is improving despite strong international sanctions. For a long time, people thought of North Korea as enigmatic. Now yet another puzzle presents itself: that of North Korea’s survival and development. Here, we ask a simple question: How is North Korea able to survive, and even achieve economic growth, in the middle of an alleged domestic economic collapse and a hostile international environment?
A Most Enterprising Country provides an answer to this latest puzzle. The book’s title is full of irony. Can North Korea, the last Stalinist state, which still maintains a socialist planned economic system, be “enterprising?” By analyzing changes in the North Korean economy from the 1990s to around 2015, the author argues that North Korea is not a socialist state (as conventionally understood) and that it does not have a socialist planned system. Hastings, a senior lecturer in international relations and comparative politics at the University of Sydney with an interest in East Asian political economy, including trade and smuggling activities, traces North Korean trade since the 1990s. He argues that North Korea has survived through foreign trade. North Korea’s private, state, and hybrid enterprises have constructed global foreign trade networks. There exists a hierarchical network in the domestic economy, a food chain that blurs the licit and illicit, the formal and informal. State and private enterprises in this global foreign trade network are surviving despite the hostile international environment. Hastings points to this creativity and adaptability of the North Korean economic system. At the same time, since state elites—from the Kim family, high-ranking and local elites, to trade agents—are intertwined in this hierarchical bribe chain, they have no incentive to challenge the system. Private agents, i.e. traders, can access state resources through these networks, and take advantage of them. Another keyword he suggests for understanding North Korea is the market. The market is where North Korean elites make, share, and distribute their profits. The idea leading the market is pragmatism.
Thus, Hastings depicts North Korea as most enterprising. However, he predicts that this system faces inevitable change, though not necessarily collapse. He has stated as much to the South China Morning Post (September 24, 2017), arguing that harsh economic sanctions have little impact on North Korea’s foreign policy.
Hasting’s research is based on literature as well as interviews with North Korean defectors and Chinese businesspeople who trade with North Korea. His arguments are interesting enough. However, three points are worth mentioning. The first is the relation between foreign trade and economic growth. Until recently, many researchers have suggested that the market drives the entire North Korean economy. However, whether the market can explain current North Korean economic growth is debatable. Currently, statistics indicate North Korean economic growth to be far beyond simply surviving and muddling through. As Hasting shows, we can find the answer to this puzzle in both trade and the market. Trade alone cannot explain North Korea’s recent economic growth since trade alone does not include domestic North Korean economic structures.
Second, the author describes North Korean trade networks at the global level beyond China and their hub-and-spokes structure. This approach is simultaneously both fresh and stale. Stale since, as seen in the text, the global networks of North Korea were established a long time ago and there management has been blurring political and economic boundaries ever since. (See also, Daniel Tudor and James Pearson, North Korea Confidential [Tuttle, 2015]). Of course, recent global networks are different from the old in that they are dominated by economic motives, not by ideological and political ones, and in that they’ve been expanded to include capitalist countries. But what is new in terms of the structure itself? In Hastings, it is hard to discern a critical difference or change between the old and new networks.
Third, what is the impact of policy changes in North Korea? During the Seventh Party Congress in 2016, North Korea emphasized the need to diversify its trading partners. North Korea fears dependence on China, which accounts for 90 percent of its foreign trade, and would like to find new trading partners to reduce that dependency. This could encourage North Korean traders’ creativity and adaptability in a various ways. What will change and what will not is an important question to be answered in the future.
Currently, North Korea confronts a series of UN sanctions, the US’s special sanctions, and China’s accommodation of international sanctions. As Hastings comments, “a complete Chinese shutdown of trade and barricading of the border would probably bring the country to its knees” (South China Morning Post, September 24, 2017). But will China take that path? Even now, at the peak of international sanctions, trucks are stuck in traffic jams in Dandong, the most important nexus of Sino-North Korean trade, as they cross to Shinuiju on the North Korean side of the border.
The real value of this book’s insights will be tested as we see whether such a situation is sustainable into the future. Although, as the author says, we should not “mistake to think” that economic sanctions will cause the collapse of North Korea.
This book provides one answer to the question of North Korea’s survival and economic growth in circumstances of the most severe sanctions against it (a total of 12 sanctions since the 1990s). Policy-makers, scholars, students, and anyone interested in North Korea’s future should read this book. It delivers insights and valuable lessons on North Korea’s economy and foreign trade.
YoungChul Chung, Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea
CARE COMMUNICATION: Making a Home in a Japanese Eldercare Facility. Routledge Studies in Sociolinguistics, no. 14. By Peter Backhaus. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. xiii, 187 pp. (Tables, graphs.) US$149.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-22984-6.
Backhaus’s Care Communication is a sociolinguistic analysis of verbal interactions between the residents and care workers of an eldercare institution in Tokyo. The main motivation propelling the analysis is to better understand the nature of communication in a Japanese institutional eldercare setting (24). The book has a double aim: to account for the “basic characteristics of resident-staff interaction during morning care activities” (24); and to contribute to the understanding of “how little things can make a difference in the various ways people care for each other as they try to make a home in an unlikely place” (152). These are worthy goals, particularly in Japan, where institutionalized eldercare has long remained a publicly debated topic. With the proportion of elderly in Japanese society still due to rise, waiting lists to be admitted to care institutions invariably long, continuously high turnover of care staff, and the delegation of eldercare to non-Japanese workers and robots, it is important that we have a clear understanding of how these institutions operate not only on a large managerial level, but also how “micro-level human interactions” (152) and “micro-level orderliness” (24) shape (but also reflect) the experiences of those for whom these institutions are a workplace as well as those for whom they have become new homes.
To achieve his goals, Backhaus analyzes 46 transcripts of 107 voice-recorded interactions that occurred in an institution nicknamed Edogawa Care over 18 working days. He focuses solely on early morning encounters when the elderly residents are woken up and get ready for breakfast assisted by the care workers. The analysis (following a short introduction, a somewhat longer contextualization of his own study within the existing literature on communication and institutionalized care, and a methodological chapter), focuses on four aspects of the verbal exchanges that Backhaus recorded: occurrence of honorifics (a particularly marked element in the Japanese language); openings and closings; task- and non-task-related talk; and the tempo of the exchanges. Four analytical chapters discuss several characteristics of each of these aspects.
We learn, for example, that care workers and the elderly use honorifics not according to grammar-book rules, but according to how they understand a situation on a “turn-by-turn basis” (44–45). By pointing to this dynamism Backhaus questions the direct link between honorifics and politeness. In relation to how and by whom verbal interactions are initiated and how they come to an end, Backhaus shows that these are dominated by care workers. However, the elderly too are able to take it upon themselves to, for example, confirm the end of a task and thus exercise more control over the flow of the situation.
What is of interest in Backhaus’s discussion of task and non-task talk, are not just the subjects raised, but also how the non-task talk is incorporated within the task-focused utterances. Both the elderly and the care workers need to multitask to get their non-task conversations going. While non-task exchanges are an important part of care that extends beyond the physical and attends to the emotional needs of the elderly, allowing for the institutional roles to recede into the background, there is a thin line between “talking while working” and “working while talking” (121). Should one appear as doing the latter, they run the risk of being cast as unprofessional (121). Just how easy it is to move from one form of interaction to the other is illustrated by Backhaus through the words of an elderly person who has to bring a care worker back to the care task at hand when the latter, engrossed in a non-task talk, temporarily delays his actions. How exactly to balance the task and non-task-related conversations and actions is an issue at the heart of the definition of what good care is.
In the penultimate chapter Backhaus directs our attention to the tempo of the exchanges. The main gist we get from the analysis here is that the elderly favour a somewhat slower pace than that at which the care workers operate. This has arguably to do with the drive of the care workers to perform a task quickly. However, Backhaus points out that such “interactional hurriedness” (140) can actually have the opposite effect.
Concluding his book, Backhaus summarizes the main characteristics of the analyzed interactions: care communication during morning exchanges in Edogawa Care is task-focused and asymmetrical, with care givers typically having the upper hand, and done in a hurry. This is indeed what transpires through the examples presented in the book. However, what I was left in want of was Backhaus’s suggestion as for how to make a home in an “unlikely place” (152) such as a care institution. Despite the subtitle suggesting that the reader will learn about how the “making of a home” is enacted in a Japanese eldercare facility, the closest we get to finding out how Backhaus sees it happen is when we read that “institutional asymmetry is no pre-given state, but an interactional product that the participants can refuse to deliver” (144) and that institutions can be “talked into and—at times—out of being” (143). Yes, throughout the book we do see how the elderly are subverting the overall asymmetrical relationship they find themselves in in relation to the care workers, but how exactly is it related to making a care institution a home? To answer this second topic of his book, Backhaus could have offered a more sustained analysis of the two “noisy background topics” (148) that he only marginally attends to throughout the book and then shortly returns to in the conclusion: What constitutes politeness or its opposite and how does gender shape interactions between care workers and the elderly residents? And then, how does this relate to an idea of home. Two sections of the conclusion are devoted to putting together dispersed moments from the book that speak to these questions, but both of these large topics together are covered within just five pages and do not offer an answer.
Overall, the book meets its goal to describe the basic characteristics of staff-resident interaction during morning care activities as they manifest themselves in the Japanese language. The book will therefore be of interest to linguists interested in this area who, for example, may be working on care-related study books for non-Japanese workers and/or designing software to be mounted on robots attending to the Japanese elderly in the future. The other goal of the book, that is, understanding how to make a home in an eldercare institution, however, could perhaps be delegated to a sequel to Care Communication, which I would also read with great interest.
Beata Świtek, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany
EMPEROR HIROHITO AND THE PACIFIC WAR. By Noriko Kawamura. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015. vii, 238 pp. (Map, illustrations.) US$34.94, cloth. ISBN 978-0-295-99517-5.
This book, Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War, is a well-balanced analysis of the controversial role Emperor Hirohito played during the Pacific War, drawing on previously unavailable primary sources. Noriko Kawamura sets herself a twofold task: first, to situate controversies surrounding Emperor Hirohito into appropriate historical contexts; second, to shed a new light on the work by past researchers on Emperor Hirohito’s wartime deeds and responsibilities. Kawamura, in fact, is right in arguing that “even if the power of the throne was symbolic, not actual, the emperor could have taken symbolic responsibility for the war, although there would still be a need to clarify what would constitute symbolic war responsibility” (7). In the first three of the six chapters, Kawamura accomplishes the first task by a careful description of the chronology of imperialist Japan. In the remaining three chapters, Kawamura explores the possibilities for striking a balance between orthodox and leftist historians’ interpretations. For example, Kawamura mentions that there is a tendency on the part of Western scholars to support a Tokyo Trial view of the emperor’s role in war decisions, and that they have generally been more sympathetic to the dilemmas faced by the emperor than Japanese leftist historians. Wherever necessary, Kawamura provides theoretical and practical explanations for their judgments, which makes this book accessible even to elementary readers in the field of wartime history. For example, Kawamura states that these Western scholars all reflected Maruyama Masao’s argument of the pluralistic consensus-oriented system.
The introduction sets forth the objective of this book: “to reexamine and reevaluate Emperor Hirohito’s role in the Pacific War and to offer a realistic reappraisal of two highly politicized and exaggerated interpretations of history” (7, emphasis added): one depicting the emperor as a pacifist constitutional monarch and the other as an absolute monarch and commander in chief.
Chapter 1 provides the background of the period from 1910 to 1933, as to how two divergent visions of Japan’s role in the world emerged: “one held by those who believed in international accommodation; the other held by those who wanted to build a self-sustaining Japanese empire in Asia” (19). Chapter 2 describes how the emperor’s perception of his country’s troubled internal conditions deeply affected his attitude concerning Japan’s policy toward China and the Western world. Chapter 3 analyzes Japan’s critical decision-making process in the early years of the Pacific War. The author sets out Emperor Hirohito’s dilemma, which is an ironic contradiction for leftist historians: “the emperor who wanted to act like a constitutional monarch had to exercise his authority like an absolute monarch if he was to avoid war with the United States” (95).
Chapter 4 explains the continued and increasing gap between the emperor’s personal concerns about Japan’s situation and the military leadership’s view of the war (115). Chapter 5 centres around Robert Butow’s claim that “[t]he atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet Union’s declaration of war did not produce Japan’s decision to surrender, for that decision—in embryo—had long been taking shape. What these events did do was to create that unusual atmosphere in which the theretofore static factor of the Emperor could be made active in such an extraordinary way as to work what was virtually a political miracle” (135–136). Chapter 6 sets the right question as a framework to examine Emperor Hirohito’s role toward the end of war: “if the emperor could not stop Japan from going to war in the first place, how and why was he able to play a critical role in ending the war through his seidan (sacred imperial decision)?” (151), instead of the wrong question (“if the emperor possessed the power to stop the war in August 1945, why did he permit the war to start in the first place?”) which is obvious to the reader who understands the emperor’s seemingly contradictory two positions mentioned above.
Throughout this book, Kawamura tries to be fair and careful to both sides, that is, to orthodox and to leftist historians, in citing and evaluating their use of evidence, positions, and arguments. For example, in the third chapter, Kawamura criticizes Herbert Bix’s argument that Hirohito could have changed the outcome of the imperial conference on September 6, 1941, faulting his reliance on selective evidence. Also, Kawamura is not afraid to challenge an existing historical view: “There is no doubt that the emperor’s ‘Monologue’ was prepared in anticipation of the Tokyo war crimes trial, but this does not automatically diminish the reliability of the emperor’s testimony, as some of his critics have suggested” (15).
Reading through the final chapters, one is bound to ask: how successful is Kawamura’s work in accomplishing the twofold task mentioned above? I believe that Kawamura does a fine job of describing Emperor Hirohito’s complex positions and his historical situation (and, I might add, conveying the emperor’s personality). I would be remiss, however, if I closed without a final comment on the timing of this publication. Not only are we in a post-truth society of the twenty-first century, but we are also entering into the post-witness society of World War II. Over seventy years have passed since the war’s end; soon, we will no longer be able to depend on the people who lived wartime Japan in person for evidence. Besides, their memories could be coloured, selected, and even distorted by their emotions, ideological positions, and experiences. Hence in the years to come, we need to analyze such rhetorical notions as “myths” (136), “collective memories” (136), “his words” (154) and “hard reality” (183), in addition to official documentation. Kawamura is correct to close the discussion in the epilogue with this statement: “Regardless of his intentions, [Emperor Hirohito] has become a controversial historical figure whose silence and inaction will continue to have divergent and far-reaching impacts, both negative and positive, for generations to come” (192). The controversy continues. Reconciliation between historical and rhetorical studies of wartime Japan is posed as a challenging agenda for contemporary scholars.
Takeshi Suzuki, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan and University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
CURSE ON THIS COUNTRY: The Rebellious Army of Imperial Japan. By Danny Orbach. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2017. x, 367 pp. (Figures.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-5017-0528-1.
Reading Danny Orbach’s new monograph, I often thought of that old quip about Prussia: “not a state with an army but an army with a state.” The same too could be said about Imperial Japan, where, as Orbach persuasively shows, the tail so often wagged the dog in setting both domestic and foreign policy.
Orbach’s book pulls off the difficult trick of talking to two audiences at once. Those only casually familiar with Japanese history will appreciate how thoroughly Orbach demolishes the hoary orientalist trope that Japanese soldiers were insect-like drones, mindlessly obedient to state propaganda. Specialists will be more interested in Orbach’s answer to what is still for many the great question of modern Japanese history: why did the country embark on a disastrous war of aggression in the mid-twentieth century?
Orbach’s answer in some ways echoes earlier explanations advanced during and immediately after that war. At the time many Japanese intellectuals, not to mention the US Occupation authorities, agreed that the country’s militarism was a remnant of the “feudal” Tokugawa era (1603–1868): an unreformed samurai ethos combined with a stunted modern subjectivity that prevented the people from mobilizing to curb the recklessness of their leaders. Later generations of scholars have largely jettisoned this view, attributing the Pacific War to modern phenomena such as capitalism, imperialism, fascism, or autarkic planning.
But for Orbach the seeds of the Japanese militarism do indeed lie in the Tokugawa period, in particular its closing years after the arrival of Commodore Perry’s Black Ships. During this period rebellious young “warriors of high aspiration” (shishi) undermined the ruling Shogunate by engaging in assassination, brigandage, and even urban guerrilla warfare. Though their actions were purportedly patriotic—they aimed to restore the emperor, who would protect the nation from foreign incursion—Orbach doesn’t shy away from calling them terrorists. Moreover the shishi, he argues, set a precedent for later generations of military men to meddle in Japanese politics, disobeying the chain of command in the name of a higher patriotism.
From here, Orbach traces the thread of military insubordination across the Meiji Restoration and through Japan’s imperial expansion up to the 1937 invasion of China. In the process he covers well-known incidents like the 1873 debate over whether to invade Korea, the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion, and the machinations to assassinate leaders in Korea (Queen Min, 1895) and Northeast China (Zhang Zuolin, 1928) as a prelude to eventual annexation.
He also shows how military officers interfered in domestic politics as well, not just in two coup attempts during the 1930s, but also during the Taishō political crisis of 1912–1913, when the Army Ministry toppled a cabinet in order to secure budget appropriations for itself. This, Orbach argues, “amounted almost to a bloodless coup d’etat” (130). It not only cemented the army’s “independence from civilian rule,” but triggered a “dangerous democratization of military disobedience” (130). From this point on, not only generals but also lower-ranking officers would assert the right to disobey orders in the name of the emperor.
To make his case Orbach has mastered a variety of materials in five languages, including newspaper articles, diaries of soldiers and politicians, and diplomatic and military archives located in Japan, the US, Britain, Russia, and Switzerland. He also deftly intertwines approaches from cultural and institutional history. On the one hand he shows how feats of insubordination became valourized in public memory, thereby serving to legitimize future disobedience. On the other he delves confidently into the institutional nitty-gritty: arcane constitutional disputes, chains of command, and the nuanced factional politics that shaped military and civilian affairs alike.
To frame his argument, Orbach deploys the metaphor of a “software bug,” referring not just to the flaws inherent in the Meiji political settlement, but also to an extra-juridical malady: a culture that tolerated and even admired brazen acts of military insubordination. My students, many of whom might have found jargon unpalatable, found this analogy easy to grasp. Computation, after all, is one of the master metaphors of our age. It also opens up a host of questions. If a polity is a computer program, what is it designed to do exactly? Who wrote it, and for what purpose? If the program has multiple authors, then how, where, when, and why are different chunks of code grafted onto one another?
For me, the most interesting section of Orbach’s book was his comparison of Japan and Germany, two nations which are, for obvious reasons, often lumped together as following a deviant path into modernity. Orbach argues that Japanese militarism stemmed not from choosing the “wrong [i.e. German] model,” but because in copying Prussian institutions “some of the crucial components were lost in translation” (95). While in Prussia distinctions between military and civilian elites were well entrenched, the leaders of Japan’s Meiji Restoration were from the outset both politicians and soldiers, creating a blurred line between the two spheres. The irony here is that Japanese soldiers disobeyed their cautious civilian leaders, whereas their German counterparts followed the (reckless) orders that were given to them.
Still, Germany aside, I found myself wondering how Japanese military insubordination compared to that of other modern armies. In his introduction, Orbach makes brief comparisons to military insubordination in other polities such as Tsarist Russia and even the US during its Annexation of Hawaii. I also thought of Clive of India and Gordon of the Khartoum, two adventurists who were later canonized in the British military pantheon. Indeed, the phenomenon of military insubordination makes for an excellent jumping-off point for a broader analysis of nineteenth-century state making. The Japanese state was hardly alone in undergoing profound transformations during this period. Apart from Germany there was also the Ottoman Tanzimat (1839–1876), Mexico’s La Reforma (1857–1860), Italian Unification (1860), China’s Tongzhi Restoration (1860–1874), Russia’s Emancipation of the Serfs (1861), and the US Civil War and Reconstruction (1861–1877). Charles Meier describes the political model that emerged from this process of global convergence as “Leviathan 2.0” (another software metaphor).
Orbach recognizes that Japan’s “bugs” also occurred in other polities, but ultimately concludes that “while Japan was not unique in general terms…the challenges [it] faced were also different, as were the responses of policymakers to that challenge. The distinct legacy of the Japanese past, especially the shishi and their ideology, played a particularly important role” (7). A devil’s advocate might argue that the challenges facing Japan were not atypical, and that the shishi are comparable to nationalist revolutionaries such as Mazzini or Atatürk. Either way, Orbach’s book is not just an important contribution to the historiography of Japan; it adds a key piece to the puzzle of understanding state-military relations across the global nineteenth century.
Paul Kreitman, Columbia University, New York, USA
BASE ENCOUNTERS: The US Armed Forces in South Korea. Anthropology, Culture and Society. By Elisabeth Schober. London: Pluto Press, 2016. xv, 214 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$34.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-7453-3605-3.
In July 2007, I travelled with a group of Korean Americans to Pyeongtaek, South Korea to meet with a group of elderly farmers that had been displaced by the expansion of Camp Humphreys, a nearby US military base. Prior to the meeting, one of the activists who had fought alongside the elders to protest the seizure of their ancestral lands gave us her perspective of the problems of US militarism: not only was South Korean sovereignty foreclosed by the permanence of troops on the peninsula and the consolidation of bases, but American soldiers were no longer confined to the areas around the bases. Thanks to the extension of Seoul’s mass transit, these rowdy Americans were territorializing Korean land in new ways, bringing crime and delinquency with them.
This activist’s statement captures the political backdrop against which Elisabeth Schober sets her anthropological exploration of the frictions between the American military and South Korean civilians since the 1990s. Drawing on the work of scholars who study the US military empire, such as Katharine Moon, Cynthia Enloe, Catherine Lutz, and Seungsook Moon, Schober provides an excellent overview of the ways in which the neocolonial relationship between the US and South Korea has affected local women, as well as the history of South Korea as a quintessentially militarized capitalist society. Through the concept of “violent imaginaries” she shows that South Korea’s subordination to the US is at once real and imagined.
Framing her analysis through Marshall Sahlins’ notion of “structural amplification,” the metamorphosis of an individual act into the symbol of a structural problem, she focuses on several high-profile incidents involving US troops, such as the infamous 1992 murder of a sex worker named Yun Kum-i by one of her soldier-clients, the 2002 vehicular killing of two schoolgirls by an American military tank, and the 2007 rape of a 67-year-old woman by an American soldier carousing in the Seoul neighbourhood of Hongdae. In each case, the images of the crimes were heavily mediated and deployed by the “nationalist left” in an attempt to reclaim Korean territory. Schober argues that these images then took on a collective psychic life beyond the incidents themselves, and violent imaginaries became an everyday social practice among South Koreans. In one particularly memorable example, Schober shares an anecdote of a school teacher recounting the gruesome details of Yun’s murder to a class of ten-year-old students. The result of this social practice has been that “the contentious figure of the violent U.S. soldier will not go away” (9).
At the centre of this “violent imaginary” is a triad that involves a criminal soldier, a female victim, and a place of ill repute. Schober looks at three such places: the camptown, or “ville,” surrounding the US base, the entertainment district of Itaewon (previously the only neighbourhood in Seoul that drew American soldiers), and Hongdae, an artsy, left-leaning college neighbourhood that has been undergoing rapid commercialization and is now a popular destination for Americans. In each locale, Schober exposes the tensions not only between Koreans and Americans, but also between the simple narrative of the predatory American soldier versus the hapless female victim and the more complex dynamic in which the actors are, in some ways, similarly situated. The soldiers and camptown women are both workers in a militarized global labour market; American soldiers and Korean women are both seeking a good time when partying together in Hongdae.
The chapter on Hongdae was the most illuminating one for me. It shows how the expansion of Seoul’s subway system, combined with Hongdae as a party destination, has provoked old anxieties about foreign contamination and the need to control and contain it. While conservative Koreans had always blamed the liberal climate of Hongdae on corrupting foreign influences, the arrival of American soldiers on the scene raised public concerns to a new and hysterical level. The derogatory term “yanggongju” (Western princess), which had previously referred to camptown sex workers, began to be used against the women who partied with Americans outside the context of either commercial sex or the military base. In this chapter, as well as in the chapter on Itaewon, we also see multiplicity in spaces that attract foreigners, and therefore, the possibility for unlikely alliances.
One area of Schober’s analysis that is under-researched, however, is the relationship between different South Korean protest movements. Schober assumes that anti-American base activists do not also critique the South Korean government, as she characterizes Hongdae punks as “exceptional in that they are strongly concerned with how to circumvent, contest, and subvert both home-grown and foreign forms of militarism” (169). The anti-base movement has had a strong alliance with the labour movement, which was actively involved in the struggle against Camp Humphreys’ expansion. Although the brutal and tragic deaths of Korean civilians at the hands of US soldiers sparked anti-American protests, as Schober correctly noted, there is a deeper protest culture among South Koreans that is often directed at their own government, as evidenced by the massive and sustained protests leading up to the ouster of Park Geun-hye in 2017.
Also, rather than characterize the perception of Americans as having suddenly shifted in the 1990s, it’s more accurate to say that South Korean sentiments towards the US military presence are, and always have been, ambivalent. While 1992 was a watershed moment, the image of the murderous American soldier has been part of the Korean imaginary since the Korean War, albeit far less mediated, and the disdain for American foreignness dates back to the inception of the South Korean nation, when Syngman Rhee created social policies designed to exclude half-American children and their Korean mothers from civil society.
Base Encounters is an important addition to the literature on US military bases in Korea in that it significantly updates the previous research to include issues of transnational labour in South Korea’s militarized sex industry, and it looks at new “place-making projects” in urban entertainment districts, in which American soldiers are just one set of many actors.
Grace M. Cho, College of Staten Island, New York, USA
JAPANESE FEMINIST DEBATES: A Century of Contention on Sex, Love, and Labor. By Ayako Kano. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. ix, 320 pp. US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5580-2.
Ayako Kano begins Japanese Feminist Debates with a simple question: “Can a girl be happy in Japan?” (1). The question came to her when she was asked to testify as an expert witness in a custody battle between an American father and a Japanese mother. The attorney wanted her to argue that the child would have a better life as a female in the United States. Kano wisely declined to testify, but this unanswerable question captures many of the contradictions of contemporary Japan, which has a high standard of living but ranks low in many measures of gender equality. True to the topic of the book, Kano does not ever attempt to answer this question definitively. Rather, she points to the multiple voices which have described, critiqued, protested, or projected hopeful future visions of the lives of women in modern Japan.
The scope of the book covers feminist intellectual debate (ronsō) or discussion (rondan) from the Meiji period to the present day. The decision to focus the book on debate rather than on a history of feminism in Japan is ingenious, and distinguishes it from previous writing in English (for example, Vera Mackie, Feminism in Modern Japan: Citizenship, Embodiment and Sexuality, Cambridge University Press, 2003; Sharon L. Sievers, Flowers in Salt: The Beginning of Feminist Consciousness in Japan, Stanford University Press, 1983). Japan’s rapid modernization and high literacy rate made public intellectual debate an important part of establishing national identity and public policy, particularly in the Meiji period and in the early postwar years when the role of women was being renegotiated. As with feminism in the West, there has never been a single feminist discourse, but constant contestation or multiple, sometimes competing feminisms. By presenting these issues as debates, Kano does not attempt to reconcile or rank them, but shows where opinion falls on major issues, and why.
The book is organized thematically, with chapters on sex, reproduction, work, and public policy. Debates within each chapter are presented more or less chronologically, with some focus on the Seitō (Bluestocking) writers of the Meiji period and the women’s lib movement of the 1960s. This approach allows for a nuanced and detailed picture not only of the debates themselves, but of the various positions taken by major names in Japanese feminism.
The chapter on sexuality focuses largely on debates surrounding prostitution and pornography. Although sexual mores have changed dramatically since the Meiji period, Kano finds issues of control of sexuality versus self-determination are still current. She writes, “The feminist conundrum identified earlier [in the Meiji period] thus turns out to be alive even today: the argument against commodification risks supporting a call for greater state control of sexuality, whereas the argument for individual control of sexuality risks condoning the expansion of the sex industry. Thus, when feminists want to criticize the sex industry, they find it difficult to avoid the logic of state control, and when they want to stress individual control of sexuality, they find it difficult to avoid the logic of commodification” (62).
The next chapter concerns debate around abortion and birth control, with concomitant issues of eugenics and disability rights activism. Japan is unusual among industrialized nations in that it was one of the first to decriminalize abortion (in 1948) but late to legalize hormonal birth control. Kano argues that the debate in Japan has not been “a woman’s choice” versus “fetal life” as in the United States, but rather about issues relating to economic viability, eugenics, the complexity of women’s lives, and “nature” (101). While Kano finds that the appeal to what is “natural” is similar to the religious opposition to abortion in other countries, other aspects of the debate in Japan are more nuanced than the rather calcified positions in the US. Since responsibility for a child’s well-being as well as a woman’s own extends for a lifetime (as Kano points out, a lifetime that is unprecedentedly long), the economic and social burden is indeed substantial and in many cases overwhelming, and goes beyond issues of individual choice.
The chapter on work looks at the motherhood protection debate (bosei hogo ronsō) of the 1910s, the housewife debates of the 1950s, and the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL) of 1985, all moments in which the debate centred around the valourization of motherhood and other unpaid domestic labour versus advocates of economic independence via paid work. The following chapter delves into more detail on the EEOL and other contentious sites of what Kano calls state feminism, or efforts to institute public policy to eliminate gender discrimination. This chapter also documents the conservative backlash against gains in gender equality, and various feminist responses to that backlash, including debates around so-called “gender-free” policies. An important point Kano makes is that the term usually translated in government documents as “gender equal” is in fact “male-female joint planning” (danjo kyōdō sankaku, 142) which belies the ultimately conservative ideology of politicians such as Abe Shinzō, who loudly proclaim the economic potential of women’s labour while at best promoting restrictive roles for women as wives and mothers and at worst actively undermining the work of feminist politicians.
Kano writes in a lucid and engaging style, meticulously researched and leavened with sharp-eyed reflections on her own experiences in Japan as a working mother while researching the book. Her vivid description of the elaborate daily preparation she was expected to perform for her elementary-school child rivals Anne Allison’s screed against the bentō box and Japanese preschool expectations (Anne Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics and Censorship in Japan, Westview Press, 1996). Japanese Feminist Debates is a cogent and illuminating overview of women’s issues in modern Japan, and should be of interest to any scholar of modern Japan, and of gender studies more generally. The clear prose style and inclusion of many sources not available in English also make it accessible for undergraduate teaching and appealing to non-specialist academics.
Deborah Shamoon, National University of Singapore, Singapore
MEDIA THEORY IN JAPAN. Edited by Marc Steinberg and Alexander Zahlten. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. xv, 423 pp. (Illustrations.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6326-2.
As Marc Steinberg and Alexander Zahlten point out in their introductory essay to this groundbreaking collection, the robust history of media theorization in Japan is wholly invisible to existing Euro-American media studies discourses, despite having one of the most developed and influential media industries in the world. In this sense, the collection can be read as a demonstration of the simple fact that media theory exists in Japan. Yet, it goes much further than this by selecting essays that together illuminate the dynamic historical conditions and intellectual horizons of media theory in Japan. Instead of a chronological survey of the historical development of Japanese media theory, it seeks to provide an overview of the manifold contexts and modes of thought as part of—rather than apart from—the history of Japan’s media industries and cultures. As such, the collection’s integrative approach to the study of media theory in Japan sheds new light on how media contextualizes thought—and vice versa—in ways that are both informed by, and in transversal of, discrete historical and discursive contexts.
Not only do the collected essays vividly chart key instances of media theorization born of the specificities of local and regional media histories and cultures in Japan, but the editors situate the collection as part of ongoing reassessments of the locatedness of media theory. Thus oriented by a keen focus on the contextual and situational conditions of media theorization, the novel perspectives and specificities revealed by the collected essays greatly expand the location of media theory beyond the seemingly habituated spatial and temporal contours of European and North American media studies. By inviting new questions as well as expanding the given scope of theoretical inquiry into media forms, this important collection seeks to open up a number of discursive contexts to deeper modes of fruitful exchange.
A crucial part of what makes this volume so successful in these efforts is the interplay among the essays and the layered organization of the collection as a whole. Following Akira Lippit’s evocative preface and the editors’ introduction, the collected essays are divided into three parts, organized by the diverse approaches and subjects of the texts themselves. While unable to fully describe the entirety of the collection’s contributions, a brief outline of the major highlights to be found within each section will illustrate the indispensable value of the collection. In part 1, “Communication Technologies,” the essays explore instances in which the theorization of media captured profound media-technological and societal change in Japan, resulting in a nuanced portrait of the critical resonances among diverse historical and discursive contexts. Aaron Gerow reminds us of the forgetful nature of “new” media in a comparative look at the emphasis on the “everyday” shared by theorizations of TV in the 1950s and film in the 1910s. Yuriko Furuhata complicates the cybernetic vision of urban environments in 1960s architectural discourse by overlaying it with the prior moment of colonial urban planning to critically recast the “newness” of a biopolitical model of the city. Takeshi Kadobayashi deftly unpacks the shifting media strategies that influential critic Azuma Hiroki deployed across rapid changes in the technological and discursive contexts of the 1990s and early 2000s. Working within the same transformative moment, Marilyn Ivy excavates the multi-media horizons of the print journal InterCommunication to retrieve a different vision for media theory from Japan’s “lost decades.”
Part 2’s simple thematic title of “Practical Theory” belies a complex set of essays that undertake a much-needed inquiry into media practices as critical modes of thought, including those engaged in diverse acts of making and thinking media. Steinberg traces the role played by Japanese translations of McLuhan’s work during the 1960s in shaping the practice of media theory within the advertising industries. Miryam Sas illuminates the contours of a radical practice of media theory found in the writings of critics Matsuda Masao, Nakahira Takuma, and Tsumura Takashi, and crystallized by a 1973 symposium with German critic Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Contrasting advertising strategies and leftist critiques of image media in the early 1970s, Tomiko Yoda’s essay examines how the national railway’s Discover Japan campaign envisioned new forms of mobility and captivity for young female consumers. Zahlten introduces the performative nature of 1980s media theorizations, and offers a useful survey of the influential thinkers that exemplified this highly commodified modality of critique, such as Asada Akira and Hasumi Shigehiko. Likewise, Ryoko Misono showcases the TV criticism of Nancy Seki, and illustrates how her weekly columns during the 1990s, including portraits of TV personalities etched into erasers, were a potent form of critique of network media structures. With a nuanced reflection on the legacies of the woman’s liberation movement of the 1970s, Anne McKnight rigorously delineates the expanded media ecologies traversed by Rokudenashiko’s “manko” (or, “vulva”) art-activism in the contemporary moment.
Part 3, “Mediation and Media Theory,” traces the diverse ways in which major Japanese thinkers have produced novel vocabularies of media, mediation, and medium, with essays by Akihiro Kitada on Nakai Masakazu, Fabian Schafer on Nishida Kitarō and Kyōto School philosophy, and Keisuke Kitano on Kobayashi Hideo. Following these engagements with celebrated historical figures, Tom Looser’s essay on Azuma Hiroki’s recursive orientation after the Fukushima nuclear disaster offers a fitting call for a different kind of media studies today. The articulately conceptualized editorial vision of this volume not only answers to this call, but the diverse range of rigorous and engaging essays make the collection as a whole essential reading for an extensive range of audiences in media studies, Japan studies, and humanities-based area studies more broadly.
Franz Prichard, Princeton University, Princeton, USA
POLITICAL SURVIVAL AND YASUKUNI IN JAPAN’S RELATIONS WITH CHINA. Politics in Asia Series. By Mong Cheung. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. xii,165 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$123.25, cloth. ISBN 978-1-138-94570-8.
Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto establishment which emerged almost hand-in-hand with the rise of the modern Japanese state in the second half of the nineteenth century, has become a focus of both international disputes in Asia and scholarly attention among historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and news commentators. In this well-composed book, political scientist Mong Cheung presents a sharply focused analysis of Japanese prime ministerial visits to the controversial shrine. Drawing upon contemporary sources ranging from newspaper reports to writings by politicians and interviews with them, Cheung raises an intriguing question: Why did the more hawkish prime ministers, known for their assertive nationalism, often refrain from visiting the shrine, while a less ideologically inclined prime minister, once in power, took a more provocative posture by repeatedly visiting the shrine, despite the vehement protests by neighbouring countries that had been subjected to Japan’s past military aggression?
In seven chapters, Cheung approaches this question through a micro-analytical concept of “political survival,” which views retaining the loyalty of a winning coalition of supporters as the primary goal of any office-seeking politician. Following an introduction that defines the Yasukuni problem in international and domestic debates, chapter 2, “Political Survival and Japan’s Policy toward China on Yasukuni,” identifies three current approaches and explains Cheung’s own take on the prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Cheung shows that an explanation for the incongruity between the hawkish statements and reconciliatory actions of a politician, or vice versa, cannot be found by focusing on an individual politician’s political or ideological preference, emphasizing the broad ideological and cultural changes from one generation of politicians to another, or by stressing the imperative of foreign strategy in response to international pressure. The paradox, he argues, has its inner logic when seen from the perspective of the “political survival” of office-seeking politicians, who need to maintain strong domestic support. Chapter 3, “Understanding Yasukuni,” narrates a general history of the Yasukuni Shrine, its association with and legal separation from the Japanese state, and the rise of the Yasukuni problem between China and Japan.
The following three chapters provide case analyses that form the evidential base of this book. Chapter 4, “Refraining from the Yasukuni Visit,” pairs two Japan-China controversies over prime ministerial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine during the administrations of Nakasone Yasuhiro (1985-1986) and Hashimoto Ryutaro (1996-1997). While both were assertive nationalists seeking Japan’s “normal” status in the international arena, Nakasone was arguably more important and influential in initiating major attempts to raise Japan’s international profile. He stands out as an important case as well for being the prime minister whose official visit to the Yasukuni Shrine provoked the first salvo of official protests from China. In the years that followed, Nakasone stopped visiting the shrine while in office. Ten years later, Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro repeated a similar pattern of behaviour. He visited the shrine as Japan’s prime minister in 1996, but refrained from doing so while in office after Chinese protests. Cheung rejects the view that these decisions were made as a response to international pressure from China. Instead, he argues that both politicians were motivated by domestic political calculation. Nakasone stopped visiting the shrine from his strengthened political position in 1986, as he no longer needed it to rally support from his target political factions. Hashimoto stopped his Yasukuni visits, on the other hand, because of his weak political position. He needed to avoid antagonizing the Social Democratic Party, a longstanding opponent to prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine and an important partner within his Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition government. Despite the different political strengths of these two prime ministers, each made a decision on Yasukuni visits based on a similar rationale: a focus on its potential to increase or sustain domestic political support.
By and large, chapters 5 and 6, “Differing Responses” and “Policy Variations,” present two more cases that follow the same pattern: prime ministers Koizumi Junichiro (2001–2006) and Abe Shinzo (2006–2007, 2012–2015). Cheung shows that, in spite of Chinese protests, Koizumi made repeated visits to the shrine and did so from his relatively weak position within the Liberal Democratic Party. Even though Koizumi did not demonstrate any enthusiasm about the Yasukuni question before seeking office, he used Yasukuni visits to invigorate intraparty support while in office. On the contrary, Abe Shinzo had been a strong advocate for Japan’s “normalcy” and adopted a hawkish position over the Yasukuni question before taking office. Yet he responded to Chinese protests and stopped Yasukuni visits in person during his first term. Cheung argues that Abe did not cave in to Chinese pressure but was able to put aside the Yasukuni problem when he had a secure political base of majority support. Likewise, Abe refrained from making a public gesture of visiting the controversial shrine during much of his second term as prime minister. This time, however, he did so mainly to improve relations with China, which he viewed as important for achieving higher approval ratings at home.
Political Survival and Yasukuni in Japan’s Relations with China presents a convincing argument on the relationship between political gestures on Yasukuni by Japanese prime ministers and their domestic political reckoning. Within a well-defined frame of an individual politician’s action, Cheung’s study takes into consideration a range of important issues, from domestic policy goals to management of Japan’s international relations with China and the role of personal ideology, while discussing the relative weight of each in prime ministerial deliberations on Yasukuni Cheung has made a valuable contribution to the expanding scholarship on the Yasukuni problem from the perspective of a political scientist. Nonetheless, readers interested in the Yasukuni problem must be aware that this is not a book on the problem of Yasukuni per se, but on short-term political decisions. The fact that politicians in Japan could use Yasukuni as a political instrument itself raises questions about the shrine’s existence and evolution, its relationship with Japan’s modern state, and its electrifying power in contemporary Japanese society. The task of this book is not to provide answers to these questions, which have to be found in other studies using a more comprehensive framework.
Lu Yan, University of New Hampshire , Durham, USA
THE AFTERMATH OF THE 2011 EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI: Living among the Rubble. By Shoichiro Takezawa; Translated by Polly Barton. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016. xxi, 197 pp. (Illustrations.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-4251-7.
The earthquake and tsunami that struck East Japan on March 11, 2011 was a catastrophe with far-reaching political, social, and personal implications. As a volunteer working in the town of Ōtsuchi in Iwate prefecture, the author collected the personal accounts of survivors, while observing and engaging in help and reconstruction efforts. The result is a book that retells in detail and with empathy the experiences of surviving the immediate catastrophe, living in and running evacuation shelters, and finally planning the reconstruction of local communities. The author connects these stories with his personal thoughts and interpretations.
The book develops two main narratives: one tells the events as a human-made catastrophe and highlights institutional and personal failures; the other focuses on spontaneous and practical solidarity and highlights individual initiatives in rescuing others and rebuilding communities. It is to the book’s credit that it emphasizes both of these aspects equally.
The book is structured as three main chapters that evolve on a timeline from the events of March 11, 2011 until mid-2012, titled “escaping the wave,” “evading danger, running the evacuation centres,” and “the reconstruction process along the Sanriku coast,” and are followed by a conclusion. These main chapters are divided into 18 sub-chapters with 62 sections in total. This reflects that data was collected in several locations and covers a huge variety of social aspects. Given the fine-grained structure of the book a more detailed table of contents (only the three main chapters are featured) would have been advisable.
Each chapter presents one or more stories of success and failure. As an example of successful disaster management, the author presents the heavily destroyed fishing village Kirikiri, where self-help and solidarity sprung up quickly, and encouraged a high level of autonomy. Kirikiri was the first community to have its roads cleared and install a helipad for disaster relief, by relying on self-organization within the community. A successful evacuation shelter was run in Usuzawa, a settlement that lay further inland and was thus not directly affected by the tsunami. Here a local dance association was largely responsible for communicating and organizing relief operations. As an example for successful reconstruction planning, the author names the village of Kerobe, where the administration and the residents agreed not to build a seawall.
On the other hand, the book does not hold back on its criticism of public administration. In several instances, it stresses that the huge loss in human life was partially attributable to tsunami warnings that indicated a wave height that was far too low, resulting in many residents feeling no need to escape. The author prominently highlights the administrative decisions that led to a high number of casualties among the public employees of Ōtsuchi. After the earthquake, the town hall staff were ordered to keep working while a crisis meeting was scheduled to be held in the parking lot, out of concern for the building’s structural integrity. When all the chairs and tables were placed outside, the tsunami struck and killed many of the personnel in the parking lot or still in the building. Another major target of the author’s criticism is the public reconstruction planning. Especially the prefecture of Iwate is criticized for inflexibly connecting reconstruction funds to a specific seawall height and placement. The author then quite convincingly presents his own alternative plans for reconstruction and disaster prevention, which were cheaper and had the support of the local communities.
The book’s weakness, however, is its pretence to be a collection of survivors’ testimonies. It therefore lacks an interpretative framework; also, it does not place its observations into context using the current literature on disaster anthropology. Moreover, the author does not refrain from offering convenient interpretations of his observations, leading him to venture into scientific fields beyond his own expertise, which results in naïve generalizations about national cultures, such as when he reflects on a conflict between Japanese residents and Chinese migrant workers in an evacuation shelter. The local residents wanted the migrant workers to leave the shelter, because they felt disturbed by their singing and smoking. Similarly, the author makes assumptions about the causes and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in disaster victims, solely by relying on one report by police staff and what local people told him. The author also displays a positivist attitude when it comes to social norms and gender roles. For example, a section that deals with preparing meals for the survivors in the evacuation shelters is titled “the role of the women,” without discussing this division of labour or contrasting it with “the role of men.”
As most of the book deals with personal narratives and commentary by the author, references to research literature are mostly featured in footnotes. Often, rather than relativizing or contextualizing specific arguments, the author makes value-laden and generalizing judgements about other authors’ intentions. A prominent example of this method is a section positively referring to Naomi Klein’s concepts of “shock doctrine” and “disaster capitalism” that without further introduction begins on page 168. There, the author uses Klein’s models to bolster his criticism of how the public administration handled reconstruction. The shock resulting from the destruction of their homes and shops, the author argues, led to a paralysis of the local community, which was then used by the local administration and external investors to push through the construction of a strip mall in the former centre of the tsunami-struck fishing town. Overall, references to previous research are placed in the text in a rather haphazard manner, and without conceptual engagement with the argument being cited. It seems the referenced literature thus merely serves the purpose of decorating and legitimizing the author’s interpretations.
The detailed and personal records that the author has compiled in this book are precious and insightful, and his critique of institutional and individual failure is likewise poignant and important. To appreciate these qualities, however, the reader is forced to overlook many half-baked conclusions and the author’s convenient and at times judgemental use of scientific literature.
Daniel Kremers, German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ), Tokyo, Japan
DOWNWARDLY GLOBAL: Women, Work, and Citizenship in the Pakistani Diaspora. By Lalaie Ameeriar. Durham, NC; London, UK: Duke University Press, 2017. xi, 207 pp. US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6316-3.
This radically subversive, superbly written ethnographic analysis of de-skilling among recent Pakistani female immigrants to Canada highlights some of the unintended contradictions and consequences of Canadian immigration and ethnic minority policies. The central contradiction lies in the points system, which targets highly skilled and educated immigrants, “inviting” them to immigrate to Canada because they are supposedly able to “fit” into Canadian society and its workforce. Except they don’t. First, because even the most qualified, experienced professionals in their country of origin must pass extensive—and very expensive—examinations to qualify to work in Canada as pharmacists, doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers and the like. The bureaucratic maze is itself formidable. This means that even when there are shortages in some occupations, there is no guarantee that immigrants qualified elsewhere are available to fill the vacancies. A second unintended consequence of the point system is that, in actual fact there is no “fit” between educational qualifications and the job market, and particularly so for immigrants wishing to settle in places like Toronto where most Pakistani professionals want to live. The result is that an army of qualified Pakistani women—doctors, pharmacists and the like—work in unskilled jobs in supermarkets and department stores, with little hope of earning enough to pay for the required qualifying courses, and even less time to study. The book provides a sense of the humiliation and hopelessness experienced by the women as the realisation dawns that their chances of finding jobs appropriate to their qualifications recede into the distance.
They don’t easily give up, however. They repeatedly attend courses that are intended to help them find suitable work. This is where contradictions of another progressive Canadian state policy, that of multiculturalism, surface. There is of course a difference in Canada between multicultural policies relating to native Canadian peoples and those targeting ethnic minorities in cities. Historically, both kinds of minorities suffered racism but of a different variety. Amit-Talai and Knowles have shown some of the implicit racism still contained in present-day Canadian multicultural ethnic policies (Vered Amit-Talai and Caroline Knowles, Re-Situating Identities: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, University of Toronto Press, 1996). In the present book, the author found that courses intended to help highly qualified professional women find jobs operate by promoting a “sanitised sensorium.” Anyone who has ever attended such a course, as I once did, will know that it utilises strict formulas of acceptability—in dress, accent, style, etiquette—that reject absolutely any semblance of cultural difference. The imaginary employer in these courses is thought to seek an idealised female helper who, the instructors stress, should not “smell” of exotic food and certainly should not wear a dangerous veil. Rather than guiding women towards finding jobs in their appropriate professions, the courses assume that such occupations are beyond their reach. So, while the Canadian state or the city of Toronto encourage multicultural festivals displaying ethnic food, colourful dress, and folk dances and songs, these exotica are relegated to enclaved places and times. They are not supposed to intrude into the world of (masculine) work.
Thus far the argument is persuasive, and is backed up with statistics and nicely nuanced descriptions. Ameeriar spent over a year attending courses and interviewing various activists and policy makers. She herself is the Canadian daughter of a de-skilled mother who grew up in a poor neighbourhood of Toronto. But the issue of de-skilling is, of course, not limited to Canada. In Britain, I observed an early generation of educated Pakistani male migrants move into self-employment from dead-end jobs into self-employment in the face of discrimination at work. Most recently, highly experienced and qualified Zimbabwean refugees and asylum seekers working as unskilled caregivers label themselves sardonically “the BBC” (British Bottom Cleaners), conveying their sense of humiliation, as Joann McGregor documents (“‘Joining the BBC’ (British Bottom Cleaners): Zimbabwean Migrants and the UK Care Industry,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 33, no. 5 ). What makes the Canadian example exceptional is the anomalous fact that these de-skilled immigrants are notionally welcomed into Canadian society.
Despite the richness of documentation in the book I remained a little sceptical of the author’s conclusions. First, because as I and others have argued elsewhere, multiculturalism is not the same as anti-racism, as she seems to assume. Confronting racism requires a range of different sorts of activism and legislation beyond multiculturalism. Secondly, we know little about the lives of Pakistani professionals who have “made it” in Canada, which does have, in places like Toronto, a long established, thriving Pakistani ethnic community. Focusing exclusively on “problem” cases makes it hard to understand her subjects’ insistence on remaining in Canada despite being unsuccessful, socially downward, or the grounds for their future hopes.
This is in many ways an excellent book: it has a good range of scholarly references on migration, diaspora, Pakistanis, current feminism, and Canadian society. As a provocative study that raises important questions, it makes a salient contribution to the anthropology of new migration from Pakistan to North America.
Pnina Werbner, Keele University, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
RELIGION, SECULARISM, AND ETHNICITY IN CONTEMPORARY NEPAL. Edited by David N. Gellner, Sondra L. Hausner, and Chiara Letizia. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016. xiii, 491 pp. (Illustrations.) US$55.48, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-946772-3.
In 2007, following the ten-year People’s Movement that led to Nepal’s king relinquishing power, the former Hindu kingdom of Nepal became a secular republic. It was not clear, however, what this meant for its ethnic and religious minorities, its Hindu majority, and the state. To what degree would religion remain at the core of the state apparatus and identity? Would Nepalis become less religious? What would be the future of Nepal’s religious communities and traditions both inside and outside the dominant high-caste Hindu fold?
Religion, Secularism, and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal, an edited volume by David N. Gellner, Sondra L. Hausner, and Chiara Letizia, developed out of a 2012 workshop at the University of Oxford to “reflect on the trajectories Nepal would take in a state divested of its officially religious status” (xi). The resulting volume is a collection of methodologically and topically varied yet consistently superb case studies by scholars with extensive field experience and/or textual expertise in Nepal. Together, the essays demonstrate the continued salience, malleability, and pervasiveness of religion in Nepal, whether at the textual, ritual, symbolic, or real politik level. The volume provides rich examples, across contexts, of how religion is front and center in processes and problems involved in navigating the challenges of contemporary life and the forces of modernity. The essays here illustrate that religion remains indisputably central to people’s adaptations to pressures and changes wrought in the aftermath of civil war, migration, and urbanization. The essays also reveal a fascinating disconnect between state-level and other official discourses surrounding secularism and the lived religious lives of Nepali communities and individuals.
The book’s introductory essay by Gellner and Letizia discusses theories and models of secularization and the historical developments from the Panchayat era onwards that led to the state’s adoption of secularism in 2007. Nepal’s politicians appear not to have known enough about what they were endorsing when they supported secularism and soon found themselves surprised, even rudely awakened, to this fact by their constituents. Does being secular mean the state should de-fund long-standing cultural festivals that the public expects, or instead sponsor religio-cultural festivals for each community? The 2015 constitution, which finally provided the state’s definition of secularism, offered little clarity. So far in Nepal, as in India, “secularism has not entailed secularization” (15), but what is observable, Gellner and Letizia note, is an increase in individualism and middle-class values (16), a continued increased production of new identities in the public sphere (18), and the transformation and reform of ritual traditions (23).
Following the introduction, the volume is organized into two sections, “Contrasting Urban and Rural Views: Secularism, Individualism, and Blood Sacrifice” and “Ethnic Traditions Confront a Changing State and Society,” comprising six essays each. Letizia’s essay discusses varying communities’ conceptions of secularism in the Kathmandu Valley and Tarai, including Maoists, lawyers, Muslims, cow-protection agitators, and Hindus. Despite the wide semantic and symbolic range of the term secular (dharma-nirapeksa), Letizia shows that across communities the general sense of its meaning is an increase of public religiosity (festivals, for example) and increased state support for religious activities.
Religion is always in flux, but certain historical periods and social events generate more significant degrees of accommodation and adaptation than others. This volume makes clear that the People’s Movement and its aftermath is one such period. Some of the most compelling discussions in this volume are of cases in which people have transformed aspects of religious practice and/or belief to achieve certain ends, including the preservation of religion itself. Ina Zharkevich documents the impact of the People’s War and Maoist wartime policies on religious beliefs and practices in Thabang, mid-western Nepal, where the Maoist “people’s government” ran as a parallel state from 1997. There were unexpected consequences to “the ambiguous nature of Maoist (anti-)religious policies during the war” (79) for religious practice: the gods were understood to have fled the place and people gave up following the ways of their ancestors. However, the ritual practice of desamar was transformed as puja was shifted to the family home so that families could avoid attack from the Maoists. Gerard Toffin maps new religious movements (NRMs) in the Kathmandu Valley, which center around guru figures and tend to offer members means for pursuing happiness and expressing individualism, without requiring a break with their ties with traditional religion. Pustak Gimire’s essay provides further evidence of religious adaptation as Rai non-high-caste women achieve gains in social status through possession by the goddess Bhagavati, who is perceived as of higher status than Rai ancestors, specialists, deities, and local spirits (183). Axel Michaels’s essay on transformations and criticisms of blood sacrifice in Nepal, Astrid Zotter’s essay on replacing the king in the state’s performance of the (formerly) royal ritual of the Pacali Bhairav sword procession, and Gellner and Krishna Adhikari’s essay on ancestor worship and sacrifice in the central and western hills together offer rich documentation of the complexities at work in maintaining the practice and legitimacy of long-standing religious rituals that assert status hierarchies and forms of authority now contested.
Other essays document processes of homogeneity and heterogeneity in religious performance, ritual, and affiliation among ethnic groups, such as the Tamang Lhocchar festival, discussed by David Holmberg, and in varying attempts to redefine Kiranti religion, discussed by Martin Gaenszle. At stake is the production of identity and pursuit of recognition. Tamang are the focus of Brigitte Steinmann’s essay on confrontations between Maoists and Buddhists and of Ben Campbell’s essay on Christianity in Tamang social life. Both essays document fluidity of beliefs, values, and religious (and non-religious, or quasi-religious) affiliations. In Tamang songs, Campbell explains, Christianity “is presented not as a great rupture with the past, but as the next generation’s suitably modern mark of difference” (404). The afterward, by Rajeev Bhargava, offers a theoretical discussion of secularism and considers Nepal’s commitment to secularism in a global era when other states are becoming increasingly anti-secular.
Though no volume can cover everything, some readers may wish that the religious traditions and cultures of the Tarai had received more proportionate attention in this volume. And though a minor quibble, the volume could have benefitted from its thirteen long essays being organized into smaller and thematically focused sections, instead of two large sections. But none of this detracts from the superb quality of each essay, the value of having them all together in one volume, and the critical importance of the volume as a whole for documenting and interrogating religion in contemporary Nepal. Religion, Secularism, and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal is a tremendous resource for scholars and students of religion in Nepal and South Asia.
Megan Adamson Sijapati, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, USA
WHEN CRIME PAYS: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics. By Milan Vaishnav. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. xxiii, 410 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-300-21620-2.
This book concerns one of the central puzzles of Indian democracy: the election of a significant number of representatives at the national and state levels with criminal records. It is worth remembering that after the 2014 national elections, 34 percent of India’s members in the directly-elected lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha) faced criminal cases, with 21 percent of them facing serious charges. Between 2004 and 2014, of the two national Indian political parties, 14 percent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s MPs faced serious cases, compared to 12 percent for the Indian National Congress party.
Vaishnav analyzes this puzzle of Indian democracy by asking three questions. First, what are the incentives of those with criminal records to contest elections? Second, why do political parties select such candidates? Third, do voters have good reasons for electing such people? He attempts to answer these questions using a market analogy where the buyers are voters and the sellers are political parties and politicians. The environment in which this market operates is one where institutions are weak and there is a high incidence of corruption.
While Vaishnav points out that criminality has been associated with politics in India since the early days of the republic, he argues that it became entrenched from the late 1960s after the demise of the Congress system and the “deinstitutionalized democracy” ushered in by Indira Gandhi. Vaishnav uses the concept of “vertical integration” to explain why criminals, who previously backed politicians, themselves entered politics. As Vaishnav notes, “By directly contesting elections, criminals could reduce the uncertainty associated with negotiating (and renegotiating) contracts with politicians, all the while retaining the benefits they had previously depended on Congress to deliver” (103).
Vaishnav’s explanation for why parties nominate criminals is simply because of their winnability. In the last three national elections, candidates with a criminal record have had a nearly 18 percent chance of winning, compared to clean candidates who have had a 6 percent chance. And the reason criminals are winnable candidates comes down to money. “In a context of costly elections, weakly institutionalized parties, and an ineffectual election finance regime,” writes Vaishnav, “parties are likely to prioritize self-financing candidates who do not represent a drain on finite party coffers but can instead contribute ‘rents’ to the party” (121). Vaishnav draws on the affidavits, which became mandatory thanks to a Supreme Court ruling, of nearly 70,000 candidates between 2003 and 2014 to substantiate his claim about the close link between money and muscle. Self-financing becomes critical in the context of the astronomical costs of contesting elections, which far exceed the official cap on spending.
Moving from the supply to the demand for criminal politicians, Vaishnav’s big claim is that it is rational for well-informed voters to support politicians with criminal antecedents. In a context where social divisions run deep and rule of law is weak, a candidate’s criminality can signal credibility on four counts: redistribution, coercion, social insurance, and dispute resolution. Vaishnav illustrates this with the example of Anant Singh of Mokama in Bihar, a feared criminal and self-styled Robin Hood who has won state elections. There are several politicians like Anant Singh, and not just from Bihar, whom Vaishnav writes about.
Indeed, besides the data and analysis of criminal politicians, one of the notable features of this book is Vaishnav’s description of and conversations with figures such as Anant Singh. Anthropologists might feel that these descriptions are not deep or “thick” enough to qualify as ethnography, but his reportage is a welcome relief in the discipline of political science that nowadays tends to produce dry-as-dust analysis, often devoid of insights into the ground reality.
The solutions that Vaishnav offer for cleaning up politics are, however, fairly standard. One way to do this, he posits, would be to let India’s powerful Election Commission regulate both political finance as well as the internal functioning of parties. But as Vaishnav points out, such regulations “risk perpetuating the worst tendencies of the mai-baap sarkar (nanny state) in India” (274). The other way is to prohibit candidates with criminal records from contesting elections. But criminal cases, as opposed to convictions, cannot be a legal basis for prohibiting candidates from contesting. Besides, given the backlog of cases in Indian courts, convictions of politicians can take several years. However, there are laws now in place to disqualify elected representatives who have been convicted by a court of a serious crime.
Vaishnav presents a grim picture of Indian elections, where candidates with criminal records and deep pockets enjoy a significant advantage. However, he injects a note of optimism about the prospects of Indian democracy, noting that politicians with criminal backgrounds “have not successfully captured the electoral system as a whole” (23). The fact remains though that the flaws Vaishnav points out and so acutely analyzes are serious blots on India’s otherwise admirable record of democracy.
Ronojoy Sen, National University of Singapore, Singapore
OF GARDENS AND GRAVES: Kashmir, Poetry, Politics. By Suvir Kaul, photographs: Javed Dar. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2017. xxvi, 227 pp. (B&W photos.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6289-0.
In the preface to this fine book Suvir Kaul traces its origin to his “disquiet with what I, an Indian and Kashmiri Pandit, saw on the streets of Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley” (xvi). He writes how frustrating it has been for him to witness that the documented evidence produced on the suffering of the Kashmir population appears to have had little or no impact at the decision-making level in India or Pakistan. The policy makers are locked into the prevailing nationalist discourse and guided by geopolitical considerations. Kaul’s frustration resonates with me and no doubt with other scholars whose analyses of the Kashmir conflict have, at least in the policy community, fallen on deaf ears. Suvir Kaul’s impressive volume, bringing poems and photographs along with interpretative essays on the politics and history of Kashmir, tells us what has gone wrong (and is still going wrong) in Kashmir and how the security concerns of the state take precedence over the daily suffering and trauma of ordinary people.
The book consists of four essays written at different intervals of Kaul’s observation of the events in the Valley, each accompanied by photographs and poems in the Kashmiri vernacular (with English translation) by Muslim and Hindu poets, expressing their divergent experiences and sometimes talking to each other. Javed Mir’s black-and-white photographs of ordinary people living within a militarized framework, protesting, and trying to recapture the streets which have become sites of contestation between the security forces and the public at large, are as poignant as they are revealing. The poems and photographs are intended to help us develop, as Kaul suggests, “an intellectual and critical position demanded by our times” (xxii). In this regard it might be better for the uninitiated reader on Kashmir to start with essay 2, “My Paradise is burning,” as it provides a brief historical background on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and then proceed to read the book as it is laid out.
For Kaul, the Kashmir conflict must be viewed within the larger context of inherited legacies of the empire, how “the logic and history of the colonial state inform the structures of postcolonial governance” (189). He argues that postcolonial states typically retain their inherited territorial and military legacies, using precisely the policing and administrative arrangements that the colonial state had employed against them during anticolonial movements. The postcolonial state’s cartographic anxieties about preserving territorial integrity result in constant and pervasive surveillance of both its borders and the citizens who inhabit the state, particularly its periphery. The militarized control of dissenting voices which challenge the territorial integrity of the state becomes the norm in the name of maintenance of law and order and the security of the nation. Kaul tells us that all this is being played out in Kashmir. While Kashmiris employ the same anticolonial language which the Indian nationalists had used against the British, the “Indian state has confirmed and enhanced the doctrines and methods it had inherited from the British colonial law and policy” (179). Kaul expands on this theme in essay 4, “Indian Empire (and the Case of Kashmir),” a particularly insightful presentation of current Indian practices as a postcolonial state in dealing with the people of Kashmir.
The predominantly Muslim Kashmir Valley has been in turmoil since the late 1980s. The beginnings of its troubles can be traced to the integration of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian state by virtue of the Treaty of Accession (and a promise of plebiscite) signed by the Hindu ruler in late October 1947 in direct response to a tribal invasion emanating from the North Western province and aided by the newly formed Muslim state of Pakistan. Much water has since flowed under the proverbial bridge: a de facto partition of the state into two parts, two-thirds with India and one-third with Pakistan, with China controlling a small Northern territory; four wars between India and Pakistan reflecting irreconcilable positions on Kashmir (for India, Kashmir is an integral part of India whereas for Pakistan, it is a disputed territory and Kashmiris should be allowed to exercise the right of self-determination as mandated by the Security Council); an electoral-based regional government with rigged elections, a denial of space for dissent politics and the final eruption of a mass-based nationalist/secessionist movement accompanied by political insurgency in 1989 (most of the militant groups involved were trained in Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir); the exodus of the minority Hindu community from the Valley and a constant presence of the Indian security forces, an insistent daily reminder to the Kashmiris that they live in a militarized zone.
In the wake of these developments during the past sixty years, Kashmiri public discourse has incrementally progressed from the demand for autonomy to that for aazadi (freedom). Aazadi carries within it multiple meanings: the right to self-determination; the protection of the special status granting internal autonomy to the state; and the protection of Kashmiri identity. In this battle, each subsequent generation introduces new motives and intentions to the discourse, and reinterprets it based on multiple sets of memories, with multiple layers of experiences. In the changing contexts of the Kashmir conflict, collective memories of subjugation have come to be reconfirmed as well as redefined during India’s association with the state.
In essay 3, “The Witness of Poetry,” Kaul brings to us two poems, one by Muslim poet Mohiuddin Massarat and the other by Pandit Brij Nath Betaab, each linking trauma, history (particularly the loss of home and displacement) and politics through a textured and intricate analysis. We are reminded that the human tragedy in Kashmir is indeed vast: some 15,000 civilians killed since the early 1990s (estimates by human rights groups are much higher), the disappearance of 10,000 young men, the discovery of 5,000 unmarked graves (2,900 in 2009 and another 2,080 in 2017). The displaced minority Hindu community is still trying to come to terms with the loss of their ancestral homes, lands, and their lived history. Kaul’s text is dramatically highlighted as we witness firsthand this human tragedy through the poems and photographs of this magnificent book.
Reeta C. Tremblay, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
NATION AT PLAY: A History of Sport in India. Contemporary Asia in the World. By Ronojoy Sen. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. xi, 382 pp. (Illustrations.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-16490-0.
At first glance, picking up a book about the history of sports in India seemed to me, as a scholar of East Asian sport, like studying the ice cream of Iceland. Sure, there must be some kind of history about the topic, I thought to myself, but what is the point? After all, India is hardly known as a global sporting power. At the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio, for example, India tallied just two total medals, which is even more remarkable when you compare that total to India’s substantial population (approx. 1.3 billion). But then I began reading Nation at Play: A History of Sport in India, by Ronojoy Sen, and I was pleasantly surprised by its bold narrative blend of anthropological analysis, primary historical sources, and modern journalism.
Western sports like soccer, tennis, baseball, and cricket spread from Europe and North America to Asia in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century during the period of colonization. Many (such as rugby, soccer, cricket, golf) had origins in the United Kingdom, were incubated in that nation’s public schools, and were played and taught throughout the British Empire. Others (such as baseball, basketball, volleyball) were American inventions brought to Asia by teachers and missionaries living abroad.
Throughout the modern period, sports have at once been seen as symbols of colonialism and also used as tools of national self-assertion. Today they often reflect a global consumer culture that has developed during our most recent surge of increased contact and economic interdependency, what many call “globalization.” Nation at Play makes a significant contribution to that conversation regarding globalization and sport.
Sen follows a chronological path of sports from “elite, kingly pastimes and their encounter in successive stages with colonialism, nationalism, the state and globalization,” but he also “dwells on … two issues: first, the intensely political nature of sports in both colonial and postcolonial India, and, second, the patterns of patronage, clientage, and institutionalization of sports” (5).
No event was more significant in shaping those politics than the arrival of the British in the seventeenth century. With the British came all sorts of cultural institutions, including sports like cricket. Indian elites of the day used cricket to curry favour with the British, thereby helping to spread the sport across the subcontinent and also to spread the value of using the sport to climb the social ladder. Many Indians travelled to the UK to learn British ways, too, and upon their return further spread this particular sport and its “elite” values. Cricket would ultimately become almost synonymous with India itself; in fact, like many die-hard sports junkies, I had known about India’s national obsession with cricket, and Sen did not disappoint in documenting the details of that sport’s history. But before reading Nation at Play, I did not know, for example, that the sport was just once included in the Summer Olympics (in 1900). I imagine that even knowledgeable cricket fans will find new information here.
Meanwhile, I was also surprised to learn that the British adopted the Indian “sport” of polo and sent it back to the motherland, where it was used not only as an entertaining diversion but also as a way of maintaining social classes; junior British polo players were required to buy and care for their “mounts.” Thus the history of sport was not simply one of Indians adopting British games; as Sen notes, it was not “one-way traffic” (34).
In addition, when Indian cricketers had success against British teams, the victories were hailed as national moments marking the Asian nation’s ascent to modernity, just as sporting prowess was said to indicate national power throughout Asia. For example, Japanese victories over Americans in baseball were hailed as an indicator of Japan’s modern strength in the Meiji Period (1868–1912) (Allen Guttmann and Lee Thompson, Japanese Sports: A History, University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001, 89–90).
Sen, who holds a PhD from the University of Chicago and is a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, spent many years as a journalist and editor for The Times of India, among other publications; his prose is clear and highly readable.
While Sen dismisses the claim, made by Ian McDonald (“India,” in Handbook of Sports Studies, eds. J. Coakley and E. Dunning, Sage, 2000), that the “sociological study of sport in India essentially remains virgin territory” (9), he does agree with Dipesh Chakrabarty that “social historians of India have paid more attention to riots than to sports, to street-battles with the police than to rivalries on the soccer field” (10; see also, “Introduction” in Sport in South Asian Society: Past and Present, eds. B. Majumdar and J.A. Mangan, Routledge, 2005). In that sense, Sen’s history is indeed a welcome contribution to a field of study that has been unduly dismissed, in some cases as a result of the same biases I myself had before this review. It turns out there is actually a great deal to learn from a book about Indian sports. Ice cream in Iceland? Of that I am not so sure.
Aaron Miller, California State University, East Bay, Hayward, USA
HYDRAULIC CITY: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai. By Nikhil Anand. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. xiv, 296 pp. (Illustrations.) US$26.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-6269-2.
A quick history of twentieth-century rights jurisprudence would show a generational transition from the state as a guarantor of civil and political rights (as laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) to the state as provider of basic material benefits that enable the effective exercise of rights and freedoms. This means economic and social rights, which are essentially guarantees for provision voiced by the welfare state (as encoded, for instance, in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). Nikhil Anand provides a granular view of urban life in regards to water supply through the exercise of the infrastructural powers of the state. All the while, he alerts us to the micropolitics of living in and with this second generation of rights—rights essentially voiced by the citizen-subject along the lines of “yeh dil maange more” (“my heart wants more”). Anand shows a spectrum of citizenship organized around the series of speech acts that either request or demand. This mode of politics is distinctly different from the mode of politics adopted by, for example, the Narmada Bachao Andolan that has been protesting the state’s ecological and economic judgment in building large dams and questioning the sovereign exercise of eminent domain (see, Amita Baviskar, In the Belly of the River: Tribal Conflicts over Development in the Narmada Valley, Oxford University Press, 1995).
Nikhil Anand is not pointing at the conscientious objector or civil libertarian as a form of argumentative liberal subject. He is pointing us to a mode of citizenship that grows out of a keen, indeed clever, apparatus of everyday negotiation and bargaining with the technopolitical wing of the state on the pivot of incremental demand that expresses the mundane experience of water scarcity. I want to highlight the implicit correspondence Anand is undertaking with Aihwa Ong’s idea of “graduated sovereignty” that helps explain the global neighbourhood of nation-states positioned differentially on the developmental ladder (Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality, Duke University Press, 1999). Anand highlights a potential extension of Ong’s argument of seeing power as calibrated, graduated into the realm of citizenship where patronage—a quelling of need/want—is essentially sought in calibrated means, sometimes more, sometimes less, just like the trickle of time-bound tap water. To access more water, better water, one has to tap into multiple points of infrastructural as well as political access.
While Anand provides us with a larger history of hydraulic infrastructure, ecological life, and the associated peripheralization of urban hinterlands that surround the city, I wish to focus on the picture of argumentative, water-claim-making citizenship that emerges in his ethnography. Mirroring Nancy Fraser’s early qualification of Habermas’s “deliberative rationality” (“Rethinking Recognition,” New Left Review 3 [May-June 2000]) to reflect the proliferation of such rationality in making claims on the state, Anand draws up a comment on the everyday life of distributive politics. Distribution takes on the direct class-based perspective of the state, as Anand points to acts of silence on the differential allocation to different forms of built environment in the city—essentially settlements (Anand avoids the word “slum”) and high-rises. Distribution, in Foucaldian terms, becomes a clean technocratic exercise of matching perceived need with allocation of a scarce resource. In this mathematical discrimination of the technocratic state, Anand points to the life of worry, anxiety, cajoling, bargaining, and argument. Essentially, the book gives us a picture of participatory urban politics, and also “infrapolitics” (James Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, Yale University Press, 1990). But such politics are enacted not as much by attacking the ethical and juridical judgment of the state, but by arguing with the mathematical rationality and calibrative exercises undertaken by the technocratic distributive state.
This mode of mundane argumentative and bargaining citizenship is a qualification of the “infrapolitics” of Scott and Chatterjee’s (2004) invocation of Gramsci’s civil/political society. Chatterjee famously suggests that in postcolonial nations, the life of organized civic action and engagement with state (civil society) exists separate from unorganized, spontaneous acts of collective resistance that often straddle the divide between legality and illegality. Anand moves away from Chatterjee’s dualist treatment of urban political methods (65–66) and provides a detailed account of how marginal citizens invoke both sides of the civil/political society divide in their struggle for survival (76–78). Anand provides an account of how these marginal communities come to make use of the power of big men like Yusufbhai, even as he avoids the analytic of patron-client relations. Anand speaks of the power of “unsettled friendships” (78) across class, through which “incremental” resource access and survival is made possible. As Anand points to the oscillation of the water-demanding citizen between legal and illegal networks of support and patronage, I noticed a powerful exposition of how the citizen negotiates the bodily need for water in the political strategy of incrementality and simultaneous use of multiple points of access. This is a desperate yet entrepreneurial citizen—a citizen who engages directly in the calculative, calibrative rationality internal to the logic of operation of the technocratic state. This mode of everyday politics seems akin to the precarity and cleverness of the stock-market broker who plays on an incremental modality, always keeping an eye on the health of the market while making astute decisions, and operating between the ups and downs of today and tomorrow.
Let me move on to a final comment about the public performance of bodily need, a realm of study usually concerned with health, medicine and sexuality—all realms that have given way to biopolitical regulatory intervention. In the case of urban delivery mechanisms of water, I see Anand showing us a series of mundane stories arising out of settler life in Mumbai, where citizens bring out the truth of thirst and perform it in the political field. In this case, thirst and bodily need emerge as a register of truth that citizens draw up into a public, argumentative shape of liberal subjectivity. The state is shaped in this particular iteration as the rationing agent that measures particular scarcities with particular perceptions of localized demand. And the subject rises to match the battlefield that features this particular face of the state with an appropriate face of bargaining, cajoling, and most importantly, playing the calculative technopolitical field with his/her own judgment on such calibrative rationality.
To conclude, Nikhil Anand makes a most significant contribution to the anthropology of the state. Additionally, I see Hydraulic City as a book that participates productively in the debate over whether or not, and to what extent, one can apply public sphere theory to the context of postcolonial nations. In his future scholarship, I would urge Anand to move forward his attention on mundane citizen-state arguments on the lines of incrementality and calibrative rationality to an argument with Marxist rationalities about how, why, and under what conditions, a social or bodily state is identified as need. Given the burgeoning interest in anthropology and cognate disciplines, on the aggrandizing stance of neoliberal state-capital combinations, and the associated rollback of welfare mechanisms the world over, I would urge Anand to comment on the proliferation of citizen-rationalities—ones that struggle to keep up with the changing priorities of the state as opposed to taking directly oppositional stances—sometimes on the lines of incrementality that he so vividly describes in this book.
Atreyee Majumder, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
DEMOCRATIZATION FROM ABOVE: The Logic of Local Democracy in the Developing World. By Anjali Thomas Bohlken. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xvii, 288 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-12887-3.
The objective of this book is to explain variations in the adoption and implementation of local democracy across developing countries. It disputes what it characterizes as two common views on the subject: the first, that local democratization is simply an extension of national democratization; and the second, that it is one form of decentralization or the transfer of power from higher to lower tiers of governance. Adopting a minimalist definition of democracy—as competitive elections—the author argues that government elites, and especially chief executives, are more likely to adopt or implement local democratization when they either lack access to party organizational networks or face internal party competition for control over such networks. This suggests that the key variable influencing the implementation of local democratization is the relationship between governmental elites and party organization.
This thesis is advanced for a dataset of 68 developing countries with a population of over 10 million, across three continents: Asia, Africa, and Central and Southern America. However, the substantive focus of the book (chapters 3 through 7) is on India. It is the empirical account of the introduction of local democracy in India, and the analysis of intra-party competition in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, that provides the substantive basis of the book’s argument. The author uses a mixed-methods approach that blends the qualitative and the quantitative.
The author’s focus rightly encompasses both the introduction and implementation of local democratization. The analytical distinction between these two is sometimes blurred though it is clear that the same explanation is offered both for the adoption of institutions of local democracy by the national government and their varied implementation by state governments. On the issue of adopting local democracy, Bohlken explains Rajiv Gandhi’s motivation to revitalize panchayat raj in terms of his attempt to reduce his reliance on the competing power centres within the Congress Party by establishing an “effective base of local intermediaries” for himself. This is very much in line with the then opposition’s rejection of the proposed amendments as “from the PM to the DM without the CM.” It is true that Gandhi felt frustrated in his attempts to reform and modernize the Congress by curbing the influence of entrenched “power brokers.” However, as K.C. Sivaramakrishnan shows in Power to the People? (Konark, 2000), a first-hand account of the process by which the amendments came to be formulated and eventually passed, Rajiv also keenly desired to more effectively channel public resources for development. Why Narasimha Rao’s minority government managed to get these bills through in 1993, while Gandhi’s majority government did not in 1989, remains a puzzle. The fact that Rao was compelled, exactly a year later, to introduce the lavishly funded Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme as a sop to MPs who felt they were losing control over the local, is significant.
The introduction of local democracy in 1993, along with provisions for affirmative action (for women and members of historically disadvantaged groups), was certainly a watershed moment that marked a departure from even the most well-intentioned earlier attempts at democratic decentralization in states like Karnataka or West Bengal. Frequently, however, the specific characteristics of panchayat institutions before and after 1993 are elided. The assumption of continuity—as in citing scholars from the 1960s to the 1980s—is troubling not just because it suggests that the role played by local representatives has remained unchanged over time, but also because it diminishes the importance of the very processes of local democratization that are the subject of this book. With all its imperfections and challenges, it is indeed democratization that is the pre-eminent feature of the new architecture of local governance.
The difference between the period before and after 1993 is arguably not just in the quality of local democracy introduced, but also in its twinning with decentralization for development. The stated purpose of the constitutional amendment was to give the people, through their elected panchayats, a voice in the preparation of plans and implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice. Local democracy was not democracy for its own sake; it was necessary because devolution by itself would not be effective unless people’s participation was ensured.
There is no doubt that, once in place, these institutions would be used to distribute rewards and offer incentives to suit the interests of leaders at higher levels of governance. This is where the explanation for the adoption of democratic decentralization could differ from that of its actual implementation. The implementation box can be checked through the routine holding of elections. But, starving the panchayats of funds or propping up parallel bodies (not just caste panchayats, but also water and forest management committees), can render them substantively irrelevant. Once again, the relationship of democratization with decentralization is important.
The author wisely acknowledges that local democratization may and does occur without genuine decentralization. However, she stops short of asking the normative question of the value of such democratization. In India, varying degrees of inadequacy in the devolution of functions and resources often render elected representatives powerless. In circumstances of voice without valence, indeed of the hollowing out of democracy, should we not interrogate the worth of the concept of “local democratization” even if defined in a minimalist way, as the holding of competitive elections? In the final analysis, it does seem to be relevant whether initiatives for local democratization are seen as enjoying primacy (for whatever instrumental political reasons) or whether they are seen as necessary complements to the task of decentralized development. Bohlken’s argument supports the first of these views; many of the champions of local democratic decentralization—whether governmental elites or civil society activists—are likely to take the latter view. The disagreement, then, zeroes in on the question: what is local democratization for?
Niraja Gopal Jayal, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
THE ASEAN MIRACLE: A Catalyst for Peace. By Kishore Mahbubani and Jeffery Sng. Singapore: Ridge Books [an imprint of NUS Press]; The University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2017. xvi, 264 pp. (Figures, maps, illustration.) US$20.00, cloth. ISBN 978-981-4722-49-0.
In August 1967 the representatives of the original five members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand—signed the Bangkok Declaration. Many commentators at the time thought that ASEAN would be yet another short-lived regional organization. Indeed, ASEAN has always had its share of sceptics, especially after it expanded to include Brunei, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and finally Cambodia. Naysayers have called it a “talk shop,” preoccupied by process and thus ineffective, producing very few concrete results. Yet at the same time ASEAN is often viewed as the most successful regional organization after the European Union (EU). The competition is not too stiff but nonetheless it suggests that this more positive view of ASEAN should be better understood. This book, by two eminent scholar-practitioners of the region, celebrates ASEAN’s fiftieth anniversary by making a detailed, thoughtful, readable, and in many ways provocative case for seeing the association in a very positive light.
At the heart of the argument set out by Mahbubani and Sng is that ASEAN, as a regional organization, has brought enduring peace and considerable prosperity to a large, diverse, and formerly very troubled region. They start out by showing how Southeast Asia’s already immensely varied geography and vast variety of languages and cultures were influenced by the arrival of four very different external civilizations: Indian, Chinese, Muslim, and Western. They then ask why and how ASEAN brought about an “ecosystem of peace” in this exceptionally diverse region. They suggest five factors. First, they see the fear of communism as keeping the original members focussed on cooperation and later maintaining peace in the region by admitting their former communist adversaries into ASEAN. Second, the authors single out strong ASEAN leaders, who were in power over many of the early years of ASEAN, as crucial to maintaining a sense of regional cooperation and peace. Third, they see geopolitical luck in terms of being on the winning side in the Cold War as helping to promote regional peace. Fourth, they view the adoption of a market-oriented approach to economic development as helping to promote regional prosperity and peace. Finally, they argue that ASEAN-based regional networks have helped to integrate the ASEAN region and link ASEAN members to the wider East Asian region.
The middle chapters of the book provide a brief history and analysis of ASEAN’s relations with the great powers—America, China, the European Union, India, and Japan—as well as a series of “pen sketches” of the ten ASEAN members and an assessment of ASEAN’s strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps inevitably ASEAN’s relationships with the US and China get the most space, but for all the different relationships it is fascinating to get a decidedly ASEAN perspective on the way they have unfolded over the years. The “pen sketches” are idiosyncratic but essentially very positive. Mahbubani and Sng see ASEAN’s main strengths as the array of institutions that have been developed to support the strong sense of regional community and the fact that many of the great powers are willing to promote and support the association. They identify ASEAN’s weaknesses as the lack of a clear “owner” of the association and the fact that it is viewed as a governmental organization with little or no input from the region’s general public. They also see the secretariat as too small and weak for the tasks that need to be done. These weaknesses, they quite reasonably suggest, could in the future leave ASEAN overwhelmed by great power rivalries in the region or undone by domestic instability within member states. But overall, the authors are very positive about ASEAN and its future.
The culmination of the book is the final chapter, which sets out the authors’ argument for awarding ASEAN the Nobel Peace Prize. By providing long-term peace and prosperity, as well as “civilizing” the big powers in their dealings with Southeast Asia, Mahbubani and Sng see ASEAN as every bit as deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize as the EU, which won it in 2012. However, ASEAN’s Achilles heel is clearly its poor track record on democratization and safe-guarding human rights, neither of which the authors discuss in any detail. It is unlikely, given recent controversies over previous Nobel Peace Prize recipients, that the Norwegian-based prize committee will give the award to an organization which includes some member states that have backed-tracked on democratization and others that have flagrantly abused the human rights of their citizens. However, the authors have won a prize of sorts in that their book is scheduled to be translated into all the major ASEAN languages so that it can be read by a wider audience in the hope of instilling greater pride in ASEAN among its citizens. Certainly, students of Southeast Asia and regionalism—whether ASEAN sceptics or proponents—can learn a good deal from reading this spirited and informed defence of the organization.
Richard Stubbs, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
THE BRITISH AND THE VIETNAM WAR: Their Way with LBJ. By Nicholas Tarling. Singapore: NUS Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2017. x, 451 pp. (Maps.) US$42.00, paper. ISBN 978-981-4722-23-0.
The British and the Vietnam War focuses mainly on the period from November 1963, when Lyndon Johnson became president of the United States, up to March of 1967.
The British wanted to avert a massive, bloody war in Vietnam, but they did not feel they could afford to offend the United States by seeming too negative. Their position became more difficult as the United States committed itself publicly to the use of large-scale military force to avert a Communist victory in South Vietnam. Some feared that if they were openly critical, they might become scapegoats for an American failure (57, 58, 88, 91). British diplomats warned in 1961 and again in 1964 that there were Americans who claimed that it had been British negativity that had prevented the United States from winning the Korean War (26, 54).
British officials held widely divergent views on basic issues. Many operated very much within a Cold War mindset. They often assumed that the primary threat in Vietnam was Chinese aggression. Up to 1965, suggestions that the Americans negotiate an end to the conflict referred as often to negotiations with Beijing as with Hanoi. Arthur de la Mare suggested in 1967 that Hanoi had been wanting for some time to abandon the war, but had not dared defy Chinese wishes by doing so. Gordon Etherington-Smith, the British ambassador in Saigon, was especially supportive of the American view of the situation in Vietnam and its broader implications, arguing that a defeat there would have serious consequences “for the whole balance of power in Asia and indeed in the world” (230). But many others doubted that South Vietnam was the best place to hold a line against Communist expansionism, and some questioned Chinese aggressiveness. Not until 1966 was there even a coherent debate about such issues; it failed to achieve consensus.
In 1964 and into early 1965, the British tended to pessimism about Vietnam; they expected a Communist victory. This was partly because they neither wanted nor expected a major commitment of American combat forces. As Lyndon Johnson escalated American involvement, they became much more hopeful about the outcome of the war. But this was partly because they did not expect that the North Vietnamese would step up their own involvement in the struggle in the South. Indeed the British did not understand the extent to which North Vietnamese troops were already arriving in South Vietnam in the first half of 1965. By the end of 1965 British officials were recognizing and indeed exaggerating the extent to which Hanoi was matching American escalation (255), and their optimism subsided.
Early fears that if the war escalated it might run completely out of control, possibly even triggering world war, were subsiding by 1965 and did not revive. The Americans were showing they could use large-scale military force without spreading the war beyond Indochina.
The British wanted a negotiated end to the conflict. Some hoped that negotiations would lead to the neutralization of South Vietnam or of some wider area including South Vietnam. Seldom did they explain what neutralization would actually mean, or even acknowledge that the question needed to be asked. Some recognized that no such nice compromise was available. James Cable, head of the South East Asia Division at the Foreign Office, wrote a very perceptive paper in August 1965, pointing out that someone—Communist or anti-Communist—was going to end up in control of South Vietnam, so any negotiated settlement of the war would necessarily be a more or less disguised surrender by one side or the other (233–236). But this did not dim his enthusiasm for negotiations. He seemed to think there was a real chance that the United States would in the near future become willing to do what it actually did more than seven years later: sign a very unfavourable peace agreement.
Cable later suggested that British efforts to get peace talks started should not be based on any particular conception of what sort of settlement might actually be acceptable to both sides. The biggest British effort to get negotiations started, through Soviet intermediaries in February 1967, was indeed not based on any particular hopes about the shape of a possible peace.
Nicholas Tarling, a historian whose broad interests centre on Southeast Asia and British policy toward Asia, is well qualified to write about British policy regarding the Vietnam War. He has done a great deal of research, in British government files and to some extent in other sources. But The British and the Vietnam War is mostly an account of what British (and sometimes American and other nations’) officials said to one another month by month. Tarling seldom intrudes his own interpretation or analyses. Only rarely does he judge a statement, as when he brands “unrealistic” a 1964 proposal by Lord Walton, undersecretary at the Foreign Office, that if the Americans made a major military effort for two or three months, creating a momentarily strong position, they could then withdraw from Vietnam, allowing a Communist takeover, without loss of face (94).
The British and the Vietnam War will be valuable as a reference, and serious libraries should acquire it, but only specialists and advanced students are likely to read it straight through.
Edwin E. Moise, Clemson University, Clemson, USA
THE NEW WAY: Protestantism and the Hmong in Vietnam. Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies. By Tâm T.T. Ngô. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016. xi, 211 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$50.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-295-99827-5.
This book on the conversion of the Vietnamese Hmong is important because, to an extent, the history of modern Vietnam is a history of contending with Christianity. French missionaries helped Gia Long, the Nguyen Dynasty founder, consolidate rule in 1802, for which he accorded them land in Tourane (Da Nang), but subsequent persecutory acts against Christians by his successors became the pretext for colonial rule. Da Nang was a gateway for American incursion in 1965, leading to another war between Communist Ho Chi Minh and American-backed Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic. Combine Christianity with the Hmong, a group that longs for ethnic sovereignty, and you get a volatile situation. Conversion is also a controversial topic in Hmong studies. Taking on the issue, Tam T.T. Ngo argues that beginning in the 1980s the Vietnamese Hmong, disillusioned by broken promises and oppressive developmental policies, have seized Protestantism as a route to empowerment and modernity—one which is “not connected to the Party-State and do[es] not seek the subjugation of personal interests to those of the state” (9).
Fascinatingly, Christianity came to the Hmong in their language via radio waves, almost a literal dictate from the divine. One day, a low-ranking Hmong Communist cadre was tuning the dials of his radio. To his surprise the charismatic Pastor Vam Txoov Lis (aka John Lee) was preaching the word of God in Hmong (41). Over the next decade, many Hmong began gathering in houses that possessed the rare commodity of a radio to hear John Lee, a refugee of the secret war of Laos who lived in California, “indigenize” the stories of God and Jesus Christ by employing Hmong-style story-telling techniques. The program also catered to the agrarian life cycle by broadcasting when families sat down for breakfast and dinner (57). The pastor closed by answering questions from around the globe, and he prayed, creating a sense of community across space. The news reports drew curious non-believers to tune in as well. Soon, listeners were instructed to connect with lowland Kinh churches. Hmong American “tourists” also began appearing in Vietnam by the 1990s, smuggling in copies of the translated Bible. By the turn of the twenty-first century, there were over 200,000 converts, one-third of the Hmong population in Vietnam. The mass conversion occurred without missionaries or the leadership of a trained clergy.
There were other reasons for conversion; foremost among them is a history of communist oppression. Many Hmong aided in the victory against the French only to see the Party retract its promise of ethnic equality and target them for persecution because their co-ethnics, the “Vang Pao Hmong,” had fought on the side of the Americans in Laos. Mass arrests of the Vietnamese Hmong in Lao Cai occurred between 1958 and 1978, driving many into Laos and forcing Hmong officials to quit their posts (28–29). The Strengthening the Highland initiative legalized land seizures that resulted in one million Kinh in the Hmong highlands by 1966 (30). Other imposed programs also forbade the Hmong from practicing shifting cultivation (32). Conversion provided access to the power of the US, where the “Vang Pao Hmong” sought shelter after 1975. Against the Party narrative that they were more primitive in the Marxist historical timeline, the Hmong could now fire back that “their Hmong brethren in the United States…are…more advanced than the Vietnamese Kinh,” an argument “that allow[s] the [Vietnamese] Hmong to cross borders and jump over stages of historical development” (14–15).
Beneath the surface of conversion was a threatening agency at work that neither the Hmong American radio missionaries nor the Vietnamese government could anticipate. Many Hmong embraced Christianity as a means of forming transnational unity beyond traditional divisions in an attempt to achieve a larger political aspiration. The radio inspired the dream to reconsolidate the ancient Hmong kingdom, resulting in the government crackdowns by 2000, and forcing Hmong Americans to defend the converts. Today, Hmong Christians scramble to disassociate themselves from the millennial dreamers.
For others, Christianity offers more secular pragmatics. Different clans could now gather as family members who could die in the same house (i.e., the church). Converts also rejoiced at abandoning expensive ancestor rituals, and embraced changes like ending polygyny, the bride price, and adopting new forms of morality. Ngo argues that Christianity has eroded traditional forms of gender inequality, but she does not interrogate how Christian patriarchy has bound women in new ways. Furthermore, the argument about curtailing expensive rituals needs more critical examination. World religions like Christianity demand churches and a paid clergy—the reason for the requisite tithe. There may be financial reasons behind deconversion and why Hmong Americans are finding it harder to gain new converts.
While the Hmong hoped Christianity would be a unifying ideology and the government feared it, Ngo’s study reveals a different truth. Protestantism, despite providing a transnational connection, has caused family rifts and exacerbated preexisting divisions. Traditionalists denounce converts as ancestral apostates; converts claim themselves to be more modern and disparage the traditionalists as demon worshippers. The state exploits these tensions by exalting the beauty of Hmong traditional culture while making conversion illegal. There is no unity even among the Christians. Hmong Leng resent the Hmong Daw for dominating broadcasting services, while Hmong Americans are pretentious upstarts who perceive themselves as bringing civilization to their primitive counterparts (81).
Overall, I appreciate Ngo’s insights, but am left wondering what is her definition of modernity. Also, are there denominational interplays at work with the lowland Kinh being Catholics and the highland Hmong being Protestants? Finally, while it is evident that Ngo empathizes with the Hmong, she ignores the recent scholarships of native researchers, including Pao Ze Thao’s Keebkwm Hmoob Ntseeg Yexus (Thornton, 2000) and Nao Xiong’s and Yang Sao Xiong’s “A Critique of Timothy Vang’s Hmong Religious Conversion and Resistance Study” (Hmong Studies Journal 9 ). An awareness of how the Hmong conceptualize their history and internalize conversion from the inside-out would add depth and prevent a top-down, West-East analysis. Still, Ngo is to be applauded for her courage in taking on such a divisive topic.
Mai Na M. Lee, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, USA
THE POLITICS OF SHARI’A LAW: Islamist Activists and the State in Democratizing Indonesia. By Michael Buehler. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xiv, 270 pp. (Tables.) US$99.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-13022-7.
Indonesia is neither a secular state, nor an Islamic one. Both terms have negative connotations in Indonesian society, and therefore have been avoided in legal and political areas. By the 1945 Constitution, Indonesia has been relegated to a “middle position.” It compromises between secularism, where no single religion predominates, and religiosity, where religion (especially Islam) becomes one of the central pillars of the state.
The Indonesian experience demonstrates that Islamic political parties assign religious meaning to national institutions and tend to more readily endorse the state’s policies and practices. Internal secularizers, on the other hand, do not sacralize but challenge the authority of the state by offering religious alternatives. This process shows that in their ideology and practices, religious political parties are more likely to transform religious ideas from within, and even accommodate some of the premises of a pluralistic democracy. Two processes walk hand in hand: the “secularization” of religious content and giving a “secular” political system substantive religious meaning.
By participating in elections and constitutional reform, Islamic political parties in Indonesia have demonstrated that they are willing to work within the parameters of parliamentary democracy and constitutionalism and abide by the principle of popular sovereignty rather than divine sovereignty. Islamic political parties wishing to propose legislation inspired by Islamic principles must ensure that the legislation is consistent with the dictates of the rule of law and public reason rather than holy texts. For instance, a law on a pilgrimage does not impact on the rituals associated with the hajj (as the obligation to go hajj comes not from the law, but from God) but only affects the technical aspects of regulating 16,000 Indonesians who make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. This involves dealing with the Saudi government, in terms of providing accommodation, transportation, and health and safety measures to Indonesian Muslims performing the hajj. In this regard, secular considerations mix with religious obligations.
Michael Buehler’s book, The Politics of Shari’a Law: Islamist Activists and the State in Democratizing Indonesia, goes further. It examines the relationship between law and an Islamic agenda at provincial and district levels. At least 443 shari’a regulations were issued at those provincial and district levels between 1998 and 2013. Buehler found that 67 percent of these regulations were enforced in six out of thirty-four provinces, which encompass half of the country’s population. His conclusion was that many shari’a regulations were adopted in the areas ruled by Indonesian secular parties rather than regions controlled by Indonesian Islamist parties. Therefore, he argues that the Islamist parties are not necessarily the key drivers of the politicization of shari’a.
His findings are not novel if we understand the characteristics of Indonesia’s “middle position,” as is explained at the outset. But for those who think that shari’a and Islamic political parties are not the legitimate children of democracy, Buehler’s findings might be surprising. Still, it begs the question of why secular political parties proposed to insert shari’a into legislation at sub-national levels? In his book, Buehler shows that the move towards the establishment of shari’a is the work of what he calls “opportunist Islamisers,” attached to secularist parties. “In other words, the adoption of these shari’a regulations is driven by political expediency rather than ideological shifts within the Indonesian polity” (3).
Buehler provides an interesting fact: shari’a regulations were mostly adopted within two years (before and after) of the election of local government heads, but the number significantly decreased during the elite’s second (and final) term in office. Interestingly, in some cases, the issuing of shari’a regulations was aimed at camouflaging or distracting attention away from ongoing and pervasive corruption conducted by the mayor or governor.
On a final note, it seems that shari’a regulation at sub-national levels are problematic. Prostitution, gambling, alcohol consumption are prohibited, but these are already prohibited at the national level through the penal code, so prohibiting them under shari’a regulation at the local level is not really necessary. Reading the Qur’an and paying the zakat (alms or religious tax) are compulsory; and the wearing of Muslim clothing is encouraged. Paying zakat has been regulated under the national law, while reading the Qur’an is not compulsory under Islamic law, but the shari’a regulation at sub-national levels has made it an obligation. This is considered as beyond the requirements of Islamic law. Wearing a veil is regulated in the Qur’an but Islamic law has not established a punishment for those who do not wear a veil—something that shari’a regulation has created, an act considered stricter than Qur’anic requirements. The good thing is that the shari’a regulations here are not concerned with cutting off the hands of thieves, an eye for an eye, or stoning to death. But what concerns me is that the idea of having shari’a regulations is not to improve local government performance. Rather, the institution of shari’a regulations is political and lacks substantive meaning.
Buehler’s book, published in 2016, was based on research conducted between 1998 and 2013. His findings highlight the intersection of religion and politics in Indonesia. Indonesia’s political situation in 2017 has also confirmed his argument that shari’a regulations at sub-national levels are no longer the main issue. Perhaps, “the opportunist Islamisers” have different games to play, rejecting the non-Muslim candidates, as in the case of the 2017 election for Jakarta governor.
Nadirsyah Hosen, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
FOOD AND POWER IN HAWAI‘I: Visions of Food Democracy. Food in Asia and the Pacific. Edited by Aya Hirata Kimura and Krisnawati Suryanata. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. vii, 225 pp. (Illustrations.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5853-7.
As a scholar of Samoa who explores foodways, and in a university on the mainland with a strong student community from Hawai‘i, I was interested in reviewing this book from its title to learn more about the complex context of food politics in Hawai‘i. I teach courses about food identity and labor, to which discussion often turns to the often recited fact that 90 percent of food in Hawai‘i is imported (17). This statistic is toothsome. Toothsome in that it invites thinking, providing an additional layer to Levi-Strauss’ famous turn of phrase, that food (and its statistics) is good to think. The volume successfully invites the reader to consider new perspectives—trans-disciplinary perspectives—that move the conversation of food security and rights to food democracy.
The organizing concept—food democracy—is a fresh way of bringing together scholars from diverse backgrounds to create something new. The term “food democracy” is meant to engage food issues with attention to power, shifting food politics conversations from increasing local food production to issues around “social justice, ecological sustainability, and economic viability” (1). This approach complicates discourses that are often morally laden, calling for an increase in local food production with the assumption that this will automatically create equitable food systems. The authors challenge the reader to value local production not because it can solve the problems of food insecurity, or in the case of Hawai‘i, state-wide dependence on imported foods, but because local production and engagement with local farmers can create forms of citizenship that are valuable for other reasons. Food democracy brings these other values to the fore, showing how critical conversations about food need to move beyond production to politics.
The pace of the volume situates the reader in a conceptual arc, beginning with a primer on food production in Hawai‘i, providing a critical analysis moving through theoretical frameworks to chapters that highlight the lived experiences of food democracy. The arc narrates the political economy of food in Hawai‘i, beginning with the Māhele—a series of policy changes that drastically changed land tenure from Native Hawaiians to white colonists. This transformation of the landscape made possible plantation business, shaping the economy around exports. As plantations dissipated due to increasing labor costs and foreign competition in the 1970s, scholars and activists hoped to fill this vacuum by developing local production to support the population. This volume is about the complications surrounding this transformation given the islands’ enduring political, racial, and gendered histories, particularly as they are articulated through commonly deployed dichotomies.
The first dichotomy that the volume aims to disrupt is the opposition between local/global food, that posits a moral rendering of local foods as good for community, farmers, and the environment and global food commodities as detrimental. However, this neat dichotomy evaporates when applied to farmers markets in Hawai‘i, which Monique Mironesco finds are contradictory spaces. Participants face dilemmas between choosing between improving farmer income while serving low-income communities and developing inroads to the tourist market. Though farmers are limited in their ability to transform food inequalities, Mironesco contends, they are a place to start to develop food democracy. Another common moralized dichotomy is between GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and commonly used agricultural varieties. Hawai‘i is an illustrative place for understanding the politics of GMOs as the University of Hawai‘i, in collaboration with Cornell University, has developed a genetically modified papaya to counter disease that threatened the industry in the 1980s. The story of papaya is enlivened by activist efforts in the early 2000s to challenge the large-scale planting of genetically modified papaya—farms on O‘ahu were vandalized, destroying hundreds of trees—as a method of GMO control. Once these transgenic papaya are planted, they enter the environment in ways that are unpredictable, which anti-GMO activists argue is a form of “contamination” (124). Neal K. Adolph Akatsuka takes this concern with contagion as a critical opening for questioning the seemingly impossible role of biotechnology in food democracy. He highlights the moral fashioning of GMOs as essentially good (from scientific and industrial voices where GMOS can “save” agricultural industries), or essentially bad (from activists, who see them as ecologically, socially, and economically dangerous). This moral positioning reveals an ideal of purity that animates these discourses, and which obscures the possible role of biotechnology in food democracy.
Another way this volume contributes to scholarship on food politics is by attending to the issues of gender, race, and class across its chapters. The first chapter to provide this kind of context, written by Lilikalā K. Kame‘eleihiwa, begins with the provocative point that food activists tend to situate their critique within the twentieth century. This limited focus obscures what might be learned from indigenous foodways, especially given the fact that at the time of contact Native Hawaiians supported a population of nearly a million with their Ahupua‘a (water surface management system). This is particularly significantly given that the current population of the state of Hawai‘i is not much larger than this. Another chapter to foreground power dynamics, written by Aya Hirata Kimura, focuses on the marginalization of women organic farmers. The gendered dichotomy that separates women as gardeners from farmers, or as emotional when compared to men, makes women’s political engagement with food politics difficult. While organic farming provides a space for validation and acceptance, when compared to commercial agriculture, this position on the margins reinforces stereotypes of “hobby” farming and presumed radicalism.
One detail that did stand out to me was the focus on the effects of isolation. This reification of isolation seems to work against the goals of the authors—of changing discourses and creating citizens—as Epeli Hau‘ofa so elegantly argued, smallness, and I would add, isolation, are states of mind (“Our Sea of Islands,” The Contemporary Pacific 6, no. 1 : 7).
Overall, the volume provides a much-needed interdisciplinary perspective on a set of interlocking issues around land sovereignty, corporate farming, inequalities, and food security. In fact, the most innovative part of this book is the inclusion of narratives and interviews from practitioners and farmers themselves. This first-person experiential reading moves this book from straightforward knowledge production to engaged scholarship.
Jessica Hardin, Pacific University, Forest Grove, USA
BECOMING LANDOWNERS: Entanglements of Custom and Modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. Topics in the Contemporary Pacific. By Victoria C. Stead. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017. xii, 216 pp. (Maps, illustrations.) US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5666-3.
This unique new book is a comparative study of customary land owners in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Timor-Leste. It is composed of eight chapters, including an introduction and a conclusion. Timor-Leste is the focus of chapters 2, 6, and 7. Chapter 2 discusses rural farming and its meaning to local people. Chapter 6 examines how Timorese create and maintain connections to kin and land in the city, and how these practices interact with land-titling projects in urban areas. Chapter 7 covers the case of urban migrants who use the language of citizenship in the state to resist being evicted from land they do not have formal title to.
Chapters 3, 4, and 5 focus on Papua New Guinea. Chapter 3 focuses on villagers on the Rai coast of Papua New Guinea fighting to end the disposal of mine waste into the sea. Chapter 4 describes the complex court case which has developed over customary ownership of the land on which the PMIZ, a tuna cannery and processing facility, is located. Chapter 5 examines how concepts of development and subsistence have been changed by the presence of the cannery.
Stead claims that the same underlying political dynamic exists in Timor-Leste and PNG: a conflict between the customary ways of life (farmers) and modernity (the state and capitalism). Customary people have rich and organic relationships rooted in the land while modern people live in abstract and disembodied institutions. As customary life ways become entangled in modern institutions, the “cartography of power” shifts, in that legitimacy once rooted in customary ways of life is devalued and modern regimes of recognition (such as maps and census books) gain an increasing hold on the imagination. This “entanglement” of custom and modernity opens up new possibilities for customary people, in that they can pursue claims against modernist institutions using the language of citizenship and rights, or draw legitimacy as indigenous people or landowners. But ultimately this shift in power and legitimacy makes customary people more vulnerable, because the new tools they gain to pursue political ends are ultimately weaker than those employed by modernist institutions.
The clash of customary people and modernity features widely in centuries of social thought. In the past thirty years many thinkers have resisted seeing indigenous peoples and settler institutions as ontologically distinct (to use one of Stead’s phrases), insisting instead on their long history of interconnection and interaction. Why, then, does Stead revitalize a binary that most experts now consider empirically inadequate and theoretically flawed? I found it most helpful to read this book through the lens of sociological theory, such as that of Jurgen Habermas. Stead’s “custom” is not a romantic ecoprimitivism. Rather, it seems similar to Habermas’s account of lifeworld means of reproduction, while Stead’s “modernity” seems similar to a systemic organization of action guided by steering media. Her goal here, it seems, is to shed new light on state-landowner dynamics by interrogating the modalities in which these interactions occur. This analytic could be used to examine how landowners relate to each other in “modern” (i.e., abstract bureaucratized) ways, as in the court case described in chapter 4. We could also theoretically examine how people in “modern” institutions such as the state have lifeworld/customary modes of interaction, although Stead never describes this. We might say, however, that much of the literature in the anthropology of the corporation is precisely of this sort. As a result her theoretical focus offers intriguing possibilities.
The greatest contribution of Stead’s book is the new emphasis it puts on state-landowner relations. Experts of PNG land politics tend to be rather cynical, skeptical of what John Burton called “avatar narratives” of virtuous, helpless indigenes and evil, omnipotent corporations. Instead, they point to the agency and sometimes-malevolence of landowners, as evinced in the Bougainville conflict or the benefits package received by landowners at the Lihir gold mine. But these successes were quite some time ago and Stead points out, rightly, that landowners in PNG today are increasingly powerless in the face of the state and developers. Stead’s clear-eyed analysis is a breath of fresh air in this regard.
That said, the book does have some weaknesses. Because it is spread so widely over two countries and many case studies, the substantive chapters were a bit thin. For instance, although Stead often asserts that farmers live lives deeply connected to kin and land, there are only a few descriptions of farming or gardening in the book, and not very much in terms of kinship, births, deaths, exchange, and the other sorts of things that anthropologists such as myself would like to see to get a more in-depth sense of the specifics of how embodiment and custom work in practice. Also, given the long history of terms like custom and modernity I think the book might have benefitted slightly from a deeper and more sympathetic engagement with previous literature. In this way, we might have been able to understand a bit more how Stead’s framework relates to those of past authors.
But overall these minor quibbles are not meant to detract from the book’s value and originality. It is a fresh take on the many forms of dispossession and inequality occurring in the Asia Pacific today. It is clearly written, theoretically ambitious, and empirically wide-ranging. I recommend the book to others and hope to see more writing by this author soon.
Alex Golub, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, USA
ARTEFACTS OF ENCOUNTER: Cook’s Voyages, Colonial Collecting and Museum Histories. Edited by Nicholas Thomas, Julie Adams, Billie Lythberg, Maia Nuku & Amiria Salmond; photography by Gwil Owen. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. 348 pp. (Illustrations.) US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-5935-0.
At first glance, this might be taken for a coffee-table book. It is large (294 x 258 x 27 mm), with a simple, handsome dustcover. The design is elegant and uncluttered: stout glossy paper, readable type, and excellent (beautifully reproduced) photographs. However, it quickly reveals itself as primarily a vehicle for scholarship, not just for visual gratification, with chapters contributed by the five editors and twenty other specialists. The images serve as counterpoint to, and underpin, the discussions in the text, in a powerful synergy in which the reader is led both visually and conceptually around the objects and ideas discussed.
The initiative for the book, as explained in the introduction, was two Cambridge University research projects, one of them eponymous. Both were undertaken in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) collections and subsequently in other museums in Europe and the Pacific. Their focus, as in this book, was on “stages of exploration, encounter, evangelism and collecting in the Pacific, [primarily] between 1769 and the 1860s” (26). All have been about the encounters of Westerners with Others, whose artefacts they collected, and inversely, our encounter with those artefacts today.
The sub-title of the book reads like three separate book titles, which highlights the key decisions to take when embarking on a book about artefacts: what to cover, and how to structure it. The traditional approach has been overwhelmingly taxonomic, while here historical and sociological approaches predominate—though detailed taxonomic analysis informs these. The introduction outlines the different strategies adopted for the different sections of the book.
The first part of the book sets the stage. It “outlines the various collections’ histories—their route to the museum … current theory around artefacts; and … the other side of the encounter.” The “other side” includes the agency of the owners/makers, and the residual significance the objects carry for their descendants. Also discussed are “the instruments carried on board the European ships, particularly those engaged in voyages of discovery.” Both old and new technologies “are constituted through and are constitutive of social relations” (27).
Chapter 1 discusses the formation of Cambridge’s collections. It traces acquisitions of material collected by Dampier in the seventeenth century, through the collections made on Cook’s three voyages. These were critically important in establishing ethnographic museology. The wealthy Banks sponsored the first comprehensive scientific team for observing, documenting, and collecting, the product of which first captured the Western gaze with the material culture of other societies. Subsequent gifts to Cambridge, particularly of artefacts collected in Fiji by the first British administrators, and the appointment of Baron von Hügel (also active in Fiji) as the first curator of the university’s fledgling Antiquities and Ethnology Museum, further confirmed the Pacific as a major focus of collecting and scholarship. As this book testifies, that focus persists to this day.
Chapter 2 considers indigenous agency in those early exchanges, and notes that their descendants regard the objects in a manner very different from the historical and archival approach Westerners adopt. For them, the objects reveal “alternative ways of being” (55). They are not mere historical curiosities, but vehicles through which the ancestors speak to them still, providing artistic, moral, and social indicators for the ongoing development of the current generation.
Chapter 3 discusses the state-of-the-art instruments on which the “explorers” relied, and their preoccupation with them and their maintenance (sometimes repairing them after ill-handling by unskilled crew), as well as preserving them from theft and destruction by the people they met. Finally, it notes the manner in which from very early on, these instruments came to be displayed alongside the artefacts brought back from Polynesia (67), a juxtaposition still found in many museums today.
“The second part of the book features key objects … organized chronologically … [from] artefacts collected on Cook’s … voyages, on Vancouver’s voyage and by missionaries and their contemporaries.… [Then] in the book’s final section we include a fuller listing of the relevant collections, with further notes on some objects” (27). Here is surveyed a selection of artefacts collected during that early, largely pre-missionary and pre-colonial period. This provides an artist and material-culture student such as myself with not necessarily the most information, but undoubtedly the most pure enjoyment—visually saturated with beautiful images of wonderful objects, and intellectually stimulated to think about each in great detail. Its very diversity makes it impossible to provide a brief review. The artefacts range from personal adornment such as necklaces and breastplates, to headrests, decorative wood-carving, weapons, fans, flywhisks, fish-hooks and samples of barkcloth (tapa). Of course, even in the country-based catalogue of the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the end of the book, it makes no attempt to be comprehensive. But it still covers an intriguing array of objects from a large segment of the Pacific.
The authors take the now well-established position that artefacts can themselves be seen as social actors. As such, they should be not merely gazed at but also interrogated in terms of their utilitarian, social, and spiritual functions, and whatever symbolism they carry, intentionally or incidentally. In order to do this it is necessary to intricately study the objects themselves to understand “what do artefacts want?” (20). They cite the advice of the pioneering Te Rangi Hiroa that “to understand them [the objects] we must learn their language as expressed through the minute details of technique” (21). This approach yields a particularly valuable aspect of the book, where each object is considered in great detail, and those details are in turn historically and anthropologically contextualized. The picture that emerges is subtle and nuanced.
This book is that too-rare thing, a beautiful object that is also a truly thought-provoking work of scholarship. It deserves a place in every major institutional library, and on the bookshelves of all serious students of Pacific material culture.
Roderick Ewins, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia